Best automatic cars 2016

BMW 3 Series front tracking
27 Jun, 2016 12:00pm James Disdale

Slick-shifting and economical, and even great fun to drive - we list the 10 best automatic cars on sale today

Not so long ago, enthusiast drivers looked down on automatic gearboxes as the preserve of luxury saloons and little old ladies in asthmatic hatchbacks. These days technology has advanced so far that most of the world's greatest sports and performance cars come with paddle-shift automatic transmissions of one sort of another and the best automatic cars on sale are very good indeed.

Rapid-fire gearchanges that take mere milliseconds are great for faster lap times, but there are other benefits to modern automatic transmissions - the most important being economy and low emissions. Modern auto gearboxes are typically more intelligent and better co-ordinated than we mere humans, so can change gear faster, more smoothly and at the best possible moments. They also make life a lot easier and more relaxing, whether you're driving around town or on our congested motorways.

We've picked 10 of the best automatic cars for this feature, but we've not ranked them in any particular order as they span such a wide range of model types - we've got everything from automatic city cars to SUVs and supercars. But before we get into the list, here's a quick guide to the different types of auto gearbox on offer today.

New Lexus GS F 2016 - paddle shifter

Types of automatic gearbox

The traditional auto option uses something called a torque converter, which is a fluid coupling between the engine and the gearbox that transmits power when under load. These have been in use since the middle of last century and provide smooth gearchanges - but do tend to have a power-sapping effect on performance and economy, though this has improved greatly with time.

The more modern option is an electronically operated dual-clutch setup. One clutch handles odd-numbered gears while the other handles even-numbers, and the two work in tandem for lightning-fast gearchanges. The result is smooth and can even be more economical than a manual gearbox - however they can be jerky from a standstill, and they're expensive and difficult to repair should they go wrong.

VW Golf SV (Sportsvan) gear selector

A different choice altogether is a CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission. These use belts rather than gears to provide a single variable gear, making smooth and seamless gearchanging. Economical and cheap to repair, these types of gearbox are best avoided by keen drivers as they can give a somewhat disconnected feel to the car - as well as being noisy under load.

Rounding things off is the automated manual transmission. These transmissions use a regular clutch and gear set-up but robotise the action. They have the advantage of being cheap, lightweight and simple - but are often jerky around town and under hard acceleration. They're often best avoided.

So with that all in mind, click the links below or at the top left of this page check out our list of the best automatic cars on sale today...

Best automatic cars 2016

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