Editors' Picks March 2021 | Ford Mustang Mach-E, Polestar 2, Land Rover Defender and more

Zac Palmer
·10 min read



The month of March was unofficial minivan month here at Autoblog. We drove all of them but the Kia Carnival, but don’t worry, you won’t have to wait much longer to read that review. Among all the family-toting machines, we drove some more exciting vehicles including the Land Rover Defender and a pair of up-and-coming EVs. It was a month of excellent cars, meaning that this month’s litter of Editors’ Picks is stacked.

In case you missed February’s picks, 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 or stand out 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 March that earned the honor of being an Editors’ Pick.


2021 Ford Bronco Sport


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Quick take: Ford's baby Bronco is an authentic foil to the big Bronco 2-Door and 4-Door. It brings rugged styling, better-than-average off-road capability and thoughtful utility features to a generic segment of cars.

Score: 8

What it competes with: Jeep Compass, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-30, Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Seltos, Chevrolet Trailblazer

Pros: Stellar design, excellent off-road, clever interior details throughout

Cons: Pricier than most, average transmission, underwhelming interior quality and ambiance in lowest trims

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — “I genuinely enjoy driving this cute crossover. It feels like a mini truck on the road, and Ford admirably translated the design from its big Bronco over to this Escape-based crossover.

News Editor Joel Stocksdale — "The Bronco Sport isn't perfect, the transmission could use some work, and it's a little bumpy, but it's a characterful little thing with loads of style, great visibility and space, and impressive capabilities on and off road in the powerful Badlands form."

In-depth analysis: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Review | Bronco for the masses

2021 Land Rover Defender


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Quick take: The Land Rover Defender provides everything you'd hope for in a modern Land Rover: superlative off-road capability, surprisingly plush on-road demeanor, abundant interior space and abundant character. The base four-cylinder is likely all you'll need and lower trim levels provide more than enough equipment.

Score: 8.5

What it competes with: Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Discovery, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Bronco, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen

Pros: Excellent off-road, attractive styling, tons of configurations

Cons: Expensive, suspect early reliability reports

From the editors:

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore — “Land Rover captures the historic notion of the Defender with an evolved design, clever interior and all of the rugged off-road capability expected of the nameplate. It's a cool execution in a field that's starting to fill up with competitive entries."

West Coast Editor James Riswick — "As a rugged off-roader or a characterful midsize luxury SUV, the Defender is exceptional. It's more appealing the cheaper it is, however. There's abundant standard equipment, and the pricey upper-crust trim levels don't seem to offer enough extra equipment or luxury to warrant the cost."

In-depth analysis: 2021 Land Rover Defender Review | A new legend

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E


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Quick take: Ford puts its best foot forward with the Mach-E, combining the idea of a Mustang with significance of an electric car. It's capable, interesting and it is necessarily a crossover.

Score: 9

What it competes with: Volkswagen ID.4, Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2

Pros: Fun to drive, sporty Mustang-inspired styling, top-notch tech

Cons:

From the editors:

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore — “The Mach-E succeeds on all fronts. It's a solid crossover -- sporty yet functional. It's an interesting electric car with a variety of range and performance options. It's also a very good Mustang, which is perhaps the toughest challenge Ford faced when affixing the pony car badge to a crossover. I really enjoyed driving the Mach-E and I now have a good sense of Ford's vision for an electric future."

West Coast Editor James Riswick — "If the Cayenne is a Porsche, than the Mach-E can be a Mustang. Beyond the name, the Mach-E is an electric car that's cool and doesn't cost a fortune. We need more of those. The best car I drove in 2020."

In-depth analysis: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Review | Looking beyond the horse

2021 Polestar 2


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Quick take: This is a dynamite car. Shocking speed, sublime handling, interesting design and plenty of comfort make this EV turn heads and raise pulses. Yes, we’d pick this over a Tesla Model 3.

Score: 8.5

What it competes with: Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model 3, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Jaguar I-Pace, Audi E-Tron/E-Tron Sportback, Volvo XC40 Recharge

Pros: Sport sedan-like handling, great Swedish design, innovative tech

Cons: Difficult to adjust performance damper setup, average interior quality

From the editors:

Senior Editor, Green John Beltz Snyder — “This was my favorite car I drove last year. It boasts unique styling, rapid acceleration and excellent handling. The Android Automotive operating system makes for a great infotainment interface, too."

West Coast Editor James Riswick — "The Polestar 2 provides the acceleration and handling of a sport sedan. It's just too bad it doesn't really look the part. Beyond that, it's a solid electric car from an established car company (Volvo) despite being from a brand most Americans have never heard of."

In-depth analysis: 2021 Polestar 2 Road Test Review | The mystery sport sedan

2021 Porsche Cayenne Coupe


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Quick take: The Coupe version of the Cayenne doesn't give up as much in utility as it might look at first glance, and it retains the standard Cayenne's top-notch driving characteristics. We don't even mind how it looks.

Score: 7.5

What it competes with: BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, Audi Q8

Pros: Remarkably good handling, mega powertrain options, acceptable utility compromise for styling

Cons: Remarkably expensive, spartan interior, options add up quick

From the editors:

News Editor Joel Stocksdale — “It's typical Porsche: really expensive, perhaps a little funny looking, and only gets dearer with options. But good grief is it a good drive, and driving one will make the price almost seem reasonable."

Associate Editor Byron Hurd — "The Cayenne Coupe is strangely sublime. The stylized rear end works better than you'd think, and it drives like a Panamera that is just tall enough to give you some much-needed visibility in traffic. It's not the purist's Porsche, but it's definitely a Porsche."

In-depth analysis: 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe First Drive Review | Less trunk is better

2021 Toyota Sienna


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Quick take: Featuring an efficient, hybrid powertrain and solid driving dynamics, the Sienna is a minivan you'll enjoy driving (or at least, won't be depressed driving). Plus, the interior is full of thoughtful family-friendly features and surprisingly upmarket styling in its upper trims.

Score: 8

What it competes with: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Kia Carnival

Pros: Great fuel economy, flashy styling, stellar interior design and styling

Cons: On the slow side, below average infotainment, limited third-row space

From the editors:

West Coast Editor James Riswick — “Between the Sienna and Pacifica Hybrid, the two best minivan choices are hybrids. I love the Sienna's interior design and the long-sliding second-row captain's chairs provide genuinely useful versatility for parents with older or younger kids alike. And, as a shocker, the handling and steering are surprisingly responsive, bettering the Pacifica and Odyssey."

Senior Editor, Green John Beltz Snyder — "It’s a little low on power, but it makes up for that in fantastic fuel economy, car-like driving, a thoughtful interior and a wealth of smart features. I still like the Pacifica Hybrid better, but if you don’t want a plug, the Sienna’s an easy choice."

In-depth analysis: 2021 Toyota Sienna Review | What's new, prices, hybrid MPG, pictures

2021 Honda Odyssey


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Quick take: Basically the ultimate baby gadget that unabashedly favors parenting functionality over all other concerns. Its second-row Magic Slide Seat is brilliant, and the interior is awash in other clever kid-friendly details. Still, it's dull to look at, duller to drive and other, more interesting vans are still plenty functional.

Score: 7.5

What it competes with: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, Kia Carnival

Pros: Innovative family features, Magic Slide second-row seat

Cons: Disconnected steering feel, generic styling, boring interior design

From the editors:

West Coast Editor James Riswick — “The Magic Slide second-row seat is a brilliant feature that could easily push the Odyssey into must-buy status for some families. The ability to slide the middle row laterally, and therefore move child seats inboard away from the vehicle's sides is a big deal. The standard middle seat also lets you plug the child seat into it, allowing the outboard seats to be occupied."

Senior Editor, Green John Beltz Snyder — "Honda kept the kids in mind with the Odyssey, and it makes life easier for the parents up front. It’s not as good to drive as the other minivans, but it’s got plenty of power, second-row captain’s chairs that move every which way and clever tech features that help you keep an eye on your precious cargo."

In-depth analysis: 2021 Honda Odyssey Review | The ultimate baby gadget

2021 Chrysler Pacifica


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Quick take: A great van that's definitely worth considering thanks to its compelling design and features, most notably its class-leading infotainment offering. Still, it's overshadowed by its plug-hybrid version we review separately. If you like the Pacifica, that's the version to get.

Score: 7

What it competes with: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Kia Carnival

Pros: Unique Stow ‘n Go second row, powerful V6 and available AWD, great infotainment

Cons: Could’ve had the Hybrid, not as nice as others in cheap trims

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — "I really dig the new interior and infotainment system applied in the refresh. A Pacifica Hybrid would still be my overall top minivan pick, but available all-wheel drive makes the gas Pacifica a solid choice for winter climates.

In-depth analysis: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica First Drive | More features, better van

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid


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Quick take: One of our two top-recommended minivans, along with the Toyota Sienna. Pacifica Hybrid's all-electric range is unique and is its main appeal over other minivans, including the regular Pacifica. Doesn't have Stow 'N Go seats, which limits versatility but it's second row is comfier to compensate. Great infotainment.

Score: 7

What it competes with: Toyota Sienna, Kia Carnival, Honda Odyssey

Pros: Only minivan that's a plug-in hybrid, superior handling to V6-only Pacifica, great infotainment, available tax rebates lower the price

Cons: You may need to a wait awhile to see all that tax rebate money, second-row seats are less versatile than those of other minivans (no Stow 'N Go)

From the editors:

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — “Assuming you have a garage to plug in, the Pacifica Hybrid is as good as it gets for big family transportation. It's smooth, wildly efficient, stylish and you get a massive government tax credit that brings its effective price down to that of the gasoline van.

West Coast Editor James Riswick — "Though it just barely got nipped by the Sienna in our minivan comparison test, the Pacifica Hybrid's all-electric range literally gives it something no other minivan offers. It's also better to drive than other Pacificas due to its battery lowering the center of gravity. I'm also of the opinion that Stow 'N Go isn't that great, so the fact that the Pacifica Hybrid doesn't have them (and has comfier chairs instead) doesn't seem that big of a deal to me."

In-depth analysis: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Review | What's new, hybrid fuel economy, pictures

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