The 2023 model year brought with it a wave of both all-new and heavily-redesigned vehicles, pushing the industry in fresh directions. Out of all of those models, six stood out as the most influential models in their segments. These vehicles are not necessarily the best selling, most advanced, or most capable models on the market (though several of them hold best-in-class distinctions), but they are the models that we believe have had the greatest impact on the industry. Some introduced new features and technologies, while others simply offered well-rounded packages that defined their segments.
As we look back on the most influential models released over the past year, we can see both unique advancements and shared trends in the vehicles that have hit the market. Across the board, manufacturers have leaned into providing striking, fresh styling cues and upscale interiors filled with premium materials and advanced technologies. However, each brand and segment has taken these broader trends in different directions, creating a 2023 lineup that is much more diverse than in the past.
We have also seen great strides in performance from the new vehicles released for 2023, but performance has gone in different directions. Many manufacturers have continued chasing efficiency, unveiling new turbocharged engines and electrified powertrains to help save gas without compromising power. Other manufacturers are celebrating a golden age of gasoline engines, each one-upping the next with new levels of high-octane excess. While these six models have shaped the automotive industry differently, they all deserve the title of the Most Influential Autos of 2023.
Most Influential Truck—2023 Chevy Colorado
- Class-Leading Technology
- New Turbocharged Engine
- Best-In-Class Towing
- Modern Cabin Design
With its 2023 redesign, the Chevy Colorado leapfrogged the pack, going from being one of the most old-school midsize trucks on the market to being the most modern. Chevy shocked truck buyers by building a midsize model that was every bit as premium as the recently redesigned full-size Chevy Silverado 1500, earning rave reviews from critics and consumers alike. The new 2023 Colorado boasts a premium interior with high-tech features, including a class-leading standard 11.3 in touchscreen and eight-inch digital driver display powered by the cutting-edge Google Built-In. Five selectable drive modes and 10 camera views, including a segment-first underbody camera for off-roading, round out the technology suite, giving truck drivers everything they could desire to stay informed and entertained while on the road.
Chevy also kicked things up a notch in the performance department, scrapping the entire engine lineup from the previous generation in favor of the same twin-scroll turbo 2.7L four-cylinder that powers the Silverado 1500. Available in three flavors, offering 237 hp and 259 lb-ft for the base 2.7L Turbo, 310 hp and 390 lb-ft of the 2.7L Turbo Plus, and a best-in-class 310 hp and 430 lb-ft for the 2.7L Turbo High-Output, this new engine allows drivers to choose their preferred balance of performance and efficiency. The top tunes give the 2023 Colorado its best-in-class maximum tow rating of 7,700 lbs, proving that this midsize truck is still up for the toughest jobs despite its highbrow appearance.
Most Influential SUV—2023 Mazda CX-50
- Luxury Design Elements
- Affordable Pricing
- Off-Road Performance
- Turbocharged Power
Mazda has long been a cult favorite among driving enthusiasts, with the small Japanese brand being renowned for building affordable but fun-to-drive vehicles. However, Mazda has begun going mainstream with a new generation of luxurious yet affordable models designed to punch far above their weight. The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is an all-new compact SUV designed especially for the American market and produced in Huntsville, AL. Many drivers had called for Mazda to build something a bit larger and more rugged than the brand’s outgoing CX-5 compact SUV, and the CX-50 has delivered in spades. Not only is it six inches longer and three inches wider to provide a more spacious ride, but it is built for towing and light off-roading.
The CX-50 is available with Mazda’s potent 2.5L Skyactiv Turbo engine, giving it a best-in-class 320 lb-ft of torque and a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lbs. It also comes standard with i-Activ all-wheel drive and has four Mi-Drive modes, including an unexpectedly capable Off-Road Mode. To maximize the outdoor experience, Mazda even offers a new Meridian Edition that comes with all-terrain tires and an available roof rack. Inside, the CX-50 is filled with available luxury features, from the intuitive Mazda Connect infotainment system with tactile controls to a panoramic moonroof and 12-speaker Bose sound system. The mass market brands as a whole have been trying to climb their way upmarket and introduce more adventurous models, but Mazda has outshone the rest with the new CX-50.
Most Influential Car—2023 Toyota Prius
- Elegant Styling
- Best-In-Class Efficiency
- Real Performance
- Best-In-Class Electric Range
The Toyota Prius needs no introduction, as it has been one of the most influential automobiles in history. As the very first modern hybrid vehicle, it introduced the world to the benefits of electrification when it debuted in 1997. However, hybrid vehicles are no longer as novel as they once were, and the Prius slowly went from being revolutionary to being passé. Toyota changed that and restored the model to its rightful position with its full redesign for the 2023 Prius. The fifth-generation model now boasts incredible styling, with a sleek silhouette and dramatic lighting elements, and has the performance to match its good looks. In fact, the more powerful electric motors in the plug-in Prius Prime variant give it a zero to 60 mph time of just 6.4 seconds, beating low-end performance models like the Honda Civic Si.
But most importantly, on top of its good looks, remarkable performance, and advanced technology, the 2023 Prius continues to provide unbelievable efficiency. Toyota has received a lot of flak for its slow transition to fully electric vehicles, but the Prius is proof that there is something to the brand’s continued focus on hybrid models. With a fuel economy combined rating of 57 MPG, the Prius is the most efficient gasoline vehicle on the market. Meanwhile, the Prius Prime provides an all-electric range of 45 miles, which is more than any other plug-in hybrid model. The original Prius was responsible for jump-starting the electrified vehicle market, and the modern Prius does a fantastic job of continuing to push the segment it created in a new direction.
Most Influential Off-Road Vehicle—2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
- Supercharged V8 Engine
- Largest Available Production Tires
- Best-In-Class Off-Road Performance
- Ford Raptor Legacy
The Ford F-150 Raptor is the original off-road performance truck, but it lost a lot of its prestige when Ram unveiled the TRX in 2021. Now, Ford is back with its own supercharged supertruck in the form of the 2023 F-150 Raptor R. This all-new trim takes the incredible suspension and performance features of the F-150 Raptor and combines them with the 5.2L Predator supercharged V8 engine from the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 supercar. With 700 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, the F-150 Raptor R can leap to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds (that’s the same as the TRX for those keeping score) and boasts the largest tires ever fitted to a production pickup from the factory. However, this truck is far more than a one-trick pony.
The 37-inch tires help provide a best-in-class ground clearance of 13.1 in, which is supported by upgraded Fox Dual Live Valve shocks and unique coil spring rear suspension with a Panhard rod to maintain stability through jumps. A four-mode valved exhaust lets you hear the V8 roar without upsetting the neighbors when you come home, and the Ford Trail Toolbox provides electronic aids to lend a hand in tricky off-road scenarios. While the Ram TRX might have raised the bar for raw power when it comes to off-road vehicles, Ford has once again demonstrated why the F-150 Raptor is the leader in the off-road segment by combining a similar level of raw power with the sophisticated engineering needed to conquer the trail.
Most Influential Performance Vehicle—2023 Chevy Corvette Z06
- Most Powerful Naturally Aspirated V8 Ever
- Race Car-Derived Chassis Design
- Unique Flat-Plane-Crank Engine
- Supercar Performance
When the Chevy Corvette switched to a mid-engine platform for its eighth generation, it unlocked unprecedented levels of handling and performance. Now, the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 provides the new platform with an engine that can truly do its supercar looks justice. Powering the new model is a unique 5.5L flat-plane-crank V8 that shares almost nothing with the 6.2L V8 in the standard Corvette Stingray and is the most powerful naturally-aspirated V8 ever. The new engine revs to an incredible 8,600 RPM (that’s 2,100 RPM higher than the 6.2L) to produce a cool 670 hp despite its smaller displacement. The flat-plane-crank design not only enables the higher redline but also produces an exhaust note more reminiscent of European supercars than your traditional ‘Vette.
In addition to the new engine, the Z06 sports a widebody design modeled after the Corvette Racing C8.R endurance cars. This improves aerodynamics, and the 3.6-inch wider stance lets it fit massive 345-width rear tires for incredible mechanical grip. Add the optional Z07 Performance Package to the mix, and the car is outfitted with Michelin Sport Cup 2 R track tires and enhanced aero elements, providing 734 lbs of downforce for 1.22 g of lateral grip. While the Corvette has traditionally been more of a grand touring car, the Z06 is an undiluted sports car designed to be pushed to the limits on the track and sets a new bar for American performance cars.
Most Influential Luxury Vehicle—2023 Cadillac Escalade-V
- Sports Car Acceleration
- Massive OLED Displays
- Super Cruise Hands-Free Driving
- Traditional Luxury Interior
The Cadillac Escalade is a name synonymous with luxurious excess. This full-size SUV reigns supreme as the most American of luxury vehicles, dominating its segment so thoroughly that no other model can compete. However, while the Escalade has always ensured its occupants are treated to an expansive cabin loaded with high-end materials and advanced technology, it has always lacked one thing that sets luxury vehicles apart from the masses––raw performance. Now, Cadillac has resolved that deficiency and inducted the Escalade into its exclusive V performance brand. With the same supercharged V8 engine under its hood as the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing and Chevy Camaro ZL1, the 2023 Escalade-V can run the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds, beating the new Nissan Z despite weighing nearly twice as much.
On top of this mind-bending acceleration from a vehicle as large as some houses, the Escalade-V is decked out with all of the best luxury features that Cadillac has to offer. A curved 38-inch digital display with twice the pixel density of a 4k HD TV sweeps across the dashboard, providing access to features like augmented reality navigation and a thermal night vision camera. The 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference sound system even includes microphones to let the front and back rows hear each other clearly without shouting. However, the star of the show is Cadillac’s Super Cruise hands-free driving technology, which functions on over 200,000 miles of highways across North America. While luxury vehicles are expected to push boundaries, the 2023 Escalade is defining a new segment of high-performance full-size models.