Ranked

U.S. News & World Report names Best Vehicle Brands for 2021

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

U.S. News & World Report has announced the winners of its Best Vehicle Brand awards. To get the winners, the company evaluated 34 brands that are sold in North America evaluating them based on the high quality of their vehicles. Four winners were chosen, one in each of the four categories: Best Car Brand, Best SUV Brand, Best Truck Brand, and Best Luxury Brand.

To determine which automaker reigns supreme, U.S. News averaged the overall score, as determined by the U.S. News Best Cars review team based on the consensus of the automotive press, safety scores, and reliability data, of every brand's products in each award class. The brand with the highest overall average score was named the winner in the category.

"Many buyers know the type of vehicle they want but not the best brands for their needs," says Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor of U.S. News Best Cars. "The Best Vehicle Brand awards point consumers to the brands that excel in producing the type of vehicle each buyer is interested in."

Best Car Brand: Mazda

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

U.S. News & World Report: "Mazda wins the Best Car Brand award on the strength of the Mazda3, Mazda6 and Mazda MX-5 Miata. All three models have top-notch performance that puts an emphasis on direct, sporty handling, as well as quality interiors that are more upscale than their price tags might suggest. This is the sixth consecutive year Mazda has won this award."

Best SUV Brand: Hyundai

2022 Hyundai Tucson

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

U.S. News & World Report: "With a fresh, new lineup of SUVs in all sizes, Hyundai wins the Best SUV Brand award for the first time. The Hyundai SUV lineup ranges from the large and luxurious Hyundai Palisade to the midsize Santa Fe, compact Tucson and subcompact Venue. With so many updated models, Hyundai SUVs win points for offering buyers the latest in driver assistance and infotainment technology at an affordable price."

Best Truck Brand: Ram

2021 Ram TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

U.S. News & World Report: "Ram wins the Best Truck Brand award on the strength of the Ram 1500, which is one of the few trucks on the market to make a case for itself as both a work vehicle and a daily driver. The Ram 1500 features a coil-over suspension that makes the Ram comfortable enough for commuting but capable enough for serious towing and hauling. The Ram interior features a top-notch infotainment system with intuitive controls and a huge touch screen. The interiors of high-end Ram trims feature materials that keep pace with what luxury SUVs offer."

Best Luxury Brand: Porsche

2021 Porsche Panamera

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

U.S. News & World Report: "This is the sixth consecutive Best Luxury Brand win for Porsche. Though the brand is known for sports cars, Porsche offers a lineup of vehicles that effortlessly marry performance with upscale panache. Though almost any Porsche is at home on a racetrack, all models feature driver-focused interiors built with high-end materials and plenty of comfort."

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The car is the halo model in the Mercedes-AMG lineup.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Its heart is the most powerful V8 AMG has ever built. The new Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series super sports car is priced to match, starting at $325,000.

The Black Series has been known as the pinnacle of performance since 2006 when Mercedes-AMG introduced the branding. The models aren't designed to gather dust in garages or sit on display appreciating in value. They're meant to be driven. Fast. Though primarily built for track use, the models are road-approved.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series Drivers can choose from two splitter settings: Street and Race.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The super sports car is track-ready out of the gate. Under the hood is a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 engine that's been handcrafted by AMG and delivers 720 horsepower. It has a flat-plane crankshaft and has active aerodynamics that have been honed using design from the AMG GT3 racing car. The engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

In addition to the 720 horsepower, the engine generates 590 pound-feet of torque. The car redlines at 7200 rpm.

The connection between the engine and transmission is made of carbon fiber and weighs just 30.6 pounds, making it 40 percent lighter than the same component in the traditional AMG GT. The driveshaft is also made of carbon fiber.

The new engine gets off the line and to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. It can get to 124 mph in less than nine seconds. Its top speed is 202 mph - something Mercedes says is, "only sensible on closed-off racetracks."

The car's Race Start function has increased starting revs. its transmission cooling functionality has been adapted to tougher requirements and transmission ratios have been modified.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series The car's wing has large carbon fiber supports.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The car's carbon-fiber front splitter has two manually adjustable settings - Street and Race. Race is designed specifically for race track use. When in Race mode, the splitter moves to accelerate air flow to the underbody of the car creating a Venturi effect, increasing downforce.

A large wing, completes with carbon fiber supports, works in tandem to increase downforce even more. The wing has an adjustable top flap that can be retracted or extended using a button on the center console.

Additional body modifications from a typical AMG GT include extensive use of carbon fiber on the body (hood, hatch), use of lightweight aluminum in place of steel, and a lightweight laminated front windshield. Its standard ceramic high-performance compound brake system with black painted brake calipers and white lettering is also lightweight.

The car rides on 19-inch wheels up front and 20s in the back. It's shoed with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R MO tires, which were customized for the Black Series car.

Mercedes has customized the interior of the car as well. It is upholstered in nappa leather that's combined with Dinnamica microfiber in black with orange contrast stitching. The doors have loop pulls instead of handles. Trim is in, what else, carbon fiber.

The car's fully digital instrument display measures 12.3 inches and is adjacent a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen. Drivers can choose their view of the instrument display: Classic, Sporty, or Supersport.

An AMG Performance steering wheel is standard and outfitted in Dinnamica microfiber.

The AMG Interior Night Package is also included as standard equipment. In this package, the shift paddles, steering wheel spokes and seat insert in the AMG Performance seats are finished in high-gloss black, while the door sill panels are finished in black brushed stainless steel, further emphasizing the car's sportiness.

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series will begin arriving in U.S. dealerships in early 2021.

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Acura has teased the forthcoming MDX with this photo.

Photo courtesy of Acura

The redesigened versions of the 2022 Acura MDX and 2021 Nissan Armada will be revealed on December 8. The Armada will go first, bowing at 11 a.m. EST. The MDX will make its appearance at 2:30 p.m. EST.

2022 Acura MDX

Acura previewed the 2022 MDX earlier this year, revealing the MDX Prototype two months ago. The new model will be the company's fourth-generation of its flagship SUV. Acura has already divulged that the three-row SUV will ride on a new light-truck platform and feature a double-wishbone front suspension (a first for the model) and will have a "sumptuously appointed interior loaded with an arsenal of new features and technologies".

2022 Acura MDX Acura previewed the model with a teaser photo. Lightening the photo in Photoshop reveals most of its body structure, which looks remarkably similar to the MDX Prototype.Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura has also confirmed that the SUV will continue to be powered by the company's 3.5-liter V6 engine, which will be mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The model will be available with all-wheel drive and arrive at dealerships in early 2021. An MDX Type S, Acura's first high-performance SUV variant, will follow in the summer of 2021.

The MDX is the best-selling model in its segment where it competes directly with the Infiniti QX60, which is also set for a redesign in the coming year.

2021 Nissan Armada

Changes to the Nissan Armada have been kept under wraps more than the MDX's revisions. There's a big clue, however, and that comes from the 2020 Nissan Patrol, a very similar model that is sold in the Middle East.

The 2020 Patrol refresh featured a new grille and boomerang headlights. At the rear, the Patrol received new taillights, a large chrome nameplate, and sequential rear turn indicators. The cabin featured a dual-display design with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Diamond-stitch quilted leather seats with added padding and a hand-stitched steering wheel also made its debut. Climate control and power lumbar support are available in the model. Nissan reduced the amount of noise and vibration that is passed on to customers and improved airflow distribution in the latest version of the SUV, which also get additional safety features.

2020 Nissan Patrol The Nissan Patrol gives a good idea of what buyers can expect from the refreshed Armada.Photo courtesy of Nissan Motor Corporation

It is likely that the 2021 Armada will receive the bulk of these enhancements. Additionally, there is likely to be the incorporation of Nissan Safety Shield 360 technology, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and rear automatic braking. Nissan already employs this tech in 10 of its models.

The Armada is the sister vehicle of the Infiniti QX80. Improvements to the QX80, like a set of higher-resolution infotainment screens indicate that the Armada is also likely getting screen upgrades, and perhaps wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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