Editors' Picks December 2021 | Year-end edition

·6 min read

The end of the year is upon us, so it’s time for the last set of Editors’ Picks of 2021. This month saw a number of cars earn our nod as models we recommend, and one of them is a brand new EV that just hit the market. Plus, compact pickups are back, and one of them has already earned a spot as an Editors’ Pick.

In case you missed our previous Editors' Picks posts, here’s a quick refresher on what’s going on here. We rate all the new cars we drive with a 1-10 score. Cars that are exemplary in their respective segments get Editors’ Pick status. Those are the ones we’d recommend to our friends, family and anybody who’s curious and asks the question. The list that you’ll find below consists of every car we rated in December that earned an Editors’ Pick.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Quick take: The Santa Cruz hits in all the right ways, as Hyundai finds a mix of great driving dynamics, a potent turbo engine, well-appointed interior and attractive styling.

Score: 7.5

What it competes with: Ford Maverick

Pros: Attractive styling, great tech, helpful utility features

Cons: Expensive, small rear seat, average fuel economy

From the editors

Features Editor, James Riswick — "It's both a pickup and a compact crossover, two things Americans love. It has features and power aplenty. It's surprisingly fun to drive and impressively refined. On the one hand, judging by those attributes, it could be wildly successful. On the other hand, it doesn't look like a conventional truck, which hasn't gone well in the past."

News Editor, Joel Stocksdale — "With its swoopy shape, clever headlights and the fact that it has a truck bed, a lot of what makes the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz interesting is on the outside. But step inside, and you'll discover that, while not as original as the Ford Maverick's cabin, the Santa Cruz can be a comfy, stylish and arguably upmarket environment, provided you're willing to pay the price."

In-depth analysis: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Review | Price, bed size, on-sale date, pictures

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS

Quick take: The EQS approaches peak luxury in a way no car has before it with totally silent operation, a cosseting ride and eye-opening tech. That it's so capable, quick and fun to drive makes the experience all the more shocking.

Score: 8.5

What it competes with: Tesla Model S, Porsche Taycan, Lucid Air, Audi E-Tron GT

Pros: Top notch interior luxury, the best tech, great handling, long range

Cons: Controversial styling, weird regenerative braking behavior

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — "I don't think there's any other luxury car I'd want to own more than the EQS right now. It's markably better than even the S-Class at providing peak luxury to the driver. Plus, it's tons of fun to wheel about on a twisty road, and its hatchback rear opening gives it huge utility. Make mine the AMG."

Features Editor James Riswick — "The new 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS is quiet. As in, carrying on a conversation at a hushed whisper while doing 65 miles per hour on choppy pavement through San Francisco. Road noise? Nope. Wind noise? Not really. Cars and trucks pushing air at you from the opposite direction? Just a mild fwaa, like someone exhaling from across the room."

In-depth analysis: 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS First Drive Review | The electric Benz is worth the wait

2022 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

Quick take: The little Benz is big on character, style and confidently brings the Mercedes experience to a lower price point. Meanwhile, the AMG versions offer compact thrills that are even better than expected.

Score: 7.5

What it competes with: BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, Audi A3, Acura ILX

Pros: Super fun to drive, AMG variants are a hoot, sleek styling

Cons: Pricey, cost-cutting interior, limited rear space

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — "I drove the CLA 45, and I came away with way more respect for the little CLA platform than I did previously. It's good enough, and fun enough, to cross shop with the V8-powered AMG C 63. You can nitpick the interior, but the car is still a proper Mercedes experience, and that's what matters."

In-depth information: Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 First Drive Review | A sophisticated evolution

2022 Chevrolet Tahoe

Quick take: Now that the Tahoe is rocking an independent rear suspension, it's everything it should be. The ride is superb. It has massive third row space and cargo capacity. Plus, the number of trims and variants means there's likely a Tahoe for whatever use you're looking for.

Score: 7.5

What it competes with: Ford Expedition, Jeep Wagoneer, Toyota Sequoia, GMC Yukon, Nissan Armada

Pros: Rides comfortably, massive cargo space and third row, smooth engines

Cons: Drab interior, poor fuel economy

From the editors:

News Editor Joel Stocksdale — "The 2021 Tahoe is unquestionably a major improvement over its predecessor. The independent rear suspension in particular corrects the previous ride, handling and interior packaging issues, while the new cabin keeps the Tahoe fresh and modern in a segment that is mostly quite the opposite."

In-depth information: 2022 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban Review | What's new, prices, size, mpg

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

Quick take: The GLE comes in any flavor of luxury or AMG performance that you might want, and if you have the means, will likely outdo any of the SUV competitors. Its combination of an incredible ride, fantastic engines, shockingly good handling and rich interior appointments leaves little to be desired.

Score: 8.5

What it competes with: BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, Acura MDX, Genesis GV80, Lexus RX, Lincoln Aviator, Volvo XC90, Infiniti QX60

Pros: Maximum luxury, both fun to drive and comfortable, AMG variants rock

Cons: Expensive, base 4-cylinder is weak

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — "After driving the AMG GLE 53, it feels like the AMG product to get. It's both buttery smooth and super quick to pounce. Combine the noise and pure performance with the luxury package around it, and you're left with a tough-to-beat product, no matter the competition."

News Editor Joel Stocksdale — "The GLE glides along, keeping its occupants stable and serene, cosseted in the most opulent and comfortable interior in the segment. So if lavish trimmings and a calm driving experience are your thing, the GLE-Class is king."

In-depth information: Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class First Drive Review | The 'L' must be for luxury

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