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.
2013 Drivers’ Choice Awards
For delivering an American-made driving experience that’s as close to a classic European sport sedan as you can get, MotorWeek names the Cadillac ATS as its 2013 "Best of the Year," Drivers' Choice award winner. The Drivers’ Choice Awards are among the auto industry’s most coveted honors and are announced annually at the Chicago Auto Show. The 2013 Cadillac ATS edged out the competition by setting ambitious new benchmarks in the sport sedan segment.
“There is no other new American car that excels in every measure within its class like the new Cadillac ATS,” said MotorWeek host John Davis. “It’s lightweight, it’s powerful, has extraordinary handling and is impressively fuel efficient. On top of that it has the latest in advanced technology and connectivity, including Cadillac’s CUE system. The Cadillac ATS is simply the most impressive luxury sport sedan ever to wear an American brand name.”
Recognized as the best overall among winners in 13 lifestyle categories, the Cadillac ATS also won as “Best Sport Sedan.” All Drivers’ Choice winners are featured on motorweek.org, as well as on a special episode (#3223) of MotorWeek airing on public television stations beginning February 9, 2013, and on cable’s Velocity beginning February 19, 2013. MotorWeek’s Driver’s Choice Awards are nationally sponsored by RockAuto, Tire Rack and 3M.
Best of the Year
The 2013 MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Award for Best of the Year goes to the most impressive luxury sport sedan ever to wear an American brand name, the 2013 Cadillac ATS. The ATS not only takes on established segment leaders like the benchmark BMW 3 Series, but does so with total competence.
We cannot overstate just how refreshing it is to see a domestic automaker build a small, rear-wheel-drive sport sedan with performance as its number one priority. Yet, you can also label the ATS comfortable and practical. And, this Lansing, Michigan assembled sport sedan is almost bargain priced.
Weighing in at just 34-hundred pounds with near 50/50 weight balance on a concise 109-inch wheelbase, the ATS drives like it was bred for tight, high speed curves. And, it was.
Not that it falls short when it comes to civility and livability. There’s plenty of seat comfort and lots of high tech as well, including the new CUE system that uses a captive touch tablet-style interface and natural voice recognition.
There are also powertrain choices to please all comers. Starting with a 200-horsepower 2.5-liter I4 and ending at a 320-horsepower 3.6-liter V6; with our favorite, the 272-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo, in between. Both a 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual are available. And you can even get all-wheel-drive if you’re so inclined. And it’s all wrapped in modern looking sheet-metal that smoothes out the Art and Science design theme, yet looks ever more aggressive.
The ATS is a car that once and for all puts to rest any question about Cadillac standing on a world stage. When it comes to delivering a pure driving experience with that ultra-connected feel we covet so highly, the ATS does more than just take the checkered flag, it puts most of the competition a lap down.
And that’s why we chose the Cadillac ATS as the 2013 MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Best of the Year.
Best Subcompact Car
In this era of fuel economy consciousness, there was no shortage of small cars that made their way to us last year. But, no subcompact had road manners that impressed us more than last year’s winning duo, the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.
Sure, they no longer claim the 40-mpg that was first promised, but we’re just fine with a few less in a package that’s as stylish and practical as the Accent, or as sporty as the Rio. So, it’s a repeat win for the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.
Best Compact Car
2013 Dodge Dart
New compact car entries were even more plentiful, and our trophy goes to a brand that’s been out of the four-door compact sedan segment for a while, but returned with a mix of Italian flair and American ingenuity, the Dodge Dart.
Available in models from mild to wild, the Alfa Romeo-based Dodge Dart gets our nod thanks to its fun-to-drive nature, advanced powertrains that are both spirited and fuel efficient, a gorgeous exterior design, and a knockout interior with changeable gauges as well as the largest touch screen in its class. It’s the first all-new Chrysler product developed under Fiat leadership, and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
Best Family Sedan
Our Best Family Sedan winner is the second generation, midsize Ford Fusion. Sure its Aston Martin flavor knocks it out of the park in styling, but Fusion hits for average as well in high tech features, practical comfort and space, and fuel economy with all four-cylinder powertrains, plus hybrid and plug-in models.
Indeed, the 2013 Fusion bulked-up big-time on driver enjoyment, thanks to an available manual transmission for the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine; which is one really hot combo. These are the Drivers’ Choice Awards after all.
Moving on to Best Convertible, it’s the Volkswagen Beetle drop top. While the “tougher” makeover didn’t go far enough to fully win over those with both X and Y chromosomes, the convertible bug still put a smile on our faces.
Available with both gas and fuel stingy turbo diesel power, the cloth power-top folds quickly, storing more compactly than before. This greatly increases visibility, which is good news for drivers who like to see what’s behind them. And its $25,000 starting price is even better news for anyone who likes to have their top dropped and still have some money left in the bank.
Best Luxury Sedan
Like some words, luxury is hard to define; but like some other words; we know it when we see it. And increasingly we’re seeing true luxury on cars with smaller and smaller price tags. And that’s a big reason why our Best Luxury Sedan award goes to the Lexus ES.
Now based on the full-size Toyota Avalon chassis, the ES has enough interior space and upscale amenities to please most everyone. So, whether you choose the silky smooth ES350 or the eco-conscious ES300h Hybrid, you’ll want for little, and do it without a 6-figure investment.
Best Sport Sedan
You might think our Best Sport Sedan winner is a shocker, but not if you’ve spent any time behind the wheel of the Cadillac ATS.
Once you’ve mastered its cutting-edge CUE voice and touch screen controller; if you keep both hands on the wheel and your foot to the floor, you’ll be in for an American-made driving experience that’s as close to a classic European sport sedan as you can get.
Add in great style, good comfort, and plenty of other high-tech goodies, and the ATS is a major game-changer for Cadillac!
Best Sport Coupe
Fiat 500 Abarth
Despite the return of the affordable rear-wheel-drive sports car at Subaru and Scion, it’s actually a front driver that gets our nod for Best Sport Coupe, the Fiat 500 Abarth.
And that’s because even with front-wheel-drive, it tackles the road better. The Abarth looks mean, sounds great, and of course, handles way better than any of us expected. All while getting 34 miles-per-gallon, offering a surprising amount of storage space, and costing a couple grand less than the FR-S and BRZ.
Best Performance Car
Ford Shelby GT500
Last year, Ford took our Best Performance Car award with the Boss 302 Mustang, as no other car offered more bang for the buck. Well this year, Ford one-ups itself with the Shelby GT500.
We could sum up our reasoning by just saying 662-horsepower for 55-grand, but the GT500 is much more than that. It’s a total performance package built for the track, but manageable on the street. We fell in love with this Shelby at the first turn of the key.
Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
Choosing our Best Eco-Friendly winner has become increasingly difficult, as the field is increasingly crowded with new EVs, hybrids, plug-ins, and even diesels.
Well, we always side with cars that we enjoy driving, so our pick this year is the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. With its 40-plus mileage expectations, this full hybrid is the best example of getting your eco on, while having fun doing it. How can you argue against a car with spirited handling, plus the best acceleration, most rear seat legroom, and largest trunk in the compact sedan hybrid class?
Best Dream Machine
Tesla Model S
Land Rover Range Rover
We normally don’t consider fuel economy performance when it comes to our price-is-no-object Dream Machine category, but this year we made an exception with the Tesla Model S. This pure EV upstart delivers high luxury, high style, and high practicality to rival the world’s best known luxury sedans.
Turning from eco-performance to all out performance, our next Dream Machine for 2013 is the SRT Viper. It’s back, and while the exterior has been tamed somewhat, all of its V10 fury remains inside. And we don’t just dream about cars either, the Land Rover Range Rover has always been a brute in a tuxedo, but now it's dropped some 700 pounds of weight, and put on some fancier duds for truly exceptional town and country living.
Best Small Utility
Today’s trucks and utilities are all about helping families tackle their weekly tasks in comfort, and then having what it takes to deliver fun adventures on the weekend. For small families, none does it better than the original small crossover, the Toyota RAV4.
The all-new 2013 edition is the 4th generation of the RAV. And while its exterior may have gotten a bit smaller, mostly from the relocation of the spare tire from outside to inside, interior room is up; including class best maximum cargo room. Besides more space, the interior is far more luxurious and tech-savvy. Gone too is the previous gens dour looking sheet-metal, replaced by a much more vibrant looking design that matches its more dynamic driving character.
Best Large Utility
For even more evidence of that shift to increased comfort and luxury, look no further than our Best Large Utility, the Nissan Pathfinder.
While the previous generation boasted a full frame and optional V8 with best in class towing, the new Pathfinder casts all of that aside for a unibody chassis and V6-only power. But that’s okay by us as it remains plenty capable off road and can still tow 5,000-pounds.
And of course you can ratchet the luxury factor up to the hilt by upgrading to its kin, the Infiniti JX. Not only will you travel in a downright plush environment, but do so in a bold but richer exterior design, with a ride that’s as smooth as you’ll find in the crossover ranks… …making this American-made pair an easy winning hand.
Best Pickup Truck
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the truck year is the emergence of our Best Pickup Truck winner, the Ram 1500, as a fuel-economy trend setter among full-size haulers. Ram designers recognized that while pickup sales remain strong, buyers want more options to save on gas. The Ram 1500 gives it to them with an ultra-modern V6, backed by the first 8-speed automatic in a full-size truck. Its 305-horsepower is more than enough to handle most family hauling duties, including towing 6,500-pounds. And, if you need more tow, two V8’s, including a HEMI, are still available.
Ram’s new guts are joined by the glory of a handsomely rugged exterior facelift, and a complete overhaul in truck interior design that provides a new benchmark for practical comfort. Huge controls, and the biggest factory NAV screen going, make this “big” truck and big winner in our book.