MIDDLEBORO, Mass. – The recent 2024 New England Motor Press Association Winter Vehicle of the Year event was an electrifying affair as I sampled vehicles with electrical or electrically aided powerplants during the driving portion of the program. The automotive journalist NEMPA members gather each February here to vote for vehicles we had driven during the past year for a variety of categories covering virtually every automotive segment.
The winners will be announced later in the year, but here are my choices for the top awards:
There are also 13 “Best in-Class Categories” for segments such as midsize/compact truck, full-size truck, subcompact SUV, compact SUV, mid-size SUV, full-size SUV and premium versions of these.
The voting follows a year of test driving as well as the ability to sample the vehicles now in the New England media fleet for refresher moments or to sample a vehicle a member might not have driven. As mentioned, At this year’s Winter event, I zeroed in on vehicles with an electrical powertrain including the 2024 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4XE plug-in hybrid (PHEV); the 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL S-AWD; the Genesis Electrified GV70; the 024 Hyundai Ioniq 6, and the Toyota Crown Platinum.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4XE
Jeep added plug-in hybrid powertrains to its Grand Cherokee mid-size SUV and its iconic Wrangler in 2021. For 2024, Jeep brought something I never thought would be a Wrangler characteristic: quiet. The hardtop four-door Wrangler with a new, modern interior in my short drive exhibited less judder and shake than previous iterations of this go-anywhere vehicle along with a much redecued raucous interior. Ride quality came across as more controlled, though it was still a bit stiffer than a premium SUV.
The interior offers the most striking advancements in Wrangler history. For the first time, power-adjustable seats are available. The system was designed to work even if the interior is flooded during driving, thus not curtailing the Jeep’s ability to go anywhere.
The digital portion of the dash sweeps from the customizable cluster behind the steering wheel to the 12.3-inch color LCD touchscreen at the center. The look of this dash bring the Wrangler a more modern feel than ever before (and I have spent considerable time in the Wrangler since its mid-1980s launch, including three years of ownership from 2013-16).
The PHEV powertrain produces a couple of other unique characteristics: 375 horsepower, the second-most powerful Wrangler (after the 6.4-liter V8 with its 470 hp) and 49 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalency), fuel efficiency never achieved before in a Wrangler.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL S-AWD
Mitsubishi has been building cars for more than 100 years and selling them in the U.S. for approximately half of its history. Though they have sold cars, pickup trucks, vans and SUVs under its own brand since 1982 while providing countless vehicles sold under the Chrysler brands of Dodge and Plymouth (which began in 1978).
The company’s relationship with Chrysler – now Stellantis – ended years ago; today the Japanese manufacturer operates in conjunction with the Renault-Nissan conglomerate and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL S-AWD is a product of this relationship.
The Outlander shares its platform and many underlying features with the successful Nissan Rogue which results in a thoroughly modern compact SUV. The top-of-the-range version I drove had every bell-and-whistle; it was quiet, comfortable and quick. The PHEV powertrain results in a federal Environmental Protection Agency rating of 64 MPGe.
Genesis Electrified GV70
I spent a week in the Genesis Electrified GV70 last spring so the short drive in Middleboro was for a quick refresher.
Genesis is the luxury brand within the Hyundai-family (Hyundai, Kia, Genesis) of vehicles and the Electrified GV70 demonstrates just what that means. The cabin is sumptuous; the leather seats extremely comfortable; the ride solid and controlled; the handling is precise, and, thanks to the rigid body structure, attention to detail and the all-electric powertrain, silence is the sound within the cabin.
Hyundai Ioniq 6
Nothing has changed in the 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 BEV from the 2023 version I drove last summer. As I wrote, “Based on the Korean company’s Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which also provides the foundation for such stalwart EVs like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Genesis GV-60, the Ioniq 6 Limited long-range (dual-motor AWD, all-wheel-drive with 20-inch wheels trim) delivered the performance and comfort I have come to expect from the vehicles in this group.”
And these comments remain for the 2024 version. EV quick, EV quiet and performance-car handling, all in a four-door, five-passenger sedan with a swoopy shape.
Toyota Crown Platinum
For years, Toyota’s large cars were best known for competency and boredom, from the styling to the performance. The last generation of the Avalon, the Japanese brand’s full-size sedan, I found [the TRD version] surprising, as Toyota “track-tuned the chassis, dropped in a 301-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and added an eight-speed direct-shift automatic transmission to provide the sporting feel promised by the TRD badge.”
Toyota gilded the Avalon with the TRD version; in my short drive in the new Crown, I discovered a uniquely designed four-door sedan which already packs more power (340 hp from the hybrid powertrain) and refinement than its predecessor.
The Crown was quiet, comfortable, filled with technology and amenities.
As for fuel economy, the hybrid powertrain, according to the EPA, results in 41 mpg in overall operation (42 urban, 41 highway).