THE PEASE PICKS:
Car, Truck and SUV of the Year
I know of no one more attuned to the new car market than our Austin-based contributor, Alan Pease. Having spent years connected to the car and bike industries (with clients such as Jaguar and BMW motorcycles), Alan has spent the last several (death defying!) months in Austin-area showrooms, taking a look at most of what’s available to the enthusiast and consumer. His overriding goal was to identify a replacement for his aging Outback, only to subsequently install a rebuilt engine. Here, then, is Alan’s informed perspective. And he allows us to share it with you! – Ed.
THE CAR: 2023 SUBARU WRX
Today, every car in the new car marketplace has some reason to recommend it. Years ago that wasn’t the case. So, selecting my Car of the Year wasn’t easy. Contenders include the Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model S, Honda Civic Si, Honda Civic Sport, Honda
Civic Type R and the Subaru WRX. All of which, except for the Teslas, are available with a 6-speed manual transmission, but only the Subaru comes with a manual transmission and All Wheel Drive.
I like to have both features. Here in Central Texas it doesn’t rain very often, and it snows even less. But when the weather turns nasty I don’t want to stay home. And I don’t want to mount summer tires or winter tires. I just want all-weather tires with good traction, because I’m an all-weather driver.
These days It’s getting harder to find a manual transmission in a new car and I don’t expect that to change. And I don’t expect to change either. I still prefer the look and feel of shifting gears while depressing a clutch. Subaru’s WRX checks all of the boxes, and does it at a reasonably accessible price point.
PICK-UP TRUCK: 2023 F-150 LIGHTNING
The time I spent in the F-150 Lightning convinced me that properly executed EVs are coming sooner than we think. And that’s a good thing. Ford did an excellent job designing and building the F-150 Lightning. It’s a real truck. I can see one parked in my garage or driveway once the price comes down, if not before.
EV prices have to come down eventually. The zillion dollar questions are when will they come down, and how far will they come down?
Charging infrastructure for most people is already out there. We just don’t see it, largely because we’re not looking for it. Most of us don’t drive an EV, so why should we take notice of its lifelines. As Kenny Rogers sang years ago, it’s “behind closed doors”.
Current surveys reveal that a staggering 70% of the US population has never even been in an EV, much less driven one. And the two main reasons people cite for not owning an EV are their high prices and less-than-dependable charging infrastructure. And they’re not necessarily wrong in their observations.
I completely understand the price factor. EVs remain too expensive for most people, including me. But if you’re driving less than 250 miles on a daily basis, and you have ready access to a Level 2 charger in your garage or at work, an EV can be an excellent choice right now.
The Ford F-150 Lightning would be my first choice in an EV today. It’s attractive, comfortable and useful. It hauls stuff, tows stuff and never needs to visit a gas station or convenience store again, unless you want a snack or you’re on a road trip.
SUV: 2023 HONDA CR-V HYBRID
The competition here included the VW Atlas, VW Tiguan, Subaru Forester (Sport and Wilderness), Toyota RAV 4 and the Kia Telluride, all of which appealed to me. So why the Honda CRV Hybrid? Basically, the Honda CRV Hybrid stole the show on design, fuel economy and value. Hybrids represent a real step to an all-EV future. Right now we’re trying to balance this out. In an ideal world, we’d all be driving EVs already, and charging them at home or anywhere else we drive. But as we know, the world is never ideal. Compromises are made. The Honda CRV is such a compromise.
Although it’s a hybrid, it’s not a plug-in hybrid, so you don’t have to think about plugging it in. It just does its thing. And we know that’s important, because the data shows that, with the exception of some Jeep
e-models, people just don’t plug in as often as we had thought (or hoped) they would. (Imagine that?) It turns out that if you don’t have to plug in, often you don’t plug in! Ahh, human nature at play.
The Honda CRV Hybrid requires no plug in. Plus, it is comfortable and roomy inside, and isn’t overloaded with gadgetry few buyers actually need. It simply and faithfully does the job. And it’s a best seller in an entire lineup of best sellers!