In recent years, automotive awards for excellence have gotten a lot like college football bowl games. Where there were just a handful bowl games just a few years ago – there are so many now that it takes over a month for all the games to be played and no one remembers who the winners were, with only a couple of exceptions, a month later.

Similarly, automotive awards have gotten so numerous throughout the year – even an electronic scorecard struggles with keeping track of what vehicle has been honored by which groups or publications across the year.  The result is many vehicles getting many awards for a wide variety of attributes but no clear ‘best-of-the-best’ overall each year – with one exception.

The prestigious North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year award (NACTOY) is that exception and, since 1994, has honored the ‘best-of-the-best’ car, utility (added in 2017) and truck each year.  As the oldest and longest running award not associated with a specific publication, website, radio or television outlet, winning that trophy was everything then and still is today.

Chosen by a jury of 60 of the most accomplished professional automotive journalists in North America, it is widely considered as the ultimate recognition (some call it the “Oscars”) of automotive excellence in innovation, design, safety, performance, technology and driver satisfaction for going on 24 years.

For 2018, the NACTOY Car, Utility and Truck of the Year finalists are:

 

Car of the Year Utility of the Year Truck of the Year
Honda Accord Alfa Romeo Stelvio Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Kia Stinger Honda Odyssey Ford Expedition
Toyota Camry Volvo XC60 Lincoln Navigator

Awarded each year at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, the 2018 NACTOY winners will be announced during the media preview days on January 15 at the NAIAS aka Detroit Auto Show.

Who do we like?

All of the finalists for 2018 are worthy of recognition. Knowing the makeup of the jury – many of them personally – we know each finalist will have been evaluated critically and fairly against the NACTOY criterion for excellence.

Though we have not driven all of the finalists, we have had exposure to all of them through media events, information provided by manufacturers and fellow journalist impressions.  So, we are going to take a crack at selecting the winners.

Gazing into our own ‘inwheeltime.com’ crystal ball from up here in Austin, we like the following:

Kia Stinger
Car of the Year – Kia Stinger

Though the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry both delivered new or much improved sedans this year, it is the folks at Kia who have gotten our attention with their all-new 2018 Stinger and Stinger GT Fastback Sport Sedans.  At a time when sedan popularity is waning, Kia is boldly launching five well-designed models that will be the highest performance production vehicles in company history.

Stinger and Stinger Premium are powered by 2.0L Twin Scroll Turbo 4-cylinder engines delivering 255 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque delivered through an eight-speed rear-drive automatic transmission with paddle shifters.  Equipped with Drive-Mode, up to five shift patterns will enable Stinger to deliver 0-60 mph in 5.9-seconds.

Stinger GT models feature a 3.3L Twin Scroll V6 producing 365 horsepower with 376 lb.-ft. of torque.  Equipped with the same transmission, paddle shifters and drive-mode system as the 2.0L turbo, but tuned for the V6, the GT delivers acceleration of 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds with top speed a governed 167 mph.

GT models have an available multi-plate limited slip differential to help evenly distribute power through the rear wheels and enhance directional stability during acceleration. Performance handling is enhanced with a Dynamic Stability Damping Control system enabling shock adjustment via the Drive Mode Selection feature.

Stinger begins at MSRP $31,900 with Stinger GT starting at MSRP $38,350.  AWD is available for $2,200 more.

Utility of the Year – Volvo XC60

Our choice is the all-new 2018 Volvo XC60 because the Swedes know how to combine luxury and simplicity with elegance in design with comfort, convenience, technology and performance in everything they build these days.  The new XC60 is their latest example.

The 2018 XC60 is the first of an all-new 60 series vehicle that incorporates latest generation Volvo design language. All XC60s come equipped with class leading standard equipment including a panoramic moonroof, leather seats, Thor’s Hammer LED headlamps, and Apple Carplay / Android Auto integrated into a dynamic 9-inch center touch screen.  Optional include such as soft Nappa Leather seats with ventilation and massage, Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound and four-corner air suspension.

A Lane Keeping Aid is standard and a new Oncoming Lane Mitigation provides steering input to mitigate head-on collisions while the Intellisafe City Safety system provides pedestrian, cyclist, vehicle and large animal detection and automatic emergency braking. Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) will now use Steer Assist functionality to prevent drivers from changing lanes into other vehicles.

The 2018 Volvo XC60 is AWD and starts at MSRP $41,900 with several power plant versions available.

Truck of the Year – Lincoln Navigator

We will confess we have not driven the all-new 2018 Lincoln Navigator, but have spent time in its sibling, the new Ford Expedition which has knocked our socks off with all of its new features, technology and capability.

So, if you start with the Expedition and add all of the luxury and convenience touches that define the Lincoln brand – then give it an even more powerful V6 engine (than Expedition) with 450 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque – there is no choice other than the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator for Truck of the Year.

The new 2018 Lincoln Navigator comes in 4x2 and 4x4 configurations and both a standard (Navigator) and extended length (Navigator L) model.  The starting MSRP is $72,055.

The NACTOY Jury

The NACTOY jury of automotive journalists ( https://northamericancaroftheyear.org/jurors/ ) is drawn from both the United States and Canada and work for independent magazines, television, radio, newspapers and industry websites.  The diverse juror group is administered by an organizing committee and is funded with dues paid by the jurors. There are no paid positions in the group.

The Nactoy Process

In early fall each year, the jurors consider all either new or substantially changed vehicles and select approximately 10 candidates from each of three categories (Car, Utility and Truck) to compete in a test drive event.

Launch programs are conducted for each eligible vehicle with test drives again in a three-day, back-to-back, direct side-by-side evaluation in October.

Early in December, jurors vote submitting their ballots for the short-list of vehicles directly to Deloitte and Touche in Detroit. That vote narrows the field to three finalists in each category and is announced at a luncheon held by the Automotive Press Association in Detroit (this year it was at the Los Angeles Auto Show).

The jurors then conduct a final round of voting that is tallied by Deloitte with the winner in each category to be announced at the start of the Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS).

NACTOY

For more information you can follow NACTOY here:  https://northamericancaroftheyear.org/   or the Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) here:   https://naias.com/