Best Products of 2016: Automotive

This year's finest car recaptured the essence of driving

best products of 2016 automotive mazda mx 5 miata v2

best products of 2016 automotive vertical badgesWinner
Mazda MX-5 Miata

As products go, cars fall into the unique position between utility and entertainment, so picking the best one overall that we drove in 2016 is quite the task. A car can be useless but fun, or practical yet boring, and both could still be considered “good.” With that in mind, we took a step back to see what cars this year satisfied the basic essence of driving — and the Mazda MX-5 was tough to beat.

Mazda’s plucky roadster evokes extreme emotion on both ends of the spectrum – some love it, some loathe it. But the ones who sing its praises are more often or not the ones who actually spent some time behind the wheel.

With three pedals, a handbrake, a naturally-aspirated engine, and a rear-wheel drive setup, the Miata conforms to a purist’s configuration. The 2.0-liter four-pot under the hood gins up 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. For a roadster that weighs roughly 2,300 pounds, that’s plenty of pep to have fun with yet remain manageable; no monstrous horsepower to fear, but no less enjoyable.

best products of 2016 smart home bestproduct text lockup transparent onblack v3

Complementing the power punch is its phenomenal steering, braking, and suspension tuning. While enthusiasts might bemoan Mazda’s decision to ditch the hydraulic steering rack for an electrically assisted unit, this is easily one of the best systems available. Not only is turn-in lightning quick, but weight also builds as the g-forces do mid-corner, leading to a natural, balanced feel.

Analog as it may seem, the Mazda MX-5 still meets modern digital needs. Mazda’s Connect infotainment system is one of the best in the industry, with excellent feedback from the selection dial, quick responses from the system, intelligent button redundancies, and clear navigation readout.

Driving purity under $30K and it won’t tear your head off? Sounds like a worthy ride for enthusiasts across the board.

Read our review button
best products of 2016 automotive ford f 150 v2

best products of 2016 automotive vertical badges runner up

Runner up
Ford F-150 

If America had to send one automobile to represent the nation in some car version of The Hunger Games (“Fuel Wars”?), it would send the Ford F-150. It’s been the best selling vehicle in the U.S. for decades, and with good reason: It gets the job done.

What job, you may ask? Just about any of them, actually. The latest iteration sports a high-strength aluminum body on a steel frame that sheds 700 pounds when compared to the previous generation. The current F-150 is much more aggressively styled than before, with lots of creases and chunky shapes to give it a more rugged look that’s much more interesting than the stereotypical boxy truck.

There are brains to go along with the brawn, too. Along with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, the F-150 has available features like a 360-degree camera system and trailer backup assist that makes stowing your haul less of a chore.

Read our review button

best products of 2016 automotive mercedes amg gt s v2

best products of 2016 automotive vertical badges runner up

Runner up
Mercedes AMG GT S

Auto enthusiasts look at the cars of the past with rose-tinted glasses, longing for today’s to emulate the driving experiences that the classics delivered, warts and all. Mercedes did one better with its AMG GT S, crafting a stellar luxury sport grand tourer that captures a classic car’s essence but is thoroughly a car of the modern age.

The AMG GT S is the automaker’s showpiece, housing a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 that churns up 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Capable of leaping from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, Its stiffness and low center of gravity, combined with the four-wheel double wishbone independent suspension means back road bends feel as supple and smooth as the upholstery you’re sitting on. You could demand little else from a car deemed worthy to be Formula 1’s official pace car.

Read our review button
Whew! Rough year. Fortunately, we got some amazing tech out of it. Digital Trends’ expert editors picked the most amazing gadgets in their respective categories, then convened as a panel to pick the one that towered above them all. Join us every day between now and Jan. 1 as we recap our favorites, and build up to the big Best of 2016 reveal!
Product Review

Ticking one option box turns the Mustang into a pavement-pawing monster

Armed with stickier tires, more aggressive suspension tuning, and a revised aero package, the Mustang GT’s most track-focused package to date puts Chevrolet’s Camaro SS 1LE square in its sights.
Product Review

With a stick shift and RWD, the Genesis G70 does luxury with a side of sporty

The 2019 Genesis G70 is Korea’s first attempt to take on the vaunted German trio of BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Competition doesn’t come much tougher than that.
Product Review

How basic is too basic? Toyota tests the limits with its C-HR

We bond with Toyota’s C-HR subcompact crossover trekking across central Florida. It arrives as an entry-level model to battle the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Kia Niro, Chevrolet Trax, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, Jeep Renegade, and the Ford…
Cars

Audi kicks off the TT’s 20th birthday bash with more performance and tech

The Audi TT gains updates inside, outside, and under the hood for its 20th anniversary. Stylists chose not to make significant changes to the design but the 2019 TT gains luxury and technology features, plus an important upgrade.
Cars

Lexus F performance models could go hybrid electric

Lexus' performance "F" brand is considering a move to hybridized gas-electric powertrains for its future models as the company seeks to better position itself as a true rival to the top automakers from Germany.
Cars

Keep your driving record squeaky clean with these top-flight radar detectors

Nobody likes getting a speeding ticket, but these gadgets can help. Check out our picks for the best radar detectors on the market, from the likes of Valentine One, Escort, and Whistler.
Cars

The Cullinan is truly the Rolls-Royce of SUVs

At a private event in Los Angeles, CA, Rolls-Royce showed off its first-ever SUV. Built for wealthy families or height-inclined executives, the Cullinan is a groundbreaking model for one of the most esteemed brands on earth.
Cars

Hyundai unveils Kona Iron Man Edition, but would Tony Stark approve?

Would Tony Stark drive a Hyundai? The Korean automaker unveiled a Kona Iron Man Edition special edition at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, and plans to put it on sale in 2019, with a limited production run.
Cars

Volkswagen’s insane I.D. R electric race car just set another hill-climb record

Volkswagen brought its I.D. R electric race car to the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed, setting a record for electric cars on the hill climb course. The I.D. R previously smashed the overall record at the Pikes Peak International Hill…
Cars

First McLaren Senna to arrive in North America shines like an emerald

The first McLaren Senna to cross the pond was delivered to a customer in New York City. The buyer has a penchant for custom colors -- he chose a special green hue for this 211-mph supercar.
Cars

The Ferrari from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ heads to the auction block

One of two remaining star cars built to replicate a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, and used for filming in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, will head to the Mecum Auction block in late August during Monterey Car Week.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Roll-up solar panels, dream controllers, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

The 2019 Acura MDX can be yours for $44,300, with new A-Spec variant

The 2019 Acura MDX hits showrooms today, starting at $44,300 for the front-wheel drive model and $54,800 for the all-wheel drive version. Accompanying the updated MDX is the new MDX A-Spec from the NY Auto Show.
Cars

This tricked-out Hummer H1 is a leather-lined urban assault vehicle

Detroit-based Mil-Spec Automotive is upgrading old Hummer H1s to make them more civilized. This one may look like it rolled out of a Mad Max movie, but it's got a leather-lined interior and massaging seats.
Cars

2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 is ready for the drag strip

The Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 borrows tech from the defunct Challenger Demon to make it a better drag racer. It may not have the Demon's 840-horsepower engine, but the 1320 has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.
Cars

Uber drivers could soon be considered Uber employees, and that could get expensive

Uber drivers may finally be recognized as official Uber employees. Officials in New York have ruled in favor of three former Uber drivers who filed a complaint against the company when their unemployment insurance claim was denied.
Cars

San Francisco is drowning in electric scooters. Will permits help?

We could soon be seeing many more electric scooters on the streets of San Francisco, now that the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has announced that it is looking to issue electric scooter permits by next month.
Outdoors

Pirelli is recycling car tires into ebike tires

Pirelli introduced the Cycl-e tires for electric bicycles. Designed for city use, the new tires come in five varieties and a full range of sizes and weights. The Cycl-e tires are made in part from recycled rubber bits from automobile tires.
Cars

Massive data breach exposes trade secrets from Tesla, Toyota, and others

Security researcher Chris Vickery found about 47,000 sensitive files posted on a backup server by a Canadian company that specializes in automation. The 157-gigabyte batch included sensitive documents from Ford, Tesla, and other brands.
Cars

Hydrogen cars are here. Now how long until you can actually fuel one near you?

Until recently, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have been a science fair project. We met with the California Fuel Cell Partnership to learn how they plan to make hydrogen mainstream.
Cars

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne unexpectedly resigns as health worsens

Sergio Marchionne, 66, has resigned from his position as Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles CEO due to health problems. The influential, outspoken executive was scheduled to retire next year.
Cars

Grab your helmet: Google Maps for motorcycles is coming

Google Maps for motorcycles is now available in India and eight other countries in Eastern Asia. Now that Google has released the feature in the largest bike markets, it figures that Europe and the Americas could be next.