NACTOY Jurors Get First Run at Year’s Best New Cars, Trucks and SUVs

New SUV category added for 2017.

by on Jul.06, 2016

The new Rolls-Royce Dawn convertible is one of the most expensive models to ever qualify for the NACTOY ballot.

American motorists have been delivered a bumper crop of new products this year, and that will make for a challenging assignment for the 60 automotive journalists who make up the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year jury.

The group of Canadian and American auto writers will have to sort out the very best from a first group of 43 eligible new vehicles covering virtually every possible section of the market. This year’s group includes entry-level offerings, like the Mitsubishi Mirage, all the way up to some of the market’s most expensive and exclusive models, including the Rolls-Royce Dawn.

Award Season Begins!

For only the second time since the NACTOY awards were first launched in 1994, a new category is being added, the winner of the first-time utility-vehicle award set to be announced, along with the top car and truck choices, at the Detroit Auto Show on January 9, 2017.

Until this year, utility vehicles were lumped together with more traditional trucks. The decision to split them off into a new category reflects the changing realities of the North American market. Overall, so-called light trucks account for around 60% of current sales, and conventional SUVs, as well as more modern crossover-utility vehicles, make up the fastest growing niche. Minivans are being grouped together with SUVs in the new category.

The Chevrolet Bolt is one of a growing list of "green" vehicles landing on the NACTOY ballot.

(Click Here for more on the big NACTOY changes.)

The 2017 NACTOY “long list” includes 27 passenger cars, 12 models in the utility category and four trucks. All eligible models must be on sale before the end of 2016. A number of the vehicles are already on sale, though a few must just squeak in before the deadline.

Candidate vehicles also must be either all-new or significantly updated for the 2017 model-year. Minor cosmetic changes, inside or out, as well as the addition of new engine options, don’t qualify.

General Motors has the most new candidates for the 2017 NACTOY awards – though none in the truck category. It had one of the three passenger car finalists for 2016, but was edged out by the Honda Civic.

Struggling Volkswagen is next in line with six entries in the car and SUV categories, including models sold by three of its brands: Audi, Bentley and Volkswagen. Mercedes-Benz, which is launching a record product offensive this year, has five entries, while both Nissan and Korean sibling Hyundai/Kia come in with four candidates each. Ford and Fiat Chrysler have three, while BMW, Honda, and Jaguar Land Rover have two each.

(SUV sales expected to keep growing as more models come to market. Click Here for the story.)

There are a number of makers with just one entry, a list that surprisingly includes global sales leader Toyota with only one – the new Prius Prime. It has nothing new from the Lexus brand, and the Scion marque is being abandoned at the end of the year.

What has traditionally been referred to as the NACTOY long list will be narrowed down by at least half over the next two months as jurors spend time getting more familiar with each of the qualifiers. They will then cut the deck down to the final three choices in each category, with the winner to be announced at the opening ceremonies of the 2017 North American International Auto Show.

(Auto sales outlook remains strong for 2nd half of 2016. Click Here for the story.)

Japanese models - like this Honda Ridgeline - account for half of the truck category.

The jurors include 60 auto writers from print, broadcast and electronic media representing both the U.S. and Canada. Despite the name the North American  Car and Truck/Utility of the Year jury doesn’t include writers from Mexico because many of the eligible products aren’t sold there. On the other hand, there are numerous products and brands – such as Renault – available in Mexico that aren’t offered north of the border.

North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year Candidates for 2017

Passenger Cars

Acura NSX

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Audi A4

Audi R8

Bentley Mulsanne

Buick Cascada

Buick LaCrosse

Cadillac CT6

Chevrolet Cruze

Chevrolet Bolt

Fiat 124

Genesis G90

Hyundai Elantra

Infiniti Q60

Jaguar XE

Kia Cadenza

Lincoln Continental

Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan

Mercedes-Benz S550 Maybach

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class

Mini Clubman

Mitsubishi Mirage/G4

Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman

Rolls-Royce Dawn

Toyota Prius Prime

Volvo S90


Audi Q7

Bentley Bentayga

Buick Envision

Cadillac XT5

Chrysler Pacifica

GMC Acadia

Infiniti QX30

Kia Sportage

Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

Jaguar F-Pace

Mazda CX-9

Nissan Armada


Ford F-series Super Duty pickups

Ford F-150 Raptor

Honda Ridgeline

Nissan Titan light-duty

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