Detroit — The Detroit auto show floor is awash in whispery-quiet new electric vehicles, but show-goers still covet American heavy metal.
Muscle cars dominated the annual Detroit News Readers’ Choice awards at Huntington Place this year. The high-revving, 670-horsepower, V8-powered Chevy Corvette Z06 took home Best in Show, while the rowdy Ford Bronco Raptor — inspired by King of the Hammers racing trucks — won best Off-Road Warrior.
Ford’s focus on its iconic vehicles — Mustang, Bronco, F-150 — has received a lot of buzz, and that was reflected in jurors’ selections as Ford took home the most prizes, winning four of the nine categories. The Blue Oval’s luxury division, Lincoln, also took home Top Concept for good measure.
The Readers’ Choice Awards are prized by automakers for their status as the Detroit show’s only awards judged by car buyers themselves. Nearly 100 jurors were let loose on the show floor during the Sept. 14 media day to make their selections.
The 2023 Corvette Z06 had already caught the eye of President Joe Biden when he toured the show, and News’ readers found the orange supercar irresistible as well. The eighth-generation, $65,895 Corvette C8 is the iconic nameplate’s first mid-engine model — and much more affordable than comparable mid-engine exotics from Ferrari and McLaren. The Z06 is the C8’s first performance version featuring the most-powerful normally-aspirated V-8 production engine ever made.
That performance will cost customers another 40 grand over the base car — and for that, The News’ jurors awarded the Z06 the prize for If Money Were No Object.
The North American International Auto Show has traditionally showcased head-turning concepts, and 2022 was no different. In perhaps the biggest surprise of the Readers’ Choice Awards, the Lincoln L100 Concept edged out the much-hyped Dodge Charger Daytona Banshee — a peek at the brand’s first EVs — and Buick Wildcat as best concept.
The sci-fi L100 is Lincoln’s vision of an autonomous vehicle future with no steering wheel or pedals (a “chess piece” is provided on an electronic pad to override the car’s self-driving if needed) and front seats that can swivel to face rear passengers. The chariot boasts other exotic features like a glass canopy roof, glass “frunk” and hub-mounted electric motors.
Mustang’s most powerful model — the Shelby GT500 — took home the trophy for Muscle Machine. The track-focused, 760-horse hellion can hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds. You can’t miss its giant cow-catcher front grille.
Best Electric Vehicle awards went to the Ford Mustang Mach-E — inspired by the Mustang coupe — and Cadillac Lyriq. While Mach-E replicates the sports-car’s looks and speed in an updated EV package, Lyriq shows the way to an entirely electric Cadillac future with new fascia and bling-tastic interior.
In addition to winning best Off-Road Warrior, the ballistic Bronco Raptor also inspired the more affordable Bronco Sport, which jurors judged best Bargain Buggy. Based on the Ford Escape’s unibody chassis, the all-wheel-drive Bronco Sport Badlands trim offers surprising off-road capability for half the price of the ladder-frame-based Raptor.
If you want to bring the entire family to Huntington Place for the show, jurors recommend the Jeep Grand Wagoneer as best Family Hauler with its spacious three-row interior. The Grand is a step above the Wagoneer (which competes against the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition) and sets its sights on truck-based luxury models like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.
Riding on a smooth air suspension, the Grand Wagoneer boasts an interior studded with luxury touches including four screens up front — even one for the passenger. Second-row passengers get their own infotainment screens, and third-row passengers their own sunroof.
Under the hood? A 471-horspower, 6.4-liter V-8, of course. Even family haulers are best served with American muscle.
HOTTEST TECH: Ford Mustang Mach-E
MOST ELECTRIFYING: Cadillac Lyric
BARGAIN BUGGY: Ford Bronco Sport
OFF-ROAD WARRIOR: Ford Bronco Raptor
FAMILY HAULER: Jeep Grand Wagoneer
MUSCLE MACHINE: Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
TOP CONCEPT: Lincoln L100
IF MONEY WERE NO OBJECT: Chevrolet Corvette Z06
BEST IN SHOW: Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at [email protected] or Twitter @HenryEPayne.