The Alfa Romeo Giulia took Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, given prior to the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The Los Angeles Auto Show is about to get underway and it marks not only the unofficial start of the 2018 model-year but the beginning of automotive awards season. And things have gotten underway with a trio of big announcements.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia was named Motor Trend Car of the Year by influential Motor Trend magazine Monday night, a critical victory for a brand struggling to regain traction after a decades-long absence from the American market.

The magazine also named Ford’s F-150 as its 2018 Truck of the Year, the latest honor for a pickup that has spent decades at the top of both the U.S. truck and overall sales charts. And Honda drove home with Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year award for its CR-V, the dominant player in the compact crossover segment.

Motor Trend cited “the sheer joy” of driving the long-awaited Alfa Giulia for the Italian maker’s victory. “This Italian sensation reminds us that driving can indeed be joyous,” the magazine added on its website outlining the reasons the car beat out a crowded field of contenders.

(Alfa Romeo claims Stelvio Quadrifoglio is fastest SUV. For the story, Click Here.)

The Giulia is a sleek and sophisticated sports sedan that has the heart of a true sports car, noted in its own review. It’s offered in several different versions, including the 505 horsepower Quadrifoglio – a reference to the four-leaf clover found on Alfa’s racing cars – as well as the 280 hp “base” version added earlier this year.

The Honda CR-V captured the SUV of the Year for 2017 from Motor Trend.

In terms of pure performance and handling, the Giulia takes on an assortment of tough competitors, but Motor Trend declared that the Quadrifoglio “eviscerated” more established extreme machines, such as the BMW M3, Mercedes-AMG C63 and Cadillac ATS-V.

Alfa officials clearly are sharing in the “sheer joy” of winning the award. While Motor Trend has picked a few losers and lemons during the decades its Car of the Year imprimatur offers an instant marketing boost, and that’s something that the Italian luxury arm of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles needs after returning to the U.S. earlier in the decade. The Giulia is its first serious product, though the brand’s big volume model is expected to be the also-new Stelvio SUV.

Traditionally, the Motor Trend Car of the Year award has garnered the big headlines, though more and more attention is being focused on its SUV and Truck honors. That should be no surprise considering light trucks, in general, now account for almost two-thirds of the U.S. new vehicle market, with utes alone racking up nearly half of all sales.

(Click Here for details about Honda’s CR-V hybrid.)

The 2017 Ford F-150 was named Motor Trend's Truck of the Year.

Honda is no stranger to victory in the SUV category, having been one of the pioneers in the car-based crossover market with its original CR-V. The newest model is a “quiet achiever,” according to Motor Trend, adding that the Honda model offers “outright excellence in the industry’s most competitive segment.”

As for the F-150, Ford broke ground only a few years ago by switching from traditional steel to an “aluminum-intensive” design that shaved off hundreds of pounds of mass, allowing for higher cargo and towing capacities and reduced fuel consumption. The move has generated some controversy, though the automaker “silences its critics with a midcycle (update) that is simply dominant,” the magazine suggested.

The Motor Trend awards come at the beginning of the week for a busy industry that will gather in Los Angeles to watch the debut of dozens of new cars, trucks and crossovers. The LA Auto Show also will bring the announcement of the Green Car of the Year, an award gaining more and more attention each year, especially in California, which is the center of the country’s emerging market for alternative powertrain technology.

(To see more about the capabilities of the new F-150, Click Here.)

And the finalists for North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle awards – three in each category – will be announced on Wednesday. Known as NACTOY, it is considered one of the most important of the awards to be handed out each year. (Full disclosure, I am a member of the jury.) The three NACTOY winners will be revealed during the opening ceremonies of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.

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