November 2, 2012
Article by Mike Schlee, photos by Jonathan Yarkony
Yesterday, we presented an overview of seven of the eleven AJAC Canadian Car of the Year categories. Today, we will finish up with the final four—the fun categories. Below are the luxury, sports car, and prestige performance categories.
BEST NEW LUXURY CAR
This category featured a wide pricing and size disparity, very significant when the cheapest vehicle of the group, the Acura ILX, was listed below $30,000 and the priciest, the Lexus GS 350 AWD, at almost $60K. Although only modestly equipped, slowest, and offering the least amount of passenger space, the ILX was surprisingly agile on the handling course. It easily out-handled its slightly more expensive rival from Buick, the Verano, and offered a more upscale look and feel inside and out. However, the Verano was more luxuriously equipped for its price and swifter in a straight line despite a lazy six-speed automatic transmission. Both featured too many shortcomings to be serious competitors in this class even with a hefty price advantage.
Lexus had two entries in the Luxury field this year, the all-new ES 350 and the almost-as-new GS 350. The ES 350 was a great cruiser and very comfortable, but compared to the similarly priced GS 350, I couldn’t make a case for owning it other than a somewhat minor price and fuel efficiency advantage. The GS had great seats and was surprisingly agile for its size. The 3.5L V6, which sounds sedate in the ES 350, really comes to life in the GS thanks to some extra noise and extra urgency in the throttle response. The car is, however, expensive, large, not very efficient, and lacks some of the safety features found in the BMW and Cadillac, all of which were enough to keep it out of the top two places.
The real showdown in this class was between the BMW 328i xDrive and the Cadillac ATS 3.6. The 328i was a great vehicle that struck a pleasing balance between handling and comfort. Even with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine, the 328i was the fastest from 0-100 km/h thanks to its all-wheel-drive traction. The ATS, on the other hand, was the best handler and the 3.6L V6 not only sounded great in this car, but provided a faster 80–120 km/h acceleration time than its BMW rival. That, combined with a gorgeous exterior, comfortable ride, excellent brakes, and a full list of safety features was enough for it to take this class. Now, if someone could please fix the interior centre stack, it would be near perfect.