The best of this year’s test drives.
While 2021 probably didn’t end the way we all hoped, it was certainly nice to have a taste of what life was like in the so-called Before Times: hitting up concerts and restaurants, seeing friends and family in-person, and of course, hitting the open road.
Whether it was to destress after a long day of working remotely, or to explore new places not-so-close to home, we spent a good chunk of that time on the open road behind the wheel of the newest and shiniest sheet metal automakers had to offer. And just like every year, we closed out 2021 stuffing our faces with turkey, mashed potatoes, chocolate, and thinking about the automotive highlights over the past year.
As usual, we considered a multitude of factors: some objective — like performance, value, comfort, and practicality — and others subjective, because we’re human beings and some cars, trucks, and sport-utes just tug at your heartstrings a certain way.
So, without further ado, here’s the creme of the crop that took home our Annual Awards 2021.
Crossover/SUV of the Year: 2021 Ford Bronco
Ford had a lot riding on the shoulders of the reborn Bronco, and justifiably so. Calling the Bronco an icon would be an understatement, and after being teased seemingly forever, pretty much anyone even remotely into cars anxiously awaited this thing. Fortunately, Ford delivered: with a charming retro design, incredible off-road capability, and surprisingly great road manners, the Bronco scored a well-deserved win in our Crossover/SUV of the Year category.
Premium Car of the Year: 2022 Alpina B8 Gran Coupe
Pretty much nobody knows what Alpina is, and that’s just the way they want it. This boutique German tuner, known for putting their bespoke touches on BMWs, is arguably one of the auto industry’s best-kept secrets. Take the B8, for instance: based on the BMW M8 Gran Coupe, it’s almost too easy to brush it off as a souped-up M8 with fancier wheels, but that would be grossly underselling it — rather, Alpina completely reimagines the experience with bespoke design cues inside and out, impeccable fit-and-finish, and effortless performance to create something truly marvellous and special.
Premium Crossover/SUV of the Year: Land Rover Defender 90
Last year, the Land Rover Defender 110 won us over in the Premium Crossover/SUV of the Year space, but this year, it’s the little brother that’s taking home the hardware. The two-door Defender 90 won us over with its charming design, clever interior appointments, and most importantly, the fact that it’s a capable off-roader that isn’t a chore to drive on the highway. Big brother would be proud.
Performance Car of the Year (under $50,000): 2022 Hyundai Veloster N DCT
The Hyundai Veloster N is a darling of a hot hatch, and it saw a handful of enhancements this year, most notably the addition of an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Yes, the six-speed manual is still available, but the new dual-clutch ‘box not only broadens the Veloster N’s appeal, but it also transforms this zesty little hot hatch from a firecracker to an absolute rocket. It may not be the best daily driver compared to certain other hot hatches, but it’s by far the most fun you can have with your pants on in the segment.
Performance Car of the Year (over $50,000): 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Well, it definitely took GM long enough: after toying with the idea for more than 50 years — and coming very close in the early 1990s, mind you — the Chevrolet Corvette finally has its engine behind the driver. Predictably, this completely transforms the Corvette: although we mourn the loss of the manual transmission, the C8 offers up a truly supercar-like driving experience at a fraction of the cost while also managing to still tick all the boxes a Corvette should, like being able to squeeze in a set of golf clubs. Priorities! We can’t wait to see what the C8 Z06 has in store.
Truck of the Year: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
If you’re one of the many who think pickup trucks today are too big, do we have some great news for you or what?! The compact pickup truck is undergoing something of a renaissance, with automakers like Hyundai (and Ford) betting big on the Santa Cruz (and Maverick). Not everyone needs a hulking half-ton, and for those buyers, the Hyundai Santa Cruz is a stellar choice thanks to its clever design, impressive towing capacity, and increased practicality without penalizing driving dynamics or fuel economy.
Green Vehicle of the Year: 2021 Porsche Taycan 4S
Now this was a close one. We sampled a handful of EV standouts in 2021 — two flavours of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, including the highly anticipated GT Performance edition, and we got reacquainted with the Porsche Taycan 4S. First, a few words on the Mustang Mach-E: even the lower-end Premium trim surprised us with its impressive range, lovely interior appointments and sky-high handling limits, while the top dog GT Performance edition proves that even for those who care about driving, the future is indeed bright.
But then we got reacquainted with the Porsche Taycan 4S, and it swiftly reminded us that it’s still the benchmark for performance-oriented EVs. The Taycan eked out a win over the Mustang Mach-E in this space, but it was a close race.
Car of the Year: 2021 Porsche Taycan 4S
It all comes down to this, the coveted Car of the Year award. Along with the Green Vehicle of the Year win, the Porsche Taycan 4S takes the cake as the 2021 DoubleClutch.ca Car of the Year. Justifiably so: the instant thrust, communicative steering, well-tuned chassis, and impressive range all come together in a sublime and stylish package that proves the 4S is the sweet spot of the Taycan lineup.