Hours and hours of shouting matches, days of back-to-back testing and not to mention copious amounts of questionable brown stuff that masquerades as coffee at wheels HQ, we are finally ready to reveal the winners of our 2017 Car of the Year awards.
However, the preparations start months in advance as we draw up a list of 50-plus standout cars of the year. The debates begin and everyone on the team makes the case for their favourite vehicle.
At this point, nearly half the long-list falls victim to the red-marker cull. Then begins the challenging part — gathering all the nominees and testing them back to back in an equal environment…
Six am on a Friday and the team heads out for a 500km test drive with all the nominated cars. The route includes city driving, boring highway schleps and one of the most vicious mountain blacktops in the region. The sleepy village of Al Taween hides this gem of a road that can unravel the inadequacies of any car. Brutal cambers, ear-popping elevation changes, blind corners and mile after mile of hairpins; this road is Nürburgring concentrated, the only difference being that if you make a mistake, you end up in a valley some 1,000m below. In a ball of fire. Not good.
We rate the shortlisted cars on several tangible parameters such as driveability, technology, value for money and design, but the emotional pull of a car plays a vital role. How a car makes you feel is, in our opinion, extremely important for petrolheads. So it’s a fine balancing act between real-world abilities and a healthy dose of subjectivity. The car that ticks the most boxes wins.
It’s not always as simple though. Take our Sportscar of the Year award. Almost everyone who has driven the Porsche 718 Cayman feels it is a near-flawless piece of engineering. Yet there are rebuttals. “It’s extremely precise but joyless,” contends deputy editor Sony Thomas. Guest judge Gautam Sharma meanwhile thinks that “for the price, it’s near well unbeatable”. So what constitutes a perfect sportscar? Smile-a-minute dynamics, on-track ability or accessible performance? It has to be a bit of everything.
Furthermore, how do you compare a Dh600K-plus McLaren 540C with a Dh250K 718 Cayman? The simple answer is you don’t; you test them on their individual merits, with an eye on what others in the segment offer.
To add yet another layer of complexity, this year we have put together a panel of guest judges spanning diverse spheres of the motoring world, including a former F1 medical delegate and a supercar vlogger among others.
But in the end, we somehow always manage to agree (well, mostly) on the winners. You may or may not agree with our picks and, as always, we are up for feedback.
For now let’s get the ball rolling…
Click here to meet the judges