Editors’ Picks: Top Cars of 2020

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceEditors’ Picks
Saying that 2020 has been an unusual year within the automotive industry would be a major understatement. During a typical year, editors here at AutoNXT happily span the globe to spend precious time in practically every new U.S. model, but with travel and gatherings severely curtailed by the pandemic we either took delivery and drove cars locally or simply had to study them from afar. That said, we still had the opportunity to drive a decent number of new models that premiered during this weird year. Here’s a look at our favorites.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ford Bronco Sport
After years of anticipation by Bronco enthusiasts, the first member of the new Bronco family has finally arrived. In advance of the larger and more capable Bronco in the second quarter of 2021, a smaller member of the Bronco clan — the 2021 Bronco Sport — is now on sale in Ford dealerships. Bronco Sport features classic Bronco styling cues, a stepped-up roofline and upright body panels to give the SUV a bolder look compared to many of today’s compact SUVs. Offered in five trim levels — Base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition —the 2021 Bronco Sport has all-wheel drive across the lineup.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ford Bronco Sport
Bronco Sport Badlands and First Edition are powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine producing 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Bronco Sport Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks are powered by a 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine producing 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Bronco Sport Badlands and First Edition feature an advanced 4-wheel-drive system with a twin-clutch rear-drive unit with a differential lock that can transfer torque to either rear wheel depending on conditions. Bronco Sport features independent front and rear suspension. Badlands and First Edition add uniquely tuned front struts, monotube rear shocks, softer springs and softer anti-roll bars for improved off-road performance.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ford F-150
The Ford F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for almost 40 years, selling almost 900,000 units in 2019. For 2021 this popular pickup boasts not only fresh styling inside and out but a range of new, innovative features that add to the already versatile pickup. Capability is (of course) a major selling point with pickups, and the new F-150 delivers with a new engine lineup including a powerful V8, a high-torque diesel as well as multiple turbocharged EcoBoost powerplants. When equipped with the 400-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, the F-150 can tow up to 14,000 pounds. The 2021 Ford F-150 is offered with a hybrid powertrain for the first time, providing an onboard generator, a range of up to 700 miles, and a 12,700-pound tow rating.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ford F-150
Inside, the 2021 Ford F-150 gets new functionality as well as updated infotainment and storage options. Most noticeable is a new 12-inch touchscreen display that can be split to provide access to multiple functions at once, including navigation, communication, entertainment and truck features. The cabin is offered with max-recline seats as well as a center console that converts to at work table when needed. Another standout feature: the tailgate has integrated pockets designed for attaching C-clamps, turning the gate into a workbench. In this same vein, an optional Tailgate Work Surface includes integrated rulers, cupholders and a pencil holder into the dropped gate.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Genesis GV80
Genesis expands its lineup with the introduction of the luxury brand’s first-ever SUV — the GV80. Joining the G70, G80 and G90 sedans, the new SUV features the familiar Genesis Crest Grille while introducing a new headlight style for the brand. The quad narrow headlights create a unique look that carries through the side trim and into the taillights. Inside, the GV80 brings fresh styling to the brand with narrow air vents spanning the dashboard to give occupants the impression of a wide cabin, further enhanced by a 14-inch-wide split-screen infotainment display at the center. Adding another level of comfort is Road Active Noise Cancelation technology, which creates sound waves of opposite phase by analyzing road and wind noise in real time.

2021 Genesis GV80
Two turbocharged engines are offered for the U.S.-spec GV80: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder unit and a 3.5-liter V6, the latter producing an impressive 375 horsepower. That power gets directed to the rear or all wheels through a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. With quick acceleration, the GV80 delivers a solid, comfortable ride on the freeway as well as around town. We took the GV80 into the mountains and discovered that the all-wheel drive system provides plenty of confidence on snowy roads — even with all-season tires. With unique styling, a well-equipped luxurious interior and great road feedback, the GV80 easily goes toe-to-toe (tire to tire?) with SUVs costing much more.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line
Based on the redesigned 2020 Sonata, the sporty Sonata N Line possesses a powerful Smartstream 2.5-liter turbocharged engine and N Brand design elements. Hyundai engineers reimagined the 2020 Sonata with a distinctive, more dynamic design; the Sonata N Line builds on that by adding a more aggressive front fascia with cascading grille, three air intakes and N Line badging. The profile reveals 19-inch alloy wheels, side skirts and gloss black mirrors with integrated turn indicators. At the rear, Sonata N Line adds a black lower bumper, an N Line rear diffuser, quad exhaust outlets, a rear spoiler and full LED taillights. Inside, the Sonata N Line also receives performance updates including N sport front seats with Nappa leather bolsters and Dinamica suede inserts and a leather-wrapped N sport steering wheel, as well as dark chrome trim, a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster and aluminum pedals.

© Hyundai Motor America2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line
The 2021 Sonata N Line draws power from a new turbocharged version of Hyundai’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 290 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque from 1650–4000 rpm, mated with a new N 8-Speed wet dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. To improve handling, the Sonata N Line suspension gets stiffer springs, stiffer stability bars, monotube dampers, more rigid chassis bushings and other chassis stiffening. Brakes are upgraded to 13.6-inch front rotors, 12.8-inch rear rotors and premium pad materials. The quick-ratio, rack-mounted, motor-driven steering system improves steering feel and feedback. The Sonata N Line feels like a sport sedan, so it’s super fun to drive on twisty canyon roads. The chassis feels balanced and the steering responsive with excellent feedback. The traction and stability control systems do a great job putting power down when exiting corners — without too much intrusive intervention.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2021 Kia Seltos
Kia adds another new crossover to its lineup, positioned between the existing Sportage and Soul models. Four inches shorter than Kia’s Sportage crossover, the all-new Seltos features a bold, modern design with a more upright, classic SUV shape. On Seltos the familiar Kia tiger nose grille looks bold and wide, flowing smoothly into flush-mounted headlights. Integrated front and rear skidplates, lower-body cladding and black wheel arches add an off-road appearance. The profile reveals a tall grille, flat hood, flat roofline and 7.2 inches ground clearance for a more traditional SUV design. The LED taillights wrap into the rear fenders and are connected by chrome trim.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Kia Seltos
Kia offers the 2021 Seltos in five trim levels: LX, S 2.0L, S 1.6L, EX and SX. The emphasis is on all-wheel drive, which is standard for all trims except the S 2.0 L, which is offered with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The standard engine for Seltos LX, S and EX is a 2.0-liter four cylinder producing 146 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, combined with Kia’s Intelligent Variable Transmission. Seltos S 1.6L and SX are both powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter T-GDI engine producing 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque from 1500 to 4500 rpm, combined with a 7-speed Quick-Shift DCT automatic transmission. The EPA fuel economy rating for the 2.0-liter with AWD is 27 mpg city / 31 mpg highway / 29 mpg combined, while the 1.6-liter with AWD is rated at 25 mpg city / 30 mpg highway / 27 mpg combined.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Kia Sorento
Kia has great success in the competitive midsize crossover segment, and now the Korean car company is looking to gain more satisfied customers with the introduction of the all-new 2021 Sorento. The fourth generation of this three-row SUV gets all-new styling, a roomier interior, a range of powerful engines and — for the first time — a fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain. Kia designers gave the 2021 Sorento much bolder styling than the outgoing version, with clear ties to the automaker’s larger Telluride SUV. Styled with a more squared-off front and rear, the new Sorento has more of a classic SUV look. At the same time, bold fender flares and sculpted doors add character to the overall styling.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Kia Sorento
The 2021 Sorento has premium styling not typically associated with the brand, featuring a clean design with textured inlays and attractive dual-outlet vertical air vents as well as an 8-inch or optional 10.25-inch display screen that gives Sorento a high-tech feel. The popular crossover has an available wireless charging pad plus three USB ports up front, all with easy access. Featuring a total of eight charging ports throughout the cabin, Sorento definitely wins the charge wars. The crossover provides a solid, comfortable ride both on and off pavement, and the available all-wheel drive helps put the power down for excellent stability and improved drivability.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible
For 2021, Lexus adds the LC 500 Convertible alongside the LC 500 Coupe. From the front, the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible looks identical to the coupe, but the roofline and rear decklid design are unique to the open-top version. The 4-layer soft-top has been designed so the supporting frame is not visible through the fabric material yet it keeps tension, minimizes wrinkling and improves sound insulation. Although the LC 500 Convertible retains the look of a coupe with the top up, the roofline is not as fast as the coupe, and the rear deck profile is taller and longer. Also, the center brake light migrates to the trunk lid. The roof can be opened in 15 second (or closed in 16 seconds) at speeds up to 31 mph.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible
The LC 500 Convertible derives power from the same 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine as the coupe, producing 471 horsepower at 7100 rpm and 398 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. That power gets delivered to the rear wheels through a Direct-Shift 10-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. To ensure LC 500 Convertible occupants remain comfortable — whatever the weather conditions — Lexus adds neck heaters dubbed Lexus Climate Concierge with Upper Body Heating, which automatically manages the air conditioning, heated seats, neck heaters and heated steering wheel. The cabin is designed to reduce wind noise, and a transparent polycarbonate wind deflector helps prevent excessive, unwanted air from intruding.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Mazda6 Signature
The top-level Signature trim joined the Mazda6 lineup for 2020, powered by the SKYACTIV-G 2.5T engine introduced in the CX-9. Mazda’s 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder unit produces 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm for excellent performance. The 2.5T gets mated with a SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission delivering power to the front wheels. Mazda pairs the 2.5T engine with all-wheel drive in other models, which makes us wonder why AWD is not offered as an option for Mazda6. The latest Mazda6 continues a design language consistent with the popular CX-5 and CX-9 crossovers, with the most obvious update being a new grille flanked by standard LED headlights and integrated fog lights that give the Mazda6 a wide stance. Soul Red has become a signature Mazda color, and the new Mazda6 offers an even brighter and more striking finish than the Soul Red hues of earlier model years.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Mazda6 Signature
The new dashboard in the 2020 Mazda6 Signature has a clean look that emphasizes the width of the cabin, with the middle dash flowing into the door panels and wrapping around front-seat occupants. The Mazda6 Signature goes upscale with Nappa leather and Sen wood along with metal and Ultrasuede accents for a more refined finish to the sporty design. The Mazda6 Signature is so pleasant to drive it’s easy to overlook the sporty demeanor that lives within Mazda’s clever design. Simply flicking the Sport button and heading out on a favorite winding back road, drivers will soon discover the sport sedan lurking beneath the polish and upscale materials of the Signature. While most Mazda6 shoppers will likely be seeking the everyday practicality and room this midsize sedan offers, those who enjoy spirited driving will be pleasantly surprised by the Mazda6 Signature.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 McLaren GT
Introduced last year, the GT represents a new series of McLaren vehicles taking their place alongside the Sports (570S), Super (720S) and Ultimate (Senna, Speedtail) model series. Like all McLarens, the new GT features a carbon fiber structure of exceptional strength and rigidity that simultaneously exudes excellent driving dynamics yet remains the lightest in its class. Sporting a version of McLaren’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, the GT produces 612 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. Slightly slower to 60 mph than the 720S (3.1 vs. 2.8 seconds), the GT is a wonderful mix of grand tourer and extreme sports car.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 McLaren GT
Right before the pandemic took hold, we went to the UK with intentions to drive the McLaren GT from the company’s headquarters in Woking, England, to the Geneva Motor Show. Since the show was cancelled, we spent a few days tooling around France and Belgium in this glorious car. Posting more than 300 miles on winding backroads, long motorways and backstreets of small towns, the GT revealed itself to be an everyday supercar. Make no mistake, the GT is a proper McLaren with powerful acceleration, excellent handling and amazing styling, but it also possesses comfortably heated leather seats, adjustable suspension, room for luggage and a ride height that it isn’t so low to the ground that it leaves its mark on every speed bump and driveway apron in town.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S tops all Mercedes-AMG SUV performance models, combining the potency of a supercar with the utility of an SUV. The GLE joined the Mercedes-Benz lineup for 2016 as a replacement for the ML and received an exterior styling update last year. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S receives additional updates including an AMG grille with vertical slats; an AMG body-color lower front fascia with large black air intakes; body-color side skirts, mirrors and flared wheel arches; an AMG rear diffuser with a silver trim strip and a rear spoiler. Inside, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S feels like a sports car thanks to AMG seats in Nappa leather with AMG badging, as well as an AMG Performance steering wheel in Nappa leather and DINAMICA with aluminum shift paddles.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S has a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 engine producing 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. For the first time, the SUV gets an integrated EQ Boost starter-generator positioned between the engine and the AMG SPEEDSHIFT 9-speed automatic transmission. The EQ Boost can provide an additional 21 horsepower and up to 184 lb-ft of torque for a short period of time, and employs the starter motor and alternator for smooth start/stop functionality. EQ Boost also acts as a generator to provide power to the 48-volt electrical system. The GLE 63 S will accelerate from zero to 60 mpg in an estimated 3.7 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 171 mph — numbers previously reserved for supercars.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Mercedes-Benz A220
With a starting price around $33,000, the A-Class is the least expensive Mercedes-Benz available in America. After spending a few days with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class, we can honestly say the car doesn’t feel like an entry-level model — it feels like a Mercedes-Benz. Even though it’s the smallest sedan to wear the Mercedes star, the A-Class clearly looks like it belongs in the luxury car company’s lineup. Inside, a standard 10.25-inch widescreen display seamlessly integrates with an equally large digital instrument cluster — an interior presentation that until a few years ago was only available on top-level Mercedes models. The large display not only gives the A-Class a high-tech look and upscale feeling, it also makes the interior appear wider. Large chrome vents with gloss black surrounds add a pleasant touch.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Mercedes-Benz A220
A 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque powers the A220, teamed with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The model we tested was also equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive. Although the A220 has a lower horsepower rating than its competitors, the small sedan launches quickly from a stop thanks to strong acceleration. When set in Sport mode, the transmission keeps the rpm high, which in turn keeps torque immediately available. The dual-clutch gearbox shifts quickly and the 4MATIC all-wheel drive keeps wheels from slipping, even at full throttle. Best of all this little Mercedes is great fun to drive resulting from precise steering and excellent handling.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Porsche introduced the current-generation 718 Cayman in 2016, and for 2020 the German car company premiered the most powerful and capable version yet — the Cayman GT4. From the purposeful interior to the adjustable rear spoiler, powerful engine and sport exhaust system, the GT4 delivers the ultimate performance both on the street as well as on the track. Setting itself apart from the standard Cayman, the GT4 sits an inch lower with larger air intakes, a new front splitter and an opening in front of the hood that helps with cooling and downforce. Positioned behind the cockpit is a new 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six engine producing 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque — at a redline of 8000 rpm.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Although many high-performance sports cars have forgone manual transmissions, the GT4 comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard equipment. Drivers will immediately appreciate how amazingly well engineers set up the chassis of the 2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 for performance driving. Although we’ve driven faster cars, full throttle in the GT4 is a deeply satisfying experience including the transmission’s lightning-fast short-throw shifter and unique engine growl. With the Cayman GT4’s sticky tires and Porsche Active Suspension Management, we discovered that every corner feels as if it could have been taken even faster. While under the Porsche influence, we really appreciated the auto blip option that makes every downshift smooth, accompanied by a nice bump in the exhaust note. Granted, the perfect sports car does not exist — but the 718 GT4 comes close.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Built for high-performance off-road driving, the brand-new Ram 1500 TRX aims to be the quickest, fastest and most powerful mass-produced truck in the world. Under the bulging hood of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX lurks a Hellcat 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine producing a massive 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. Usually the specs and stats associated with a truck are all about towing and hauling — and the Ram 1500 TRX is no slouch with the ability to tow up to 8,100 pounds or haul 1,310 pounds of cargo —but this is the Hellcat of pickup trucks, so it hauls in more ways than one. The full-size truck sprints to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and reaches 100 mph in 10.5 seconds. The TRX is designed to handle harsh terrain at speeds exceeding 100 mph.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Even if the badge on the tailgate were ignored, it’s clear the TRX is no ordinary Ram 1500. Standing a full 8 inches wider than the standard 1500, the TRX features large composite wheel flares that cover a 6-inch increase in track (the distance between the wheels at each axle). Riding high on Goodyear Wrangler Territory 325/65R18 All-Terrain 35-inch tires, the TRX also sports a unique hood, skidplates, steel bumpers and a front grille adorned with a larger RAM badge. Although TRX is incredibly quick on pavement, the truck really shines when the pavement ends and the going gets rough. We had the opportunity to test this new off-road truck at the Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks, Nevada, and to say we were impressed is an understatement. With seemingly unlimited power and excellent traction, the TRX raises factory-produced off-road vehicles to a new level.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime
The RAV4 is already Toyota’s top-selling model in the U.S. for 2020, and for 2021 Toyota adds to the RAV4 portfolio with the RAV4 Prime — the first plug-in hybrid SUV from the Japan-based automaker. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime instantly becomes the most powerful variant in the model lineup, yet also the most fuel-efficient RAV4 ever with a fuel-economy rating of 94 MPGe as well as an all-electric driving range of 42 miles. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is based on the RAV4 Hybrid XLE and is offered in two versions: SE and XSE. The RAV4 Prime SE features black fabric seats with red stitching, heated front seats, power driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power liftgate and a 3.3 kW on-board charger. The XSE builds on the SE with SofTex-trimmed seats, a moonroof, paddle shifters, vertical LED accent lights, a Qi-wireless phone charger, chrome door handles and ambient interior lighting.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime
When Toyota began building hybrid cars the focus was strictly on fuel efficiency — today performance and fuel efficiency coexist, and the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is a perfect example as the top-performing and most fuel-efficient choice in the RAV4 lineup. RAV4 Prime derives power from a new hybrid system that combines the 177-horsepower 2.5-liter gasoline engine from the RAV4 Hybrid with front and rear electric drive motors for a combined system output of 302 horsepower. The front motor produces 179 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, while the rear motor is rated at 53 horsepower and 89 lb-ft of torque. According to Toyota, RAV4 Prime will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, making it the second fastest model in the Toyota lineup behind the GR Supra.

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