About 60 cars, crossovers, and performance SUVs faced judgement by almost as many auto writers and photographers last week at the Texas Motor Speedway; and it was amazing to see how far everyone has come. In some years past, unfavored vehicles sat in the drive-thru garage all day, looking super lonely. This year, every one got driven a lot and the consensus was that quality, features and performance had improved so much that there wasn’t a clunker in the competition. In many categories, winners beat second place by only a vote or two.
Sponsored by the Texas Auto Writers Association, it is one of two events — the other is the Texas Truck Rodeo in October — where well-vetted professionals evaluate that manufacturers want talked about. The truck event is considered the premier event of its kind in the nation.
This year, Ford came out a big winner in the everyone-is-entered categories, with Car of Texas judged to be the 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, and Family Car of Texas was the 2013 Ford Fusion in many of its iterations. It’s the first time I can think of that the family category winner was also highly track worthy. Best value was the 2013 Ford Focus. The folks at the Blue Oval also won for mid-size car: the Fusion Titanium; and for best new feature for the hands-free lift gate which simply requires a knee to the rear bumper for easy truck opening.
It was quite a week for Ford all the way around. Double-digit increased sales were announced, as were the addition of 2,000 new jobs at the company’s Kansas City plant which produces the F-150 and the new line of Transit vehicles.
No one left General Motors, Chrysler or Toyota in the dust either this year, with multiple winners for each: (All winners are 2013 models unless indicated.)
Sub-compact: Fiat 500 Turbo
Compact car: Buick Verano Turbo
Performance compact: Scion FR-S
Full-size car: 2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LZ
Mid-size luxury car: Lexus GS 350 Sport
Full-size luxury car: Cadillac XTS Platinum Collection AWD
Performance coupe: Dodge Challenger SRT 392
Performance sedan: Cadillac ATS Premium Collection
Minivan: Chrysler Town & Country LTD.
Activity vehicle: Dodge Journey Crew
Performance Utility: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Supercar: SRT Viper GTS
Green vehicle: Chevrolet Volt
Best new interior: Chrysler 300C John Varvatos Luxury Edition
There were a number of worthy vehicles that didn’t bring home the bacon, and one that I found particularly good for luxury to sport activities. The Mercedes GL AMG was a treat to drive and will tow a very respectable 7,500 lbs, with good off-road credentials. I hope to get a ride/drive opportunity to do a full review on this one soon.