A smiling person is shown driving a 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning on a city street.

The Most Influential Autos of 2022

The end of 2022 is here, and it is time to look back at the events of the past year. For the team here at AutoInfluence, the natural question is what vehicles have had the greatest influence on the automobile industry in 2022. The most influential vehicles are not always the best-sellers in their segments, but they bring something special to the table that no other model offers. They can be brand-new models that took an innovative approach to reshape their segment or well-proven vehicles that continue to cast a long shadow over the competition. Every market segment is different, emphasizing different qualities in the vehicles that compete in it, so we have chosen one model from each of six major segments that make up the automotive world. We’ve also included a seventh model that wowed us with its innovation and new features.

Today, the automotive industry is changing rapidly. Revolutionary new technologies, from electric vehicles to self-driving cars, are redefining what we expect from automobiles, while traditional internal combustion vehicles are pushing boundaries of their own when it comes to performance, features, and style. In this maelstrom of change, narrowing down the most influential vehicles can be difficult. However, there are several 2022 models that stood out from the pack. These include brand-new all-electric vehicles, but they also include old-school gasoline-powered models. There is even a plug-in hybrid, which shows it is possible to have a foot in both worlds. What all seven of these vehicles have in common is their outsized influence on the industry. From mass-production models that are changing the face of the automobile to niche vehicles that are blazing new trails, each has done its part to reshape the automotive world in 2022.

Most Influential Truck – 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

  • Most Powerful F-150 Ever
  • Affordable Starting Price
  • Proven F-150 Platform
  • Can Power Your House

There has been a lot of buzz over the past few years about electric pickup trucks. Startups like Rivian and Lordstown have clamored for attention alongside big names like GMC and Chevy––and then there is the long-awaited Cybertruck casting Tesla’s long shadow over the competition. But the truck that really stole the show this year was an electrified version of an old favorite: the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning. When this new model rolled out on stage, Ford surprised everyone with just how capable and, most importantly, affordable an electric pickup could be, making this the most influential truck of 2022.

While a lot of old-school truckers are still resistant to the idea of an electric truck, and there are definitely still problems to be solved, we can’t let that obscure just how good Ford’s new Lightning is. And not just “good for an electric truck”––we mean good, period. As long as your time behind the wheel doesn’t consist of towing large trailers long distances, the F-150 Lightning is just about the perfect pickup. With a standard crew cab, standard four-wheel drive, and an unbelievable 580 hp and 775 lb-ft of torque available (that’s a full 300 lb-ft more than the impressive 7.3L V8 “Godzilla” engine in Ford’s Super Duty models for those keeping score), the Lightning can handle just about anything the average half-ton truck owner can throw at it.

Most importantly, the 2022 F-150 Lightning starts at just $39,974. While you have to opt for the bare-bones Pro model with the smaller battery to enjoy that magical sub-$40k price point, it should be remembered that you can’t get a gasoline-powered 2022 F-150 with a crew cab and four-wheel drive for less than $43,450. That gasoline model will have the base V6 with just 290 hp, while the Lightning Pro still boasts 452 hp from its all-electric powertrain. Add the EV-exclusive features like the Lightning’s 9.6 kW vehicle-to-load power supply that can power your house and a cavernous front trunk; it becomes difficult to justify not going electric. We expect the F-150 Lightning will soon make up a large chunk of Ford’s truck sales and force other manufacturers to accelerate their electric truck timelines.

A grey 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is shown driving on a mountain trail.

Most Influential SUV – 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

  • Electric-Only Drive Mode
  • Serious Off-Road Performance
  • High-Tech Luxury Interior
  • More Powerful Than a V8

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is the best-selling midsize SUV in America, and it has worn many hats over the years. From the off-road capabilities of the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk to the high-speed thrills of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, Jeep has always been willing to push the boundaries of what its flagship SUV can do. Now, the new 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid demonstrates that a family SUV can be powerful, capable, and efficient, making it the most influential SUV of 2022. The Grand Cherokee 4xe is not the first 4xe model from Jeep––that honor went to the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe––but it is the first mainstream plug-in hybrid to wear the seven-slot grille.

In the past, hybrids had a reputation for being slow and dull to drive, but the Grand Cherokee 4xe is something else entirely. With 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque from its combined gasoline engine and electric motors, this hybrid offers more power than the 2022 Grand Cherokee’s optional 5.7L HEMI V8 gasoline engine. It can even tow up to 6,000 lbs when you want to bring your boat or camper along for your vacation. For the more adventurous, the Trailhawk 4xe trim includes all-terrain tires, an electronic swaybar disconnect, and adjustable air suspension with 10.9 inches of ground clearance. Not bad for a hybrid.

The 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe is more than just an efficient off-roader. It also represents the first full redesign that Jeep’s flagship SUV has received in a full decade, and the results have to be seen to be believed. The new model embraces technology, raising the bar for the premium SUV segment with unique features, such as a 10.1-inch touchscreen for the front passenger, which can play Amazon Fire TV or even connect to a gaming console. While more and more brands are committing to hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of popular nameplates, we have to say that Jeep knocked it out of the park with the Grand Cherokee 4xe and set a new standard for the industry.

A light blue 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is shown rounding a corner on a race track.

Most Influential Car – 2022 Hyundai Elantra N

  • Most Horsepower In Its Class
  • DCT and Manual Options
  • Unique Hyundai Styling
  • Feature-Rich Interior

There’s no denying it––sedans have fallen out of favor. The domestic brands were the first to put their cars on the chopping block, and now even the Japanese are following suit, discontinuing long-running models like the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, and Mazda6. However, it seems the Koreans haven’t gotten the memo, and Hyundai has just unveiled one of the most exciting sedans we have seen in years. The new 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is an affordable, high-performance compact dreamed up by the brand’s adrenaline-soaked N Division. It reminds us of the popular entry-level performance cars of the past––except it’s far faster and more liveable. This combination of excitement and attainability has made the Elantra N the most influential sedan of 2022.

Named for either its home region of Namyang, South Korea, or the legendary Nurburgring racetrack in Germany, the N Division has been adding excitement to the Hyundai brand since it was established in 2016, and the new Elantra N is its tour de force. The N Division had its work cut out for it, transforming a vehicle that has spent most of its three decades on the market as unassuming rental car material into a genuine performance model, but it succeeded beyond all expectations. With a 2.0L turbocharged engine channeling 276 hp through either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional DCT, the Elantra N out-muscles long-time segment favorites like the Honda Civic Si, Volkswagen GTI, and Subaru WRX.

Although, the Elantra N offers more than just a powerful motor. With an electronic limited-slip differential, adaptive dampers, and even launch control, this car offers a number of performance features not always found at this price point. Comfort and convenience are also not neglected. The interior sports twin 10.25-inch digital displays, leather and suede bucket seats with an illuminated N logo, a Bose sound system, and 64-color ambient cabin lighting. The sedan segment might be shrinking, but the Hyundai Elantra N proves that traditional cars can still offer a unique and compelling driving experience.

An orange 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor is shown sideways kicking up dust off-road.

Most Influential Off-Road Vehicle – 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor

  • New 418 hp Twin-Turbo V6
  • Wider Than an F-150 Raptor
  • Standard 37-Inch Tires
  • 60% More Wheel Travel

The Bronco and the Raptor are two legendary names from the Ford lineup––and the new 2022 Bronco Raptor may just be the most capable off-road vehicle you can buy. Although its new 3.0L twin-turbo V6 engine isn’t quite as powerful as the 3.5L in the F-150 Raptor, its 418 hp is nearly 100 ponies more than you will find in a Bronco Wildtrak. More importantly, the Bronco Raptor has been heavily upgraded and redesigned to offer off-road performance that exceeds its raw power. Just about every aspect of this rugged SUV can be described with the words “best in class,” making it the clear choice for the most influential off-road vehicle of 2022.

Starting on the outside, you will immediately notice the massive fender flares covering the standard 37-inch all-terrain tires, which are the largest available on any production SUV. Those fender flares actually make the Bronco Raptor wider than the F-150 Raptor and require the three amber marker lights in the grille. What you might not realize is that the Bronco Raptor also has a fully redesigned suspension, with adaptive damping and 60% more wheel travel than the standard Bronco. The Raptor name brings visions of jumping off sand dunes during high-speed desert running, and this upgraded suspension allows the Bronco Raptor to live up to expectations.

Inside, this massive SUV offers rugged luxury. The plush seats are made from marine-grade vinyl, the two 12-inch displays are waterproof, and the rubberized flooring includes drain plugs for easy washout, so you can go adventuring with the top off without fear of ruining the interior. Ford’s selectable GOAT modes and Trail Tool Box provide drivers with high-tech options for off-roading, including the innovative Trail Turn Assist to help maneuver the large vehicle in tight locations. The 2022 Bronco Raptor is the latest escalation in the off-road SUV arms race that started last year with the Bronco Sasquatch and Jeep Wrangler 392, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.

A blue 2022 McLaren 765LT Spider is shown parked in a modern gallery.

Most Influential Performance Vehicle – 2022 McLaren 765LT Spider

  • Track-Ready Convertible
  • 3,060 lb Curb Weight
  • Traditional Driver’s Car
  • 205 MPH Top Speed

A lot of supercars are designed as status symbols for drivers who care more about the badge than the actual performance. Then there is McLaren. Founded as a spin-off from the McLaren Formula One team, this low-profile supercar manufacturer remains committed to building track-ready cars designed for dedicated drivers. Its unique philosophy is on full display with the new 2022 McLaren 765LT Spider. From its incredibly low curb weight of just a hair over 3,000 lbs to its active aero for massive downforce, this open-air supercar fully lives up to the McLaren name and displays exactly what a modern sports car can be capable of, making it the most influential performance vehicle of 2022.

The 765LT Spider is based on the 765LT, which was introduced for 2020 and is the top model in McLaren’s Super Series. However, the Spider replaces the fixed roof of the 765LT with a power-retractable hardtop to give it the traditional wind-in-your-hair sportscar experience. The result is 100 lbs heavier than the standard 765LT, but the Spider still weighs in some 400 lbs less than the Ferrari F8 or Chevy Corvette Z06. Given that the new McLaren boasts a 755 hp twin-turbo 4.0L V8 engine, this is one exceptionally fast car, with a 0-60 mph time of under three seconds and a top speed of 205 mph.

However, the 765LT Spider is not just fast in a straight line. It was engineered by a racing company, after all. As a “Long Tail” model, the 765LT is aerodynamically optimized to create 25% more downforce than the older McLaren 720S Spider, with a massive rear wing that pops up at high speeds to stabilize the car. One of the most unique touches is the use of electro-hydraulic steering for a more direct feel of what the motorsport-grade front tires are doing. Stiff engine mounts and minimal sound deadening complete the package and enhance the race car feel of this model.

A close up shows the passenger side headlight on a aqua 2022 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Most Influential Luxury Vehicle – 2022 Rolls-Royce Phantom

  • Old-School Luxury
  • Smooth V12 Power
  • Ultimate Ride Quality
  • Hand-Built to Order

For many segments, it is the latest and greatest models that are the most influential, but when it comes to luxury, it is difficult to beat tradition. While the luxury segment is filled with high-tech wonders, from the digital dash of the Mercedes EQS to the self-driving computers of the Tesla Model S, it’s the old-school nature of the 2022 Rolls-Royce Phantom that continues to best embody everything a luxury car should be. It is easy to forget in a market where performance and technology are marketed heavily, but real luxury is about uncompromised comfort. Rolls-Royce’s commitment to go beyond the gimmicks is what makes the Phantom the most influential luxury vehicle of 2022.

Rolls-Royce starts with the basics, engineering every aspect of its flagship sedan to isolate passengers from the outside world. The powerful V12 engine is perfectly balanced and virtually vibration-free––you can famously balance a coin on the motor when it’s running. The adaptive air suspension has two separate dampers and uses forward-facing cameras to detect upcoming imperfections and adjust for them. Most importantly, the cabin is surrounded by nearly 300 lbs of foam insulation and uses triple-layer windows, preventing almost any outside sound from disturbing the passengers. That isn’t an exaggeration either––Rolls-Royce only stopped adding sound deadening when it reached the point the driver started having difficulty hearing sirens from emergency vehicles.

Of course, the Phantom also has all the little details that belong in a luxury car. The power-adjustable rear seats include a massage function, there is a refrigerated compartment for champagne, and umbrellas pop out of the doors so that you will always be protected from the weather. These details are merely the finishing touches on an already amazing machine. The Rolls-Royce Phantom is here to remind us not to lose sight of the fact that true luxury is not the result of gimmicky features.

A black 2022 Lucid Air is shown driving on an open road.

Most Advanced Design – 2022 Lucid Air

  • Longest-Ranged Production EV
  • Integrated Drive Unit
  • Unique Design Elements
  • New Level of Electric Luxury

Automobile manufacturers are infamous for revealing exotic concept cars filled with advanced features, only for the vehicles to be transformed into something much more mundane by the time they reach production. However, sometimes there are models that bring concept car styling and features to the road, and the 2022 Lucid Air is certainly one of them. Lucid is a brand-new California startup, and the Air is its very first vehicle, but it certainly isn’t playing it safe or pulling any punches, and the result is the most advanced design of 2022. In fact, Lucid has another California startup squarely in its sights and has designed the Air to one-up the Tesla Model S in just about every way imaginable.

To begin with, the Lucid Air is the longest-ranged production EV ever built. Lucid didn’t take the easy path and simply rely on an outsized battery––it carefully engineered every aspect of the electric drivetrain, including designing an unbelievably compact motor/inverter/drive unit in-house. Lucid also paid close attention to aerodynamics, giving its flagship an incredibly low drag coefficient. This advanced design allows the Air to get an estimated 4.4 miles of range per kWh of battery capacity. To put that into perspective, the Tesla Model S gets approximately 4.2 miles per kWh and the Mercedes EQS comes in at just 3.3 miles per kWh. The Air isn’t exactly slow either, with a 0-60 time of just 2.4 seconds on top of its impressive efficiency.

Lucid also put considerable effort into making the Air look and feel like a modern luxury sedan. The unique styling includes features designed to add an extra level of luxury and convenience without ever becoming gimmicky or overwrought. From the Glass Canopy windshield that sweeps back over the driver’s head and lets in more light than a traditional panoramic sunroof to the clamshell trunk lid that provides a full-width level load floor, the Air is a car that challenges convention. We hope that some of its advanced design features make their way to other cars in the future.