For those of you whose task it is to build, market or sell vehicles to the mainstream consumer, there is little doubt that buyers differ by geographic location. What's hot in trendy Orange County may hardly register as a faint blip on the Midwest's radar.
In recognition of differing tastes and needs, regional press groups bestow awards upon vehicles that appeal to and best serve their local readers. The New England Motor Press Association* (NEMPA) is one such group, and recently announced its 2012 best-in-class winners, as well as top models for the Northeast's foul winters and those offering the greatest value.
*The author is a member of NEMPA.
Best-In-Class All-Weather Sedan/Wagon $25,000-$35,000
© Photo courtesy of Dodge
Talk about a turnaround. It wasn't long ago that the thought of any Chrysler
product earning a best-in-class award would've been greeted with a chuckle and a look of disbelief. However, Sergio Marchionne
has raised a sinking ship with products like the recently updated Dodge Charger
. Though last winter was one of the warmest and dryest on record in the Northeast, NEMPA has recognized the all-wheel-drive 2012 Charger variant for its four-season suitability.
Best-In-Class Premium All-Weather Sedan/Wagon
© Photo courtesy of Lexus
For the Best-In-Class Premium All-Weather Sedan/Wagon Award, NEMPA members' votes resulted in a tie between the 2012 Audi A6
and the redesigned 2013 Lexus GS 350
all-wheel-drive models. Accolades for the German four-door focused on its sure-footed and luxurious ride, as well as its MMI central command system with Google Earth technology
. Japan's Lexus
contender earned praise for its aggressive new styling, powerful engine and expansive LCD screen.
Best Luxury Winter Vehicle
© Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
According to NEMPA, the ideal luxury vehicle for winter driving is the 2012 Mercedes-Benz
S-Class, specifically the S350 BlueTEC
sedan with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. In addition to its foul-weather capability, the big Benz was applauded for its efficient diesel and hybrid
powertrains and a bounty of safety features.
Best-In-Class SUV/Crossover Over $25,000
© Photo courtesy of Jeep
With a starting price of about $22,000, it seems a bit odd to hear that the 2012 Jeep Wrangler
was named the Best-In-Class SUV/Crossover Over $25,000. The confusion lies in the fact that NEMPA evaluated several Wranglers, including Rubicons and Unlimiteds, all of which carried as-tested prices well above $22,000. Well equipped or not, the venerable Jeep drew praise for its off-roading capabilities, solid resale value and updated powertrain.