Chevy, Honda lead NACTOY picks with 3 vehicles each
Nominees for 2018 North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year were announced Thursday morning, with Chevrolet and Honda leading the talented pack with three vehicles each.
Chevy’s mid-size Equinox and full-size Traverse will both vie for the SUV crown, while the brand’s Colorado ZR2 off-road pickup will be a favorite for Truck of the Year. Honda has defied the decline in sedan sales — its 2016 Car of the Year compact Civic continues to rack up record sales — and will field both the mid-size Accord and hydrogen-powered Clarity for car honors.
Among luxury makes, Alfa Romeo, BMW and Audi have two nominees each. Alfa’s nimble Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV are the automaker’s first mass-market entries for the award as the brand seeks to post a win in a premium segment long defined by German excellence. Another startup of note is Silicon Valley-based Tesla, which will put up its Model 3, a sub-$40,000, 200-mile-plus range electric that’s aimed at the heart of the premium market. The Model 3 hopes to follow in the footsteps of Chevy’s 238-mile-range Bolt EV which won 2017 Car of the Year.
Notably absent from the NACTOY list are two of the most highly anticipated cars of 2018, the Ford GT and Dodge Challenger SRT Demon.
The GT is the production version of the race car that won the 24 Hours of LeMans’ GTE Pro class last year on the 50th anniversary of Ford’s historic defeat of Ferrari. The iconic sports car was not deemed eligible for the award given its low sales volume, its $450,000 sticker price and lack of availability to the general public. Ford has selected all 750 buyers of the GT through an application process.
Dodge’s 840-horsepower Demon stole the New York Auto Show this year with its eye-popping 9.65-second quarter-mile time, a production car record. Like Ford’s GT, Dodge is building it as the brand’s halo vehicle. However, with the same drivetrain and structure as Dodge’s 707-horse Challenger SRT Hellcat — introduced for the 2015 model year — the Demon is not sufficiently altered to meet NACTOY’s criteria as a separate model.
Also missing from the list are the Jaguar I-PACE — an all-electric challenger to Tesla’s Model X SUV — along with the Subaru Ascent, Buick Regal, Regal Tour X, Lexus LS and VW Arteon sedan. All are fresh 2018 models but will not be available for media tests this calendar year.
In the truck category two titanic SUVs – the three-row Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator — are entered with Chevy’s midsize ZR2 pickup. Both utes qualify for the truck category as they sit on pickup-shared, body-on-frame architectures with resulting towing capacity that counts as a significant reason for purchase.
The award is one of the industry’s most prestigious with the jury consisting of independent journalists from a range of media outlets. With sport utilities now accounting for a significant majority of vehicle sales — 47 percent of all vehicles sold in June versus just 37 percent cars — the award for the first time honored utes as a separate category last year. And while auto sales this year are off their record 2016 pace, the thirst for SUVs has not abated, with 20 of the NACTOY entries coming in the utility category versus 12 cars and three trucks.
Come September, the nominees will be winnowed to a list of semifinalists by some 60 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada, including the author of this article. The semifinalists will be further evaluated in October over a week of extended testing, thrashing and jawboning in the Metro Detroit area.
Three finalists from each category will then be selected and the winners announced at the opening of the 2018 Detroit auto show in January. The award honors excellence in innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value.
Car of the year
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Audi A5 Sportback
Tesla Model 3
Utility of the year
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Land Rover Discovery
Range Rover Velar
Nissan Rogue Sport
Chevrolet Colorado ZR2