We put together a list of the best selling nameplates in 2000. Of course, 2001 models (and in some cases, 2002 models) are now at the dealerships, so here's what to expect if you're shopping for one of last year's bestsellers in 2001:
1. Ford F-Series 876,716
Why do so many people like the F-Series? Versatility and solid performance. Start with the most prominent member of the model line, the light-duty F-150, which you can buy with a regular, extended or crew cab; a short or long bed; two- or four-wheel drive; a manual or automatic transmission; and one of three engines (the biggest one, a 5.4-liter V8, only comes with an autobox). Additionally, the F-150 SVT Lightning offers a supercharged version of the big V8. You can outfit the regular cab as a sensible work truck, lavish a SuperCab with Lariat trim (leather, 17-inch wheels) and the Payload package (for towing), or spring for one of the special SuperCrew models the Harley Davidson or the King Ranch. Then move onto the Super Duty series: These bigger, stronger, more imposing trucks have their own platform, so they're up to the task of serious towing and hauling. Most consumers know these trucks as the F-250 and F-350, and you can configure them in nearly as many ways as the F-150 that's right, even these behemoths can have a six-disc changer and heated leather seats. Of course, you do get more powerful engine choices, including a 6.8-liter V10 and 7.3-liter turbodiesel V8 (How does 505 foot-pounds of torque sit with you?). We can't help noting that the total F-Series sales figure is somewhat misleading. You see, included in the final count, were all the F-trucks sold commercially (350, 450, 550, 650 and 750) as chassis cabs (you know, the ones on the front of U-haul trucks and dump trucks). It's not so hard to be the sales leader when you can sell trucks in bulk to corporations. Still, the sales title has some merit: An F-150 won our 2000 Full-Size Pickup Comparison Test not because it overwhelmed us with its talents in a few categories, but because it had no glaring faults in any category (some of us regard it as the "Honda Accord of full-size trucks"). Perhaps that doesn't sound like much of a compliment, but a truck that is capable in all areas is likely the one that will continue to satisfy you as the miles pile up.
2. Chevrolet Silverado 645,150
Keep in mind that GM also sells the Silverado's arguably more attractive twin, the GMC Sierra. If Sierra sales were added, the total would be much closer to the F-Series sales figure. You can't outfit the Silverado in as many different ways as the F-Series trucks, but they have more vigorous powertrains, better handling and more stamina for towing and hauling. Redesigned for 1999, the light-duty 1500 series offers buyers regular and extended cabs, short and long beds, two- and four-wheel drive and three engine choices (of these, only the V6 comes with a manual gearbox). We are particularly fond of the brawny 5.3-liter V8, which makes the Silverado downright fun to drive. Every automatic transmission has a tow/haul mode, which improves towing and hauling performance by delaying upshifts and firming up shift feel. Two-wheel-drive models can be equipped with electronic traction assist useful for those who may not want the expense of four-wheel drive but still want decent handling in the wet. Need more size and strength? Try the 1500HD crew cab. New for 2001, this truck is a member of GM's heavy-duty series (HD) and offers more cabin space, a larger 6.0-liter V8 and greater towing capacity. If a half-ton truck isn't enough for you, step up to the 2500 series these trucks are available as light- and heavy-duty models. The heavy-duty models, which also include the larger 3500 trucks (some of which are sold commercially as chassis cabs), were redesigned for 2000. Two new engines are available an 8.1-liter V8 rated at 340 horsepower and 455 foot-pounds of torque and a 6.5-liter turbodiesel V8 that makes 520 ft-lbs of twisting force. Even the standard 6.0-liter V8 makes more power than Ford's and Dodge's biggest gas-powered V8s. Not surprisingly, Silverados have the greatest weight-carrying capacity in the heavy-duty truck segment, too. HD Silverados offer the industry's first five-speed automatic with tow/haul shift optimization modes and a six-speed manual for those who like to do their own shift optimization. What's not to like about these powerful, agile trucks? Poor build quality. We've consistently noted cheap interior materials, easily disassembled interior components and poor panel fit throughout. Such inattention to the details of assembly makes it difficult for the trucks to age gracefully. And if you like the curvaceous sheetmetal of the F-150, the Silverado's styling may seem dated.
3. Ford Explorer 445,157
Firestone debacle be damned people still like this midsize SUV! Tires aside, we'll admit that we were getting tired of the Explorer and its 10-year-old underpinnings, but now, a completely redesigned version has arrived as an early 2002 model and all looks bright again. Once more, buyers can choose XLS, XLT, Eddie Bauer or Limited trim. All trim levels come standard with a 4.0-liter V6 engine XLT, EB and Limited models will also get a flexible fuel system (allows use of gas/ethanol mix) with this engine. The V6 is an aged carryover, but at least it's smoother and quieter now. All models except the XLS can be optioned with an all-new 4.6-liter V8 that makes 240 horsepower. Its power delivery is refined, but its fuel consumption isn't frugal. The Explorer's steering response is quick, and a new independent rear suspension affords a more car-like ride and improved handling characteristics. The truck has a slightly wider stance and a longer wheelbase, both of which enhance handling and increase interior dimensions. This Explorer looks more substantial, too, rather like a scaled-down Expedition. We're fond of its larger, clear lens headlights, integrated bumpers, egg-crate grille and blacked-out B- and D-pillars, all of which give it a cleaner look. Larger door openings with a lower step-in height simplify entry and exit, and a giant rear liftglass allows you to load groceries without opening the entire hatch. Optional safety features include side-curtain airbags, a reverse sensing sonar system and later in the model year, rollover protection sensors and a new AdvanceTrac traction/stability control system. We expect that the new Explorer will continue to appeal to people seeking a roomy, comfortable SUV laden with features.
4. Toyota Camry 422,961
So you want seating for five in the guise of a sensible, super-reliable sedan? And a V6 with a manual gearbox? For most Americans, the answer is Camry. This Toyota isn't particularly stimulating to behold or to drive, unless you get a kit from Toyota Racing Development (TRD) that turns the unassuming sedan into a competent handler. But it performs all the Point-A-to-B tasks acceptably, and if you treat it right, it will never die. Camry is available in CE, LE or XLE trim, and the standard engine is a 136-horsepower 2.2-liter four. You can only pair a manual transmission to it in base CE trim. Our preference, of course, would be to option an LE model with the smooth and creamy 3.0-liter V6 (200 horsepower) and the aforementioned manual gearbox (the XLE model has an autobox default). The current generation of the Camry has been around since 1997, but it has aged well. The interior is dated, but all controls are user-friendly and substantial materials exude quality. Storage is abundant. However, many of our editors find the seats uncomfortable. Another issue with Camrys is that they don't come standard with much. The base CE model comes with a CD player, but you have to buy a value package just to get air conditioning and power windows, door locks and mirrors (Is this the late 1980s?). A redesigned Camry will arrive in 2002, but the current generation has a lot to offer: polite demeanor; outstanding resale value; dependability matched only by Hondas and other Toyotas. No wonder it's the best-selling car on the list.
5. Honda Accord 404,515
Meet the Camry's chief competitor. Chances are that you went for the Accord if you didn't like the Camry's seats or the local Toyota dealership. If you envision yourself working through the gears of a V6 Accord on your way to the supermarket, then you'll want the Camry you can't have a V6 and a manual transmission. You can buy an Accord as a coupe or sedan (you can also have a Camry coupe, that is, the Solara, but it has a stiffer suspension and sportier steering, just enough to make it "not quite a Camry"). The sedan offers three trim levels and three engine choices. Base DX trim (sedan only) has a 135-horsepower four-cylinder, while LX and EX models can have one of two VTEC-massaged powerplants: a 150-horsepower version of the DX's 2.3-liter four or a 200-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. The spunky fours have an advantage over the V6 in that you can pair them with one of Honda's slick-shifting manual gearboxes. But it's hard to pass up the soundless refinement of the six. In spite of the appealing powertrain choices, the Accord does little else to appease the adventuresome driver its steering and suspension simply aren't tuned for spirited driving on backroads. Instead, this Honda earns its keep as a commuter's companion, particularly with its strong brakes, comfortable seats, spacious interior and generous storage space. And each Accord is assembled with quality materials and an exacting hand. This is why an Accord is still pleasing after 100,000 miles. Unfortunately, like the Camrys, base Accords greet buyers with low levels of equipment, which probably accounts for the release of the Accord VP, a DX sedan equipped with a value package that includes an automatic transmission, air conditioning, a CD player, floor mats, fake wood interior accents and special exterior trim. However, a fully loaded EX sedan stickers in the 25s, more than $1,000 less than a Camry XLE that could still use a value package. Reasons to buy an Accord: polite demeanor; outstanding resale value; dependability matched only by Toyotas and other Hondas.
6. Ford Taurus 382,035
It wasn't so long ago that the Taurus toted the "Best Selling Car in America" title (captured by the Camry in 2000). Ford hopes that a 2000 redesign will reawaken buyers' enthusiasm for the Taurus (although the car's hold on the rental car market has always been secure). Gone is the late-90s Taurus fashioned from flattened spheres. The succeeding Taurus embraces the Ford Mondeo school of design (you knew it as the Contour) and has better safety features, power and suspension than its predecessor. The standard engine for the first three trim levels (LX, SE and SES) is the 3.0-liter, 12-valve Vulcan V6 good for 155 horsepower. Standard for SEL models and optional for SES sedans and SE wagons is the 3.0-liter, 24-valve Duratec V6 that makes 200 horsepower. An automatic transmission is standard across the model line. The Taurus rewards its passengers with pleasant handling characteristics its compliant suspension ensures highway comfort, while excellent rebound shock valving allows for spirited canyon carving. Ford's Personal Safety System helps each Taurus interpret the nature of a crash event and takes into account whether or not the seatbelts are in use. With the system, the dual-stage airbags inflate at two different rates, depending on the situation. Additionally, safety belts are equipped with pre-tensioners that are designed to help reduce the risk of force-related injuries in a crash. The Taurus was also the first car in North America to offer power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals. Strangely, though, given the emphasis on safety, you cannot option any sedan with four-wheel disc brakes; although, they are standard on the wagon. Probably the best aspect of the Taurus is its pricing you can load up an SES or SEL with all of the options and still keep the sticker under $24,000 (and in reality, the TMV® for the Taurus is only a small premium above invoice).
7. Honda Civic 324,528
Years ago, Honda introduced the notion of a small, reliable, fuel-efficient economy sedan to Americans with the birth of the Civic. The seventh generation (1996-2000) continued to define the segment as its best-seller. Besides being trusty beyond 100,000 miles, the Civic offers decent to spirited performance (depending on the engine and transmission you select) and always looks fresh-faced (Honda promptly redesigns it every five years). As it happens, the sedan and coupe are all-new for 2001, while the hatchback and 160-horsepower Si coupe are all gone (but don't worry, a new Si hatchback will arrive in early 2002). Although Honda has surely disappointed the small but influential crowd of enthusiasts who like to modify Civics (less sophisticated suspension components and different tuning make it more difficult), the new versions should appeal to a wide audience. Safety, interior room, performance and fuel economy have all been improved. Base DX models include a 1.7-liter engine (good for 115 horsepower), a tilt steering wheel and an AM/FM four-speaker stereo, among other items. The mid-level LX comes with air conditioning (with micron air filter), power windows and locks, cruise control and a cassette deck. The top-of-the-line EX receives antilock brakes, a moonroof, 15-inch wheels, a CD player and a more powerful 127-horse VTEC engine. If fuel economy is a priority, get the HX Coupe, available with an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) and lightweight alloy wheels. Or if you're really serious about ridding the planet of fossil fuel burners, try the CVT-equipped GX Sedan, which runs on natural gas and meets super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) standards. Annoyingly, only EX and GX models can be equipped with ABS. While we generally like the revisions to the Civic, its redesigned interior still can't match the Volkswagen Jetta's substance or the Ford Focus' layout. But then again, neither the Jetta nor the Focus has the Civic's reputation for long-term reliability.
8. Ford Focus 286,166
We fell in love with the Focus when the three-door hatchback, sedan and wagon were released in the U.S. What a brilliant successor to the Escort. We were stirred by the conspicuous styling, sprightly Zetec engine, excellent road manners and spacious interior. And evidently others were, too. Sedans come in three trim levels LX, SE and ZTS while wagons and hatchbacks each come in a single flavor. A 2.0-liter, 110-horsepower engine and five-speed manual transmission is the standard powertrain in the LX and SE sedans. Optional for the SE sedan and standard in the ZTS sedan, ZX3 hatchback and SE wagon is the 130-horsepower Zetec powerplant. Both engines provide adequate power, though the Zetec engine is the clear choice for enthusiasts. Enthusiasts and commuters alike will enjoy the ride quality and handling ability of these cars. A fully independent multi-link suspension has been adopted for the rear. Body roll is noticeable while cornering, but the Focus stays planted and inspires confidence. The steering system is surprisingly quick, fluid and responsive. The airy interiors attempt to accommodate humans of all sizes, and most of our editors have been able to find a comfortable driving position in the soft chairs. Interior ergonomics are excellent controls are large, and the stereo is located at the top of the center stack for ease of adjustment while driving. And what a competent stock stereo system it has you won't find this in a Civic. Cool options like a telescoping steering wheel and the AdvanceTrac stability control system (ZX3 and ZTS models only) are available, as well. We definitely recommend that you check out the Focus if you're shopping in the economy segment. And if you can wait until the fall of 2001, the ZX5 (a five-door Focus hatchback) will finally arrive in the States.
9. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 285,739
The Caravan siblings were totally redesigned for 2001, and while they offer more powerful engines and better safety features than their predecessors as well as an unbelievable list of options they still don't give consumers handy features like a disappearing third-row seat (the "magic" seat), parabolic rearview mirror (spy on the kids), or second-row seats that move fore/aft and side to side. Also, given the troubled repair history of these vans, why would you buy one? Well, you can get into a stripped Caravan SE for under 20 grand, and when you option either van generously, the result is quite appealing. A Grand Caravan can have all-wheel drive, an in-dash four-disc CD changer bundled with an Infinity sound system, dual power sliding doors, a power liftgate, leather interior and the list goes on. If all of these options are important to you and your brood, then by all means, buy the DGC. When equipped with the torquey 215-horsepower 3.8-liter, the Grand Caravan is a satisfying drive. Responsive steering makes the Grand, and its smaller sibling, easy to handle. The standard powerplant in the Caravan Sport (optional for SE models) and all non-AWD Grands, is a 3.3-liter V6 that is good for 180 horsepower, which is a boost of 22 over the previous engine. The Caravan SE comes with an overworked 150-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder (which also powers the PT Cruiser), but you can option it with the smaller V6. Optional side airbags, along with improved brake components, dual-stage front airbags and energy-absorbing interior materials, help protect occupants but at this writing crash tests scores for the redesigned vans have not been released. Dodge offers consumers shopping for a minivan everything from a $20,000 bargain model to a fully-loaded, leather-lined luxo-barge with all-wheel-drive. Chances are you'll find what you're looking for at a Dodge store.
10. Jeep Grand Cherokee 271,723
Grand Cherokees are handsome, comfortable SUVs that make themselves at home on the highway and the Rubicon. If we had to choose an SUV for serious off-roading fun, the JGC would be it. But you'll note that the Nissan Pathfinder was our Most Wanted midsize SUV for 2001 Maxima-like sportiness and refinement, not to mention long-term dependability, won out here. No matter, we think you'll still be happy with a Jeep (and perhaps an extended warranty, as well) unless you're counting on reliability on par with the Pathfinder's. The Grand's standard engine is a 4.0-liter inline six that produces 195 horsepower and 230 foot-pounds of torque. This aged powerplant provides adequate acceleration, but lacks refinement in terms of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) control. Next step up is the optional 4.7-liter V8 with the new five-speed automatic transmission. We heartily recommend the V8, which brews up 235 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of twisting force. Acceleration is on par with some muscle cars, though the V8 is also rather thirsty at the pump. Live front and rear axles ensure off-road prowess, but Jeep managed to make this suspension compliant enough to deliver a luxurious on-road ride. There are two trim levels, Laredo and Limited. Our preference would be to purchase a Laredo and go easy on the options in order to keep the price reasonable. Four-wheel-drive Laredos come with the full-time Selec-Trac transfer case, while 4WD Limiteds use the on-demand Quadra-Trac II transfer case. When equipped with the V8, either model can be optioned with the Quadra-Drive system that keeps your vehicle moving even if only one wheel has traction. Despite its excellence off-road, the Quadra-Drive system often causes quite a bit of driveline whine on the highway. Which is OK, too, since the JGC climbs rugged passes quite handily even with Selec-Trac. Want room for four and a spirited, all-terrain companion? Get a Jeep.
Ranking source: "U.S. Light-Truck Sales December 2000 and 12 Months" and "U.S. Domestic and Imported Car Sales, December and YTD," Automotive News, Jan. 8, 2001