Believe it or not, I don’t always anticipate enjoying every vehicle I test drive.
Much like that box of chocolate that always finds its way into my home around the holidays, there’s always a few that just aren’t for me. On the flip side, there are always a few surprises—ones that I didn’t expect to like that ended up blowing my mind.
This list of vehicles covers the latter: ones that I didn’t expect to enjoy or, at best, thought would be “meh.” They ended up proving me wrong.
These are the five vehicles that have surprised me so far this year—in a good way.
2020 Toyota Camry
“This looks really good! Like…it’s actually sexy.” That was my wife’s first reaction when I brought home the new 2020 Toyota Camry.
When’s the last time anyone’s said that about a Camry? Reliable, functional and practical are all words well equipped to describe the Camry. If one took a more jaded view, they could say outdated, as many older model Camrys have found themselves on taxi fleets. Never has it been described as sexy.
I was testing the Camry with Nightshade package, which adds black everything—trim, side mirrors, spoiler, door handles, 18-inch alloy wheels—and truly makes it a standout. Toyota has given the Camry and longer and wider stance for 2020, which also helps round out its new, sleek design.
The sport-tuned 2020 Camry TRD we reviewed here (and in the gallery above) takes it to another level.
Inside and on the road, the Camry stands out in a way it never has before in the past—cohesive interior design meets a smooth, confident ride.
2020 Chevrolet Blazer
It’s been quite some time that a Chevrolet nameplate has gotten me excited. Then I drove the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox a few months ago and was thoroughly impressed. Ditto for the 2020 GMC Terrain.
I must have short term memory, because I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the reimagined Chevrolet Blazer. In a word: memorable.
I drove the nearly top-end RS trim (reviewed here). This comes with a 3.6L V6 engine capable of 308 horsepower (replacing the base 2.0L Turbocharged four-cylinder pushing 230 hp). If you can afford the price jump, then it’s worth it. Mated to a nine-speed transmission, it balances comfort with power without missing a beat. Stomp the gas and it takes off. Otherwise, it’s a highway cruiser with ultimate comfort.
Thankfully, the design and layout works incredibly well, so if the added power isn’t in your budget—or needs—you walk away with a hell of an SUV that marries a strong design (with a few nods to the Camaro) with versatile cargo space, and an expertly laid out infotainment setup that most automakers should take a few cues from.
2020 Lincoln Corsair
This is the best Lincoln release in the last…decade? It’s hard to keep track.
It feels as if the brand has done some deep soul searching of the past 10-15 years, waffling between a complete reinvention and trying not to offend their older demographic. Now, they’ve finally moved away from the letter-based SUVs and have a lineup that includes the much-loved Navigator, alongside the large Aviator, mid-sized Nautilus and compact Corsair. They’ve slowly, and quietly, created a formidable lineup.
The Corsair is a must-consider for anyone looking at a compact luxury SUV (check out our full 2020 review here). While skeptical at first, it won me over in less than a day. Jump inside and you’ll find much more than a rebadged Ford. It has wonderful metal trim throughout, the infotainment screen is perfectly perched atop the dashboard, anything leather is soft to the touch and quite wonderful to feel.
Both the 2.0L Turbocharged (250 hp) and 2.3L Turbocharged (295 hp) engines are available. If you’re shopping in this category, jump to the 2.3L—it turns the Corsair into a class-leading SUV.
2020 Cadillac XT6
Much like Lincoln, Cadillac has attempted to find a new audience over the past few decades. Trying a new model here, testing a new idea there. Nothing seems to have really stuck.
The 2020 XT6 is the first Cadillac model I’ve driven in quite some time, so I was a little out of touch with the brand—and expecting it to be…blah.
After a few days driving it, and an in-depth session with a Cadillac Live agent (Cadillac’s online showroom, where you can book a session to a great walk around of any or all vehicles you’re interested in), my tune changed greatly.
Everything just made sense. The simple one-touch button to provide access to the third row; the real wood accents throughout; the updated Rear Camera Mirror, which streams an unobstructed rear view to your mirror, via a camera mounted on the back; the amount of legroom for grown adults to sit in any of the three rows.
It’s all those pieces that make it an incredible three-row SUV option for a family that needs it to be luxurious and practical, day in and day out. The XT6 succeeds on both fronts.
2020 Mitsubishi RVR
Mitsubishi is a small player in North America, so they’re easy to overlook—even for someone like myself.
The previous RVRs I’ve driven have never wowed me. They were perfectly fine, but didn’t push to the top half of all the other compact SUVs on the market. It’s a tough, tough category in which to compete.
I stepped into the top-end GT AWC model, and quickly saw its worth.
The 2020 Mitsubishi RVR receives a facelift, which gives it a new life. Updated LED lights and grille are enough to make it feel like a new vehicle. Inside, Mitsubishi keeps things quite minimal. There’s not a wall of buttons, touchpoints and screens. You quickly know and see where everything is, allowing you to simply drive.
Of course, there’s certainly a price point consideration with the lack of frills—the RVR starts at an attractive $22,998 and tops out at $33,998—but it also speaks to the driver who doesn’t exces. They do exist.