Marc UrbanoCar and Driver
Our annual 10Best Cars award has been around since 1983. Over 100 different models have at least one 10Best trophy, but regular readers might notice some cars stick around longer than others. Now that we’ve named names, for the 2023 10Best Cars, we thought it would be interesting to tally the total number of wins and see which cars have emerged as the most often honored. What follows is a list of the vehicles that have won the most 10Best awards, ranked in ascending order by the total number of wins.
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Cadillac CTS and CTS-V: 8 Wins
Years Won: 2008–2012; 2014–2016
The first CTS was a watershed car for Cadillac, jump-starting the American luxury brand’s transition into a legitimate homegrown rival to the Germans. Its first appearance on the 10Best Cars list, however, didn’t come until the more polished second-generation CTS arrived in 2008. The supercharged CTS-V basked in the same glow for 2009 and 2010, and then we threw caution to the wind and awarded only the high-zoot CTS-V for 2011 and 2012. We followed a similar cadence after the third-generation CTS first made the list in 2014. That year and the next, the entire lineup achieved 10Best status, but for 2016 only the performance-oriented, twin-turbo CTS Vsport won. The current CTS-V, with its 640-hp supercharged V-8, is now priced beyond our $80,000 cap, and the CTS Vsport, although was still a fine ride, fell off the list for 2017.
Years Won: 1990–1996; 2003
The Z-car first earned Nissan (then Datsun) a spot at the sports-car table in the 1970s, but it really came into its own when the 300ZX arrived for 1990. This twin-turbocharged GT earned seven successive 10Best trophies, starting in 1990 when we admitted that “some staffers had to be restrained from voting twice” for the Nissan. This sort of unbridled affection was based largely on the strength of its 300-hp V-6 engine and handling that didn’t come at the expense of comfort. The streak continued all the way until that Z bit the dust in 1997. It wouldn’t be replaced until the 350Z arrived in 2003, also earning a 10Best award in its debut year. Since that Z’s one-year appearance on the list, not a single Nissan-brand vehicle has been named 10Best.
Years Won: 1985; 1988–1991; 1996; 2018–2019; Present
A paragon of fuel efficiency, packaging, and accessible fun from its arrival in the U.S. in the early 1970s, the Honda Civic and its sporty two-door CRX variant were mainstays on the early years of our 10Best list. The Honda first earned a place on the list in 1985 and returned for most of its fourth-generation run, with awards spanning from 1988 to 1991. But in the years since, Honda’s compact car has not achieved the same consistent excellence as its big brother, the Accord, which is by far the winningest 10Best honoree. Throughout the Civic’s ups and downs in the 1990s and 2000s, it earned only one more 10Best award, in 1996, when the sixth-generation car hit the scene. More than two decades later, the Civic makes a triumphant return as a regular on our 10Best list.
Years Won: 1984–1986; 1992–1998
Although it disappeared from the Honda lineup way back in 2002, the Prelude was a mature sports coupe that was one of our favorite Hondas throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s. Of the five generations of Prelude sold in the U.S., three won 10Best trophies, starting in 1984 when the second-gen car first won the award. The third-gen Prelude, introduced in 1987, didn’t make the cut, but the fourth-generation car earned back its place on the list, starting in 1992 when it was powered by a 160-hp VTEC engine. A seven-year streak ensued, lasting into the fifth and final generation of the Prelude, which won in 1997 and 1998. As we said of the Prelude in its last year on the 10Best list, “We can’t imagine a driving enthusiast who would not thoroughly enjoy this car.”
Years Won: 1983; 1987–1988; 2005–2006; 2012–2013; 2015–2017; 2019
Ford’s pony car has arguably as strong a brand name as the company that makes it, and the Mustang has taken home more 10Best awards than any other American car besides the Chevrolet Corvette. It first won in the inaugural 10Best year, 1983, when we honored the Fox-body Mustang GT 5.0. It didn’t win again until 1988, when revisions to its chassis and the V-8 engine earned it a spot once again; a year later, it was booted out by Ford’s own front-wheel-drive sports car, the Probe GT. It took more than a decade for the Stang to return to 10Best; it did so in 2005 thanks to a comprehensive redesign with retro style and strong V-8 power. In 2016 and ’17, we awarded only the top-dog Shelby GT350 version of the Mustang, which sets itself apart with a screaming 5.2-liter flat-plane-crank V-8 that revs all the way to 8250 rpm and infuses the pony car with an invigorating and unique spirit.
Volkswagen Golf, GTI, and Rabbit: 19 Wins
Years Won: 1983–1984; 1986; 2007–2022
College football junkies know that the University of Michigan’s is the all-time winningest program, with more than 900 wins, while sticklers for detail might note that Michigan’s edge owes as much to the school’s existing longer than many of its competitors as it does to its team skill. Similarly, the Volkswagen Golf—which has intermittently taken the name Rabbit in the U.S.—has existed for as long as 10Best has, which certainly sets the table for it to become one of 10Best’s most-awarded cars. And, indeed, the Golf has racked up 18 10Best trophies, albeit in fits and starts. After notching three wins in the 1980s, the Golf suffered a 21-year drought before hitting a decade-long win streak from 2007 to today. Credit its fine engineering and the feeling that it costs far more to build than Volkswagen charges. On second thought, the college-football comparison works better for the 36-time 10Best-winning Honda Accord, but you get the idea.
Mazda MX-5 Miata: 19 Wins
Years Won: 1990–1992; 1998–1999; 2001; 2006–2013; 2016–2019
The Mazda MX-5 Miata’s induction into 10Best lore was not inauspicious. As we put it in 1990, the little roadster’s first year making our 10Best Cars list, “All Mazda did with this car was reinvent the sports car.” Set aside the comparisons we made between the popular Mazda and Vanna White and Mel Gibson—remember, when the Miata first came out, its celebrity caused a sales sensation—and our affection toward the Miata hasn’t changed much in 26 years. Now in its fourth generation, the Miata is no longer “reinventing” anything, but there remains a novelty to the tiny, lightweight sports car continuing to exist in a world obsessed with crossover SUVs. The Miata stands among a dwindling number of new cars that unapologetically and uncompromisingly cater to the drivers of this world, those who hold steering wheels, not smartphones, and who find joy in excellent dynamics, tactile controls, and simplicity. That is why, out of the 35 years we’ve been handing out 10Best awards, the 28-year-young Miata has snapped up 19 trophies.
Chevrolet Corvette: 24 Wins
Years Won: 1985–1989; 1998–1999; 2002–2009; 2014–2015; 2017–Present
It might seem strange to today’s readers that the fourth-generation Chevrolet Corvette managed to earn a place on our 10Best list from 1985 to 1989, but context is everything. Then, as now, the Corvette represents a performance bargain among sports cars. In 1985, the Vette’s first year on 10Best, we were smitten by its ability to run past 150 mph and handle as well as cars costing many times more. Fast forward to today, and the C8-generation Corvette, unlike any Vette before it, made the list for 2020 through 2022. It’s the epitome of 10Best, as a 450-hp V-8 sports car for a hair under $60,000. It’s also one of the quickest cars we’ve tested in the last 10 years, with a zero-to-60-mph time of just 2.8 seconds. The mid-engine Corvette makes cars double its price tag feel inadequate, and it sounds good doing it.
Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman: 24 Wins
Years Won: 1998–2003; 2006–Present
The idea of an “entry level” Porsche was anathema to many sports-car purists, so skepticism for the mid-engined Boxster roadster was high when it arrived in the late 1990s. Needless to say, all the worrying was for naught, as the baby Porsche’s lively handling and sonorous flat-six engines silenced any doubters. Its sub-911 starting price was just a cherry on top of an already sweet package, and a six-year 10Best streak from 1998 until 2003 ensued. The second-generation Boxster won again starting in 2006, and ever since the Cayman coupe joined the lineup, the littlest Porsches haven’t let go of the trophy, even as the Boxster and Cayman transitioned to turbocharged flat-four engines and a new 718 moniker for both droptop and hardtop versions.
BMW 3-series, 4-series, i4 and M3: 24 Wins
Years Won: 1992–2014; Present
With the second-longest-running continuous streak of 10Best wins, BMW’s bread-and-butter sedans, coupes, convertibles, and wagons had a dynastic hold on the award for more than two decades. Awards went to the E36, E46, E90, and current F80 generations of these supremely balanced cars that we characterized as “the definitive sports sedans.” But our eye strayed in 2014 when BMW introduced the lithe 2-series. This new coupe showed the same poise and engaging dynamics as the 3-series had for decades, while the renamed 4-series coupe grew softer and larger in an attempt to please a wider swath of the population. The battery-electric BMW i4, however, gives us hope for the brand’s return to form. Though its steering is still a bit wanting, the rest of the i4 reminds us of the entry-level Bimmers we always loved—albeit with an EV twist. With plenty of driving range, multiple powertrains, and a cohesive driving experience, the i4 combines the best qualities of the automotive past, present, and future.
Years Won: 1983–1995; 1998–Present
Honda brought the Accord to the U.S. in 1977 with one enormous goal–to become the greatest-selling foreign car here. In 1989, it outsold Chevy, Ford, and Chrysler, as the best-selling car period. Since then it’s been many things, a coupe, a wagon, even an oddly proportioned utility thing called the Crosstour, but today it’s the best family sedan money can buy. An award we’ve given it consecutively since 1998. The latest generation Accord carries on the torch of its 10Best-winning predecessors. Though it no longer offers the wild turbocharged 2.0-liter engine of the prior Accord, the new model’s gasoline-electric hybrid and turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder powertrains masterfully blend efficiency with enough excitement to keep things interesting. Meanwhile, the family sedan’s new sheetmetal looks almost Acura-like.
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