After several days of intense back-to-back driving, photography runs, logistical nightmares and many shouting matches, we have finally zeroed in on the winners of the 2014 wheels Car of the Year Awards. It was never going to be easy, largely because all the competing cars this year were so good and selecting between them was like picking your preferred eye.
CotY 2014 shoot: a weekend well spent
Best Grand Tourer: Rolls-Royce Wraith
Best Supercar: Porsche 918 Spyder
Best Sportscar: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Best Convertible: Jaguar F-Type
Best SUV: Range Rover Sport
Best Sports Saloon: Maserati Ghibli S
Best Crossover: Mazda CX-5
Best Large Premium Saloon: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Best Executive Saloon: Lexus IS
Best Saloon: Mazda 6
Best Compact: Volkwagen Golf
Best Hot Hatch: Ford Focus ST
Overall CotY 2014 winner: Maserati Ghibli
The debates are rumbustious as everyone on the team makes the case for their favourite cars. Picking our Sportscar of the Year, for example, was particularly brain-melting. Dejan initially backed the Porsche Cayman S, waxing lyrical about its, “near flawless balance” and its ability to allow the driver to safely dance on the ragged edge. Sony thought the honour rightly belonged to the Stingray. “You cannot manipulate the Cayman like you can the Stingray, it’s far too clinical,” he argued. “It leaves me cold. And it lacks torque,” was the final rebuttal. So what makes a perfect sportscar? Is it on-track dynamics? Accessible performance? Or just the sheer ability to plaster a smile on your face? We reckoned it had to be a bit of everything. And the result was somewhat startling for all of us.
Convertibles were a conundrum too. How do you compare a million-plus dirham Bentley with a humble E-Class Cab, or the inbetweener Jag? You don’t; you test them on their individual merits, with an eye on what others in the segment offer.
Obviously, we rate the nominees on various tangible parameters such as driveability, technology, value for money, and design, but the emotional draw of the car also plays an important role. How the car makes you feel is, in our opinion, extremely important for petrolheads. So while there is a healthy dose of subjectivity involved, we balance it out with real-world stuff. The car that ticks the most boxes wins.
But way before we reach that point, the preparations start months earlier. It all begins with a shortlist of 50-odd standout cars of the year. Only models that are all-new or substantially updated, on sale in the country and obviously have been driven by us are eligible to make this not-so-short list.
Then, out comes the red marker and following debates between the wheels team almost half of them fall victim to the cull. The cars that survive the second round are then gathered for back-to-back testing. This gives us an opportunity to reassess them in an equal environment.
Naturally, this is followed by even more arguments, until the winners are selected and their names go into a black envelope. Sealed, only to be revealed at the annual wheels CotY Awards ceremony. And here.
It is the culmination of a physically and mentally draining process, but one that I’m proud to say is fair, independent and free of corporate machinations. But we’re not perfect; tell us whether you agree or disagree with our picks. As always, we’re up for feedback.
For now, let’s get this party started…