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Chicago Auto Show Preview: Chicago News Names Top Cars of the Year

This year’s Chicago Auto Show kicks off this weekend with innovation on display from every manufacturer. While Toyota sure seems to have taken up lots of floor space to showcase its new product, it seems like Jeep has recycled its same display for several years now. Cadillac, Infiniti and Nissan all have concept cars on display, but Kia has a great setup where you can test drive almost its entire lineup. Of course, the best part of the show is that we get to reveal our award winners for the year, presenting our accolades directly to the manufacturers. 

Family Vehicle of the Year is always a tough choice with so many different models that qualify. It could be anything from a station wagon to a minivan to a crossover or SUV. This year we went with value, the best bang for your buck. The Kia Niro has much to offer for a low price of admission, not the least of which is a stellar 49MPG combined. Starting at just over $25k there’s lots to love in this small family hauler. The crossover market is booming right now, but the Niro offers the best balance of performance, features and efficiency.

Sports Car of the Year had to be the Mazda Miata, especially now that you can get the slick power-retractable hardtop version. Combining the best of open-air motoring with a super quick power folding hardtop makes for the best of both worlds. It punches above its weight in performance and handling, feeling quicker than the 2.0-liter 155hp poweplant would imply. Not just light on its feet, it actually is light – a distinction none of its drop-top rivals can claim. Which I guess means it has no rivals!

Volvo’s stellar new XC60 that took our award for Crossover/SUV of the Year is about as good as an SUV can get, which lands it the appropriate honors. With an interior that combines Bentley-like panache with minimalist-Scandinavian design, there’s no better interior out there these days. Mix that up with a 400hp hybrid drivetrain and you have a recipe for greatness. You get all the luxury you want, performance you didn’t expect and efficiency you can feel good about.

Truck of the Year has to go to the spectacular Ford Raptor. Truly an off-road icon, the newest version features a fire-breathing 450hp twin-turbo Ecoboost V6 and a 10-speed automatic transmission. The result is a truck that’s just as much at home pounding the trail as the pavement. In fact, at 80+ mph on the highway, it’s almost as quiet as a luxury sedan.

Speaking of sedans, our Sedan of the Year went to Alfa Romeo for their world-class Giulia. Starting with a stout 280hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, and topping out with a 505hp twin-turbo V6, there is lots of performance to go along with the jaw-dropping Italian good looks. The 505hp Quadrifogio version might just be their best-handling sedan we’ve ever driven, brushing aside class-leaders like the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 AMG. Just test drive one and you’ll see for yourself. With the same driveline coming in the new Stelvio SUV, Alfa is back in the USA big time.

One car always stands out above the rest, and captures Car of the Year honors. This year, the brand new Aston Martin DB11 takes top rank. It’s not very often that a company with the rich history of Aston can reinvent itself in such a way as to modernize so comprehensively and at the same time retain that heritage. They have done it with the stellar DB11. Equal parts GT and sports car, it’s more than capable on the track, highway and Rodeo Drive. Silky good looks pair up with razor-sharp handling and either a turbocharged Aston V12 or a V8 shared with the AMG GTR. The lighter V8 version might be the better performer, but both have the right amount of passion and pedigree built in to make them something special.