From leaked product plans, dependability results, future models, and yes, COVID-19 news, here are the year’s top stories.
As we close the book on 2020—finally—we’re doing the usual retrospectives here at AutoGuide. First up was our list of the most popular car reviews of the year. Next, we’re taking a look at the top news stories that shaped this weird, weird year.
Naturally, there is some coronavirus-related news here. It was inevitable: the whole world ground to a halt in early spring. As automakers slowly restarted production after weeks of down time, we kept an updated log of when lines went back online.
The rest of the stories you’ll find below are, thankfully, much more positive. Leaks remain a big draw: who doesn’t like finding out an automaker’s plans days—or even years—ahead of schedule? On a related note, our hands-on previews of important new models also pulled big numbers.
Consumers place a lot of value on long-term reliability, so it’s no surprise J.D. Power’s dependability study drew in the eyeballs. You also looked forward to your next potential ride with a list of upcoming models. Most of them even actually launched this year!
Read on for the top 10 AutoGuide news stories of 2020:
Hyundai dropped a surprise mid-year by announcing an update for its popular mid-size Santa Fe SUV. Despite showing up just two years ago, the ‘Fe got a new look outside and in, borrowing styling cues from the Sonata and Palisade. Since this initial reveal, we’ve learned the Santa Fe will feature a wholly different engine lineup, with two 2.5-liter four-pots (one turbocharged, one not), and the addition of a hybrid model. Mirroring its Palisade big brother, the Santa Fe also adds a lux Calligraphy trim for 2021.
It feels like a lifetime ago. In March, nearly every industry shut down to minimize the spread of COVID-19. This included every major automaker’s production lines in the US and Canada, as some reported infections. What followed was weeks of downtime, though some companies, like Ford, transitioned to producing masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) in record time. Since mid-May, most every plant has been back up and running.
With all the closures and event cancellations, automakers scrambled to adopt digital methods for their product debuts. Toyota had an oopsies ahead of the Sienna’s reveal, briefly letting out a teaser image for the people-mover. It didn’t show much of the bullet train-inspired exterior, but it was the first official source that the Sienna was going all-hybrid.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Toyota Sienna Review: First Drive
What followed was a big year for the Sienna. We eventually drove it later in the year, just as the snow began to fall. But this isn’t the last time you’ll see the minivan on this list…
2020 promised a lot of exciting new metal for car consumers. Here at the end of it, we got most of them. Look at that header image: two out of three ain’t bad, right?
Naturally, coronavirus delayed a lot of what we were excited for. The BMW i4 didn’t see the light of day, but we did see its crossover cousin the iX. Nissan showed off the Z Proto, but the production model is still many months away. A raised-wagon version of the Porsche Taycan sounds like the ultimate car to us.
And finally, there’s the Ford Bronco, which slipped a few times and is now set to arrive in summer 2021. It returned on our 2021 list.
All of the talk about Genesis seemed to center on the brand’s first SUV, the GV80. But when we got to spend time with both cars over the summer—stationary, mind you—it was the G80 that walked away with more views. Is it because it’s the second generation of the car that launched the brand? Is it because of the cool blue leather interior?
We couldn’t tell you the reason why, but we can tell you that here at the end of the year, we’ve driven the G80, and we liked it quite a lot. The mid-size luxury sedan has nailed the balance we’re looking for in the segment, and the competition should be worried.
Just like the Genesis above, we took part in a different sort of preview for the 2021 Toyota Sienna in the summer. With social distancing in full effect, we had over an hour of alone time to pore over every detail of the brood-hauler. Full of clever nods to everyday family needs, like a second-row vacuum and an available freezer—both of which are sadly delayed due to supplier issues—the Sienna served as a reminder that crossovers can never match the usefulness of the humble minivan.
04. The More Options the Better: How Genesis Rethought Its Infotainment System for the 2021 GV80 and G80
Genesis wasn’t just debuting a whole new design language, or entering a new segment, with the 80-series vehicles. With both, it would be moving to a different infotainment system, one built from the ground up for the luxury brand. Consumers in the segment demand an experience removed from the mainstream one, and the Germans in particular have hugely appealing, high-tech offerings.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Genesis GV80 Review: First Drive
In an exclusive interview, Genesis’ Andre Ravinowich walked AutoGuide through the process of designing the new infotainment system. The Korean luxury brand made an early decision to offer passengers multiple input methods. Not only does it allow drivers to stick to their preferences, but it allows for for those preferences to vary based on the task at hand. Special care was also paid to the feel of the physical touch points, including the satisfying click-click of the central rotary selector.
Oh, the before-times. A spec sheet for the highly-anticipated Ford Bronco Sport slipped out, and it confirmed that the engine lineup would mirror the related Escape’s. We were still guessing about exact power outputs, and hadn’t seen Ford’s smaller Bronco model.
Since then, we’ve had a poke around the Bronco Sport in person. Ford confirmed the two-engine lineup, with the three-cylinder producing 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft. The 2.0-liter, exclusive to the top Badlands trim, bumps those figures to 250 and 275, respectively.
When you buy a car, you want to know it’s going to give you a years of stress-free motoring. J.D. Power has been running its dependability study for 31 years, quizzing owners of three-year old models to get an idea of what the 36 months have been like. It’s a solid way for potential buyers to get a snapshot of ownership, warts and all.
The 2020 list saw Lexus drop to the silver position, after eight years at the top. Who could possibly displace the titan of trustworthiness? Genesis. The Korean luxury brand didn’t just squeak by, but pulled a huge gap over Lexus, and in its first year of eligibility no less.
We’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the Toyota product planners who undoubtedly had A Bad Day when this article went out. At what was purported to be a dealer meeting, someone snapped pictures of most of Toyota’s future lineup plans, as well as Lexus. It included (now-deleted) info on models like a turbocharged-V6, hybrid Tundra replacement, the GR86, and LC-F. A slide showing the all-hybrid Sienna—which has since debuted, true to form—lent an extra level of credence to the leak.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Lexus IS 350 Review: First Drive
Then again, we’ve yet to see the GR86, and it’s highly unlikely it will go turbo when its Subaru sibling, the BRZ, isn’t. We’ll find out about it—and the Tundra, hopefully—in 2021!
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