Bolt, Pacifica, Ridgeline win top NACTOY honors

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

The envelopes, please. The winners for North American Car, Utility Vehicle and Truck of the Year are, respectively, the Chevy Bolt EV, Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Ridgeline.

The Chevy Bolt was named Car of the Year at the 2017 NACTOY Awards.

The trio was announced this morning on the Cobo Center Atrium Stage before a packed house of auto executives and journalists to kick off press preview days at the Detroit auto show. The 23rd annual NACTOY award is one of the post prestigious in the auto industry.

The Chevy Bolt is the first electric vehicle under $40,000 to travel more than 200 miles on a single charge. The Bolt has dominated the auto awards season, taking Motor Trend Car of the Year and being named to Car and Driver's Top Ten list. With its large 60 kWh of battery (the same size as a base Tesla Model S) in the floor of the vehicle, the Bolt EV gains interior room as well as a low center of gravity. The result is clever packaging that makes the Bolt EV both roomy for a compact car, yet still nimble in the corners.

"We set out to make, not only a great electric vehicle, but a great car," said Bolt EV Chief Engineer Pam Fletcher, accepting the award.

Added Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development: “General Motors is committed to leading in mass-produced, attainable high-value and exciting vehicles. This is…our springboard into the future.”

Other car nominees were the Genesis G90, the flagship for Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury line, and the Volvo S90, which hoped to follow in the footsteps of its sibling XC90 which won 2016 truck of the year.

The utility prize made its NACTOY debut this year. The Pacifica, which reinvented the minivan with its sleek, multi-functional features, was the popular choice for the award. In addition to the V-6-powered van, Pacifica debuted the first-ever hybrid-electric minivan with a range of up to 30 miles on battery power alone.

"This is the perfect family car," said Chrysler boss Tim Kuniskis, as he took the NACTOY trophy designed by ex-GM design chief Ed Welburn.

Other utes in the running were Jaguar’s F-Pace, which turned heads with the British marque’s first entry in the SUV space, and Mazda’s three-row CX-9 SUV, one of the prettiest utility in the land.

In the Big Three's Detroit backyard any truck winner other than a F-series, Silverado, or RAM is a surprise. But the mid-size Honda Ridgeline is unique in the midsize truck class with its unibody chassis structure.

"The Ridgeline is re-imagining the pickup truck," said John Mendel, Honda executive vice president for North America, to cheers from his Honda team.

The car-like structure gives the Ridgeline the best road manners in class. Truck finalists included the 2017 F-250 Super Duty, the latest, largest version of the F-series’ revolutionary, all-aluminum body construction. The Nissan Titan  followed big brother XD  — a finalist for 2016 truck — in trying to put a dent in Detroit Three dominance of the trucking arena.

The three finalists in each category were winnowed from a list of 44 semifinalists by some 60 automotive journalists who have tested, analyzed, and buggy-whipped the nominees over the past year.

NACTOY is the only independent auto award made up of journalists from a wide range of outlets. The award honors excellence in innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne.