How We Determine our Car, Truck, and SUV of the Year – Reference Mark

Opinion


3. Efficiency: Fuel economy relative to the competitive set, plus overall operating costs, weight, and recyclability. And yes, we consider mpg-e and well-to-wheel equations for electric vehicles.

4. Safety: We examine the safety measures that protect occupants from harm in a crash and test a vehicle’s ability to help a driver avoid a crash in the first place.

5. Value: What’s the damage to your pocketbook? Surprisingly this doesn’t always favor the less expensive cars; oftentimes, it’s the better-equipped vehicle relative to competitors in the same market segment. That said, it’s orders of magnitude harder to build a great $20,000 car than a decent $40,000 one.

6. Performance of Intended Function: Essentially it’s how well the vehicle does the job its designers, engineers, and product planners intended. If you build a luxury car, it damn well better ride like one. An off-roading SUV must surmount every obstacle. And a tire-scorching sports car can’t be sloppy around the handling course. If there’s ever a tie-breaking situation, it all comes back to this.

Some might think that these six criteria merely reinforce the secure place of automakers that are already renowned for their excellence. They would be wrong. Last year we had our first Italian-badged vehicle win a MotorTrend Of The Year award. This year we have our first winner from a Korean manufacturer. The traditional definition of who builds the world’s most excellent vehicles is shifting, and rapidly so.

On behalf of the exhausted, parched, sunburned testers, writers, editors, photographers, and videographers of MotorTrend, I welcome you to the most comprehensive automotive awards judging process in the business. How can I make such a claim? Because I’ve belonged to several other judging panels whose methodology is, ahem, cursory by comparison. (More details as to how we test can be found in the introductory pages of the Car, Truck, and SUV of the Year sections.)

And unlike other automotive publications that have lengthy “best” lists, only MotorTrend has the testing discipline—and let’s face it, the guts—to designate one vehicle we deem the finest of its category.

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