This story is part of the GP100, our list of the 100 best new products of the year. Read the introduction to the series here, and stay tuned for more lists like it throughout the month.


"The highway is alive tonight," Bruce Springsteen once wrote; "where it’s headed, everybody knows." For the automotive industry, that’s electrification — a trend seen in several of this year’s most notable vehicles. But gasoline isn’t going gently into that good night; it’s still fueling all sorts of innovative vehicles, from trucks that can do it all to icons reborn in brand-new forms.

No matter what makes cars, trucks and bikes move, the future of motoring is fast, comfortable and clean.

Land Rover Defender

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Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four / 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6; 8 speed automatic; 4-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 296 / 395
Torque: 295 lb-ft / 406 lb-ft
Price: $49,900+

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In an ocean of hype, it can be easy to forget the original Land Rover Defender barely had an official presence on American shores. While it debuted in 1983 overseas, it didn’t go on sale here until 1994 — and it vanished from showrooms just three years later, axed due to slow sales and rising safety standards that mandated things like passenger-side airbags. Yet to hardcore off-roaders, the old Defender 90 and 110 represent something like the Platonic ideal of an SUV.

So when Jaguar Land Rover announced the Defender would be returning using a car-like unibody chassis instead of a truck-like body-on-frame setup, purists howled — only to redouble their cries when they saw design boss Gerry McGovern’s modern take on the vehicle. This, they said, is not a real Defender.

Well, guess what: it’s the right Defender for our times.

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Unlike those Defenders of yore, you can drive this one on the highway without complaint; the ride is smooth and the handling stable, and the interior is both comfortable and packed with convenience features. And while previous versions were outdated even for their time, the new version embraces technology with verve. Not just when it comes to off-road tech (though it has that in spades) but also in the form of a new computer architecture that lets it download vehicle updates via cell networks, which should mean fewer pesky trips to the dealer for any gremlins that raise their heads.

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Granted, the front still looks a little too much like a Thomas the Tank Engine character, and there’s no denying that many buyers might be better off with a well-equipped Discovery for the same money as a moderate-spec Defender. But Land Rover has delivered an SUV that combines go-anywhere prowess with true real-world usability … and that’s something even the original Defender couldn’t do.

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

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Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 495
Torque: 470 lb-ft
Price: $58,900+

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Rumors that the ‘Vette’s engine would move to between driver and rear axle have followed it around for more than half a century; by the end of the seventh-generation’s lifespan, however, it was clear that even GM’s engineers couldn’t squeeze much more performance out of its front-engined layout. It was time for a change.

Any concerns that Chevy would half-ass this transition prove unfounded the moment you clap eyes on the Stingray in person. Corvettes have always generated goodwill, but the 2020 version might as well be Tom Hanks handing out free ice cream; people of every age, race and gender light up when they see it. Yet as great as the new Corvette looks, it’s in the way it drives that the change truly reveals its benefits.

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Moving the engine brings the center of gravity closer to the driver, which makes the car feel more connected to the person holding its squared-off steering wheel. Crank into a turn and there’s no sense you’re pushing a big chunk of steel and fiberglass around; rather, it feels like the car knows your innate desires. It delivers quantifiable benefits, too. Having the engine farther astern means more weight shifts toward the rear wheels when accelerating, improving grip and, in turn, acceleration. The Corvette can vault from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under three seconds — the sort of time reserved for all-wheel-drive supercars just a couple years back.

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The engine is familiar — an improved version of the V8 from the last Corvette. Considering that engine’s combination of delightful tractability, prodigious power and torque, and sonorous roar, few are likely to complain. More controversial: the stick shift is gone. But in its place, every new ‘Vette comes with a dual-clutch gearbox that feels as clever and sharp as the ones from Porsche or Audi.

The best part? All of this is just the beginning. More powerful Corvettes — including hybrid and potentially fully electric ones — are just around the corner, ready to bloody the noses of Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

Porsche Taycan 4S / Turbo / Turbo S

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Powertrain: Twin electric motors; two-speed gearbox for the rear motor; all-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 523 / 563 / 671 / 751
Torque: 472 lb-ft / 479 lb-ft / 627 lb-ft / 774 lb-ft
Price: $103,800+

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If you needed any proof that the electric cars of tomorrow won’t give up anything to the internal combustion cars of today, you’ll find it under the hood of the Porsche Taycan. Or rather, you won’t, because its compact electric motors don’t need the space; they live closer to the axles, leaving the hood free to hold items in case the rear trunk fills up.

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Floor the pedal formerly known as “the gas,” and you’ll see just what an electric vehicle can do when it’s created by one of the world’s preeminent sports car manufacturers. By combining supercar levels of power with the instantaneous torque delivery of electric motors and a rare-for-EVs transmission, the Turbo and Turbo S versions accelerate with the sort of force usually experienced only by Navy pilots being catapulted off aircraft carriers. (The more affordable Taycan 4S is slightly slower, but it's still quick enough to induce tunnel vision.) And unlike Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode-equipped cars, it can do that over and over again ad infinitum — or at least until the battery runs dry.

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That, admittedly, will happen after fewer miles logged than, say, it would take to empty a Panamera’s gas tank. Still, independent tests have found the EPA’s estimated ranges for the Taycan to be conservative; even the super-powered Turbo S will knock out 200 miles of driving between charges if you don’t drive at autobahn speeds the entire time. And should the car run down, the Taycan can take on electrons at 270 kW — fast enough to bring a depleted battery up to 80 percent charge in 15 minutes, according to Porsche. It might still take you a little longer to knock out a long trip in a Taycan than it would in a gas-powered car …but the odds are good you’ll have more fun along the way.

BMW R 18

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Powertrain: 1,802-cc boxer twin-cylinder; six-speed transmission
Horsepower: 91
Torque: 116 lb-ft
Price: $17,495

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BMW Motorrad has built many different types of motorcycles in its 97-year history, but it wasn’t until two decades into the 21st century that it rolled out its first cruiser. While it might seem an odd time to enter this niche, it could prove serendipitous; motorcycle sales overall are actually up this year, either in spite of the coronavirus pandemic or because of it (social distancing comes easy on a bike going 60 mph) — and few types of bike are more iconic than big, burbling cruisers like the R18.

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To give it the proper amount of pop, BMW whipped up its biggest boxer engine yet seen in a production bike — a two-cylinder that displaces more than 1,800 ccs. Stability control and engine drag torque control come standard to help to keep the mighty engine’s output in check. But motorcycles like this are all about their owner’s individuality, so there are plenty of other options on tap: BMW teamed up with acclaimed moto-gear makers like Roland Sands Design, Mustang Seats and Vance & Hines to offer a wide range of custom add-ons and swap-in parts, thus ensuring every buyer can make their R18 truly one of a kind without leaving the BMW Motorrad showroom.

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At a base price equivalent to a new Kia Soul, the R18 clearly isn’t aimed at casual entry-level riders. It’s after riders who’ve long ridden Harleys and Indians because they were the best options to fit their desires. This Beemer is a sign that while electric propulsion may be as inevitable for the motorcycle world as it is for the automotive one, it’ll be a long transition — and in the meantime, there’ll be plenty of riders who want to savor the sweet nostalgia of a purring bike beneath them.

Mercedes-Benz Metris Getaway

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Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four; seven-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 208
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Price: $72,500+

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Mercedes couldn’t have known camping would receive a mighty boost in 2020 from COVID-19, but, as it happened, their camper van arrived at just the right time. Like the VW Westphalias of old, the Metris Getaway packs a pop-top roof that provides sleeping quarters for two; the rear bench folds down to create a bed for two more. Add in a second battery for keeping items charged and options like mosquito nets, roof racks and a pull-out kitchen, and you have the perfect rolling weekend escape.


Toyota RAV4 Prime

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Powertrain: 2.5-liter inline-four + two electric motors + 18.1-kWh battery pack; continuously-variable transmission; all-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 302
EPA Fuel Economy, combined gas/electric: 94 miles per gallon-equivalent
Price: $38,100+

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Electric power will one day replace gasoline entirely, but for now, plug-in hybrids offer the best compromise between EV and internal-combustion motoring: zero-emission driving for the commute, gas-powered range for long trips. The RAV4 Prime builds on this common-sense idea by not only packaging it in one of America’s most popular vehicles, but by making it a dual-powertrain powerhouse. Sure, it can go 42 miles on electricity alone — but you’ll be more impressed with the rush of power that’s unlike any other RAV4. Factor in the $7,500 tax credit and you have a winning combination.

Happier Camper Traveler

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Length: 17 feet
Height: 8 feet (exterior), 6 feet, 5 inches (interior)
Floor Space: 85 square feet
Price: $34,950+

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Happier Camper made waves with its first camping trailer, the HC1, which introduced the world to its innovative Adaptiv system that makes reconfiguring the interior as easy as playing with giant-sized Legos. With this year's Traveler, however, it’s bringing that idea to a trailer large enough that you’d actually want to live out of it. The two living spaces can be reconfigured in minutes, simply by swapping out the Adaptiv cubes used to create everything from desks to benches to beds. And unlike its predecessor, you can outfit the Traveler with a real flushing toilet.

Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban

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Powertrain: 5.3-liter V8 / 6.2-liter V8 / turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six diesel; 10-speed automatic; two-or four-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 355 / 420 / 277
Torque: 383 / 460 / 460
Price: $49,000+

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Full-sized SUVs are an exercise in American compromise. People need the space of a minivan but they want the ride height and powertrain of a full-sized pickup, and these giant sport-utes give buyers both. The new Chevy Tahoe and Suburban — effectively the same vehicle in two different lengths — come even closer to achieving that idea of car-like comfort and truck-worthy capability. By redesigning the rear suspension, GM’s big SUVs offer vastly more room in back than before, making even the third row of seats suitable for six-footers and delivering more cargo room behind that — 66 percent more than its predecessor, in the Tahoe’s case.

Ford F-150

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Powertrain: 3.3-liter V6 / turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 / 5.0-liter V8 / turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 / turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel / turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 hybrid; 10-speed automatic; rear- or four-wheel-drive
Cabin Types : Regular, extended, crew
Bed Lengths: 5'6", 6'6", 8'
Price: $28,940

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Long the most popular passenger vehicles in America, pickup trucks have grown to fill many niches once occupied by cars: family vehicles, luxury rides, performance machines, etc. The best truck is whichever one can satisfy as many needs as possible — and right now, that’s the 2021 F-150. Not only are its top-shelf trims more luxurious, this Ford offers fold-flat seats like those found in business class on long flights. You can use the engine as a generator, with power ports built into the truck bed. There’s even a class-first plug-in hybrid variant, which doesn’t just improve mileage — it’s the most powerful F-150, too.

Ram 1500 TRX

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Powertrain: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8; eight-speed automatic; four-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 702
Torque: 650 lb-ft
Price: $70,095+

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For years, Ford’s F-150 Raptor has been the apex predator of pickup trucks. But evolution never ceases. With millions of pickups sold in America annually, it was only a matter of time before something meaner came along. Ram’s Hellcat-powered TRX is bigger and stronger than the Raptor, packing enough power to send this 6,350-lb truck from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and features a frame sturdy enough to bound across the desert at 100 mph. Yet, its interior is as comfortable as we’ve come to expect from the latest Rams, with near-luxury-car levels of technology and materials laden inside.