While each year brings a fresh set of car, truck, and SUV models, there are always a few standouts. Whether it comes down to style, performance, tech features, or just pure novelty, some models simply know how to separate themselves from the pack. Higher-end performance sedans and good old-fashioned sports cars dominate our list of the most exciting releases of 2022, with automakers pulling out all the stops to deliver thrilling new options that make a good case for living life in the fast lane. These models run the gamut in terms of style and price, though a surprising majority should be well within reach for the average driver’s budget. From performance-minded versions of popular models to sporty, racing team-inspired options and luxurious SUVs, 2022 held some great surprises for those who have grown tired of the same old offerings. Join us as we delve into some of the year’s most head-turning releases and see what sets these models apart.
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
- Class: Performance Compact Sedan
- MSRP: $32,150
- Highlights: Powerful, agile, and loaded with tech
Founded in 2016, Hyundai’s high-performance N division aims to inject a little high-octane excitement into the automaker’s dependable models. The N designation has graced Hyundai’s Veloster in years past, and the Elantra got its turn with the debut of the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N. Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine, the Elantra N shares boasts a pleasing throttle response, precise handling, and a throaty exhaust note that lets other drivers know they’re not dealing with a run-of-the-mill sedan.
Unlike the Veloster, the Elantra features a longer wheelbase as well as a novel overboost feature called N Grin Shift that ups the engine’s output to an impressive 286 over the Veloster’s 275. The feature can be activated at the push of a button, giving drivers 20 seconds of boosted performance that can make all the difference when you’re trying to overtake slower drivers or really open it up. The Elantra N’s powerful engine can rocket the performance compact sedan from zero to 60 in as little as 5.1 seconds, besting much of the competition, and is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). While the purist in us wants to recommend the manual, it’s the DCT that packs all the goodies. These include the aforementioned N Grin Shift as well as N Power Shift, which gives automatic drivers a more manual-like feeling of control, and N Track Sense Shift which helps drivers find the right gear for peak performance in track racing applications.
The Elantra N is only available in one trim, which might sound like a drawback until you realize just how much Hyundai has packed into the $32,000 sedan. The Elantra has always been a great value in its category, and the N version is no different. Its wealth of race-inspired features include front sports seats, a sunroof, metallic pedals, and two generous 10.3-inch displays. Like the base model Elantra, the overall look of the cabin is quite sleek and aggressive, which pairs perfectly with the N version’s high-performance reputation.
- Class: Full-Size SUV
- MSRP: $58,845
- Highlights: High-end interior, off-road options
2022 saw the return of the Wagoneer, a popular SUV from the Jeep archives. When we last saw the Wagoneer in 1993, it was a midsize offering, but Jeep has resurrected the model as a full-size, three-row SUV designed to compete with the Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Ford Expedition. Based on the Ram 1500 chassis, the Wagoneer delivers everything drivers have come to expect from the full-size SUV segment, including a powerful V8 engine and a 10,000-lb towing capacity.
That said, the Wagoneer has learned a few new tricks since its last trip around the block, pairing the 5.7-liter, 392-hp engine with an eTorque 48-volt mild-hybrid system and cylinder deactivation in order to address fuel economy. It’s an important consideration considering the Wagoneer’s three-ton curb weight, and it goes a long way in upping the full-size SUV’s fuel economy to an EPA-estimated 16 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway.
Of course, fuel economy isn’t what typically attracts drivers to the full-size segment, but power and off-road capability are. To that end, even the massive Wagoneer can jet from zero to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds––not bad for a three-ton vehicle––but it’s the off-road features where the SUV truly shines. Endlessly customizable, the Wagoneer can easily be upgraded to an off-road beast with the addition of off-road equipment packages that include new gearing, a drive mode selector, an electronic limited-slip rear differential, tow hooks, all-terrain tires, and a generous complement of skid plates. Perhaps most impressively, an adjustable air suspension gives the SUV up to 10 inches of ground clearance on demand.
The Wagoneer certainly isn’t short on luxury features, though drivers seeking the highest-end experience should look into the Grand Wagoneer, which was also introduced for 2022. The Wagoneer comes standard with a long list of luxury features that up the SUV’s value considerably, such as leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, and more. Jeep has also upped the stakes in the ongoing screen wars with up to 50 total inches of digital displays throughout the cabin. This includes a 10.1-inch infotainment screen, a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.3-inch control screen on the center stack, and two available 10.1-inch entertainment screens in the second row.
2022 Subaru BRZ
- Class: Sports Car
- MSRP: $27,995
- Highlights: Responsive handling, light weight
There will always be a place on the market for an affordable sports coupe. Giving drivers all the excitement of a high-performance sports car without breaking the bank, models like Mazda Miata have long proven popular for those with a taste for speed. Jointly developed by Subaru and Toyota, the BRZ is Subaru’s entry into the category. The BRZ––along with the Toyota 86––was inspired by Toyota’s AE86, a small rear-wheel drive Corolla variant that earned quite a reputation in the racing circuit. The BRZ hit the market in 2013 as a front-engine, fastback coupe with rear-wheel drive, a naturally aspirated inline-four engine, and 2+2 seating for four.
While the BRZ sticks to the script when it comes to the use of Subaru’s inline-four Boxer engine, it’s a departure for the brand in one important way: it’s the only Subaru model not to feature all-wheel drive. That’s a fair trade-off when it comes to a vehicle that’s this fun to drive, with the redesigned 2022 BRZ’s light-weight, low-slung chassis and 228 hp engine all working together to create a true sports car experience for less than $30,000. While Subaru hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel for the BRZ’s second generation, it has made some thoughtful changes that go a long way in building on the sports coupe’s considerable success.
Most important is an upsized engine that gains almost half a liter of displacement over the first-generation version and has a noticeable effect on driveability, making the new BRZ worth a second look for those who might not have been blown away by earlier versions. The second-gen BRZ also gets a noticeable upgrade when it comes to interior design and technology, with a larger eight-inch touchscreen display, a seven-inch digital gauge cluster, and refreshed seating that includes some arresting red, race-inspired accents. Of course, interior space and cargo room are at a premium, but that’s to be expected in the sports coupe, so no points lost there.
2022 Toyota GR86
- Class: Sports Car
- MSRP: $27,700
- Highlights: Affordable, manual transmission
If the BRZ isn’t your style, the Toyota GR86 offers a comparable––in fact, almost identical––alternative for drivers looking to break into the sports car world without spending a fortune. Both models have a major advantage over their first-generation predecessors, with the shared Subaru Global Platform giving the sports coupes 50 percent more torsional rigidity. Available as a six-speed manual or with an optional automatic transmission, the GR86 is nothing if not fun, with styling and engineering that match its sporty looks.
Given that it shares so much in common with the Subaru BRZ, it might be more useful to outline how the two models are different. The most obvious change is the sports coupe’s exterior, with Toyota opting for a simpler design with a larger mesh grille over the BRZ’s curvier, elongated appearance. The Toyota also has an available duckbill spoiler, which is lacking on the BRZ. Both designs are striking in their own right, making the issue more of a matter of personal taste. On the performance end, both vehicles share the same 2.4-liter inline-four Boxer engine with 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, though each automaker did its own tuning to give its engine a unique feel. While the engine differences are hardly noticeable, the same can’t be said for the handling, with the BRZ and GR86 differing in terms of their chassis, suspension, and steering.
The GR86 has a lower front spring rate and higher front spring rate than the BRZ. Each car has its own front and rear damper settings, with the Toyota utilizing a seven-percent lower front spring rate and an 11-percent higher rear spring rate compared to the BRZ. The Toyota also has a thicker rear sway bar with different mounting points than the ones found on the Subaru, a slightly different suspension with a smaller front sway bar, and steel front knuckles. Put together, these small differences add up to make the GR86 a little more tail-happy than its Subaru counterpart. In the end, the only way for most drivers to parse the differences between the two models is from behind the wheel, making a test drive the first order of business for those considering a BRZ or GR86.