The Best Cars of 2003!

The Best Cars of 2003!

Can you sense the growing fervor? Excitement levels throughout a major American industry are rising. The spark of anticipation is thick in the air, threatening to ignite widespread spontaneous combustion at any moment.

You may think I'm referring to a new season of "The Sopranos," and in reality all those things were true of HBO's hit series when it returned from a too-long absence last month. But with the new season well underway, the Free World's focus (at least as it pertains to the automotive industry) has moved from most wanted mobsters to most wanted automobiles — the Editors' Most Wanteds, to be exact. How do we know this is such an important part of the experience? Because even though we announce these awards only once a year, the Editors' Most Wanted pages consistently rank among our most viewed pages throughout the year. It's obvious that, whether you agree with our choices or not, you enjoy reading about what we consider to be the industry's best cars and trucks.

In a few weeks we'll be announcing our Editors' Most Wanted winners for the 2003 model year. As in years past, the Editors' Most Wanted award winners represent the vehicles our editors have dubbed as the models they would personally choose if asked to pick from a specific market segment. Last year we picked winners in 30 different market segments, and for the first time in the history of our Editors' Most Wanted awards we also identified an "Honorable Mention" in each category. The honorable mention vehicles are the vehicles that earned second place when the editorial team's votes for each category were tallied. This is important because quite often there was a difference of only one or two votes separating the winner and second place, meaning that even the "runner-ups" are excellent vehicles worthy of consideration.

Although the total number of categories is the same this year (30), the categories themselves have been altered for consistency's sake and to better represent the entire spectrum of automobiles. For example, last year we had four coupe categories (Economy Coupe; Midsize Coupe; Sport Coupe Under $30,000; Luxury Sport Coupe). But as you can see, some categories were price dependent while others were size dependent or market segment "perception" dependent. This year we have five coupe categories with the single differentiating factor being price (Coupe Under $15,000; Coupe Under $25,000; Coupe Under $35,000; Coupe Under $45,000; Coupe Over $45,000). To land in a given price category, the MSRP of the base trim of a model line, with no options and without destination charge, had to be less than the price break.

Another change for 2003 is the inclusion of high-end and exotic cars. Previously, a vehicle had to have a base MSRP under $55,000 to be considered for Most Wanted voting. This year, we removed that price ceiling and instituted a new "Exotic" category to specifically target cars with limited production and a high MSRP. For example, last year a car like the Mercedes SL would have been too expensive to compete in our "Convertible Over $30,000" category, and a car like the Ferrari 360 Modena wouldn't have fit in any category. Now the SL competes in the "Convertible Over $45,000" category, and the Ferrari (due to its limited production and ultrahigh MSRP) competes in the "Exotic" category.

The 30 categories for 2003 again include an award for the Most Significant Vehicle of the Year. As always, this is a vehicle that changes the rules of a given segment, creates a brand-new segment or redefines an automaker's image — preferably all three. There is no segment boundary for this award — it could be won by a $13,000 hatchback, a $130,000 sports car or anything in-between. In past years the winners of this award have included the Honda Insight, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Mini Cooper.

While I'm not prepared to announce any award winners before our Editors' Most Wanted awards ceremony taking place in late October, I will tell you this year's top contenders for Most Significant Vehicle of the Year are the Honda Element, Mazda 6, Nissan 350Z and Porsche Cayenne.

Check back with us on October 30 to see the winners in all 30 categories, including which of the contestants will take home our top honor as the Most Significant Vehicle of 2003. To keep you busy in the meantime, I've listed all of the 2003 Most Wanted categories below. Why not try picking your favorites in each one and seeing how they match up with ours? If nothing else, it will give you a head start on your voting for the 2003 Consumers' Most Wanted winners next spring.

Coupe Under $15,000
Sedan Under $15,000
Wagon Under $15,000

Coupe Under $25,000
Sedan Under $25,000
Wagon Under $25,000
Convertible Under $25,000

Coupe Under $35,000
Sedan Under $35,000
Wagon Under $35,000
Convertible Under $35,000

Coupe Under $45,000
Sedan Under $45,000
Wagon Under $45,000
Convertible Under $45,000

Coupe Over $45,000
Sedan Over $45,000
Wagon Over $45,000
Convertible Over $45,000

Compact SUV Under $25,000
Midsize SUV Under $35,000
Midsize SUV Under $45,000
Midsize SUV Over $45,000
Large SUV Under $45,000
Large SUV Over $45,000

Compact Truck
Large Truck



Most Significant Vehicle of the Year

Details on all award winners are listed at

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