It was a crazy year, but there were plenty of good moments.
There's no doubt that 2020 will go down as one of the most challenging years in recent memory, but with pride and determination, the automotive industry has pulled through. This year was riddled with shutdowns and uncertainty, but automakers managed to release plenty of new cars and set a course for the future. With 2021 just a few days away, we wanted to take a look at all of the best automotive trends of 2020. This year saw the return of icons, the continued pursuit of speed, and the birth of new automotive segments.
Car-based crossovers may be all the rage right now, but 2020 proved there's still a place in the world for rugged off-road vehicles. The 2021 Ford Bronco represents an iconic nameplate's return, one which should radically change the off-road landscape next year. Ford also released the Bronco Sport, bringing a softer side of off-road capability to buyers on a smaller budget. At the other end of the spectrum, the Land Rover Defender brought back another iconic name, offering a luxury off-road alternative.
Venerable SUV brand Jeep didn't sit idly by and let Ford steal all of its thunder. The brand released a plug-in hybrid Wrangler called the 4xe and announced a V8-powered version with 470 horsepower. 2020 proved that buyers still love to take their vehicles on adventures, and the industry responded with a slew of awesome off-roaders.
When the pandemic first hit, automakers were forced to shut down their factories, halting production indefinitely. These shutdowns happened globally, including mainstream US manufacturers and low-volume European automakers like Ferrari. Automakers were able to persevere, with some like Honda even paying their employees during the shutdowns. These shutdowns affected many new vehicle launches, including the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette. Although the Corvette had a rocky start, production is now back on track with the 2021 models set to arrive in showrooms soon.
2020 proved that while cars will continue to get more efficient, buyers still love pickup trucks and will pay a premium for super-fast off-road variants. The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX arrived as the first major rival to the Ford Raptor, offering an insane 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine producing 702 hp. Rumors suggest Ford will not take this challenge lightly and will drop its supercharged Predator engine from the GT500 into the next-generation Raptor.
It's taken many years for an OEM to challenge Ford, but the aftermarket continues to offer a range of overpowered trucks. Hennessey released the new Venom 800 Supercharged, an F-150 with over 800 hp. Specialty Vehicle Engineering also released an 800-hp Yenko pickup truck based on the Chevrolet Silverado. Even when trucks switch to electric drivetrains, automakers will continue to make insane performance versions, as evidenced by the 1,000-hp GMC Hummer.
As new cars become more expensive, and consumers quickly shift to practical crossovers, the affordable sports car market has been drained beyond recognition. Still, 2020 contained a few exciting announcements that driving enthusiasts can get delighted about. The 2022 Subaru BRZ will offer an affordable rear-wheel-drive platform with more power than the previous generation. Toyota will also jump in on the action with a second-generation 86, built in partnership with Subaru.
Hot hatchbacks remain popular, and Volkswagen will roll out the eighth-generation Golf GTI and Golf R next year. Honda will also keep the affordable performance car going, with next-generation versions of the Civic Si and Type R already confirmed and rumors circulating of a new S2000. Though it isn't a production car yet, Nissan also revealed the Z Proto, giving us our first taste of the long-awaited 370Z replacement with a new twin-turbocharged V6 engine.
Electric vehicles still make up a tiny portion of the US car market, yet Tesla still managed to become the world's most valuable automaker this year. Tesla's success proves that there is a viable market for affordable EVs, and other automakers are gearing up to meet the demand. 2020 saw the announcement of several important EVs that the average consumer can reasonably afford.
The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 will arrive next year starting at $39,995 before any federal or state tax credits. The Mustang Mach-E will also offer an affordable EV experience, starting at $42,895. Although it doesn't have a price tag yet, the Nissan Ariya will build upon the Leaf's success in crossover form.
EVs will become more affordable, but luxury automakers are also ready to cash in the boom. The Porsche Taycan has already outsold the 911 and a new wave of luxury EVs is set to take over the market. BMW recently announced a new SUV called the iX, and will soon release more i-branded EVs like the upcoming i4. Even automakers that don't have any EVs yet are making a big commitment to move towards electrification.
Cadillac will become an all-electric brand by 2025, starting with the 2023 Lyriq SUV. The 2020 Maserati MC20 may have debuted with a twin-turbo V6, but Maserati is also working on an electric version plus an electric Gran Turismo replacement. Bentley has committed to electrification, with the entire brand committed to eliminating combustion engines by 2030.
More than any year in recent memory, 2020 saw the introduction of several game-changing hypercars that push the envelope of what's possible. The SSC Tuatara claimed a new top speed record at over 331 mph, though the attempt was challenged and the company will need to retry the run. Hot on SSC's heels, Hennessey finally revealed its production Venom F5 after years of anticipation. This new hypercar offers a staggering 1,817 hp with a theoretical top speed of over 311 mph.
2020 proved what we already knew: station wagons are cool. Though the body style remains far from popular, several automakers are now making them more desirable than ever. Audi and Mercedes each launched two new wagon models this year. For buyers who want a bit of off-road prowess, the A6 allroad and E-Class All-Terrain offer great ground clearance, like a crossover. Both automakers also revealed performance-oriented wagons in the form of the RS6 Avant and E63 Wagon. Next year, BMW will also jump in on this market with the first-ever M3 wagon.
Aside from sedans, minivans are the segment that was hurt most by the crossover boom. In 2020, several automakers succeeded in making the minivan great again, each taking different strategies to get there. The 2021 Toyota Sienna is now a hybrid-only model with fuel efficiency that rivals a gas-powered compact sedan. Chrysler also refreshed its excellent Pacifica minivan, adding a new Pinnacle trim level that rivals many luxury SUVs. The Pacifica comes as a plug-in hybrid as well, offering a more efficient means of transport than gas-guzzling full-size SUVs.
Speed freaks can rest easy heading into 2021, knowing that the muscle car isn't going anywhere. In the short-term, gas-powered models like the Ford Mustang Mach 1 will continue to offer a great V8 rumble and excellent track performance. Even as the shift to electrification continues, models like the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition prove that muscle cars will live on with a 0-60 mph time of just 3.5 seconds. Dodge continued its hilarious mission to stick a Hellcat motor in every model, now offering a three-row Durango Hellcat with 710 hp. The Hellcat lineup grew more powerful in 2020, with models like the 797-hp Charger Hellcat Redeye and 807-hp Challenger Super Stock.