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NACTOY finalist 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Photo: GM

In the next week, I and 49 other journalists must cast our final ballots for the 2020 North American car, truck and utility vehicle of the year.

Why it matters: I am trying to squeeze in extra seat time in the nine finalists that were announced in November, and my driveway has been extra crowded lately.

Here are some quick impressions of the top contenders, in no particular order:

Cars:

  • Chevrolet Corvette: The new mid-engine design provides stunning supercar performance in a $60,000 package, a fraction of European competitors.
  • Toyota Supra: A BMW Z4 wrapped in a Toyota suit. It's loads of fun to drive, but at roughly $50,000, it's similarly priced to the BMW.
  • Hyundai Sonata: Like the Corvette, it's a value story. Even the entry-level model, at $23,400, comes loaded with standard safety and driver-assistance features.

Trucks:

  • Ford Ranger: At $24,400–$36,500, the midsize pickup fills an important gap as trucks like the F-150 have gotten too pricey for ordinary folks.
  • Jeep Gladiator: A captivating midsize pickup based on the iconic Jeep Wrangler, but fully loaded, the price can climb above $50,000.
  • Ram Heavy Duty pickup: Ram 1500 was last year's winner, and the Heavy Duty is a super-sized version of that winning formula.

Utilities:

  • Lincoln Aviator: A beautiful, tranquil and luxurious three-row SUV, but Ford botched the production launch, which raises red flags.
  • Kia Telluride: Stylish and roomy, the three-row family hauler feels like a luxury SUV without the high price tag ($31,690–$43,490).
  • Hyundai Palisade: Sharing a platform with Telluride, it offers more standard equipment, like a push-button gear selector and paddle shifters.

Worth noting: We judge vehicles against competitors in their respective segments; not against each other.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Progressives pressure Schumer to end filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

A progressive coalition is pressuring Chuck Schumer on his home turf by running a digital billboard in Times Square urging the new majority leader to end the Senate filibuster.

Why it matters: Schumer is up for re-election in 2o22 and could face a challenger, and he's also spearheading his party's broader effort to hold onto its narrow congressional majorities.

4 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.