We hand out this award every year to the technology or feature that we feel moves the bar forward for the automotive industry. Read more here on how our testing process works. We discuss, debate and count up score sheets, judging each vehicle and technology on a few different criteria. Is its purpose noteworthy? Does it work well? Does it advance the industry?
The Nissan Rogue with ProPilot Assist was actually a prototype, as the technology will first debut in the 2018 Nissan Leaf. Still, we're here to test the tech and not the car. ProPilot Assist combines adaptive cruise control system combined with lane-keeping assistance. The system uses sonar, radar and a number of cameras for some light semi-autonomous driving and enhanced safety. While these systems aren't new individually, Nissan's system is affordable, intuitive, and coming to a mainstream product — democratizing the tech in a novel way, if you will. That's why it's here.
The Lexus LC 500h uses a new powertrain that Lexus has dubbed the Multi-Stage Hybrid System. Basically it combines two types of transmissions — a CVT and a four-speed automatic — in a single unit mated to a naturally aspirated V6. That's complex and unorthodox technology, and Lexus engineered it to give drivers the efficiency of a CVT without sacrificing driving enjoyment. The package is subtle, working in the background to create a nearly seamless driving experience. It's engaging in a way most other hybrids can only dream of. The fact that it's wrapped in such gorgeous sheetmetal only makes things better.
The Multimatic spool valve shocks in the Chevy Colorado ZR2 might seem low-tech compared to ProPilot Assist and the Lexus Multi-Stage Hybrid, but they represent a completely novel application of a technology that several years ago was so expensive that it was reserved for top-tier race cars. Like the LC 500h, these shocks really change your perception of how a vehicle like this should drive. The ZR2 manages to be both supremely capable off-road and composed and balanced on the street. They trounce the conventional remote reservoir units found in the competition, and it's the clever use of a very advanced technology that won it a place at the table.
Now that you've met our finalists, we'll announce the winner this Friday and will present the trophy next week at the Detroit Auto Show. Stay tuned.