AJAC evaluates latest 2017 vehicle models at TestFest

AJAC TestFest sign
TestFest is the first step in determining the AJAC Canadian Car of the Year award winners for the year. Photos by Benjamin Yong.

For the last 28 years, Canada’s top automotive journalists have come together annually in Ontario to participate in the AJAC Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) Awards program, with one sole purpose: to provide consumers comparative information on new vehicles entering the market.

Known within the industry as “TestFest,” the four-day event involves participants driving entrants from different segment categories separated by type, and price — i.e. Best New Small Car and Best New Small Utility Vehicle — one category at a time.

Canadian Tire Motorsports Park sign

In order to simulate what owners might experience day-to-day, the vehicles are taken on prescribed routes in and around the community of Bowmanville involving public rural roads and highways, as well as closed environments such as a slalom, racetrack and an off-road course located inside the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park facility. Usually, varying weather is also a factor as it was this year, with guests encountering sun, rain and even sleet.

Following each drive, journalists tally up points in an elaborate scoring system in order to individually rank attributes like performance, ride comfort, visibility, and more. After CCOTY wraps up, an independent third party tabulates the results and winners of each category are announced in December.

AJAC TestFest parking lot

A short while later, a second round of voting takes place among winners to determine which become crowned Canadian Car of the Year, Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year, Canadian Green Car of the Year and Canadian Green Utility Vehicle of the Year. The former are traditionally announced at the Canadian International Auto Show in February, and the latter at the Vancouver International Auto Show in March.

All the information gathered during the program is archived and available on the AJAC website to be used as a resource for shoppers.

TestFest 2017 took place Oct. 24 to 28 and featured over 30 of the latest models hitting showrooms. Here are three of our favourites.

2017 BMW M2

2017 BMW M2

Few examples turned heads or made as much sound as the first-ever BMW M2 sports coupe. One of three vying for Best New Premium Sports/Performance Car, the heir to the 1 M Coupe is a little six-cylinder fire breather generating 365 hp and 343 lb-ft of torque mated to six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

2017 genesis g90 side

2017 Genesis G90

Fresh off a split from Hyundai, the initial offering from the premium Genesis brand is the G90. Competing in Best New Full-Size Premium Car, the flagship entered is the one powered by a bi-turbo V6 engine pushing 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque available at a low 1,300 rpm (5.0-litre V8 is optional).

2017 Genesis G90 rear leg room

Sporting the redesigned winged Genesis emblem, the G90, starting at $84,000, is well proportioned with a long hood and short overhangs. Inside is where the sedan really impresses featuring loads of passenger room and generous use of real wood and Nappa leather.

2017 mazda cx-9

2017 Mazda CX-9

The Mazda CX-9 finally enters its second generation and gives buyers that don’t want a minivan but need seven seats more choice. The swoopy KODO styling treatment debuted on the Mazda3 looks equally fantastic on the bigger mid-size crossover, which at $47,100 is the least expensive compared to other class competitors in Best New Full-Size Utility Vehicle.

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights