This year things are different. The wheels Car of the Year issue and awards ceremony have a new format, and as Editor Amit explained, it was for some very good reasons. First up, we could include all of the cars launched right up to the end of the year, rather than missing some out due to scheduling and the logistics of photography. Second, the results would be decided by a head-to-head face-off, the top two cars in each category being driven back to back by seasoned wheels staffers and subject to a complete thrash, er, careful and considered assessment of their driving abilities and performance. The cars, that is.

The first welcome benefit of these changes was the roll call for the CotY shoot. This was the culmination of weeks of intensive work and bouts fisticuffs, er, in-depth discussions, in the wheels office about the merits of the various cars on test. And what a tempting spread there was to consider; the cream of this year’s releases from the likes of BMW, Bentley, Cadillac, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Toyota, Volkswagen and more. The stage was set for an epic showdown. But first, there was the small matter of 
the cover shoot.

The process began weeks before, with the team wearing out the telephone trying to book every press car in the city for the same weekend. Apologies to all other car mags who were left without a drive for those two days! But somehow they did it.

Then the phone calls went out to find some extra drivers — there are all the wheels staffers, of course, then regulars like Tim Ansell and myself, plus assorted designers, videographers, Gulf News crew and various other bodies.

Perfect, Tim and I thought — no crack of a sparrow’s whatsit start and bad coffee, we’ll all meet promptly at 10 in the morning and get on with the shoot. No more hanging around waiting for various people to turn-up looking like they’ve just fallen out of bed…

Of course, things turned out exactly the same as always, and by the time the last oddball had turned up looking like they just fell out of bed, we were each allocated a car and off we went at 11.30am sharp. Ish. So no change there, then.

Actually this year we managed to get exactly the same number of drivers as cars, so it was an easy task to get the entire fleet to the venue for the shoot. Ace snapper Stefan was once again the photographer for the main images, with Tim Ansell busy snapping more candid shots and videographer 
Ryan grabbing moving images for the wheels app and website.

Then followed one of the most peculiar days in any motoring journo’s life, a day spent not in the cars, but out of them, on hand at all times to “move it six inches sideways, and a metre back” so that every car gets an equal shot of glory.

A bit like movie-making, moments of high intensity and an awful lot of sitting around, but it was still a fascinating day. The biggest challenge was to figure out how to make sure every car’s headlights were on for the shot, and each carmaker has a different set of rules for ignition, engine, light switch and key combination, but we mostly got it figured out the way Stefan wants.

Finally, shooting over, it was back to the office in a glorious convoy, still trying to figure out which car won what. All of that has been settled, so sit back and read on about the cars, our impressions of them all, and the verdicts. You might be in for a surprise...