If you’ve purchased a new car in the last several years, you’re most likely familiar with Kelley Blue Book. Last week, the Kelly Blue Book experts invited us to visit the Emerald City for a look behind the scenes. Okay, not really, the Emerald City, KBB’s headquarters is located in Irvine, California. With its offices tucked into an office park in SoCal, you might not notice the building where some of the smartest, most respected automotive editors in the industry spend their days evaluating new cars.

KBB

We started our morning with a brief history of Kelley Blue Book, where we learned more about their editorial staff, and how they choose the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards. Did you know Kelley Blue Book is the “most searched automotive brand on Google”? KBB.com was launched in 1995, and in two short years they became the most visited automotive website. Today, KBB.com is the most trusted automotive brand and most used third party site. 

KBB.com has over 20 million unique visitors every month! 70% of those visitors plan to buy a vehicle within the next two months and use KBB.com to research their purchase.

In just twelve short months, the editors at Kelley Blue Book evaluate over 300 new car models and narrow the finalists down to 49 vehicles. The task sounds daunting, with finalists chosen based on a set of criteria that compares overall quality of the vehicle and value. When all vehicles have been evaluated, the editors choose one winner for each of the twelve major categories and one overall winner.

“After carefully analyzing a wealth of data and conducting extensive vehicle testing and evaluation from the hundreds of models available for the 2016 model-year, we chose this year’s elite group of 12 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award winners because they proved to be the top values in their class,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. “Our group of expert vehicle testers chose the totally redesigned 2016 Honda Civic as the Overall Winner in our Best Buy Awards because it sets a new standard in a segment already known for delivering great value, providing an up-level experience to drivers and passengers in every facet of the driving and ownership experience.”

KBB.com has over 20 million unique visitors every month! 70% of those visitors plan to buy a vehicle within the next two months and use KBB.com to research their purchase.

Next, we spent time walking around the Volvo XC90 with Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. Jack and his expert team of editors, gave us an overview of how they evaluate a vehicle. Reviewing a vehicle goes beyond how it drives, so the first thing KBB editors do involves sitting in every seat of the car/SUV/truck and observing comfort, legroom, etc. Before they put the vehicle in drive, they’ve looked at the fit and finish, adjusted seats and mirrors, and paired their phones to experience the infotainment system!

KBB

With over 300 new vehicles to evaluate, the KBB editors have made the process a little easier, by using a consistent drive route for each and every vehicle they drive. I was lucky enough to ride in the passenger seat of the Volvo XC 90 while Jack Nerad drove the six-mile route. As we hopped on the 405, Jack pointed out how he was measuring things like road noise, how the Volvo cornered, steering responsiveness and more. I think I managed to hide my excitement, but I felt a bit like the Karate Kid learning from Mr. Miyagi ….wax on, wax off, drive on then drive off.

A little later, I channeled our lessons, as we had a chance to drive a few of the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards finalists for Midsize SUV and Luxury SUV. With eight SUVs to choose from and about 15 bloggers, we only had time to drive the Ford Explorer and Volvo XC90. The burning question in my mind, where were they hiding the performance cars, and did they need another opinion on the Bentley Flying Spur in the KBB parking lot?

Anyway, if the suspense is killing you, the winners of 2016 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards for midsize SUV and luxury SUV are:

2016 Honda Pilot:

2016 honda pilot

After shining brightest in our midsize SUV comparison test earlier in the year, with a compelling combination of utility, comfort, features and price, none of our editors were surprised when the totally redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot also claimed this year’s Mid-Size SUV/Crossover Best Buy Award.

2016 Lexus RX:

Lexus RX

The Lexus RX isn’t just the best-selling model in the Lexus lineup, it’s the best-selling luxury SUV in America. Buyers find great value in the comfortable, reliable, desirable RX, and a complete redesign for 2016 has helped it earn this year’s Luxury SUV/Crossover Best Buy Award. Read our first drive impressions HERE.

You can find the complete list of Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards Winners on KBB.com.

Our travel and expenses were covered by Kelley Blue Book. No compensation was received and all opinions are our own.