NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the last year, I tested nearly 150 cars (I stopped counting at 100). Some, I drove for only an hour or two; others for a week. And I'm here to tell you about the ten best.
Disclosure: While 100-to-150 sounds like a lot, it represents only a minority of the cars in the market today; as a result, I may have missed some great candidates for this list (more on that in a moment). However, the ones tested represent a larger share of the all-new cars in the market today, so more likely they are among the best that's being offered, with the latest technology.
What's missing? For starters, a whole separate category of vehicle: Body-on-frame SUV and pickup truck. Also, no two-seater cars. And a few notable brands are absent:
-- Audi: Out of cycle in the U.S. right now, the A3 would have been the only one. However, the A3 is almost the same car as the Volkswagen Golf (which is on the list), which will be available with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay sooner.
-- Mercedes: The C-Class almost made it, but it's too expensive.
-- Toyota (T) and Lexus: Sorry, nothing too exciting right now.
-- Honda and Acura: I haven't driven the Pilot yet, or the new Acuras. Other than that, not impressed with the plain vanilla Hondas.
-- Subaru: A few recent experiences did not impress me.
-- Jaguar Land Rover: Really cool exciting stuff on the high end, but expensive. With new models coming soon, perhaps next year!
-- Ford (F): Many good cars, but fell just short of this list. The best one is the F-150, though, again, we didn't include trucks.
-- General Motors (GM): Several new models were shown in recent weeks and months that don't go into production until the second half of the year -- Chevrolet Volt, Camaro, Spark and Malibu come to mind. All candidates for next year's list. The large GM trucks and SUVs are all strong candidates for a body-on-frame list.
-- Mitsubishi: I didn't get to drive the 2016 Outlander yet, so no cigar for this list.
As for the vehicles chosen, this top-10 list is inherently very subjective. There is no one or two absolute criterions. I tried to cluster many of the choices relatively close to the market-average $34,000 price. From good to best, here are the top-10 best new cars on the market today:
10. Nissan Murano
Midsize SUV is the new staple of the American family. I would have picked a diesel, but the Germans are a bit out of cycle with their SUV offerings right now. Instead, we have the superb all-new Murano, which goes from $30,000 to just over $40,000.
This SUV feels large and is very plush and comfortable. It may not be all that exciting, but it feels both soft (in a positive sense) and bulletproof at the same time. It even has a futuristic look.
9. Kia Sorento
The SUV segment is so hot that I just had to include another one on this top 10 list. The Kia Sorento is all-new, and it shows. The exterior is stunning, as is the interior. You would think this was a more expensive car from a more prestigeous brand.
Aside from style and the excellent easy-to-use ergonomics, the Sorento doesn't have any one standout feature. It's just very good all-around, with no meaningful weaknesses. You can get it with a four or six cylinder engine, and with two or three rows of seats.
The Sorento doesn't have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay yet, either, but it's likely getting an upgrade this Fall, so hold your purchase until then. Prices range mostly from $26,000 to $46,000. I recommend spending toward the higher end of that range.
8. Chrysler 300
This is the same car, under the skin, as the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger. It's just not available with the two most powerful engines (485 and 707 horsepower). However, I still recommend the base 300 horsepower V6, with or without the optional four-wheel-drive.
The major value proposition here is, well, the value proposition. You get a car that's not called "The Baby Bentley" for nothing. It's a rear wheel drive-based grand old sedan, built on what used to be the Mercedes E-class -- but for a lot less money. Prices range mostly from $33,000 to $44,000, but typically offered at discounts of 10% or more at retail.
Just look at this car. It's elegant inside and out, and the interior is one of the most user-friendly. The only thing I don't like are the hard, flat and highly positioned seats with bad neck rests. The other downside is the lack of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and no word when they can be expected. In the meantime, this is the market's bargain luxury sedan.
7. Volvo 60-series
Available as a sedan (S), wagon (V) or crossover/SUV (XC), this car gets onto this list for one specific reason: If you order it with the sport "contour" seat, it is simply the best seat in the market today. Whatever other metrics on a car, having the most comfortable seat is a big deal. It's the most important touch point.
When I get into this seat, I always say to myself: Why would anyone buy any other car? It's that big of a deal.
Volvo's 60-series of cars are available with a myriad of engines and body styles with starting prices from $35,000 to $42,000. Basically, decide between 4x4 or 4x2 and then decide how much you spend to get the superior seat that's the reason for buying this car to begin with.
These 60-series Volvo cars don't get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay until they get replaced by a new family of cars in approximately two years from now.
6. Tesla (TSLA) Model S
The most extreme car in the market on a couple of key metrics, it sells between $75,000 and $125,000 depending on battery size, motor and equipment. If you want maximum acceleration from 0-to-60 miles-per-hour standing start, the biggest touchscreen and a healthy amount of interior space for a hatchback, this may be your car.
Other benefits include a great seat, steering wheel and seating position. Braking, handling, suspension and steering feel are also on par with the very best in the market.
The downsides, apart from the high price, include that you must find somewhere to charge the car, and the general risks of doing business with a relatively young company. Depending on what other cars you have in the garage, this may be your ideal daily driver.
I would buy the 85D, which doesn't have as much power, but which comes with 19 inch wheels and may be more reliable. It starts at $85,000 and you can have it for around $95,000 reasonably equipped.
5. BMW 740 diesel all-wheel drive
Money being no object, this is the best all-around luxury sedan I have driven in the last year, as memories of the Audi A8 diesel have begun to dwindle. The steering, handling and powertrain work together to make for a very crisp but luxurious "drive feel." The car is very heavy, but the superior torque from the diesel make you forget about the weight.
I recorded superior fuel economy in my test -- 26 miles-per-gallon in the city and 36 on the highway, which are shocking numbers for a car of this size and power. The price starts around $83,000 but well-equipped, the manufacturer's suggested retail price is around $100,000.
However, this is the last year of this old 7 series BMW. The new one was just shown, and that makes it all the more amazing that it's my favorite large luxury sedan. It also means that you can get huge discounts on this outgoing model. I have seen opening offers of $12,000 off MSRP. You could therefore do even better.
4. Hyundai Sonata
There are no shortage of competent midsize sedans in the market, but Hyundai Sonata is as good as any, and it's the only car in the market that offers Android Auto today -- not some time months or years from now. That merits a place on this list.
The interior ergonomics are outstanding, as is the warranty. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants are available. Gasoline-only Sonatas sell mostly between $25,000 and $30,000.
3. Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500x
These two are essentially the same car under the skin, engineered together and built on the same assembly line in Italy. What makes these two cars special are their design and interior sophistication. The ergonomics are perfect, and touch and sight alike are sensory delights.
These small SUVs are the market's hottest growth space right now. There is no shortage of competent competitors. However, these two give you that "big luxury car feeling" for a price range mostly between $21,000 and $32,000. You want the loaded ones.
The only weaknesses are two. First, the engine -- a 2.4 liter gasoline with 9-speed automatic -- is not as frugal as we'd all like. Second, they don't come with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and there's no word on when they will.
2. Volvo XC90
Yes, there are two Volvos on this list. And this one doesn't even have a seat that's quite as good as its smaller brother. Granted, it's still one of the best seats in the market, but just not as good as the sport contour seat in the 60-series Volvos.
In any case, the Volvo XC90 is superb in all other aspects. Handling and steering are first class, and the styling is impressive inside and out. The centerpiece of the interior is the new Tesla-style center stack touchscreen. Astoundingly, it works even with gloves on.
The gasoline-only version starts at $50,000 and more like $66,000 fully loaded. The plug-in hybrid starts at $69,000 and somewhere around $80,000 fully loaded. It is the only car in the market right now where downloads for Apple CarPlay (November) and Android Auto (March) have been promised to existing hardware.
The plug-in hybrid has a whopping 472 foot-pounds of torque and is basically a BMW i8 under the skin. As such, it is an incredible bargain -- marrying the best of the $137,000 BMW i8 and Tesla into a large 3-row SUV with lots of interior space. It sets a new benchmark for a premium SUV.
1. Volkswagen Golf
VW finally hit it out of the park with this seventh-generation Golf. It's got it all: Some of the best seats, steering wheel, seating position, foot space, "drive feel", go-kart handling, rear seat headroom, a superb transmission, overall practicality and the biggest choice of engines.
You can get the "regular" Golf, or the "Sportwagen" which is a foot longer. I pick the Sportwagen. The regular Golf comes with a choice of powertrains: 1.8 liter gasoline, 2.0 liter gasoline (GTI), a massively powerful (292 HP) 2.0 liter gasoline (R), 2.0 liter diesel (TDI), and electric. Outside the US, you can also get a plug-in hybrid and a natural gas version.
The Golf's only weak point is that it doesn't yet offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but they are imminent upgrades on the 2016 model year, arriving this September. Wait until then and you have a car without flaws. There's a reason why the Golf won almost every "Car Of The Year" award in the last cycle.
Golf starts under $20,000 and tops at just under $40,000 for the R. The best values are in the $25,000-to-$30,000 MSRP-range.