NEW YORKOn Wednesday morning, the Jaguar I-Pace won this year's World Car of the Year award at the 2019 New York International Auto Show. It beat two other finalists, the Audi e-tron and Volvo's S60 and V60 twins to top honors, as voted by a panel of 86 journalists from around the world. Disclosure: for the second year in a row, I was one of those judges. We were asked to score each eligible car on a range of attributes, including safety, the environment, performance, design, and value, but only for vehicles we actually drove. You can see the list of eligible vehicles for this year's awards here. (Sorry, Tesla fans: the Model 3 is really rather good but went on sale too long ago to be considered for this year's awards.)
I'm not surprised that the I-Pace won; as a battery electric vehicle it scored highly on its green credentials, it's a joy to drive, and it looks stunning inside and out. Much of that can be said about the Volvos and the Audi, but if I had a place to charge it and I could afford one, the I-Pace would be my pick to replace our now-totaled Saabaru. (I don't, can't, and my wife gets to pick the next car anyway.)
The Audi and Jaguar were also contenders for the World Green Car award, joined by the Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel cell car. It also really impressed me with a great interior and a calming driving style despite my continued skepticism for hydrogen as a fuel. I've repeatedly complained that it's taking the industry too long to get real about alternative powertrains, but the fact that two-thirds of the "green" cars were also finalists for the big trophy should be grounds for some optimism. In fact, as the Volvos are available as plug-in hybrid EVs, all three of the WCOTY finalists can be driven to the shops and back without burning a drop of gasoline.
In the end, the I-Pace scored more highly than the Audi or Hyundai, and it also took home a trophy for World Car Design of the Year, making it a good morning for Jaguar's BEV. "Electrification's given us the option to do something quite unique and quite different. And I think it's something people like," said Ian Callum, head of design at Jaguar.
Our first-hand experience in the other categories is more limited. The McLaren 720S took World Performance Car, and rightly so. McLaren has been developing and refining its carbon-fiber supercar platform with each successive iteration, and the 720S improves on its predecessor in just about every way. Audi's first BEV might not have brought home a trophy, but the brand took first prize in the World Luxury Car award with the new A7. I didn't actually get any seat time in an A7 until earlier this month, so the full review is still in the queue, but it's definitely my favorite internal combustion powered car in the German OEM's line-up.
I'm not sure any car captured as many hearts this year as the Suzuki Jimny, 2019's World Urban Car. It's not even on sale in the US, but Suzuki cleverly brought one to last year's WCOTY's test drive in Los Angeles for jurors to try. I wasn't there so I didn't try out the diminutive off-roader, and I confess I still don't really get it. The only finalist I have tried was the new Kia Soul, which did quite well on the snowy roads of San Diego.
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin