It’s never been more arduous to choose the best vehicle in a given class. The truth is, manufacturing processes, engineering efforts, and quality control procedures are so evolved that “lemon” cars or trucks are increasingly rare, especially among mass production vehicles.
With so many great products on the market, for a vehicle to rise above, it needs to hit every high note – from design, to performance, to convenience, to technology. Discerning superb from great is a task best left to those who spend countless hours behind the wheel of the most exquisite machines you can buy.
We’d say Robb Report knows a thing or two about the finer details of automotive excellence, which is why we spoke with Robert Ross, RR’s automotive editor, about the publication’s picks for “Best of the Best” in 2016.
Winner: Audi R8 V10 Plus
Honorees: McLaren 570S, Porsche Cayman GT4
The Manual: Each of these sports cars is an incredible feat of engineering. How did you settle on the Audi R8 V10 Plus?
Robert Ross: “The second generation Audi R8 was a car we’ve been awaiting for a long time. The original was a ‘Best of the Best’ winner when it was introduced in 2008. It was a real watershed car by bringing a daily driving experience to a mid-engine platform. This year’s R8 uses a brand new chassis, drivetrain, and design that come together beautifully. Not only does it drive well easily, but it’s hugely accomplished when pushed to the limit. Additionally, the R8 has the ergonomic friendliness that makes it the most hospitable of all the sports cars we tested. While the other two cars were more hard-edged and single-purpose, the Audi R8 was a ‘do it all’ sports car.”
“As a footnote to that point, what to me was so remarkable about the R8 was that even though it and the Lamborghini Huracan are probably closer than any two vehicle on the planet, in terms of the fundamental architecture and powertrain, they are completely different driving experiences – both excellent, but dissimilar.”
Winner: BMW 750i xDrive
Honorees: Cadillac CTS-V, Tesla Model S P90D
The Manual: Certainly sedans are as close a category battle as sports cars – how did you choose a winner?
Robert Ross: “Funny enough, it seems like its either the year of the sedan or it’s not. I remember years past where fully half of three quarters of the vehicles I wanted to evaluate were from the sedan segment. This year is not quite brimming with the same newness and excitement as years past, if not simply because some vehicles were one model year old. Still, we had some good contenders and ultimately chose the new BMW 7 Series.”
“The 7 Series is a little like Rodney Dangerfield – it’s just never received a whole lot of respect. Russian gangsters love them, and they’re a great lease option for road warriors who put a lot of miles on the clock…but this time I think the 7 Series pushes the technological limits to become not just an also-ran, but a state-of-the-art automobile. For people who can operate all the bells and whistles and can appreciate the technology, this car goes deep.”
Winner: Bentley Bentayga
Honorees: Lexus LX570, Mercedes-Benz GLS550
The Manual: In terms of automotive trends, it doesn’t get much hotter than luxury SUVs – which one stood out to you most?
Robert Ross: “SUVs are the new lingua franca of the affluent. You can basically turn in all your other cars, get an SUV, and you’re good to go. I never thought I’d see a time when the Range Rover Autobiography would not be expensive or opulent enough, but here we are. The Bentayga is a hugely capable car – faster than a scalded ape, yet still very much a Bentley. It’s a Bentley you can take to the Gobi desert and hunt for Protoceratops eggs if you want. It doesn’t just talk the talk either; we had this thing on a pretty challenging off-road course and it could do just about anything short of the most extreme gymnastics. It acquits itself to the extent that someone actual would subject burl wood to the insult of the elements. It’s really a fine vehicle, certainly the SUV to own, at least until the new Rolls Royce comes out.”
Be sure to check out Robb Reports full lineup of “Best of the Best Wheels” categories and winners.