The Automobile Magazine Automobile of the Year is a car that is groundbreaking, that establishes new standards in design, or performance, or engineering, or technology, or some combination thereof. It is an enthusiast’s car. It is not necessarily exotic, or expensive, or high-powered; but any car that can provide some of the same pleasure to the enthusiast driver as exotic, expensive, and high-powered cars do, but at an accessible price, is of particular interest to us as we choose our Automobile of the Year. Our least expensive AOY was the 1994 Chrysler Neon ($9500). Our most expensive was the 2008 Audi R8 ($109,700).
The Automobile of the Year might also represent a breakthrough for its manufacturer, or for the automotive culture from which it comes. When we consider candidates for the award, we are looking not only for cars that inspire us, but cars that we think will resonate in the marketplace. We take matters like practicality, affordability, packaging, and fuel economy into consideration, for sure, but when forced to choose, we give more weight to entertainment value and driving pleasure. In total, we are looking for a car with a story.
2011 Automobile of the Year finalists, in alphabetical order. They were chosen after a primary ballot vote of the senior editorial staff and contributing writers.
We are revealing our 2011 Automobile of the year on Facebook November 16th at noon Eastern and our editors will be chatting live from noon until 2:00 PM Eastern on Tuesday, November 16, 2010. All you have to do is like us on Facebook to be the first to know!
1. Audi A8
The redesign of Audi’s range-topping sedan doesn’t take a dramatic leap, but then, it didn’t have to. The A8 was already among the most advanced machines in its rarefied class. The new eight-speed automatic transmission, all-LED headlamps, and unique touch-pad driver interface just put more icing on the cake.
2. BMW 5-series
BMW’s much-admired mid-size sedan has been been treated to a handsome redesign for 2011, but changes run more than skin-deep. The new turbocharged six and eight-speed automatic, in particular, combine sport-sedan performance with surprising efficiency.
3. Buick Regal
The Opel-based Regal is the smallest Buick entry in recent years. With a European chassis and an engine line-up of normally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinders, it should go a long way toward redefining Buick.
4. Cadillac CTS-V coupe/wagon
Cadillac’s Nurburgring-worthy CTS-V was already available as a sedan, but it makes an all-the-more compelling package in the dramatically styled coupe and wagon. We love the message here: (Lots of) power to even more people!
5. Chevrolet Volt
General Motors’ long-anticipated and much-talked-about moon-shot vehicle is finally here, and it’s on-time and very good. The degree to which the Volt’s extended-range electric powertrain portends the future can be debated, but plenty of manufacturers are readying similar systems. GM just happens to be the first.
6. Ford Fiesta
For years we’ve agitated for Ford to bring its highly regarded European small cars to America, and the Fiesta is the first to finally arrive. The Fiesta’s 40-mpg highway rating may not surprise, but the rich equipment level almost certainly will.
7. Hyundai Sonata
Nothing better exemplifies Hyundai’s recent rise than the new Sonata, which rises to the very top of the brutally competitive mid-size-sedan segment. A recently added turbo model is a more efficient but no less satisfying substitute for the traditional V-6 offering.
8. Jaguar XJ
At long last, the big Jaguar sedan looks as modern outside as it is inside. An advanced, aluminum-intensive construction helps make this big cat as lithe as it is luxurious-and it is very luxurious indeed.
9. Jeep Grand Cherokee
Its huge-volume-selling days may be behind it, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee remains an all-important vehicle for Chrysler. This all-new version was developed during a tumultuous time, but you’d never know it from the highly polished result.
10. Nissan Leaf
Nissan is making a huge bet on electric propulsion with the Leaf, the first-ever mass-market EV in the United States. The EV-only Leaf certainly looks like a new-age machine, inside and out. It also promises to be a major milestone.