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From Audi to Rolls-Royce, the 10 Contenders for Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year

The latest edition of our annual contest broke new ground, from the first inclusion of an all-electric vehicle to the use of a closed-circuit venue, all to crown one model the industry’s ne plus ultra for 2022.

Nineteen years into an annual event that has become a welcome tradition within the pages of Robb Report, our 2022 Car of the Year (COTY) disproved the old adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Indeed, in addition to the cars, just about everything was different this time around: The venues, the roads and courses and the food and wine all changed names and places. And fresh, too, was the judging, which our editorial team tuned up to be more akin to how automotive journalists on assignment assess the latest and greatest cars. For the 178 readers who drove our 10 COTY competitors, we reorganized the judging criteria and developed a new points scale to make the evaluation process fast and fair, asking judges to appraise models across five categories: looks, performance, luxury and comfort, utility, plus intangible tiebreakers such as wow factor and collectibility. And for the first time, our automotive editorial staff voted, too, offering additional insights and perspectives on the nature of these cars, based less on emotion and more on how these models impact their respective brands and the industry as a whole. In the feature that follows, we herald the top three podium finishers; the remaining seven vehicles are presented in no particular order.

But the biggest development is the juice that powers our wheels: Electricity is displacing dead dinosaurs (never mind that electric power still comes largely from fossil fuel). This year, the once-creeping transition to electrified power has become a race to an all-electric future. The most notable example in our 2022 COTY was the Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC, the all-electric game changer unleashed by the world’s highest-volume luxury brand. It’ll be interesting to see how automakers use batteries and super-capacitors as a replacement for the thrill of a supercar’s naturally aspirated V-12 engine, and how we as drivers will adapt to the innovation being thrust upon us.

But back to the moment. In a supply chain-challenged year, there were a few new makes and models we’d liked to have entered the competition but simply couldn’t land (looking at you, 2022 Porsche 911 GT3). In the end, our judges hardly suffered, driving 10 exceptional automobiles, representing a range of aesthetics, engineering and philosophies. If this lot is any indication, the future looks bright.

Audi RS 6 Avant

Audi RS 6 Avant

Robb Rice

This Audi is a great stealth rocket ship with plenty of sport and utility. —Andrew Wesson

The RS 6 Avant has only recently come to the US, and while the take rate will be slim, those who do avail themselves of this 190 mph pack mule will have the ride of their lives. We say it’s about time the Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon had some competition. “This Audi is a great stealth rocket ship with plenty of sport and utility,” said Andrew Wesson, who added, “I could see myself owning this and enjoying it every day.”

That theme was constant, with Matteo DeFalco describing it as “at home with bicycles, surfboards and fishing gear. My kinda car.” And DeeAnn Romanowski labeled it the “most valuable player.” The parlor trick of the RS 6 Avant, with its understated Audi style and a gimmick-free interior that can accommodate nearly 60 cubic feet of stuff, is its power. Sern Anderson hailed it as “a gremlin for the grocery-store run. It certainly hauls more than ass.” James Critchlaw raved that “this car does everything well. Precise, predictable and plenty of power!” But a few drivers were less moved. Duraid Antone acknowledged a “fun ride with no wow factor,” and Robert Zimmermann thought “it did everything right but just didn’t excite my senses.” Elena Bluntzer simply called it “not my kind of car.” Most drivers were biased in its favor, though, including Spencer Wells, who decided that “this is by far the most bang for the buck in this group.”

ENGINE: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8
POWER: 591 hp @ 6,250 rpm
0-60 MPH: 3.1 sec
TOP SPEED: 190 mph
BASE PRICE: $109,000
PRICE AS TESTED: $131,645

Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC

Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600

Robb Rice

When a Mercedes isn’t enough, a Maybach badge can kick things up a notch. Take the GLS 600, which, according to Nick Luksha, is the equivalent of a “luxury Abrams tank.”

Unlike most of its rivals, this entry was one that the vast majority of judges preferred to experience as passengers. Ezra Henson confessed, “I could spend hours in the back seat,” while Najeeb Thomas noted that he felt “like European royalty” riding in the rear.” And while Kylie White thought “the recliner was perfection,” there were a few dissenters, including Michael Markovich, who complained that the reclining seats “need to be longer for individuals over 6 feet, 2 inches.”

While Maybach engines powered the German airship Graf Zeppelin (not to be confused with its doomed cousin, the Hindenburg), this Maybach uses Mercedes’s twin-turbo V-8 assisted by a 48-volt hybrid system for extra punch. And quick it is, noted Skip MacHarg, who said, “for its size, it has remarkable acceleration.” Despite its shove, Lisa Cantillo found the big SUV “bulky and cumbersome during spirited driving,” though “comfortable and luxurious to be driven in.” But while occupants luxuriate in nappa leather and float on an air suspension with a ride as heavenly as the Graf Zeppelin’s, a few, including Robb Report’s editors, felt there was something inauthentic about badge-engineering a GLS into a wannabe Maybach, the legacy of which is best represented outside of an SUV. As judge Jay Petkunas put it, the SUV provided a “great passenger experience, but I felt like badging this as a Maybach was a stretch.”

ENGINE: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8
POWER: 550 hp @ 6,000 rpm
0-60 MPH: 4.8 sec
TOP SPEED: 130 mph (limited)
BASE PRICE: $160,500
PRICE AS TESTED: $189,250.

Karma GS-6L

Karma GS-6L

Robb Rice

While its slippery shape is familiar, everything else about Karma’s GS-6L is new, starting with a hybrid-electric platform that combines two electric motors with an inline-three gasoline engine to deliver 536 hp and a 300-mile range. But for many of our judges, the car was a mixed bag. Phil Garrison summed it up when he said, “The Karma is a good-looking car but suffers from a poor driving experience.” This common impression may exist largely because once the juice is gone, drivers are left with an anemic three-banger internal-combustion engine and ersatz exhaust sounds piped into the admittedly luxurious cabin.

Robb Report’s editorial team found the Karma to be an elegant design that disappoints in execution. The build suffers from a lack of precision, and the performance is wanting. As for the judges, David Caldwell lamented that it’s “a sheep in wolf ’s clothing.” Julie Anne Smedley offered a similar assessment: “I loved the look of this car from the exterior, but the wow factor vanished when I got behind the wheel.” Laila Wardaki agreed, saying, “It’s a beautiful-looking car but lacked some power.” Luxurious grand touring is the Karma’s stock in trade, and Jeremy Oster called it a “smooth ride but not too inspiring. For someone who wants a Tesla but doesn’t want a Tesla.” At over 5,000 pounds, it’s literally a heavyweight contender, one that promises to be as exclusive and beautiful as a Tesla is not.

ENGINE: Twin electric motors on rear axles with 1.5-liter inline-three
POWER: 536 hp combined
0-60 MPH: 4.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 125 mph (limited)
BASE PRICE: $93,900
PRICE AS TESTED: $114,700 (Napa) $109,100 (Boca)

Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC

Mercedes-Benz EQS 580

Robb Rice

The late actor Sir Laurence Olivier is reported to have once quipped: “No matter how well you perform, there’s always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it’s lousy.” It’s a sentiment applicable to Mercedes-Benz’s EQS 580 4MATIC, the first all-electric vehicle ever cast in our Car of the Year showdown and, perhaps not coincidentally, the most polarizing model in the field. Regarding aesthetics, few were enthusiastic about the shape, despite it generating the lowest drag coefficient for any production car in history. Joe Laux labeled the body style “as generic-looking as store-brand vegetables,” while Matthew Dicken could only muster the word “boring.”

Many of the judges, though, saw past its appearance and were as smitten as Tom Montgomery, who called it “an amazing technological wonder,” won over by an innovative interior anchored by the marque’s 56-inch MBUX Hyperscreen. “The dashboard made me feel like I was in command of the Starship Enterprise,” said Najeeb Thomas about the sci-fi vibe, and Nick Luksha referred to the futuristic sedan as “George Jetson’s retirement car.”

The overall handling also proved divisive. Elena Bluntzer felt the ride was “mediocre at best,” and Jean-Marc Bories, perhaps confusing his modes of transportation, “got seasick,” yet Andrew Chase and Ed Kinney found the EQS in general to be “hands down, the biggest and best surprise of all” and “the most luxurious EV I have ever experienced,” respectively. Although the critics had mixed reviews, Robb Report’s editorial team could not deny that the Mercedes will likely be remembered as the most important entry in this contest—a leading player’s memorable first act placing electrification center stage.

ENGINE: Twin electric motors; one each front/rear
POWER: 516 hp combined
0-60 MPH: 4.1 sec
TOP SPEED: 130 mph (limited)
BASE PRICE: $119,110
PRICE AS TESTED: $133,670

BMW Alpina B8 xDrive Gran Coupe

BMW Alpina B8 xDrive Gran Coupe

Robb Rice

The Alpina was the sleeper of the bunch for me. I loved this car. —Robert Zimmerman

Although renowned for its precision engineering and performance, BMW is not the German marque that jumps to mind when considering stately comfort and styling. But independent manufacturer Alpina is trying to change that perception, slowly but surely. From an alliance spanning nearly 60 years comes one of the most recent collaborations, the BMW Alpina B8 xDrive Gran Coupe—a family hauler fancy enough to warrant leaving the kids with a sitter. “A blend of great style and exquisite handling, with an interior that’s well-appointed and intuitive,” noted Mike Lackey. For Taña Zimmermann, it was simply “a wonderful surprise,” while her husband, Robert, agreed, explaining, “the Alpina was the sleeper of the bunch for me. I loved this car.”

Others were either more backhanded with their praise or altogether ambivalent. “As BMWs go, this is top-notch; very fast and handles well,” observed Scott Kotick. “However,” he added, “it’s as sexy as a can of Turtle Wax.” Jonathan Weizman allowed that it has a “nice style but doesn’t come together as a package; it feels like the suspension was set up for a two-door, not a longer-wheelbase four-door.” The Robb Report automotive team found the interior a sumptuously executed version of BMW’s standard playbook, though the crystal shift knob is an odd decorative flourish for a car still labeled the Ultimate Driving Machine. But perhaps the harshest criticism came from Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who dismissed the model as “nothing selfie-worthy.”

ENGINE: 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged
V-8 POWER: 612 hp @ 6,500 rpm
0-60 MPH: 3.3 sec
TOP SPEED: 201 mph
BASE PRICE: $139,900
PRICE AS TESTED: $148,095

McLaren 720S Spider

McLaren 720S Spider

Robb Rice

An absolute blast to drive. Ryan McKay

As with the latest fashions, supercars are often soon rendered outdated, becoming the automotive equivalent of the leisure suit after only a few seasons. So we were curious how, roughly three years into production, a model like the McLaren 720S Spider would fare against newly released high-performance convertibles, especially as the original coupe took second place in our 2018 Car of the Year evaluation. It seems that although the McLaren has more miles under its belt than the competition, it has given up little ground.

“This was my favorite car on many levels,” proclaimed Andrew Wesson, adding that he was taken by its “phenomenal thrust coupled with the most precise steering in the group.” Shari Bard deemed the British roadster to be “not as sexy as the Ferrari and not as mean as the Lamborghini, [but] it’s the perfect combination of both.” And Ryan McKay called it “an absolute blast to drive.”

Yet not everyone was on board. William Stovall noted that the car “lacks low-end torque,” while Paul Williams felt it misses “a certain level of refinement; a daily driver for the Concours Club, but not around town.” Then there was Roger Smith, whose only complaint was that he was “having a problem looking suave getting in and out.” In the end, the pros far outweighed the cons for the Robb Report automotive team, who found the 720S had the most elegant exterior design of any in the field, if a disdain for ergonomics—the seat adjustment alone is maddening enough to land a driver in therapy. Still, we’d love to be in a long-term relationship with this machine.

ENGINE: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged
V-8 POWER: 710 hp @ 7,500 rpm
0-60 MPH: 2.8 sec
TOP SPEED: 212 mph
BASE PRICE: $315,000
PRICE AS TESTED: $359,820

Lamborghini Huracán STO

Lamborghini Huracán STO

Robb Rice

It corners like a gold-medal bobsled team. —Joe Laux

As William Shakespeare noted in Henry IV, Part II, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Automobili Lamborghini’s reign over our event the past few years has been a testament to the marque’s determination to bolster an already powerful line. This year’s entry, the Huracán Super Trofeo Omologata (STO), marks the highest-performing variant of the model that will be built (or so we’ve been assured)—a street-legal distillation of the Super Trofeo Evo and Huracán GT3 Evo racers that more than a few judges found unapologetically raw and intimidating.

“The platform was much better in the previous versions,” said Brent Bellotte, who found that the automaker had “removed everything that made the car a drivable exotic.” Ezra Henson came to a similar conclusion, explaining that “what it has in exterior styling and speed, it lacks with the interior and driving comfort.” Julio Cantillo wrote off one deficiency to pragmatism: “Rear visibility is my only complaint, but the good news is you won’t need to look behind you much.”

Despite falling off the throne, the Lamborghini Huracán still had plenty of devotees. “This is a genie on four wheels; your wish is its command,” said Lindsay Faldo. Its motorsport-inspired athleticism was also a crowd-pleaser. “It corners like a gold-medal bobsled team,” Joe Laux noted, while Alex Bard was “fairly sure that if it had enough runway, it might take off.” And Steve Couig gushed, “If the Ferrari made me giggle while ripping through the gears, the Huracán commanded outright laughter.” With little real-world versatility, the Huracán, in the view of Robb Report’s automotive team, is made for the most competent, confident drivers who don’t care how much attention they attract. Perhaps like judge Don Barry, who said driving it felt like “sitting in a saddle attached to a meteor.”

ENGINE: 5.2-liter, naturally aspirated V-10
POWER: 631 hp @ 8,000 rpm
0-60 MPH: 2.8 sec
TOP SPEED: 193 mph
BASE PRICE: $327,838
PRICE AS TESTED: $404,533 (Napa) $392,133 (Boca)

3. Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost

Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost

Robb Rice

Handles like a dream. Smooth as a Steph Curry three-pointer. —Scott Kotick

Perhaps not since the US defeated England in the 1950 World Cup has there been an upset like the one at the 2021 edition of Car of the Year, when the revised Rolls-Royce Ghost earned equal standing on the podium with Lamborghini’s Huracán Evo RWD Spyder. Such a sea change in perception mirrors that of the British automaker’s increasingly younger consumer base (now averaging 43 years of age), owed in large part to the introduction of the Black Badge trim package, with its edgier aesthetic and more intimidating power delivery.

Understandably, the new Black Badge Ghost also summoned quite a following among the judges this time around.

“Most cars simply show up; this automobile arrives,” said Ryan McKay about the model variant, which Penske Media Corp.’s Gerry Byrne noted was “very comfortable, very… everything.” Though passengers have long had their senses engaged by Rolls, this is a car for drivers. “Handles like a dream. Smooth as a Steph Curry three-pointer,” said Scott Kotick, while Hall of Fame golfer Sir Nick Faldo observed that “you can drive it as if it’s your waltz partner; its balance is stunning.”

The all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, however, go only so far in masking the vehicle’s over 18-foot length and 5,490-pound weight. “This car is too big for me,” Andrew Wesson said, and Kylie White thought the Ghost in general “seems overdone and unapproachable.” Steve Couig went as far as to call the ride “squishy” and was of the opinion that “Rolls-Royce appears to be having a tough time staying relevant.” But more of the feedback was closer to what was given by Jean Marie Eschmendia-Kouri, who pronounced it “the best car I’ve ever driven in my life.” In the view of Robb Report’s automotive editors, the Black Badge Ghost is masterfully designed and engineered to be a true oasis—a car that, in and of itself, could mark the renaissance of the sedan.

ENGINE: 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V-12
POWER: 591 hp @ 5,000 rpm
0-60 MPH: 4.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 155 mph (limited)
BASE PRICE: $395,000
PRICE AS TESTED: $484,950

2. Ferrari 812 GTS

Ferrari 812 GTS

Robb Rice

Get one while you can—this is an investment, not a depreciating asset! —Andrew Chase

Talk about a narrow race! With 70 points out of a possible 80, the Ferrari 812 GTS missed the winner’s circle by a single point. Unanimously the top pick of Robb Report’s automotive editors, who found the model to be at the confluence of legacy and outer limits, it was the judges’ second overall. Number crunching aside, the Ferrari won hearts with its combination of performance, refinement, looks and such intangibles as its wow factor and predicted future collectibility. Importantly, the 812 GTS has the most powerful naturally aspirated production-car engine ever made and is a reminder that no sound or sensation compares to a Ferrari V-12 winding out to redline. This model has a retractable hard top that makes it a car for all seasons, and when it comes to personalization, the Prancing Horse knows how to accommodate its clients; ours had $140,000 in options, including a $33,000 Blu Ahrabian metallic paint job. In short, there was a lot to like.

Many judges homed in on driving as a multisensory pursuit, and Ferrari’s primacy in satisfying one sense in particular. Peter Li called out the “lovely sound of a naturally aspirated V-12,” while Joshua Greenman advised, “It’s worth it for the sound alone.” Former fighter pilot Mike Lackey said the GTS “feels like an F-14 in Zone 5 afterburner, and we didn’t even attempt the higher-end settings. The sound of the engine, both accelerating and decelerating, screams high-performance sports car… a true symphony for the ears.” Jim Shay enthused, “Love it! The best balance of raw power and luxury.” Similarly, Hugi Hilmisson was enraptured by what he termed the “biblical soundtrack” and noted that the Ferrari “doesn’t have the handling of a car with a mid-mounted engine but still feels extremely agile.” Lee Oleinick appreciated the “insane power and noise,” adding, “it handles like a true race car but unfortunately includes the jarring ride.” Mark Newman expressed mixed feelings, too, calling it “a world-class car but not that comfortable for a long drive, with seats that are too firm and suspension that’s too harsh for a GT cruiser.”

Another weakness: “The dash and five-year-old instruments need updating,” Tim Rogers suggested, and Justin Baldwin seconded the opinion.

But for Matteo Atti, those quibbles didn’t matter. “I’m in love,” he declared. “Sometimes Italians really do it better.” Andrew Chase considered the 812 GTS from a broader perspective, advising, “Get one while you can—this is an investment, not a depreciating asset!”

Our editors recognized the connection between the 812 GTS and such classic Ferraris as the 275 GTB and 365 GTB/4 “Daytona.” Roger Cary also saw a timeless lesson, saying, “This car helped me to understand: If you are not driving your dream car, go back to work.”

ENGINE: 6.5-liter, normally aspirated V-12
POWER: 789 hp @ 8,500 rpm
0-60 MPH: 2.8 sec
TOP SPEED: 211 mph
BASE PRICE: $397,544
PRICE AS TESTED: $534,835

1. Bentley Continental GT Speed

The Bentley Continental GT Speed.

Photo by Robb Rice.

The perfect blend of beauty, power and grace. —Garrett Calacci

For the graduate heralded as “most likely to succeed,” the pressure to live up to expectations can be a springboard to accomplishment—or an albatross. Bentley has experienced both. The 103-year-old marque garnered early motorsport acclaim before suffering numerous financial setbacks and being absorbed by rival Rolls-Royce at one point. Since falling under the auspices of the Volkswagen Group in 1998, though, the baronial automaker has unlocked a new level of potential manifested by one model in particular, the Bentley Continental GT—a car that took our top honor in 2004.

The years since have further refined this grand tourer in engineering and elegance, resulting in the Speed variant, which the Robb Report editorial team described as channeling the spirit of Le Mans within a sanctuary worthy of Kublai Khan. That seductive combination, presented as a convertible and a coupe in Napa and Boca, respectively, wooed the majority of our judges. The Bentley Continental GT Speed is Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year.

Most compelling was how the two-door’s parkour-worthy agility belied its over 5,000-pound curb weight. “Have you ever seen an elephant tap-dancing? Today, I have,” said Jean-Marc Bories. “The four-wheel steering is what made all the difference in the world,” added Daryn Pingleton. The handling also benefits from the automaker’s first integration of a limited-slip differential to increase sure-footedness. The result, in the view of David Emmes, makes this latest version “a quantum leap from the original.”

The camp of detractors could fit in a pup tent. Regarding the interior, Matteo Atti thought its “design was overdone and aged.” Lee Weinstein’s list of complaints included “no air-conditioned seats” and “a thumping subwoofer—that was harsh.” He also felt that the car’s tech was “not intuitive.” Julie Anne Smedley determined that “minimal trunk space and legroom in back were the only downsides,” and James Diggs’s sole takeaway from the Bentley was its “difficult sight lines in the back.”

In contrast, Timothy Donahue “could find nothing wrong with the car,” while Garrett Calacci described it as “the perfect blend of beauty, power and grace.” Kylie White offered perhaps the highest praise, saying, “This car sparks joy at every turn and every press of the gas pedal.” Reason enough to be this year’s automotive champion.

ENGINE: 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12
POWER: 650 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm
0-60 MPH: 3.6 sec/3.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 208 mph
BASE PRICE: $302,400/$274,900
PRICE AS TESTED: $360,345 (Napa) $340,310 (Boca)

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