Since 1994 the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) Awards have been presented by a group of journalists, all of whom work for a variety of outlets, print, digital, television, audio. They determine what are the most important vehicles introduced during a given year, vehicles that are deemed to be ones that consumers ought to pay attention to when they are in the market.
Last week at the North American International Detroit Auto Show the semifinalists for the 2023 awards were announced.
BMW i4 eDrive40: Sedan
Genesis G80 EV
Mercedes-Benz C Class
Toyota GR Corolla
Chevrolet Silverado ZR2
Ford F-150 Lightning
Audi Q4 e-tron
BMW iX xDrive50
Volvo C40 Recharge
On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Jill Ciminillo of “Pickup Truck + SUV Talk,” Bengt Halvorson of Green Car Reports and I—all NACTOY jurors—talk about the nominees, most of which all or some of us have had first-hand experience with. (The others we will when we drive them next month during a comparison drive.)
The new 2023 Nissan Z—just “Z,” no more numerics—is powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 400 hp. Just the sort of thing to make the two-seater perform quickly. Compared with the last-generation model—the 370Z (obviously with the numerics)—there are increases in both torsional stiffness and body rigidity. That means that the vehicle has the sort of substance required to make it capable of being tossed through turns without a sensation that it is as sound as a plate of overcooked pasta.
On the inside the car has an interior that is fresh and not at all fussy. As is the case of the exterior, there is a slight sense of throw-back, although it is difficult to put your finger on what makes it so. There is a six-speed manual transmission, which is something that was more common in cars of days gone by, but that’s not it. And given that there is a standard 8-inch infotainment display (there is a 9.0-inch unit with navigation available), that’s certainly not what gives this slight sense of days of retro. There is also a nine-speed automatic, which is certainly au courant.
Before the $1,025 destination charge, the Sport trim (there is the Performance trim above that) has a base MSRP of $39,990, which is a nice thing for Nissan to be able to boast about: A bona-fide sports car for under $40,000.
To get insights on how this vehicle was developed, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we talk with Melissa Lacko, an engineer with Nissan Research & Development in Stanfield, Arizona, who worked on the development of the vehicle.
She talks about various aspects of how the Z came to be, ranging from the interactions with the team in Japan to the time she and her colleagues drove to Bemidji, Minnesota for cold-weather testing—and the temp was below -20º, which is really something for an Arizona native to experience.
Lacko talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, freelance writer and NACTOY president Gary Witzenburg, and me.
If you want to get a sense of what enthusiasm is for one’s profession, watch this show because Lacko is clearly engaged in what is a car that can be enjoyed by automotive enthusiasts.
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.
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:
Volkswagen GTI/Golf R
Hyundai Santa Cruz
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
Honda Civic Sedan
Toyota GR 86
Volkswagen Golf Mk VIII (Golf R/Golf GTI)
Truck of the Year
Ford F-150 Raptor
GMC HUMMER EV
Hyundai Santa Cruz
Utility Vehicle of the Year
Chevrolet Bolt EUV
Hyundai IONIQ 5
Hyundai Tucson (HEV/ICE/PHEV)
Jeep Grand Cherokee (ICE, PHEV, L)
Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer
Mazda MX-30 electric
Toyota Corolla Cross
*The organization consists of 50 jurors from print, online, radio and broadcast media across the U.S. and Canada.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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