Chicago Auto Show Blog

Fall Rally Picks: MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year

Posted by: Jennifer Morand

Fall Rally Picks: MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year

Each year during the Chicago Auto Show Media Preview, the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) hosts a breakfast to announce that year’s Family Vehicle of the Year award recipient. The award was developed to help consumers make a wise purchase decision when shopping for a family vehicle. Vehicles are first nominated during the MAMA Spring Rally and the list continues to grow with additions from the Fall Rally. The culmination occurs at the Chicago Auto Show where the final winner is announced. The 2015 Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan was recognized as the best family vehicle by MAMA journalists at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show MAMA award breakfast.

During the MAMA Fall Rally, journalists were able to take some of the 2016 MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year award contenders on the road for test drives on the grounds of the Autobahn Country Club of Joliet. Here are our top picks:


2016 Honda Pilot
First, we love that Honda chose to debut the 2016 Honda Pilot at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. For those who attended the 2015 show, you were among the first to see the completely redesigned Pilot in all its glory. According to Honda, the Pilot is a perfect fit for families that need a people-hauler but wouldn’t be caught dead driving a minivan, and its new rounded styling makes the exterior more attractive to those who weren’t fans of the previous “boxy” shape.

Under the hood, the Pilot comes equipped with a direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 – more power than its predecessor, yet a stop-start system helps improve fuel economy. The vehicle fits eight passengers – or seven, if you select the two captain chairs for the middle row. The two captain chairs have their own tray table and cup holders and recline for long road trips. Also, the third row can be accessed by a push of the button to fold forward the second row seating – a very convenient feature.

Pricing starts at $30,875 for the most basic, two-wheel drive LX model. The fully loaded four-wheel drive Elite climbs to $47,300.


2016 Ford Explorer
Let us preface this with the fact that we drove the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum (the highest trim package), so there will be some obvious feature differences between the base and the Platinum.

Overall, our experience with the Explorer Platinum was great – its abundant technology features, interior upgrades and a quiet cabin packed a powerful punch. Ford added everything it possibly could to this model including enhanced parking assist; leather seats, dash and interior doors; stylish quilted stitching pattern; built-in chair massage system; and electronic fold-in back seats for seamless storage (the only in its class, according to Ford).

The 2016 Explorer is available in 2- or 4-wheel drive in the Base, XLT and Limited models, and as a 4WD only in Sport and the Platinum trim level. The standard engine on the Base, XLT and Limited models is a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6; available on only the Sport and Platinum models is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. Also new is the 2.3-liter I4 EcoBoost engine, only offered on the Base, XLT and Limited models.

The base model starts at $31,050 but could climb to $52,600 for the Platinum. The Platinum is fresh out of the Chicago manufacturing plant.


2016 Infiniti QX50
Formerly known as the own as the EX35, the 2016 QX50 is a longer version of its former self and touts styling upgrades along with a brand new reputation. The QX50 wheelbase has been extended providing 4.2 more inches of legroom in the back seat (which equates to 8 cubic ft. or storage space). A couple notable features that come standard include heated seats (important for Midwesterners!) and a power sunroof. Another neat feature is a jacket hanger that is attached to the back of the front seat headrest. This is a great feature unless, of course, you’re toting backseat passengers.

For safety, the QX50 has a distance control activation (similar to intelligent cruise) where it recognizes traffic in front of the vehicle and automatically pushes back on the pedal. In the event the driver does not push the brake, the car will brake for them. Additionally, the lane departure warning feature will beep once the car veers into another lane or onto the shoulder.

This family vehicle contender is perfect for working professionals with one or two children (max) to fit the entire family plus storage equipment. The vehicle begins at $44,500 and is decidedly worth the price.


2016 Volvo XC90
Completely new from the ground up, the 2016 Volvo XC90 SUV has a new engine, new platform and new body and competes with other brands in the luxury three-row segment such as the Acura MDX and the BMW X5.

According to Volvo, the XC90 was designed to deliver a best-in-class combination of horsepower, performance, fuel efficiency and safety features. The XC90 comfortably seats seven – perfect for larger families. It has a four-cylinder engine that promises to be powerful with improved fuel efficiency.

Safety has always been synonymous with the Volvo brand, and the XC90 further reinforces that association with the City Safety collision avoidance technology that helps drivers avoid or mitigate accidents. This also includes Braking in Intersection where the vehicle will automatically brake if it senses the driver turning into the path of an oncoming car. Its standard IntelliSafe technologies also include preventive safety features such as Road Sign Information, Lane Departure Warning and Electronic Stability Control.

Compared to the other vehicles, this has the highest sticker price starting at $49,800 ($55,400 for the Inscription, which is also up for MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year). However, it’s sure capable and comfortable, and is available in a hybrid model. Plus, it is considerably less expensive than most of its luxury crossover competitors.

We also want to give special recognition to the 2016 Chevrolet Equinox that was debuted at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

Have a vehicle that you think should’ve made the list? Share it with us below or tweet us @ChiAutoShow.

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