Find out which cars, SUVs, and trucks made the final cut
On November 26, Motor Trend will announce the winners of its annual Of The Year competition. But for today, we’re letting slip the list of the top three podium finishers in each category.
For the 2019 awards, 20 cars, 26 SUVs, and four trucks competed for the Golden Calipers. Including variants, we rigorously tested 36 cars, 36 SUVs, and 11 trucks over a period of two months spent at testing facilities in the sun-blasted California and Arizona deserts.
In sorting contenders from pretenders, we arrived at the following top finalists:
2019 Car of the Year
Surprisingly sporty, strong value
The Genesis brand is only three years old, and it’s already producing cars that can compete with the best premium models from Germany and Japan.
“As a first attempt at a BMW 3 Series fighter, the G70 hits all the right notes,” international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie said. “Punchy powertrains with an agile chassis, sporty exterior styling with strong graphics, and a well-appointed interior.”
We were impressed with the G70’s mix of refinement and sport, especially when paired with the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6. “Find a straight road, and stomp on the gas,” associate online editor Michael Cantu urged.
An upscale leather interior with diamond stitching compares well against Mercedes and other rivals. Add a bargain price tag into the equation, and it’s clear the compact G70 holds a unique position in the luxury sport sedan category.
The Insight is now an upscale and reasonably spacious sedan. Opt for the new Insight, and you’ll enjoy superior handling and acceleration to the Prius. Although fuel economy is a touch less than its Toyota rival, the Insight still tops out at an impressive 55/49 mpg (4.3/4.8 L/100km) city/highway, according to the EPA.
Our judges also praised the Insight’s smooth Civic-derived chassis, crisp interior, and predictable brake feel. Acceleration is quick for a hybrid, with a 0–60 time of 7.7 seconds. Should you bore of driving on a long highway, its lane keeping assist technology is some of the industry’s best.
“It’s nice that there’s a mainstream hybrid out there that’s rewarding to drive,” features editor Christian Seabaugh noted. MacKenzie summed it up as “the best of the affordable hybrid field.”
Volvo S60 and V60
Beautiful inside and out
The S60 sedan and V60 wagon exhibit some of the Volvo’s best traits, including elegant design. The judges weren’t shy about their admiration for the interiors, from its clean styling to the thunderous Bowers & Wilkins audio system. And the exterior lines of the V60 could prompt a resurrection of the wagon among American shoppers.
The models “set the benchmark for exterior and interior design in the compact luxury car segment,” MacKenzie declared. Added executive editor Mark Rechtin: “Nobody makes better seats than Volvo. It’s where you spend all your time. It’s where you should be the most comfortable, and Volvo nails it.”
Of course, to take a spot on the podium, the good qualities have to be more than skin deep. The models sit on the excellent Scalable Product Architecture. Further proving their well-rounded nature, the 60s feature a powerful base turbocharged four-cylinder, with upper trims adding a supercharger and hybrid power.
2019 SUV of the Year
Electric and eclectic
Vehicles that are ahead of their time tend to perform very well in our Of The Year evaluations. The Jaguar I-Pace is one such SUV, and not just because it’s electric. The model blends stunning exterior design, sports car handling and straight-line performance, and capable semi-autonomous driving aids.
Although the I-Pace is a rocket on the road, its adjustable air suspension gives it strong off-road capability. In addition to its surprising capabilities off the beaten path, we also praised the I-Pace’s quiet cabin and body control around corners. Powered by batteries alone, the Jaguar can claim a range of up to 234 miles (376 km) on a single charge.
And although nobody needs an electric vehicle that can drift in a sand pit, we’re sure glad the I-Pace can. “This is the best Jaguar I’ve ever driven,” Seabaugh said. “Tesla, you’d better wake up—the Europeans are coming.”
Improving an icon
In many ways, the Jeep Wrangler represents the exact opposite of the futuristic Jaguar I-Pace. It’s built on a rugged body-on-frame platform and layered in tradition. While staying true to its roots, the next-generation Wrangler drives and rides much better than before.
“The old Jeep has leapt forward into the new century,” features editor Scott Evans said, praising its performance on rough-riding freeways. We also liked how easy it is to take the doors and roof apart to give the Wrangler its essential bare-bones look.
The Wrangler offers a new 2.0-liter turbo inline-four engine with eTorque, in addition to a 3.6-liter V-6. We loved the low-end torque provided by the four-cylinder, and its off-road capability creams the competition. It’s what crossovers want to be when they grow up.
Concluded Detroit editor Alisa Priddle: “Thank you, Jeep, for not dialing the Wrangler down, but taking it to 11.”
One look at the XC40, and you realize this model is a little different from other Volvos—and other crossovers. The smallest entry in Volvo’s crossover lineup features an eye-catching—and perhaps a little polarizing—design.
Its performance will be less controversial. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces plenty of juice despite some initial turbo lag, and the eight-speed automatic shifts effortlessly. Unlike many of its pseudo-crossover competitors, the XC40 can venture off the pavement with confidence, maintaining a smooth ride we also felt on poorly paved streets.
Comfortable seats and the bold orange interior details delighted our judges upon entering the cabin. We also enjoyed the unexpected interior extras, including an integrated trash can, ski pass-through, and grocery hooks.
“It has the tech, style, and individuality that should lure millennials to it,” associate online editor Stefan Ogbac said, “and it does so without losing its identity as a Volvo.”
2019 Truck of the Year
Smooth transmission, clever details
We love the Silverado’s exterior design, although some of the interior materials leave us wanting. Our judges commended the Silverado for its buttery-smooth 10-speed transmission available on certain models. In our Davis Dam towing test, Seabaugh noted the High Country model “holds speed on the major downhill section well,” as the cruise control seamlessly downshifts under load.
Other little things make a compelling argument for the Silverado. These include corner bumper steps that make it easy to climb into the bed, three hooks at each corner of the bed, and an automatic trailer-light test that helps you know if you’ve connected a trailer properly.
Carving its own chrome-paved path
For the first time, we can say GMC has clearly differentiated itself from its Chevrolet sibling.
Unlike its mainstream brother, the Sierra offers a late-available carbon-fiber bed, as well as adaptive ride control, which adjusts the dampers every two milliseconds to refine ride quality. Another exclusive feature on the GMC is a MultiPro tailgate, which can be positioned six ways to accommodate second-tier loading. There’s also an easier step into the bed. And who can forget the Denali’s imposing chrome grille? Of course, these features do add to the price tag, but the Sierra makes a confident case as a luxury truck.
The Sierra’s driving manners are respectable, as well. “I’m continuously impressed by how well these GMCs handle,” Evans said. “They’re really flat in a corner and super confident in the lane change. The Rams are a close second, but the GMCs are definitely sportiest.”
Smooth ride, classy interior
People used to take pride in their trucks’ rugged, no-frills interiors. Now, we get snippy when a truck lacks leather, USB ports, and heated seats. When it comes to interior amenities, perhaps no truck maker does it better than Ram.
The multifunctional, sliding storage bin makes nice use of the space freed up by the rotary shifter located on the dash. The Rams feature some of the most comfortable seats and an excellent mix of leather and wood. Available heated and ventilated reclining rear seats only add to the case for the Ram.
The Ram also lives up to a pickup’s mission of towing and hauling stuff, breaking the powertrain mold by offering mild-hybrid eTorque technology. The equation gets better when combined with the standard coil-spring rear suspension and optional air suspension. That makes the Ram’s ride, in the words of testing director Kim Reynolds, “refined and sophisticated.”