The annual Test Fest, where members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada put all the new 2009 vehicles through the tough evaluation process which results in the Cars and Trucks of the Year, is three-fifths over.
A new process meant we had to have our ballots for the various categories marked by 5 p.m. today. As I type, representatives of the accounting firm KPMG are tallying those votes; the winners of the categories will be announced Thursday at 10 a.m. We then have the rest of Thursday and Friday to drive whichever of those we haven't yet driven, in order to choose the overall Car and Truck of the Year. Those results won't be announced for some time.
Like all voting members, I was assigned to test several categories. The favourite? Sports/Performance over $50,000.
This is where the Big Dogs run.
Everyone had their eye on the mighty Nissan GT-R, and certainly on the track it proved to be very fast, and very capable. It's pretty rough and noisy in more gentle road work, however.
Then I got into the BMW M3, with the new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Not quite as fast as the GT-R, but wow, is it a fantastic car. Beautifully built, great ride, excellent handling, and the new transmission rivals the Porsche PDK twin-clutch as the best of this type I have ever tried. Much smoother and quieter than the Nissan on the road too.
Another huge surprise was how good the Cadillac CTS-V was on the track. Borrowing both engine and tire technology from the fantastic Corvette ZR-1, this thing is hugely fast, and very confidence-inspiring on the track. Not bad on the road either!
The Supercharged Jaguar XF is more of a luxury car than a pure sports machine, but it also handled very well, and was by far the best-looking in the field. Most sumptuous interior too.
I had only been in any new-generation Lexus IS briefly a year or so ago, but this was my first shot at the V8-powered IS-F model. Like any Lexus, it was well-executed and refined, but this car is also very quick and competent. Cheap too, in this field.
The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG was beautifully balanced, a great combination of athleticism and luxury. Its main drawback was that the Pirelli tires didn't have the ultimate grip, especially compared to the Michelins on the Cadillac.
Yes, it is a tough life.
But I also drove family cars over $30,000, and Small Cars over $18,000. Gotta pay the bills.