The battle royale is on. Motor Authority's annual Best Car To Buy award automotive boxing match is underway. It's the time when the year's new or significantly updated luxury and performance vehicles fight for supremacy. In a year that was much too similar to the last, the nominees ranged from sport sedans and sports cars to luxury crossovers and SUVs to electric cars and pickup trucks.
This year's qualifier list marked a massive shift in the automotive landscape with more electric vehicles both as nominees and finalists. Each of our candidates deserve their own moment of recognition.
The list started with 24 vehicles, but after individual editors made cases for their favorites, and the arguments that followed, we whittled down the list of contenders to eight nominees.
We'll detail each of the eight nominees with individual profiles in the coming days, leading up to the Jan. 3, 2022 reveal of Motor Authority's Best Car To Buy 2022.
In the meantime, here's a brief look at each vehicle that didn't make the final cut and why.
2022 Audi RS E-Tron GT
The Audi E-Tron GT is a reskinned, retuned Porsche Taycan. It's gorgeous, and for some, arguably better looking than its Porsche sibling. It drives differently than the Porsche thanks to steering, suspension, and throttle tuning all done in-house by Audi. Those differences were enough to disappoint West Coast Editor Brian Wong, who said the E-Tron GT simply isn't as fun to drive as the Porsche. And the Taycan didn't win the year it was new. Therefore, we couldn't make a solid argument to push the Audi to the final round, though it's still an excellent, visually stunning. EV.
2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak
The Ford Bronco's back, baby! However, its launch has been a mess with production woes, quality control issues, and supplier headaches. The Bronco pleases the eye with a retro design, but it still looks modern. Its engineering is fully modern, too, with an independent front suspension, rack and pinion steering, turbocharged engines, and a 10-speed automatic transmission. But the performance model hasn't arrived yet, those that have arrived lack refinement, and we can't ignore those quality issues. The Bronco Raptor is coming in 2022, and it might compete better with its desert prerunner capability.
2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
The third-generation Ford F-150 Raptor boasts a new trick: rear coil springs with a trailing arm suspension. The improved engineering changes how the Raptor drives both on- and off-road. It settles the rear end and creates a smoother, more stable ride. The carry-over twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-8 still makes a healthy 450 hp, and a new exhaust system makes it sound better, but it's way down on power compared to the Ram 1500 TRX. A new supercharged V-8 should fix that issue next year and it could deserve a real shot at the award. See you next year, Raptor R.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance
The Ford Mustang Mach-E introduced an electric four-door crossover SUV to the Ford family last year, though with the style of the iconic Mustang. But the electric powertrain was comparable to a turbo-4 or V-6 That's not exactly impressive to enthusiasts. The GT model arrived this year, and it's more in line with the V-8 Mustangs we love with 480 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque sent to all four wheels. A GT Performance Edition unlock a 3.5-second 0-60-mph sprint. This Mustang may not run on gas, but it's certainly worthy of the badge. However, the landscape has changed a lot in a year and this Mustang simply doesn't move the bar forward enough to make the final cut. Maybe a future Shelby model will change our minds.
2022 Genesis GV70
The Genesis GV70 gives Hyundai-Kia's luxury brand a very strong competitor in the small luxury crossover SUV market, which is booming. The GV70's available twin-turbo V-6 powertrain charges it into the performance fray, but Editorial Director Marty Padgett wasn't impressed by the suspension, noting too much body motion with some weird undulations. The infotainment system can be frustrating, too, as many functions are buried deep in menus. Other editors loved the design, especially the high-end interior. The GV70 is a screaming value play that deserves attention, but it was simply overshadowed by more fun and more important nominees this year.
2022 Honda Civic Si
The Honda Civic proves you don't have to be rich to have fun behind the wheel. More rigid than the last generation, the latest Si borrows tricks from the hot Type R, such as rev matching for its slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission and stiffer suspension arms and bushings. Still, the Civic Si remains fairly tame. We all enjoy it, but it's not the car that leaves us demanding more time behind the wheel. It's a smart buy as an entry sports car, but we're looking or the hotter performance of the upcoming Type R.
2022 GMC Hummer EV prototype, engineering drive, September 2022 at the Milford Proving Grounds
Gas is getting expensive and Hummer's back, but it's not 2005 all over again. This Hummer is reborn as a GMC and an EV. A showcase for General Motors' upcoming electric pickup truck component sets, the GMC Hummer EV has all the goodies: 1,000 hp from three motors, a 200-kwh battery pack, air suspension, a diagonal Crab Walk mode, and a Watts To Freedom mode that pushes this 9,000-lb beast from 0-60 mph in just 3.0 seconds—all for a whopping $112,995. Welcome to the future, and I mean the actual future, because GMC will only deliver a handful of these electric trucks before the new year. We've driven a prototype, but we won't touch a production truck until next year. Perhaps it will make the cut next year. Stay tuned.
2022 Infiniti QX60 Autograph
The Infiniti QX60 might not be the most exciting vehicle the luxury arm of Nissan sells, but it's easily the most important. The three-row family mover is based on the Pathfinder, and both were new this year. Aside from the gorgeous new design, the real story is a 9-speed automatic transmission that replaces a continuously variable automatic transmission. Its shifts are clean and swift, even the 1-2 and 2-3 shifts that plague so many 9-speeds, but the tall gearing for the fuel economy can be annoying when passing power is needed. It's a great update that finally makes the QX60 a compelling discussion for some families, but it's not compelling enough to make the final cut this year.
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4x4
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee arrived this year with an additional three-row body style. The lower trim models, like the Laredo and Limited, are competitors for the Ford Explorer, while Overland and Summit models aim for the BMW X5 and Audi Q7, though their powertrains can't compete. The carryover V-6 is not a luxury engine and the tried-and-true V-8 is thirsty, down on power compared to turbocharged competitors, and old. Had a plug-in hybrid model with a turbocharged inline-6 launched this year, the Grand Cherokee would have had a better shot at making the finals, but that's not how the story goes.
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series I 4x4
A pair of iconic nameplate have returned to Jeep showrooms: Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. Huge, thirsty, and expensive, the Wagoneer aims at the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition, while the Grand Wagoneer sets its sights toward the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. Both versions use V-8 power, though the Grand Wagoneer gets a larger and more-potent 6.4-liter V-8 with 470 hp. Both also offer an air suspension and adaptive dampers to control the mass of these beasts and smooth out the ride. The interiors push genuinely into luxury territory, but the V-8 fuel efficiency is horrid. The plug-in hybrid model can't arrive quickly enough. The big Jeeps were cut early in the discussions.
2022 Lexus NX
The compact Lexus NX finally moved into its second generation. Riding on a new platform, the NX adds a compelling plug-in hybrid model that hits 60 mph in 6.0 seconds and offers 37 miles of electric driving range. The compact luxury crossover also gets new touchscreen infotainment that will soon improve the tech throughout the Lexus lineup. The NX wasn't fun enough to make it past the first round of discussions. It's smooth, efficient, competent, pleasant transportation, but that doesn't carry the day for this award.
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
We've reached peak ICE. Everyone can go home and stop trying now. With its turbocharged powertrains and soft leather-lined, screen-filled interior, the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class sets new standards for luxury and refinement. And yet, it was cut from the running this year because it was overshadowed by a new, emerging flagship from Mercedes, the electric EQS. The S-Class is the past and we are moving into the future.
2022 Mercedes-Benz AMG SL
Timing matters. The new Mercedes-Benz AMG SL-Class might have made it to the final round of voting had it arrived earlier in the year. The latest SL debuts with an AMG badge, morphs back into a 2+2, and ditches the hardtop for a soft-top design. It's all quite intriguing, but it's launching this week and only one editor will drive this new convertible before final voting can take place. We'll have too little experience with it to pass it on to the finals. The SL needed more time.
2022 Subaru BRZ
Calling the updated Subaru BRZ and its twin the Toyota 86 new would be a stretch. They're more like generation 1.5 with significant updates, but the hard points and key details remain. The big news is a larger displacement engine that increases horsepower to 228, but it doesn't have the torque you'd get with a turbocharger. The updated suspensions and optional tires dramatically change the cars to make them grip rather than just slide sideways, but they never slid into our hearts when stacked up against more powerful and compelling new models.
2022 Subaru WRX and WRX GT
This one hurts. The WRX is a team favorite, and it's finally new. The rally-inspired sport sedan gets a new chassis, a new engine with 271 turbocharged horses, an updated design, and even a larger touchscreen. But, like the Mercedes-Benz AMG SL, it's hitting the market too late. The WRX launch is set for the end of December, and that will only allow for one of our team members to experience it. Maybe we will consider it next year.