What drives people to a certain vehicle? Sure, it may be brand loyalty. But, it may also be the emotional appeal of a model. That’s the build up. Once the vehicle reaches it driveway and it’s been lived in, the owner is bound to find more …
quirks. Does this dampen their enthusiasm?
The J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study measures a number of factors that all contribute to that emotion connection.
“Purchasing the ‘right’ vehicle is influenced by a variety of factors, depending on each buyer’s specific tastes, wants and needs,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “The APEAL Study measures an owner’s emotional attachment to their new vehicle and in what areas that vehicle may not be delivering on all of the positive experiences that were hoped for. Understanding this is just as valuable to automakers as knowing about quality issues and owner acceptance of new technologies. The goal for automakers is to delight customers on all these dimensions. Some are better than others at doing this.”
J.D. Power has been conducting the study for 25 years. It was redesigned for 2020 to compliment the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study and the J.D. Power Tech Experience Index Study. The survey measured “owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement with their new vehicle across 37 attributes, ranging from the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat to the feeling they get when they step on the accelerator.” These attributes were then aggregated to compute an overall APEAL index score measured on a 1,000-point scale.
Here are the winners.
Mazda may be best known for the Miata but their top-selling vehicle is the CX-5, a compact SUV. The CX-5 delivers an engaging drive that excels whether accelerating or cruising. Its handling is engaging and seats are comfortable. Reviewers typically say that the usability of its infotainment system is not up to par with other vehicles in its class.
Land Rover Range Rover Velar
Photo courtesy of Land Rover
The Land Rover Range Rover Velar carries over the high-quality cabin design and high-horsepower engines from its stablemates. Its handling is composed making it good in the city, on a trail, or cruising on the highway.
Photo courtesy of Jaguar
The Jaguar E-Pace is the little brother of the highly-regarded F-Pace. The model isn’t as powerful as the F-Pace, but it has a good amount of cargo space and is agile. Adults may feel crowded in the back seat, but that’s par for the course in this size vehicle.
Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc
Honda has refreshed the looks of the Odyssey for 2021 and given it more safety features. Additionally, Honda has made the interior more upscale with updated climate controls and second-row setbacks that fold flat (making them easier to remove).
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company
The Lincoln Navigator is the largest SUV in the company’s lineup. The full-size, three-row SUV was fully redesigned for the 2018 model year, kicking off the brand’s new SUV identity and design aesthetic. It’s suitably plush, seats seven, and is powered by a 450-horsepower turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine.
The Nissan Armada is gearing up for a redesign but continues to offer comfortable accommodations, good towing capacity, and a strong engine. The SUV’s lackluster fuel efficiency and poor cargo space are two major drawbacks.
The Ford Escape has been completely redesigned for the 2020 model year. It features a cavernous cargo area, spacious seating, and easy low-speed handling. This Escape rides better than the last and its interior has been upgraded. New powertrain options include a PHEV and there’s a long list of standard and available safety features.
BMW 7 Series
Photo courtesy of BMW
The BMW 7 Series features the expected roster of features and powertrains. They all function as advertised, delivering a plush, large car experience. A plug-in hybrid version is now available but Android Auto is not.
With a combination of sales from the Ram 1500 and HD pickups, Ram has found a winning formula that combines the expected capability of a truck with the refined interior more commonly found in premium or luxury SUV.
Photo by Fabian Kirchbauer Photography/BMW
The BMW X4 is a potent SUV. It delivers the engaging drive that buyers are looking for in a sloped back style that makes it more hatchback and SUV. The interior is typically BMW, which means that it’s high quality and aesthetically pleasing.
The Dodge Challenger hasn’t been changed significantly in a decade but Dodge continues to push the envelope with performance, introduce new variants, and updated the car’s infotainment system.
GMC Sierra HD
Reviewers generally agree that the GMC Sierra has a great exterior but that its interior is lacking the refinement expected at its price point. Still, it’s an incredibly capable truck, especially in its heavy-duty variants. The GMC Sierra 2500 AT4 is one of the best trucks you can buy if you want to match off-road prowess with on-road comfort and towing/hauling capability.
Photo courtesy of Chevrolet
The Chevrolet Blazer isn’t the off-roader that it used to be. Now, it’s akin to the Nissan Murano, delivering plush appointments and competent powertrains. Chevy just announced that a future EV will deliver Blazer-inspired design.
The Cadillac CT6 is a comfortable large sedan. It doesn’t deliver the aggressive drive you can get from German luxury sedans but it is (nearly) as stylish and stable on the road. Cadillac recently discontinued the model.
The Nissan Versa was redesigned for the 2020 model year. It comes equipped with a capable engine and smooth CVT. Its interior is well-equipped and higher trim levels has appointments that would be mistaken for belonging in a vehicle nearly twice the Versa’s price point.
An all-new Hyundai Veloster rolled out last year with a refreshed design as well as other improvements. This sporty coupe continues to stand out with its unique three-door configuration: one door on the driver’s side, two on the passenger side.
MINI has freshened the Countryman for the 2021 model year. The car gets a new grille with a chrome frame and standard LED headlights and fog lights up front, and newly designed front and rear bumper coverings. The Countryman will continue to be offered in a variety of models from the plug-in hybrid MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 to the high performance MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4.
The BMW X6 was completely redesigned for the 2020 model year. It continues to be offered with potent engines, a refined interior, comfortable seats, and a long list of technology as is typical for the model.
The Nissan Maxima was recently refreshed but it has few changes for the 2020 model year. The automaker’s suite of safety technology, Nissan Safety Shield 360, is now standard. Its V6 is plenty strong and accommodations are roomy and comfortable.
The development sister of the Genesis G70, the Stinger is the Kia version of a sports sedan. Its interior isn’t as nice as the G70’s and there are some differences between the way the vehicles drive. Still, it’s a really good Kia.
The Genesis G70 is a true sports sedan. It is up for enthusiastic drives and doesn’t mean being pushed a little. The car’s cabin is well-appointed and the infotainment system is easy to use. Plus, it’s far less pricey than its German rivals.
The Honda Ridgeline has as nice of an interior as you’ll find in a midsize pickup. Its engine is powerful enough and paired with a standard nine-speed automatic transmission. It can tow and haul, but not as much as much of its competition. Still, its unique tailgate and in-bed trunk set it apart.
Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
The Toyota C-HR is a subcompact SUV that delivers many of the qualities buyers are looking for in a grocery getter. It’s not particularly powerful but it is easy to maneuver and comes standard with a long list of safety technology. Toyota refreshed the face of the C-HR for 2020.
The Nissan Sentra has been completely redesigned for the 2020 model year, with its looks falling into line with the Versa and Altima. The new Sentra is a compelling choice with its high-tech features, comfortable seats, and easy-to-use infotainment system.
Photo courtesy of Audi
The Audi A3 has been a favored compact car for years. The model has been redesigned for 2021, getting a striking new looks, a high-tech infotainment system, and an electrified powertrain. Europe gets the car first then it will arrive in the U.S. later this year. Pricing is expected to stay similar to the 2020 model, which started at $33,300.
Hyundai redesigned the Sonata for the 2020 model year. It’s a completely new car with fresh angles and innovative tech, yet it keeps the same spacious seating and cargo space buyers have known and loved about the midsize car.