The Most Important New Cars, Trucks, and SUVs of the Year
What popped in 2019? Everything from new sports cars to electrics, that's what.
The second decade of the 2000s drew to a close on a fairly high note, automotively speaking. In 2019, we witnessed the arrival of a new Jeep pickup truck, Toyota revived its Supra sports car, and Chevrolet finally moved the Corvette's engine from one end of the car to the other. The typically completely uninteresting crossover segment saw a return to rear-drive for the Ford Explorer and the introduction of the incredible well-executed Kia Telluride, and Tesla stopped everyone in their tracks like a doorstop stops a door with, um, its doorstop-shaped Cybertruck. So, pour yourself a beverage, kick back, and review our alphabetically arranged list of 2019's most critical new cars, trucks, and SUVs, as determined by us:
2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8
If we had ordered the cars in this list by importance, not alphabetically (hey, gotta be fair!), the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette probably still would have appeared first. The eighth-generation Vette, dubbed C8, is the first production Corvette in history with its engine mounted in the middle, just behind the driver and passenger. Chevy believes the move will unlock more potential from the Corvette, since apparently the front-engine, previous-generation Corvette's 755-hp ZR1 model and its dizzying capabilities represented the zenith of front-engine performance. Maybe it was right—the new Corvette, in "base" 495-hp Stingray guise, is even quicker to 60 mph than the old ZR1. Read our review right here.
2020 Ford Explorer
The three-row Ford Explorer had by last year stagnated, its last major redesign in 2011 being only a distant memory. You wouldn't know it looking at the Explorer's sales figures, which seemed to gain steam throughout its long nine-year run. That head-scratcher made it all the more surprising when Ford decided to shake up the Explorer's layout, changing it from a fairly run-of-the-mill front-wheel-drive-based platform (offering optional all-wheel drive) to a spicier, more upmarket rear-drive-based layout. Keep in mind, the last Explorer with rear-wheel drive was only that way because it was based off a truck. For 2020, the Explorer is a fully modern unibody crossover with a rare-for-its-segment drive layout. Let's see how those sales do. Read our reviews of the regular model and the ST.
2020 Jeep Gladiator
If you've been holding your breath waiting for a Jeep pickup truck since the Comanche's demise in 1992, well, you're probably dead, because that's too long to not breathe. Anyway, Jeep has finally reintroduced a mid-size pickup truck: The Gladiator. Borrowing its name from the later J-series pickups last sold in the late 1970s, the Gladiator resembles a Wrangler, but really is an entirely different animal. Jeep designed a new frame just for the Gladiator to ensure it delivered the towing capability truck buyers expect, while designing the wheelbase in such a way to maximize the rather long truck's off-road capability. That last move is what explains the Jeep truck's rather awkward side view, but hey, ignore that and focus instead on how the Gladiator is the only convertible pickup on the market. Oh, and it offers a manual transmission!
2020 Kia Telluride
We bet you'd spit out whatever's in your mouth this very instant if we told you that the most expensive version of the Kia Telluride SUV costs less than fifty grand. While you clean off your computer screen or phone, let us assure you: That is no lie. The upscale Telluride does seemingly everything really, really well while looking very good doing it. And yet, it's shockingly affordable. We have no idea what kind of magic Kia's brewing up between its Korean board rooms, American factories, and California design studio that's enabled it to deliver so good a product at so low a price. We do know that Kia should absolutely keep it up, though, because the company seems unable to keep Tellurides on dealer lots long enough to leave a shadow.
2020 Land Rover Defender
With SUVs being so "in" right now, it's curious that Land Rover took so long to reintroduce its Defender 4x4 to the world. Previously, the long-serving Defender was like a British Jeep—utilitarian, purposeful; over the years, it grew bougier, more in line with Mercedes-Benz's G-class. It also outlasted its compliance with U.S. safety regulations, meaning it hasn't been sold here in two decades. The new Defender will be, guaranteeing the SUV gains a legion of new followers stateside while rock-hopping into modernity with a four-wheel independent suspension and a much bigger, more refined body.
2020 Porsche 911 Carrera
The iconic Porsche 911 is all-new for 2020, though you wouldn't know it just by looking at the rear-engine sports car. A squared-off hood, full-width taillights, and nifty new door handles are just about all that distinguish the new 911 from the old one. Underneath, the sports car's incredible hardware stays that way, with the same range of mostly turbocharged flat-six engines as before, along with available all-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering, adaptive suspension, and more. No matter how evolutionary new 911s tend to be, their redesigns are always occasions on which enthusiasts should sit up and pay attention—because Porsche is the benchmark when it comes to keeping a good thing going.
2020 Porsche Taycan
Still bored by the new 911, no matter how important it is? Here is something entirely new from Porsche: An electric four-door sedan, the Taycan. (That's pronounced tie-can—we think.) Built to take on Tesla, the Taycan does so in a uniquely Porsche way, which is to say, with engineering rigor and a commitment to the brand's racing heritage. Translated from marketing double-speak, that means the Taycan aims to deliver incredible performance, without any of it degrading as the car's battery charge drops. After all, Porsche's famed 917s didn't get slower throughout races—why would the brand's all-new electric sedan do so? Tesla's Model S might ultimately be quicker off the line, but only if its battery is fully charged and the driver hasn't previously accelerated very hard. Should either of those conditions not be met, the Tesla gets slower, succumbing to software designed to spare its motors and battery from thermal issues. The Porsche Taycan can be driven hard until its battery runs out of charge, delivering the same performance when full as when empty.
Speaking of Tesla, it finally unveiled its long-rumored electric pickup truck. As we've come to expect from Elon Musk's car company, the truck had plenty of unexpected features, starting with its name: Cybertruck. That moniker is backed up by the pickup's bizarre triangle shape, angular body sculpting, and full-width headlight and taillight elements. We could go into everything that makes the Cybertruck cyber-insane, but just read our story here, and go more in-depth here and here.
2020 Toyota Corolla sedan
No, the Toyota Corolla sedan's appearance here is not by mistake. The Corolla, which sells in huge numbers, has long been a boring, lifeless conveyance. For 2020, that changes—the Corolla sedan, which follows last year's similarly un-boring Corolla hatchback, is…aspirational. Toyota really tried to give the car personality, starting with expressive styling inside and out. You might not like the gaping grille and squinty headlights, but the Corolla definitely does not fade into traffic—at least not until several hundred thousand of these things have been sold. And the car actually drives well, with a buttoned-down chassis and no discombobulated moves. Huh!
2020 Toyota Supra
Where the Corolla is trying to convey sportiness and fun, the Toyota Supra actually delivers both by the truckload. The fifth-generation Supra may or may not be entirely a BMW Z4 underneath, but who cares? It has a powerful turbocharged inline-six engine, rear-wheel drive, and amusing oversteery handling. You can drive this car on the rear tires alone, using only your right foot to prod the big six underhood. Oh, and we don't need to remind you that a new Supra—a nameplate that's been in hibernation here in the U.S. since 1998—is a big friggin' deal.