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The 2021 MotorTrend Car of the Year Will Be One of These Finalists

It’s almost time for MotorTrend to announce which vehicle won its 2021 Car of the Year award. And yes, it’s still happening in spite of the pandemic that’s disrupted the auto industry all year. We won’t go so far as to call it a return to normalcy, but it’s nice to see normal car things happening even though the world’s been turned on its head.

Expect the official MotorTrend Car of the Year announcement soon, but for now, all we know is which cars are finalists and which ones didn’t make the cut. We’ll cover some of the contenders later. Today, though, let’s take a closer look at the six finalists.

BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe

BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe
BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe | BMW

The BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe is the four-door version of the two-door 8 Series, but that doesn’t mean it’s bigger than the 7 Series. That would make too much sense, and this is BMW we’re talking about here. Instead, think of the 8 Series Gran Coupe as a replacement for the 6 Series Gran Coupe.

MT staffers love the design, as well as the powerful inline-six that comes in the 840i. And since it has four doors, the Gran Coupe is much more practical than the, well, coupe-coupe. They weren’t as impressed with the rear headroom, the stop-start system, or the high price tag, however.

Hyundai Sonata

A white 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line driving on a road
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line in action | Hyundai

RELATED: You Can’t Go Wrong With the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

If attainability was a factor that MT considered, the Hyundai Sonata might be the favorite to win this year. It’s not the most affordable finalist on the list, but it’s pretty darn close. And love it or hate it, the Sonata is definitely the kind of car you notice on the street.

MotorTrend loved the sporty Sonata N Line variant, as well as the spacious back seat. They also thought it was a good value. They didn’t, however, like the transmission, the ride, or the “fishy front-end styling.”

Mercedes-Benz CLA

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S
Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S | Mercedes

After Mercedes announced plans to bring the A-Class sedan to the U.S., we were pretty sure the CLA was dead in the water. It hadn’t gotten great reviews, and who needs a slightly sportier version of the brand’s least affordable car. But Mercedes redesigned the CLA anyway and even offers it here.

The AMG engine was a MotorTrend favorite, but what really impressed the reviewers were the interior and the overall quality of the base model. Still, the are some cheap pieces in the cabin. They also thought the ride was rough, and the design looked a little melted.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

A red 2021 Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet in front of a green-covered rocky hill with its top down
2021 Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet | Mercedes-Benz

RELATED: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Will Be Better Than Ever

Mercedes recently updated the E-Class, and as you’d expect, it’s improved on most of the earlier version’s shortcomings. The design won’t set the world on fire, but it’s attractive in an understated way. It’s also unmistakable for anything other than a Mercedes.

During Car of the Year testing, MT staffers liked the interior, the powertrain options, and the chassis. The downsides? Pricing can be on the high side, and not everyone finds the infotainment system intuitive.

Nissan Sentra

2020 Red Nissan Sentra landscape image
2020 Nissan Sentra | Nissan

This one was a bit of a surprise considering how long it’s been since the Nissan Sentra was competitive in the segment. But hey, that’s what makes the COTY competition valuable. Sometimes you learn something new.

MotorTrend liked the Sentra’s styling and standard safety features, calling it a good value for your money. They weren’t sold on the real-world fuel economy, high expected depreciation, or the transmission. With so much experience using continuously variable transmissions, you’d think the Sentra’s would be better.

Porsche Taycan

2020 Porsche Taycan
2020 Porsche Taycan | Porsche

This is going to be the winner, right? It has to be. At least we think so. The Porsche Taycan is the first true Tesla competitor in years, and if price doesn’t matter, it’s going to be hard to beat.

MT‘s reviewers absolutely loved the way the Taycan looks, but they also appreciated its supercar-rivaling performance and the overall driving experience. The only downsides? It eats up range when you drive it aggressively. Oh, and it’s ridiculously expensive.