SUVs

Meet the finalists in 2017's top auto industry awards

Nine cars, trucks and SUVs will vie for three of the auto industry's most sought-after awards.

Where there were once 30, there are now nine.

The finalists for the 2017 North American Car, Truck, and Utility of the Year awards have been revealed, and it's a rich and varied bunch. Announced at the Automobility LA conference ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show, these three cars, trucks and utility vehicles have already cut through an initial long list of 30 semifinalists to get the chance to vie for the coveted crystal. These are the finalists which will be up for the big wins to be announced at the North American International Auto Show in January:

Car of the Year:

Truck of the Year:

Utility Vehicle of the Year:

Car of the Year will be a tough battle, as it pits Chevrolet's Bolt, the first truly long-range mass-market electric car against the flagship for Hyundai/Kia's newly minted Genesis luxury brand. The G90, effectively a replacement for the underwhelming Hyundai Equus, is a dramatically improved full-size bruiser designed to square off against the likes of the Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class for premium-sedan supremacy. Volvo's S90 is the resurgent Swedish brand's top-rung model, too, and this full-size four-door boasts a sleek Scandinavian interior with an innovative drivetrain and cutting-edge advanced safety features.

Truck of the Year pits Ford's leviathan F-Series Super Duty, an aluminum-bodied heavy-duty pickup with class-leading torque and towing, against Honda's second-generation Ridgeline, an unconventional midsize pickup with excellent everyday livability thanks excellent ride and handling manners and clever storage solutions. Nissan's Titan is the Japanese automaker's long-awaited second-generation model, with a powerful and refined V8 engine, thoughtfully designed interior and a class-leading warranty.

Utility of the year, which encompasses sport utilities, crossovers and minivans is a new award category the NACTOY jury in recognition of the auto industry's rapidly changing landscape. This year's finalists include Chrysler's Pacifica, which bristles with clever conveniences and class-leading safety tech and is the minivan segment's first-ever hybrid of any sort, a plug-in model with 30 miles of electric range. The Chrysler will lock horns with Jaguar's F-Pace -- the British brand's first-ever sport utility vehicle -- a beautifully styled compact luxury crossover with remarkable handling chops. Mazda's handsome CX-9 delivers surprisingly agile handling and a fun-to-drive spirit in a class not known for any of those attributes: the three-row family crossover.

As it would be impossible to fairly compare something like a body-on-frame, heavy-duty pickup with a midsize unibody trucklet, jurors look to evaluate factors like innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value within a given vehicle's class.

The NACTOY awards are particularly sought-after honors within the auto industry because they are voted on not by an individual publication or show, but by a self-funded, non-profit group of nearly 60 independent, full-time automotive journalists who work for dozens of print, online, television and radio outlets. This is the awards' 24th year. Outlets represented on the jury include publications like Car and Driver, MotorWeek, Road and Track, The Toronto Star, and yes, Roadshow by CNET. Full Disclosure: I am a longtime juror.

Evaluations and deliberations will now continue for the jurors and these nine vehicles before a final vote is tallied. The 2017 North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year Award winners will be announced at a press conference at the Detroit Auto Show on the morning of Monday, January 9.