Behind the Scenes at 2013 TestFest: Part 3

My most recent article inaccurately described Thursday as the final day of judging. Actually, Friday was.

Mea culpa.

I also said how lovely it would be to NOT be hungover on that final day. Well, after Thursday’s award ceremony, yet another prediction turned out inaccurate too. For pretty much every journalist, Friday began with a bit of a rusty engine.

To keep the judging honest, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) rules demand that each of the over 80 journalists here test and rate each of the category winners to determine the best of the best. Voting for the category winners opened at 10 a.m. on Friday and had to be completed by 5 p.m. for a given journalist’s vote to qualify. However the vehicles were available from 8 a.m.

There were eleven testing categories, and the winners were announced at Thursday’s awards show. Fortunately, by Thursday afternoon I’d tested seven of them:

Best New City Car Ford Focus EV
Best New Small Car (under $21K) Mazda3 Skyactiv Sedan
Best New Small Car (over $21K) Hyundai Elantra GT
Best New Family Car (under $30K) Honda Accord Sedan
Best New Family Car (over $30K) Ford Fusion Hybrid
Best New SUV/CUV ($35K-$60K) Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T
Best New Sports/Performance Car (over $50K) Porsche Boxster

If you’re good at math, you know four winners remained to test on Friday:

Best New Prestige and Performance Car (over $75K) Porsche 911 Carrera S
Best New Luxury Car Cadillac ATS
Best New Sports/Performance Car (under $50K) Ford Focus ST
Best New SUV/CUV (under $35K) Ford Escape 1.6 L EcoBoost

I arrived early at the testing site and began final drives at 8 a.m. It’s remarkable how well a responsive Porsche 911 clears the cobwebs on a sunny Friday morning in wine country.

Final Winners: TBA in 2013
On February 14, winners will be announced for the 2013 Car of the Year, Canadian Utility Vehicles of the Year, Best New Technology and Best New Design awards. If this date has no other immediate significance to you, try this experiment. Invite your girlfriend to the press announcement at the Metro Toronto Convention at 8 a.m., but tell her it’s a surprise that she’ll love when she gets there.

Surprises of the Week
I never would have called the Honda Accord Sedan winning Best New Family Car under $30K. Yes, it’s good value for money and did not seriously underscore in my voting, but I expected the Mitsubishi Lancer AWC or Nissan Altima to beat it soundly.

Furthermore, though I still hadn’t tested it by the time the Ford Focus ST was hailed Best New Sports/Performance Car under $50K, I was still gobsmacked. There’d been so much gushing feedback from other writers about the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Veloster Turbo and the Fiat Abarth. I drove the Focus ST on Friday and it still wouldn’t have been my choice. But that’s why they have scores of us there. The numbers don’t lie.

I’m already looking forward to many more surprises next year.

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