I recall little about the 17 sport sedans, luxury cars and SUVs I drove recently at the North American Car of the Year jury’s program to compare semifinalists for 2022 car, SUV and truck of the year.
This is the best year ever for new pickups, setting up the tightest, most-interesting contest ever.
Normally, I find truck of the year to be the least-competitive category. Big trucks trump midsize pickups, and the leaders seldom square off with all-new models in the same year.
The vehicles are frequently great. The competition isn’t.
Vans and minivans? NACTOY’s voting history says they’re also-rans, no matter how much they mean to the economy and rec-league soccer teams. Thanks for playing. Have an orange slice.
This year is very different. Four outstanding new pickups appealing to very different types of buyers are debuting, alongside replacements for a pair of long-running models.
It’s anybody’s guess which will win. For the first time in my memory, I can’t even guess which three will be finalists.
As a NACTOY juror, I’m one of 50 automotive journalists from across the United States and Canada who vote for the awards each year. We’ve got a couple of weeks left for driving and thinking before voting to pick three finalists each for North American car, truck and SUV of the year.
The finalists will be announced Nov. 17. Then my fellow jurors and I have about six weeks for more evaluations before the winners are announced Jan. 11, 2022.
2022 North American Truck of the Year semifinalists
- Ford Maverick
- GMC HUMMER EV
- Hyundai Santa Cruz
- Nissan Frontier
- Rivian R1T
- Toyota Tundra
The Fantastic Four out of Six
The Ford Maverick, GMC Hummer EV, Hyundai Santa Cruz and Rivian R1T pickups constitute the strongest and most varied pickup field in my experience. Each of them is new from the ground up.
I think it’s an odds-on bet three of them will be finalists, but there’s no question the 2022 Toyota Tundra full-size pickup and Nissan Frontier midsize – welcome new versions of existing pickups – will get votes.
- Everything I write about these trucks is solely my opinion, not that of any other juror.
- As I write this, I do not know which pickups will get my votes for semifinalists.
- All prices exclude destination charges.
- Compact pickup
- Base price: $19,995
The Maverick is the least-expensive hybrid on the market. It can seat five, tow 4,000 pounds and haul another 1,500 in its cab and bed.
More than that, it’s a no-excuses, entry-level vehicle that won’t embarrass its owners. Ingenious design and engineering endowed it with visual appeal, practicality and useful technology. Kitted out with a good audio system, all-wheel drive and a 250-horsepower engine, it still checks in under $34,000.
The Maverick’s strongest selling point is affordability. That’s traditionally a good card to play with NACTOY voters.
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GMC Hummer EV
- Full-size electric luxury pickup
- First edition price: $112,595
Call the GMC Hummer EV Moe. Mo’ power: 1,000 horsepower from a new electric-vehicle system. Mo’ technology: four-wheel-steering, hands-free highway driving, three independently controlled motors. Mo’ electric range: 350 miles, with superfast 800v DC charging capability. Mo’ bravado: LED lights a mile wide across its nose, 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds. Mo’ money: $112,595 for the launch edition. An eventual ‘base’ model will cost $79,995 in 2024.
The five-passenger GMC Hummer checks every box so hard it rips the paper.
NACTOY jurors like affordability, but we’re suckers for advanced technology and no-apologies performance.
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Hyundai Santa Cruz
- Compact pickup
- Base price: $23,990
Hyundai’s dynamic-looking Santa Cruz pickup may be the brand’s best-handling vehicle, thanks to a stiff chassis and nicely tuned steering and suspension. It’s also practical, comfortable and loaded with tech for convenience and safety.
And the Santa Cruz looks like a spaceship, but in a cool “Mandalorian” way, not the Tesla Cybertruck’s crash-landed-on-an-asteroid look.
NACTOY voters traditionally like small pickups. Combine that with outstanding handling, and Hyundai’s little truck made a big impression.
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- Luxury pickup
- First edition: $73,000
Being first counts, and Rivian’s slick R1T was the first electric full-size pickup on the market, beating the GMC Hummer by a few months. The R1T makes no pretense to being a work truck, as witnessed by options like a camp kitchen with an electric range and sink that slides out of a handy compartment between the five-seat club cab and the R1T’s short bed.
Brief drives in an R1T convinced jurors that Rivian, a startup that combined Silicon Valley money and management with Detroit engineering and Midwestern manufacturing, is a force to be reckoned with.
More seat time could catapult the newcomer into contention for truck of the year.
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- Midsize pickup
- Base price: $27,840
In this company, the Frontier, a good revamping of a respected model, is a bit of a wallflower. Hundreds of thousands of Americans buy midsize pickups every year, though, and Brie Larson will tell you during commercial breaks of virtually any NFL game that trucks like this helped establish Nissan’s reputation.
The 2022 Frontier reprises the brand’s popular 1980s “hard body” look. It can tow up to 6,570 pounds, has a 310-horsepower 3.8L V6, two- and four-door cab sizes, and two bed lengths.
- Full-size pickup
- Base price: TBA
The 2022 Tundra, the second generation of Toyota’s first truly full-size pickup makes several leaps from its 14-year-old predecessor:
- It abandons V8 power for a pair of twin-turbo V6s.
- There’s a hybrid model.
- Standard independent rear suspension.
- New U.S.-developed infotainment system with virtual assistant.
- Cloud-based navigation, memory and other features.
That combination could spell “winner “in other years, but the Tundra’s work is cut out for it this year.
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