Yes, that time of the year again, when the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada runs the most intensive, thorough and meaningful car of the year testing program in the world - to our knowledge, anyway.
All the new cars and trucks, brought to a central location (the Niagara Regional Airport) to be evaluated by a host of professional automobile journalists - back-to-back, same day, same road and track, same conditions.
There’s just no other way to do it, and again, to our knowledge, we are the only organization who does it like this, across as broad a range of vehicles, with 70-odd (some of them very odd…) journalists, representing many outlets, from all branches of the trade - print, TV, radio, on-line.
The vehicles are grouped into categories, classified by type of vehicle and price range (e.g., Family Car under $30,000).
Each journalist is assigned a few categories for detailed analysis; each may also opt to try other categories if they have time.
Each journalist rates each vehicle on fifteen separate attributes, covering styling, room, quality, comfort, performance, safety, value, fuel economy, etc.
These attributes are weighted differently for different categories, on the theory (for instance) that acceleration is more important to a Sports / Performance car, while trunk space is more important to a Family Car.
A price factor is also applied, on the theory that a more expensive car SHOULD be better, just to break even.
After three days of testing, the scores are entered on-line and the computer spits out the category winners which are announced Friday morning.
The journalists then choose the overall car and truck of the year from the category winners; if they haven’t driven a category winner in the previous three days, they must do so Friday in order to vote in the next round; the overall winners will be revealed at the Toronto International Auto Show in February 2012.
I was assigned a tough pair of categories - Sports / Performance over $50,000, and Prestige Car over $75,000.
Yes, a tough life. Blog postings on my preliminary results for each category will follow later today, if all goes as planned.
I also serve on the Best New Technology jury; that award is also announced at the Toronto Show.