TTAC's Best and Worst Cars of 2022
It's that time of year. Time to look back, take stock of the year that's just passed, do some self-reflection, and think about the best and worst cars we drove in 2022.
I polled those of us on staff who get test cars regularly (regardless of whether they review them here or elsewhere) to toss me their picks for the best and worst things they drove in 2022 -- each person was asked to write up one to three cars for each category. The only real rule is that it had to be driven within the calendar year -- no holdovers from 2021. So, without further ado, here we go, in alphabetical order by author's name.
2023 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The new C-Class is something else. Mercedes managed to distill the S-Class attitude, tech, and neon nightclub interior into the smaller and far cheaper C-class, though it’s still too expensive. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine features a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that delivers an extra 20 horsepower when needed, and the available all-wheel drive makes the car suitable for those of us living where the air hurts our faces much of the year. On top of that, it’s a damn good-looking car that effectively broadcasts its owner’s up-and-coming status.
Genesis Electrified G80
Many automakers introduce new EVs by shoehorning an electric powertrain into a gas vehicle’s chassis, which can shave interior space and create awkward packaging challenges. Genesis took the same approach with the Electrified G80, but the car retains a great amount of interior space and its driving dynamics are impressive. On top of that, the car offers an opulent interior with fantastic tech and safety features.
2023 Lexus NX
Like choosing your class in a fantasy video game between a wizard or barbarian, Lexus seemed to choose ridiculous styling over true, usable performance in the luxury vehicle character selection phase. The NX fulfills neither the sport nor the utility parts of its name, as even the optional turbo engine feels flat and uninterested at times. The cabin features comfortable seats, but the back seats are uncomfortable for adults, and the cargo space is smaller than many rivals.
2023 Toyota GR Corolla
Some have called the GR Corolla Toyota’s best vehicle to date, so why is it on this list? The GR Corolla may be one of the biggest misses of the year and maybe 2023 because it effectively doesn’t exist at MSRP. Toyota can’t or won’t step in to curb dealer markups, and many dealers refused orders or reservations, meaning everyone else, outside of a lucky few, is left fighting for cars with markups of $15,000 or more. A $50,000 Corolla is a hard sell, especially when much of that amount heads straight into a dealer’s pocket.
I’ve driven something like sixty-plus cars this year, besides the ones I own. Tim’s asking us to briefly mention our favorites and, similarly, our least faves. While I can definitely rank the $400 Beater BMW that has traveled 2.4 miles in my six months of ownership - the distance from the garage sale where I bought it to the right bay of my garage - as the absolute worst car I drove this year, the adage “there are no bad cars anymore” mostly applies. There is a baseline of general competence that simply wasn’t true thirty-ish years ago or so when Chevettes and Omnis still roamed the earth and dealer forecourts.
I have a backlog of cars to write up, and some others I’ve covered at other sites (I’m not TTAC-monogamous, I’m afraid) but my test car superlatives are as follows:
Ford Maverick Hybrid: The truck for someone who doesn’t want to deal with a truck every day. This is good, because as far as I can tell you still can’t get one, or if you do you’ll be helping your local dealer make payments on a yacht with five figures of additional dealer markup. It’s hard to argue with 37 miles per gallon or more while still being able to toss muddy crap in the back. If supplies rebound in a year or two, I’m probably going to buy one.
BMW 230i: To be clear, the vehicle I drove and reviewed elsewhere was NOT the BMW 2-series Gran Coupe, a front-drive sedan with a coupe name. My tester was a proper, rear-drive two-door coupe with the entry-level 2.0-liter turbo four. And an automatic. And yet...I loved it. It's light, tossable, and comfortable - a legitimate reminder of BMWs of old, rather than the buck-toothed blobs that have dominated the Bavarian propeller badge of late.
Toyota GR86: I drove this one just a few weeks ago, and the test vehicle itself seems starcrossed. While en route from Detroit to my Ohio office, the delivery driver was unable to avoid a huge chunk of tractor-trailer tire that had taken temporary residence on Interstate 75. As such, the front bumper cover and fender skirt had significant plastic damage. Later in the week, a rear tire started losing air. None of these faults can be attributed to Toyota or Subaru, who have built a sportscar that absolutely shines in both daily commuting and while pushing hard. That I’m ranking the GR86 above both the perennial fave Miata and the Nissan Z - yes, I drove the latest one, I love it, and I’m a big Z fanatic - tells you that this is a magnificent sports car worthy of your attention. Just watch out for retreads.
Lexus NX 350h: I wanted to like this. It’s a right-sized entry-luxury crossover, roughly the size of the original RX. It’s comfortable (mostly), well-equipped, and the new Lexus/Toyota screen is much, much better than before.
But the controls for that interface are awful - even worse, somehow, than the old trackpad. The touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel are to blame, as they are unlabeled so they can do multiple jobs. What those controls do, however, is displayed on the heads-up display - which is nearly invisible when wearing polarized sunglasses. So I’d often find myself turning up the volume when I wanted to adjust my cruise-control speed, for example, as I couldn’t tell (at least during the day) what my thumbs were doing.
Kia Forte GT: Yawn. The GT badge implies fun. This is a snoozer with nothing fun beyond, um, the red on the badge. It’s a perfectly good sedan, but a sports sedan it is not.
Volkswagen ID.4: It’s a shame, really. The first Voltswagen is simply a bit underdone. It’s comfortable and quiet. It doesn’t look bad. But the window switch situation (only two switches on the driver’s door and a toggle to control either the rear or front windows) is frankly stupid, and it doesn’t drive all that well. The braking is particularly weird, with a very long pedal stroke at times - it feels as if the transition between regen and friction braking has a middle ground where nobody can decide who's responsible for doing stuff. I have a co-worker like that - they tend to ignore problems under the assumption that I’ll take care of it, even if I’m away on vacation. It’s annoying.
Whilst TTAC’s old Ten Worst Automobiles Today (you can work out the acronym yourself) awards have been dormant for some time, there’s always room to list some of the vehicles we drove in the past year which disappointed us more than we disappoint our own parents. Atop this writer’s list is the GMC Terrain, one of The General’s more important products since it plays in the murderously competitive compact crossover segment. For this model year – and the next – it is saddled with a lone engine choice, no matter the trim or number of driven wheels, showing up in the form of an anemic 1.5L turbocharged four-banger which puts out 175 horsepower.
This sounds okay on paper; after all, the Honda CR-V has a mill of equivalent displacement and just 15 more ponies. But in practice the Terrain wheezes along with the urgency of a lethargic teenager and all the refinement of finishing nails in an Osterizer blender. Over-the-shoulder visibility is non-existent thanks to a mystifying mail slot of a three-quarter window, an odd styling decision since there sure seems to be enough real estate between the C- and D-pillars for a decent-sized pane of glass. Bizarre. With an as-tested price over 40 large, it reinforced my recommendation to get the base SLE at just over 30 grand. Or something else altogether.
Despite raking GMC over the coals elsewhere in this post, the Duramax-powered Sierra Denali Ultimate deeply impressed your author on several fronts. GM has finally given its half-ton trucks a competitive interior, crafting a space in which one can spend ample hours behind the wheel. Anti-fatigue is the word of the hour, with massaging seats going to town during a nearly 600-mile drive that contained precisely zero stops (for refueling humans or the truck, it should be said). And the trick Super Cruise driving helpers, which do a great job of keeping things on the straight and narrow plus flawlessly carrying out lane changes on its own, beat every other system of this type on the market hands down – including the so-called Autopilot. Sorry, Tesla stans.
Also atop my list? The new F-150 Lightning. Yes, its price has jumped faster than journos racing to the buffet table, but the fact remains Ford has created an all-electric pickup truck with the chops to mix it up with its internally combusted brother. Its interior owes no apologies, nor does its battery capacity which permits the thing to offer the type of range needed by many Americans. No, it won’t fit everyone’s needs – but the naysayers and clickbait YouTubers who amplify the effect towing has on its range are conveniently overlooking the fact that hauling cuts range by roughly the same percentage the same activity has on a gasoline-powered F-150. The result is magnified, of course, by the fact Lightning has a smaller range with which to start.
Energy density will improve with time, of course, but what’s notable today is the myriad of practical applications brought to the table by this truck. Its lockable frunk is a gold mine, providing a weather-resistant space in which to store family shopping on the way home from Costco or work-related tools on the way to a job site. The latter can even be charged up whilst driving thanks to the power outlets in that space. And speaking of power, the Lightning can juice campsites and the like from its in-bed outlets, or yer entire house when used in concert with properly installed gear. It turns this rig from ‘just a truck’ to a tool with multiple uses.
I struggled here because I wanted to limit this to one to three cars, and I drove three Fords that could be on my best list. The Maverick. The Bronco Raptor (review forthcoming). And the Lightning (again, review forthcoming. I need to crack the whip on myself).
I was prepared to be let down by the Lightning. It's just an F-150 with an EV powertrain, I thought to myself the first time I drove one. But then I realized that the F-150 is a damn good base to start from if you're going to make an EV full-size truck. The Lightning does all that the F-150 does well, but does it quietly and without burning fuel. And it offers neat features like a front trunk -- handy with groceries, since with most pickups you're either putting the stuff in the back seat or the bed -- and the ability to use the truck to power other things. I also liked BlueCruise a lot. It's a great truck all around, and the powertrain is only a small but significant part of that.
It's not perfect. My tester was fully loaded and thus eye-wateringly expensive. The range could've been better with the standard battery. But overall, I enjoyed the Lightning.
Mercedes-Benz EQS Sedan
Over the summer, I had an EQS and weekend plans. Had to pick up my dad, go to a concert in the Land of Cheese, drop off my dad, and drive back home. That's 50 miles to my parent's house, 85 miles to the concert venue, 85 miles back, and 50 miles back. 270 miles total. Range anxiety? Pssh. The EQS promised 320 miles on a charge. And I did that whole trip without charging.
Not only that, but I did it in comfort and style. The dashboard looks great, Mercedes' infotainment system is pretty easy to learn (save some finicky haptic touch issues), and the ride is silky smooth.
To be clear, it's not the range that impressed me the most -- other EVs are getting there, too. It's the total package.
The only problem I see here is I can't afford one -- and you probably can't, either.
I was skeptical -- Nissan wasn't shy about admitting that the new Z uses a lot of the old car's bones. No matter -- the new one is a hoot to drive, yet it's still pretty livable, at least for a two-seater, in daily commuting.
I wanted to put Honda's Civic Si in this slot -- I said it was one of my best cars on the podcast -- but upon further reflection, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Z. Nissan did a great job of finding the fountain of youth with this one. Now imagine what they can do if the next Z is all-new from the ground up.
This is not a BAD car. It's great for performance driving. But as I wrote this week, the overall package is a step back. It's disappointing. I think it's too stiff riding for the daily drive (a commenter pointed out that other reviewers have said the new car is too soft. I am just reporting what I felt). Its lack of refinement was once charming, but it feels dated here. And black body cladding should've died with Pontiac.
I still enjoy driving this car hard. That hasn't changed. I just hope Subaru can sand down the rougher edges just a bit the next time around.
Like with the WRX, this is another case of a vehicle that isn't bad but just isn't quite up to par with the competition. In a vacuum, the Tundra is fine, even good. But it does very little that can put it on the level of Ford's F-150 or Ram's 1500. It lacks the Ram's interior style and the Ford's overall clever packaging. To be fair, the hybrid powertrain is intriguing, and its tow ratings are competitive. And the interior is much improved over what came before. But if we're thinking holistically, it's tough to argue for Tundra over the Ford or Ram. Eventually, I think, Toyota will give those two fits. But for now, the only Detroit-based truckmaker that needs to sweat about Toyota competition is Chevy.
Volvo C40 Recharge
I wanted to like this little urban runabout. It's got some interesting quirks, such as turning on and off based on if it senses a keister in the driver's seat or not, but I still felt it to be a bit of a letdown. That's a theme for worst cars, perhaps since there aren't many truly bad cars on the market. In this case, the C40 just didn't feel as sporty as I hoped a small city car with EV power could be. Sure, it's quick, and it has some cornering moves, but it feels like a missed opportunity. Yes, I know, Volvo is known for safety and environmental friendliness these days. But the brand also has a history of blending sport into that mix, and the C40 doesn't fully carry on that legacy. The good news is that a bit of chassis/suspension tuning probably could fix this.
Dishonorable Mentions: Toyota Corolla Cross (fine as basic transpo, otherwise utterly unremarkable), Ford Explorer Timberline (why does this trim exist?), Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer (both L and regular).
[Images provided by the manufacturers]
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ToolGuy on Jan 01, 2023
• "The Bronco Raptor (review forthcoming). And the Lightning (again, review forthcoming. I need to crack the whip on myself)."
Don't be so hard on yourself, Tim. Next time you are feeling down about your work ethic, take that energy and motivation and pour it into a self-aggrandizing tome explaining once again to the world how you have always been smarter and better looking than Elon Musk. (Bonus points if you can be didactic and patronizing, or are those redundant... well let's be real, 'concise' is not our aim, is it?)
• "The only problem I see here is I can't afford one -- and you probably can't, either." Here you make a self-limiting statement, which is rarely a good idea, but then you go on to underestimate some of your audience and insult others (current and potential). This is not the path to upgraded furniture. [Do you really think a price of "3 Tellurides" is going to scare off an EQS buyer?]
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