04 October 2009

Handicapping Car And Truck Of The Year Contenders

Story from the Detroit Free Press

The short list of cars and trucks in the running for 2010 North American Car and Truck of the Year just hit my inbox.

Myself and the 49-odd -- and we are pretty odd -- other jurors considered all the new vehicles introduced this year and decided these 25 are worth a closer look as we prepare to vote for the car and truck of the year.

The jurors include automotive writers from leading newspapers, magazines, Web sites, television, radio and freelance journalists.

We consider innovation, design, safety, performance, driver satisfaction, value and a vehicle's significance.

We'll have the opportunity to test the vehicles on the short list again before voting for three finalists for each award. We choose the winners from those three.

The North American Car and Truck of the Year will be announced at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit on Jan. 11.

At this point, I have no idea what will win, or how I'll vote. However, I can handicap the contenders' strengths and weaknesses.

2010 North American Car of the Year
BMW 335d

Pro: High m.p.g. from a powerful new diesel engine.

Con: A new engine in a carryover car competing with vehicles that are completely new.

Buick LaCrosse

Pro: Style, performance, technology.

Con: May be considered a disappointment if it doesn't change Buick's stodgy image.

Cadillac CTS station wagon

Pro: A more practical version of a car we already love.

Con: A new body style competing with all-new vehicles.

Chevrolet Camaro

Pro: Performance, style, value. An American alternative to German luxury sport coupes.

Con: Specialty models can have a tough time competing with mainstream cars.

Ford Fusion/Fusion Hybrid

Pro: New looks, technology and fuel economy.

Con: Could split votes with the Taurus.

Ford Taurus

Pro: Looks, value and unique features revive the Taurus name.

Con: Could split votes with the Fusion.

Honda Insight

Pro: High mileage, low price.

Con: The Toyota Prius has better fuel economy and more features at a slightly higher price.

Kia Soul

Pro: Looks, value, fun.

Con: A huge leap for Kia, not significant to the industry.


Pro: Looks, value, performance.

Con: Doesn't break new ground.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Pro: Luxury, technology and performance.

Con: An expensive niche vehicle that's not a big seller.

Porsche Panamera

Pro: Looks, technology and performance. A radically new vehicle from a revered brand.

Con: Very expensive niche vehicle.

Subaru Legacy

Pro: Popular and dependable sedan.

Con: Crowded sedan field. Does not break new ground.

Suzuki Kizashi

Pro: A good midsize sedan that's a big step for Suzuki.

Con: Does not break new ground.

Toyota Prius

Pro: High mileage, new features from an established leader.

Con: Fuel economy improvement is relatively small from previous model.

Volkswagen Golf/GTI

Pro: All-new version of one of the world's best-selling cars.

Con: Not likely to break new ground for VW or the industry.

2010 North American Truck of the Year
Acura ZDX

Pro: Unusual looks in Acura's new top-of-the-line model.

Con: Does not break new ground.

Audi Q5

Pro: Handling, comfort and style.

Con: Does not break new ground.

Cadillac SRX

Pro: Handling, comfort, style, value.

Con: Does not break new ground.

Chevrolet Equinox

Pro: Fuel economy, value, looks.

Con: Crowded crossover field.

Ford Transit Connect

Pro: Fuel economy, value and flexibility in a new kind of commercial vehicle.

Con: No commercial vehicle has ever won Truck of the Year.

Honda Crosstour

Pro: Looks and cargo space in a roomy complement to the Accord sedan.

Con: Polarizing styling.

Land Rover LR4

Pro: New looks and interior improve a sturdy off-roader.

Con: An update of a vehicle competing with all-new models.

Lincoln MKT

Pro: Style, technology, performance, fuel economy.

Con: Polarizing looks.

Subaru Outback

Pro: A popular and dependable crossover.

Con: Does not break new ground.

Volvo XC60

Pro: Style, technology and value.

Con: Crowded luxury-crossover field.

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