On the weekend of my birthday my wife gave me one of the best birthday presents I have ever received so far, she organized a weekend full of action and adventure at the Saddle Creek Adventures. So we drove to the place early that morning and I had quite an awesome surprise birthday gift.
The place is located in Hartebeesfontein Road in Hekpoort, this is somewhere in Johanessburg.
She had booked us a very fully loaded package and I loved every minute of it. Our morning started off with Archery where we had to use the bow to propel arrows through the air with the intention of hitting a target, she missed quite a few but we had lots of fun.
Straight after the first activity we did what we really love doing and that is horse riding. We were a set of 3 couples as it was also happened to be the Valentine’s Weekend. We were all allocated with happy horses and had an unforgettable riding experience in a very peaceful countryside, with beautiful mountain scenery and lovely bush trails.
We came back from our lovely horse riding experience to get into more adventure and did some go-karting. You definitely need to bring some extra clothes because after the go-karting you get so dirty but hey it is an amazing experience. This does not even require that one must be a pro that thrives on adrenalin, the tracks are just amazing and everyone will have fun on their track which is full of corners an straight sections to challenge your driving skills.
The staff is well trained and very enthusiastic about their job hey. I mean who wouldn’t love to get paid for having fun hey?
This has got to be my favourite activity of the day, after the go-karting, looking all dirty and dusty we got another exciting adrenaline filled adventure that is not hard to master. The scenery was just the best for this, from driving in rocky countryside places to a muddy forest got me all pumped up and hungry for more fun. This was one challenging, fun and thrilling experience for me.
We ended the outing off on a very high note; we were then led to a private bushveld champagne picnic. The weather was just perfect for this, we laid on our backs and listened to birds chirping and watched the beautiful sky while at it. I must say that this was a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. We got locked up in moments of reflection and meaningful conversations in the presence of nature. Not only was this a romantic gesture but it was a fantastic one. They had provided us with a picnic basket full of delicacies, a bottle of wine, water and we just enjoyed every moment of this experience. I am sure you will understand why I still regard this weekend as one of the most special celebrations we have ever had. Not only did we have a fun packed and adventure getaway but we also got an opportunity to cater to what matters the most to both our hearts and spent quality time in a seclude area with a lifetime of tranquility and privacy.
It all started when our company announced that Dubai would host our annual company global rally. We purposed that we would make the most of this trip and create life long memories.
So on the 31st of March we flew to Dubai, the excitement was just way out of this world. We rested the Saturday because we were quite exhausted.
We had booked ourselves at an Ibis Hotel in one of the best locations as we were at the centre of everything we needed. It was easy to access malls, transportation and anything else that you can think of.
The service at the hotel and every other place that we went to was just world class, I think that is the standard in Dubai, everything is perfect and the service is awesome.
I think I must have picked up quite a number of kilograms while in Dubai because the food was just way to delicious to resist. Dubai is very expensive though so one cup of coffee would cost you anything from one hundred and twenty something. My love is an ice cream fan and I remember us paying way over R100 for just one scoop of ice cream. We experienced the Indian cuisine at its best and I must say that anything else that we tried was just too delicious for words. A place that takes care in delivering the best croutons in the world deserves an award.
So our adventure and experience started on Sunday. We took the City Sight Seeing Red bus. So we took the 7day tour and our first tour was the historic route, we had a wonderful Sunday going to museums, downtown beulevard, dubai creek, spice souk just to mention a few. What was fascinating about the historic route was using the water taxi rides to cross over from one side of the creek to the other. We also took the dhow midday cruise. I must say it was a refreshing experience just watching the beauty and the magnificent structures of Dubai.
The same day we were headed to the Dubai mall, got to be one of the biggest malls I have ever been to. We were not just there to grab something to eat but were attracted by the Dubai Aquarium and underwater Zoo, did I say this is at Dubai Mall? Yes it is, inside the mall they have a humongous aquarium and underwater zoo. It is the largest suspended aquariums in the world. I had always admired this on the movies and pictures and I now got a chance to experience it first hand and I must say I was blown away; I was like a kid in a candy shop. You walk through a tunnel, provides the most crystal and fantastic view you can ever think of from the surface of the tank. They have boat rides where you can enjoy a unique view of the aquarium; they cater for adrenaline junkies too hey, with a shark dive and cage snorkeling.
By the time we left the mall it was very late we were bushed completely. Their malls close at 12 mid-night and 2am.
On Monday we were headed to Alpha Tours Helipad Atlantis. We flew above Dubai like rock stars in a luxurious helicopter, got to see the iconic Burj Al Arab, this was an awesome experience, you get a bird’s-eye view of the World Islands and the Palm, you see the Dubai’s iconic buildings and magnificent skyline from a unique perspective. We departed from the helipad at Atlantis the Palm and were high up in the sky for 25 minutes. We soar over the beautiful Arabian golf coastline and Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This was an experience of a lifetime.
The same evening we went for an evening dhow cruise dinner. This is an experience of a lifetime hey; you get such a warm welcome that you immediately get ready to have fun. On arrival you are served with dates and some weird tasting coffee and it gets finished in just one sip. You then get sitted and get served with juice or wine. The entertainment on this boat will get you partying the night away. Buffet dinner is then served, world class food, the desert was just my favourite.
On Tuesday we woke up and were on our way to Atlantis AquaVenture waterpark. It is like your bigger version of SunCity’s water rides with the most thrilling rides and adrenaline pumping water slides from the aquaconda ( worlds’s largest waterslide), slitherine ( a waterslide within a waterslide with twists and turns that will make you call your mom to come to your rescue), they have the zoomerango and atlantean flyers just to mention a few. The slitherine will twist and turn you till you end up in the belly of the anaconda. Their lazy ride is nothing close to the word, full of surprise twists and adrenaline pumping turns. Did the leap of faith and you must be prepared to wait as the queue is always long and it’s all worth the wait. We also enjoyed the longest Middle East zipline circuit, we could go as many times as we wanted and were stopped by the wind which started to blow a lil wild. The aquaventure has a man made beach and so when you tired of the water you can go lie in the sun. You even able to book your own private chill area called a Cabana in the waterpark where you can just relax with a whole lot of privacy. Rent one if you can it will definitely be worth every cent you will spend for it. A full day Cabana price is about 800 dirham for a family and this includes a fruit basket and a bottle of water, lockers, tables and loungers.
If you planning to take your phone with please ensure that you buy the water resistant protective phone pouch.
Right next to the AquaVenture is an an Altantis-themed aquarium with underwater halls and tunnels that house marine life, here you get to get a glimpse into an underwater world. This place takes you through a series of mazes and tunnels as you explore the underwater ruins of Atlantis. This aquarium houses aquatic animals like sharks, the highlight being the rare albino alligators. It has that special and unique cinematic quality. So if you plan to go to Dubai, make sure to go to this aquarium’s to have an experience of its “history”.
One evening while walking around the mall we heard beautiful music and saw a crowd gathered in one place beholding the beauty of the Dubai Fountain dancing to a beautiful love song. The beauty of this fountain in the evening leaves me out of words. I do not have words to describe just the feeling it leaves you with. I tell you watching that fountain dance to music can make you fall in love with your partner all over again or will awaken emotions of love you never knew existed. We then kind of made it a ritual to go to the fountain every evening; it was truly love at first sight; so while enjoying our dinner we would be mesmerized by the beauty of this man made creation.
On our fourth day in Dubai we got to get some desert experience. We were picked up by our cab from our hotel together with another family from Europe. You have to ensure that your number 1 and 2 tank is empty as you drive for 2hours without any toilets. Our first stop was a place where all the cabs release some pressure on the tyres so as to prepare the car for the drive on the sand dunes.
The adventure started when we were driving on the sand dunes, those were magical moments I don’t ever want to forget. I take my hat off to the drivers they certainly have advanced driving skills. I loved every moment of this experience.
We then got to the place where they serve the desert dinner under the stars, you get to do camel rides, my wife got her hands painted and some people got to experience the “hook-a-pipe” which is called the “Shisaha” in Dubai.
A buffet dinner was served while we were being entertained by belly dancers.
My highlight of the evening has to be the few moments before you leave almost at midnight, they switched the lights off and it was completely dark and we sat and watched the stars, that was just magical for me and my wife loved it to bits.
We were then transported back to the hotel. I was moved by the kindness from the drivers of those cabs, you would swear that they get paid for taking the most beautiful pictures too. They just offer to do this and will direct you so as to capture the best moments of your experience.
We headed to Ski Dubai; this is the largest indoor snow park or resort with 22500 square meters of indoor ski area. This wonder is located in one of the largest shopping malls in the world called the Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This is a place where one can enjoy real snow in Dubai all year round. This is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, an amazing mountain-themed wintery setting where you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, this is a place where you can take part in many snow events and meet and play with the Penguins. We enjoyed rolling down the Giant Ball run, jumping a 10ft ramp spiralling down the tube slides, sightseeing on the chairlift. You definitely need hot chocolate after every activity because the place is minus 4 degrees and is freezing literally. What is kind of amazing about this place is that you walk in dressed in summer clothes because Dubai is extremely hot and within a couple of minutes you are dressed up in warm suites to get ready to walk into the snow park. Within no time you forget that it is scorching hot outside.
We went for some serious coffee after this experience, we were back on our normal clothes searching for a coffee shop so we could get back to our normal selves before heading back to the hotel. We played like kids and lost ourselves in adventure and fun and as much as it was freezing cold it was an unforgettable experience.
Well we were in Dubai for fun and business so Day 6 and 7 were fully packed as we had to attend our company’s global rally at one of the world’s largest trade centres called the Dubai World Trade Centre. This is one eye-opening event and there is nothing as refreshing like being in a room full of network marketers from all around the world, people who have changed their lives through this profession. We truly got challenged and we want to collect our own big cheque in the year to come.
On the last day of the event we went to meet up with my wife’s ex colleague who now is a permanent resident of the UAE. We met at Texas Roadhouse at the Dubai Mall Burj Khalifa. The food in this restaurant was out of this place and I have never seen the size of the glass in which we were served our martini’s. Everything was just of high quality. We also got to meet and greet with our industry idols, took some pictures with them and that was a fulfilling moment too.
We went up the Burj Khalifa, Early that morning we got ready to go see Dubai from one of the tallest buildings in Dubai. This is one experience where you literally get to see the world from the top. This building is 828 meters in length and has 164 floors. This was the tallest building in the world as of January 2010. It is indeed a megatall skyscraper in Dubai. You get the best Dubai view and photo spots that would imprison any photographer for life in that building.
50 years of bond style exhibition at burj khalifa
Same day we took the red bus tour and did the pink route, the main highlight of this tour is the palm Island. The same day we did the dhow cruise but this one was on the palm island.
We visited the Souk Madinat, enjoyed shopping for some sovounaires there, quite a very nice and relaxed place. This was like our second last day so we made the most of it and did quite a lot in one day. We visited the Dubai Wild Wadi; this is another waterpark in Dubai, this park is a bit similar to the AquaVenture. We could not explore it to the fullest as we were also rushing to my wife’s favourite spot, the Dubai Miracle Garden. They don’t call it the Miracle Garden for nothing; this is one place that lacks nothing close to a wonder. The Dubai Miracle Garden is a flower garden located in the district of Dubailand, this garden is home to more than 45 million blooming flowers, all showcased in a variety of immense sculptures and designs. The plenty of hearts and the love train that you will find in this garden truly explains why this garden was launched on Valentines day of 2013.
This sums up our Dubai trip in a nutshell, tried to keep it short but there is just so much to say about Dubai.
One of the beautiful attraction in the North West has got to be a world within a city, this is another exotic man made wonder of Sol Kerzner’s creations, similar to the Aqua Venture or the Atlantis that you find in Dubai. Yeah I must say this man is not limited in his thinking and creative abilities.
We booked ourselves for only three days and the timing was not so perfect because it was the end of the year and the place was just way too overcrowded especially on the 1st of January but other than that we had the time of our lives.
Sun City is well known for its world class water park and if you love water like we do, then the water slides and blood pumping activities in the Valley of waves will be your favourite spot. We just lost ourselves and became like little kids, we had so much fun on those water slides and since my wife is not much of an adrenaline junkie she only enjoyed the lazy ride more, you just chillax unlike the lazy ride that you get from the AquaVenture, Atlantis in Dubai, I am still wondering why they call it a lazy ride cause there is absolutely nothing lazy about the Aqua Venture’s lazy ride.
Sun City is a just a place where you can completed get lost in, from having an amazing shopping experience and stopping to take a break to grab something to eat you just don’t run out of something to do but will certainly run out of energy after swimming in the man made beach and repeating the water slides that lure you into an unquenchable adventure.
We made time and made our way to the casino, oh this just made me want to be in Vegas already, just seeing those slot machines made me want to be be in Vegas………
One of the other fun things we did was doing the maze, we got so lost on that maze till we felt like we just wanted to see ourselves out of it miraculously. After all the crazy and mind intriguing “find you way out” exercise you find yourself in a very nice a restaurant that is located at the end of the maze where you can get your refreshments and also partake in the food they serve in their restaurants.
We had booked ourselves in some bed and breakfast in Rusternburg and so we would do some driving every single day from and to Sun City, the drive was about 30 minutes. They served the most delicious buffet breakfast and I must say we did not spend much time there at all since we would come back in the early hours almost every single day and be out the whole day.
Sun City from Gauteng is about an hours drive so this is just one of those get-away that you can do once in a while.
There was a new years’ eve party and so we spent our new years eve at SunCity partying the night away till the early hours of 2017. This one just an awesome experience, we really had so much fun that waking up the following day was a mission.
On the first the place was so overcrowded and it’s then that we felt that we had not made a good decision by spending the 1st there, we still enjoyed ourselves swimming and chillaxing till it was time to leave.
We also had an excuse to eat at Rocco mammas, you know how their food can be tempting especially when you trying to watch what you eat but nonetheless we were seated there and we indulged to the fullest.
It all started as a business weekend getaway and since business was taken care of and completed early on Saturday we decided to make the most of the trip and not just make it a business weekend but a fun weekend as well. Our definition of fun always includes getting in touch with the extraordinary show of nature, adventure and plenty of driving. We spent our evening at some bed and breakfast in Phalaborwa and purposed to leave Phalaborwa in the early hours of Sunday so we would have enough time to explore two provinces in one day. I know that sounds almost impossible. Our first stop was at the Eco caves, for some reason it was nothing like what I had expected, I am even embarrassed to share that my wife was not willing to go all the way to experience the entire tour, again I blame this on the movies we have watched. Fear is crippling and will rob one of beautiful opportunities and experiences, after being challenged by a young girl who was so enthusiastic about the tour she decided not to be a party pooper and wear her big girl cap and act as if she was not frightened.
This was an exercise and a half because we had to bend for most of the time and watch out not to hit our heads against the rocks. It was dark and a bit creepy, well its a cave what did we expect? Of all the beauties of nature what I saw there has got to be the most thought provoking creations of nature I have ever seen. There were images of statues and animals and so the sections of the caves are named after the theme of each compartment, this again is such a wonder, how nature would decide to have a theme and carve the rock to whatever theme it desired is still a mystery to me, there are ostrich heads, elephant skins, and many other incredible images naturally carved on the rocks. I know it just sounds way to supernatural for the human mind to fathom. These caves are full of history and such an amazing one if you ask me, we were fortunate to have been guided by one of the best tour guides the place has to offer, it was as if she was taking us through her own life, she painted a bold and well detailed story about the history of the cave, one I don’t see myself forgetting any time soon.
The one thing I almost forgot to mention is that as you drive to the caves you find yourself on a road that looks so dead you would swear that you are lost or even turn back. The tour guides at the Echo Caves do not get paid, they work as volunteers so it’s a good thing to budget a tip for this and one more thing is to ensure you have comfortable shoes as it gets slippery inside the caves because of the water and its quite rocky as well in some areas.
On our way to the three Rondavels not far from the Echo caves my wife spotted a shoe house, oh my word she felt like a child in a story book, lol, yeah its amazing how the child in her never grows old. She clams to have only seen shoe houses in cartoons for most of her life and for the first time in her life she was seeing a real one and she could not resist but want to go touch it and feel that it was real. I know that sounds crazy, and so we had to take a couple of pictures and yeah we did what we do best. I think her shoe house fascination was a little bit too much because before we knew it we were headed at the wrong direction and had to make a U turn.
A couple of minutes later we were at our original intended destination and that was the three rondavels. It’s a mountain that carved itself into three rondavels. Believe you me, there was also a story I remember vividly now about the Queens and the three rondavels. I am not going to try and remember it, the wonderful view of this place on its own its far more exhilarating. There was just so much showing off of nature going on in that place, while you at the top looking down there is an “instagram type of beaty” going on and yeah a Geographic photographer would literally feel imprisoned in that place.
We left the Three Rondavels and headed to a place called Bourkes Lurke potholes. For the first time in my life I got to understand the meaning of the quote, “ it is not the strength of the water that causes the water to cut through the rocks but its persistence.” The Bourkes Lurke potholes embodies that. I don’t know how this place was discovered but it has to be one of nature’s living epistle on persistence. Just looking at the humongous potholes on those rocks made me realize just how powerful persistence is. This is just one of those places I can never truly do justice to by trying to explain its magnificence. Indeed if you think that God is dead, you better look around and please do yourself a favor and visit that place. Nature on its own has convicted me of the existence of God, there are just places that will magnify the existence of God and leave you with no doubt that indeed our God is majestic and lacks no creativity in him.
Now trying to do two provinces in one day can be exhausting and this was one of those road trips that had less talking and more moments of reflection. Our next stop was in Graskop, God’s window in Mpumalanga. The weather had now started to get all moody on us, and we did not get one of the best views on God’s window because it was misty. We then went up the mountain for another view and again, we did not have the correct shoes on because the adventure was not really preplanned but was a spontaneous thing. This is just one element that keeps a spark in a relationship, you don’t always have to have everything all figured out, at times you will have to go with the flow. The fact that we were not wearing comfortable shoes to go up the mountain did not stop us, we were up on that mountain, correct shoes or not and were so determined to climb that hill for the view of a lifetime. It was already in the afternoon by the time we got to God’s window and we take a few moments peeping through his magnificent window, it was a bit cloudy so the view was not as crystal clear however there was still a whole lot of a phenominal dance of nature that we still relive in our not only in our photographic minds but deep down in our hearts that get captured by God’s splendor in nature.
We drove to the pinnacle rock, this is just another wonder on its own, this is a natural beauty, it’s a massive rock that erupts from the earth’s surface and reaches about 30 metres in height. The rock is just every photographer’s capturer. You will also find vendors sitting at this attraction selling African curious and keepsakes.
On our way back we drove pass Sabie, did the Mac Mac pools would be your ideal spot for a breakfast picnic with its magical and soothing sound of the waterfall, which is just a perfect romantic soundtrack. We would not miss the Mac Mac falls for anything. You hear the rumbling from quite a distance and cant help but continue to be drawn to the awestrucking source of the noise. Pilgrims rest is like a fairy tale small town that is tucked away in the mountains; this is a place that is rich in a historical legacy that has not been tampered with at all.
Just sweeping through the grasslands gazing at the beautiful mountain ranges, the panorama route along the Mpumalanga escarpment is pleasurable and makes a roadtrip a worthwhile one.
Passing through Sabie kind of brought back many childhood memories as I myself come from a very small town that specializes in delicacies like the pancakes you get in Sabie
Our last stop before leaving the awesome Mpumalanga was the Sudwala Caves. This place offers a fascinating trip into the Earth’s interior. All you need to enjoy this is your legs and a sense of wonder. The tour lasts for an hour, you are allocated a tour guide on your arrival and the tour guide will help point out the fantastic natural sculptures and rock formations which will leave you awestruck. If you do not suffer from claustrophobia or any serious health problem you can walk, scramble or wriggle and climb around the oldest caves in the world.
They say it is not the destination that matters the most but the journey, I somehow agree with the statement but when it comes to Cape Town i must say that it is was not just the journey that mattered but the destination itself was just a cherry on top. We left Gauteng to drop off the kids at my mother in law’s place in Burgersdorp.
The following morning we were up very early and ready to hit the road, our first stop was at the Gariep Dam, we have kind of made it a tradition to stop at Gariep even if its just for a moment to remember the day we committed to doing life together for the rest of our lives.
I had anticipated a very long journey but to my surprise we were in Cape Town within no time, what was so heart warming for me was the deep and meaningful conversations we had. It is important as couples to take time out just to reconnect and most importantly to listen to each other. The journey to Cape Town was a time of reflection and connection, I genuinely believe that it is the beautiful conversations we had on the way that lit sparks and led to an awesome-mazing vacation.
We got to Cape Town in the afternoon and it was the time when the street market was being packed up. Our first stop in Cape Town was in the city centre, I kind of felt a bit lost at first and had that uneasy feeling and deep down I wondered if we had picked the right spot for our vacation, we grabbed something to eat for the night and before you know it we were on the internet planning our 2week stay in the friendly city. They don’t call it the friendly city for nothing, it is indeed one of the warmest places I have ever visited in terms of hospitality and oh boy your pocket must be loaded because everything is just a bit priced and at times that included the smiles we would get from the car guards. (Laughing out loud).
The following day we really started to explore the beauty of Cape town and the first thing we did was to go to the V & A Wharf, we spent almost the whole day just doing some shopping, watched movies and had food, I remember us taking a walk by the beach and laughing non stop. It felt like we had just met and were getting to know each other from scratch, blame it on the atmosphere we were in.
We got our tickets to do the city sight seeing bus tour for the 2 following days, we figured that doing that would ensure that we didn’t miss any highlight of Cape Town. We enjoyed the Red Bus City Tour and the mini cape peninsula. To see the full details of what is included in the ticket you can click on the link below.
On our forth day we went to the Table Mountain, I guess we had not done our homework properly because we did not dress warm enough to go up the famous table mountain, I guess we were fooled by the fact that it was Mid December and so we expected that the weather would be ok. Cape Town can be very windy and so the day we had booked for this trip we did not have the best weather, its important to check your weather focus before you may your booking and the same applies for your boat cruise. I would not say I really enjoyed going up the mountain and this was mainly as a result of the manner in which we were dressed. So we went up, took a couple of pictures, that on its own was an assignment I will never forget as my face was literally frozen because of the cold, we were on our way down as fast as possible. Lesson learnt, always do a proper research before visiting any place, know how you should dress.
One of the wildest experiences we had in Cape town was driving up Chapman’s peak, the view is to die for but the adrenaline is truly not for the faint hearted. We stopped a couple of times to take pictures, you will be glad that you not the one driving if you have a fear of heights and will get attempted several times not to look down. You know the movies we watch will spoil ones experiences sometimes because they will keep you imagining the worst thing that could ever happen just driving on Chapman’s peak.
I still maintain that God did no shabby job when he created Cape Town, it’s a place that shows his magnificence in no small way, how every piece of wonder is assembled in one place and held intact forever is still a mystery. I must say this; God is incredibly creative.
We went to the beach a couple of times and our favourite being Camps Bay, as much as our bodies were longing to swim the water was just way too cold, I remember dipping my feet for only a few minutes and felt like I was coming down with athritis the same time, Please don’t ask me how I know about how one feels when they coming down with athritis, Ijust know.
Our love for shopping compelled us to drive around looking for the factory shops, we just could not leave Cape town without going to the Factory shops and so we visited a couple but got disappointed as most of the shops were still closed due to the holidays.
One thing I will advise you is this, your Cape Town experience will just not be complete without you heading to Enyanga to enjoy one of the most delicious braai vleis ekasi has to offer, this is at a place called KwaMzoli. This is a very chilled out ghetto hang out spot, we got all kasified and headed to Enyanga to get an experience of a Kasie Chisanyama. There is so much diversity in Cape Town and to this day I still believe that Cape Town must be one of the places in South Africa that embodies diversity when it comes to tourism. We got to Kwamzoli and there were all kinds of people that you can ever think of. It was midweek but the place was buzzing, service was great regardless.
I think one of my wifes’ highlights was eating fresh fish and enjoying the beauty of listening to the cliques of other intriguing Xhosa speaking people, that was just heaven on earth for her. One thing I will never forget about Cape Town is the chilled out culture, there is no sense of urgency at all and so if you are a person who is used to speed service, you will have to relax your standards a bit.
That was Cape Town in a nutshell.
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With luxurious appointments and features, the Enclave is Buick’s upscale family hauler with refinement that rivals more expensive vehicles. Power is delivered by a 281-hp 3.6-liter V-6, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. The Enclave is a quiet, refined crossover with a long list of optional equipment. Some of those features hike the price of the car quickly, though, and many of those options are only marginally useful.
The Tahoe is a full-size, body-on-frame boat hauler that rules the SUV world, with loads of tech to keep you safer on the road. Features such as lane keep assist and forward collision alert help you navigate congested roads, while Apple CarPlay integrates phone, texts, maps, and music. In addition there is 4G LTE connectivity with Wi-Fi and up to six USB ports and six power outlets. A 355-hp V-8 pairs with a six-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is an option on all models.
Although the Traverse looks like an SUV, it’s really more of a camouflaged minivan, especially considering its spacious cabin with room for eight. Powered by a 281-hp V-6 and driving either the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic, performance is merely adequate. Despite sharp steering, the handling is rather bland, but the ride is compliant. Many rivals are simply more engaging to drive, including some actual minivans. Luckily, an all-new Traverse goes on sale in fall 2017.
The Durango remains big, brawny, and masculine in an era of soft, curvaceous crossovers—and it’s also not as trucklike as other large SUVs. Powertrains include a 293-hp 3.6-liter V-6 or a 360-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, both offered in rear- or all-wheel-drive guises; an eight-speed automatic is standard. The V-6 can tow 6200 pounds; the V-8 can tow 7400 pounds. The optional third row makes room for seven. Uconnect infotainment with an 8.4-inch touchscreen and satellite radio is optional.
The lane-hogging Expedition and the even-longer Expedition EL provide room for eight adults and acres of cargo space. The 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 makes 365 hp; a six-speed automatic with rear-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive is optional. Some may scoff at a V-6 in a rig of this size, but its 9200-lb towing capacity (when properly equipped) should silence naysayers. An all-new Expedition goes on sale in fall 2017.
The funky Flex is Ford’s answer to those seeking a modern version of the old-school station wagon. Its three rows are standard and can accommodate seven passengers with room to spare. Two V-6s are offered, both displacing 3.5 liters and mated to a six-speed automatic. The base engine makes 287 hp with front- or all-wheel drive; the EcoBoost twin-turbo makes 365 hp with standard all-wheel drive. Adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and a 12-speaker Sony audio system are optional.
The jack-of-all-trades Acadia is ready to tackle the trails—and carpool lanes—with plenty of storage and room for up to seven. Touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE connectivity, and mobile Wi-Fi is available. A 193-hp 2.5-liter four or a 310-hp 3.6-liter V-6 drive the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive is optional. Extras like automatic emergency braking and a novel “rear-seat reminder” boost the Acadia’s safety street cred.
As capable as they are handsome, the Yukon and the stretched Yukon XL are multitasking machines. They offer seating for up to eight, a maximum tow rating of 8100 pounds, and optional four-wheel drive. A 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic powers SLE and SLT trims; the chrome-laden, leather-lined Denali offers near-Escalade levels of luxury and gets a 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 and an eight-speed automatic. An 8.0-inch infotainment system, 4G LTE connectivity, and onboard Wi-Fi are standard.
If a stylish, useful, and trouble-free ride is what you’re after, well—ladies and gentlemen, this is your Pilot speaking. The 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 powers the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic; top-level Touring and Elite trims get a nine-speed. The all-wheel-drive system offers torque vectoring for better handling and modes for snow, sand, and mud. The Pilot’s three rows provide plenty of room for all and a host of active-safety tech is available to keep everyone safe.
Putting zoom-zoom charisma into a three-row crossover is no easy feat, but Mazda does it with the CX-9—earning it a 2017 10Best award. A well-tuned suspension offers great handling; steering is light but precise. A 250-hp 2.5-liter turbo four mates with a six-speed automatic and either front- or all-wheel drive. The EPA estimates 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for front-drive models; adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking are standard on Grand Touring and Signature trims.
As Nissan’s double-duty SUV, the Armada can tow up to 8500 pounds and has space for eight. Sold in Infiniti showrooms as the QX80, the Armada inherits its luxury-branded counterpart’s plush interior and comes standard with navigation, Bose audio, and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking are optional on SL models and standard on the Platinum. A 390-hp 5.6-liter V-8 drives the rear or all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic.
Once an off-road-ready ruffian, the Pathfinder has matured and has happily found itself in a family way. There’s seating for seven with easy access to the third row, even with a child seat installed on the second-row bench. The 3.5-liter V-6 makes 284 hp and drives the front or all four wheels through a CVT. The Pathfinder feels as at home performing local weekend errands as it does on long-distance highway trips; just don’t expect any behind-the-wheel fun from this minivan alternative.
Inconspicuous and sensible, the Highlander has what it takes to haul up to eight in quiet comfort. A 185-hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder or optional 270-hp 3.5-liter V-6 both pair with a six-speed automatic; front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. A hybrid combines the V-6 with two electric motors; we saw 24 mpg in our test. The Highlander provides an adequate driving experience, but it’s more focused on interior niceties and storage. An updated Highlander debuts in November.
The Land Cruiser is a world-wide legend, known from Aruba to Zimbabwe to be one of the most competent SUVs ever made. Featuring a sturdy body-on-frame design and a 5.7-liter 381-hp V-8 engine with an eight-speed automatic and full-time four-wheel drive, it offers serious off-roading ability. Creature comforts are addressed, too, with three rows of leather seating for eight (the front seats are ventilated), Toyota’s Entune infotainment, and wireless headphones for the rear entertainment system.
The SUV that time forgot—Toyota’s Sequoia—offers a cavernous interior and flexible cargo space, but not much else. A 5.7-liter V-8 drives the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive is optional. Standard infotainment with navigation provides adequate connectivity, and the top Platinum trim gets adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. The Sequoia is simply outclassed by its competition, and is in need of an update—luckily, one is due in fall 2017.
Volkswagen’s all-new three-row crossover with room for seven arrives next spring—it should be worth the wait. On the inside, two adults can sit in the third row with luggage stored behind them. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink are on hand; a 12-speaker Fender audio system is optional. A 238-hp turbo four with front-wheel drive is standard, while a 280-hp V-6 with all-wheel drive is optional. Safety tech includes forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning with steering assist.
Small is in, and Buick—a big-car expert—wants everyone to know it can do small just as well. The Encore is a pocket-sized Enclave and features some of the big Buick SUV’s traits. Its stylish cabin is feature rich, quiet, and comfortable for four. The base engine is a 138-hp 1.4-liter turbo four, which delivers on fuel economy but struggles under heavy loads. A more powerful 153-hp version of the engine is optional. Handling is fairly agile and the ride is silky smooth, but steering lacks feel.
With a stylish cabin and a roomy back seat, the Envision quietly isolates you from the real world—in other words, it’s a Buick. A 197-hp 2.5-liter four pairs with a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. Premium and Premium II trims get a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo four and all-wheel drive. Active noise cancellation and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard; a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise, and automated emergency braking are optional.
Despite a cool name, the Trax is an unadventurous choice in a segment with more exciting, fun-to-drive choices. It offers a roomy cabin and is powered by a 138-hp 1.4-liter turbo four with a six-speed automatic; take your pick of either front- or all-wheel drive. Steering feedback is okay and the ride is smooth, but is tuned more for comfort than sport. Inside, there’s lots of tech, with 4G LTE, a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, and 7.0-inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Grown up but still cheeky, the 500X complements its minuscule sibling, the Fiat 500, by offering more space and all-weather capability while retaining its classic Italian style. A 160-hp 1.4-liter turbo four drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual; a 180-hp 2.4-liter four and nine-speed automatic power the front or all four wheels. A drive-mode system provides three settings for different driving conditions and the cabin of the 500X is packed with safety features and technology.
While comfortable and fun to drive, the C-Max’s high EPA-estimated fuel-economy numbers are basically fantasy. A 2.0-liter four and electric motors in the CVT combine for 188 hp; in our testing, the C-Max and the plug-in C-Max Energi got only 32 and 33 mpg, respectively. If a hybrid can’t top a gas-powered opponent’s fuel economy, then why bother? The Energi’s EV-only range of 19 miles is inadequate, too. That the C-Max drives much like a conventional hatchback only furthers that point.
As its name suggests, the Ford EcoSport is a sporty, compact crossover offering an economy-minded package. It has plenty of storage space and a snazzy side-hinged rear hatch. A 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder with front-wheel drive is standard, while a 2.0-liter four with all-wheel drive is optional; both use a six-speed automatic. An 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also available is a 10-speaker premium sound system pumping out 675 watts.
The HR-V mixes angles and curves in an attractive design that lends it a sporty look while hiding its budget-friendly roots. A 141-hp 1.8-liter four comes with either a six-speed manual or CVT and front- or all-wheel drive. The flat-folding second-row provides cargo-hauling bragging rights, and rear-seat room is generous. Although it lacks some of the active safety features offered among its competitors, standard equipment includes a backup camera, Bluetooth, and 17-inch wheels.
Named after an American desert town, styled in Germany, and built in South Korea, the Tucson is a globe-trotting go-getter. It’s value packed, too—touchscreen infotainment with satellite radio is standard. Limited models have nav and leather seats. A 164-hp 2.0-liter four, a six-speed automatic, and front-drive are standard; a 175-hp 1.6-liter turbo four, seven-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive are optional. The Eco model got 25 mpg in our testing, only 1 mpg better than a turbo we tested.
With Grand Cherokee looks and a budget-friendly price, the Compass is the tweener Jeep we’ve been waiting for. A 180-hp, 175 lb-ft four-cylinder engine can be front- or all-wheel drive and mates to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed or 9-speed automatic. It can feel sluggish when pushed, but the Compass is composed on the road, and the available Trailhawk model offers real off-road chops. Standard Uconnect and available Apple CarPlay are welcome luxuries in a comfortable cabin.
Those seeking an affordable off-roader should check out the Patriot—but move fast, as this is likely its last year on sale. It offers either a 158-hp 2.0-liter or a 172-hp 2.4-liter, both four-cylinders. For transmissions, choose among a five-speed manual, a six-speed automatic, and a CVT. Front-wheel-drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Uconnect infotainment and satellite radio are standard. The Patriot is no joy ride, but its boxy styling is charmingly reminiscent of classic Jeeps.
Its seven-slot grille marks it as a Jeep, and despite its size, the Renegade’s a capable off-roader. A 160-hp turbo four offers a six-speed manual and either front- or all-wheel drive; a 180-hp four with a nine-speed automatic is also available. Trailhawk models get four-wheel drive with low range, hill-descent control, and a traction management. The interior boasts comfy seats and ample cargo room. Responsive steering, a comfortable ride, and good brakes make the Renegade capable on-road too.
In a world of soft-road-only car-based crossovers, the Wrangler is a tough-as-nails off-road expert. Four-wheel drive is standard, as are a 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and a six-speed manual; a five-speed automatic is optional. Two- and four-door “Unlimited” models are offered, both with a choice of soft or hard convertible tops. The Rubicon gets front and rear locking differentials, a 4.0:1 low-gear ratio, and a disconnecting front anti-roll bar for wheel articulation and rock-crawling prowess.
No dancing hamsters required—the Kia Soul is truly fun and practical, which helps it earn a 2017 10Best award. Driving the front wheels is your choice of either a 130-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed manual or automatic, or a 161-hp 2.0-liter four with the automatic. The 201-hp 1.6-liter turbo four is the brawniest of the bunch and comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard at this price point, and a panoramic sunroof is optional.
If you can get past the odd face of the Sportage and into the driver’s seat, you’ll find a tasteful interior that’s almost Audi-like in its detail. A 181-hp 2.4-liter four, six-speed automatic, and front-wheel drive are standard on EX and SX; all-wheel drive is optional. The SX Turbo offers a 240-hp 2.0-liter turbo four. The interior features touchscreen infotainment; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available. Active safety features, such as automated emergency braking, are also offered.
The CX-3 is a fun and feisty runabout with a can-do attitude, offering taut handling paired with edgy styling. A 146-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic with front-wheel drive provide the zoom-zoom; all-wheel drive is optional. The CX-3 relies on its sport-tuned suspension and creative weight-saving measures to maintain Mazda’s unique brand of driving pleasure. The cabin is equally well designed, featuring high-quality materials and modern driving aids.
Mazda’s ethos is to blend sports-car know-how into every model, and the CX-5 is no exception. Sharp steering and a poised chassis make it the enthusiast’s pick. A 155-hp 2.0-liter four, six-speed manual, and front-wheel drive are standard; a 184-hp 2.5-liter four is optional, with six-speed auto and all-wheel drive. The smart cabin, easy-to-use infotainment, and optional safety tech—adaptive cruise, automated emergency braking, and more—underscore the CX-5’s great all-rounder standing.
Offering practicality not found in other Mini products, the Countryman is agile, yet roomy for its size. Power comes from a 121-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder, which mates to the front wheels via a standard six-speed manual. All-wheel drive and a paddle-shifted six-speed automatic are both options. The S and John Cooper Works versions offer more power and all-wheel-drive options. The Countryman retains the quintessential Mini driving characteristics and quirkiness, despite its larger dimensions.
What we have here is a mini-er Mini, smaller and more expensive than its four-door Countryman counterpart. Power comes from a 121-hp four-cylinder with front-wheel drive standard, along with a six-speed manual; a six-speed automatic is optional. Mini Connected is optional and offers a 6.5-inch screen with smartphone integration. The Paceman still has the soul of a Mini, great handling, and is not without its charms. More powerful S and JCW models are also offered and are reviewed separately.
With its angular looks, the Outlander Sport cuts a swath through the sameness of cookie-cutter crossovers. A 148-hp 2.0-liter four with front-wheel drive mates to a five-speed manual; a CVT is optional and can be had with all-wheel drive. For more power, there is a 168-hp 2.4-liter four with a CVT; front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive optional. There are some pluses—a low base price and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty—but the Sport won’t steal an enthusiast’s heart.
The Juke puts the “fun” in “funky,” making it perfect for those who want a spry and speedy little runabout that also stands out in traffic. It’s powered by a 188-hp 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is optional. Sadly, a CVT is the only available transmission, which takes some joy out of driving. On the plus side, its light and informative steering makes it easy to fling around back-country curves or to jockey for position on a crowded interstate.
Known as the Qashqai in Europe, the Rogue Sport adopts an easier-to-pronounce name and familial styling here in the States. The Sport is more than a foot shorter than the Rogue, but the two share basic mechanicals. A 141-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and CVT drive the front wheels; all-wheel drive is also available. Bluetooth phone connectivity, satellite radio, and a backup camera are standard; a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is optional. The Rogue Sport goes on sale this spring.
Scion has refreshed the new Scion xB look and has hooked it up with a youthful appearance which is sleeker than the current model. The vehicle stretches 168-inches long, 69-inches wide and stands at a height of 63 inches. It will have a wheelbase of 102-inches. At the front, the vehicle features a new fascia with redesigned bumper, a large grille and new long but narrow LED headlights. This makes the Scion look sleek. At the rear, the car comes with redesigned rear bumper and new chrome exhaust tips. The car 4- door vehicle will also be offered in new body colors all in a bid to gain more audience than its predecessor.
The rough-and-ready Crosstrek’s standard all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance pave the way for adventure. Acceleration is unhurried from a 148-hp 2.0-liter flat-four that pairs with either a five-speed manual or a CVT. The sedately styled interior is straightforward, with supportive front seats and good outward visibility. Bluetooth and a 6.2-inch touchscreen are standard; a 7.0-inch touchscreen is available. Options include adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking.
C-HR stands for Coupe High-Rider, despite this little ute having four doors and riding rather low for a crossover. A 2.0-liter four pumps out 144 hp and teams with a CVT. Oddly, the C-HR is front-drive only; all-wheel drive is not an option. Safety tech includes a forward-collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with steering assist, automatic high-beams, and adaptive cruise control.
If you want go-anywhere capability in a fun-to-drive wagon, the Golf Alltrack is the ride for you—and it’s a 10Best winner, too. A 170-hp 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder pairs with a six-speed automatic and a brake-based all-wheel-drive system. The raised suspension provides 6.9 inches of ground clearance, but it doesn’t deteriorate the Alltrack’s athletic attitude. A 6.5-inch touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking are optional.
While comfortable, well-built, and distinctively styled, the Tiguan is short on interior space and high on price, making it a hard sell. It’s still a sporty offering: A lively chassis and well-tuned suspension impart a level of agility most rivals can’t match. A 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder makes 200 hp and drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is optional, but the Tiguan is best suited for on-road exploits. This summer marks the debut of a redesigned model.
The CR-Z is an ambitious attempt at making a sporty hybrid, but its performance doesn’t match its adventurous styling. The good news is that it’s the only hybrid sold with a manual—a six-speed—but the bad news is that the combined output is a mere 130 hp. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder pairs with an electric motor; the EPA rates it for 36-mpg city/39-mpg highway with the optional CVT; the manual gets 31/38. Standard features include Bluetooth capability, automatic climate control, and cruise.
The Veloster is a pseudo hot-hatch—its quirky styling stands out in traffic—yet its racy looks deceive. The base engine is a feeble 132-hp 1.6-liter four with a standard six-speed manual; a dual-clutch six-speed automatic is optional. The Turbo boasts 201 hp and a six-speed manual; a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional. Handling is predictable and lively, yet steering feel is vague. If a funky-looking hatchback is all you want, step right up, but enthusiasts will be disappointed.
The Forte coupe—or Koup, in Kia-speak—is sportier and more elegant than other Fortes; it’s also well equipped and surprisingly refined. The EX is powered by a gutsy 173-hp, 2.0-liter four; the SX model’s 201-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes it even quicker. A six-speed manual is standard, with a six-speed automatic optional on both. Steering and handling are nicely balanced. Alas, the Koup is no screamer, but it is sporty enough to satisfy all but the most hard-core enthusiasts.
Sun worshippers and Mini mavens continue to find this convertible irresistible—and can you blame them? Its attractions include a power top that folds flat in 18 seconds, an “Openometer” gauge that keeps track of how long you’ve motored with the top down, the joy of unlimited headroom, and plenty of charisma. Otherwise, it’s just like driving the previous-generation Mini hardtop with the base four-cylinder engine. Downsides include leisurely performance, a tiny trunk, and annoying cowl shake.
Styled like a Cooper hatchback wearing a backward baseball cap, the Mini Cooper coupe forgoes the Cooper’s back seat and practicality for a short roof and conventional trunk. Alas, the sweet-handling two-seater looks faster than it is. Power comes via a weak but fuel-efficient 121-hp four-cylinder mated to a standard six-speed manual or optional automatic transmission. Like all Minis, the Cooper coupe has tons of personality and is highly customizable, but it can get pricey with options.
Basically a Cooper convertible with a chopped windshield, a soft top, and a trunk instead of a back seat, the roadster trades practicality for spunky, two-seat style. It drives just like all other Coopers, with great steering and slot-car handling, though with just 121 hp from its a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, it is a bit on the slow side. Still, the Cooper Roadster is a fuel-efficient two-seater that lets the sun shine in with a flick of the wrist. For more speed, see the S/JCW models.
Along with the rest of the Scion brand, the Scion tC model was discontinued in 2016. Under the hood, you’ll find a 179-hp 2.5-liter four; it powers the front wheels through a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Handling is confident and body motions are well controlled, but its rivals easily outperform it. However, the tC offers a roomy cabin, top-notch build quality, and a good reliability record.
The Golf GTI is the progenitor of the hot-hatch genre, and age has not dulled its abilities—and so we name it a 10Best winner. The base engine is a 210-hp 2.0-liter turbo four with a six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic, an extra-cost option, is almost as much fun as the manual. Choose the Sport model for 10 more horses as well as upgrades to brakes and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential. GTI’s classic plaid seats come standard, as do agile handling and hatchback practicality.
Gutsy engines, aggressive sheetmetal, and rear-wheel drive are essential for any muscle car, but the Camaro stirs in excellent handling and great steering, too. Available as a coupe or convertible, the base engine is a 275-hp 2.0-liter turbo four; a 335-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and a 455-hp 6.2-liter V-8 are optional. All offer either a six-speed manual or optional eight-speed automatic. The interior, though, is tight and offers limited visibility. The V-6 and V-8 Camaros are 10Best winners for 2017.
The mighty Corvette truly competes with the world’s greatest sports cars, no excuses required. With a 6.2-liter V-8 making 455 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque (an optional sport exhaust is good for 460 hp and 465 lb-ft), an eight-speed automatic is now available in addition to the standard seven-speed manual. The Corvette sheds its unrefined reputation and has an interior befitting its stature. The Grand Sport is a 10Best winner, combining the LT1 V-8 with the Z06’s bodywork and chassis hardware.
Don’t judge the SS by its cover: Ho-hum styling hides a mighty V-8 and track-ready tuning. Chevy’s flagship performance sedan has the 6.2-liter 415-hp engine from the previous-gen Camaro and the Corvette. Rear-drive and a six-speed automatic are standard; we’d pick the six-speed manual, which is a no-cost option. Standard performance bits—front and rear Brembo brakes, magnetic ride control—contribute to exceptional handling. A comfy interior and a 4.6-second sprint to 60 mph are bonuses.
The Challenger is one big bruiser, with heft better suited to cruising or drag-racing at the strip than turning laps on a race track. Powertrains include the standard 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and an eight-speed auto; a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 makes 375 hp when paired with the standard six-speed manual and 372 hp with the optional eight-speed automatic. The Scat Pack option features a 485-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V-8; a six-speed manual is standard and a eight-speed auto is optional.
The Viper is both all-American and a true exotic, with lots of curves and bulges in all the right places to let you know it means business. The long nose, bodacious body, and predatory stare give the Viper a menacing look, while its 645-hp, 8.4-liter V-10 can catapult it to 60 mph in about three seconds. For the ultimate track monster, check out the Viper ACR. With all kinds of aero aids, special tires by Kumho and carbon-ceramic brakes, Dodge says it is the fastest Viper on a racetrack.
Borrowing heavily from the looks of the Pininfarina-designed original, circa 1966, the 124 Spider is a stylish, if not exactly Italian, two-seat droptop. Its rival—Mazda’s MX-5 Miata—is also its main benefactor, donating its chassis, assembly line, and parts bin. But the 124 Spider does have a unique suspension and powertrain: a 160-hp 1.4-liter turbo four with either a six-speed manual or auto. The racy Abarth gets a sport-tuned exhaust, a limited-slip differential, and a boost to 164 hp.
Ford has approved 500 lucky people to purchase a GT; the rest of us can only dream. The GT has some of the most stunningly exotic bodywork around. Highlights include a mid-engine twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 making 647 hp and a maximum of 550 lb-ft of torque, carbon-fiber construction and body panels, active aerodynamics, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; a manual won’t be offered. Ford says the top speed is 216 mph—we can’t wait to test that claim.
The galloping pony nestled in the grille serves as a reminder that the Mustang is most at home on the open road. Both the coupe and convertible come with your choice of a 300-hp 3.7-liter V-6, a 310-hp 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder, or a 435-hp 5.0-liter V-8; choose from a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The rear-wheel-drive chassis is eager to attack corners while enabling a smooth ride when cruising. An updated Mustang debuts in fall 2017 with a new 10-speed automatic as an option.
Hyundai is releasing the Genesis Coupe for the 2016 model year with a new six-inch color display in the center stack in place of the previous dot-matrix display. That’s it. Oh, except for a price increase. The coupe still packs a 3.8-liter V6 as standard, driving 348 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. For some buyers, the Genesis Coupe makes for a compelling alternative to the likes of the Nissan 370Z (which only has two seats) and the Infiniti Q60 Coupe (which is significantly more expensive).
We won’t find out if the Stinger lives up to its name until it goes on sale later this year. The base engine is a 255-hp 2.0-liter turbo four; a 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 is optional. Both models have an eight-speed automatic and either rear- or all-wheel drive. A 7.0-in touchscreen and navigation are standard. Driver aids include adaptive cruise, automated emergency braking, and lane-keep assist. An optional Harman/Kardon audio system with 15 speakers and 720 watts kicks out the jams.
For pure driving bliss, the Miata is tops in our book—it’s so good, it’s a 10Best winner for 2017. This legendary two-seater has a 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed manual; a six-speed automatic is optional. Its use of aluminum helps keep weight down, so the Miata remains eminently flingable in the twists and turns that you’ll surely seek out whenever you hit the road. The RF model offers a power-folding targa top, but it’s much more expensive than the cloth-topped Miata.
Nissan’s ‘Z-car’ has been a dominant force in sports coupes for more than four decades. The latest Nissan 370Z coupe traces its roots to the legendary 240Z that took the world by storm with its exceptional looks and powerful performance. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find that the basic formula defining the ‘Z’ has stayed the same – now with a remarkable 328PS 3.7L V6 engine and a host of technical advances.
Doesn’t matter what you call it—GT-R or, more fittingly, Godzilla—Nissan’s range topper is a supercar-stomping, high-tech dynamo. Its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 makes a mighty 565 hp while a six-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive team up to put all that power to the pavement. The GT-R’s quick steering, rigid structure and adjustable suspension can make even amateurs feel positively heroic from behind the wheel. Want more? Check out the track-ready NISMO-tuned variant with 600 hp.
When the Scion brand ended, the FR-S became the Toyota 86. Regardless, the FR-S offers excellent driving dynamics. Only one engine was available: a 200-hp 2.0-liter flat-four. A six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic were the transmission choices. The manual shifts with a solid, no-nonsense feel, while the paddle-shift automatic is quick and responsive. The cabin is cramped and plasticky, but the FR-S is very agile, which endears it to enthusiasts.
Don’t let the boy-racer vibe deter you: The BRZ is perfect for purists on a budget. An updated 205-hp version of the 2.0-liter flat-four pairs to a six-speed manual, hardly answering complaints that the rear-drive sports car lacks punch. Output drops to 200 hp with the six-speed automatic. Still, the BRZ is impeccably balanced and satisfying, not to mention slide-happy. There’s not much trunk space and adults will reject the back seat, but once behind the wheel, those objections melt away.
The car formerly known as the Scion FR-S is now the Toyota 86 and is tasked with keeping the brand’s sports-car flame burning in this crossover-crazed world. The 2.0-liter flat-four makes 205 hp when paired to the smooth-shifting six-speed manual. With the optional six-speed automatic, however, power drops to 200 hp—but we doubt you’ll be able to tell. Rear-wheel drive and a balanced chassis provide endless fun on twisty roads. When cruising around town, the racy styling will turn heads.