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NACTOY

2020 NACTOY Winners: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Detroit, Mich. — North American automotive journalists, voting in secret ballots,  revealed on January 13, 2020 that they had selected two quintessentially U.S. vehicles and one from South Korea — but built in the U.S. — as the best newcomers of the past year.

In an announcement at TCF Arena, usually the home of the North American International Auto Show at this time of the year but now moving to June, the journalists picked the all-new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette Stingray as the Car of the Year and the Jeep Gladiator as Truck of the Year. The Gladiator is manufactured by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

2020 TellurideThe all-new Kia Telluride, a midsize three-row crossover sport utility vehicle from the South Korean company but built in a plant in West Point, GA, was awarded Utility of the Year.

The 50 professional automotive journalists who made the selections are dues-paying members of the North American Car of the Year organization. They represent newspapers, magazines and other publications, as well as television, radio and online outlets in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. All NACTOY officers and jurors are volunteers; there are no paid staff positions.

NACTOY describes itself as the premier independent organization that judges excellence in automotive design, technology safety, performance, driver satisfaction, technology and value. (The writer of this article is a member).

Voting is done by secret ballot. A starting list of eligible vehicles, substantially new or redesigned, is drawn up by the leadership. Members then vote for semi-finalists, finalists and winners in the three categories. Votes are tallied by Deloitte, world-wide financial and accounting firm.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette StingrayThe Corvette Stingray, the Car of the Year, is the first in the brand’s 65-year history to feature a mid-engine design. Its 490-horsepower, 6.2-liter engine is mounted in back, ahead of the rear axle. Previous Corvettes had front engines and rear-wheel drive. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic that can be manually shifted. Prices start at $67,495.

Runners-up for Car of the Year were the all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan and the 2020 Toyota Supra sports coupe, which uses an engine and drive train from BMW of Germany.

The Utility of the Year, the Kia Telluride, beat its fraternal twin, the Hyundai Palisade, in the voting. Kia is partly owned by Hyundai and the two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their designs.

The Telluride’s prices start at around $32,000 and climb to more than $47,000. It is powered by a 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Besides the Hyundai Palisade, the third nominee in the utility category was the 2020 Lincoln Aviator, a luxury three-row SUV with prices that range up to $83,540.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator North EditioThe Jeep Gladiator’s two competitors for Truck of the Year were the midsize 2020 Ford Ranger and 2020 Ram Heavy Duty, with the Gladiator all pickup trucks but different in personalities, design and execution.

NACTOY’s Best of 2020: DriveWays . . .

by Frank A. Aukofer

Besides singing “Auld Lang Syne,” the end of every year heralds a flowering of “best of” motor vehicle awards from consumer organizations, enthusiast publications, and web sites.

Except for Consumer Reports, which doesn’t permit advertising of its conclusions about the reliability and efficacy of cars, trucks and utility vehicles, it’s something of a business proposition. An enthusiast magazine that names one or more “best of” or “top rated” vehicles typically gets paid if the manufacturer publicizes the honor in its advertising.

CarUtilityTruck copyThat’s also the case with the premier awards from the North American Car of the Year (NACTOY) organization, whose membership consists of 50 professional automotive journalists from all over the United States and Canada. Their reviews appear in newspapers, magazines and other publications, as well as television, radio and  online.

However, those journalists do not personally benefit. They are dues-paying members who vote for what they consider to be the best car, utility vehicle and truck of the model year. Though the NACTOY organization can benefit from advertising charges, the money is used for operating expenses. All NACTOY officers and jurors are volunteers; there are no paid staff positions.

It is that and its widespread reach that leads NACTOY to describe itself as the premier independent organization judging excellence in automotive design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value. (Full disclosure: the writer of this story is a NACTOY juror).

There are three rounds of voting. An initial list of new or substantially upgraded vehicles is compiled by the leadership. Members then vote to determine a list of semi-finalists, then finalists and winners in the three categories of car, utility and truck of the year.

The system works something like the movie Academy Awards. Votes are counted in secret by Deloitte, a world-wide financial and accounting firm. Winners will be announced in Detroit on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.

For now, however, there are three finalists in each category, which have the distinction of winning the votes of the independent jurors. Following are brief descriptions of the vehicles.

Car of the Year

2020 Chevrolet Corvette StingrayChevrolet Corvette Stingray. This is the long-awaited C8 Corvette, the first in the brand’s 65-year history to feature a mid-engine design, with its 6.2-liter V8 mounted behind the driver’s shoulder blades and ahead of the rear axle. It sends 490 j[ and 465 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed  automatic transmission. Starting price is $67,495.

Large-39629-2020SonataLimitedHyundai Sonata. Redesigned midsize sedan from the South Korean automaker that better competes against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. It has innovative blind-spot warning in the instruments and a self-parking system. Powered by a 180-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Priced $24,530 to $34,365.

White Front 3q LeftToyota Supra. The resurrection of a storied sports/grand touring car that was produced from 1978 to 2002. In this new guise it features a power train from BMW of Germany with a 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that delivers 335 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Prices start at $50,945.

Utility of the Year

Large-36538-2020PalisadeThis category is intriguing because two of the three finalists are fraternal twins: the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride from South Korea. Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai. The two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their own interior and exterior designs, as well as suspension system tuning and other components.

2020 TellurideBoth are critically acclaimed midsize, three-row crossover sport utility vehicles, powered by 3.8-liter V6 engines with 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission, their prices range from about $32,000 to more than $47,000.

2020 Lincoln AviatorThe third finalist in the category is the all-new Lincoln Aviator, which competes in the rarified world of mid-size, three-row luxury sport utilities. Available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, it is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that delivers 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Prices range from $52,095 for the base rear-drive model to as much $83,540 for the Black Label all-wheel drive version.

Truck of the Year

It would be difficult to find a category with more variety among the finalists, although all three are pickup trucks.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon on the Rubicon TrailThe Jeep Gladiator is the first pickup truck in 28 years from the manufacturers that got their start building military general purpose, or GP, all-terrain vehicles in World War II. The last Jeep pickup was the Comanche, sold until 1992.

The midsize Gladiator comes in a variety of trim levels for on-road and off-road work and recreation. It is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque delivered via a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic transmission. Prices start at $35,000 and can range up to more than $60,000 for the top-line Rubicon model with options.

RangerFX2_01_HRFord Ranger. This is a new midsize pickup that reprises the name of Ford’s earlier midsize pickup, which had a 27-year run until it was discontinued in 2010. It is a comfortable long-distance highway cruiser, powered by Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which makes 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the pavement with standard rear-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive. Prices range from about $25,000 to $45,000.

2020 Ram Power Wagon Crew CabRam Heavy Duty. Though stylish and refined as pickups go, this full-size truck is the brute of the finalists. With three engine options, including two diesels, it is available as a three-quarter ton (2500) model or one-ton (3500) model and single or dual rear wheels.

The stunner is the 6.7-liter Cummins in-line six-cylinder diesel engine with 400 hp and a whopping 1,000 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, making it capable of towing 35,100 pounds with a payload of 7,680 pounds. Prices start at around $30,000 and, depending on trim levels and equipment, go up to the sky.

Photos and Images courtesy NACTOY, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Toyota, Kia, Lincoln, Jeep, Ford, and Ram.

2017’s Outstanding New Vehicles: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Recently, members of the North American Car of the Year organization selected the best 2017 vehicles to compete for three prestigious honors: Car of the Year, Utility of the Year and Truck of the Year.

The jury consists of up to 60 automotive journalists, male and female, from the United States and Canada. All are dues-paying members, independent of any connections to vehicle manufacturers.

Until this year, there were two awards: Car and Truck of the Year. But with the proliferation of crossover SUVs a new category was added.

Although every manufacturer around the world will tout something as new for the 2017 model year, the jurors consider only those that are “new or substantially changed.” They must be “benchmarks in their segments based on factors including innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.”

Journalist jurors vote in secret and the results are tallied, in a process similar to the film Academy Awards, by the Deloitte and Touche accounting firm.

The competition is stiff, with 16 cars, 12 utility vehicles and four pickup trucks vying for the honors. Among cars, there’s a broad range topped by the Acura NSX super car, the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman sports cars, and the all-new flagship of the new Genesis brand from Hyundai, the G90.

Utility vehicles range from the all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan to the Kia Sportage. The four trucks include two from Ford—the F-Series Super Duty, the first major revision of this truck in 18 years, and the brutal F-150 Raptor off-roader. The innovative Honda Ridgeline and the Nissan Titan full-size V8 complete the group.

Regardless of which vehicles win, the entire list can be considered as the best in the business. One winner in each category will be announced at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit on Jan. 9.

Following is a rundown on the nominees, along with brief comments:

Among the 16 nominated cars, some jurors, citing affordability, questioned the inclusion of the 573-hp hybrid Acura NSX, a superb two-seater but with a price tag that easily can top $200,000. The scintillating 300-hp Porsche Boxster ($79,440 with options) and 350-hp Cayman ($90,060), also are pricey two-seaters.

There are five full-size luxury cars on the list and one that comes close to that designation. The latter is the new Kia Cadenza, which in Limited trim has a price tag of $44,890 but exhibits luxury safety items and features.

Other luxury cars are the Cadillac CT6, Buick LaCrosse, Lincoln Continental and Volvo S90. The last ($53,945-$66,105 Inscription trim) is an all-new car from the Swedish manufacture that carries the same powertrain as the Volvo XC90, which won Truck of the Year last year.

Few have driven the Continental but the Caddy CT6, priced from about $55,000 to $67,000, cossets the driver in lavish luxury; the Buick ($41,000 to about $50,000) is posh but somewhat less so. Compact sedans include the high achievers Audi A4 ($40,350-$54,275) and Jaguar XE ($52,695-$61,385), along with the new Hyundai Elantra, a surprise high performer in its Sport version, which starts at a mere $22,485 and tops out at $24,885.

Remaining car competitors are the superb new Mercedes-Benz E-Class midsize sedan ($55,575 for the E300 4Matic); the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid ($28,000-$34,000), with an estimated equivalent of 133 mpg, and two new hatchbacks from Chevrolet—the all-electric Bolt   ($37,495-$41,780 before rebates), with a highway range of about 200 miles, and the well-appointed Cruze ($22,765-$26,870).

There are two outliers in the utility vehicle category. One is the only minivan—the all-new, innovative Chrysler Pacifica ($29,590-$47,150). The other is the three-row Nissan Armada ($43,395-$60,985), which is the only true SUV in the group, built on a truck chassis.

All other entries are classified as crossover SUVs, built like cars with unit bodies. There are four three-row models: luxury Audi Q7 ($55,750-$68,925) and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class (in GLS450 trim $69,625-$78,550); downsized but more appealing GMC Acadia (in Denali trim $47,485-$52,285), and the luxury wannabe Mazda CX-9 ($34,220-$42,215).

Midsize two-row crossovers include the Chinese built Buick Envision ($34,990-$43,425) and Cadillac XT-5 ($55,385-$67,260).

There are four compact crossovers: the best-selling Honda CR-V (prices not available), with a new turbocharged engine; luxury Infiniti QX30 ($37,945-$43,745), which is based on the Mercedes-Benz GLA; luxury high-performance Jaguar F-Pace ($46,595-$71,435), and the stylish and competitive Kia Sportage ($34,859 in SX AWD trim).

The pickup trucks are a disparate group. The new aluminum Ford Super Duty in F-350 4X4 Crew Cab trim can be outfitted like a luxury car—but with a $77,835 price tag. The Ford F-150 Raptor ($49,520-$66,495) is purpose-built to tackle long-distance off-road races. The new Titan V8 encompasses a lineup of new Nissan trucks that includes the off-road capable Pro-X ($46,215-$52,885). Most unusual is the Honda Ridgeline ($30,375-$43,770), a competitive midsize truck that has car-like qualities.

UPDATE: On November 15 during the Motor Press Guild Breakfast at the Los Angeles Auto Show, NACTOY announced its three finalists in each category for 2017.

The finalists are:

Car of the Year:

  • Chevrolet Bolt
  • Genesis G90
  • Volvo S90

Truck of the Year:

  • Ford F-Series Super Duty
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Nissan Titan

Utility of the Year:

  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Jaguar F-Pace
  • Mazda CX-9

Winners will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 9, 2017.

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