Best of CH 2016: Cars + Tech: From test driving cars in the snow to thoughts on camera kits and indoor gardening systems, our year in auto and innovation

As each year passes, it’s more and more difficult to believe just how many technological innovations and upgrades can occur. Even the least tech-savvy of us engages with incredible inventions on a daily basis—from cars to phones and cameras—so keeping informed about the fast-paced industry is vital. Our reporting is highly filtered and we focus on lesser known stories and unexpected angles—whether that’s delving into the backstory and development of a concept car, or road-testing cameras. Essentially, all our car and tech coverage aims to be accessible, intelligent and relevant to real life. Here are some of the most-read, and most engaged with from the year.





The all-new Range Rover Evoque Convertible is a fantastically silly car that might appeal to few, but for the outliers among us it’s a delight. While a convertible SUV is somewhat foreign to the Western world, it’s merely a luxurious reinterpretation of something between the classic African open-air safari vehicle and a Jeep Wrangler. And after spending a couple days in one, it’s actually more satisfying than it is silly.





I started taking pictures with my father’s Nikon F when I was eight years old and not long after began developing film and making prints in the darkroom. Back then watching a photo come to life in a tray of developer was instantly gratifying—granted it was sometimes hours, but more likely days after capturing the moment with a camera. Nowadays, as it has been for quite a while, the definition of instant gratification has been realized with digital cameras immediately playing back each image captured. And having nearly unlimited storage space for those captured images means we’re taking far more pictures than in the days of 36 exposure rolls of 35mm film. Having cameras on our phones means that we’re taking pictures in every possible situation. What has stayed the same for me until now, though, is the idea that I only need one camera for the job.





Cadillac has been on a five year journey expressing three driving experiences and demonstrating the brand’s evolution while also tracking back to its luxury roots. We’ve been fortunate to see the debut of each car in the fitting surroundings of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, America’s most prestigious event celebrating automotive history, design and performance (and its many adjacent events). This year we’ve had the exclusive opportunity to follow the car’s development, to get behind the scenes and experience a creative process that few outsiders (let alone journalists) have witnessed. Visiting the GM design studio in Detroit, where the car was conceived, designed and created, several times, we met the team who brought the Escala to life, and we are proud to present the story.






From Click & Grow to Urban Cultivator, technology is increasingly being used to bring the backyard garden closer than previously imaginable—to the heart of the kitchen. Another contender, Cambridge, MA-based SproutsIO, is coming close to launching their premium-level, all-in-one indoor gardening system that helps grow produce as efficiently as possible. Fully automated, the smart appliance grows plants soil-free via a proprietary “hybrid hydroculture system” (combining hydroponics and aeroponics), tracks their growth, and senses their needs—be it light, water or nutrients. Much of the manufacturing is done in Detroit, where founder and CEO Jennifer Broutin Farah grew up. The MIT Media Lab alum, trained in architecture, has had a long interest in energy and urban infrastructure. SproutsIO, one day, could address issues regarding inefficient food transportation, the incredible amount of fresh water used by the agricultural industry, and the increasing urbanization across the globe. But on a simpler note, SproutsIO grows the produce you want, when you want it.





Nikon released the D5 and D500 last month to great fanfare—and the latter especially appeals to photography lovers whose professions don’t warrant paying $6500 for the new flagship DSLR. The D500 is a true replacement camera for the D300 series (which dates back to 2007), and it’s all about fast-action. Inside the rugged, durable body build—on par with Nikon’s higher-end cameras (and no unneccessary built-in flash)—is their 20.9 megapixel DX format image sensor, a powerful new 153-point auto-focus system, incredible ISO quality that bestows confidence in low-light situations, and so many more features that won’t fit in this story (hence, the invention of the manual and user tips). We tested out the camera earlier this month in some challenging scenarios and the results stir up more than a few whistles.





There is something romantic about cruising through a place that feels still somewhat wild and untouched. A place that has served as the crossroads for trade, culture, and war for centuries has plenty of stories to tell in its red-starred roadside markers and tiny houses whose walls line the roads of small towns, making it feel like you’re driving through deep, impenetrable moats. Gliding back and forth across the border between Italy and Slovenia in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet makes that romanticism even more tangible.






GT in theory stands for grand tourer—or “gran turismo,” if you prefer the Italian translation. McLaren, though, races in Formula 1 so their version still loosely translates as “Go Time.” Driving the $198,950 570GT ahead of the Goodwood Festival of Speed (just outside McLaren’s Woking, England, headquarters) this translation makes perfect sense. This is hardly a classic 2+2 (a la the Bentley Continental GT) nor is it close to as mild-mannered as one of the longer-lived GTs in the world, the Mercedes-Benz SL. Instead, McLaren’s claiming to offer a more refined super-sports machine than what they’ve sold in the past.


Image credits in respective articles

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