Standouts at the Texas Auto Writers Association’s 2021 Auto Round-Up

Our preliminary predictions for the winners:

Stay tuned.  Once the verdict from the journalists judging vehicles entered into this year’s competition is announced we will compare our predictions with the final results for each category and the grand awards for Family Vehicles of Texas, Performance Vehicle of Texas, Luxury Vehicle of Texas and Green Vehicle of Texas will be announced.


This is where we start, because after all an event held at Texas Motor Speedway should be all about performance.  Only certain vehicles were allowed to be track-tested and we were most excited about these.

We’re predicting the 2021 Supra 3.0, racing 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, will claim the title for Performance Coupe
The 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport checks the performance boxes and all the others, too.
With 710 horsepower and 645 lb. ft of torque the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat will easily win any Performance SUV competition and the 797-horsepower 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye set the bar for performance sedans.

In the category of Performance Coupe, as always we had a blast driving the Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody and the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye.  These remain old school muscle cars with new horsepower milestones set every year, and they’re comfortable to drive on top of that, but we believe Toyota’s move to bring back the Supra after almost two decades will give it the edge this year.   We’ll say Lexus IS 350 F Sport will take the sedan title, simply because it’s just a sexier more modern-looking vehicle with Lexus luxuries and also impresses on the track.  But any contender ever will be hard pressed to beat the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat for Performance SUV.


This year, TAWA thankfully divided the Luxury Cars into two different price categories. In the $40-$65K MSRP category, the 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport and 2021 Genesis G80 are still a tough comparison,  Picking the winner would depend on your personality.

The RC 350 F Blackline edition is 311 horsepower rear wheel drive while still offering comfy seats and plenty of Lexus luxuries.
The G80 was a sheer beauty inside and out, though it should be noted that its MSRP as equipped was $69,075.

Lexus competes with itself in the category of Luxury Cars $65K-$100K MSRP.  Here again, your pick would depend upon your personality.  The 2021 LC 500 Convertible appeals to our sense of luxury and we’d be more likely to buy it and think it may very well win the grand award for Luxury Vehicle of Texas, but we believe the rightful category winner must be the 2021 Lexus RC F Fuji because it’s a limited edition with only 60 units in the U.S.  But what really makes it a standout is the absolutely outstanding red carbon fiber treatment inside and out.  It’s stunning and also reduces its weight for 0-60 in 3.96 seconds.  This one might have also stolen the category of Performance Coupe from its Toyota cousin if it were entered in that category.

The 2021 Lexus RC F Fuji was a standout for it beauty and star of the track, too, making it our predicted winner in the Luxury Cars over $65K category.


The Mazda3 Hatch Turbo Premium Plus is our pick for the Compact CUV category.  It’s lower to the ground with a longer wheelbase making it fun to drive.  Its taller sister, the CX-30, will likely finish a close second place.

Mazda was the standout among the compacts, the most hotly contested category.  It’s two entries in the category are pricier than some of the other contenders, yes, but Mazda as usual does a superb job with overall style, particularly the interior fit and finish, and the new Mazdas now get an even zippier drive. The evolution of Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5 Turbo engine delivers an impressive 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque with premium (93 octane) fuel or a solid 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque with regular (87 octane) fuel on the Mazda3 hatchback.  Similarly, Mazda CX-30 Turbo gets 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque on premium 93 octane fuel or 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque on regular 87 octane fuel, while only experiencing one mile per gallon reduction in EPA estimated fuel economy combined than the naturally aspirated Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter engine.

We predict the Toyota Venza will win the mid-size CUV category.

Built on the previous generation Lexus RX platform, the Toyota Venza stands apart among the mid-sizers.  This Toyota is no second to the Lexus cousins, particularly when it comes to interior finish and tech features including the Star Gaze fixed panoramic roof  electrochromic glass technology.  Two glass modes include the standard transparent mode, or switch to frosted mode, which reduces direct sunlight into the car without blocking it completely.  Hybrid with on-demand AWD, Venza’s ride is smooth and quiet with fuel efficiency rated at 40/37. Toyota does all of it while keeping the Venza right around the $40K mark.

The 2021 Genesis GV80 is the brand’s first SUV and our call for winner of the Luxury CUV category.

The Genesis is making a statement. We’ve always considered the sedan a looker and the brand’s first SUV also delivers.  It’s comfortable and opulent with refined performance, a host of tech features and earned a best-in-class safety rating.  We think it has the edge in the category, although the all-new 2022 Infiniti QX55, which they’re calling a crossover coupe was impressive, too, as was the 2022 A-Spec SH-AWD model of the fourth generation Acura MDX.


We predict the clear winner in the war of the minivans is the Chrysler Pacifica and that the new plug-in hybrid option will make it a contender for Family Vehicle of Texas.

Believe it or not, competition was hot this year in the Minivans category.  The big news in minivans is the availability of AWD and hybrid engine options.  Wisely, Stellantis brought an AWD Pacifica model and showed off the plug-in hybrid system on another.   We would actually choose the gas engine option because you get more horsepower and don’t lose the Stow ‘n Go seating (seats can fold completely flat into the floorboard.). The hybrid is a great option, but its battery takes up a lot of the valuable storage space Pacifica is known for.  Both options prove that the Pacifica design team is on the mark, not only when it comes to powertrains, but the Chrysler minivan just looks better inside and out than its competition.


We anticipate that Arteon will take the title for Mid-Size Car.
With its ID standing for Intelligent Design, we think the VW ID.4 will likely garner the most attention from the judges in the Green Vehicle category.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen VW take home awards, but we predict both of the 2021 VW vehicles entered in this year’s competition will take top honors.  VW did a great job in delivering much for the price tag on both of its entries.  Among the mid-size cars, a category with so many look-alikes, the 2021 Arteon sedan is distinct.  It exterior is particularly nice, offering the look of a more expensive vehicle and reminiscent of a favorite car we owned once upon a time—the VW Phaeton.

Built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 prevailed over strong global competition to earn “World Car of the Year 2021,”   VW execs say the ID.4 with a 260-mile range will bring EVs into the mainstream without having to sacrifice style and without paying the price for a Tesla.  Looks-wise, the small SUV’s exterior is reminiscent of the Land Rover Evoque which we’ve always liked, and inside, our 1st Edition model’s white interior was clean while characteristically utilitarian, with a large screen projecting from the steering column as opposed to being on the dash.  The ID.4 First Edition is rear-wheel drive and equipped with the Modular Drive Toolkit (MEB) platform, making it maneuverable in tight spaces.  The ID.4’s MSRP of $43,995 looks better after knocking off the federal and state rebates for EVs and considering the fact that VW is throwing in three years of complementary DC fast charging at Electrify America stations.

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