For those of you still stopping at a newsstand, almost everyone has an ‘of the year’ screaming across the store’s space. And if you’re online (as you are, uh, now) you’ll find everyone’s expert and/or – let’s admit it – potentially ill-informed take on Car, Truck and SUV of the Year, at this, the beginning of the year. And that, in our editorial minds, is completely counterintuitive.
Here’s perhaps the most egregious example: Chevy’s C8 Corvette is Motor Trend’s 2020 Car of the Year, months before it arrives on a Chevrolet showroom. At txGarage we prefer to review this past year in pursuit of our Car, Truck and SUV; using the Motor Trend or NACOTY (North American Car of the Year) model is a bit like naming the NFL’s MVP or the NCAA’s Heisman for their outstanding performance on the field…next year. We’ll begin, then, with our Car of the Year, where contributor Jesus Garcia takes a Bullitt for the team…
CAR OF THE YEAR: BULLITT MUSTANG
The 2019 Mustang GT is the best all-rounder muscle car. The Bullitt package (while expensive) offers a significant difference in performance both on and off the track, thanks to its beefed-up 480 horsepower and 6-speed manual (only) transmission. The Bullitt Mustang’s blacked-out grille and American Racing wheels won me over completely. It was also very comfortable on long-distance road trips.
I found black to be the more preferable color choice over the iconic Forest Green. You want a Bullitt Mustang (partly) because of its connection to nine minutes in a 50-year old film. The only drawback, from my perspective, is Ford overdoing it with the Bullitt badges in its attempt to create an instant collector car. A black Bullitt hides its fandom better, making it – again, from my viewpoint – the cooler option. The 2019 Ford Bullitt Mustang is a fast, comfortable, GT car with a cinematic exhaust note – coolest car of the year.
– Jesus Garcia
HONORABLE MENTION: MAZDA3 SEDAN AND HATCH
The 2019 Mazda3 represents another solid step by Mazda towards recreating this once ambivalent brand into a near-luxury automaker. The Mazda3, now in its 4th generation, attracts buyers shopping for a car that looks and feels more expensive than its price tag would suggest.
Beyond the stylish exterior design, it’s the little luxury touches that set the Mazda3 apart from others at the same price point. I especially appreciate the elegant design of the key fob, the bright headlights that seemingly vanish in the front fascia in the daylight, and the rearview mirror that appears to float in the air. Pricing starts at $21,000 and tops out at just below $30K. The only engine offered is a 186 hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder SkyActiv-G engine.
– Steve Kursar
TRUCK OF THE YEAR: RAM ECODIESEL
Over the past few years, my views on the truck market have been shifting. I’ve always been a huge fan of Ford’s F-150, and still enjoy the F Series and its many offshoots. But lately, I’ve been enjoying the 1500 from Ram even more. What is it about the Ram trucks that have really stood out for me? Well, for one the EcoDiesel engine is one of the best powertrain options on the market. You get good fuel economy as well as a long-range between fill-ups. And here in Texas, at least, diesel fuel isn’t much more than gas.
It’s not only the powertrain that makes this a great truck. The ride of the Ram, with its air suspension, is superior. The Ram team has also done a fantastic job updating interiors, and regardless of what trim you opt for you’ll be getting a stellar environment for your hard-earned money. Finally, you have technology packed into these new Ram trucks – from the 12-inch display with Uconnect to the modern connectivity options to the premium Harman Kardon audio system. At the end of the day, if buying a truck it would a Ram 1500, with as many options as I could afford.
– Adam Moore
HONORABLE MENTION: JEEP GLADIATOR
The Jeep Faithful have been waiting…and waiting…and waiting for a Jeep pickup. Bones have been thrown (notably AEV’s conversion), and concepts have been shown, but FCA execs waited until all was right before pulling the trigger on Jeep’s all-new Gladiator. Happily, it’s worth the wait.
Available – as of now – only in 4-door form and with a necessarily abbreviated bed, the Gladiator is more pickup-specific than we might have originally thought, and more distinct from the Wrangler Unlimited than originally assumed. The end result is one compelling piece of work, with real room inside and genuine capability outside. We’re a tad put off by the price points, which start in the mid-$30s and can quickly ascend to the mid-$60s (you’d think Porsche was pricing the thing), but you can finance a Gladiator for five years and keep it for ten. And then you can pass it on to a kid or grandkid. Which we should do.
– David Boldt
SUV OF THE YEAR: KIA TELLURIDE
For many observers of the 3-row crossover segment, Kia’s all-new Telluride came out of nowhere. But for those of you paying attention, you knew Kia was an up-and-comer, fully capable of bringing to the market an SUV with an extra serving of ‘surprise and delight’. Kia’s Telluride delivers in spades, with a competent platform topped by very visceral sheetmetal. Inside, comfort and convenience are standard, while class-leading amenities are but a couple of trim levels away.
I have but one disconnect when evaluating a $40K crossover that looks for all the world like a $60K crossover. Kia’s marketing puts the Telluride offroad, and while I get taking this big Kia on a fire trail, I don’t see hopping boulders with it – yet the advertising execs do. If they want to bash their $800/month 3-row on boulders, let ‘em. You’ll be better served on I-35, with dinner and a good bed at San Antonio’s La Mansion.
– David Boldt
HONORABLE MENTION: ACURA RDX A-SPEC
There are always those brands that just always seem to slip your mind when conversations of what vehicles to shop – or in a ‘best of’ category. For me, Acura is often one of those brands. I think that is definitely changing, though; at least it has for me when talking about the RDX and, more specifically, Acura’s sportier trim, the A-Spec.
This SUV is all-new, with an updated design on a brand new platform. When I reviewed the 2019 I said that it blew me away, and I’ve had a chance to drive and review the 2020 RDX and still really like it. The SUV fits in with a tech-minded demographic, offering great style and lots of technology. It’s not just the tech or style though, as this SUV can really get up and go, and handles great.
– Adam Moore
That, then, is our take on what we think was the best 2019 had to offer. I, for one, am pleased with our choices…while looking forward to time behind the wheel of a midengined Corvette. You know, Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.