The Best And Worst Cars We Drove In 2020
By now, you’ve hopefully looked through the highest-rated vehicles Motor1.com reviewed in 2020. It’s a good collection of stuff covering the length and breadth of the auto industry. But we came to the conclusions there based on objectivity, math (you should see the spreadsheet we use for calculating scores), and analysis. What you’ll find here is different.
These are the personal choices of our lead editorial team. These are subjective opinions, based on our own preferences and our own experiences – our journalist hats are off. Here, we talk about the vehicles that get us out of bed in the morning and the ones that we’d rather not think about after hours. The products that have us excited for the future and annoyed in the present. We hope you enjoy it.
Brandon Turkus, Managing Editor
Picking my favorite vehicle was a real struggle. The pandemic forced automakers to change the way they launch products to the media, and by virtue of being the only staffer in Detroit, I’ve lucked into more new products than at any point in my 11-year career as a writer.
With that variety in mind, I’m picking two products, but for the exact same reason. The Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Volkswagen ID.4 are not traditionally great vehicles. They won’t be future classics, and in fact, I don’t even know for certain whether they’ll succeed (although I think both will). If they do, though, these two vehicles will do more to increase the acceptance of electric vehicles than anything since the original Tesla Model S. Hands down, they’re the most significant offerings from legacy automakers in years.
That’s largely because of just how normal they feel. They make electrified vehicles feel convenient with their common sizes and shapes. Their range will fulfill the needs of most consumers and both have the backing of a growing network of fast chargers. Their designs are attractive and clever, hiding smart aerodynamic tricks to maximize range without committing the faux pas of wearing green credentials on their sleeves.
As simple compact crossovers, both the Mach-E and ID.4 do everything well. And with both Ford and Volkswagen holding a stack of EV tax credits, their roughly $40,000 price will end up being very approachable indeed. But most of all, they feel different and new in a way that can hook drivers from the first turn of the steering wheel. I’ve driven a lot of great things in 2020, but nothing has me more excited for the future than the ID.4 and Mustang Mach-E.
Check out our first drives of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4.
In contrast to how difficult picking my favorite car of 2020 was, picking my least favorite was easy: It’s the Cadillac CT4-V. In the 15 years that I’ve worked in this industry, I don’t think Cadillac’s sedans have once outsold their German or Japanese rivals and this won’t be any different.
Why are we waiting for SuperCruise and a digital gauge cluster? Why is the infotainment screen so small? Why are the materials so poor? How can such a big sedan (relative to the competition) have such a tiny backseat? What’s with the redundant knobs on the dash? Why does the entire vehicle shudder when the oversized four-cylinder truck engine starts up? Why is it slower to 60 than all the competition while offering more torque? Why does this sporty model have such uninspiring seats? Why does the upcoming Blackwing get a manual and not the normal V? Who decided brake-by-wire was a good idea?
There is reason to be hopeful, though, and it’s found in the Escalade. It is an excellent vehicle and proves that Cadillac has the talent and technology to build world-beating products. But until the company realizes it takes Escalade-like effort to make its products stand out, we’ll continue getting lackluster machines like the CT4.
Check out our first drive of the Cadillac CT4-V.
Jeff Perez, Senior Editor
Of all the vehicles I’ve driven this year, there is one that very clearly stands out above the rest: the new Genesis G80. This brand has a strong and proven lineup that, even in its short history, offers some of the best vehicles in their respective classes. The G70 took home North American Car of the Year honors in 2019 – well deserved – and now the G80 is up for the same award this year. And it’s obvious why critics are already considering the mid-sizer one of the best.
For one, Genesis designers absolutely nailed the look of the new G80. Adopting the split-headlight design and shield grille that debuted on the GV80 SUV, the G80 helped establish the company’s new identity. And with its impeccable proportions, it wears the styling better than any other of the brand’s vehicles. Plus the in-car technology is amazing, there’s a massive 14.5-inch touchscreen display with expected standard features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a unique 3D digital instrument cluster.
Best of all, the G80 drives like a genuine luxury car – not simply a nicer Hyundai. The power of the turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 on our tester was plentiful, good for 375 effortless horses, and the suspension and transmission were both silky smooth. When I described the G80 as “Rolls-Royce–esque” in my first drive, that wasn’t me being generous – this car is genuinely that good. If money were no object, a nicely equipped G80 would be a car that I’d purchase tomorrow.
Check out our first drive of the Genesis G80.
I hate being mean to the Nissan Titan, considering I’ve had some great memories in this truck. Back in 2017, when the Titan was still pretty new, I flew to Flagstaff and drove an XD model through the Grand Canyon to test its overlanding abilities. And I walked away from that experience really happy with how the Titan performed. But it’s 2020, and there are much better trucks from Ford, Ram, and even Chevrolet, so hopping into the Titan felt way less special this time around.
The SL model I drove looked and felt cheap, and it lacked most of the basic features you expect as standard on some of the alternatives. The infotainment was pretty poor, too, and it just wasn’t engaging to drive at all. Sure, the V8 was pretty good and there was a ton of interior space – but that isn’t enough to make the Titan a truck worth considering here and now in 2020. Hopefully part of Nissan’s brand turnaround includes a new version that challenges the more established alternatives.
Check out our review of the Nissan Titan.
Brett T. Evans, Senior Editor
I’m not a huge Porsche fanboy, but I looked forward to reviewing the 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 for 13 very important reasons – six for the proper manual transmission, six for the cylinder count, and one for that soft-top roadster body style. Currently, it’s the only naturally aspirated six-cylinder in the 718 family, also appearing in the Cayman GTS 4.0, Boxster Spider, and Cayman GT4 – Boxster, Boxster S, Cayman, and Cayman S models make do with a turbo four. What’s more, that 4.0-liter mill is only mildly detuned from the unit in the legendary 911 GT3, meaning it’s a high-RPM screamer that begs to be wound out.
And wind it out I did. Loads of torque down low relented to that Porsche-signature shriek as the tach swept higher and higher. Driving it became addictive. Nimble and surefooted, the Boxster GTS 4.0 made me feel far more talented than I actually am, with loads of grip in reserve. Hustling the tiny Porsche up SoCal’s famed Ortega Highway one Sunday morning was a religious experience that eased my guilt about missing church (ahem, for the last three years). Every curve seamlessly flowed together and every downshift unleashed a purposeful bark from the 4.0’s optional sport exhaust, every sense actively engaged in the driving experience. Heaven.
Check out our review of the Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0.
First things first, the Porsche Cayenne Coupe isn’t a bad vehicle. It’s comfortable and luxurious, with the sort of interior craftsmanship one would expect of a Porsche. It’s also far better-looking than any other take on the fastback-SUV theme – the X6 and GLE Coupe look like turtles in comparison to the Porsche’s slinky, 911-aping roofline. It also handles beautifully, with neutral, flat cornering and excellent body control. But it should have been so. much. better. To borrow a phrase from my parents (possibly while chiding me for missing church to drive a Boxster), “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”
Above any plaudits, my abiding memory of the Cayenne Coupe was its thrashing, gritty engine. Based purely on numbers (335 hp and 332 lb-ft, to be precise), the 3.0-liter V6 should have provided the enthusiasm one would expect of a Porsche, even a base model. Instead, the turbocharged mill was slow to rev, accompanied by an agricultural exhaust note that made its empirically adequate acceleration a joyless exercise. Vehicles from Zuffenhausen have to provide an emotional X factor, and the base Cayenne Coupe just didn’t do it for me, especially at its astounding $87,000 price as tested. Now a GTS or a Turbo, on the other hand…
Check out our first drive of the Porsche Cayenne Coupe.
Clint Simone, Associate Editor/Video Producer
I know, this isn’t exactly a bold choice, but it didn’t take me long to figure it out. Audi took a chance by finally bringing this car to the US, and now it’s our job to stand up and applaud that decision. The 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant was everything I wanted it to be, and then some. If I had to pick one car to drive every single day for the rest of my life, this would be it – I adore it with my whole wagon-loving heart.
There’s a downside in that the RS 6 feels like it was programmed to be a fast-driving robot. Direct visceral feedback to the driver is pretty low, and engagement levels suffer because of it. However, this thing absolutely rips! In a straight line or around sweeping turns, the RS 6 plants all four Quattro-driven wheels into the ground and tells you to hold on for dear life. It’s intoxicating. And right about the moment you’re done flooring it, you check the rearview mirror to realize that there is room for your family and all of their things. Fast wagons rule, and the Audi RS 6 is the best of the bunch.
Check out our first drive of the Audi RS6 Avant.
I’m extra salty about the Toyota Corolla Apex because it has all the ingredients of something awesome. It’s cheap-ish, it’s exclusive, and – at least on paper – it’s a decent performer. That’s why I was so disappointed the first time I drove it. Toyota engineers swung hard and missed on this car.
Stiffer suspension does not always make cars better, and this was probably the worst-damped car that I drove all year, with no tangible reward. Even the manual gearbox felt slushy and disconnected, and power remains fixed at 169 horses and 151 pound-feet. There was almost nothing about the driving experience that was any better than a Corolla XSE. It pains me to dunk on affordable performance cars, but the Apex is just bad. Luckily, there are many good things to buy instead: the Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra N-Line, and forthcoming Volkswagen GTI are just a few.
Check out our first drive of the Toyota Corolla Apex Edition.