As summer comes to a close and 2023 begins to wind down, we Motor1 editors are looking back at the year that was in reflection. Among the hundreds of reviews and first drives published since January, there are a few cars, trucks, and SUVs that have stood out – some for the better, others for the worse.
So we went through and picked our favorite and least vehicles of the year (so far). And when we say "best" and "worst," it isn't necessarily a reflection of our Star Ratings system – these are simply the cars that we've singled out as the ones that made the biggest impact. Even the "worst" cars in many cases aren't that bad; some even scored relatively well.
With that in mind, we've put together this list of bests and worsts, and will even be talking about it live on the Motor1 Test Car Happy Hour podcast (every Thursday at 2:30 PM ET). So scroll through our selections and feel free to tell us in the comments why you disagree, and make sure to peruse our previous "best and worst" lists from 2022, 2021, and 2020.
Jeff Perez, Managing Editor
Best Car: Audi RS6 Avant Performance
It really is cliche for an auto journalist to say that one of their favorite cars of the year (so far) is a 621-horsepower station wagon. But the RS6 Performance is genuinely fantastic. Audi massaged last year’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 to give the super station wagon an extra bit of horsepower and torque, while improving its 60 mile-per-hour time by two-tenths of a second. Sure, $126,895 (with destination) will get you a lot of car, but the Audi RS6 Avant Performance is arguably the only car you’ll ever need.
Best Car: BMW i7
Look beyond the questionable face and you’ll find an electric luxury sedan unlike any other. Even compared to the S-Class, which has long sat atop the throne, the BMW i7 boasts technologies and luxuries that you won’t find on any Benz. The enormous 31.3-inch rear theater screen is the i7’s calling card, and the borrowed Rolls-Royce suspension yields unparalleled levels of comfort. And it has an impressive 308 miles of range.
Worst Car: BMW X1
From one BMW extreme to the other – the entry-level X1 isn’t necessarily a bad vehicle, per se, but it isn’t really a standout in a segment with more appealing options. The small BMW doesn’t excel in any one key area; it’s not super comfortable, it’s not overly attractive, nor is it that great to drive. And when you get down to the brass tacks, it gets pricey. Even though its $40,095 is on the lower side for the segment, the price quickly swells when you add options.
Worst Car: Volkswagen Jetta
Volkswagen’s transition to EVs can’t come soon enough. The long-in-tooth Jetta is a hard sell in a segment ripe with icons like the Honda Civic and standout newcomers in the Hyundai Elantra. It’s not exactly stylish, nor is the cabin a truly inviting place to be. And as far as performance is concerned, there’s very little of it (unless you splurge on the genuinely fun GLI). It’s hard to have any love for the Jetta.
Brett T. Evans, Senior Editor
Best Car: Volvo V60 Recharge Polestar Engineered
It’s got 455 horsepower and 523 pound-feet of torque. It gets well over 30 miles per gallon and can do 41 miles on all-electric power alone. It has all-wheel-drive traction. Oh, and it’s a station wagon. Volvo engineers absolutely nailed the 2023 V60 Recharge Polestar Engineered, giving it the performance of a dedicated sports car, the fuel economy of a midsize sedan, and the comfort and space of a crossover – all wrapped up in a trim, handsome design that’s all but synonymous with Scandinavia. The V60 Polestar is the perfect car in almost every way.
Best Car: Lotus Emira V6
The old Lotus Evora GT was absolutely brilliant to drive, but the Best Buy–chic audio system and unfinished cabin were hard to stomach when it cost more than the brilliant Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0. The British automaker has righted all wrongs with the new 2024 Emira, which gets the same lithe, lightweight handling and snorting supercharged V6 as its predecessor but now offers a modern infotainment setup, an ergonomic and attractive cabin, and gorgeous sheet metal. Sure, it may cost a bit more than the Evora did, but you no longer have to apologize to your passenger when they inevitably bang their head, knees, and hips getting in.
Worst Car: Jeep Compass Latitude
For the most part, bad new cars no longer exist, and that’s true of the 2023 Jeep Compass Latitude. But the merely adequate turbocharged engine, ho-hum cargo space, and heady price make it a tough sell in a market where the zesty Kia Sportage Hybrid and capacious Honda CR-V exist. At least its mini Grand Cherokee design gives it some appeal, and the off-road Trailhawk model might be attractive to weekend warriors.
Worst Car: Cadillac XT4 Sport
Its compellingly edgy styling aside, there’s no good reason to choose the Cadillac XT4 over the similarly priced – but larger – BMW X3, Genesis GV70, and Lexus NX. The turbocharged engine is thrashy, the cabin is cramped, and the switches and displays look almost identical to those of a plebeian Chevrolet Blazer. In a vacuum, the Cadillac XT4 is okay, but unless your dealer is giving you a killer deal, either go for another luxury SUV or save your cash and get a loaded Chevy.
Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief
Best Car: Porsche 911 Carrera T
Recency bias plays a role here as this car just left my driveway this week, but I think this is a pick that will hold up. The 911 Carrera T is the essence of the pre-electrified version of Porsche as a company. This is one of the least powerful and slowest versions of the 911 that you can buy new today, with just 379 horsepower and a manufacturer-spec’d 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds (underrated), but the actual act of driving it is beyond reproach. Sublime steering, a lovely manual gearbox, and a pared-down cabin that lets me focus on the road give the 911 T a timeless experience. This car will become an heirloom for most owners, not a short-term toy.
Best Car: Maserati GranTurismo Folgore
Both versions of the new GranTurismo are well worth the price of admission, with the rip-snorting ICE version the more emotional of the two for the soundtrack alone. But the electric Folgore sticks in my mind as deserving of special praise. It’s not really because it’s fast, though with 751 horsepower, 0-60 in 2.7 seconds, and a top speed of 202 mph it is certainly that. But rather, how the very clever distribution of the battery pack allows for more subtle handling characteristics and a higher level of overall nimbleness than any EV this side of a Taycan.
Worst Car: Alfa Romeo Tonale eAWD
Stellantis has had some hits and some misses in my book this year, as you’ll see, with this admittedly good-looking Tonale not quite hitting the mark. The plug-in hybrid variant of the Tonale is useful when charged up, but when the smallish battery pack depletes, one is left with a rather heavy, slightly sluggish small crossover that doesn’t even measure up to its downmarket twin with the new Dodge badge. Make mine a Hornet, with better seats and a lower sticker price.
Worst Car: Chrysler 300C
Both Brett T. Evans and I took turns getting misty eyed about the farewell tour of the big-engined 300C after our respective weeks in the grand old lady this summer. There’s no question that you can still have a great time cruising in the ancient 300, punctuated with the occasional smoky burnout if you’re feeling froggy. And yet, even brand new this feels like a used car in 2023 (hell, it felt pretty old a decade ago). A smooth demeanor and a characterful engine are nice, but for new car prices, I don’t want to drive a history lesson.