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The 10 Contenders for Robb Report’s 2023 Car of the Year, From Audi to Rolls-Royce
Two decades in, our annual extravaganza has grown to 176 judges on two coasts, with electric vehicles now gaining ground on the combustion-powered performance cars that have long held sway. But one thing hasn’t changed: the fierce competition for the crown.
BY Robb Report Editors  |  March 3, 2023
19 Minute Read

By Robert Ross and Viju Mathew

Robb Report’s editors never could have imagined that what began as a casual gathering of a few pals and fun cars would grow into an internationally recognized automotive competition, held on two coasts and attended annually by hundreds of car enthusiasts over the course of several weeks—but here we are. Robb Report Car of the Year started 20 years ago with modest ambitions and nary a thought that it would develop into not just an eagerly anticipated date on our editorial calendar but also a storied tradition. Yet word got out, and just one year after the event’s inception, things got serious. The pool of competitors expanded, our circle of judges widened, and car manufacturers took notice. Plus, we soon learned that evaluating 10 or more very different vehicles in one fell swoop was a challenging task, as many drivers not only compared them to one another but also considered their own personal experience in superlative and collection-worthy models spanning eras. Looking back at the well-over 200 sports and luxury cars that have been part of our Car of the Year program shows us that we were fortunate enough, on more than a few occasions, to have driven history in the making. 

We’ve experienced such game-changing approaches to the automobile as the Bugatti Veyron and the Porsche 918 Spyder, as well as cars that have become undisputed classics, including the Ferrari 575M Maranello and the Mercedes-SLS AMG Gullwing. More recently, we’ve watched the ebbs and flows of the industry’s EV sea change in real time, as electric technology ushers in a radical new generation of vehicles undreamt of around the turn of the millennium. This past fall, on the road in Napa Valley, Calif., and on the track in Boca Raton, Fla., four of our contenders were EVs, and we won’t be surprised if next year more than half the entrants are powered in part (or entirely) by spinning motors. 

This year still enjoyed a ferocious soundtrack from a slew of fire-breathing internal-combustion-powered models, including the naturally aspirated, V-10-engined Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica. Unfortunately for the Tecnica, fate intervened, and through no fault of its own, the perennial contender—Lamborghini has claimed top honors four times in the past five years, three of them going to Huracán variants—suffered a debilitating incident early on that, like Neymar in the World Cup, ended its contest prematurely. 

But however the chips may fall, the philosophy underpinning Car of the Year has remained true to the original mission outlined two decades ago: Identify the vehicle that exceeds its design brief, giving a glimpse of the future while shocking and awing along the way. Of course, the competition wouldn’t hold quite the allure it does without the exceptional hospitality, wine, cuisine and other luxury amenities that accompany the world’s best automobiles. Perhaps that’s the great secret behind the longevity of our Car of the Year program: As with the machines themselves, there’s always a new discovery to be made. 

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody Jailbreak

Robb Rice

The full Challenger SRT name doesn’t exactly say it all, but it says a lot, showing just how hard Dodge is riding out the last glory days of gas-powered, retro-inspired American muscle. After announcing plans to reimagine the Challenger and Charger models for the brand’s upcoming transition to electrified power, Dodge seems hellbent on making sure everyone within hearing distance of this car’s rip-snorting, supercharged Hemi V-8 with 807 hp will never forget what we gave up in the battery-power bargain. 

The bad boy of the group, but so fun to drive.

—Jon Robinson

Many judges admitted that the Dodge was their guilty pleasure out of our field. Jon Robinson called the car “the bad boy of the group, but so fun to drive,” and Mike Sisk observed that “you can’t help but smile behind the wheel.” For Ken Parr, it was “ridiculously fun, but juvenile—this is a bachelor party with a steering wheel.” Others found the Dodge too overpowering for their taste. “This car is extreme, like a double Long Island iced tea,” said Josh Green. “No thanks.” Jonathan Weizman, meanwhile, “couldn’t wait to get out.” Some were more forgiving, with Kenneth Woolcott saying that it was “the last of the breed, for better or worse,” and Karen Karlsrud referring to it as “the right car for a special few.” 

ENGINE: 6.2-liter supercharged V-8
POWER: 807 hp @ 6,400 rpm
0-60 MPH: 3.4 sec
TOP SPEED: 203 mph
BASE PRICE: US$63,530 (HK$497,950)
PRICE AS TESTED: US$97,072 (HK$760,845)

BMW i7 xDrive60

Robb Rice

With its electrified 7 Series, BMW throws down the gauntlet in a claim for EV world domination. Yet some BMW diehards might feel that dual electric motors and a one-speed automatic transmission turn the Ultimate Driving Machine into the Ultimate Sewing Machine. No car this year elicited so many polarized opinions from our judges as this nearly 6,000-pound cruiser. 

Certainly, the vehicle’s advanced technology offers impressive convenience and luxury, transforming the cabin into a rolling executive lounge. Some judges connected to the maximalist vibe, including Keith Berglund, who “very much enjoyed the interior styling, the room, handling and classic look,” while also noting “it’s a little slow compared to the Audi.” Rick Westbrook mostly seconded that assessment. “It’s a great car for a long drive if you can find a charging station on your route,” he said, adding, “It’s a little busy on the interior, but still beautiful.” That busyness, however, raised more than a few of our judges’ hackles. Remarking on the fake crystal gewgaws festooning the center console and door panels, Honor Guthrie quipped that “Bavarian Motor Works becomes Baccarat Motor Works.” Lindsay Smith agreed, saying, “It definitely tells a story, but the wrong one. The crystal details just seem tacky—out of place in a BMW.” 

Robb Rice

While some were impressed—Scott Joachim called the i7 “perhaps the most luxurious EV on the market”—one judge, a BMW connoisseur whose collection reflects his commitment to the marque, was not convinced. “I’ve been a BMW fan since childhood,” said Charles Thomas. “If this is the future of the brand, they should simply close up shop now and allow brands that have stayed true to themselves to fill their place in the market.” Jonathan Weizman may have described the divisive model’s appeal most succinctly when he called it “a plush and luxurious electric tank.” 

MOTORS: Dual electric
POWER: 536 hp
0-60 MPH: 4.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 149 mph (limited)

RANGE: 318 mi
BASE PRICE: US$119,300 (HK$935,070)
PRICE AS TESTED: US$156,595 (HK$1,227,380)

Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II

Robb Rice

In this British marque’s magnum opus, wretched excess never seemed so right, or so rich, coddling its occupants in unbridled luxury complemented by 664 ft lbs of torque from a twin-turbo V-12 engine that simply does not stop building power. If that kind of rush is your catnip, buy a Phantom now, because the specter of an electric Rolls-Royce (which, coincidentally, will be called the Spectre) looms as large as the car itself. 

Our judges universally appreciated the opulence, if some were a bit conflicted as to which row of seating was more appropriate for an owner. John Zappettini said, “I absolutely love this automobile, both to drive and be driven in.” Kendall Flesher was equally enamored, saying, “I had the biggest smile on my face the entire ride, as driver and passenger. There is no hiccup in its performance, every move is so smooth as to go virtually unnoticed. I could easily spend hours in it.” Burton Young agreed, noting, “This car has everything you’d want. The interior compares to a five-star, world-class hotel. The ride is so smooth you can barely tell how fast you’re driving.” Arvind Sodhani experienced “surprising acceleration for a monster,” while calling the Phantom “opulent, overdone and not understated.” Lindsay Smith painted a definitive picture of luxury. “I felt like I was sitting in a very plush jewelry box,” she said. “It was all things regal, gangster and fabulousness!”

ENGINE: 6.75-liter twin-turbo-charged V-12
POWER: 563 hp @ 5,000 rpm
0-60 MPH: 5.3 sec
TOP SPEED: 155 mph (limited)
BASE PRICE: US$470,000 (HK$3,683,830)
PRICE AS TESTED: $651,450 (HK$5,106,030)

Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC SUV

Robb Rice

Take a good, close look at Mercedes-Benz’s electric future. We got a taste last year with the EQS sedan, and now it’s back in a family size and with even greater utility. A luxury transportation pod as only the Silver Star can imagine one, this is a bleeding-edge EV with a touchscreen bigger than the broad side of a 100-gallon aquarium, flaunting more features and technology than any vehicle this side of the Mars lander. Mercedes calls it the “SUV reinvented and the electric vehicle reimagined.” Futuristic but refreshingly familiar, it combines ultramodern tech with a luxurious, family-friendly package and space for seven. 

And therein lies the magic. Robb Report’s deputy editor, Josh Condon, noted the large SUV’s speed, likening it to “an elephant on cheetah legs,” but he was most impressed by the way the vehicle melded a futuristic power train and splashy high-tech features with intuitive usability. Explaining why it ranked as his second-place choice for Car of the Year, Condon said: “Tesla is still making EVs for tech early adopters, but this is an overbuilt EV for people who want an electric car that mostly just feels like a car—and the vast majority of car buyers are the latter.” Michael Steinger called it “the best all-around car of the bunch. A daily driver with exceptional range, with Mercedes reliability and comfort.” And Michael Famiglietti gave it highest marks, asserting, “Mercedes conquers the electric segment of SUVs.” 

An elephant on cheetah legs.

—Josh Condon

But some others thought it came up short on the wow factor. Paul Kwiecinski said it was “well designed but low on excitement and passion. One of the cars that you use and don’t mind selling.” Jonathan Weizman was even stingier with his praise: “Neato, but no.” Michael Grad took a rather contrarian view, calling it “so perfect in every way that it’s actually boring. It almost makes driving feel like a video game.” In that case, millennials and Gen Z-ers might feel right at home behind the wheel. 

MOTORS: Dual electric
POWER: 536 hp
0-60 MPH: 4.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 130 mph (limited)

RANGE: 285 mi
BASE PRICE: US$125,950 (HK$987,190)
PRICE AS TESTED: US$144,990 (HK$1,136,420)

Mercedes-AMG SL 63 Roadster

Robb Rice

The popular SL roadster has been a Mercedes-Benz staple since the first 300 SL hit the streets in 1957. And while that car—a genuine blue-chip collectible—is a tough act to follow, the seventh and latest generation keeps the original’s faith and spirit alive. Few other cars meld butter-smooth luxury with top-down performance and make it seem so easy. Sometimes we take for granted that a car can be engaging and charismatic without all the flash and fanfare, but when it’s time to finally grow up, it’s hard to beat Mercedes’s quintessential convertible.

Our snazzy 2+2 (in name only) had lots of admirers, including Merle Mullin, who regularly rallies in her own 300 SL. She said this descendant “handles very well, feeling the connection to the road at every turn. It’s the perfect combination of a sports car with comfort.” Apparently, admiration was in the air. “I loved everything about this car!” exclaimed Linda Young. “The look, speed, comfort, style and performance. I think this car was made for me.” Cindy McMackin felt the same way, saying, “It’s a nearly perfect driving experience. It’s hard to fit the golf clubs in, but otherwise it’s a dream car!” Others found the steering heavy and the interior accoutrements needlessly complicated for a sporting GT, with Craig Cavileer observing that “the iPad is unnecessary and distracting. Let the car be a car and not an auditorium.” Still, complaints were far outweighed by enthusiasm. “I can’t imagine how to make the car better,” Everett Robert said. “It’s power, control, beauty and comfort, all in one package.”

ENGINE: 4.0-liter twin-turbo-charged V-8
POWER: 577 hp @ 5,500 rpm
0-60 MPH: 3.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 196 mph
BASE PRICE: US$178,100 (HK$1,395,940)
PRICE AS TESTED: US$205,550 (HK$1,611,090)

Audi RS e-tron GT 

Robb Rice

Today, platform sharing among car brands is as natural as free love in the ’60s—sometimes it’s hard to discern whether you’re really getting your thrills from Audi, Porsche, Lambo or Bentley. But we do know that Audi is raising a righteous crop of cars. It’s a rare automotive marque that can go from era-defining Group B rally champions in the 1980s to building the definitive luxury EV in 2023. Our judges were almost universally impressed, as were our editors, two of whom, Viju Mathew and Robert Ross, voted the Audi in second place. “It delivers inspired handling and real driving emotion—characteristics absent, with the exception of the Porsche Taycan, in other EVs,” said Ross, Robb Report’s automotive editor-at-large. “It really pushes the EV promise forward.” Lev Uretsky agreed. “This is the only EV I’ve driven that felt inspiringly sporty,” he said. “Every EV is fantastic in a straight line—this one is fantastic in the corners.” 

Kendall Flesher declared, “This was by far my favorite car of the group. Audi exceeded my expectations of what an electric vehicle can be. I’ll be trading in my Aston Martin Vantage for this Audi when I get home.” John Zappettini was similarly smitten, exclaiming, “What a surprise this car is. It’s the first electric car that drives like a car and not a golf cart. Audi nailed it.” That observation rang true among so many drivers who thought that this German slingshot exemplified the potential—and promise—of the automobile’s electric future. Ruben Oliva called it “a true Audi, an understated design that’s beautiful in its simplicity. The performance is impressive, while retaining a sense of elegance and refined manners. It’s an all-around great sports car.” (We couldn’t agree more.) Daniel Hirschhorn spoke for many drivers who are uneasy in the passenger seat, saying, “I was pleasantly surprised by the acceleration. When my wife drove it, I was terrified by the acceleration.” 

MOTORS: Dual electric
POWER: 637 hp in boost mode
0-60 MPH: 3.1 sec in boost mode
TOP SPEED: 155 mph (limited)

RANGE: 232 mi
BASE PRICE: US$143,900 (HK$)

Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance 

Robb Rice

The 1,050 hp Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance was the vehicle many judges were most curious about, especially since the only model to ever compete for Car of the Year with greater output was the 1,200 hp Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, in 2013. 

“Mind-scrambling acceleration,” is how Julio Cantillo described the sensation of putting the throttle to the floor, while Joshua Greenman referred to it as “insane,” the same word used by Nelson Calle to describe the Lucid’s handling prowess. But Hugi Hilmisson thought that “the chassis and brakes felt unprepared for the nuke that powers the wheels,” and Mark Newman failed to connect with it on a higher level, saying that it had “1,000 hp and no soul.” 

A beautiful example of automotive progress.

—Ken Parr

Yet many drivers concluded it was a paradigm shift, voting the car into the judges’ third-place slot; it was hampered, however, by not ranking in the editorial team’s top three and ultimately missed the overall podium. Still, Tim Wentworth called Lucid’s Air Grand Touring Performance “the first electric car that could actually make a believer out of me,” while Mark Singer was taken by the styling: “With current electric cars looking like a sea of blue suits in an office tower, the Lucid stands out for its artful lines and futuristic look.” Peter Li and Ken Parr summed up the fans’ consensus by calling the Lucid, respectively, the “best EV so far” and “a beautiful example of automotive progress.” 

MOTORS: Dual electric
POWER: 1,050 hp 
0-60 MPH: 2.6 sec
TOP SPEED: 168 mph

RANGE: 446 mi
BASE PRICE: US$179,000 (HK$1,203,000)
PRICE AS TESTED: US$179,000 (HK$1,203,000)

3. Maserati MC20

Robb Rice

Maserati was once a revered name in Italian sports cars—it predates Ferrari by a quarter century—but it lost some luster in recent years thanks to a turn down-market and the subsequent compromises in design, craftsmanship and performance that decision necessitated. Which is why the MC20 is such a make-or-break model for the Italian marque: It’s a chance to re-establish what the brand stands for, and what it’s capable of, at a critical juncture. A 202 mph, US$200,000-plus (HK$1,567,560) halo sports car is Maserati playing for the highest stakes—and going all-in. 

Robb Report’s editorial team considered it a resounding success, naming it their unanimous choice for Car of the Year. While the judges didn’t rate the Maserati as highly, its first-place editorial finish was enough to boost it onto the winners’ podium in third place overall, displacing the judges’ bronze-medal pick, the Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance. 

Robb Report’s Josh Condon and Robert Ross were equally smitten. Condon found the MC20 “completely charming,” adding, “the balance was remarkable and it had that lovely Italian sports-car steering that turns every road into a clifftop two-lane hugging the Amalfi Coast.” Ross was even more effusive, deeming it “remarkable—the most pure and elemental car Maserati has made in eons.” 

Robb Rice

The MC20 garnered fans among the other judges, as well. “This is the Maserati we’ve all been waiting for,” said Ruben Oliva. “And the handling is track-car level.” Lee Oleinick was equally impressed, admiring its “incredible handling, wonderful power and amazing sound.” As for looks: “Maserati sculpted a masterpiece.” 

In the contrarian camp, Brent Bellotte referred to it as a “swing and a miss,” while William Moler summed up his enthusiasm level as, simply, “Meh.” But Linda Young zeroed in on its specific appeal, saying, “It’s not for everyone—you have to be a race-car driver to love this car.” She may have been onto something. A former Indy 500 winner (who asked to remain anonymous, considering sponsorship obligations) weighed in after his drive by saying, “the brakes are amazing and the weight distribution is very well done. Wow, what a car.” Our thoughts exactly. 

ENGINE: 3.0-liter twin-turbo-charged V-6
POWER: 621 hp @ 7,500 rpm 
0-60 MPH: 2.9 sec 
TOP SPEED: 202 mph 
BASE PRICE: US$212,000 (HK$1,661,640)
PRICE AS TESTED: US$315,550 (HK$2,473,260)

2. Aston Martin DBX707

Robb Rice

The history of Aston Martin has as many ups, downs, twists and turns as Germany’s famed Nürburgring circuit. The newest curve? Just how thoroughly the posh British automaker has delivered a dart to the bull’s-eye of elite SUVs with its nearly 700 hp DBX707. It was the only vehicle that ranked on the podium for both judges and editors—the model placed third on the editorial team’s list and second on the judges’ scorecard—and not since the Lamborghini Urus, named Robb Report’s 2019 Car of the Year, has a vehicle in this category so enthralled drivers. 

Robb Rice

“Awesome in every respect,” said Stephen Couig. “Heavenly growl with endless acceleration followed by hard-gripping brakes, and the handling is best in class.” In Ezra Henson’s estimation, it “over-delivered on acceleration, handling and driving experience,” while Julian Cantillo said, “If you blindfolded me, I’d think I was in a sports car with how it handled,” adding that “the engine had a beautiful sound and tons of grunt to boot.” To Burton Young, the DBX707 “has the feel of a DB11—you’re just sitting higher.” 

ENGINE: 4.0-liter twin-turbo-charged V-8
POWER: 697 hp @ 6,000 rpm 
0-60 MPH: 3.1 sec 
TOP SPEED: 193 mph 
BASE PRICE: US$236,000 (HK$1,849,760)
PRICE AS TESTED: US$292,586 (HK$2,293,270)

1. Bentley Continental GT S

Robb Rice

For all who are passionate about cars and the driving experience, this is a time of mixed emotions. There’s excitement about the innovation coming full throttle down the pike, but separation anxiety at the thought of mass-production internal-combustion engines going the way of the northern white rhino. Perhaps that’s why, out of a diverse field of competitors that mirrors the semi-electrified state of the industry, our winner reflects the enduring preference among enthusiasts for conventional power plants, regardless of cylinder count, and recognition that this may be one of the last opportunities to vote for one. That message came through loud and clear with the selection of the V-8-powered Bentley Continental GT S as Robb Report’s 2023 Car of the Year. 

You can drive it every day—and everywhere—and never be bored.

—Mark Newman

This is the second year in a row the British marque has claimed the title with a Continental variant, and based on the judges’ reactions, it’s not hard to see why. “Bentley has proved that a large car can be made to handle like a go-kart,” said Ruben Oliva. “This is a Bentley that cannot be overlooked, cannot be overstated in its utter excellence.” Others were just as taken. 

Eric Edidin noted, “There’s a sense of occasion driving this car. It feels special and makes you feel special.” Jeremy Mancheski likened it to “a tuxedo with track shoes,” while Matt Schiefferly called the driving experience “grand touring at its finest.” 

Robb Rice

The reader-judges may have been captivated, but the Continental GT S and GTC S convertible (for the Florida sessions) didn’t make the editorial team’s top three. “Although this vehicle is exquisite aesthetically, there were a few others that I felt were more consequential,” said automotive editor Viju Mathew. Automotive editor-at-large Robert Ross preferred its sibling, saying “the W-12-powered Continental is so superlative, the V-8 iteration pales in comparison.” 

The judges disagreed—heartily. “This car is still king of the hill,” said Mark Newman. “It has looks, power and comfort,” adding that “you can drive it every day—and everywhere—and never be bored.” The highest praise, though, was given by Thomas Murphy, who called it the “best car I’ve ever driven.” As far as superlatives go, “best” is hard to top. And, for the second year running, it’s the most fitting term for Bentley’s refined-yet-robust grand tourer. 

ENGINE: 4.0-liter twin-turbo-charged V-8 
POWER: 542 hp @ 6,000 rpm 
0-60 MPH: 3.9 sec / 4.0 sec 
TOP SPEED: 198 mph
BASE PRICE: US$266,000 (HK$2,084,900) / US$292,500 (HK$2,292,600)
PRICE AS TESTED: US$318,290 (HK$2,494,740) / US$333,795 (HK$2,616,270)