First off, and just to be clear, when Autobytel experts gathered to pick the best geek cars, no thought was given to which entries were best suited for carnival life. Instead, after we dove a little deeper into Merriam-Webster, we went and looked for the top rides for “an enthusiast or expert, especially in a technological field or activity.” Yet while finding high-tech cars is no problem nowadays, it can get kind of expensive—as can many of the choices here. After all, most technology enthusiasts are going to demand high-tech powertrains, which may be getting more affordable, but are still far from cheap. Of course, we’ve also searched out some unexpectedly high-value vehicles, too, to help more customers get their geek on.
10 Best Geek Cars
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Chevrolet Spark
For example, it turns out that the least-expensive car in the country—the 2016 Chevrolet Spark—comes standard with something many much more costly vehicles can’t offer at any price: a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot with 4G LTE connectivity. (Just know that, after the standard three-month/three-gigabyte data trial, owners will need to set up a paid Wi-Fi plan.) And that mobile Wi-Fi is merely part of an also-standard MyLink infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, for more connectivity alternatives. Some of the best geek cars may have more tech toys, but none has an MSRP as low as the Spark’s $12,660. Yes, that’s with a six-speed manual transmission, but how geeky is that?
Photo Credit: Mitsubishi
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
Or let’s say you’re an audio geek on a budget. In that case, the best geek cars would have to have a big-time sound system, and the Mirage has partnered with Rockford-Fosgate to deliver exactly that. That company’s ecoPUNCH audio system was tailored specifically to enhance acoustics in the Mirage cabin, complete with 300 watts of power and a MOSFET subwoofer for massive bass. Even better, customers can rock out with Rockford-Fosgate even in the least-expensive Mirage, as the premium sound system is a $575 option on the $12,995 car. It’s also worth noting that the Mirage SE, priced at $14,795, comes with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration supported by a 6.5-inch touchscreen.
Photo Credit: Tesla
2016 Tesla Model S
But for serious geekery, it’s hard to beat the 2016 Tesla Model S. The premium sedan sets a new benchmark for the best geek cars, and not just because of an advanced all-electric propulsion system. Yes, that’s an impressive setup, boasting 294 miles of all-electric driving on a single charge or 0-60 acceleration in a ludicrous 2.8 seconds. But all that’s just the starting point for the Model S. Its AutoPilot technology also can handle numerous highway-driving tasks on its own, while taking over entirely at very low speeds—such as when someone “summons” the car with a smartphone, allowing the Model S to, for instance, pull itself out of a garage as its owner waits.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota Mirai
The West Coast is an especially popular location for tech companies, so it’s no surprise that a few automakers save their best geek cars for California. Consider the 2016 Toyota Mirai, which is available now at select Golden State Toyota dealerships. It’s the first and only mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in the world, according to Toyota, as well as the only zero-emissions vehicle able to travel more than 300 miles without having to refuel. Also, unlike all-electric zero-emissions vehicles, filling up the Mirai only takes about five minutes. The Mirai does qualify for the same $7,500 in federal tax credits as most EVs, however, and Toyota also is providing high levels of customer support—some of it financial.
Photo Credit: Honda
2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Toyota may be first with a mass-produced fuel-cell vehicle but remember, in the hybrid segment, Honda was first—with the original Insight—and it was the Prius that proved (much) more successful. Will history reverse itself? We’ll see when the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell debuts late this year, joining the Mirai as among the best geek cars for California drivers. The Clarity will check off many of the same boxes as its rival, with a range of more than 300 miles, a refueling time of three to five minutes, and “a target monthly lease price of under $500.” There will be a difference later on, though, since the Clarity Fuel Cell will spin off all-electric and plug-in hybrid variants next year.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
2017 Hyundai Ioniq
After already announcing a new Genesis brand that would compete with the world’s best luxury cars, Hyundai is getting a new vehicle ready to roll against the best geek cars of today. The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq, due this fall, will feature plenty of geeky gadgetry, including smartphone integration and a TFT (thin-film transistor) instrument panel. But it’s the Ioniq’s powertrains that mark the real innovation. There will be three, with the Ioniq furnishing hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric systems for customers. Exact fuel efficiency data is not yet available for any, although Hyundai expects the plug-in to combine hundreds of miles of hybrid travel with a 25-mile EV range, while the estimated range for the all-electric Ioniq is 110 miles.
Photo Credit: BMW
2016 BMW i8
The ultimate driving machine of the best geek cars is none other than the 2016 BMW i8. With a dramatic, aerodynamic exterior that’s highlighted by scissor doors, the i8 leverages a cutting-edge plug-in hybrid powertrain for truly electric acceleration; owners can run the i8 from 0-60 in as a few as 4.2 seconds, run it solely on electricity for up to 15 miles, and then enjoy another 315 miles of hybrid-powered driving range after that. Drivers who like to geek out over computer screens also will find two high-res, 8.8-inch displays onboard, one providing virtual instrumentation and one serving as the interface for BMW’s sophisticated connectivity and infotainment system. There’s a separate head-up display, too.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang
Diehard performance geeks, on the other hand, are likely more focused on horsepower than on computing power, which brings us to the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang. It showcases the sort of engine details that gearheads can’t get enough of, from a flat-plane crankshaft and sodium-filled exhaust valves to the largest throttle body ever installed in a production Ford engine. That said, the Shelby does share the same tech-oriented approach to travel as any of the best geek cars, it simply uses that technology for things like the first MagneRide suspension ever fitted to a Mustang, along with further performance enhancers such as launch control and a comprehensive, multi-mode driver-control system that automatically fine-tunes key vehicle attributes for optimum performance.
Photo Credit: Volvo
2017 Volvo S90
The Volvo renaissance continues with its new flagship luxury sedan, which appeals to technophiles with a Sensus Connect infotainment interface for a near button-free cabin. The high-resolution touchscreen takes over, bolstered by the ability to recognize typical tablet-style command gestures. As an additional innovation, the perimeter of the screen has an “infrared film” that can help better recognize all hand commands; it also reduces wear and tear on the screen, since users don’t have to press so hard to activate different functions. Mobile Wi-Fi and smartphone integration are on the menu as well, as are autonomous-driving and driver-assistance technologies missing from even some of the best geek cars.
2017 Toyota Prius Prime
The best geek cars from past years have often included the world’s most popular hybrid, with the all-new 2016 Prius already gaining its share of geeky consumers. Yet it’s the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime that will take technology to the next level. Expected to roll out nationally late this year, the Prius Prime packs a plug-in hybrid powertrain that will at least match the +50 mpg of the standard model, then add 22 miles of all-electric driving--“meeting the daily commuter distance of over half of U.S. drivers,” per Toyota. The Prius also ups its game in terms of infotainment tech, thanks to available features like an 11.6-inch, tablet-style multimedia screen and head-up display.