Volvo S90, Nissan Titan XD are top car, truck

Fall colors enhance beautifully styled 2017 Volvo S90. (Bud Wells photos)

The year 2016 was one in which the auto industry continued its strong movement toward turbocharged, 4-cylinder engines with 8-speed and 9-speed automatic transmissions and innovative safety devices.

In emphasizing the smaller powerplants, none was more effective than the 2017 Volvo S90 luxury sedan, my choice for car of the year. The S90 replaces the S80 as flagship in Volvo’s lineup; it is 4 inches longer and noticeably wider. Its stylish exterior, luxurious interior and highway performance make it one of the finest four-door sedans I’ve driven this year.

Its new 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine is both supercharged and turbocharged with 316 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque and all-wheel drive. With products of this magnitude, there is no need, to this point, to fear the consequences of the Chinese ownership of Volvo.

Nissan Titan turbodiesel challenges snow in February.

Nissan earns “truck of the year” honors with its resized Titan, larger than a half-ton, not yet as big, though, as a three-quarter ton. It is for those seeking stronger tow capacity without stepping up into the heavy-duty 2500 field. The first one I tested was with a 310-horsepower, 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 turbodiesel mated to a 6-speed Aisin automatic transmission and developing 555 lb.-ft. of torque and four-wheel drive. The big bruiser requires a turn circle of almost 54 feet.

A gathering of members of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press at Devil’s Thumb Ranch near Tabernash in September gave me opportunity to drive the new Acura NSX Hybrid, which, at $189,000, was the year’s highest-priced model. Among other high-enders during the year were the BMW 750i xDrive sedan at $129,245 and the Mercedes-Benz GLS550 4Matic SUV at $110,565.

Cheapest – The 2016 Scion iA sedan at $16,470, shortly before production ended for all Scions which have been rebadged Toyotas under the parent company in Japan.

MPG – 57.5 miles per gallon with the 2016 Toyota Prius Two gas/electric hybrid for 330 miles; 37.5 by ’16 Scion  iA; 35.0 by ’17 Hyundai Elantra, and 40.1 by ’17 Jaguar XE diesel sport sedan.

Best drive – 1,300 miles to Newport Beach, Calif., with Jan in a Fiat 500X for unveiling of the new Chrysler Pacifica minivan at the luxurious Pelican Hill Resort. While enjoying dinner with automotive journalists from around the country the second night in Newport Beach, I met Don Buffamanti, a photographer who produces, based in San Diego. Mention of my Denver Post connection brought this enthusiastic response from him, “I was a placekicker for Coach Chuck Fairbanks on the Colorado Buffalo football team in 1979.” Buffamanti is fairly well regarded in the automotive photo world; those many long runbacks of his kickoffs in Boulder did no lasting harm.

BMW silences AM – Audio systems in two BMW hybrid/electric models, the X5 40e plug-in and i3 electric, lacked AM band access. “The electric drivetrain can create negative influences on AM performance,” said Rebecca Kiehne, BMW product spokesperson, “and we don’t intend to offer any product that does not meet our high standards.”

Press release – “We’re (Toyota) excited to mention AMCI automotive testing announced the new 2016 Prius has better overall driving performance than the BMW 528i sedan. The Prius also proved to have a better overall ride quality than the Mercedes-Benz CLA250,” according to AMCI.” Wow.

Popular return – It’s bigger, fancier and pricier; the Honda Ridgeline pickup, which returns to market after a two-year absence.

On Outback track – A new challenger for the long-popular Subaru Outback in Colorado is the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Alltrack, dressed for the outdoors.

Barn doors on the Mini Cooper Clubman.

 ‘Bigness’ is relative – It’s the biggest Mini Cooper I’ve ever seen; still small, though. The Clubman has been stretched 10 inches, mesuires only 168.3 inches, same as the little  Fiat 500X. Old-fashioned split rear doors are referred to as barn doors.

Style prevails – The most conservatively styled SUV through the years might have been the Lexus RX350. The highly regarded RX350 F Sport has gone stylish for ’17 with a larger spindle grille and a floating rear-pillar glass band that flows from the side windows to the rear windows. Its blandness is gone.

BMW M2 Coupe offers “rev match” opportunity.

Best blipper – 2016 BMW M2 Coupe; downshifting and enjoying the feel and sound of “blipping the throttle” as the M2 neatly slips into the lower gear.

2,000th drive – My review earlier this month of the 2017 Cadillac XT5 AWD, borrowed from John Elway Cadillac, was the 2,000th dating back to Christmastime 1977. I’ve driven 132 Fords, most of any brand.

Jan’s favorite – The 2017 Volvo S90 luxury sedan. It would have been the BMW X5 40e plug-in until she uncovered the missing AM radio band; she’s big on listening to Rockies baseball while driving, as well as KOA news.

Best greeting – Happy New Year!