October 27, 2009
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Today was a litttle less hectic than yesterday, despite the rain slowing everyone. Down lots of testing continued, I myself completed testing another 11 cars. I started off the day as planned, completing the $50k sports performance category,then I headed to the small cars under $21k category, and finished the day in family cars over $30k.
My first car of the day was the Camaro SS. It impressed me with its on-road smoothness and effortless engine, and it even did well on the track in the rain, but I am still not a fan of the interior, and I don’t think it will take this category because of it. Next was the Hyundai Genesis coupe, the other rear-wheel drive competitor in the class. The 3.8-litre V6 model was entered; this car was noticeably lighter-feeling the Camaro, and the chassis felt stiffer than I had expected as well. It was a real treat out on the road as it cruised quietly with a comfortable ride. Its on-track handling was also great but the intrusive ESP system was a disappointment.
Next I went for the front-wheel drive pair back-to-back: the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Mazdaspeed3. The GTI impressed everywhere and many said it was their favourite in the category. I loved it on the track until I grabbed my next car; after 20 mintutes on road with the Mazdaspeed3 I was sure the torque steer would be a huge detriment on the track, but it turned out to be barely noticeable, plus the chassis is so well-balanced. These are two front wheel drive cars that are not handicapped on the track at all.
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The two all-wheel drive cars were last. The Ford Taurus SHO — which really did not fit well in the category — and the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart. The Taurus is heavy and you feel it. It does make a great car about town and on the highway, yes, but a sports/performance car it is not. The Lancer Ralliart is a great car and it certainly can be wild with its trick differentials, but on the road it is too harsh and boy-racer-ish. Tough call for this category; I think the Hyundai may get it but it will be close between the GTI and Mazda as well.
Part of our duty is to also vote on overall Car of the Year, and to do so, we need to drive every category winner by week’s end. To help myself along, rather than guess at the winners, I started driving all vehicles in categories to save time over Thursday and Friday. I completed the small cars under $21k category; first up was the Hyundai Elantra Touring, which I thought was refined and surprisingly sporty, and good value for its price of just under $21k.
Then I jumped into the Kia Forte Koup. I just test drove this car so I was familiar with it, but the rules state that we need to drive them here, so I did. Even in automatic form, I cannot get used to the Koup’s touchy throttle, and I spun the tires leaving stop lights and out of the parking lot. On the road it was fine and on the track about the same as the Elantra. Next, I stepped into the Mazda3. I turned out of the parking lot and for me the decision was made: I had to reconfirm I was driving a vehicle worth less than $21,000, and I was. The Mazda3 was spectacular on road and on the track and the interior quality is far superior.
Last, but not least, were Family cars over $30,000. I spent time in the Buick Lacrosse, the Ford Taurus and the Ford Fusion Hybrid; all are equally great family cars, but I need a winner. Value-wise, the Buick looks like the clear winner, although the Fusion’s hybrid powertrain is a bonus and its fuel consumption is remarkable. We will find out Friday who won what!