If there are two things I love besides cars, they’re science and a good comeback story. That’s good news for me because the automotive industry is full of awesome comeback stories this year, and thanks to science, I can tell you which one is the most exciting revival of 2022!
A Scientific Method
Allow me to first explain how I’ll be evaluating this year’s most exciting revivals. There are seven criteria I consider. First, there are the performance metrics—power, torque, efficiency, and towing capability. How much they’ve changed from the last version of the model to today will be scored on a 0-10 scale, with the biggest improvement getting a 10 and the biggest decline (or smallest gain) a 0. Then there’s the gap, or how long we have endured a world without these nameplates. A long gap earns a high score—we’ve missed it for so long!—but again, I normalize the scale to a 0-10 so that the gap is as important as any other criteria.
Last, I apply two survey metrics—a Transformation Rating and a Hype Meter score. I assess a Transformation Rating in a subjective manner based on my impression of how significant the changes are. Then the Hype Meter, another subjective evaluation, rates the general excitement level about the new car (again based on my own perspective).
All seven criteria scores are added up to provide a total Revival Excitement Value (REV), a score out of 70. It’s a tough evaluation; the only way to earn 70/70 is to have the longest gap, the greatest power, torque, efficiency, and towing improvements, and to be totally transformed with a relentless hype machine fueling its return. As you’ll see, even managing 35/70 is a high bar to clear. Now with that out of the way, let’s get to it!
By my reckoning, there were seven revivals in 2022, but three of them don’t really warrant a closer look. The Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster is a stunning sports car, but it’s only been gone for a couple of years and falls in a no-man’s-land of disinterest—it’s too expensive and niche to earn everyday attention, so it falls flat in every category. The Acura Integra had a ton of hype until it sunk in for everyone that the regular Integra is—and always was—an economy car, completely killing the vibe for now.
Lastly, the Corvette Z06, like the AMG SL, has not been gone long enough for its performance to change much. Despite a pretty significant transformation to the mid-engine layout and massive hype for the Z06, the Integra rates higher. Altogether, these three models are technically revivals and help set the scales for the evaluation, but they just don’t REV to the redline. Now onto the good stuff!
#4 – Ford Maverick
The fact that the brand-new 2022 Ford Maverick has sold as well as it has amidst the tremendously dealer-friendly conditions of the late pandemic indicates a tremendous pull for drivers, so it should probably rank higher. But for enthusiasts, what does the Maverick really offer to get excited about?
The Ford Maverick nameplate was last sold in the US in 1977, making this the most long-awaited revival of the year. In the early 1970s, it was an economy car, starting at right around $2,000 brand new (that’s the price of the car, not an appearance upgrade package). The Maverick answered the challenge of competing with efficient Japanese alternatives in the era of the oil crisis, delivering muscle car looks at budget prices. The 24 MPG combined rating of the 1977 model wasn’t bad for an I-6 engine with 120 hp.
Today, the Maverick name once again answers a call—the call for a pickup truck that fits, dag nabbit! With sedan-like proportions, budget-friendly trimmings, and a hybrid powertrain, the 2022 Maverick fills the void that was vacated when the Ranger and Colorado hit puberty. Pickup trucks are incredibly popular in America, and now there’s one that makes sense for people with limited real estate and a desire to break 30 MPG!
The hybrid version of the 2022 Maverick will surely be the popular one, making 191 hp and earning a whopping 37 MPG combined. However, the more powerful non-hybrid EcoBoost engine option pumps out 250 hp and still gets 26 MPG combined! In my analysis, both sets of specs lead to the same score for the Maverick, indicating these are equally exciting powertrains for interested drivers. The EcoBoost Maverick can also tow 4,000 lbs, which is a 4,000-lb improvement over the 1977 model.
I have to give the Maverick a 10/10 for its Transformation Rating, though one could argue it’s still a low-cost, fuel-efficient take on a highly desirable body style and, therefore, more of an 8 or a 9. But, as an economy car with nothing particularly remarkable to note besides the body style, my Hype Meter only registers a 2. So the Maverick’s Revival Excitement Value lands at a respectable 36/70 in fourth place.
#3 – Grand Wagoneer
the lightning the Grand Wagoneer
In 1991, Jeep terminated sales of the Grand Wagoneer, a vehicle that had carried on largely unchanged since 1963. The first luxury SUV on the market (and one of the last carbureted models sold new in the US) seemingly exists on some calmly swelling ocean of popularity. It had an awesome 30-year run followed by a 30-year absence and has now returned amidst a wave of rising popularity for luxurious full-size vehicles.
Even in the early 1990s, the Grand Wagoneer was a throwback, with faux-wood paneling a staple design feature and its huge blocky styling a remnant of the era of its birth. Its AMC V8 engine made 144 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque while guzzling 11 MPG combined, and it could tow all of 1,300 lbs despite boasting body-on-frame construction. But solid Dana 44 axles helped make it a satisfying off-roader; it still projects an aura of independence, toughness, and even class—thanks mostly to the wood panels and chrome trim—to this day!
Although 15 MPG combined isn’t much of an improvement, today’s V8 makes 470 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque, and it’s good for towing 9,850 lbs in the 2022 Grand Wagoneer! That’s the greatest towing improvement of any 2022 revival by a Wagoneer-sized margin. Today’s Grand Wagoneer features price point-appropriate materials and tech, with as many as seven interactive displays, dozens of connection points, optional air suspension, and up to 23 speakers. It’s still huge, slow to stop, and lumbering in the curves, but it’s also immensely powerful, comfortable, and capable; this newcomer to the full-size luxury SUV segment is sure to steal high-margin sales from Cadillac and Lincoln.
Though the Grand Wagoneer is in the same class and type of vehicle it had been before, the performance gains are substantial, and the technological and stylistic upgrades are closer to a 50-year leap than the 30 years it has actually been gone. I give it a 5/10 Transformation Rating for that leap and a 5/10 Hype Meter rating—the resurrection of the nostalgic and iconic name is incredibly exciting, but a massive six-figure SUV can only be so popular when powered by an unassisted V8 engine that costs $1 in gas every three miles (think we’ll get to 2025 before that seems cheap?). That gives the 2022 Grand Wagoneer a Revival Excitement Value of 38 out of 70, neatly in third place.
#2 – Ford F-150 Lightning
You thought this would be #1, didn’t you? Yeah, you might have, and I might have called it #1, too, if it wasn’t for the REV scores.
Aside from being an excellent name for an enthusiast-oriented vehicle, the Grand Wagoneer stirs up fond memories of a genuinely exciting pickup truck from a couple of generations ago. We haven’t seen it used since 2004, the heyday of Need for Speed-style rigs. Along with the Chevy Silverado SS and Viper-powered Dodge Ram SRT-10, the SVT Lightning created a performance truck market quite unlike the one we have today.
With a short cab, standard bed, RWD, and a lowered suspension with a locking rear diff—plus a dramatic “flareside” bed design—the supercharged F-150 SVT Lightning was all about maximizing straight-line quickness and delivering just enough agility to handle it all. Though the engine output is no longer impressive, the 20-year-old design is much lighter than a similar vehicle would be today. It lays down a sub-six-second 0-60 mph time and has a 148 mph top speed that remains near the top of the segment. In short, the bar was high.
But Ford is well-equipped to meet a high bar. The appetite for gas-guzzling high-performance pickup trucks is obviously gluttonous—just look at the F-150 Raptor—but Ford recognized the changing zeitgeist and chose something far less cynical and much more appropriate for dusting off the famous label. It made a speedy, powerful, road-oriented pickup truck EV.
The Lightning returns after 18 years as the quickest and most powerful version of the F-150 on the market. The 580 hp, 775 lb-ft of torque, and a four-second 0-60 time are numbers that we simply didn’t see in 2004—those are Enzo Ferrari numbers, not foreman Ford numbers. Yet that’s what the modern iteration of the Ford Lightning delivers while quintupling its effective efficiency from 13 MPG combined in 2004 to 70 MPGe in 2022!
Like its predecessor, the thing that makes it special also compromises its practicality, but only by a little. Both trucks have appropriate towing and payload capacities for their eras, but the small body was limited for the old one, and the impact of a trailer on the driving range is substantial on the new one. The new Lightning is loaded with tech and unique features, like the ability to operate as a power source for your home during a blackout, while the old Lightning was more of a focused sports car. The difference is that with EVs, performance comes standard.
I give the 2022 F-150 Lightning a 5/10 Transformation Rating entirely for its pivot to an electric powertrain. Everything else is your standard F-150, which is what we’d expect anyway, but that’s also quite a departure from what the Lightning used to be, so score 5 for the Ford.
Lastly, the hype around electric pickup trucks is unreal; the Rivian R1T somehow won MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year before deliveries started! America’s most competitive automotive segment, the one with the greatest reach across suburbs and rural communities (and with the worst emissions impact), is going electric with a name that excites driving enthusiasts and with a platform that has earned the trust of millions who would never have considered an EV any other way. The only downside is the valid concern about its driving range when doing truck work, so the Lightning gets a 9/10 Hype Meter score and an overall REV of 42—a healthy step ahead of the Grand Wagoneer.
#1 – GMC Hummer EV
But the F-150 Lightning is a massive leap behind the 2022 GMC Hummer EV. The new Hummer is every bit as ridiculous as its namesake. The Humvee-inspired vehicle, which vanished along with half the US economy in 2009, is an iconic design with an infamous powertrain. There’s nothing particularly elegant or pretty about it—it approximates an armored bank truck adapted for civilian use—but it was so damn big and unmistakable that it became permanently imprinted on the modern psyche.
It was also a champion-tier off-roader, claiming Baja 1000 victories with few modifications. The tremendous ground clearance, excellent articulation, and exceptional approach and departure angles made it the literal king of the hill in its time. If you had no intention of off-roading, however, owning one risked making yourself a pariah thanks to the imposing size and abysmal fuel economy.
The 2022 GMC Hummer EV is possibly the most unexpected revival of the year and the most exciting by a long shot. The EV powertrain is a complete 180 from the old one, making 47 MPGe and achieving a range of over 300 miles. It represents the introduction of the GM Ultium platform with 800V architecture, and, unlike the old Hummer—which was powerful but not quick—the Hummer EV is capable of a 3.3-second 0-60 mph time thanks to 1,000 hp and “11,500” lb-ft of torque. In short, it showcases everything that EVs can be in the most unlikely package imaginable.
The Hummer EV is true to its roots as a massive, blocky, top-end fashion statement of a highly-capable off-roading SUV. It’s not without controversy; the absurd 9,000-lb mass includes enough lithium to build three Chevy Bolt EVs, consuming far more than its fair share of the increasingly high-demand metal. But it also showcases a litany of cutting-edge off-roading tech options. These include the famous Crabwalk (enabled by rear-wheel steering), a six-inch Extract Mode lift function, 18 camera views (including washable underbody and forward-facing cameras), and the Infinity Roof—removable panoramic panels for an unexpected open-air experience.
The Hummer EV earns an 8/10 Transformation Rating for its EV powertrain, cutting-edge features, and complete performance turnaround. It registers an easy 10/10 on the Hype Meter (it debuted in a Super Bowl ad, for crying out loud)! It’s too damn interesting for enthusiasts to care that it’s expensive and nonsensical. Only the old Hummer H2’s excellent towing capacity of 8,200 lbs and its relatively recent departure holds the Hummer EV back from a near-perfect REV, landing it at 50 out of 70.
Everybody Loves a Good Comeback
The best stories involve a comeback, wouldn’t you agree? Whether the hero had status and lost it or was an underdog to begin with, achieving victory against improbable odds is an indelible plotline. The power of nostalgia adds extra excitement surrounding a new vehicle, as does one matching the character or spirit of its namesake (looking at you, Ford Mustang Mach-E). Despite radical transformations, each of the four most exciting revivals of 2022 remains true to its respective spirit and has earned the excitement surrounding it.
Sure, getting a hold of any of them probably requires jumping on a waitlist so long you’ll be able to save the entire down payment. But you’ll be riding high on anticipation until then, and the payoff will surely be worth the wait. After all, it’s been 45 years since anybody could get their hands on a Maverick. What’s a couple more?