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Finalists for Car and Truck of the Year


There on the podium would be the brawny Ram 1500 pickup truck; the dainty Ford C-Max hybrid; and the sporty Mazda CX-5. A pickup, a fuel-sipping hatchback and a crossover utility? All for truck of the year? Most people would consider only one of them a “truck” based on traditional definitions. But the lines between cars and trucks have been blurred for years, so such classifications tend to be kind of arbitrary anyway. This year, the jury tweaked the name of the award to Truck/Utility of the Year.
All three “trucks” as well as the three finalists for North American Car of the Year – the Cadillac ATS, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord – have one thing in common: innovation. In a year full of exceptional new products from both domestic and foreign automakers, these six somehow managed to set new benchmarks in their respective segments for handling, performance, safety, technology, fuel economy and yes, value for the dollar.
The finalists were announced Wednesday at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association in Detroit. Winners will be announced in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
As one of 50 automotive journalists from around the country who serve on the NACTOY jury, I have to confess I had a hard time filling out my ballot. We started with 46 all-new vehicles for the 2013 model year, then narrowed the nominees to a “short list” of 10 trucks and 11 cars (the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S were jointly developed and nearly identical so the jury felt it was unfair to include one and not the other on the short list).
Then in October, jurors convened in Hell, Mich., to drive each of the semifinalists back-to-back for 20 miles or so, on similar roads, under similar conditions, to try to sort out the field. Many of us agreed the selection process was really tough this year because there were so many worthy entries, especially among mid-sized cars and crossovers, which, of course, is great news for consumers.
The rules emphasize that we should honor vehicles that have raised the standards or have become new benchmarks in their class, not necessarily the cars we liked best. Cars are compared against other vehicles in their class, not against other nominees. Judging was based on the following criteria: general design, safety, fuel economy, handling and general roadworthiness, performance, comfort, assembly quality, functionality, technical innovation, driver satisfaction and affordability, including value for the dollar.
Thus, we looked and very many vehicles, some great and some only okay and eventually arrived at these six finalists after a long and exhausting search and evaluation process:

Cadillac ATS: This new rear-wheel-drive sports sedan was designed to challenge the leader in the segment, the BMW 3-series. Featuring lightweight materials and a 50-50 weight balance, the ATS succeeds in every way.
Ford Fusion: The stunning design, which has been compared to Aston Martin, will turn heads. But the premium technology and variety of powertrains available, including a turbocharged gas engine, hybrid and plug-in hybrid, set it apart from other mid-sized sedans.
Honda Accord: Always reliable, the new Accord is now more stylish and fuel-efficient. New technologies include an innovative new LaneWatch system, which incorporates a wide-angle camera in the passenger side mirror to monitor the driver’s blind spot.
Ford C-Max hybrid: Cheaper, more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the Toyota Prius V, this compact wagon drives like a normal car.
Mazda CX-5: In the crowded crossover utility segment, the CX-5 stands out for its excellent fuel economy and sporty, fun-to-drive characteristics.
Ram 1500: Once known as a Dodge, the new Ram pickup is both luxurious and tough, with special trim levels to suit just about anyone’s needs. Fuel economy is impressive, without sacrificing power and torque, the things that matter in a pickup.

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