Editors’ Picks May 2021 | BMW M3, Toyota Camry and some hot Golfs Leave a comment


We awarded Editors’ Picks status to a number of performance cars this month, but a couple more regular sedans won out, too. April saw us recognize four models, but that increases to six for May. As the weather warms up here in Michigan, we tend to get into the sports cars that we missed driving all winter, resulting in a sports car-heavy month of testing. That explains why the list this month is so heavy on sports cars and hot hatches.

In case you missed our previous couple 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 May that earned the honor of being an Editors’ Pick.

2021 Toyota Camry

2021 Toyota Camry XLE

Quick take: The Toyota Camry retains its place as one of the best midsize sedans you can buy. It comes in a variety of trims and powertrains, from the potent TRD model to the fuel-sipping hybrid. It’s an attractive, functional and well-rounded car offering value and function.

Score: 8.5

What it competes with: Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Subaru Legacy, VW Passat, Chevy Malibu

Pros: Highly versatile, efficient hybrid, fun-to-drive sport models

Cons: Average infotainment, polarizing exterior, slow base four-cylinder

From the editors:

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore — “The Camry is one of the standard bearers in the midsize segment. With many companies abandoning this area, the ones that remain — like Toyota — do it well. Long a bastion of boring design and sleepy driving dynamics, the Camry is now legitimately attractive and offers a range of powertrains. It’s a solid entry and along with the Honda Accord, makes the case for midsize sedans to exist.”

In-depth analysis: 2021 Toyota Camry Review | What’s new, pictures, hybrid and AWD fuel economy

 

2022 Volkswagen GTI

The new Volkswagen Golf GTI

  • The new Volkswagen Golf GTI

Quick take: With engaging dynamics and distinctive styling, the GTI remains the standard for enthusiast hatches.

Score: 8

What it competes with: Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Veloster N, Kia Forte GTMazda3 Turbo

Pros: Quick, handles well, engaging, superb styling

Cons: Troublesome tech, a tad pricey

From the editors:

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore — “The Golf GTI serves a niche market of enthusiasts who seek out and embrace its heritage and attributes. All of that comes through in the Mk 8 generation, which is engaging, attractive and fun to drive in nearly all circumstances. It sounds, shifts and looks exactly how the GTI should. The new digital interior is attractive, and the plaid seats are a symbol of the GTI’s endearing ability to evolve, yet remain true to itself.”

In-depth analysis: 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI First Drive Review | Straight out of central casting

 

2022 Volkswagen Golf R

2022 Volkswagen Golf R

  • 2022 Volkswagen Golf R
  • Image Credit: Zac Palmer

Quick take: The Mk 8 Golf R is the type of hot hatch that will shred your performance expectations and look classy doing it. VW made it more fun this generation with a trick rear differential and more power, but it keeps the simple, excellent nature we’ve come to love in the Golf lineup.

Score: 8

What it competes with: Honda Civic Type R, Subaru WRX STI, Hyundai Veloster N, BMW M235i Gran Coupe, Audi S3, Mercedes-AMG A 35

Pros: Playful AWD, super quick, handsome exterior and interior

Cons: Pricey, difficult-to-use tech

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — “Where the old Golf R was scarcely worth the premium over a GTI, the new Golf R with more power and a performance torque-vectoring AWD system is absolutely worth the price difference. This car is tail-happy fun with the same mature and business-like good styling as always.”

In-depth analysis: 2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Drive Review | It’s way more fun!

 

2021 BMW M3

2021 BMW M3

Quick take: There are no questions about the M3’s performance chops. It eats pavement voraciously, handles like a pro and even rides reasonably well. We’re split on its looks, but you won’t see its polarizing grille from the driver’s seat.

Score: 8.5

What it competes with: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Sedan, Audi RS 5 Sportback, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing

Pros: Mega quick, offers manual transmission, top-notch handling

Cons: Polarizing looks, gets pricey quick

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — “I wasn’t sure about the grille in photos online, but it works exponentially better in person. And after driving the M3 Competition, I came around to it even more. This car is relentless in every way, and with a manual it’s a bucket full of fun, too.”

In-depth analysis: 2021 BMW M3 and M4 revealed with a standard manual and up to 503 horsepower

 

2021 BMW M4

2021 BMW M4

  • 2021 BMW M4
  • Image Credit: Zac Palmer

Quick take: The M4 doesn’t have the M3’s outwardly aggressive looks, but it sure does share in its stellar driving excellence. The massive backseat provides even more reason to go with the coupe, allowing you to justify dropping the two rear doors for a slicker profile.

Score: 8.5

What it competes with: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe, Audi RS 5 Coupe, Lexus RC F

Pros: Superb handling and acceleration, utilitarian for a coupe, responsive and engaging to drive

Cons: Polarizing styling, even more expensive than the M3

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — “I don’t think the M4 looks as good as the M3, but it drives with the same unflappable competency. I found myself laughing out loud in the driver’s seat at how much fun I was having with this rear-drive coupe. Even the interior is splendid, especially if you get the optional carbon fiber-backed bucket seats.

In-depth analysis: 2021 BMW M4 First Drive Review | Mission accomplished

 

2021 Acura TLX

2021 Acura TLX A-Spec

  • 2021 Acura TLX A-Spec
  • Image Credit: Zac Palmer

Quick take: Acura vastly improved the handling and driving dynamics with the new TLX to make it a superb sport sedan. The transmission is a low point, but interior quality, tech and overall design are all big wins for the well-priced four-door.

Score: 7.5

What it competes with: BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50, Genesis G70, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Cadillac CT5, Volvo S60

Pros: Stellar handling, high quality interior, good design

Cons: Below average transmission, slower than competitors, heavy

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — “This car is sneaky fun to drive. It doesn’t wow me with its acceleration, but the SH-AWD system works magic in the bends. Acura’s torque vectoring technology is top of its class, and it brings this great chassis to impressive heights for a front-drive-based AWD car.”

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder — “I was initially drawn in by the looks of the TLX — it’s sporty and elegant without appearing stuffy. It’s the sound and performance of the motor that keep calling me back to the driver’s seat, though. Who knew a turbo-four could be so seductive?”

In-depth analysis: 2021 Acura TLX Review | Back to the future

 

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