(Ed. Note: While the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada is announcing its class awards today for Car of the Year, alternative testing is taking place by the Canadian Automotive Jury, a separate, unrelated organization of automobile journalists and writers. For a story on the differences between the two, see here. Wheels’ John LeBlanc is a founding member of the Jury.)
TORONTO, Ont. - Yesterday, at a windy Woodbine Park test drive facility, myself along with other Canadian Automotive Jury members got a chance to get behind the wheel of all twelve of the 2011 CAJ Best of the Best Finalists (including last year's winning Volskwagen Golf) before voting for an eventual overall winner next month. You already know I think the Golf is still the best compact car family out there. But here are my brief comments on this year's new entries:
• BEAUTY & THE BEAST - 2011 Audi R8 5.2 makes Gallardo redundant—will make you feel like Iron Man behind the wheel; 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee impresses—Chrysler interior upgrades finally paying off.
• GERMAN LUXURY, BIG & NOT-SO-SMALL - Robust, luxurious, refined-2011 Benz E Class defines mainstream luxury; 2011 Volkswagen Jetta interior borders on midsize, for compact money.
• CAJ Best of the Best Finalist, 2011 Kia Sportage, brings premium exterior and interior to hum-drum compact crossover segment.
• TOUGH CHOICES - You sacrifice features in the 2011 Mazda2, but lighter weight makes it more FTD than Fiesta; Looks, features, great drive; what took Ford so long to bring back its 2011 Fiesta?
• 2011 CAJ Best of the Best Drive Day catering budget exhausted on caffeine.
• THE ROCK STAR & THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK - Found last BMW 5er too hardcore? More refined 2011 family may be your bowl of bratwurst; 2011 Hyundai Sonata epitomizes Korean automaker’s strong value play.
• Is the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe GM’s most dramatic looking car since the Bill Mitchell/1960s era?
• 2011 Regal-especially the Turbo- Buick's best attempt yet to get buyers who don't qualify for seniors discount.
Check back in here later November, when the Canadian Automotive Jury announces its 2011 Best of the Best Winner.