Fusion, Dart Lead "Car Of The Year" Short List
The Dodge Dart and Ford Fusion are two of the favorites among the short list of candidates for 2013 North American Car of the Year. The Dart and Fusion are among five cars from Detroits traditional Big Three, plus five more from Japan, and one from Germany that comprise the 11 cars voted onto the short list by 50 independent automotive journalists.
Along with the high-style and high-tech new Fusion, and the upstart Dart compact that combines U.S., Italian and Korean technology, the Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet Malibu, and Lincoln MKZ made the list. Highly acclaimed Japanese competitors include the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Avalon, and the controversial pair of identical sports coupes in the Subaru BRZ and Toyotas Scion branded BRZ. The only European car to make the list is a formidible one, the BMW 3-Series.
The companion North American Truck of the Year finalists include another pair of favorites — the Ram 1500 and the Ford Escape — which are two of three Detroit based candidates, joined by four Japanese, two German and one Korean among 10 contending vehicles. The compact van-like Ford C-Max joined the refined Ram 1500 from Chrysler Group, and the completely restyled Escape compact SUV, along with Germanys Audi allroad, and the newly introduced BMW X1, while the Asian contingent includes the Acura RDX, Infiniti JX-35, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-5, all from Japan, and the Hyundai Santa Fe from Korea.
The votes were taken after the 50 jury members — including this reviewer — spent much of 2012 test-driving and attending introductions for the new models. Reducing the total candidates of completely new or significantly redesigned vehicles required votes from all the jurors, who now will reevaluate the candidates before voting to determine the top three cars and trucks. After that vote is taken in December, jurors will conduct final tests of the top three cars and top three trucks to determined the winners, which will be named at the 2013 North America n International Auto Show in Detroit in early January.
|2013 Highlights: Cars|
In a normal year, completely new models of the highly successful midsize Accord and Altima would be solid favorites, and both are strong competitors this year. The Malibu, also, is new and is offering a just-introduced new engine. The Avalon, which is Toyotas upscale version of its popular Camry, is also a worthy new model.
But the early favorite might be the Fusion, which is just being introduced in its new and almost exotic form, with various 4-cylinder engines with available all-wheel drive, and a pair of high-mileage hybrids.
The Lincoln MKZ, a rebodied luxury version of the Fusion, was a surprise to make the list, ahead of impressive new vehicles such as the Acura ILX, Lexus trio ES, GS, and LS, Hyundais Azera and Elantra GT, and the economical Nissan Sentra, and bargain subcompact Chevrolet Spark.
Dodge has a strong contender in the Dart, which is a unique new vehicle with a resurrected old name. The car is built on a platform from Alfa Romeo, which is owned by Fiat, new Chrysler-Dodge owner. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a popular compact sedan in Europe, supplied the platform, which was lengthened, and fitted with a high-style Dodge body. Engine choices include the Fiat Abarths turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, or the joint venture Tigershark 2.0 or 2.4-liter 4-cyinders from Hyundai engineering, and with advanced transmissions from both Italy and Korea, the whole car is built in the U.S.
A late-entry longshot is the Cadillac ATS, which is a tightly built, performance-handling compact sedan that looks like the popular CTS sedan downsized one segment. It handles well and has good interior space.
BMWs 3-series has long been the benchmark for virtually all other manufacturers to strive to match, and the newest generation is improved in almost all manners. The 328 comes with a turbocharged 4-cylinder, and the 335 with a turbocharged inline 3.0-liter 6. Both have excellent power and can deliver exceptional fuel economy, which is more than enough to justify their price, and also make them strong entries in the Car of the Year field.
|2013 Highlights: Trucks|
Traditional truck members of the jury might lean toward the Ram as the only real truck in the field, but with crossover SUVs dominating the truck/utility scene, Fords totally redone Escape is a solid threat, particularly with EcoBoost 4-cylinder power that delivers power of a V6 and mileage of a 4.
Many jurors have expressed strong feelings for the Mazda CX-5, which is an entirely new vehicle built from the ground up to house Mazdas new and impressive Skyactiv technology. Mazda, aware that 40 has become the new 30 for gas mileage, engineered an all-new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with smaller bore, longer stroke, special valve timing, and an eye-popping combination of 13-to-1 compression ratio that can still function perfectly on regular fuel. The result is a flashy looking, excellent handling compact crossover in either front- or all-wheel drive, that can attain over 30 miles per gallon.
The BMW X1 is a strong performing compact as well, and offers all-wheel drive as an option in its new size and shape. Acura had performance success but lacked fuel economy with the turbocharged 4 in the first RDX, so the new one offers Hondas smooth 3.5-liter V6, out of the Odyssey minivan, in a restyled body.
Nissan got both the just-to-be released Pathfinder redesign, plus the new JX-35 from its upscale Infiniti brand, and while the two look entirely different, they are basically the same platform and drivetrain.
The Santa Fe is completely redesigned, with three rows of seats and upgraded engines, and is built in West Point, Ga. The Audi allroad returns, and appears much like Audis long line of stylish station wagons. But this one has off-road capabilities with a strong platform and underpaneling, combined with typical Audi interior luxury.
Fords C-Max is an interesting little subcompact, with surprising interior room and flexibility, and with a variety of engines that range from Fords smaller 4-cylinders, down to an all-electric version.
Short-list vehicles for the 2013 North American Car of the Year:
BMW 3 Series
Short-list vehicles for the 2013 North American Truck/Utility of the Year:
Hyundai Santa Fe
Infiniti JX 35