Winners Announced January 11
Every January in Detroit the prestigious North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards get revealed, chosen from a wide field of candidates narrowed to three finalists in each category. Based on ballots cast by an independent jury of 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada, the annual awards are highly coveted by manufacturers for some serious bragging rights. Here are quick snapshots of the three finalists in each category vying for 2021 North American Car / Truck / UV of the Year. Winners in each category will be announced January 11.
Car of the Year Finalists
Genesis has two 2021 North American Car / Truck / UV of the Year finalists. The Korean brand seeks a repeat win with the G80 — the G70 was Car of the Year in 2019. One of the first models from Hyundai’s luxury brand, the G80 has been completely redone for 2021, taking bold styling cues from the G90 including a large Crest Grille and double-line quad headlights with the double-line continuing to the side marker lights and the LED wraparound taillights.
Power for the G80 comes from either a turbocharged 2.5-liter producing 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, or a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 producing 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. The new G80 features a luxurious interior, new high-tech features, and improved performance with either rear- or all-wheel drive.
Korean automaker Hyundai also continues its North American Car / Truck / UV of the Year success. The 2021 Elantra makes it to the finals, following in the tracks of the Palisade as a 2020 finalist and the Kona as 2019 Utility Vehicle of the Year. The new 2021 Elantra compact sedan is longer, lower and wider with a bold exterior design that follows the lead of the 2020 Sonata. In profile the roofline has a coupelike shape, the side view draws focus to three sharp lines that converge in the door and, at the rear, taillights are visually connected by a light strip.
The standard powertrain for the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is a 2.0-liter engine producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, combined with Hyundai’s Intelligent Variable Transmission. Elantra Hybrid offers combined output of 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Elantra N Line features a turbocharged 1.6-liter producing 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque combined with either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DCT.
Nissan redesigned the compact Sentra for 2020 with more expressive exterior styling, a new platform, a more refined interior and new connectivity technology. Built on a new platform, Sentra’s track (the distance between the wheels at each axle) widens by 2 inches and the car sits 2.2 inches lower than the previous model. The signature V-Motion grille drops much deeper through the bumper than the previous generation, flanked by narrow headlights that flow back into the front fenders.
The third finalist for the 2021 North American Car of the Year award, the 2021 Nissan Sentra also has available LED projector headlights with LED daytime running lights, as well as available LED fog lights. At the rear, the lower roofline has the floating design first seen on Maxima, as well as new horizontal combination lights. Power comes from a new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 149 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque combined, with the latest generation of Nissan’s Xtronic CVT.
Truck of the Year Finalists
The Ford F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for almost 40 years, and the F-150 is all-new for 2021 both inside and out, with new innovative features and a new engine lineup. For the first time, Ford offers the F-150 with a hybrid powertrain featuring an onboard generator, a range of up to 700 miles and a 12,700-pound tow rating. The engine lineup includes a powerful V8, a high-torque diesel and multiple turbocharged EcoBoost options. When equipped with the 400-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, the F-150 has a tow rating of up to 14,000 pounds.
Inside, the 2021 Ford F-150 receives new storage options, updated infotainment and 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. Max-recline seats are offered as well as a center console that converts to at work table when needed. The tailgate has integrated pockets for attaching C-clamps, turning the gate into a workbench. An optional Tailgate Work Surface includes rulers, cupholders and a pencil holder.
Jeep Gladiator Mojave
Winner of 2020 North American Truck of the Year, the Jeep Gladiator is a finalist for a second consecutive year with the Gladiator Mojave variant. Gladiator Mojave is designed and equipped for high-speed, off-road capability and performance in tough desert and sandy conditions. The Gladiator Mojave uses Jeep’s proven Command-Trac 4-wheel drive-system with a 2-speed transfer case, a low-range gear ratio, heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles, and an electronic locking rear differential.
Jeep Gladiator Mojave
The 2021 Gladiator Mojave is designed to achieve higher speeds in low range to keep its momentum while attacking sand dunes and other desert challenges. With 11.6 inches of ground clearance, the Mojave should be able to tackle nearly any obstacle. The Mojave also gets tuned high-performance FOX 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks that improve handling and comfort while minimizing the chance of bottoming out when taking to dunes at high speeds. A front skidplate and 33-inch Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires add to the overall capabilities.
Ram 1500 TRX
Winner of the 2019 North American Truck of the Year award, the redesigned Ram 1500 adds a new variant for 2021. The Ram 1500 TRX gets billing as the quickest, fastest and most powerful mass-produced half-ton pickup truck. Designed to handle harsh terrain at high speeds, Ram 1500 TRX draws power from a Hellcat 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine producing 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. 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.
Ram 1500 TRX
The 2021 Ram TRX also adds a unique hood, skidplates, steel bumpers, and a grille with a larger RAM badge. The truck rides on 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory All-Terrain 325/65R18 tires. According to Ram, TRX will sprint to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and reach 100 mph in 10.5 seconds. Ram 1500 TRX is also rated to tow up to 8,100 pounds or haul 1,310 pounds of cargo.
Utility Vehicle of the Year Finalists
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Since its introduction in 1964, the Ford Mustang has always been either a coupe or convertible. That changes this year with the introduction of the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric crossover. The sleek EV is one of the most advanced vehicles ever from Ford and, depending on trim level, Mach-E will be available in standard range (75.7 kWh lithium-ion battery) or an extended range (98.8 kWh battery).
Ford Mustang Mach-E
The estimated range for the Mach-E in rear-wheel drive is 230 miles and 300 miles with extended range. In all-wheel drive, the estimates drop to 211 miles standard range and 270 miles with the extended-range battery. The high-performance GT won’t be available until later in the year, although with all-wheel drive and dual electric motors generating 459 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque, Ford estimates zero to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds. The Mach-E GT features 20-inch forged dark-finish wheels, red brake calipers and a unique grille and an estimated range of 235 miles.
The first Genesis crossover, GV80 is a Utility Vehicle of the Year finalist alongside Car of the Year finalist G80. The GV80 exterior design mimics design cues from the G80 including a large Crest Grille and double-line quad headlights with the double-line continuing to the side marker lights and the LED wraparound taillights. Inside, the GV80 is a design departure from other Genesis models thanks to narrow air vents that run across the dashboard to create a wide feeling in the cabin, and a 14.5-inch split-screen infotainment display in the center.
The two-tone steering wheel of the 2021 Genesis GV80 features a single, wide horizontal spoke, while the center console features a dial for transmission gear selection and a round control unit for the infotainment system. The rear-wheel drive GV80 2.0T sports a 300-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter engine and GV80 3.5T extracts motivation from a 375-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. Both engines get paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive is available for 2.0T and standard with 3.5T.
Land Rover Defender
After a 23-year absence, the Land Rover Defender returned to the U.S. in 2020 with Defender 110 and short-wheelbase Defender 90 to follow. One of the toughest and most capable vehicles in Land Rover history, the Defender traces its roots back more than 70 years to the original Land Rover. Built on a new all-aluminum D7x platform, the Defender has a tough appearance with high sills, short overhangs and a rear-mounted spare tire to facilitate off-road capability.
Land Rover Defender
The Land Rover Defender P300 features a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 296 horsepower. Defender P400 is a mild hybrid with an inline 6-cylinder engine that employs both a twin-scroll turbocharger and a 48-volt electric supercharger to produce 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The P400 also features a belt-integrated started motor that assists under acceleration and eliminates the need for an alternator. The 48-volt battery stores energy captured from braking. Both engines are combined with an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission and a 2-speed transfer case.