Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shameless Self-promotion

2012 Hyundai Veloster - AJAC's Best New Sports/Performance Car (under $50,000)
You can find my Wheels coverage of the Best New Sports/Performance (under $50,000) category of AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year TestFest here.

2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i - AJAC's Best New SUV-CUV (over $60,000)

You can find my Wheels coverage of the Best New SUV-CUV (over $60,000) category of AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year TestFest here.

AJAC's 2012 Canadian Car of the Year and TestFest

Category Winners - AJAC's 2012 Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year
The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) holds an annual event dubbed "TestFest" during the last week of October at which every new or substantially redesigned light-duty vehicle has an opportunity to compete. For the past six years, this has taken place at the Niagara District Airport, whose runways are shut down and used as a road course.

Competition occurs first within groups of its peers (categorized as best as possible), and then for the title of overall Best New Car or Best New Utility vehicle. Scores are based on an amalgam of subjective votes by the journalists, test vehicle pricing, and measured scores derived from on-site performance testing. TestFest and the Canadian Car of the Year process are constantly being refined, and this is the only event of its kind in the world.

For several reasons, you won't find models that have either already competed (whether they won or not), been on sale for more than one year, or that have received only minor changes for this coming model year. The most critical of those reasons is logistics; there has to be at least three examples of each competitor on site and available for evaluation, and each must be driven by each voting journalist on the same day for their votes to count. Just getting through the "new and improved" crowd is tough enough - this year's larger categories had 7 entrants (there have been 10 car categories in past years), with the assigned drive route and off road or on-track testing for each car taking approximately 40 minutes just complete. That doesn't count time juggling keys, which are expertly handled by students from Georgian College.

This year (as in years past), journalists were expected to complete their 3 assigned categories, as well as as many additional complete categories were required to bring their total to a minimum of 18 vehicles altogether. That's over the course of the two primary testing days, Tuesday and Wednesday, and votes must be submitted early Wednesday evening. It's tougher than it sounds.

On Thursday, while the category votes are tabulated, journalists are free to drive other vehicles in other categories. (This year there were several electric vehicles available for brief drives in addition to those competing.) Thursday is a chance to drive models you might not otherwise be able to experience, and also a chance to try and guess winners from other categories that you weren't able to complete.

That's because on Friday the category winners are announced, and each journalist is required to drive whichever category winners they haven't yet tested. The votes for overall Car and overall Utility Vehicle are submitted by that evening. The final winners are announced in February at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.

Five of this year's eleven category winners were Korean, with the Germans claiming all but one of the remaining spots. The Dodge Journey was the sole "domestic" winner, but before you cry "foul", please note that last year's results included five domestics, two of which - the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Edge - went on to claim overall Car and Utility Vehicle wins.

Here, in the order of the photo above, from left to right, are your eleven winners:
  • Hyundai Elantra - Best New Small Car (over $21,000)
  • BMW 1 Series M CoupĂ© - Best New Sports/Performance (over $50,000)
  • Kia Optima LX - Best New Family Car (under $30,000)
  • Mercedes C-Class C350 4MATIC - Best New Luxury Car
  • Dodge Journey - Best New SUV-CUV (under $35,000)
  • BMW X3 - Best New SUV-CUV (over $60,000)
  • Volkswagen Touareg TDI - Best New SUV-CUV ($35,000-$60,000)
  • Kia Optima Hybrid - Best New Family Car (over $30,000)
  • Mercedes S-Class S350 BlueTec 4Matic - Best New Prestige Car
  • Hyundai Veloster - Best New Sports/Performance (under $50,000)
  • Hyundai Accent - Best New Small Car (under $21,000)
As for which ones claim the title, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the Kia Optima LX takes overall Car, and either the Dodge Journey overall Utility Vehicle, though I'd not be surprised to see the VW Touareg or Hyundai Elantra in those places instead. We'll have to wait until mid-February to find out if I'm right.

In the meantime, click this link to read Wheels comprehensive coverage.