With 2013 nearing its end, plenty of automotive publications (including ourselves) released Car of the Year awards, but few carry the weight of the North American Car and Truck of the Year. Automakers fight ferociously for these awards, as they rush to get the 50-odd jurors of the award behind the wheel of their new vehicles. The jurors are among the most accomplished and respected automotive journalists in America, which is why the award is so important.
I’m not afraid to admit that it has been one of my career goals to become a NACTOY juror. Ever since I knew what the award was all about, I’ve kept a close eye on it, and have some favorite picks. The earliest announcement of such an award that we could find came in 1989, and it was the Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe that won, which is pretty darn great. After that, the award was run every year since 1994, and here are my favorites:
2003 Mini Cooper
Our modern winners are pretty homogeneous, and meant to reflect the sensibilities of the average driver, but there was as time when cars were awarded for taking chances. The Mini Cooper took such chances. This car is efficient and fun to drive, with an appearance that gives it tons of character.
1994 Toyota Supra
This car was not an outright winner, but one of the finalists. We’ll take a twin-turbo inline-6 making 320 horsepower any day of the week, and twice on Sunday! This is one of the best sportscars from the 1990s and good luck finding one for short money anywhere.
2007 Saturn Aura
GM had a knack for killing a brand when its product was at its best. Oldsmobile, Pontiac and of course Saturn were all shuttered right when they were building some of the most interesting products. The NACTOY jurors had the guts to award Saturn’s family sedan, putting GM’s chopping-block decisions under an even brighter spotlight.
2004 Toyota Prius
This was the first hybrid to win the award, after the Prius was a runner-up in 2001. Including both car and truck of the year, hybrids would win three more times between then and now. The voting reflected what the public also knew– the Prius was the real deal for efficient daily transportation.
2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
Looking back in the archives and seeing that this car was a NACTOY winner is like looking back at hair styles and clothes from when you were in high school. How crazy was that? We were so in love with Austin Powers and retro-everything that a throwback turd like the PT Cruiser was car of the year! It’s like a piano necktie that you can drive!
2013 RAM 1500
With the advent of the crossover, the Truck of the Year waters have become muddled. A crossover like the Mazda CX-9 won in 2008- c’mon! But the voters got back to basics and we’re sensible enough to vote for a truck in 2013.
2000 Nissan Xterra
This is one of the most versatile and usable vehicles to ever win the award. It is off-road capable, and a perfect rig for camping. It even has a first aid kit built into the tailgate!
1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque won Truck of the Year last year, but Americans have their own luxury SUV and its the Grand Cherokee. As a comfortable as it is capable, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of America’s most quintessential utility vehicles.
1998 Chevrolet Corvette
The beauty of the Corvette is its ability to deliver so much performance for so little coin. The new Corvette Stingray got the much-needed interior upgrade, but ever since the debut of the fifth-generation Corvette, the outward appearance as been spectacular and the performance has been everything that American enthusiasts have wanted.
2014 Cadillac ATS
If you could ever slander the Corvette it was for its mannerisms on windy roads. GM looked to Cadillac to match the Germans in corner-carving performance. First with the CTS-V, and then with the ATS, Cadillac took it right to the European rivals. With the ATS, Cadillac delivered a ride equal to the BMW 3 Series, and when you can get a ride like that in an American luxury car, what else to you need in a mode of daily transportation?