Drivers’ Choice Awards
Each year we roll out the red carpet for our annual Drivers' Choice Awards. These are the cars and trucks we would like to have parked in our driveway, or at least dream about owning if we won the lottery. We look at the factors mattering most to consumers - price, practicality, performance and fuel efficiency. Then our editorial staff selects the best models in a variety of lifestyle categories ranging from family sedan to luxury car, to large utilities and pickups. From that group, an overall best of the year is chosen. MotorWeek's Drivers' Choice Awards have been presented annually since 1983.
2018 Drivers’ Choice Awards
Best of the Year
Our Best of the Year award is our most important; so naturally, it is often the most difficult for us to decide. That was certainly the case this year, with many great vehicles making the list. But nothing has had as big an impact on the automotive landscape this year, as…the Kia Stinger.
Just about every serious automaker has tried at one point or another to take on the Europeans with their take on the traditional rear-drive sport sedan. Well, this latest salvo from Kia, has certainly shocked and awed the segment.
The Stinger GT packs a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6, a quick and precise 8-speed automatic transmission, and even an available performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system.
Power delivery is smooth as silk, even when making 4.5-second 0-60 runs. And it feels extremely stable at high speeds. On a road course, the well balanced chassis proved very responsive, with tenacious grip in corners. Even the brakes feel outstanding.
A few overdone chrome bits aside, Stringer’s well-disguised 5-door hatchback design not only looks fantastic, but keeps a healthy dose of practicality; as does it’s not quite compact, not quite midsize, “just right” size.
Inside, there is more than enough comfort for long stints behind the wheel; and the Stinger reacts calm and serene in daily driving, only betraying its performance potential when you ask for it.
All of this comes with all the technology buyers expect at this price point and more.
That price point? The Stinger GT starts at just under $40,000. And while that GT is truly the one grabbing all of the headlines and awards; as in European-branded sport sedans, there’s an entry-level model that will suit many buyers.
And even the under $33,000 base price Stinger won’t disappoint, with a 255-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 and the same 8-speed automatic.
Regardless of the sticker, the Stinger has detonated a whole new adrenaline-packed era for Kia. So, even though they have been making strides towards more dynamic cars for years now, we were still highly skeptical that Kia could pull this leap out of their hat. Well, we are now true believers. It’s a no-compromise Euro-style sport sedan from Korea that also comes with no “yeah buts” excuses. That is the Kia Stinger, our 2018 MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Best of the Year!
Best Small Car
Jumping right in with our Best Small Car, we’ve already got our first controversy. Traditionally, we don’t bestow an award to any car more than two years in a row; but the latest Civic has been such a game changer, we had to evolve to keep up with it and think thrice. Truthfully, it was the fact that Honda unleashed not one, but two high-performance variants that really sealed the deal. You can get a mild upgrade in coupe and sedan from the Civic Si, or go extreme with the “Hot-n’-Hyper” Type R Hatchback.
Best Family Sedan
Which brings us to the Best Family Sedan category. While Civics have been key in raising the bar for compacts, the Accord fully embraces the trend of midsize sedans encroaching on luxury car territory. Losing 4-door sales to SUVs for years now, carmakers are throwing everything they have at what used to one of the most boring segments in automotivedom. That’s no longer the case, and the Honda Accord is a big part of the reason why.
Mazda MX-5 Miata RF
Convertibles are all about fun, and it’s hard to find a car that’s more fun than Mazda’s MX-5 Miata. Of course, the big news for this year’s Best Convertible winner is the new Miata RF, or Retractable Fastback. Not only does it make the Miata more practical in all-weather, but it’s a much better solution than the last gen’s retractable hardtop.
Best Luxury Sedan
BMW 5 Series
Our Best Luxury Sedan winner may surprise a few, but it’s a statement on BMW these days. It’s not that they’ve eliminated all performance from the venerable 5 Series, but it’s clear to us that luxury is now just as high of a priority; and we’re okay with that. No more harsh rides to deal with or “plain Jane” interiors. And we’re truly grateful that in this SUV-crazed society, BMW remains committed to sedans.
Best Sport Sedan
There has been a shift in sport sedans as well, and our Best Sport Sedan Kia Stinger is perhaps yet another surprise winner. Unless of course, you’ve had a chance to drive a Stinger GT with its 365–horsepower twin-turbo V6. Not only does it stand out in a crowded field of contenders and pretenders, but 5-door hatchbacks taking the place of traditional sedans looks to be the way forward.
Best Sport Coupe
Lexus LC 500
Lexus has a good idea of what the future looks like, and our Best Sport Coupe winner the Lexus LC 500 is the ride we’d chose to get us there. Lexus once again proves that you don’t have to be a European brand to create a high performance coupe dripping with sex appeal. And it can be comfortable, ultra-luxurious, and reasonably practical at the same time.
Best Performance Car
Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
For extreme performance however, we have to give it to the folks at Fiat Chrysler America. After forever changing the muscle car landscape 3-years ago with the Hellcat, how do they follow that up?
Well, by cranking that engine up to 840-horsepower and putting it into a Challenger, purpose-built for doing 9-second 1/4-miles. But, they didn’t stop with the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon either.
Best Performance Car
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
They managed to cram a Hellcat engine into one of the most popular SUVs of all time, creating the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. This 707-horsepower 4X4 beats all comers from Europe or anywhere else for that matter, hits 60 in 3.5-seconds, and manages to retain most of the practicality you buy a utility for. That’s one heck of a Best Performance Car duo.
Best Dream Machine
Aston Martin DB11
The beautiful form of the Aston Martin DB11 speaks for itself. Yet underneath all of that sexy sheet metal, lies a true performance car; with an all-aluminum chassis that’s more than capable of putting the 600-horsepower from Aston’s own naturally-aspirated V12 engine to good use.
Best Dream Machine
Porsche 911 GT2 RS
There are Porsches that you want to own, and then there are Porsche that most of us can only dream of owning, like the Nurburgring record holding Porsche 911 GT2 RS. It’s the best of what Porsche has to offer, all thrown into one amazing supercar!
Best Dream Machine
Mercedes-Benz G550 4X4 squared
And then there’s the Mercedes-Benz G550 4X4 squared. It’s an ultra-luxurious SUV, lifted with military-inspired suspension and drivetrain; built to conquer any terrain. It’s quite possibly the least practical vehicle we tested this year, and we haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
Best Small Utility
It’s hard to find a hotter market than small utility vehicles, so our Best Small Utility winner must surely be something special, and the Mazda CX-5 is. It has always been one of the most entertaining to drive in the segment; and now for the 2nd gen redo, it gets the “over-the-top” luxury treatment that worked so well in big brother CX-9, which fittingly, was our pick for Best Large Utility last year.
Best Large Utility
This year, that Best Large Utility award goes to the Volkswagen Atlas. Amid leadership changes and “dieselgate”, Volkswagen has managed to keep rolling with their “bigger and cheaper is better” strategy, finally bursting into the 3-row utility segment with a real winner. Not only is it roomier than just about everything else in the large crossover sphere; it’s comfortable, quiet, and packed full of technology that’s easy use. Sounds like just what most growing families are looking for.
Best Luxury Utility
Land Rover Range Rover Velar
Our Best Luxury Utility winner for 2018 is the Range Rover Velar. Now last year, the same award went to the Jaguar F-Pace. We gave Jag major credit for not taking the easy route for their first SUV by simply rebadging something from cousin Land Rover. Well, in an ironic twist, it’s actually Land Rover now doing the reverse engineering, as the Velar is their version of the F-Pace. And it wins for all of the same reasons as the F-Pace; luxurious interior, suitably rugged design, and Land Rover capability in a highly entertaining to drive package.
Our Best Minivan award goes to the Honda Odyssey. While the minivan segment is no longer the sales juggernaut that it once was; a big reason that it even still exists today is the Honda Odyssey. A reliable family favorite for over two decades, the Odyssey is all new for ’18, bringing a whole new level of technology and near-luxury refinement to its class. Odyssey boasts more comfort, more safety, and more family-friendly features, along with more dynamic styling covering storage space galore.
Best Pickup Truck
Times are certainly fluid in the truck world these days, with manufacturers seemingly upping one another on a monthly basis; bombarding us with press releases about new specs and features. This year, our Best Pickup Truck award goes to the best seller in the segment, the Ford F-150. After changing the truck game by shifting to an aluminum body 3-years ago, and creating turbo engine popularity before that; for ’18, the F-150 gets a host of updates that improve capability, style, and ease of use. And who can forget the Raptor, the most off-road capable truck you can buy right off the showroom floor. Ford’s 40+ year reign as bestselling truck won’t end any time soon.
Chevrolet Bolt EV
With all of the emphasis on alternative fuels and EVs of late, we’d love to give our Best Eco-Friendly award to something new this year; but nothing has had anywhere close to the impact that last year’s winner the Chevrolet Bolt EV did. So, it’s a repeat win for the bowtie Bolt. It was the first EV to deliver a 200-mile range for under $30,000 and no else one has matched it since. Enough said!