2022 has been an intense battle for recovery in an industry that’s still rebuilding from being rocked by supply shortages. Sure, there are still plenty of lingering waitlists and delays, but it’s been an impressive 21 months since the world has gotten a 1300-foot boat stuck up its Suez Canal. Go, Team Boats!
It’s also been the year of tangible products where some dreamy press releases finally came true. The Rivian R1T, GMC Hummer EV, and Ford F-150 Lightning all showed up. On the other hand, many of the big promises from the many EV startups out there are looking at bit like conspiracy theories. Sorry, Tesla Cybertruck pre-orderers from 2019, better luck next year.
So 2022 was really what we’d all been holding our breath for, and it turned out to be a great year for great car debuts. Toyota delivered on enthusiasts’ pleas for a manual Supra, and followed it up with the launch of a 300-hp GR Corolla hatchback. We were also visited by some old flames. The Nissan Z returned with 400 horsepower, and the 315-hp Civic Type R was caught setting track records before Honda had even peeled back its camouflage. And 2022 also marked the first year an EV reached a 520-mile driving range estimate from the EPA: that was the Lucid Air.
As we celebrate another lap around the sun, here’s a look back at 2022 as illustrated by our art department:
Baby Got Batt: There are electric vehicles for people who grocery-shop at Whole Foods, but there’s one choice in particular suited for those who hunt for their bacon with a machine gun from the side of a helicopter. This 9640-pound GMC Hummer EV is nothing short of outrageous. Despite being the heaviest pickup we’ve tested, cranking this hog to 60 mph only takes 3.3 seconds.
Virginia Is for Lap Times: Known around the office as the best time of the year, our annual Lightning Lap event pits performance cars from mild to wild on America’s toughest track. Grouped into five price segments, the 21 cars lapped this year broke some records and, naturally, some hearts. Speaking of, here comes nearly 8000 horsepower at the top of the Climbing Esses.
Zeus-Oh-Six: The ultimate Corvette is 8500 rpm of shrieking bald eagle. The mufflers responsible for the 670-hp V-8’s clap and piping should’ve been nominated at the American Music Awards. Even the God of Thunder couldn’t help but spy on our track day with a Z06.
A Star Is Hatched: The moment we’ve all been waiting for: that stubborn Toyota Corolla has finally moved out of the left lane. This time it enters the racetrack as an actual blast-to-drive 300-hp hatchback with rally-car DNA. The GR Corolla isn’t just great; it’s one of the best, earning a spot on our 10Best list the year it debuted.
Sweet Sixteen: The Volkswagen GTI is no stranger to 10Best trophies, having won 16 of them since its first appearance in 1983. Its superhero strength is its blend of practicality, performance, and, until recently, affordability. The Porsche 718 is a longtime favorite too, and its special ability is how quickly it can turn a normal road into an exciting one. Neither of these cars are absolutists with the most horsepower or the quickest quarter-mile times, yet they’re able to deliver a driving experience as grand as far more expensive and powerful sports cars.
X Marks the Spot: Dealerships cashed in heavily during the COVID-19 pandemic. A blight of inventory exploded into a blessing for salespeople. Customers were determined to get off waitlists and into cars, so they thought up a genius way to fight exorbitant markups: just pay them. This behavior pushed the average new-car price to $48,301, up 10.8 percent from the year prior. Just saying, dealerships couldn’t get away with it if consumers didn’t feed the furnace.
Kidney Bean: Pour one out for the nearly three and a half feet of Michelin Pilot 4S tire under the 503-hp BMW X4M Competition. Our testers saddled this 4548-pound porker through Hog Pen at Virginia International Raceway to the tune of 3:02.9 seconds. It didn’t set a new SUV record, but getting it around that fast required plenty of ridiculous two-wheel antics.
Alternative Truck: Longtime Car and Driver contributor John Phillips is a literary treasure. To get his take on the realest Tesla Cybertruck available to consumers, we asked him to unbox the secrets behind Elon Musk’s stainless-steel fetish. Phillips did not disappoint.
What’s New Is Old: The new Nissan Z borrows its powertrain from the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport and has more in common with its sixth-generation 370Z predecessor than what we had originally hoped, but a 400-hp twin-turbo V-6 base engine with an available six-speed manual transmission is always welcome.
Frunk-y Truck: Ford sells more F-series pickups annually than politicians make promises, so the success of its all-electric F-150 Lightning isn’t a complete shock. Unlike your favorite lawmaker, the Lightning’s success isn’t all that polarizing. It’s a lot like the popular gas-powered F-150, only much quieter with a rather extreme battery.
Friends with Benefits: Toyota’s stake in Subaru has wrought some of our favorite cars in recent memory. The love story began in 2005 and would lead to a Crosstrek Hybrid in 2018, the 10Best-winning pair of Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86, and the Subaru Solterra and Toyota bZ4X electric crossover duo.
Dacia Delivery: Contributor Jonathon Ramsey delivered medicine and supplies to Ukrainian refugees in a Dacia Jogger minivan. When asked to help a friend’s nonprofit group get donations to some of the more than two two million refugees in Poland, Ramsey didn’t blink.
Storage Wars: Pickups versus cars isn’t a fight that usually goes very well for partisans of the sedan, and affordable compact trucks such as the Ford Maverick spells even worse news for the shrinking compact-car segment. The Maverick’s competitively low price and impressive fuel economy already make a strong argument for the toy truck, but is it big enough to supplant economy cars like the Honda Civic? We put a bunch of our junk in the trunk to find out.
Smoke ’em If You Got ’em: Back when the average car was fastened to thick channels of steel, the body-on-frame Buick Roadmaster wagon was there to haul families. Contributing photographer and respected family man James Lipman owns one, but it’s got additional muscle. Under the hood is a GM E-Rod 6.2-liter V-8 crate engine. Now it’s a family barbecue.
The One: The Polestar 1 was a product of Volvo’s owner, Geely. Unlike the fully electric Polestar 2 and upcoming SUVs, the 1 is a 619-hp plug-in hybrid that is as beautiful as it is expensive. Only 500 were made per year. The Polestar 1 is already out of production while the company dedicates its efforts to expanding an EV-only lineup.
Covered: The story behind the cover for our December 2022 issue isn’t as clinical as it appeared in print. Staff photographer Michael Simari shot the Honda Civic Type R inside a paddock garage minutes after an entire National Auto Sport Association weekend started to move in. What could normally take hours of prep work with an entire studio of lighting equipment took Simari less than 60 minutes to capture with help from fellow staff photographer Marc Urbano. We thank the patient team of dudes that waited by their car haulers and gave us the extra time we needed. Besides, it’s rare that the staff of a car magazine shows up to leaf-blow your reserved garage space for a track weekend.
Heartbeat of America: There aren’t enough illustrations of cars from the 1980s on the internet, so here’s an illustration of a kick-ass Chevy Camaro IROC-Z in jpeg form for all you dot-coms.
Under the Influencers: One person’s salvaged Tesla is another person’s off-road campsite. YouTubers Ethan Schlussler and Edwin Olding build creative mechanical projects for a living. This Tesla Model 3 is a product of that. Here it is entering a mud bath along the 147-mile Mojave Road.
Moon, Man: The Rivian R1T is the quickest pickup we’ve ever tested. Its otherworldly acceleration to 60 mph in just 3.0 seconds from a 7173-pound pickup sounds like automotive sci-fi, but there’s no conspiracy about this EV truck’s unfettered performance.
Paint Me Like One of Your Toyota Girls: 10Best is a lot like mixed media. In the collection of the greatest cars of the year, the palette of excellence comes in all different mediums. Artistry is what gives opposites like the Honda Accord and Toyota Supra a shared greatness.
Designed to Dazzle: Engineers and designers shave clay, sweat bullets, and calculate the tiniest tolerances most folks may never notice to appreciate. The fog lights on our long-term Volkswagen GTI are a more obvious example of small stuff made crafty.
Yes, he’s still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and, despite getting shelled by hockey pucks during a not-so-successful goaltending career through high school and college, still has all of his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and Bleu, his Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix theirs.