Remarkable Rotary Engine and Agreeable NACTOY Jurors

Power in a small package. Jurors before casting their ballots

By Gary S. Vasilash

The Omega 1 is a highly efficient engine, one that can produce 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. Yet it weighs just 35 pounds.

While it is a combustion engine, it doesn’t have pistons. Doesn’t have crankshafts.

Rather, the output from the engine comes from a single rotating power shaft.

Yes, the configuration of the engine is predicated on rotary motion. In fact there are no moving parts besides the rotational elements.

It can be fueled with gasoline or hydrogen.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we are joined by Matthew Riley, the founder, CEO of Astron Aerospace and inventor of the Omega 1 and Chris Theodore of Theodore & Associates and technical advisor to Astron.

They explain the way this engine works.

Astron Omega 1. Looks complicated. But simpler and lighter than a reciprocating engine. (Image: Astron Aerospace)

Given the name of the company, there is a focus on use in aircraft applications. For example, drone use would be certainly something that this lightweight engine would lend itself to.

But it also is conceivably applicable to automotive applications: Think of how it could be used to power a vehicle using hydrogen as fuel—there would be no need for a fuel cell to transform the hydrogen.

Then on the second half of the show “Autoline’s” John McElroy and I are joined by Matt DeLorenzo of Kelley Blue Book and Jack Nerad of “America on the Road Radio.” All four of us are jurors for the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) awards and will soon be voting on the winners for the 2022 awards.

The finalists are:

CAR

  • Honda Civic
  • Lucid Air
  • Volkswagen GTI/Golf R

TRUCK

  • Ford Maverick
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz
  • Rivian R1T

UTILITY

  • Ford Bronco
  • Genesis GV 70
  • Hyundai IONIQ 5

The four of us discuss which vehicles are likely to win.

The surprising part of the discussion is how much agreement there is, with little in the way of dispute.

But you be the judge by watching it here.

NACTOY Announces 2022 Finalists

There are some very, very good vehicles out there. . . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

Sitting on a plane this afternoon I was asked a question that many of my colleagues get from someone who finds out that we write about the auto industry:

“What kind of car should I buy?”

Once it was fairly easy to provide an answer, a specific make, a specific model.

And now, arguably, it has gotten somewhat easier.

My answer:

“Whatever kind of car you like.”

It is clear that with some outliers, the quality of cars, trucks and utes the are available on the market right now as really good. It would be hard to go wrong.

The game for all of the OEMs has been elevated.

There is not only attention being paid to quality but also value and features that consumers want.

The OEMs are providing vehicles that are not only things that people need to get to work or school or to run errands, but vehicles that people actually want to drive.

That as prologue, it is worth knowing that today the jurors of the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) awards announced the finalists for the 2022 awards.

The vehicles are:

Car

  • Honda Civic
  • Lucid Air
  • Volkswagen Golf R, GTI

Truck

  • Ford Maverick
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz
  • Rivian R1T

Utility

  • Ford Bronco
  • Genesis GV70
  • Hyundai IONIQ 5

These nine vehicles were winnowed by the 50 jurors from magazines, newspapers, websites, and television and radio station from a group of 23 semifinalists.

What’s interesting is that in all three categories there are electric vehicles: the Lucid Air, the Rivian R1T, and the Hyundai IONIQ 5.

There is a compact sedan (Civic) and a set of hot hatches (the Golf R and GTI).

There is a pair of trucks that have a compact footprint (Maverick and Santa Cruz), something we haven’t seen for years.

There is a utility that is designed and engineered to take on the tough trails (Bronco) and another that have high levels of refinement (GV70).

It would be hard for a consumer to go wrong right now in the market (assuming that they can actually get a vehicle due to the supply chain issues).

It would be impossible to go wrong making a selection from that list.

(Full disclosure: I am one of the 50 jurors.)

Cadillac LYRIQ: Hitting All the Right Notes

An up-close look at the exterior and interior design of what will undoubtedly become the flagship of the Cadillac lineup (sorry, Escalade)

By Gary S. Vasilash

The Cadillac LYRIQ is certainly the most important Cadillac vehicle to be launched since the Cadillac CTS appeared in 2003. Arguably the LYRIQ, an electric vehicle, is one of the most important products that General Motors is putting on the market because it truly marks a commitment to contemporary EVs that it has announced are coming.

The 2023 LYRIQ, which will be on the market in the first half of 2022, is the real thing.

The fresh face of Cadillac. (Images: Cadillac)

Yes, it will be beaten to showrooms by the GMC HUMMER EV, but that is arguably a niche vehicle. A niche vehicle with people with deep pockets: the first edition, for which all of the reservations have been spoken for, has an MSRP of $112,595.

The LYRIQ will start at $58,795. The reservations for the first edition of the crossover were full. In 10 minutes.

The LYRIQ has an estimated range of over 300 miles from the 100.4-kWh Ultium battery pack. It is a rear-drive vehicle. The Ultium drive unit will provide ~325 hp.

On the inside there is a 33-inch diagonal screen that stretches across the instrument panel, a 19-speaker AKG Studio audio system, eight-way power driver and front passenger seats, and other accoutrements that are characteristic of a vehicle that is a showcase for the brand.

An interior so well crafted, you might not want to leave when your trip is complete.

On the exterior there is a illuminated black crystal front grille that illuminates in an orchestrated manner, a grille that is certainly a signature of not only the vehicle, but of the level of creativity, imagination and technology that may become known as what Cadillac is all about.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” we learn about the LYRIQ, inside and out.

We—“Autoline’s” John McElroy, Henry Payne of The Detroit News, and me—are joined by Brian Smith, Cadillac exterior design director, and Tristan Murphy, Cadillac interior design manager.

What is notable about LYRIQ, even if you put aside that it is an EV, is that this is a vehicle that was a total clean-sheet design. They were creating something absolutely new, something that wasn’t a variation on a theme.

The charter was to create a vehicle that would not only show the world of electric vehicles that Cadillac has arrived, but the world that drivers live in too: This is meant to be a vehicle that not only will people like driving, but be one that they’ll be proud to be seen in.

Three of the words that Smith and Murphy use to characterize what the LYRIQ represents are performance, technology and craftsmanship.

The best of right now with the attention of detail that often seems to be lost.

===

Then, for the second half of the show, McElroy, Payne and I, all jurors for the North American Car, Truck & Utility of the Year (NACTOY) awards, talk about the vehicles that we had the opportunity to drive earlier in the week, all semifinalists for the 2022 awards.

The vehicles include:

  • Audi A3 and S3
  • Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
  • Genesis G70
  • Honda Civic
  • Mercedes S Class
  • VW Golf and GTI
  • Ford Maverick
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz
  • Nissan Frontier
  • Toyota Tundra
  • GMC HUMMER EV pickup
  • Rivian R1T
  • Ford Bronco
  • Genesis GV70
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Jeep Wagoneer & Grand Wagoneer
  • Kia Carnival
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • VW ID.4

And you can see it all here.

NACTOY Announces Initial List

These are key cars, trucks and utilities being made available in the U.S. this year

By Gary S. Vasilash

At the risk of turning this into the non-official site of The North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) Awards™, it is worth noting that the organization* announced its list of 38 cars, trucks and utility vehicles will be eligible for the 2022 awards.

That’s 12 cars. Eight trucks. And 18 utility vehicles.

“Utilities of all types and sizes continue as the largest and most popular vehicle category, so the large number of them comes as no surprise. However, the number of eligible pickups is the most we’ve seen in several years,” said NACTOY president Gary Witzenburg.

So, what are they?

Car of the Year

  • Audi A3
  • Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
  • Genesis G70
  • Honda Civic Sedan
  • Karma GS-6
  • Lucid Air
  • Maserati MC20
  • Mercedes-Benz EQS
  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class
  • Subaru BRZ
  • Toyota GR 86
  • Volkswagen Golf Mk VIII (Golf R/Golf GTI)

Truck of the Year

  • Ford F-150 Raptor
  • Ford Maverick
  • GMC HUMMER EV
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz
  • Nissan Frontier
  • Rivian R1T
  • Tesla Cybertruck
  • Toyota Tundra

Utility Vehicle of the Year

  • Acura MDX
  • Buick Envision
  • Chevrolet Bolt EUV
  • Ford Bronco
  • Genesis GV70
  • Hyundai IONIQ 5
  • Hyundai Tucson (HEV/ICE/PHEV)
  • Infiniti QX60
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee (ICE, PHEV, L)
  • Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer
  • Kia Carnival
  • Lexus NX
  • Mazda MX-30 electric
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Toyota Corolla Cross
  • VW ID.4
  • VW Taos

*The organization consists of 50 jurors from print, online, radio and broadcast media across the U.S. and Canada.

NACTOY and DADA Donate $40,000

Automotive organizations helping out the community

By Gary S. Vasilash*

Although automotive journalists, in some circles, have a reputation of being first in the buffet line, it is worth knowing that the 50 jurors who make the selections for the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) Awards™, along with the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA), have just made $40,000 in charitable contributions.

$10,000 each were presented to:

Noted Gary Witzenburg, NACTOY president, “As automotive journalists, we are privileged to drive, test and evaluate the finest new cars and trucks each year, and for the second consecutive year, we have been able to give something back with these charitable donations.”

Added Rod Alberts, DADA executive director, “NACTOY has always supported the Detroit auto show by announcing its annual awards at our show. We value that partnership and are thrilled that we were able to help make these charitable donations possible once again this year.”

Alberts is referring to the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which, like other auto shows, has been on something of a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NACTOY awards were established in 1994 and the winners were first, and have been subsequently announced, in the building still widely known as “Cobo” during NAIAS events.

*Full disclosure: I am a NACTOY juror

A Look at the Class of 2021

Vehicles, not college grads, that is.

By Gary S. Vasilash

There are lots of new vehicles that have been or will be introduced this year. So on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we dedicate the show to talking about some of them.

And the “we” includes “Autoline’s” John McElroy; Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief of Cars.com; Gary Witzenburg, president of the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year Awards and freelance journalist, and me.

The GMC HUMMER EV Pickup (Image: GMC)

Among the vehicles discussed:

  • Acura MDX: Fourth generation of the utility. Three rows. Edgier styling. Solid suspension. What’s not to like? Apparently the True Touchpad Interface.
  • Buick Envision: A crossover with meticulous attention to detail, inside and out. Does the fact that it is made in China have anything to do with that?
  • Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing and CT4-V Blackwing: A lesser bat-out-of-hell (the 4 has a 472-hp engine) and a full-blown one (the 5 has a 668-hp engine).
  • Chevy Bolt EUV: The second electric vehicle (EV) in the lineup that looks more like an SUV, presumably to appeal to those who can’t get enough of that body style.
  • Ford Bronco: A hard-core off-road vehicle, coming soon to a driveway near you. Get the Sasquatch Package and get extra ground clearance and the approach and departure angles that make climbing rocks not an issue. Get the optional Honda
  • GMC HUMMER EV Pickup. 1,000 hp 11,500 lb-ft of torque. 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. 350+ miles of driving range. Fast charge up to 100 miles in 10 minutes. You can’t get a reservation for Edition 1, which is coming out this fall and has an MSRP of $112,595. In the fall of 22 there will be more available with a reduced price: $99,995.
  • Honda Civic Sedan: The 11th generation appears to be what will bring Honda back to being Honda. Which should make sedan enthusiasts every enthusiastic.
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz and Tucson and IONIQ 5: whether it is a little truck-like vehicle, a compact sport ute that comes with two flavors of hybrid as well as a conventional ICE powertrain, or a fully electric crossover, seems that Hyundai is the Overachiever of the Year.
  • Kia Carnival: Don’t call this a “minivan.” Don’t.
  • Nissan Frontier: It has been a while since Nissan has brought out a new version of its pickup (e.g., the one that is out now appeared in. . . 1998), so they’ve clearly had time to get this one right.
  • Rivian R1T: Will this electric pickup from a startup be a success in the market?

And much, much more.

Which you can see right here.

Hyundai’s Winning Ways

Hyundai, with Bryan Herta Autosport, is going to be campaigning the new Hyundai Elantra N TCR race car in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series.

Hyundai entered the North American Touring Car racing scene in 2018, and since then it won three back-to-back TCR championships and the 2020 Manufacturers title.

And speaking of the 2021 Elantra and winning, that vehicle was named the 2021 North American Car of the Year, a non-trivial victory.

Hyundai 2021 Elantra. Won the North American Car of the Year (NACTOY) award; looking to win at tracks like Daytona. (Image: Hyundai)

To mark that big win, if you look closely you can see the NACTOY badge on the hood of the Elantra N TCR vehicle, shown here at the Daytona International Speedway, flanked by Bryan Herta Autosport drivers Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler.

The first race of the IMPC series will be held on January 29 at Daytona.–gsv

NACTOY 2021 Winners Announced

The NACTOY jury presented its awards this morning:

  • Car of the Year: 2021 Hyundai Elantra
  • Truck of the Year: 2021 Ford F-150
  • Utility of the Year: 2021 Mustang Mach-E

Yes, Ford takes two Ed Welburn-designed trophies.

2021 Hyundai Elantra: Look only at the care taken on the exterior sheet metal. (Image: Hyundai)

And on the subject of two: this is the second time the Elantra has taken the NACTOY Car of the Year, with the first being in 2012.

Briefly: there are 50 jurors who work for a range of publications—physical and digital—and broadcast outlets. Vehicles selected were those which were available for sale during CY 2020.

The Mustang Mach-E: Ford gets electric right with this model. (Image: Ford)

Thoughts:

  • Elantra: The seventh generation of a sedan has gotten a lot more attention and investment—even as other OEMs are retreating from the segment. Hyundai didn’t stint. What’s more, the company has rolled out three versions—the everyday driver, a hybrid and a performance variant from the start.
  • F-150: The F-Series has been the best-selling pickup in the U.S. for 44 years running, so (1) the team that built this new one knows a whole lot about how to put together trucks and (2) they surely don’t want to be the ones who break that streak. Odds are more than good that this new F-150 will handily rack up the 45th year.
  • Mustang Mach-E: Not only does this vehicle make us rethink what a ‘Mustang’ is, but it also reminds us that the company that made the automobile accessible to everybody in 1908 is doing the same thing for electric vehicles in 2021. And what’s more, it is a damn good execution.–gsv
2021 F-150: Clearly unstoppable. (Image: Ford)

Freep’s Phelan’s Picks

Detroit Free Press auto critic Mark Phelan happens to spend more time driving cars than any dozen people you know—a dozen pre-COVID drivers. Somehow, the pandemic hasn’t inhibited Phelan’s seat time.

Each year Phelan picks what he considers to be the best vehicles introduced during the past year.

2021 Cadillac Escalade (Photo by Steve Fecht for Cadillac)

And his list has been revealed:

Cadillac Escalade: Utility of the Year

Ford F-150: Truck of the Year

Hyundai Elantra: Car of the Year

As for place and show?

For utes:

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Ford Bronco Sport

For trucks:

Ram TRX

Jeep Gladiator Mojave

For cars:

Nissan Sentra

Genesis G80

Realize that these are vehicles that have been introduced during the past year, so it isn’t a rating of the best companies.

That said, it can’t be overlooked that Ford has not only a first-place win, but a full third of the list.

Hyundai Motor Group—which has Genesis under its awning—has a win and two vehicles on the list.

And FCA—soon to be Stellantis—missed first place, but had two on the list.

ooo

How competitive the industry is can be determined by taking a look at the list of the semifinalists that were announced by the jury of the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year. (Full disclosure: Mark Phelan and I are both jurors.)

Cars:

Acura TLX

Cadillac CT4/CT4-V\Genesis G80

Hyundai Elantra family (includes N Line and HEV)

Kia K5

Mercedes-Benz E Class Sedan, All-Terrain, Coupe, Cabriolet

Nissan Sentra

Polestar 2

Utilities:

Cadillac Escalade

Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban

Chevrolet Trailblazer

Ford Bronco Sport

Ford Mustang Mach E

Genesis GV80

Hyundai Santa Fe

Kia Seltos

Kia Sorento

Land Rover Defender

Mazda CX-30

Nissan Rogue

Toyota RAV4 Prime

Toyota Venza

Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge

Truck:

Ford Super Duty

Ford F-150

Ram 1500 TRX

Jeep Gladiator Mojave

The category finalists that NACTOY picked are not unlike Phelan’s, with a couple of exceptions:

Car:

Genesis G80

Hyundai Elantra

Nissan Sentra

Truck:

Ford F-150

Jeep Gladiator Mojave

Ram 1500 TRX

Utility:

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Genesis GV80

Land Rover Defender

The results of that will be announced on January 11, 2021.

Here’s one thing that can be said about all of those vehicles:

Tough crowd.