No longer nerdy: Electric vehicles dominate our most anticipated cars, trucks list for 2022

This year's most anticipated vehicles highlight the auto industry's break from its past in which electrics were largely nerdy, little boxes on wheels.

  • Our most anticipated cars include EVs that offer long range and daring styling.
  • Some updates to an old favorite helped a fun, traditional car make the list, too.

Think of 2022 as pivotal for the auto industry, the year in which a bevy of new electric vehicles with oodles of curb appeal could break through to previously resistant mainstream buyers.

Never have there been so many electric offerings and, following the pace set by Tesla, so many breathtakingly beautiful and, yes, sexy. It's a break from the industry’s past in which electrics were largely nerdy, little boxes on wheels, a reflection of the need for weight savings to try to squeeze a few more miles of battery range out of them.

Now, with lithium-ion batteries vastly improved and only becoming more capable, automakers are freed to make more models that people would be proud to have in their driveways.

Electrics lead the pack for 2022’s most anticipated new cars and trucks. But they are not the only new offerings destined to turn heads. Our list includes a fun conventional car, too.

In no particular order, here are our picks for the best of 2022, the most anticipated models that should rightly fly out of dealers’ sales floors:

Rivian's R1T pickup truck.

Rivian R1T pickup and R1S SUV

This startup’s two U.S.-made rugged electric vehicles are close enough in design and powertrain that we present them together. If Rivian can ramp up production, the pair could make the biggest impact in the electric-vehicle sector since the rise of Tesla.

The company, based in Irvine, California, says it has about 71,000 preorders for the pickup and SUV combined. They each have a range of about 315 miles per charge, can rocket from zero to 60 mph in three seconds and have a rock-crawl mode for off-roading.

The pickup can tow 11,000 pounds and the SUV is rated at 7,700 pounds.

Coming: Deliveries just started. New orders won’t be delivered until 2023 due to heavy backlog.

Price: Starts at $67,500 for the pickup, $70,000 for the SUV.

►What won't be back in 2022:Honda, Toyota, BMW and Kia have discontinued several vehicles.

Cadillac's upcoming technology-packed electric SUV, the Lyriq, is just one of a slew of new GM models that could change the way we drive -- and that could change the way GM makes money.

Cadillac Lyriq

General Motors designers clearly poured their hearts into the Lyriq, a vehicle intended to try to finally fulfill a vision for Cadillac as a brand that deserves to be considered right alongside BMW and Mercedes-Benz. With electric drivetrains resetting the decks of the auto industry, it could happen.

Lyriq has 300-mile range and 340 electric horsepower. It’s been given wind-cheating touches like wheel inserts and a spoiler on the roof. To delight owners, it has a feature in which the 700 LED bulbs on the front end stage a light show when a driver walks up.

Coming: Early next year

Price: Starts at $58,795 (prices exclude destination fees)

With a starting price around $40,000 and a huge list of fleet-friendly features, Ford's F-150 Lightning Pro will be a brutal competitor to other pickups.

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Ford F-150 Lightning

OK, so Ford electrified the nation’s most best-selling vehicle, one that has set sales records for the past quarter-century. Coming on the heels of its highly promoted Mustang Mach-E electric crossover, it was a no-brainer.

But here’s the brilliant marketing move to try to lure hidebound pickup traditionalists who never otherwise would consider going electric: Ford is going to lengths to promote Lightning’s ability to serve as a mobile power station. Carpenters can plug in their electric saws. The Lightning can transfer juice to add mileage to other battery-powered vehicles. Heck, it can even power an entire house for up to three days during an outage. 

The most powerful Lightning will be a brute: the equivalent of 563 horsepower and the most torque of any F-150, Ford says. It will be capable of towing up to 10,000 pounds. Playing up its tech orientation, it will have a 15-inch touchscreen in the cab.

Coming: Next spring

Price: Lowest-priced version aimed more at commercial customers starts at $39,974

Mercedes-Benz AMG EQS

This will be the speedy performance version of the EQS electric sedan that went on sale this month. It’s meant to not only show that Mercedes is serious about electric vehicles, but intends to lead the automotive revolution.

The AMG EQS will produce the equivalent of 649 horsepower, which can briefly boost to 751 horsepower when needed. Top speed will be 155 mph and it will be able to leap from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, Mercedes says.

Since the kind of people who buy Mercedes-Benz vehicles don’t like to wait around, the AMG EQS will be able to add 186 miles of range in 19 minutes at a high-speed charger.

Coming: Early next year

Price: Not yet announced, but the standard EQS starts at $102,310

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The 2023 Nissan Z sports car.

Nissan Z

With all the serious electric-car action in this year’s list, we need to add a dash of panache with a piston-powered, gas-sipping sports car. Look no farther than the Nissan Z.

Nissan has ditched the numbers in the names of its six past generations of this iconic car. The new Z replaces the 370Z. It’s appropriate. The new Z car has a completely fresh feeling that is sure to grab the hearts of its fans because of its striking resemblance to the original 240Z that arrived in the U.S. in 1969, shaking up Detroit and demonstrating that Japanese automakers could make vehicles that evoke emotions and passion, not just odes to frugality.

The new Z isn’t just about styling. It will be powered by a 3-liter 6-cylinder twin-turbocharged gas engine producing 400 horsepower, an increase of 68 hp over the 370Z. It will come with either a six-speed manual transmission or a nine-speed automatic.

Coming: Mid-year

Price: Starting around $40,000, but final pricing is yet to be announced.

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Tesla's Cybertruck.

Tesla Cybertruck

Tesla’s Cybertruck will be likely become considered the most radical mass-production vehicle to ever streak across America’s highways.

Origami-like, sharp-edged styling makes it stand apart from all other pickup trucks — and really, anything else on wheels.

It’s a bold experiment that tries to bridge the utility of pickups with the performance of electrics.

It’s big. The bed is big enough to allow it to cart around an ATV, and there’s a built-in ramp for rolling it up.

Yet Tesla touts that it will have 500-mile electric range and will race from zero to 60 miles per hour in a blistering 2.9 seconds in its most capable version. It will be able to tow 14,000 pounds.

Its stainless-steel body is alone a departure from other pickups.

Coming: Late next year

Price: KBB says Tesla removed Cybertruck’s starting price and specs from its website order page in October. It had been listed at $39,900. Though potential buyers are left in the dark about key details, Tesla is taking reservations.

The 2022 Kia EV6, an electric crossover, “marks a new and transformative era,” says Sean Yoon, CEO of Kia North America.

Kia EV6

It’s a crossover electric vehicle for the rest of us.

The EV6 comes with a clean design, impressive performance and one key selling point that will help it stand out in an increasingly crowded mainstream field: a fast charging time.

Drivers will be able to add 210 miles of range (its maximum will be about 300 miles per charge) in 18 minutes from an “ultrafast” charger. Quick charging could make the difference for EV adoption, especially if it starts to rival the time it takes to pull up to a gas pump. Eighteen minutes is certainly closing in on the goal.

EV6 will be no slacker off the starting line. It will be capable of galloping from zero to 60 mph in a scant 4.6 seconds.

Coming: As soon as January

Price: Not yet announced.