There's a good chance you might be overwhelmed by the various automotive awards presented each year. There's an even better chance that you simply don't care because you can't figure out how all these award winners are chosen.
With that in mind, we started the Most Wanted Awards. Our winners are chosen for one simple reason: They're the cars, trucks and vans that we like the best. Not the best new vehicles or the ones with the fastest quarter-mile times (although that does help). Nope, these are simply our staff favorites, the cars we would buy for ourselves, the ones that we remember even after getting behind the wheels of hundreds of vehicles throughout the year.
The Selection Process
Our selection process is extremely simple and there is only one real rule: Inside Line must have tested the car or truck by December 1, 2010. 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 Inside Line editors want to award supercars only, we still have that option.
The voting process involved 11 editors locked in a room. No spreadsheets were used and no blood was shed. We simply presented our best arguments and then raised our hands to take a vote. In the end, we ended up with a list of six truly great cars and trucks. Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2011 Edmunds' Inside Line Editors' Most Wanted Award winners are:
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Stop being such a wuss and go get yourself a 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. There's not another machine on this planet that will at once liberate your manhood with gratuitous powerslides and satisfy your domestic needs by carrying a toddler, a ladder and a dog. Seriously. Go now.
Cars like this only come along once in a generation. By adding a wagon to its CTS-V line, Cadillac has produced a machine with the personality and performance to satisfy the hardened car enthusiast, while simultaneously acknowledging that people with the means to afford such a vehicle have real utilitarian needs. But it's more than that, because if this were just about being fast and practical we'd have picked an Evo and not a Cadillac.
The CTS-V Wagon is about attitude. It's about pure American muscle and it's about making a statement. There are few cars that are faster. And there are plenty more practical cars. But there are no cars that flip a middle finger to convention as convincingly as the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon.
We want one. Badly. — Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor
Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
REEEPEAT! Yep, this is the second year in a row that the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor has made our Most Wanted list, a feat that speaks to its long-term awesomeness. While the custom Fox Racing shocks, 35-inch BFG all-terrain tires and straight-out-of-Baja styling had us swooning last year, the Raptor now comes with the engine it should have had all along — the 411-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8.
But forget the numbers. This truck is all about character. Plant the throttle and the 6.2 bellows with an exhaust note that will scare Prius drivers back into the right lane. In the dirt, the Raptor spits rocks from all four wheels like an eager puppy chasing a ball on a hardwood floor.
Consider the Raptor less a real vehicle — though it seats five and is more than comfortable enough for daily use — and more a goading partner in crime. It wants to have fun, wants to be bad, wants to take you out all night and force you to make excuses to your wife. The Raptor is that college friend who everyone knew was bad news, yet we would follow to the end of the Earth.
In a year dominated by boring alt-powered "of the years," the Raptor earns our enthusiastic salute to fun and freedom in a time of rationality and reason. — Mike Magrath, Associate Editor
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
That's right, if we're spending our own money, we'll take the 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 over the 638-hp ZR1. Not just any Z06, though, as ours would have to be equipped with the Z07 Ultimate Performance package that's new for 2011. It lifts key chassis hardware from the ZR1, namely the magnetorheological adaptive dampers (Magnetic Selective Ride Control), Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires (285/30R19 87Y front, 335/25R20 94Y rear) and carbon-ceramic brakes, and the effect is transformative.
It goes from being a scary-fast sports car with squirrelly, unpredictable handling at the limit to being a scary-fast sports car that's buttoned-down and trustworthy at 10/10ths. The upshot is that you can push a Z07-package Corvette Z06 much harder on a road course or back road without worrying that some midcorner bump will unload the rear suspension and deliver you and the car to an untimely demise.
Of course, the ZR1 still turns in quicker straight-line numbers, but the Z06's naturally aspirated 505-hp 7.0-liter V8 is a high-revving engineering masterpiece that is equally stirring to the soul. Oh, and it'll launch the Z06 to an 11-second quarter-mile, too. Moreover, the Z06 is lighter than the ZR1, and you sense this from the cockpit. It feels more direct and communicative, something we'll gladly trade a few tenths in the quarter-mile for any day of the year. — Erin Riches, Senior Editor
It's been a long time since we looked at a midsize family sedan and thought to ourselves, "That looks pretty damn good." The fact that we said it about the 2011 Kia Optima made it even more of a shock. Then we drove the new sedan and liked it even more. Why?
It's an affordable family car that looks, feels and drives a class higher. It's not sporty, but we don't really expect that from this kind of sedan. What we do expect are a comfortable cabin, excellent mileage and plenty of features. The Optima delivers on all counts, even if you have to give up a little backseat room to get that dramatic C-pillar.
Want more power? You can always opt for the turbocharged model, but we're fine with the standard 2.4-liter engine. It has plenty of power for daily driving and it delivers nearly 40 miles to the gallon on the highway. We know the idea of "wanting" a Kia might seem blasphemous to enthusiasts, but we can't all drive Raptors and Corvettes. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and buy something a little more sensible. Put in that situation, the Kia Optima is one sedan we would want. — Ed Hellwig, Editor
Last year, the Honda Odyssey disappeared from our Editors' Most Wanted list, but with a full redesign under its high beltline, the 2011 Odyssey renewed our interest. The new Odyssey is the closest thing there is to an eight-passenger sport sedan, and its road manners will win the heart of any car guy-turned-family man.
The 2011 Odyssey is bigger, offers more legroom and earns a 19 city/28 highway/22 combined mpg EPA fuel economy rating that trumps the outgoing model. Factor in a 650-watt amplifier stereo system with 12 speakers and a 15GB hard drive capable of storing 3,500 songs, and it's easy to see why once again, the Odyssey is the fun minivan in a vehicle class where nobody expects to have fun. — Kelly Toepke, News Editor
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (Instant Classic)
Forget the gullwing doors on the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG for a second. Yeah, they're an unmistakable heritage cue from one of the most beloved classic cars of all time, but they're not the reason why we find this car so irresistible.
The real draw of this car is the engine. It may be the same 6.2-liter V8 that powered all AMG products before the twin-turbo V8 came along recently, but the way it's tuned in the SLS makes it a star. It not only develops 563 hp, it makes the kind of noises that only V8s can. It emits pure thunder at full throttle and then clears its throat with loud pops and crackles when you ease off. As one editor put it, "It's like driving the world's nicest stock car." It's unexpected from any car these days, let alone an exotic Mercedes.
And for those who aren't hypnotized by the sound of such a potent, unrestricted V8, the SLS is still a sight to behold. Yes, the doors are interesting, but even when they're closed this car has presence. Unlike the cartoonish proportions of the previous SLR, the SLS looks like a proper sports car. And with its all-aluminum chassis, it drives like one, too. It may not be the fastest exotic out there, but the SLS AMG certainly has all the makings of a classic. — Ed Hellwig, Editor