Car of year

The Detroit News - - Front Page -

mid-size Tra­verse will com­pete for best ute while the Colorado ZR2 pickup truck will vie for Truck of the Year hon­ors against the Ford Ex­pe­di­tion and Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tor — the only nom­i­nees from the Blue Oval sta­ble.

Ford’s stun­ning GT su­per­car was deemed in­el­i­gi­ble for NAC­TOY in July due to its low sales vol­ume, its $450,000 sticker price and lack of avail­abil­ity to the gen­eral pub­lic. Ford has se­lected all 750 buy­ers of the GT through an ap­pli­ca­tion process.

Also in­el­i­gi­ble was Dodge’s halo, 840-horse­power Chal­lenger SRT De­mon coupe that has set a pro­duc­tion car record 9.65-sec­ond quar­ter-mile time. With the same driv­e­train and struc­ture as Dodge’s 707-horse Chal­lenger SRT Hell­cat — in­tro­duced for the 2015 model year — the De­mon is not suf­fi­ciently al­tered to meet NAC­TOY’s cri­te­ria as a sep­a­rate model.

Other no­ta­bles vy­ing for top SUV are the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Honda Odyssey, and VW At­las and Tiguan. The Stelvio, the Ital­ian brand’s first SUV, will square off against peren­nial fa­vorites from Audi and BMW. Mini­vans have also seen their mar­ket share crater in the face of the SUV jug­ger­naut, but Honda has dou­bled down on its pop­u­lar Odyssey mini­van bring­ing new tech to mar­ket like a hor­i­zon­tally-slid­ing sec­ond-row seat. And VW hopes to put Diesel­gate in its rear-view mir­ror with two three-row SUVs tai­lored for the US mar­ket.

De­spite its its di­min­ished sta­tus, the car cat­e­gory will fea­ture a face-off be­tween two of the in­dus­try’s iconic models — the Toy­ota Camry and Honda Ac­cord. Determined to re­main rel­e­vant (and main­tain their 300,000-plus unit sales) in Ute Na­tion, the two sedans re­ceived ma­jor chas­sis, styling, and tech up­dates for 2018 that blur the dis­tinc­tion be­tween lux­ury and main­stream sedans.

They will be clear fa­vorites, but other no­ta­bles in the car class are BMW’s pre­mium bench­mark 5-se­ries, the sexy Alfa Romeo Gi­u­lia, and ath­letic Kia Stinger fast­back which the Korea au­tomaker has po­si­tioned as a halo ve­hi­cle for the brand’s sporty vibe.

The NAC­TOY award is one of the in­dus­try’s most pres­ti­gious. Some 60 auto ex­perts from the U.S. and Canada, in­clud­ing the au­thor of this ar­ti­cle, will eval­u­ate the nom­i­nees in Oc­to­ber over a week of gru­el­ing test­ing, flog­ging and eye­balling in the Metro Detroit area.

Three fi­nal­ists from each cat­e­gory will be se­lected and an­nounced at the Los An­ge­les Auto Show in late Novem­ber. The win­ners will be un­veiled Jan­uary 14 at the open­ing of the 2018 Detroit auto show. Henry Payne is auto critic for The

Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@de­troit­news.com or Twit­ter

@Hen­ryEPayne.

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