By Doug McColloch
Each year prior to the SEMA Show, exhibitors are polled on the new vehicles that, in their judgment, represent the best opportunities for accessorization via the aftermarket for the coming year. Vehicles are chosen in six distinct classes—including a brand-new class for 2022, EV of the Year—and the winners are announced ahead of the start of the Show. This year’s announcement was made on Monday, October 31, on the eve of the 2022 Show.
SEMA Vehicle of the Year award winners celebrate at the 2022 SEMA Show Monday Reveal. Pictured from left to right: SEMA Board Chair-Elect Kyle Fickler; SEMA Chairman of the Board James Lawrence; SEMA President and CEO Mike Spagnola; Robert Gal on behalf of Senior Vice President, Product Marketing & Strategy for Volkswagen Group of America Hein Schafer; Group Vice President Toyota Marketing Lisa Materazzo; Vice President Dodge Brand Product Tom Sacoman; Head of Mopar Marketing, North America Heidi Hughes; and Vice President, RAM and Mopar Design Mark Trostle.
“The SEMA Award recognizes the hottest new vehicles on the market that offer the greatest opportunities for customization,” said Warren Kosikov, SEMA vice president of sales. “SEMA Award-winning vehicles are setting worldwide trends in the automotive enthusiast industry. The 2022 SEMA Show had on display many of the SEMA Award-winning vehicles, each customized in its unique way.”
What follows on these pages is a sampling of the winning vehicles that exhibited at the 2022 SEMA Show.
SEMA Car of the Year:
- Dodge Challenger
SEMA Fullsize Truck of the Year:
SEMA 4x4/SUV of the Year:
- Jeep Wrangler
SEMA Midsize Truck of the Year:
- Jeep Gladiator
SEMA Sport Compact of the Year:
- Toyota GR86
SEMA EV of the Year:
- Volkswagen ID.4
Car of The Year: Dodge Challenger
On its farewell tour, the “Last Call” Dodge Challenger—and its stablemate Charger—made a splash appearance at the 2022 SEMA Show in ScatPack “Swinger” trim, recalling the musclecar’s glory years of the late ’60s through the early ’70s. The limited-edition (1,000 units only) Challenger gets its own unique grille badging, painted Shaker intake, spoiler and “345” fender badges, 20x11 Gold School wheels with black six-piston Brembo brakes, Mod Grain interior with aluminum bezel textures, Nappa/Alcantara seating with green stitching and green Dodge Rhombi logo, retro Swinger rear fender graphics, and Sublime Green exterior paint.
Fullsize Truck of The Year: Ram
The SEMA Fullsize Truck of the Year, RAM made multiple appearances the at the 2022 Show, including the TRX Gold Shot concept seen here. Designed for backcountry adventure, this Mopar-built, 700hp TRX rides on a set of 37-in. BFGoodrich tires mounted to 18x9.5 Black Rhino Camber wheels. Custom-etched skid plates are said to improve approach angle, and a set of Mopar rock rails provides additional armor proofing. A retractable bed step enhances bed access, and the Ram-Bar behind the cab holds a pair of TYRI concept lights. Inside, black Capri leather seats with Alcantara suede inner bolsters are accented by gold stitching, and vinyl flooring taken from a 1500 Tradesman makes cleanup easier after a day in the dirt.
Midsize Truck of The Year: Jeep Gladiator
The SEMA Midsize Truck of the Year, the Jeep Gladiator has made a splash in the overlanding space that was once the province of midsize Toyotas, and this Rubicon model located in the Overland Experience exhibit has many fine attributes. An Armadillo 23Zero aluminum hard-shell tent features polyurethane coating to keep inside occupants cool on hot summer days. ARB bumpers provide stoutness and strength, a Warn Zeon 10S 10,000-lb. winch aids with extractions, and the Factor 55 Ultrahook stores up against the fairlead for added safety. Rolling stock comprises a set of Nitto tires on black beadlocked rims.
Sport Utility of The Year: Jeep Wrangler
Among the most commonly seen vehicles at the 2022 SEMA Show, the Wrangler JL has been a hit with consumers and enthusiasts alike since its introduction in 2017, and this Magneto 2.0 concept Wrangler points a possible way to the future of the brand. All electric, the Magneto 2.0 uses 800-volt battery packs to power a custom axial flux electric motor which is said to produce an estimated 625 hp, 850 lb.-ft. of torque, and a 0–60 time of only 2.0 sec. To accommodate the electric drive system, Jeep stretched the wheelbase 12 in. The six-speed transmission was retained, as was the Rock-Trac transfer case, but beefier Dynatrac axles—a lockered 60 Pro-Rock in front and a lockered Pro-Rock 80 rear—help handle the higher torque loads. A 3-in. lift clears rooms for a set of 40-in. tires.
Sport Compact of The Year: Toyota GR86
The SEMA award-winning Sport Compact Car, the GR86 has been an instant hit in multiple racing circuits, as this “Daily Drifter” proves. Built by SEMA 2022 Influencer of the Year Larry Chen, the Toyota utilizes an HKS GT2 Supercharger Pro ZD8 kit and a MagnaFlow NEO Series cat-back performance exhaust to produce some 300 hp. Power flows from a six-speed manual to an OS Giken Super Lock 1.5-way differential, and a StopTech Big Brake kit brings the ride to a halt. The drifter rides on an ST XTA Plus 3 coilover suspension that incorporates SPL Parts adjustable control arms, adjustable sway bar links, and a GK Tech steering angle kit. Inside, a Sparco EVO QRT racing seat with six-point harness and a Studio RSR four-point roll cage protect driver and passenger, and a Vivid Racing VR Bespoke steering wheel points the GR in the desired direction.
EV of The Year: Volkswagen ID.4
SEMA’s first-ever EV of the Year, the Volkswagen ID.4 made its SEMA Show debut last November. Despite its playful external appearance, this ID was designed to endure some serious off-roading. Built by Tanner Foust and Rhys Millen and piloted by Mercedes Lilienthal, this colorful specimen successfully completed the 2021 Rebelle Rally, traversing 1,400 off-pavement miles over three weeks across the California and Nevada deserts. Excess weight kills battery range, so modifications were limited to some new suspension components, tubular control arms, custom skid plates and battery protection, and a few other items required for a driving expedition. The AWD ID.4 EV utilizes a 107hp front motor and a 201hp permanent magnet rear motor, with a combined 339 lb.-ft. of torque, so despite its mild appearance, the ID.4 has plenty of power.
A runner-up for SEMA’s Midsize Truck of the Year award, Tacomas have long been a preferred platform for overlanders, as this example at the Redarc booth demonstrates. An ICON add-a-leaf suspension kit and Daystar rear airbags clear room in the wheelwells for a set of 265/75R16 Falken Wildpeak AT3s. A Warn V10 winch works in tandem with a Factor 55 fairlead and FlatLink Expert shackle mount to aid in extraction. An ARB Essentials recovery kit and dual air compressor are both on board for additional duties. For camp chores, an AluCab Gen 3.1 Expedition rooftop tent and Shadow awning provide shelter. A Front Runner roof rack affords additional storage, and a CBI Covert front bumper and 30-in. Rigid light bar provide protection and illumination. And, of course, a slew of Redarc products are aboard to improve electrical functions.
Both Jeeps were 2022 award winners in their respective categories, and this unique version from Quadratec combines elements of both vehicles. A gas-electric PHEV, the Greg Henderson-built “JTe” began its life as a ’22 Jeep Wrangler 4Xe Rubicon, which underwent a chop behind the front doors with a Gladiator truck bed and Mopar body replacement panels added to the back. The Jeep rides on a Lynx 2.5-in. suspension with adjustable control arms and Steer Smarts steering components. Bronze 17-in. Lynx TrailGunner wheels and 37-in. Nitto Recon Grappler tires provide traction, and Carnivore front and rear bumpers offer protection. A Lost Canyon bed rack and rooftop tent have been installed, as have Rotopax water containers. Quadratec’s J5 50-in. LED lightbar features ORACLE Lighting flush-mounted LED units.
SEMA Full-Size Truck of the Year runner-up, the Toyota Tundra made a strong showing at the 2022 SEMA Show with a number of intriguing concepts, including the off-grid-oriented Trailhunter prototype shown here, which is slated to see limited production starting in 2023. Toyota was vague on specs at the SEMA Show, but the company did reveal that each Trailhunter will come equipped with custom badging and graphics, its own dedicated suspension kit, and accessories including skid plating, roof rack, bumpers, lighting, refrigerator and a rooftop tent all engineered for the overlander.
Car of the Year runner-up, Nissan brought its latest NISMO project to the 2022 SEMA Show outfitted with a slew of performance parts that will be available for the production Z in the future. Among these are new LM-RS1 forged wheels, an all-new, ride-height-adjustable coilover suspension, and a big-brake kit comprising six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers. Under the hood, a new cold air intake and a performance heat exchanger will help optimize performance on the track, and a number of dress-up items are also offered for the Z, including a GT titanium shift knob, carbon-fiber side-mirror housings and carbon-fiber steering wheel trim.