By on December 26, 2017

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF - Image: © Timothy CainIn a year of great political transition, there was also much change afoot at The Truth About Cars and more than a few alterations made in the way my life intersects with the automotive industry.

2017 was crazy. Yet midst all of the external upheaval (Trump, TTAC, Apple skipping the iPhone 9, the launch of a new Honda Odyssey) and an array of internal disorder (GoodCarBadCar’s acquisition, a move to rural Prince Edward Island, Miata purchase, new job) there was at least one constant.

I drove a ton of cars. Many tons of cars, to be more accurate.

Until transitioning away from a full-day gig as road test editor and sales analyst here at TTAC, there was a new manufacturer-supplied vehicle filled with fuel sitting in my driveway every week. There were 35 vehicles in total, not counting many different vehicles I’ve driven for other reasons during the first 10 months of the year and since October ended.

Valued at nearly $1.64 million, they ranged in price from the high teens to nearly 90 grand. 20 of the 35 utilized all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Three were equipped with a manual transmission, and two of those three were Mazdas. 11 would charitably be called utility vehicles. There were only two pickup trucks, two convertibles, and one minivan.

After 35 vehicles, which weeks stood out? Which vehicles were most pleasantly surprising, which vehicles received the harshest verdicts, which vehicles failed to live up to expectations and left me disappointed? I answered these questions in 2015 and again in 2016. As 2017 ends, let’s answer them again.2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet - Image: © Timothy CainBest Of The Best: Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet

Granted, it was the second-most costly weekly test example, so it ought to be great. But the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet excelled for reasons aside from the fact that it was an expensive and fast non-Benz Benz. Interior quality, front seat comfort, rear seat space, limited buffeting, impressive audio, and a charming balance between comfort and athleticism would make the AMG C43 a suitable companion even if it were to cost $25,000 more than it does.

Beyond the fact that Mercedes-Benz nailed so many details, the AMG C43 Cabriolet arrived at exactly the right time: the sun shone for days on end during the first week in which we moved into our new home in Prince Edward Island. Meandering coastal roads and friends who wanted to experience the AMG and convertible weather? This was the best vehicle I drove all year.

Honorable Mentions: Honda Odyssey, Audi A42017 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD - Image: © Timothy CainBiggest Surprise: Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD

Not all ISs are created equal. As Lexus enters a drastic name change phase for the IS and RC, recognize that the Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD is still powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6, is still fitted with an awfully sorted suspension, is still visually distinct, and is still obviously Japanese. I expected the IS350 to be overshadowed by newer, turbocharged competition. But because it’s more fun to drive than its competitors, it wasn’t.

Honorable Mentions: Hyundai Elantra Sport, Cadillac CT62017 Buick Envision - Image: © Timothy CainWorst Of The Worst: Buick Envision

Hilariously overpriced, woefully underpowered and under-equipped, disturbingly brown, and even troublingly smelly inside, the $38,830 2017 Buick Envision with which I spent a forgettable week in August 2017 was quiet. Yep, it was quiet. Impressively hushed. Any other redeeming qualities? Not really.

Dishonorable Mentions: Toyota Corolla XSE, Buick Encore, Audi Q32018 Volkswagen Tiguan - Image: © Timothy CainBiggest Disappointment: Volkswagen Tiguan

By no means the worst vehicle I drove in 2017, the second-generation 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan that visited PEI in late August nevertheless failed to live up to expectations. It doesn’t drive like a Volkswagen, doesn’t accelerate like it should, and vibrates at the same frequency as a Jeep Liberty CRD’s headliner. It’s bigger, Volkswagen says. And of course, it is. But enlarging the Tiguan seemed to result in a Tiguan that lost every ounce of prototypically positive Volkswagen characteristics.

Dishonorable Mentions: Audi TTS, Ford Flex2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Image: © Timothy CainMost Efficient: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, 46.1 mpg

As the only dedicated hybrid I drove all year, it only makes sense that the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq would also be the most fuel-efficient vehicle I drove all year. Making the Ioniq more appealing is the fact that it’s a perfectly pleasant vehicle to live with regardless of its fuel economy.

Honorable Mentions: Kia Optima Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid2017 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve - Image: © Timothy CainLeast Efficient: Nissan Titan 12.7, mpg

The first step is admitting you have a problem.
Nissan didn’t address the first-generation Titan’s drinking issues to the degree the issues should have been addressed when the second-gen Titan rolled around in 2016. Titan market share is nevertheless growing as Nissan focuses on specific areas of the country with meaningful incursions. But one wonders how the Titan would fare if tests like this didn’t result in 12.7-mpg findings one year after an F150 EcoBoost 2.7 did 19.4 mpg.

Dishonorable Mentions: Ford Flex, Cadillac CT6

THE CARS

2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD • 2017 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve • 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE • 2017 Honda Ridgeline Sport • 2017 Cadillac CT6 Twin Turbo AWD • 2017 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost • 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback • 2017 Honda CR-V Touring • 2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 • 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Limited • 2017 Audi Q3 Quattro • 2017 Buick Encore AWD • 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE • 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport • 2017 GMC Canyon SLE Diesel • 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI • 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid • 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Hatchback • 2018 Toyota C-HR • 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic • 2017 Audi TTS • 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF • 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet • 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk • 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring • 2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro • 2017 Buick Envision AWD • 2017 Lexus ES300h • 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium 4Motion • 2017 Lexus IS350 AWD F Sport • 2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec • 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe • 2018 Kia Rio Hatchback • 2018 Mazda CX-3 GX Manual •
2018 Honda Fit

[Images: © 2017 Timothy Cain]

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30 Comments on “My $1.6 Million Fleet in 2017 – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...”


  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    With regards to the Nissan Titan’s miserable millage-and as a pickup truck owner let me comment that pickup buyers do not buy a truck for gas economy. With that being stated there is an expectation that a pickup should get around 15mpg in town-and 20ish on the highway, and most do. With the Ford Eco-boost, it even does better than that.

    Again-Nissan doesn’t understand the pickup market.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      and people who buy Titan’s, don’t understand pickups. ;)

    • 0 avatar

      I would say by comments any many forums mileage does place in the top 5 things pickup buyers look for.

      • 0 avatar
        CKNSLS Sierra SLT

        Disagree Mopor-it’s like anything else-it’s the complainer that post about gas mpg. Those that went from a mini-van to a crew cab and can’t understand why a 2-1/2 ton vehicle doesn’t get the same mpg as their Honda Odyssey/Grand Caravan, etc.

        Those who buy trucks over and over again are well aware of the operating costs.

        That-or we are not hanging out on the same truck forums.

        • 0 avatar
          Dinkster72

          As a personal truck owner (that consistently gets 9mpg) and business owner with a few work trucks (that get 10-12mpg) I can emphatically tell you, truck owners care about had mileage. I can also tell you that all of my friends have had discussions concerning the mileage they get out of there trucks, and none of them have ever had a mini van.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            There is a discernable difference between discussing MPG of a truck between owners who have an understanding of the baseline for a 2.5-3.5 ton vehicle, and those who can’t fathom why a 6000lb vehicle uses more fuel than a 4000lb one.

            That being said, Titans are not competitive in the segment.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            I know some truck guys that don’t care about MPG but last time fuel prices spiked, it mattered to them. Even back in 2008/9, the trucks that hit the used lots first were the ones with really crappy mpg along with repo units.

        • 0 avatar

          Some depends on what your buying it for but I think it matters. Not the top concern but a concern. There is a big cost gap for gas between 12 mpg and 19. I have owned a couple pickups and BOF SUVs. Mileage was never the top consideration but it did come into play. I used to be in a couple 4wd clubs mileage was indeed a big talking point when buying a pickup as often it would tow a Jeep on the weekends and daily driver the rest of the time.
          Sometimes this resulted in picking compromised rear end ratio or less power (5.3 instead of 6.0) and some times emotion took hold and someone buys a powerstroke to replace their v10 for mpg reasons (despite that never working out thanks to the diesel upcharge)

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Yes Fuel economy is about the furthest thing from my mind when shopping for a fullsize pickup. I’m obviously not expecting 30 mpg, but an occasional 20 would be nice. But I suspect most Titan owners didn’t take the time to ask about its mpg, (and likely 1st time pickup buyers, last time Titan owners!), but probably figure it’s cheaper just to ride out the contract.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    This shows how the site has changed in recent years.

    Mr. Cain received more press vehicles last year than TTAC received, as a whole site, from its founding until 2013.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      True, and I miss his road tests. Having all these press vehicles at least meant Cain had some idea of the characteristics of a broad spectrum of today’s vehicles. Thus I tended to weight his favorites/observations higher than the people who managed three or four semi-new vehicles in the whole year. Experience counts. If you haven’t driven a certain vehicle then having an opinion on it that is both rock solid and beyond discussion pretty much sums up the TTAC commentariat on both cars and other matters. Logic has hardly ever driven opinions and as we all know these days opinions are fact because each person is convinced they know best so it must be true.

      TTAC is now many days just a gathering place for a lot of jaw-boning. I used to get plenty of that from other kids in high school in the early 1960s. Ford beats Chev. No, Chev beats Ford. International trucks are better than the Big Three’s. Blah, blah etc. Without a true road test editor grudgingly given some respect for being consistent and long-lasting, all that’s left is the “this is better than that” routine in the comments based on next-to-nothing but anecdotal evidence if we’re lucky, and it’s not just some opinion pulled out of thin air.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Regarding the Tiguan, keep in mind that VW is busy Americanizing their US lineup. They don’t sell VWs in the US anymore, save for the Golf line. They sell American-inspired, American-designed, and American-built SUVs and sedans that are US-market exclusives. So yeah, the Tiguan is just another one of those. Ignore the badge.

    Regarding the Buick Envision: take the price out of it and make it a Premium II trim, and it’s a very nicely equipped car with plenty of power. It’s very comfortable, and who needs 3 rows? The Envision competes very nicely with the Lexus RX 2-row from a comfort and equipment level. Ah, but now we have to add the price back in. Buick insanely thinks that the Premium II Envision is a $50K car. And they’re hanging on to that delusion. Didn’t I hear they’re even going all Avenir on that as well?? Insane.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Deep discounting until year’s end on that $49,320 Prem ll with roof and Driver Confidence package like mine. Now on cars dot com for $33,000!

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I’m surprised that it smells weird on the inside. I thought the Chinese were all about avoiding the new car smell. I’ve been wondering how Ford is going to sell any new Chinese Focuses if they don’t even smell like new cars.

  • avatar
    DownUnder2014

    That is a real contrast of different press cars! I am surprised at some of the mentions on the list.

    The Ioniq seems interesting, but I have yet to see one here!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The saddest part about the Tiguan is that by making it bigger and crappier, VW will sell far more of them. Because Americans buy cars by the pound, and don’t care how they drive. The old Tiguan was the only small CUV thing I could have ever even remotely considered buying, because it mostly drove like a Golf. Of course, in a world where you can still buy an actual Golf it had no reason to exist.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “The old Tiguan was the only small CUV thing I could have ever even remotely considered buying, because it mostly drove like a Golf. Of course, in a world where you can still buy an actual Golf it had no reason to exist.”

      Well, a little size can be good. I moved to a GTI last week, and kinda miss the trunk space of my old ILX.

      What they need to do is blow the old Tiguan out with a party: paint it black with some red trim, give it wheels that inspire the old Rabbit GTI, put in the R interior, and stick an R motor/DSG in it. Put round headlights in front with a real grille, and it’d sell out in a heartbeat.

      Call it the TTI. Well, maybe not.

    • 0 avatar
      jh26036

      You should consider driving the Porsche Macan too.

  • avatar
    dangit56

    TTAC site is descending in a rapid spiral. Used to be a Must Read, and very worth my time, but is now lost, aimless, seeking to please…. whatever?

    Kyree’s insights were valuable. Corey remains the most amusing comeback artist since Don Rickles, and Jack (The King of Humble-Bragging) is either 100% or 0%, but with no in between.

    Mark (Bark M?) A yippy dog’s BARK sounds better than him, a prime example of the Second-Brother syndrome no matter where he is in the family tree. All of the rest is “meh”.

    Still, better than I can contribute, but who cares any longer? Go ahead and ban me for being personal. Who cares?

    Dangit!

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Mark Baruth is a low-information, middle income Trumptard, who lives in a backwater state, with little writing talent to speak of — even by the lowly standards of the autojournolasaurists (a very low standard) IMO.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    “Biggest Surprise: Honorable Mention… CT6”

    AHAAAHAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAA!

    Total POS, overpriced, with an incredibly harsh ride, incredibly cheap and tacky interior, and guaranteed anvil like depreciation along with $hitty a$$ reliability record.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I continue to think that Melody Lee must have broken DeadWeight’s heart before she moved to New York.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I’m not into Asian women, at all, from a purely aesthetic POV.

        It’s not a conscious preference, as these things of the heart go, but I am very partial to eastern European women (Ukrainian, Russian, etc.) and northern European women (Icelandic, Norwegian, Finnish, etc.).

        And I am absolutely repelled by any so-called “automotove executive,” regardless of ethnicity, who is as completely incompetent as someone as Melody Lee, whose picture appears alongside the dictionary definition of “incompetent.”

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Cadillac and Buick break my heart all the time but it doesn’t have anything to do with Melody Lee.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “along with $hitty a$$ reliability record.”

      Last place. Dead a$$ last place. What a f*cking embarrassment.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        SOME People ridiculed me back in 2012-2014 for what was then a near-perfect prediction on the awful sales tends, customer satisfaction, resale value and reliability records of the ATS and 3rd gen CTS.

        I also have thus far accurately predicted the similar woes the subpar CT6 has suffered (which will only become more pronounced with the passage of time).

        And yet, as you point out (accurately), Cadillac is now near absolute last place in terms of Consumer Reports annual reliability index (many will inevitably and blindly reflexively attack the credibility of CR’s methodology for indexing and reporting on reliability of not only makes and models of vehicles, when in fact, CR has by far the best methodology for accurately predicting not only reliability of makes and models, but specific subsystems of those models of vehicles, light years ahead of garbage publications – in the hands of the manufacturers themselves – such as JD Powers).

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Wow, a newly redesigned, bone stock Titan can only manage 12.7 MPG?! My ’12 Raptor with the 6.2, 4.10 gears and 37″ tires gets (a tiny bit) better than that, but I hardly baby the throttle. I would agree that fuel economy isn’t the number one prerequisite when I shop for a truck, but it does matter. I would obviously rather pay less to fuel it up, than more. For that reason alone I wouldn’t even consider the Titan.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      A bone stock Yukon Denali could also only manage 12.7 mpg in 2015. The next year it was able to reach 17 mpg.

      It’s fair to post the fuel economy results, but it appears the driving conditions vary enough between the brief test durations to make fuel economy comparisons disputable.

      Another example from the previous year-end articles is the MDX, which could only achieve 16 mpg in 2016 after 24 mpg three years before. There was also a Toyota Sienna that managed only 14.3 mpg.

      Canadian winters can be hard on fuel. I’ve seen as low as 21.6 mpg (10.9 L/100km) with my Mazda3 during a month of city driving where the average temperature was close to -30C (daily highs around -20C, daily lows approaching -40C), and it probably would have been much lower if I hadn’t parked in the garage and/or plugged in the block heater for most starts. In summer, the same driving would yield close to 30 mpg.

      The EPA results would be a more accurate comparison as long as they’re all automatics. The 2.7 and 3.5 Eco-boosts yielded 20 mpg combined, while the Titan got 18 mpg and the Raptor 16 mpg.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Is an awfully sorted suspension good or bad?

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Surprised about the Lexus. I was looking for a car in the IS 350 category last year. I didn’t check IS 350 at all, never even entered my mind through I drove just about anything else. I remember many reviews when IS came out saying that essentially it’s an accountant’s car, it checks all the boxes right but just doesn’t seem to drive/be in the same league as the Germans. While I do see quite a lot of them around here I always assume the number one motivation for the owner was to save some money compared to going German.


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