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.
2021 Drivers’ Choice Awards
Best Small Car
Let’s start off the awards with our winner for Best Small Car, the Mazda3. Now, believe it or not, back in the early days of our awards we actually called this honor Best Econobox. But that’s not an accurate name for this segment these days, and certainly not for the Mazda3. It’s a repeat win for the 3, as last year Mazda got serious about improving the interior and even added all-wheel-drive to increase appeal. This year sees a new 2.5 Turbo model with greater performance; and yes, even more refinement as well.
Best Family Sedan
Our Best Family Sedan award goes to a brand you know, but for a model you may not have heard of; the Kia K5. The midsize family sedan market is not what it once was. But, rather than abandoning the segment as some rivals have, Kia doubled down by moving on from the Optima and launching the K5; with the comfort, connectivity, performance, and even all-wheel drive that makes it not only a winner, but keeps their midsize sedan relevant. Its platform mate Hyundai Sonata earned this award last year, so the Korean contingent clearly knows how to build impressive family sedans.
Best Luxury Sedan
Best Luxury Sedan is always a hard one to pick, as luxury has many meanings. But, the all-new Acura TLX fits our definition with technology, comfort, space, plus an ample helping of performance, that made it our hands down favorite. Now, the TLX doesn’t always stand out from the crowd in the ways of traditional luxury cars; it never feels overly posh or pretentious. Yet, it offers a great mix of well-done amenities, compliant ride, and precise handling; plus great techie stuff, that makes it seem a little smarter than the rest, and you a little wiser for choosing it.
Best Sport Sedan
Mercedes-AMG CLA 35
It’s certainly not a stretch to have a Mercedes-AMG take home our Best Sport Sedan award, but the fact that the CLA 35 is their most entry-level car, may be a shock to some. Its high-output 2.0-liter turbo-4 cranks out 302-horsepower and gets this tiny terror to 60 in less than 5-seconds. But above that, it was the CLA 35’s overall response and fun to drive yet accessible nature that sealed the deal for us.
Best Sport Coupe
Toyota GR Supra
It’s not that there weren’t many fantastic sport coupes to choose from this year; it’s just that last year’s Best Sport Coupe winner, the Toyota GR Supra, is the one we still love to drive the most. And, as if they just wanted to be sure they stayed on top, this year Toyota added more power, as well as improved both handling and brake cooling to perform even better at the increasing number of track days that Supras seem to be showing up at. It’s a great performance package, at a still great price.
Best Performance Car
For pure driving delight, our Best Performance Car award goes not to a name, but to a number...718. It dons both Porsche’s 718 Boxster roadster, as well as the 718 Cayman coupe. And if we have to get specific, we’d choose the 718 Cayman GT4. It’s this stripped down piece of nostalgic throwback performance car that easily won our hearts this year.
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Our Best Eco-Friendly nod goes to the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Say what you want about soiling the Mustang name, if we have to drive an EV, we want it to be the Mustang MACH-E. Now, if you want to get to 60 in 3.5-seconds, ride Unbridled in the GT Performance Edition. More concerned about range? Other models can Whisper your way through some 300-miles before plugging in. The Ford Mustang Mach-E easily dominated the electric vehicle field this year; and that’s why it’s a big winner with us.
Best Dream Machine
Bentley Flying Spur
And, time now for Best Dream Machines; the “money is no object” standouts from 2020.
First up, a car that fully lives up to your lofty desires when it comes to luxury, and then far exceeds them when it comes to performance, the Bentley Flying Spur. This 5,500-lbs. luxury liner delivers 0 to 60 in well under 4.0-seconds, which is truly not enough time enjoy the hand-crafted opulence that is the Flying Spur’s cabin.
Best Dream Machine
Aston Martin DBX
While it was just a matter of time before Aston Martin threw their hat into the SUV ring, the DBX delivers above and beyond expectations. SUV capability with super sport sedan performance, aided by the master engine-builders over at AMG. It didn’t have to be this great to be competitive, but thankfully it is.
Best Dream Machine
Porsche 911 Turbo
Just about anyone who’s ever dreamed of owning a high-performance car has at one point dreamed of a Porsche 911 Turbo. You might also think that eventually Porsche would reach the pinnacle of what is possible with a rear-engine 911, and have to rethink the whole thing. But that day is not today; the Turbo remains a modern technological marvel.
Best Small Utility
Ford Bronco Sport
This year we saw SUVs get bigger and smaller, as well as go all-electric; but there was one name we heard more than any other...Bronco. And while we still have to wait a few months more for the true Wrangler-fighting truck-based Bronco; the Bronco Sport crossover, our Best Small Utility winner, is much more than just a placeholder. The world is full of all-wheel-drive hatchbacks with less ground clearance than body cladding. But Ford, even though they started with the Escape chassis, built the Bronco Sport wild with standard 4-wheel-drive, and enough capability that it Goes Over Any Type of Terrain.
Best Midsize Utility
Land Rover Defender
Keeping both the rugged, as well as the reimagining of historic nameplates themes going, our Best Midsize Utility award goes to the Land Rover Defender. The British Empire legend returns; not as a bare bones tractor-like runabout, but with a fully modern and stylish reboot. Yet, despite the Range Rover-like amenities, capability is far and above its predecessor; thanks to an all-new aluminum architecture, and the stiffest body structure the brand has ever produced. Where the fun ends in most utilities, is right where the Defender hits its stride.
Best Large Utility
Chevrolet Tahoe / Suburban
When you think of full-size, truck-based, incredibly capable SUVs, chances are the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban come to mind, this year’s Best Large Utility winners. Tahoe and Suburban have long defined the segment with copious room for taking extended families on just about any land-based adventure you can think of, with the ability to tow all sorts of fun stuff behind. This year’s redesign switched to an all-new independent rear suspension that greatly improves ride, yet keeps all of their capabilities intact, opening up a whole new world of flexibility and comfort inside.
Best Luxury Utility
As for our Best Luxury Utility, we certainly had plenty of options. Last year, we picked the Mercedes-Benz GLE because of its unbeatable mix of quality materials, plush ride, and user-friendly tech. Well, this year the only thing that comes close to matching it was another GLE...the GLE Coupe. It’s a spectacular looking machine that becomes even more beautiful to drive when you tap into the available AMG engines. Standard all-wheel-drive places a premium on handling, but also comes with new off-road modes to keep the spirit going when the pavement ends. So, it’s a repeat win for the GLE in which ever shape you choose.
Best Midsize Pickup
Well, you asked for it. Last year the comments poured in about our lack of a midsize pickup award. Well, here you go; now you have something else to complain about. Our Best Midsize Truck is the Honda Ridgeline; for all the same reasons we’ve loved it over the years. It offers truck-style capability for the household when you need it, car-like comfort and unique features found nowhere else, for the rest of the time. This year, it got a more rugged-looking redesign; and while it may not dominate at the off-road park, it wasn’t designed to do that, just satisfy customers and win awards.
Best Fullsize Pickup
Picking the number one selling vehicle in America for almost 40-years on the other hand, for our Best Full-size Truck, the Ford F-150, is not controversial at all. Ford knows what ½-ton truck buyers want, and continues to deliver it to them better than anybody else. The new 14th-generation F-150 even delivers things you didn’t know you wanted. Like an onboard generator, hybrid power, and all sorts of driver assistance technology. Making both hard work and play, easier than ever. Every time a new generation of F-150 begins, it’s back to the drawing board for everyone else.
Best of the Year
Ford Mustang Mach-E
The Ford Mustang Mach-E is the 2021 MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards Best of the Year. With the Mach-E Ford decided that, rather than have their hallowed Mustang nameplate simply ease into the future; it would instead reinvent itself, shattering expectations, changing what it means to be a performance vehicle; and yes, probably even upsetting a few fans along the way.
The Mach-E brings a host of firsts to the Mustang; first battery-electric powertrain, first with all-wheel-drive, and of course the first SUV to ever wear the Mustang badge.
Things that haven’t changed include a wealth of choices in both power and packaging, as well as an incredible amount of performance for the price.
Starting at just under $43,000 before Federal Tax credits, the Mach-E Select offers 230-miles of range, and a 0-60 time of 5.2-seconds with optional all-wheel-drive.
The California Route 1 model sticks with rear-wheel-drive, and takes a longer 6.1-seconds to reach 60; but its extended range battery is good for over 300-miles.
Premium trim combines the two, with 300-miles of range and 4.8-second 0-60s with optional all-wheel-drive.
And finally, at just over $60,000, the GT with standard all-wheel-drive races to 60 in just 3.8-seconds with a targeted range of 250-miles. For the ultimate in performance, the GT Performance Edition knocks that 0-60 down to 3.5-seconds.
Inside the totally modern and very upscale 5-place cabin, you’ll find new SYNC 4A connectivity with a large central tablet display for controlling most everything, though it does incorporate an actual volume knob. Hurray! Gauges, meanwhile, are reduced to a slim, easy to read dash-top screen.
While outside, there is much more resemblance to the Mustang Coupe we all know and love from all angles.
Most important of all, it behaves like a sports car; when you want it to of course. Cleverly named Whisper, Engage, and Unbridled drive modes let you make the call.
All-in-all, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Ford lately, and what we can now expect from the Mustang going forward! All reasons why the Ford Mustang Mach-E is our 2021 MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Best of the Year!