CNET Tech Car of the Year for 2010
Earlier this month we invited you to vote for the 2010 Tech Car of the Year from our five nominees. This year proved an upset, though, as our staff judges came down on the side of the 2011 Nissan Leaf, these votes overruling the general support for the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the Audi A8. The MKZ Hybrid is an excellent car, although its very close relative, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, won last year's award. Audi came out this year with a phenomenal flagship sedan in the new A8, which exploited many interesting technologies.
But we gave the edge to the Leaf, as it is likely a herald for a sea change in the automotive market. As a tech car, its pure electric power train shows simplicity and economy. Although limited in range, many people will find that the Leaf meets the majority of their driving needs. Staff judge Brian Cooley had this to say about his choice: "The Leaf is a very livable and fun little commuter that has new-era efficiency without any serious space, cost, or other sacrifices--aside from range anxiety, and that is very real with all current EVs."
Nissan's infotainment features in other models are cutting-edge, and we see the same electronics here, with added capabilities specifically to address the electric power train. According to judge Antuan Goodwin, "Nissan has cleverly integrated a number of tools into the infotainment system that should help drivers to be realistic about the vehicle's capabilities." Likewise, the Carwings telematic system offers unprecedented connectivity. The Leaf earns the Tech Car of the Year award for pushing the boundaries of automotive technology beyond any competitor.
The Car Tech 10
There was a lot more going on in the past year besides five really, really good tech cars. So that's why we have The Car Tech 10, a set of inconsistent awards for various achievements in automotive technology.
2011 Hyundai Sonata SE
Out of 24 reader reviews for the new Hyundai Sonata, it scored an overall 4 stars, or 8.3 out of 10. Most reviewers were very impressed with the Sonata, giving it a perfect 5 stars, but there were a few dissenters. The flaw Snoopy_62 found with the car was a weak horn, while gigirn66 could find nothing bad about it whatsoever. On the flip side, BMXLaurier complained about its weak engine and mediocre handling.
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Some people may think the addition of high-tech accoutrements and the adoption of unibody design made the Jeep Grand Cherokee a soft-roader. Those people did not pilot it down a steep, sandy road, or maneuver it over a trail paved with boulders. We did and can assure you that Jeep capabilities are alive and well. Even among current four-wheel-drive vehicles, few could compete with the Grand Cherokee in this regard.
2011 Mazda Mazda2
Taking a maverick approach, the Mazda2 entered the market stripped of any real tech. No navigation, iPod port, or even a Bluetooth phone system. The Mazda2 is a back-to-the-future kind of car, seemingly coming to us straight from 1985. Its only Doc Brown feature is the MP3-compatible CD player.
2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe
We had a few cars that attracted more than their fair share of attention, such as the Ford Shelby or the Dodge Challenger, both of which made pedestrians take note. But people treated the CTS Coupe like a car from another planet. Keeping much of the concept design, the CTS Coupe has a unique look you wouldn't expect from Cadillac. If there is any car that will change this venerable American automaker's image, it is the CTS Coupe.
Fake carbon fiber
2010 Scion xD
Right off the lot, the Scion xD would not have made us give it this award. But the one we saw was tricked out with Toyota Racing Development accessories, which included carbon fiber appliques on the B pillar. We had a good laugh over how this treatment did exactly the opposite of what real carbon fiber does: shave weight. That carbon fiber look continued on the inside, but only on the console, not on the more visible center stack.
Least trunk room
2010 Infiniti G37 Convertible
Most convertibles lose some trunk space when the top is down. But the Infiniti G37 Convertible left less space than most. With its retractable hard top stowed, there was a mere narrow channel, enough space for a few umbrellas. Convertibles can be fun, but less so when you have to put all your luggage in the rear seat to enjoy open-top driving.
Most improved tech
2011 Subaru Impreza WRX
We've always liked the driving character of Subaru cars, but the company was slow to adopt cabin electronics, and in our tech-oriented reviews that proved fatal. But Subaru has more recently seen the light, so not only can we enjoy raising up rooster tails with the WRX on a dirt road, we can also note the very nice sound quality from the stereo and the useful navigation system.
Living room on wheels
2011 Toyota Sienna
Minivan makers have been heating up the competition, fitting out their vehicles with new tech features and big, comfy chairs. Wide-screen rear-seat entertainment systems, which we saw on the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, have become de rigueur. But we are giving the nod to the Toyota for this award, as it came out of the gate first.
2010 Porsche Panamera 4S
No car inspired more controversy over its looks than the Panamera. Some on staff grew to like its odd looks, but most couldn't help deriding its oddly bulbous rear. There was some strong competition in this category, as the Nissan Cube showed up with an asymmetrical design, and some suggested the Acura ZDX should be called the WTF. But the Panamera stuck out like the sorest thumb.
2010 Audi A3 TDI
Volkswagen and Audi have just about earned this award in perpetuity. Volkswagen makes the most popular diesels in the U.S., and the Audi gives Jetta TDI owners something to which they can aspire. With our average of almost 40 miles to the gallon, the A3 TDI makes a good argument for practicality. And then there's that premium Audi interior.