CNET announces nominees for 2012 Tech Car of the Year

Automakers made great strides in launching electric cars and introducing connected features this year, both big trends in automotive technology -- and very influential for the cars of the future. CNET picks five of the hottest examples reviewed this year as its nominees for Tech Car of the Year.

2012 Tech Car of the Year

As 2012 rolls to a close, we look back at the cars we've reviewed over the last year to see which rise to the level of Tech Car of the Year. Numerous feasible electric cars launched this year, and two made our nominees list. Audi and BMW continued their slugfest in cabin, driver assistance, and performance tech, and we picked representative sample models from each. Also slipping in is the new Toyota Prius C hatchback, showing off Toyota's venerable hybrid drivetrain and its latest app integration.

Please let us know which car you think should be the 2012 Tech Car of the Year in our poll, and discuss it in the comments. Our CNET jury will place their votes, and we will announce the winner on December 19.

Nominees


2013 Audi S5
Audi continues its high-tech juggernaut with the 2013 Audi S5, imbuing this model with the connected in-dash features seen last year in the A6, A7, and A8. Those features work in tandem with already leading-edge cabin tech features for navigation, hands-free phone, and digital audio. Beyond infotainment features, Audi incorporates performance components that not only save fuel but also provide an engaging driving experience.

Top tech features:
Google Earth navigation
Google destination search
Quattro all-wheel drive



2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe
BMW comes to the fray with a very impressive, full-featured cabin tech suite in its new 640i Gran Coupe, offering advanced voice command, rich maps in the navigation system, well-designed digital audio options, and excellent sound from Bang & Olufsen. In addition, the BMW ConnectedDrive app brings useful and fun features such as Twitter and Facebook, letting drivers use existing social media for location updates. BMW uses hybrid technologies such as regenerative braking to improve fuel efficiency.

Top tech features:
Social-media integration
Google destination search
Regenerative braking



2012 Ford Focus Electric
With a pure electric drivetrain, the Focus Electric is the most efficient car among these nominees, and it has shorter recharge times than much of the competition. The Focus Electric's cabin tech includes excellent features, from Sync phone and MP3 player integration to a Sony audio system. Ford's smartphone-based telematics let owners remotely schedule charging times and view the vehicle's charge states.

Top tech features:
Electric drivetrain
Sync app integration
Remote charge scheduling



2012 Tesla Model S
The anticipation around the Model S made it seem like this car was a long time coming, but Tesla went from design to production, including building an entirely new factory line, in record time. The Model S boasts more range than any other production electric car, yet combines that with a driving feel and capability comparable to the best sport luxury cars. An LCD instrument cluster combines with a tablet-size center touch screen to augment the car's high-tech feel.

Top tech features:
Electric drivetrain
Google Maps integration
17-inch touch screen



2012 Toyota Prius C
Toyota could have continued making generation after generation of Prius hatchback, but the company made a smart bet by expanding the Prius lineup with cars for different needs, coming out with the diminutive Prius C as an urban runabout or entry-level hybrid. Along with Toyota's standard-setting hybrid gasoline-electric drive system, the Prius C boasts Toyota's new Entune app integration, which lets drivers access connected services such as Bing search and OpenTable restaurant reservations.

Top tech features:
Hybrid gasoline-electric drivetrain
Entune app integration
Bing destination search



Read the full CNET Review

2013 Audi S5

The Bottom Line: The 2013 Audi S5 demonstrates an excellent array of tech both in the cabin and under the hood, making it one of the most enjoyable all-around driving cars available. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe

The Bottom Line: Performance tech in the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe lets it be a luxury cruiser and a nimble sports car, while the cabin electronics give drivers unparalleled levels of help and entertainment. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

2012 Ford Focus Electric

The Bottom Line: Its short driving range and long recharge times limit the suitability of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric to some specific lifestyles, but it is a very high-tech car that should delight early adopter types. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

2012 Tesla Model S

The Bottom Line: The 2012 Tesla Model S sets a new standard for cars of the 21st century by integrating cabin tech equal to anything from the consumer electronics industry and incorporating a long-range, powerful, and efficient electric drivetrain. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

2012 Toyota Prius C

The Bottom Line: As the latest member of the Prius family, the 2012 Toyota Prius C shows off a very modern, high-tech cabin, along with excellent fuel economy, in a size city dwellers will find easy to park. / Read full review

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.

Brian Cooley joined CNET in 1995 and always comes at technology from the real consumer's point of view. He brings his high energy, often skeptical style to all avenues of CNET coverage, with an emphasis on car tech. You'll also find him frequently on television, radio and the TV screens at Costco!

Antuan Goodwin gained most of his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and performance to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable. Email Antuan, follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook. Antuan

 

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