Why, and why now? It’s instructive to look back at MotorTrend‘s old Import Car of the Year. First awarded in 1970, the idea of ICOTY was to finally acknowledge an indisputable truth: Cars from auto manufacturers outside of America were here to stay and should be celebrated, at least for a while.
We awarded ICOTY alongside COTY until 1999, when my predecessors decided to fold the former back into the latter because shifts in automotive manufacturing and global economics challenged the notion of what constitutes foreign and domestic vehicle production. What is a car’s country of origin if the engine is made in Brazil, the body panels are stamped in Canada, the transmission and wiring harness are produced in Mexico, and final assembly occurs in Michigan? Or if multiple factories around the world assemble the same vehicle? Our editorial forebears ultimately decided none of this matters and that the inherent goodness of the car, the breakthrough experience it delivers, and how history would view it were much more important.
They read the room and made the right call, which is what we are doing here with our focus on performance. I submit to you the following:
These power and torque increases, along with all the fancy systems that allow their delivery, have resulted in a golden age of performance, as well. Those who monitor lap records at the vaunted Nürburgring Nordschleife know what I’m talking about. It used to be that a stock production car lapping the iconic German test track in less than 8 minutes joined an exclusive club. Now, a hot hatch like the Honda Civic Type R is quicker than that, and we see Porsches, Mercedes-AMGs, and Lamborghinis running in the 6:40 (or quicker) bracket. Our own testing bears this out; in the past two years, we’ve seen our 0-60 record fall twice—first to less than 3.0 seconds and then to almost less than 2.0. This is bonkers.
Megawatt advances in automotive tech are responsible for a lot of this golden-era shine. While one of the highest-horsepower production cars is still a 16-cylinder, quad-turbo, gas-burning Bugatti Chiron Super Sport, you can order our electrifying 2022 Car of the Year Lucid Air with up to 1,111 hp, or a Tesla Model S with 1,020 hp. On the truck side, the Hummer EV pickup is also available with 1,000 hp, and our 2022 Truck of the Year, the Rivian R1T, comes standard with 835 hp. Oh, and the two vehicles that broke our 0-60 record? Electric all-stars from Porsche and Tesla.
As we continue to cover the evolution of the automobile and the automotive industry, we believe our electrified future is inevitable, so we’re going to walk a second, parallel path with all the existing, mostly gas-burning vehicles we know and love.
Internal combustion technology has never seen higher outputs, greater efficiency, or more thrills per cubic inch than right now. But as more carmakers trumpet about going all in on EVs, we receive quietly distributed notices about their final run of internal combustion engines, starting with the burliest V-10s and V-8s. Exiting right alongside: manual transmissions.
We know some of you mourn the coming loss of dropping the clutch, mashing the gas, and ripping your right hand through six or seven gears. You loudly curse this transition; we hear you and understand. Every year, for more than a decade, we sent dozens of staffers on the road for two weeks, testing and driving the world’s top sports cars in search of the Best Driver’s Car. But that BDC program has run its course; PVOTY is Version 2.0, built upon the belief it’s possible to be excited for the future, embracing all the broken barriers to come, while celebrating the end of an era. That is what we set out to do with our Performance Vehicle of the Year. We’re applying our decades of experience and rigorous, industry-leading Of The Year framework to the realm of performance machines, whatever body style they happen to come in.
Time is short. The world is changing. So let’s round up the stickiest-tired whoop machines—whether gas- or electron-powered—and smoke ’em while we got ’em (and can still drive ’em). Please enjoy our first MotorTrend Performance Vehicle of Year competition.