The year 2020 may have been a dumpster fire due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn't prevented the automakers from releasing some great luxury and performance cars.
We drove 18 new or significantly updated contenders during the year. They included everything from agile sports cars to massive SUVs to luxury crossovers to new electric vehicles. We compared notes on those vehicles and whittled the list down to five finalists.
These five finalists represent the best of the year, and we're happy to say that they come from several of the aforementioned market segments. This isn't just a competition of sports cars. It's a celebration of all that is sporty or luxurious. The finalists make the list for outstanding engineering, ready power, beautiful design, and overall automotive passion.
We'll announce the winner of Motor Authority's Best Car To Buy 2021 award on Jan. 4, along with the winners from our sister sites, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports.
In the meantime, check out our brief thoughts on each of our five finalists.
2021 Acura TLX A-Spec SH-AWD
Acura TLX: The TLX and its TL predecessor have always been gilded versions of the Honda Accord, but the new TLX gets a platform all its own that's stiffer and adopts a double wishbone suspension front and rear. The racier design matches the chassis, with a rear-drive look thanks to a much longer dash-to-axle ratio up front. A new 273-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 fills in nicely for the outgoing V-6, and the available all-wheel-drive system with rear-axle torque vectoring gives the car some rear-wheel-drive moves. Starting below $40,000, the new TLX is a fantastic car and we're looking forward to the 355-hp Type S next spring.
2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Chevrolet Corvette: Chevrolet pulled off the switch to a mid-engine Corvette masterfully. The C8 Corvette is much quicker in a straight line because the mid-engine design puts more weight over the rear wheels, which helps prevent tire slip. The new Corvette attacks corners with style, too. It turns in sharply, bites hard through corners, and a skilled driver can point it with the rear wheels. Moving the cabin forward and the hood down greatly improves the sight lines to place the car precisely on a track. Best of all, it all comes at a starting price just below $60,000. It's an affordable exotic.
2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 media drive, Las Vegas, October, 2019
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500: The Mustang has a storied performance history, but the king of them all is the new Mustang Shelby GT500. The supercharged 760-hp monster is violently quick in a drag race (the quarter mile in 10.7 seconds, 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds), but it's also a track star that can snake through turns with agility thanks to wide, grippy tires. All the performance equipment makes the ride harsh and jittery on the road, but that's the price you pay for the most trackworthy Mustang ever.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E at Electrify America fast charger
Ford Mustang Mach-E: Ford is smartly tying the release of its first mass-market electric vehicle to the Mustang name. The Mach-E is just coming out now, and early indications look positive. Ford offers the Mach-E with rear- or all-wheel drive (enabled by one or two motors), and small or large batteries, with official range figures that reach all the way up to the magical 300-mile figure. So far, 0-60 mph times are in the mid five-second range, but the GT model due next year will cut that to the mid threes. A stylish electric SUV with real performance could be a game changer for Ford.
2021 Genesis GV80
Genesis GV80: The GV80 marks Genesis' long-awaited entry into the SUV market and it's a good one. Stunning looks, robust turbo-4 or turbo-V-6 power, cosseting interior luxury, and the control of a crossover all make the GV80 a great choice for families who want something finer. The five-seater with an optional third row comes at a cost that undercuts the prices of competitors from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Style and substance go a long with with us and with buyers.