Friends, it’s been a wild year in the automotive world. If the paradigm shift away from internal combustion power isn’t enough, we have the tireless march of technology bringing ever more computer control into vehicles. And that’s terrifically ironic considering the microchips required for those systems are in short supply, creating the largest disruption of automotive production in recent memory. All we can say is, whew.
Between chip shortages, supply chain disruptions, civil unrest, political instability, resurging COVID-19 strains, and Captain Kirk actually blasting off into space, it’s amazing there were any new vehicle debuts for 2021. But when you start counting the major reveals with minor facelifts to existing models and announcements from as-yet unproven startups, there were dozens upon dozens upon dozens of debuts over the last 12 months.
There are so many that revisiting each one could take another 12 months, so instead, here are 10 that we think deserve a bit more attention. From significant steps forward to final hurrahs and gutsy decisions, these 2021 debuts are worthy of review.
2022 Honda Civic
Frankly, any all-new Honda Civic is a big deal, because it’s still one of the world’s best-selling cars amid the SUV invasion. Styling for 2022 is subdued, and we already have a new Si to ponder as well. Will it remain a hot-selling car with its fresh look? We’ll find out in 2022.
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
More than a few people wondered why it took so long for the Grand Wagoneer to return. In the midst of prolific electrification, a six-figure Jeep with a thirsty V8 seems contrary to say the least, but there’s finally something in Stellantis’ US stable to battle the Cadillac Escalade. More importantly, there’s a properly large three-row SUV that, in lower trims, can battle the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition.
2022 Porsche 911 GT3
No, the Porsche 911 isn’t new for 2021. But the naturally aspirated GT3 is, and the fact that it’s even better than the previous version is mind-blowing. However, it’s also on the list because it could well be the last of its kind. Emission regulations will make it exceedingly difficult to keep the GT3 free of forced induction, at least at this level of performance. Enjoy it now, while you can.
2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Speaking of naturally aspirated power, we have the most powerful NA V8 engine ever offered in a production car. That alone is worthy of a second look, but the fact that it’s in a Corvette and will likely start at under $100,000 makes this an extraordinary supercar. We knew it was coming, but that doesn’t diminish how bold this is for Chevrolet. From a front-engine, pushrod V8 sportscar to a mid-engine, high-revving DOHC supercar. My how the Corvette has changed.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning
You want to talk about a bold move? Take the best-selling pickup truck in America for upwards of 40 years and electrify it. Truck enthusiasts are arguably the most vocal group against EVs, and changing up the top-selling vehicle is always a risky endeavor. But with familiar styling, a promise of sizzling performance, legitimate truck capability, and a low starting price, the Lightning could be a game-changer in both the pickup truck and EV segments.
2022 Kia EV6
Sharp styling with the potential for up to 576 horsepower, what’s not to like? The EV6 and its Ioniq 5 stablemate from Hyundai are poised to give the South Korean company a strong foothold in the growing EV market. With so many memorable debuts of 2021 we suspect this one could get lost in the shuffle, but it promises exhilarating performance with crossover practicality that should come in at a modest price point. That’s definitely worth a second look.
2022 Ford Maverick
The Hyundai Santa Cruz almost made this list, because like the Maverick, it represents the return of the compact truck in America. The Santa Cruz is a bold take on the segment, but if there’s any hope of revitalizing that segment, we suspect the Maverick’s conservative shape and roots with Ford will do it. It’s insanely capable for its size and if the initial response is any indication, compact trucks could be here to stay.
2022 Lamborghini Countach
This car won’t change the automotive landscape. It won’t offer practical motoring solutions to anyone. Heck, with just 112 being built, practically nobody will even see a Countach in person, never mind drive one. But the age of mid-engine V12 supercars is all but over, and it began with the Countach. Yes, it’s an Aventador underneath its edgy skin, but we so don’t care. This fantastic machine tugs on the right heartstrings, and its revival is as exciting as it is poignant.
2022 Nissan Z
Here’s another icon reborn, and this is one we can all drive. With niche sportscars on the decline, Nissan could’ve easily let their stake in the segment die with the 370Z. Instead, they reworked the 370’s bones with updated styling inside and out, infused it with a twin-turbo V6, and gave drivers a manual transmission to shift gears. Logic says the new Z shouldn’t exist, but we’re grateful Nissan didn’t bow to that logic.
2022 Mercedes-Benz EQ Models
This might be cheating just a bit, but Mercedes’ multiple offerings into the electric realm deserve singular attention. The EQS, EQE, and EQB represent a major push from Mercedes to stake a claim in the EV world, and they’re doing it with styling that’s sharp but still familiar. There were other EQ debuts in 2021, but these three will serve as the mainstream models carrying Mercedes-Benz into the future. And it all happened in 2021.
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