2009 MyRide/Autobytel Editors' Choice Awards
The 2009 new-car model year will likely go down as a seminal time in automotive history. Two worlds – the green and the powerful – are on a collision course. Compound that with a shrinking economy, radically changing buyers tastes, and more new-car choices than ever before, and you have a complicated market with many vehicles blurring the line between traditional categories. All of which made choosing our 10 picks for the 2009 MyRide/Autobytel Editors' Choice awards that much more difficult, and who received these awards more significant than ever before.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
How We Did It
Our editors compiled a list of every new or substantially revised vehicle, assigned them to their respective categories based on factors such as segment and price, and deleted vehicles not driven by at least one editor prior to voting on October 28, 2008, with the exception of the Dream Car category. Cars must be available for sale during the 2008 calendar year. Each editor voted for the vehicle they'd most often recommend, with winners determined by a simple majority.
Photo Credit: Chevrolet
Best Family Car: 2009 Ford Flex
A family car should be able to accomplish multiple tasks. It should be comfortable, like the 2009 Ford Flex. It should be able to seat lots of people, like the 2009 Ford Flex. It should have loads of features available to keep both the driver and the passengers happy, like the 2009 Ford Flex. It should also be pleasurable to drive, even when there are no kids throwing Cheerios in the back seats. Again, like the 2009 Ford Flex. So, really, is it any wonder that we were unanimous in our selection of the 2009 Ford Flex for Best Family Car?
Photo Credit: Ford
Best Non-Hybrid Gas Saver: 2009 Honda Fit
The category of Non-Hybrid Gas Saver is new this year, and reflects the collective consciousness we all have about ever-rising gas prices. So we asked ourselves, what new car was the best compromise between driver comfort, features and outright enjoyability with great fuel economy? Candidates had to get at least 34 mpg on the highway, burn gasoline and not diesel, obviously not be a hybrid, and be something that we'd want to drive. By an almost unanimous vote, we landed on the 2009 Honda Fit, which includes all the benefits of the previous-generation Honda Fit, but with added refinement that makes it far and away the best in its class.
Photo Credit: Honda
Most Fun New Car Under $75,000: 2009 Cadillac CTS-V
Rocketing down the back straight on the infield course at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the supercharged V-8 roaring, tires squealing, silly grins on both of our faces, our passenger turned and said simply, "We're in a Cadillac." Specifically, we were in the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, a 556-horsepower luxury sedan that would handily outrun most sports cars. It's sexy, sophisticated, great to drive, and is exactly the kind of car that you knew Cadillac could build if it were allowed to. At a starting price just less than $60,000, it slips easily under our price ceiling, and into our Editors' Choice awards.
Photo Credit: Cadillac
Best Kept Secret: 2009 Kia Borrego
You've seen the ads, and may have dismissed them, but the 2009 Kia Borrego is a V-8 powered, four-wheel drive SUV that's capable, comfortable, roomy, and a worthy competitor to any other midsized SUV you'd care to mention. The 2009 Kia Borrego's V-8 even gets better mileage than the V-6 version. Sure, the market for trucks like this is shrinking, but even in contracting SUV markets, there's money to be made and customers to be won, and seeing such a winning formula from Kia was a pleasant, but definite, surprise.
Photo Credit: Kia
Best Green Car: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Mention "green" cars today and you certainly don't think of paint colors. Instead, you think of chrome badges, most of which say "hybrid" in one way or another. Add another to that list: the VW Jetta TDI. Volkswagen's 2009 Jetta TDI burns diesel, but it is the best of the oil-burners we've ever seen. It's plenty powerful, quiet, smooth, odor and smoke free, and gets phenomenal fuel economy from every gallon: 30 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway. It also meets 50-state emissions requirements, so Californians can finally get in on the diesel goodness.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
Best Dream Car Over $75,000: 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Was there really any doubt? Ever since it was announced late last year – heck, since it's been rumored for more than a couple years – the coming of the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette has been widely anticipated by enthusiasts. It was worth it. Chevrolet has thrown all it has at the 2009 Corvette ZR1, and it delivers with 638 horsepower, handling that defies conventional thinking, and a ride that's actually comfortable enough that the ZR1 can be driven daily. Is any Chevy -- even a Chevy Corvette -- worth more than $100,000? This one sure as heck is.
Photo Credit: Chevrolet
Best New Luxury Car Under $75,000: 2009 Jaguar XF
We'll admit when we're wrong, so we hereby present a mea culpa: The 2009 Jaguar XF is the Best New Luxury Car Under $75,000. We were skeptical about the Jaguar XF when we first saw it in photos, and even when it arrived at our offices for evaluation, some of us still looked askance at it. Then we drove it, felt the power of the supercharged engine, the sharp responses of the finely tuned chassis, the quality of the materials inside and the pure pleasure of the overall package. The 2009 Jaguar XF simply won us over, and deserves its spot on our Editors Choice list.
Photo Credit: Jaguar
Utility Vehicle of the Year: 2009 Ford Flex
We have sung the praises of the 2009 Ford Flex elsewhere on these pages, extolling its virtues as a family hauler. Yet its brick-like design also makes it an ideal utility vehicle. Sure, its off-road ability is limited, but for us utility means an ability to haul and carry stuff, and the Flex delivers with plenty of room behind the third row of seats – which are exceptionally easy to fold down – and tons of room and clever features that make living with the 2009 Ford Flex a treat, not a chore. Let us not forget, it also looks darn fine while doing it all.
Photo Credit: Ford
Truck of the Year: 2009 Dodge Ram
Two of truckdom's heavy hitters are all new this year: The 2009 Ford F150 truck and the 2009 Dodge Ram pickup, and as you can tell, we didn't pick the Ford for our award. The reasons are simple: Dodge got gutsy with its new Ram, turning its back on the wisdom that says towing capacity numbers – however unrealistic – are king and offering up something tangible to every truck driver: Ride quality. Gone are the leaf springs in the rear, replaced by coil springs that smooth the ride without significantly impacting the 2009 Dodge Ram's real-world capabilities as a truck.
Photo Credit: Dodge
Car of the Year: 2009 Hyundai Genesis
Who would have thought two decades ago that Hyundai would follow the exact formula Lexus used for the LS 400? Yet repeating history is only half the story, as the 2009 Hyundai Genesis is an excellent luxury sedan with a powerful V-8 engine, loads of features and performance equal to or better than cars costing thousands more. When we first drove the 2009 Hyundai Genesis, we opined that we were on the verge of a sea change in the automotive landscape on par with the introduction of the Lexus luxury brand in 1990. After more time with the Genesis, we stand by this claim, and award the 2009 Hyundai Genesis our 2009 Editors' Choice Car of the Year award.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
Find yourself a perfect used car: Drive one of our 2008 Editors' Choice picks
If the news cars selected for our 2009 Editors' Choice Awards seem a little beyond your car buying means, here's a hot tip: Check out our 2008 Editors' Choice Award winners. Why? Because last year's best new cars are this year's best used cars. And with a year under their belts, the 2008 models -- as used cars -- possess the benefits of having many of the all-new-car bugs all worked out by their original owners, and you don't have to pay the new-car price premium!
Photo Credit: Oliver Bentley