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Plane & Pilot 2017 Buyer’s Guide: Single-Engine Piston Planes

Newcomers, upgrades, and old favorites: 20 piston singles for 2017.

New to this year’s Plane & Pilot Buyer’s Guide are a couple of airplanes that are major updates of existing singles, as well as an all-new, newly Part 23-certificated model by CubCrafters. The product that continues to dominate the market is the Cirrus SR22 G6, which this year boasts its best panel yet, the updated G1000 NXi. Despite relatively low levels of sales against historic figures, the number of different options for potential buyers of singles remains impressive. You can get anything from a 120-knot taildragger with big tires to a pressurized six-place screamer, and most everything else in between. Here’s our selection of the leading piston singles on the market.


Piper M350

Piper M350

Few groundbreaking airplanes stand the test of time, and the M350, known previously as the Mirage and before that the Malibu, is one of them. The pressurized piston single is fast, roomy (seats for six including club seating in back), and because it’s pressurized, occupants don’t need cannula or oxygen masks in the flight levels. Its tremendous range and weather-ready equipment make it the world’s most advanced piston single, one with much of the capability of turboprop singles, but at a cool million less. Its G1000 avionics suite boasts safety features like synthetic vision, envelope protection and a hypoxia safety mode. The M350 has onboard weather radar, anti-icing pneumatic boots for full flight into known icing capability, and with a ceiling of 25,000 feet, it can navigate weather more effectively and effortlessly (for pilot and passengers) than any other production piston single.

Niche: Pressurized piston retractable gear

Price: $1.15 million

Competitors: None

Read our Piper M350 pilot report.

Piper M350 Specifications

Learn more at Piper Aircraft.

Beechcraft G36 Bonanza

Beechcraft G36 Bonanza

When you think of the ideal personal transportation piston single, it’s hard not to think of the G36 Bonanza, a fast, six-place retractable cruiser with club seating in back and a big, comfy barn door for passengers to climb into and back out of the plane. The basic design of the plane hasn’t changed in decades, but the quality and design character, if anything, have only grown stronger over time. And the electronics are light-years ahead of any ’60s-era Model 36, with the Garmin G1000 avionics suite standard. Beechcraft, now a part of Textron Aviation, only sells a few dozen Bonanzas a year, and they go for a premium. But the pleasure and pride Beechcraft owners take in their planes, owners will tell you, is hard to beat.

Niche: Premium, retractable-gear single

Base Price: $799,000

Competitors: Cirrus SR22, Cessna TTx, Piper Matrix

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Read our G36 Bonanza pilot report.

Beechcraft G36 Bonanza Specifications

Learn more at Beechcraft.

Piper Matrix

Piper Matrix

What do you get when you take a pressurized Mirage piston single, take out the pressurization system and price it hundreds of thousands less than the Mirage? A Matrix. Here’s why. The most popular plane in the world is the Cirrus SR22, right? So with the Matrix you get a huge cabin in comparison with room for six (four in club seating configuration in back), SR22-like 213 knots top speed, the Garmin G1000 panel with all of its safety enhancements and an operating profile like other non-pressurized turbocharged singles, so four-seater pilots feel confident stepping up. It’s brilliant. And the Matrix, with its huge 120-gallon capacity, has a range of better than 1300 nm: by far, the best in class. With the big panel of the PA-46 line, the Matrix also has the room for a giant 15-inch multifunction display in the center, bigger than any display in its class.

Niche: Premium retractable-gear piston

Base Price: $899,000

Competitors: G36 Bonanza, Cirrus SR22, Cessna TTx

Read our Piper Matrix pilot report.

Piper Matrix Specifications

Learn more at Piper Aircraft.

Cirrus SR22T

Cirrus SR22 G6

Once again, the best-selling piston single is the Cirrus SR22. The 2017 model, the G6, has features that will attract new customers and get existing ones to trade up to this year’s model. The SR22, available in normally aspirated and turbocharged models, is a fast, high-flying single with a whole-airplane recovery parachute system. The big news this year is the avionics suite. Cirrus is the launch customer for Garmin’s brand-new G1000 NXi suite with its upgraded Perspective+ cockpit, a great upgraded edition of the avionics maker’s seminal flat-panel solution. With faster, sharper, more user-friendly and more capable functionality, Perspective+ will turn heads and attract even more buyers.

Niche: Premium fixed-gear

Base Price: $639,900

Competitors: Mooney Acclaim Ultra, Cessna TTx, Piper Matrix

Read our Cirrus SR22T G6 pilot report.

Cirrus SR22T G6 Specifications

Learn more at Cirrus Aircraft.

Cessna TTx

Cessna T Tx

There’s one natural competitor to the industry-leading SR22, the Cessna TTx, a product that was conceived, developed and hatched around the same time as the SR22, but suffered a series of unfortunate events early in its production life that limited its success. Today’s Cessna TTx is a compelling alternative to the Cirrus, with better forward speed (around 20 knots better), a more advanced cockpit, with the Garmin G3000 touch-controlled suite, a more satisfying hand-flying experience and certificated spin worthiness. The TTx is in many ways the Bonanza for the next generation, an airplane that’s fast, comfortable and technologically advanced, but with a true sidestick, fixed gear for ease of operation and lower insurance rates, and the most advanced cockpit in light GA. Like the SR22, the TTx is an expensive airplane, with typical prices with all the bells and whistles hitting $750,000.

Niche: Premium fixed-gear

Base Price: $689,000

Competitors: Cirrus SR22, Piper Matrix, Mooney Acclaim Ultra

Read our Cessna TTx pilot report.

Cessna TTx Specifications

Learn more at Cessna.

Mooney M20 Acclaim Ultra

Mooney M20 Acclaim Ultra

Plane & Pilot was first to fly the new turbocharged Mooney Acclaim Ultra, and we were impressed. It’s a major upgrade to the relaunched Acclaim S, the world’s fastest piston single. Mooney replaced the forward sheet-metal section of skin with a composite shell that allowed them to add a second door, make the windows larger, make the doors longer for easier hopping in and out for backseat passengers, and lower for better viewing. They lowered the glareshield a few inches for better forward visibility and completed a major cockpit cleanup. The result: An airplane that competes strongly with the SR22 and TTx while giving Mooney fans a lot of what they’ve been asking for. It’s a blazing-fast, high-flying sporty cruiser with FIKI, first-rate avionics and tremendous range (1275 nm with long-range tanks), but with greater comfort, ease of use and visibility than any Mooney before.

Niche: Premium retractable-gear

Base Price: $769,000

Competitors: Cirrus SR22, Cessna TTx, Piper Matrix

Read our Mooney Acclaim Ultra pilot report.

Mooney M20 Acclaim Ultra Specifications

Learn more at Mooney.

Mooney M20 Ovation

Mooney M20 Ovation

The other Mooney reemerging in the company’s lineup is the Ovation Ultra, with the same high-end treatment as the Acclaim Ultra, which will give the Ovation an extra door, improved visibility and far better passenger comfort. The Garmin G1000-equipped Ovation is powered by a 310 hp, naturally aspirated engine that’s more powerful than the turbocharged engine in the Acclaim, which makes use of just 280 hp to reach its top speed of better than 240 knots. The Ovation is really fast itself, the fastest normally aspirated production piston single at 198 knots. It’s a great climber, too, 1300 fpm, and with long-range fuel of 100 gallons, it has a maximum range of better than 1800 nm, or around 1400 nm at more typical power settings. With performance like that, the Ovation, the Ultra model, with two doors, big windows and greatly enhanced interior, will be a formidable competitor even against some turbocharged models.

Niche: Premium retractable-gear

Base Price: $689,000

Competitors: Cirrus SR22 Cessna TTx, Piper Matrix

Mooney M20 Ovation Specifications

Learn more at Mooney.

Cessna 182 Skylane

Cessna 182 Skylane

One of the most popular airplanes of all time, the 182 Skylane is arguably the best-executed compromise in aviation history, with good speed (145 knots), simple operation (fixed gear, low landing speeds), great useful load and rugged reliability. No wonder Cessna has built around 25,000 182s since its introduction in 1956. Today’s Skylane features a 230 hp Lycoming IO-540 and is a far cry from that early bird. While still the same basic airframe, in most regards today’s model is far more technologically advanced, with Garmin G1000 avionics with synthetic vision, safer, with better seats, flap configuration and fuel management (and electronic enhancements), much quieter inside and more comfortable. This airplane is for people who want to go moderate distances, carry an impressive load and enjoy the view that only a high-wing airplane can provide.

Niche: Fixed-gear utility

Base Price: $470,000

Competitors: Tecnam P2010, Diamond DA40, Maule M7-235

Read our latest Cessna 182 pilot report on the Skylane NXi. You can also check out our review of Used Cessna 182 Skylanes or visit the flight levels with our Turbo Skylane pilot report.

Cessna 182 Skylane Specifications

Learn more at Cessna.

Cirrus SR20

Cirrus SR20

The original certificated Cirrus, the lower-powered SR20, gets the same G6 treatment as the SR22. New in 2017 is a Lycoming four-cylinder, 210 hp IO-390 engine. The SR20 is in most ways the same airplane as its more powerful sibling. But it’s a significantly less speedy airplane than the SR22, just 155 knots compared with better than 180 for the normally aspirated ’22. The ’20 is the de facto beginner’s Cirrus, but still an airplane that will go a long way, with a range of around 650 nm, and do so pretty quickly at 150 to 155 knots, and with the same comfort as the SR22—it features the same cabin with almost all the same options available, including the 60-40 flex seating that provides an extra seatbelt in back.  With the new engine, the SR20 will have a 100-pound higher max takeoff weight and a boost in useful load, too.

Niche: Fixed-gear personal

Base Price: $389,900

Competitors: Diamond DA40, Tecnam P2010, Piper Archer

Cirrus SR20 Specifications

Learn more at Cirrus Aircraft.

Diamond DA40

Diamond DA40

Like every plane in the Diamond lineup, the 180 hp Lycoming-powered DA40 is hard to classify. In many ways, the four-seater with a lot of glass and decent forward speed, around 135 to 140 knots, is a competitor to the Cirrus SR20, but it’s a different experience. The all-composite cruiser features three doors, two in front and a big one in back. With its high-aspect-ratio wing, the DA40 is a great climber, and with its Garmin G1000 cockpit, it’s a terrific cross-country and IFR machine for pilots who don’t need higher performance or the long missions that faster planes can accommodate more easily. The DA40 also boasts one of the best safety records in the segment. Plus, with a 660-pound full-fuel payload, the DA40 is an impressive hauler for a small plane, making it a utilitarian choice for a regional cruiser or business transportation solution.

Niche: Fixed-gear personal

Base Price: $389,900

Competitors: Cirrus SR20, Tecnam P2010, Cessna 182 Skylane

Read our Diamond DA40 pilot report.

Diamond DA40 Specifications

Learn more at Diamond Aircraft.

Tecnam P2010

Tecnam P2010

A relative newcomer to the scene, the Tecnam P2010 is a four-seat, fixed-gear general-purpose single with a carbon-fiber fuselage and metal wings. The Italian-produced model is one of a number of designs from Tecnam in a number of categories, and the Part 23-certificated 2010 is a compelling product in many ways. When comparing it to existing planes, it’s hard to find an equivalent model. It’s roomy, easy on the eyes, pretty fast at 140 knots, it carries a good useful load (925 pounds), and it has a competitive range at better than 700 nm. The P2010, in many ways, to use well-known models as points of comparison, is more like a Skylane than a Skyhawk, but it’s a plane that’s lighter to the touch and on the controls than the legendary Cessna single. The standard avionics package is the Garmin G500 system, though the G1000 integrated suite is available, as well.

Niche: Fixed-gear trainer/utility

Base Price: $369,000

Competitors: Diamond DA40, Cirrus SR20, Cessna 182 Skylane, Piper Archer

Read our Tecnam P2010 pilot report.

Tecnam P2010 Specifications

Learn more at Tecnam.

Piper Archer

Piper Archer

Like the Cessna Skyhawk, the Piper Archer, a member of the prodigious PA-28 family, has become the epitome of the modern trainer. A 180 hp Lycoming IO-360-powered single with a fixed-pitch prop, the Archer is a classic Piper low-wing all-metal design. Its four-seat roominess and good power-to-weight ratio make it a practical, easy-flying training platform that works well in environments where lower-powered models struggle to perform. Like the Skyhawk, the Archer started life as a personal transportation plane, but as pilots’ expectations have changed, it became a trainer. The low-wing design has a big advantage: it takes better advantage of ground effect for easier and more predictable landings, a real benefit in the training world. While still close to its roots, the Archer features the G1000 flat-panel suite to give pilots-in-training a modern experience from the get-go.

Niche: Personal/Training

Base Price: $359,900

Competitors: Cessna Skyhawk, Tecnam P2010, Diamond DA40

Read our Piper Archer pilot report.

Piper Archer Specifications

Learn more at Piper Aircraft.


Cessna 172 Skyhawk

Cessna 172 Skyhawk

What can you say about the 172 that hasn’t already been said? It’s the most produced airplane in history (and still going), a great trainer, a passable transportation airplane, a wonderful plane for a small family, a great beginner’s airplane, but one that can last many pilots a lifetime of flying, and has one of the best safety records in light GA. Today’s Skyhawk is powered by a 180 hp Lycoming IO-360 engine with a fixed-pitch prop for easy engine management. At 124 knots, it’s not a super-fast airplane, but for most short to mid-distance jaunts, it’s fast enough. It has remarkably pleasing flying characteristics, it’s a great IFR airplane, easy to land, and uses very little runway (a landing roll of 575 feet when you get on the brakes). With the disappearance of the two-seat 152 in the mid-’80s, the 172 has become the world’s most popular trainer.

Niche: Four-seat, fixed-gear trainer/utility

Base Price: $369,000

Competitors: Tecnam P2010, Diamond DA40, Piper Archer

Read our Cessna 172 pilot report or check out the Origin Of The Skyhawk.

Cessna 172 Skyhawk Specifications

Learn more at Cessna.


Diamond DA20

Diamond DA20

It’s the 25th anniversary of the first public appearance of the Diamond DA20, then called the Katana. The DA20 was a revolutionary airplane, all-composite with a huge glass canopy and the great flying manners you get from a high-aspect-ratio wing. Remember, this was at a time when the Cessna 152, Piper Tomahawk and Beech Skipper were all out of production. But the training world would soon move to more powerful four-seaters for primary instruction, and the DA20 never became a huge star, just the steady performer it still is. The current model, the DA20-C1, features the conventional Continental IO-240 of 125 hp, and continues to give student pilots a big glass window on the world. For training operations that want to go with a two-seater, the DA20 remains the go-to solution in the Part 23 market—it’s an easy-flying, easy-landing, reliable platform that makes money for flight schools that use it.

Niche: Two-seat trainer

Base Price: $234,800

Competitors: None

Diamond DA20 Specifications

Learn more at Diamond Aircraft.


Cessna 206 Turbo Stationair HD

Cessna 206 Turbo Stationair HD

While the 182 is a rugged performer, the true backcountry star of Cessna’s lineup is the Turbo Stationair HD, a six-seater powered by a 310 hp Lycoming TIO-540 six-cylinder. The Stationair can wear many mission hats. It has a huge useful load (1,623 pounds), a big cabin with a big side-loading door and great short-field capability. It also comes with high-tech enhancements, including the G1000 avionics suite, crashworthy seats and improved lighting. It’s not slick, but the Stationair is plenty fast, 161 knot top cruise speed, and with a 700 nm range, it makes an excellent cross-country platform. For commercial operators, that combo is pure gold. Load up the plane with passengers and bags, and with slightly reduced fuel loads you can routinely fly trips of 400 to 500 nm. The Stationair is one of the most popular floatplanes on the planet, too. It comes standard with float attach points.

Niche: Fixed-gear heavy hauler

Base Price: $645,000

Competitors: Gippsland Airvan 8, Maule MT-7-260

Cessna 206 Turbo Stationair HD Specifications

Learn more at Cessna.


Aviat Husky

Aviat Husky

The Husky is the airplane that, given other circumstances, the long-out-of-production Super Cub might have become. It’s powerful, with either the 180 hp Lycoming O-360 or 200 hp Lycoming fuel-injected IO-360. The more powerful engine provides additional speed, but the Husky is remarkably fast for a tube-and-fabric bushplane—with standard tires you can see a 75% cruise of 122 knots, which is faster than some comparably powered retracts of an earlier generation. The tandem-seating plane needs next to no runway to take off or land. In fact, it needs no runway at all. With tundra tires, any cozy field or sand bar will do. But the Husky is also a modern airplane, with a range of avionics options from a VFR panel with a portable navigator plugged in to a full-up IFR panel that might make you forget you’re in an airplane that might need 200 feet of ground roll to land, if you’re rusty.

Niche: Two-seat taildragger

Base Price: $242,509

Competitors: CubCrafters XCub, Maule MX-7 180

Check out Husky pilot reports,experimental versions and more in our Aviat Archives.

Aviat Husky Specifications

Learn more at Aviat Aircraft.


CubCrafters XCub

CubCrafters XCub

One of the highlights here is a brand-new, certificated design, the XCub from CubCrafters. A traditional tube-and-rag design, but with optimized aerodynamics, the XCub shares almost nothing in common with its Super Cub inspiration, save the general spirit of the bird. Available with either spring-steel or traditional bungee-style gear, the XCub can adopt multiple personalities. Sporting a 180 hp Lycoming O-360 with the composite Hartzell Trailblazer constant-speed prop, the XCub can cruise at around 125 knots with a range of around 800 nm, or around 1,000 nm at reduced power and airspeed. When it comes to landing and takeoff, CubCrafters publishes a figure of 170 feet (demonstrated) for each, figures we’ve verified. With a useful load of 1,084 pounds and a cargo capacity of 230 pounds, the XCub is a capable machine, too. Expect to see it with big tires, skis and floats before long, too.

Niche: Two-seat taildragger

Base Price: $305,800

Competitors: Aviat Husky, Maule MX-7 180

Read our XCub pilot report.

CubCrafters XCub Specifications

Learn more at CubCrafters.


Maule M-7

Maule M-7

If you’re confused by the many varieties of Maule aircraft available, you’re not alone, but remember that the sheer variety is a sign that Maule is committed to making its customers happy, and that they do. Boasting one of the highest resale values of any airplane, Maules are valued by owners for their ability to get the job done. The lightweight, rugged, tube-and-rag design has a huge side door for loading cargo. The M7-235B stalls at 40 knots, cruises at 138 knots, climbs at 1500 fpm and has a useful load of nearly 900 pounds. Maules are often put on floats, and with their great power-to-weight ratio and high-lift wing, they perform admirably on the water, in the bush with big tires and on skis. Maules are the rarity in having only steam-gauge flight instrumentation available from the factory, though you can get fully IFR-equipped airplanes with autopilots and Garmin panel-mount navigators.

Niche: Four-seat utility

Base Price: $170,200

Competitors: Cessna 182 Skylane

Maule M-7 Specifications

Learn more at Maule Air.


Stemme S12

Stemme S12

Without much doubt, the most unusual airplane in our lineup is the Stemme S12, the latest version of the high-performance sailplane that doubles as a capable cross-country cruiser. With a wingspan of 82 feet, the Stemme can get around the ramp because it can fold its wings electrically; the folded span is just 37 feet. The S12 is powered by a 115 hp Rotax 914 turbocharged engine spinning a folding prop; with the engine shut down, pull a cord in the cockpit, and it folds down and neatly tucks away into the nose-bowl. The S12 can launch itself for long soaring flights, get back to the airport every time even when the lift dies, or conversely go a long way under power—up to 950 nm on just 31 gallons of fuel at 140 knots. That’s almost 35 miles (statute) per gallon or about three times better than your SUV and approximately 1,000 times the fun.

Niche: High-performance motor glider

Base Price: $369,000

Competitors: None

Stemme S12 Specifications

Learn more at Stemme.


Mooney M10J

Mooney M10J

One of the most exciting programs going is the Mooney M10J, an emerging design that takes a minimalist approach to transportation flying. Mooney hasn’t announced firm plans for first flight or certification for the model, but it has detailed what it expects the final airplane to look like. It will feature an all-composite airframe, a 155 hp FADEC Continental turbo-diesel engine, retractable gear (a Mooney hallmark, but unusual in new-design light airplanes these days), Garmin G1000 avionics and a cruise speed of around 160 knots on around 5 gallons of Jet A per hour.

Niche: Two-seat retractable gear

Base Price: Pricing TBD

Competitors: None

Mooney M10J Specifications

Learn more at Mooney.

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