The Best New Cars, Trucks and SUVs We've Driven So Far in 2021
Every year brings with it a fleet of new and improved vehicles; these are our favorites of 2021.
Interested in driving a lot of different cars? Well, a career in automotive journalism might be right for you, friend. Every year, carmakers roll out dozens of all-new vehicles in America, as well as dozens upon dozens more models on the receiving end of hefty mid-life refreshes, moderate updates and mild facelifts — and those of us who write about cars for a living try to drive as many of them as possible. In a usual year, it's not uncommon for car writers to drive 50 or 60 different vehicles; in some cases, they can even break into triple digits.
That said, while it's hard to find a truly bad car on sale today, there are some that certainly stand out more than others. Whether it's moving the ball forward on technology, delivering remarkable style or quality for the price, or simply being all-around excellent at their jobs, some cars are simply worthy of high praise as the best ones to spend your hard-earned money. Here in 2021, these are the new cars we've driven this year so far that fit that bill.
The Porsche 911 Turbo is, quite simply, all the sports car you'd ever really need. Sure, there are Ferraris and Lamborghinis and Bugattis and other god-tier supercars and hypercars that exist in higher realms of price and style, but the 911 Turbo will keep up with (or even outrun) any of them in the real world, and do with the remarkable levels of dependability, quality and luxury — for far, far less money. It's a bargain at $175K.
With the new Bronco, Ford dared to challenge the hallowed Jeep Wrangler. They put on a full court press of sub-branding to ramp up the hype....and the all-new Bronco SUV lived up to it. The Bronco is composed on-road, and it's supremely capable and accessible off-road. It looks great. You can remove the top and doors (not to mention much of the car) with ease. Jeep — dare we say it — may have some catching up to do.
Once you're in the rarefied air north of $200,000, it becomes increasingly difficult to objectively judge a car's value. That said, there's no disputing that Bentley's newest sedan feels every bit like what a quarter-million-dollar ride should be. It's rock-solid to drive, capable of both quiet, effortless cruising and back-road fun. Fit and finish is impeccable, with an interior replete in leather and wood so well-crafted, every minute inside proves a feast for the eyes and fingers. There's room for four to reside in absolute comfort, too. All this in a car that still does 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds and gets close to 25 mpg on the highway.
The Wrangler has long been an iconic 4x4, but in the modern era, it's suffered from two main problems: it's thirsty, and it's slow. With the plug-in hybrid 4xe, Jeep solved both problems in a single stroke. 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque mean the Wrangler is finally quick enough to keep up with fast-moving traffic, while the battery pack and electric motor mean you can go 25 miles on electricity alone — or see real-world fuel economy several miles per gallon better than regular Wranglers even when you run the gas tank dry. And when you include the $7,500 tax credit, the 4xe models are only a couple grand more than their conventional equivalents.
A nearly-$80,000 pickup truck sounds like a ridiculous proposition — and doubly so when you're talking about one that doesn't pack, say, the wild power or off-road capability of a Ram TRX for that price. But the 2021 F-150 Limited does indeed prove itself worthy of its window sticker. In hybrid Powerboost form, its on-board generator can run a camping trailer, a small construction site, even a house; and that's all on top of the lineup-leading power and fuel economy figures. The interior is a match for any Lincoln of similar price; the tech features are equally luxury car-worthy, as well, as is the commodious rear seat. All this in a vehicle that also can tow five tons, haul half a ton of gear in the bed, and offers four-wheel-drive with low range. That's a lot of vehicle for $80K.
Like many an automotive nerd, there'll always be a special place in my heart for a fast station wagon — a practical family car capable of hanging with sports cars on a track or winding road. 2021 represents one of the best times for such cars ever in America, but the AMG E-Class interpretation remains as impressive as ever. The 2021 facelift may not be quite as attractive as the prior version, but there's no arguing with its elegant, comfortable interior, massive cargo hold...or Corvette-like performance.
Jeep launched the all-new Grand Cherokee with the three-row "L" model, and it's all the luxury SUV you would ever need. The Summit Reserve trim's stunning interior can match up with anything short of a Rolls-Royce. It may have the best sound system in the automotive world. It's serene on the highway, yet in Trail Rated trims, it can follow a Wrangler off-road. The all-around package is thoroughly impressive. Just don't try to back it up through long grass.
The Subaru Outback has earned respect, admiration and sales success by sticking to a simple formula: take a station wagon, and give it added off-road capability. Not surprisingly, doubling down on that formula happens to work pretty damn well. The Outback Wilderness is basically the double IPA of Outbacks; it has all the real-world livability of the regular one, but adds more off-road capability — enough to carry it through terrain that most Jeep buyers would fear to tread upon.
For 2021, Acura revamped its flagship, three-row MDX crossover. They were super-excited about it, and with good reason. The handling, ride quality and chassis tuning for the MDX represent Honda at its finest. It looks dramatically more athletic than its predecessor — even cool enough to pull off red leather seats. Plus, a sportier Type S trim is coming. The only problem? The MDX will run about $15,000 more expensive than a comparable Kia Telluride.
The 911 is wonderful, but for my money, the Boxster makes for a better drop-top Porsche. While the 911's elegant looks are compromised by going for the cabriolet, the Boxster was born to be a convertible; plus, its mid-engined layout is ultimately better-balanced. The GTS 4.0 uses a 911-derived naturally aspirated flat-six (unlike most other Boxsters, which now boast turbocharged flat-fours that sound like WRX engines) which, combined with the six-speed stick shift, delivers one of the most immersive driving experiences you can buy today.
Genesis has already proven itself capable of building cars that can compete with the big-name luxury carmakers on quality and comfort alike; with their first SUV, however, they're finally doing so in a category that Americans buy in big numbers. The GV80 is a remarkable crossover, but the top-shelf Prestige version proves that this South Korean carmaker is absolutely worthy of being cross-shopped with Bimmers and Benzes.
Kelley Blue Book has revealed the best cars to buy awards for 2021. The results may surprise you.