Editors’ Picks: Top Cars of 2019

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceEditors’ Picks
Over the last 12 months here at AutoNXT, our editors had the opportunity to get behind the wheel and test drive dozens of brand-new cars, trucks and SUVs. Given the relative quality of new vehicles in America this year, we would be hard pressed to identify a bad one in the bunch, although a few stand out as definite favorites. We would be happy to have the following vehicles in our the driveways permanently; and while we will admit to a preference for performance models, this list includes a variety of vehicles possessing unique characteristics that qualify them as editors’ picks.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Bentley Flying Spur
When W.O. Bentley formed Bentley Motors in 1919, he aimed to build “a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.” Today it’s safe to say the all-new Flying Spur is exactly what W.O. had in mind. Hand built in Great Britain, the latest Flying Spur features a new aluminum and composite chassis that let engineers increase the wheelbase by more than 5 inches. The new Flying Spur is certainly a fast car, thanks to Bentley’s twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 engine producing 626 horsepower. Power gets delivered through a dual-clutch 8-speed ZF transmission and a new active all-wheel-drive system. According to Bentley, the Flying Spur will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and has a top track speed of 207 mph. Inside, the new Bentley Flying Spur carries its passengers in lavish surroundings with the expected high levels of craftmanship and refinement.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Bentley Flying Spur
Flying Spur owners will likely have to answer one question repeatedly: whether the Flying Spur is best experienced from the comfort of the rear seat or behind the wheel. We prefer keeping our hands on the wheel, fully enjoying the Flying Spur’s responsive nature. Even the slightest throttle input at any speed delivers instant power; put a right foot down hard and the Flying Spur turns into a rocket. We’re very impressed at how well this large car turns in at a corner without a hint of understeer; it carves a smooth arc through any bend. The new Bentley Flying Spur offers a refined luxury experience and the opportunity to tailor all materials to personal taste. Along with that, the Flying Spur delivers a driving experience of a sport sedan that will satisfy the most demanding driver.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition
The X3 crossover is the most popular model in the BMW lineup, and now the German car company has taken its most popular model and given it the full M treatment, morphing this people mover into a sports car in SUV garb: the first-ever X3 M. Although the X3 M Competition is not overly flamboyant, it has been specifically designed to stand out from the standard X3 with larger air intakes, black kidney grille, signature M gills, a rear spoiler, M Sport exhaust with quad black-chrome tailpipes and 21-inch jet black wheels. Inside is befitting of the top-level X3, featuring Merino leather with Alcantara trim, M sport seats and available M seat belts for no charge.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 BMW X3 M Competition
At the heart of the X3 M Competition is an all-new M TwinPower Turbo 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine producing 510 horses, making it the most powerful 6-cylinder BMW has ever put in a production vehicle. Power is transferred to the ground via the latest version of the M xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system. The system works in concert with the stability control to provide the feel and dynamics of rear-wheel drive — power is only sent to the front wheels when traction gets lost at the rear. The proper BMW M styling combined with a useful interior, comfortable ride and extreme performance make the X3 M Competition an excellent everyday choice for the enthusiast whose life can’t fit into a sports car. And for those looking to “Buy American,” there is some consolation in the fact that the X3 M is built in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Ford Explorer
A pioneer of the sport-utility vehicle segment, the Ford Explorer has been one of the best-selling SUVs in America for almost 30 years. Now the Explorer is all new, built on an all-new rear-wheel-drive flexible architecture designed to improve ride and handling as well as the vehicle’s overall capability. Although the 2020 Explorer has been completely reimagined, designers retained enough original styling cues to keep this popular SUV recognizable as an Explorer. But the new model looks sportier than it has in the past, thanks to a more sculpted body, sloping roofline and shorter overhangs at the front and rear.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Ford Explorer
As part of the complete redesign, Ford has added two new variants to the Explorer lineup — the Hybrid and ST. The hybrid’s gas-electric powertrain produces 318 horsepower while delivering up to 29 mpg; however, the ST is the one we’d want in our driveway. The ST sets itself apart from the rest of the Explorer lineup with a black mesh grille, black EXPLORER badge on the hood, black bodyside cladding, black roof rails, quad chrome-trimmed exhaust outlets, blackout treatment on the headlights, a sport-tuned suspension and 20-inch machined aluminum wheels. The ST doesn’t simply look sporty — it has a 400-horsepower EcoBoost V6 under the hood.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Ford Shelby GT500
The Shelby name has been associated with Mustang performance since 1965 when Ford asked Carroll Shelby to build a competition Mustang — and the Shelby GT350 was born. Now Ford Performance has created the most capable production car to bear the Shelby name to date: the all-new 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. According to Ford, the Shelby GT500 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and complete the quarter mile in 10.7 seconds — impressive numbers for a street-legal car. Aero and cooling are both important for such a vehicle, so much of the design is functional — that includes the louvered hood as well as the integrated rear spoiler. The double front grille opening improves airflow for better cooling and contributes more downforce as well.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Ford Shelby GT500
At the heart of the all-new Shelby GT500 lurks a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 engine producing 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful Ford production car ever — even surpassing the 647-horsepower Ford GT. There is no manual gearbox for this Mustang; power gets sent to the rear wheels via a 7-speed Tremec dual-clutch transmission capable of shifting gears in a mere 80 milliseconds — considerably faster than any human. The 2020 Shelby GT500 is, practically speaking, a race car for the street, and as a result it requires constant attention while street driving — mainly because it practically begs to be driven faster. Ultimately, the GT500 is surprisingly easy to drive and it instills confidence, making an average driver better — even at the racetrack.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Hyundai Palisade
The Korean automaker continues to grow its offerings, and in 2019 the company introduced its largest and most luxurious SUV ever —the Palisade. The 2020 Palisade is roomy and comfortable with an upscale vibe. Nothing in this new Hyundai feels cheap, and the top-level Limited evokes luxury with stylish leather seating and a clean overall design. With shift-by-wire, the transmission selector is simplified to just PRND buttons that take up very little space. This translates to a large center console housing a wireless phone charger as well as unique, retractable cupholders that can create space for other items.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Hyundai Palisade
This big Hyundai is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Power gets sent to either the front wheels or all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. When properly equipped, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade can tow up to 5,000 pounds. One of the slickest features that Hyundai offers on the Palisade is a blind view monitor. Using the right or left turn signal activates a camera on the respective side of the vehicle, with the blind spot view displayed in the gauge cluster. During our time in the Palisade we found it to have a smooth and quiet ride, even when venturing off pavement. With standout styling, a roomy and comfortable interior, seating for up to 8 passengers and excellent capability, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is certainly a worthy competitor in the crowded midsize SUV segment.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Hyundai Veloster N
For those seeking great performance without dropping a lot of cash, check out one of the more entertaining vehicles we’ve driven this year — the Hyundai Veloster N. This is the first of what could be several models in a new high-performance N lineup for Hyundai. The Veloster N stands out from the standard version with a unique front fascia and grille, dedicated air ducts for enhanced brake cooling, side rocker sills, a rear spoiler, a dual exhaust and 19-inch lightweight alloy wheels. Although the Veloster N readily announces its sporty intentions, it is thankfully a bit more subtle than the Civic Type R — one of its primary competitors

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Hyundai Veloster N
Veloster N possesses the performance to match its sporty styling with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine generating 275 horsepower and 260 ft-lb of torque, teamed with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. Granted, a lot of power is being sent to the front wheels, but with very smooth torque delivery that power is manageable. For even more fun, there’s a blue N button on the steering wheel that activates N mode for a louder exhaust, much quicker throttle response and very stiff suspension. With a starting price below $30,000, the Veloster N is a great choice for usable everyday performance.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Jeep Gladiator
Jeep has not offered a pickup truck in its lineup for nearly 30 years, but for 2020 the truck is back in the shape of the new Gladiator. It may look like Jeep simply took a Wrangler and pinned a pickup bed on the back, but the Gladiator is much more than that. In fact, the Wrangler and Gladiator only share about 50 percent of their parts. The new truck still carries the attributes and standout features of the Wrangler — including its legendary off-road capability, open-top driving, and even the removable doors and folding windshield. But it is also a proper truck with the utility and equipment to match or exceed all other midsize trucks on the market.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Jeep Gladiator
With a 3.6-liter V6 engine under the hood, the Gladiator’s 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque allow it to haul up to 1,600 pounds or tow an impressive 7,650 pounds. Surprisingly, a 6-speed manual gearbox is standard on all trims, with an 8-speed automatic transmission available. The Gladiator offers plenty of storage inside as well as seating for five. Even though Gladiator is 30 inches longer than the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited, it matches the legendary Jeep’s capability in almost every respect. For those buyers seeking the capability of a Wrangler and the utility of a pickup truck, the Gladiator manages to combine these qualities without diminishing either of them.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Kia Telluride
The all-new Telluride is Kia’s first venture into the large 7-passenger SUV realm, and the big vehicle is already receiving great reviews. Designed specifically for the U.S. market at Kia’s design center in California, Telluride is built at Kia’s manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia, alongside the Sorento SUV and Optima sedan. The Telluride’s intent is to be big, bold and boxy to convey power and capability — which it does in spades. The SUV features a long hood, wide grille, stacked headlights, L-shaped taillights and long Telluride nameplates across the front edges of the hood and tailgate. The interior is quite spacious with seating for up to eight occupants while retaining plenty of cargo space.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Kia Telluride
The Telluride’s 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine sends power to all four wheels via an active on-demand all-wheel-drive system that can distribute torque between the front and rear axles. On the road there’s ample power for accelerating from a stop or passing at highway speeds, and the ride is impressively quiet and smooth. The steering system provides plenty of feedback and the Telluride turns in well at corners without much body roll, and tracks consistently even on rough surfaces. With a spacious interior, stylish exterior and comfortable ride no matter what the terrain, the Telluride is easily one of the top vehicles in its category.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Lamborghini Huracan EVO Spyder
If one of your personal traits happens to be keeping a low profile and avoiding attention, we’ll simply say it right now: This Lamborghini is not for you. Even though the standard Huracan is an impressive machine, the EVO has a bolder presence, more power and an exhaust note that never gets old. Up front, the EVO’s unique bumper gives Huracan a more aggressive look (if that is possible) and improves aero with a front splitter and enlarged air intakes. At the rear is a new integrated slotted spoiler designed to enhance airflow. One of our favorite features of the Huracan is its start button. Located in the center console, the button has a red cover that evokes a missile launcher of a jet fighter.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Lamborghini Huracan EVO Spyder
The big sound and mind-bending acceleration of the 2020 Huracan EVO Spyder come courtesy of a naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter V10 engine lurking behind the cabin, based on the powerplant found in the high-performance Huracan Performante. The big V10 produces a plentiful 640 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. This results in thrilling speed specs: 62 mph in 3.1 seconds, 124 mph in 9.3 seconds, and top speed is rated at just over 200 mph. Power gets sent to all four wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The gears can be left to shift automatically, but the large paddles behind the steering wheel provide better response and are more engaging. The experience behind the wheel of this exotic sports car is unbelievable in that it offers stunning performance while remaining easy to drive. Certainly not for everyone, the Huracan EVO Spyder will get you noticed, and when behind the wheel it’s unlikely that the smile will ever leave your face.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Nissan Versa
The Nissan Versa had been the lowest-priced car in America for a number of years, but for 2020 the Japanese brand gives up that title with the introduction of an all-new Versa. The 2020 Versa gets new styling, a premium interior, the latest high-tech safety features and a much improved ride. Although the price has bumped up to almost $15,000, the 2020 Nissan Versa has improved in so many ways that even with its slightly higher price it still offers a lot of value for the money. The new model is considerably longer, wider and lower than the previous generation, giving the sedan a solid stance.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Nissan Versa
Powering the 2020 Nissan Versa is a new 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. Although these numbers aren’t particularly strong, they are improvements over the previous generation. The engine gets teamed with a 5-speed manual gearbox on the Versa S, or with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously-variable transmission. What Versa lacks in power it makes up for in fuel economy: the EPA rates it as high as 40 mpg on the highway. Inside, the new Versa has a premium feel thanks to a large integrated display screen and horizontal architecture that gives the impression of wider space inside. In addition to its attractive styling and premium cabin, Versa gets the latest safety technology standard across the board. The Nissan Versa may not be the lowest-priced car in America anymore, but we think this new 2020 model is worth every penny of the extra cash.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Polestar 1
The Polestar moniker has been associated with high-performance models of the Volvo lineup for a long time, and for the 2020 model year Polestar is setting sail as a standalone electric performance brand. Launching the Polestar brand is the stylish and sporty 2020 Polestar 1, offering impressive hybrid performance in a sleek GT package. The Polestar 1 chassis builds on Volvo’s global Scalable Product Architecture and makes extensive use of carbon fiber in its construction, which not only saves more than 500 pounds but also lowers the center of gravity and increases body structure torsional stiffness. Inside, soft leather trim with accent stitching offers a premium feel, and carbon fiber trim pieces on the dashboard and doors are a nice touch. Designers cleverly integrated a large vertical display screen with the dash, and a crystal gearshift lever adds a touch of elegance.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Polestar 1
The plug-in hybrid Polestar 1 possesses one of the most complex power systems on the road. Under the hood sits a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged 4-cylinder engine sending 326 horsepower to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. In addition, each rear wheel is powered by an electric motor that generate 232 horsepower. The result is a total output of 619 horsepower and a plentiful 738 lb-ft of torque. With all motors engaged, the Polestar 1 sprints to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds with top speed limited to 155 mph. With a fully-charged battery we saw an indicated 75 miles of electric-only range — more than any other plug-in hybrid on the market.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911
Likely the most recognizable sports car on the planet, the Porsche 911 has carried the same basic shape since the first generation premiered at the Frankfurt Motor Show more than 50 years ago. This year the 911 moves into its eighth generation with the latest technology, more power, better performance and a more muscular look — at the same time remaining as familiar as that first-generation car. Known as the 992, the latest-generation 911 gets updated styling that can be described as wider and more aggressive. The front is about 1.7 inches wider, while the newly-developed headlights are inset into the fenders. At the rear is a variable-position spoiler and a light bar that stretches the width of the vehicle; a three-dimensional Porsche logo adds a classic touch.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Porsche 911
The new 911 gets power from a 3.0-liter twin-turbo 6-cylinder engine producing 379 horsepower in the Carrera, with the Carrera S getting 443 horsepower from the same powerplant. Not only does this engine generate more power than the previous generation, emissions are lower while fuel-efficiency is improved. All 911 variants are equipped with a new 8-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox — a manual transmission is no longer offered. Although many driving enthusiasts would have enjoyed shifting gears manually in the new 911, the PDK gearbox is quite impressive with quick, smooth upshifts and downshifts that happen right when expected. As a sexy-looking sports car with a comfortable interior, outstanding performance and everyday drivability, the Porsche 911 is so strong it’s hard to find a vehicle that enters the ring as a true contender.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Ram Heavy Duty
Following the introduction of the all-new Ram 1500 last year, the company has introduced its most powerful and capable heavy-duty truck ever. The Ram Heavy Duty is available in dozens of configurations to fit a wide variety of towing, cargo and passenger needs as both Ram 2500 and Ram 3500. The bold exterior design of the new RAM HD is really a case of form following function. Ram engineers needed a 30 percent increase in the grille size for increased airflow, so the new truck has the largest grille ever offered. Inside, the Ram HD follows the same design as the recently launched Ram 1500 with an available 12-inch touchscreen display as well as a roomy and versatile rear seat.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Ram Heavy Duty
Heavy-duty truck are purchased for their capability, and the new Ram Heavy Duty certainly delivers. The big truck is available with an all-new 6.7-liter Cummins High Output Turbo Diesel engine that generates 400 horsepower and a mind-boggling 1000 lb-ft of torque. When properly equipped, Ram Heavy Duty can tow up to 35,100 pounds or carry 7,680 pounds of payload. Whether or not it’s laden or towing a heavy load, drivers will experience smoothness and quiet not expected in this level of truck. And if a new Ram is going to be an everyday driver, choose the Laramie Longhorn or Limited to enjoy luxury-car levels of materials, equipment and technology.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Subaru Outback
Introduced 25 years ago as a wagon with raised ground clearance, the Subaru Outback began what would eventually become the popular crossover segment. Today an all-new Outback is built on the company’s new global platform, offering many new features, a greatly improved interior, updated powertrains and the latest version of EyeSight — Subaru’s suite of advanced safety technology. Subaru offers several variants of the new Outback, ranging from a base version to the luxurious Touring trim level. All Outbacks feature Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD with active torque vectoring, vehicle dynamics control, X-Mode with hill descent control and a generous 8.7-inches of ground clearance.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Subaru Outback
For the first time since 2009, Subaru put a turbocharged powerplant back in the Outback — namely a 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine that produces 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque at a low 2000 rpm. Inside the cabin, the new Outback stands out from previous generations thanks to a much more premium look. A large vertical display screen sets the focus and tone of the interior, and it is nicely integrated with the instrument panel via a large, easy-to-read display. The Subaru Outback has a loyal following, and those who enjoy the current model are likely to discover they like the new one even more. With impressive off-road prowess, comfortable everyday drivability, plenty of cargo-carrying utility and the latest high-tech safety features, the new 2020 Outback makes an excellent option in the very competitive crossover segment.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Toyota GR Supra
For more than 20 years, Supra enthusiasts have longed for the return of Toyota’s top sports car. It’s finally back, although not without controversy among some Supra loyalists, since the Japanese automaker partnered with BMW to develop the chassis and engine (Supra shares its platform with BMW Z4 Roadsters). While some of the mechanics were created with BMW, the design is deeply seated in Toyota’s past. The front fascia was inspired by the fourth-generation Supra with a prominent center grille flanked by large air intakes. The double-bubble roof design pays tribute to the 2000 GT while reducing drag by lowering the center of the roof without impacting headroom.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Toyota GR Supra
Toyota’s new GR Supra gets power from a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger. Toyota tuning and engine mapping tweaks the powerplant into producing 335 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque. Power gets sent to the rear wheels via a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and shift paddles; a manual transmission is not offered. The 2020 Toyota GR Supra is a blast to drive thanks to quick acceleration, precise shifts and responsive steering. Lots of low-end torque means readily-available power, and the stiff platform allows suspension tuning that is both performance oriented but also comfortable for a sports car. The partnership with BMW has been critiqued, but without the collaboration the new Supra would have never happened. The result is a legitimate sports car that is fun to drive and comfortable enough for everyday use.

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