MotorWeek, the iconic television program, has named its Drivers’ Choice award winners for 2013 and, while there were few (if any) major surprises, it is always interesting to see what conclusions they draw. While I don’t always agree with the winners’ list, I do respect their belief that, in evaluating about 150 vehicles, they are in touch with both consumer preferences, performance and value.
Now in its 32nd season, it is produced by Maryland Public Television and airs on PBS, Velocity and V-me Spanish language network. Episodes cab also be viewed on pbs.com. Log on to episode 3223 if you want to see the awards presentation in its entirety.
In the truck category, the Ram 1500 pickup was named best in its class — no surprise here since this exceptional vehicle has won all of the prizes leading up to this announcement. MotorWeek’s quote about the Ram: “…made us all believers that a V6 can be a standard bearer in the full-size truck ranks”. It will be most interesting to see the results in this category in the next two years, with both GM and Toyota introducing new vehicles, and Ford showing its Atlas concept teasing at the 2015 F-150.
Among the large SUVs rated, it is like Nissan was crowned twice with a tie for large SUV between the Nissan Pathfinder and the Infiniti JX. Their comments for the Pathfinder: “With a lighter unibody chassis and V6-only power…remains plenty capable and can still tow 5,000 pounds”.
And for the JX: “With a bold, but rich exterior design…delivers a ride that’s as smooth as you’ll find in the crossover ranks.” There are so many contenders in the large SUV ranks that it surprises me there were only two vehicles to tie up the race.
The Toyota RAV4 was named best small utility, with the MotorWeek gurus saying that “…nothing does it better than the original small crossover…”. Again, there are a number of vehicles that might have won honors. This is a good choice though in a segment with as many players as there are auto companies.
In a tie among three vehicles for Best Dream Machine, the Land Rover Range Rover was singled out with the Tesla Model S and the SRT Viper, which seems a bit incongruous, but it is no use accounting for some people’s dreams. Somehow, combining a V10 machine and an all-electric luxury car with a full size SUV is unique in the industry, I think, but the best thing about awards is that the ones giving them can group things any way they wish and never be wrong.
Among the winners in other categories:
Best of the Year and Best Sports Sedan: Cadillac ATS (another well-deserved multi-award winner this year.
Best Subcompact: Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent (a tie for two in-law companies that do small cars really well, especially when it comes to value and mpg)
Best Compact: Dodge Dart (described as “…a mix of Italian flair and American ingenuity”.
Best Family Sedan: Ford Fusion (“…blends beauty with brains; delivering Aston Martin-inspired styling, along with high tech features, practical comfort and fuel economy.”)
Best Luxury Sedan: Lexus ES (…do it without a six-figure investment”.)
Best Convertible: Volkswagen Beetle (“…$25,000 starting price…great news for anyone who likes to have their top dropped and still have money in the bank”.)
Best Sports Coupe: Fiat 500 Abarth (“…looks mean, sounds great and far exceeds handling expectations.”)
Best Performance Car: Ford Shelby GT500 (“…total performance package built for the track, but manageable on the street”.)
Best Eco-Friendly: Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (“With 40-plus mileage expectations, this full hybrid is the best example of getting your eco on, while having fun…”)