With 15 cupholders and bottleholders, a built-in flip-up trash-bag holder and a chilled storage area for snacks and drinks, the Odyssey's designers knew which features would keep a busy parent happy. All three of the second-row seats not only slide forward and backward independently of each other, but the outboard seats slide outward, creating an extra 3 inches of lateral shoulder-to-shoulder space. Three inches may not seem like much, but in the world of child-safety seats (or growing teenagers with broad shoulders) it means everything. The third row also is shockingly spacious and actually usable for the adult-sized set. It comes equipped with two sets of lower Latch anchors, and it can fold flat into the floor. While the Odyssey's spacious three rows can hold up to eight passengers comfortably, it can also keep them entertained. The available 16.2-inch widescreen display can be split into two separate viewing areas. Combine that with an amazing 650-watt surround-sound system with 12 speakers, and even the most finicky of passengers will be blissfully ensconced in media heaven. If you're like us and would prefer to listen to something other than the latest Disney movie, you'll definitely want to encourage the rear passengers to use those wireless headphones.
These days, it seems that Ford has taken a page from the consumer electronics industry: Make your product a little better each year to boost sales. Nowhere is that more apparent than with the Mustang, whose new editions and mechanical upgrades by the season (rather than the usual three to five years) keep the car fresh, even as sports-coupe enthusiasts face choices from brands as disparate as Dodge and Subaru. Ford's pony car is still fun in a raw, untamable way: Slide the tail out, ram through the gears and unleash some V-8 howl as you open it up. If the recession threatened to turn cars into soulless vessels of commuting thrift, the Mustang remains a solitary protest, a reminder that fast cars and open roads can make us smile. Most impressive: It hasn't become one-dimensional along the way. The throwback styling doesn't sacrifice driving visibility. The coupe's trunk fits a third more luggage than does the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and double the capacity of the Nissan 370Z coupe. The stout 305-horsepower V-6 can be had for well under $25,000, and some versions get an EPA-estimated 31 mpg highway. Value and practicality may rule the day, but the Mustang has enough of both to attract enthusiasts of the new era.
Trying to define the term "work" for the average automotive consumer is difficult. The more people you ask, the more likely you'll get multiple answers. We are a diverse people and we need to use our vehicles to do many things from the very simple, like shuttling the kids off to school, to the very complex, like moving a shipment of boxes for work then getting the gang to a meeting across town then dropping off the teenagers at a party and finally hauling all that camping gear to the hideaway cabin for that well-deserved vacation. Whew. Not every vehicle out there can be so versatile, but to win our Work Truck of the Year award, this vehicle has to be. That's why we've chosen the multiconfigurable, multidimentional, multipersonality-oriented full-size pickup as our winner. Additionally, we've chosen the Ford F-150 because no one has more engine choices, more cab configurations, more bed lengths or a better interior design. And no one offers more model choices, from the bare-bones regular-cab work truck, starting under $25,000, to the luxurious and opulent Platinum Super Crew, starting just under $50,000. And every one of them offers strong hauling and towing capabilities. No matter what you do, the F-150 has the truck to meet all your work needs.
The Toyota Prius reappears as our Eco-Friendly Car of the Year for the same reasons more than a million Americans have bought the hybrid: exceptional mileage, reliability and utility at a reasonable price. All other theories (Styling? Drivability?) seem foolish. Even among hybrids, the Prius remains the most efficient car in the U.S. market with an EPA-estimated mileage rating of 51/48 mpg city/highway. What's more, our experience with plug-in cars has only reinforced the advantages of straight-up hybrids that can be purchased by anyone, parked anywhere and fueled at any gas station. Plug-in cars (some more compelling than others) are proliferating, and while they bring a lot to the eco-friendly movement, their price and power needs are limiting factors, even among models whose range is not. This is why the Prius' contribution is unmatched. We're talking about universality and volume. Just as millions of truck-based SUVs were worse for the environment than a few thousand sports cars, more than a million Priuses have done more to curb consumption than range-limited electric cars can hope to.