Another year of testing cars and trucks is in the history books, and we've been busy. In the past 12 months, Edmunds has tested more cars and trucks than any other car magazine, more than any other Web site. Since this time last year, hundreds of vehicles — some good, some not so good — have been driven at our test track and evaluated by our staff.
Test that many machines and you're bound to have a few favorites. It's these cars and trucks that we honor with our annual Editors' Most Wanted Awards.
Just as the name says, these are the six vehicles that the editors want the most. They're the ones we personally lust after. The ones we desire. Our personal favorites. These are the cars and trucks we like best, like it or not.The Selection Process
And like last year, our selection process is extremely simple. There's only one real rule: we must have tested the car or truck by November 1. And there's only one hard category: Instant Classic. The other five winners are chosen in a free-form fashion. In fact, every single car and truck on the market is eligible for all six slots. There's no price cap, and no nonsense about having to be a new model or a redesigned nameplate. Essentially, we could honor any car or truck we want.
But we don't want to award six supercars either, so we've drawn ourselves a few guidelines. In an effort to keep it real, we attempt to choose a vehicle for each of the following needs: speed, luxury, hauling, commuting and family. However, the editors are not obligated to award a vehicle associated with each. If the editors want to award supercars only, we still have that option.
The voting process involved 11 IL editors locked in a room, arguing about the cars they like best. A vehicle needed eight votes to win. It took about two hours and 10 pizzas to finalize the list. And it was fun. For the first hour, at least.
In the end, we ended up with a list of six truly great cars and trucks. Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2010 Edmunds Editors' Most Wanted Award winners are:
This is one of the fastest cars in the world when you're in a real-world setting. It's hard to believe we're saying this about a sedan that measures 195.6 inches overall and weighs more than 2 tons, but the facts are the facts. And the Panamera's awesome balance, massive 20-inch Michelin PS2s and all-wheel drive take its cornering speed to levels once reserved for all-out supercars like the Audi R8, Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 Turbo.
But that awesome speed isn't the Panamera's most impressive performance feature. Instead it's the ease with which it reaches and sustains those speeds that gets you. This car is easier to drive at 9/10ths of its ability than a BMW M5 is to drive at 7/10ths of its ability. It's so composed, so not scary at extreme velocity, that backing off is always a matter of choice, not fear.
But you won't back off, because the Panamera is just too fun and too easy to drive way too fast. Instead you'll keep the pace up and enjoy the Porsche's crisp, intuitive steering action, incredible brakes, surprisingly good visibility (the big space between the mirror and the A-pillar is there for a reason) and the way its air suspension (even in the stiffest Sport Plus setting) soaks up midcorner bumps better than any car you've ever driven. The Porsche Panamera is nothing less than the finest high-performance four-door sedan money can buy, the ultimate combination of space, speed and luxury. — Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
This is the second time an Audi R8 has made our Most Wanted list — the R8 was our Instant Classic of 2008.
Two years later there are few cars that can match the R8 V10's broad range of talents and satisfactions. It defines the modern everyday supercar. From its open-gate shifter to its ripping V10 to its luxurious interior and peerless style, this car is special.
But words on a screen don't capture the thrill of it all. With an 8,000-rpm power peak and an 8,700-rpm redline, the Audi's all-aluminum 5.2-liter V10 is the gift that keeps on giving. It just keeps accumulating thrust in a mad rush that ceases all conversation in the car. Or it does until you check the speedometer and say something along the lines of, "Oh, damn!" a millisecond before you back off.
And the car is utterly unflappable on any curving road you'd care to mention. Slow, tight mountain roads? No problem. The car is supernaturally nimble for its size. Open, sweeping valley roads? It is capable of such smooth, stable progress that you will be going much, much faster than a sane person would. — Daniel Pund, Senior Editor, Detroit
All you'll need to truly appreciate the F-150 SVT Raptor is a desire to drive fast over rough terrain. This is because the Raptor is a truck — that's right, a truck — that's engineered to be driven. This purposefulness became clear to us on the last day of our 10-day evaluation.
The decisive moment came mere fractions of a second after the truck left the ground — an important distinction in the driving of off-road machines. You see, any desert-dwelling flat-biller can find himself and his pickup in the air given enough hubris, horsepower and Hamm's — items that seem common enough in off-road circles. But it's the inevitable return to earth that distinguishes the Raptor.
It wasn't until the horizon reappeared from beneath the F-150's hood and all 5,957 pounds of Molten-Orange truck glided back to the ground with astonishing grace that we realized what Ford has created with the Raptor. This is quite possibly the most unique and entertaining vehicle sold in North America right now. — Josh Jacquot, Senior Road Test Editor
Mazda has changed the 2010 Mazda 3 without changing its attitude. New ingredients improve its dynamic makeup without compromising the spirit we loved so much in the outgoing model.
The previous-generation Mazda 3 earned our praise for its steering feel and sound body control, and some minor refinements for 2010 ensure that it keeps its personality intact. Its electrohydraulic-assist rack-and-pinion steering gear is now bolted down in three locations (one more than the previous year) to minimize vibration over rough pavement. Recalibrated dampers and relocated antiroll bars improve body control without adding harshness.
And the aforementioned upgrades in chassis rigidity work in sync with these suspension alterations to offer excellent handling balance and nicely weighted steering effort through the slalom. The 2010 Mazda 3 records 68.2 mph, a speed identical to the last Honda Civic Si we tested. That is impressive.
We appreciate the effort to refine products. But when a redesign is scheduled simply because the product lifecycle suggests it's time, the customer usually pays the price for a car that's different but not better. With numerous innovative options, class-leading dynamics, engaging driving character and a new look, the 2010 Mazda 3 continues to set the compact class standard.
This car is an example of how to do it right. — Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager
This is not exactly the first vehicle that comes to mind when you hear the word "turbocharged," but there's no doubt that the Ford Flex is an even better vehicle now that it features the company's EcoBoost V6. Also known within Ford as Gasoline Turbo Direct Injection (GTDI), the EcoBoost technology is spreading quickly through Ford's and Lincoln's large cars and crossovers. It makes the Ford Flex most impressive in day-to-day passing situations, as there's simply no substitute for a big, thick torque curve. And this big ol' beast can now pass dawdlers with the same impulsive lack of forward planning as a car.
And we cannot dispute the fact that even while lugging around 4,839 pounds, the Flex GTDI feels as powerful and torque-rich as a V8. The Flex GTDI also delivers on the other EcoBoost promise of fuel economy, which is meant to be like that of a normally aspirated V6. At 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, the Flex GTDI delivers exactly the same fuel-efficiency as the standard all-wheel-drive Flex. That's what's known as a win-win.
The Ford Flex drives like a car, not a crossover. Just as its appearance promises, it shatters your expectations about the whole people-moving paradigm and delivers a luxurious, adult-rated experience. It's both functional and artful, like one of those pieces of kitchenware on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. If not for the vehicles from the SVT group, the Flex would be the best thing with a Ford badge that you can buy. — Daniel Pund, Senior Editor, Detroit
Instant Classic: 2010 Ford Shelby GT500
Forget that the GT500 sprints to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.6 seconds (4.3 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and takes down the quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds at 113.5 mph. The accelerative might afforded by its 540 hp is only a peripheral component of the GT500's appeal.
Instead, it's the way Ford has made the slabular 3,901-pound GT500 willing to dance. Hustling the Shelby into a slightly off-camber 2nd-gear corner, hard on the brakes, the Shelby's nose dips but doesn't squirm laterally. At turn-in, the front end obeys with an assured confidence, if not quite the blazing reflexes of the Mustang GT with its lighter engine. Still, it has poise. The Shelby's well-weighted, responsive steering loads up predictably as you approach the apex and squeeze the throttle for the exit.
With a muted blower whine under the hood, the tail of the car steps out progressively. It's easy to catch, and you can stand on the gas out of the corner in absolute confidence that the tinge of blue tire smoke will stay behind you. This tail-out technique isn't the fastest way through a corner, but it's the most fun and the GT500 makes it so bloody easy.
That this car is sized right and you can actually see out of the thing only makes it easier to exploit its abilities. For a car of its mass, the GT500's control feel is astonishing and cements the conclusion that the GT500 is a $50,000 Mustang that is worth the price of admission.
This is a machine to be lusted after. Today and tomorrow. — Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor