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.
2020 Drivers’ Choice Awards
Best Small Car
The Mazda3 is no stranger to winning awards. And it earns yet another Best Small Car honor from us. If you’ve driven one, you’ll understand why. It’s always been a fun ride; but this year, Mazda got serious about improving the interior, and even added all-wheel-drive to increase appeal. Plus, it’s still available as a 4-door sedan, or our preferred method, a 5-door hatchback. Unless you absolutely need that small crossover you have in mind, for most people, the Mazda3 is a much better choice.
Best Family Sedan
Our Best Family Sedan for 2020 is the all-new Hyundai Sonata. In just 20-years, the Sonata evolved from an awkward new entry into the mainstream of all segments; to giving Camry and Accord a serious run for their money. Up to now, it managed that mostly with “head turning” looks, and bargain pricing. But now the Sonata goes toe-to-toe with hi-tech substance as well. Add in America’s Best Warranty, and you have our hands down Best Family Sedan of the year.
For Best Convertible, the BMW Z4 was our easy choice from a sea of German-designed candidates. The Z4 has gone from humble beginnings as the almost cartoonish Z3, to a serious performance machine that Toyota looked to for the base of their new Supra coupe. Sure, you could spend a little less for a convertible, and certainly a lot more; but the BMW Z4 is the total package that truly delivers just about any automotive thrill you’re looking for.
Best Luxury Sedan
Everyone may have a different definition of luxury; and that’s what makes the Audi A6 so spectacular, and our choice for Best Luxury Sedan. It doesn’t matter what expectations you have for a car, the A6 fulfills them. Classy without being over the top, sporty without feeling like a pure sports car, powerful without being a handful, extremely comfortable without putting you to sleep, and tech-savvy without requiring an I.T. department to figure everything out.
Best Sport Sedan
BMW 3 Series
Speaking of expectations; it’s always great when your idols live up to them. That hasn’t always been the case with the BMW 3 Series of late. But this year, BMW got back to basics with the 3, making it a pure joy to drive, instead of trying to turn it into an entry-level luxury car. Don’t forget to add the Track Handling Package for best results.
Best Sport Coupe
Toyota GR Supra
And for Best Sport Coupe, we indeed chose the Z4’s platform-mate, the all-new Toyota GR Supra. Say what you will about Toyota choosing to pair with BMW to relaunch this iconic 2-door fun machine; but the bottom line is, Toyota needed a partner to make it happen, and who better to align yourself with than BMW? We did have high expectations, and the Supra did not disappoint. And, if you happened to catch it in one of Toyota’s many Supra press releases, they claim it’s the first global Toyota GAZOO Racing model. Hmmm… wonder what the 2nd one will be…
Best Performance Car
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Our Best Performance Car was the biggest no-brainer on our list this year, the reborn, and totally reimagined Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. It’s nearly impossible for this car to live up to all of the hype it has received, yet that is just what the mid-engine ‘vette has done. The Corvette has always offered supercar-like performance on a muscle-car budget, despite carrying the weight of its power-plant directly over the front wheels. So, there’s no telling where things can go from here; and we can’t wait to find out!
“Which one?” may be your question when we tell you that the Kia Niro is our choice for Best Eco-Friendly. And the answer is all of them. In Hybrid, PHEV, and full EV form much like the Honda Clarity that won this honor last year; choice is key when it comes to getting the best Niro lifestyle bang for your eco-buck, all while doing your part for the environment.
Best Dream Machine
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
Now, for those of you living the “money is no object” lifestyle, we have our Best Dream Machines; cars that we’d buy if we had unlimited funds to do so.
Starting at the actually somewhat attainable end of the spectrum is the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Yes, it’s back; and bringing 760 track-bred horses with it. It’s truly a dream come true for Mustang fans.
Best Dream Machine
Mercedes-AMG GT R
Next up, is the Mercedes-AMG GT R. The GT was the 2nd car to arrive from Mercedes-AMG back in 2015; but over the years it has become much more than the 911-fighter that it started as, thanks primarily to this high performance R version.
Best Dream Machine
Porsche Taycan Turbo S
And finally, what was a dream of ours, has actually become a reality, the Porsche Taycan Turbo S. Porsche could only sit back and watch Tesla for so long. Time for the engineers at Porsche to show the world what a real fully-electric performance sedan looks like.
Best Small Utility
And for families just starting out, a small utility makes an ideal choice; and while there were a lot of new entries into the segment this year, none were able to upstage last year’s winner, the Toyota RAV4. So, it returns as our Best Small Utility. It essentially created the small car-based SUV category in 1996, and since then, it continues to establish what the segment is all about; car-like comfort and driving experience, with plenty of utility and capability. And, it’s even available as a hybrid, and soon a Prime plug-in hybrid. We’re huge fans of the current hybrid, and we’re obviously not alone, as Toyota just announced that to meet demand, they will begin assembling the RAV4 Hybrid at their Kentucky plant.
Best Midsize Utility
As for our Best Midsize Utility, it goes to the Honda Passport; returning to the Honda lineup after an 18-year Hiatus. That original Passport was a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo, and was actually Honda’s first SUV, arriving about 3-years before the CR-V. For its return, Honda took another easy route, by taking their highly-regarded Pilot 3-row crossover, ditching the 3rd row, slicing off some length, giving it additional ground clearance, and adding unique trim. Sometimes the easy way really is the best way, as the results are one impressive midsize utility, that handles the weekday grind just as well as it tackles weekend adventures.
Best Large Utility
Hyundai Palisade & Kia Telluride
Our Best Large Crossover awards go to corporate cousins, the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride. Up to now, neither Hyundai nor Kia has had a truly competitive big 3-row crossover. Well, they now have gotten very serious with the Korean import Palisade, and the Georgia made Telluride. Though they share the same architecture and powertrain, they depart considerably when it comes to sheet-metal, interior environment, and tuning of ride-and handling. Together they set a new benchmark for the rest of the large crossover crowd, as both clearly are big winners.
Best Luxury Utility
For the ultimate in posh SUV motivation, our choice for Best Luxury Utility is the Mercedes-Benz GLE. User experience is an increasingly important part of luxury, and the Mercedes-Benz User Experience is one of the best people-friendly tech features in the automotive world right now. Combine that with the high quality materials you expect, a sumptuous but controlled ride you may not have expected, seamless power, and elegant style, and you’ve got an award winning utility package.
Best Pickup Truck
We admit it; we’re softies around here, we like our comfort. That’s why the entire Ram lineup of pickup trucks…1500…Heavy Duty…and Classic…comprise our winner for Best Pickup Truck…a repeat for the Ram brand. With Ram you can have all of the comfort and amenities you can handle, without sacrificing competency. And as for over-the-top capability, Heavy Duty Ram models were all new this year and with it came an available high-output Cummins diesel with 1,000 lb-ft. of torque. The most ever for a pickup truck, and enough to pull 35,100-lbs. of trailer. Now, that really speaks to us.
Best of the Year
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray! Now, if you didn’t see that one coming, clearly you haven’t been paying attention.
Its new mid-engine design is obviously the biggest change to come to Corvette over its 6-decade lifespan; but that’s just the tip of this high-performance iceberg.
Arriving with this ‘vette is an all-new LT2 naturally-aspirated V8, with output of 495-horsepower and 470 lb-ft. of torque.
Some may have wished for more HP, or some power adders, and we’re sure they’re coming sooner rather than later. But, until then, you’ll have to deal with taking a full 2.9-seconds to get to 60, the fastest ever for an entry-level Corvette.
With that naturally-aspirated V8, comes an all-new, and impressively smooth and quick, 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, a first for the brand.
The main reason for moving the engine behind the cabin, is of course better handling. Not only does this move weight towards the rear of the chassis where it can aid traction, but it gets that weight off of the front tires; sharpening steering, and improving overall response.
Speaking of the chassis, it’s a mostly aluminum design built around a central tunnel backbone; with an all-new suspension scheme bolted to it.
Now, all of that means nothing if the driving experience doesn’t improve as well; and trust us, it has. You now sit much closer to the front wheels, and forward visibility is unparalleled; giving you a great view of the road ahead, as well as everything around it rushing by you.
Yet, it also attains a very inviting new level of comfort for Corvette, as it is an impressively quiet car to spend time in. Great news for the many Corvette owners that do extensive road tripping. And for them, Chevrolet went to great strides to ensure that plenty of luggage space stayed a part of the package.
Add in an exterior design, that despite new proportions, looks familiar yet fast forward-thinking. And at long last, a tech-savvy cockpit that is truly supercar-worthy.
But the biggest win for all of us, is that with all of the changes, GM was able to maintain attainability, with base pricing just under $60,000. So, take note also rans, that’s how you earn our MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Best of the Year!