The Mini Cooper S (left) and Audi R8 won their respective categories in AJAC Testfest voting
The Mini Cooper S (left) and Audi R8 won their respective categories in AJAC Testfest voting. Click image to enlarge

By Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
The cars of Testfest 2008

In February 2008, the overall Canadian Car of the Year and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year will be announced at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. These are the glamour awards of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) annual awards program, and the culmination of a long and thorough process used by AJAC to whittle the finalists down to two vehicles.

But it’s those finalists – the winners of the twelve vehicle categories already announced on December 4, 2007 – that arguably have the most relevance for Canadian consumers. Why? Because the twelve finalists represent the broad range of vehicle types and prices that are new to the market for 2008.

Look at it this way: maybe the overall Canadian Car of the Year turns out to be a sports car. Not everybody wants a sports car, so the award, while interesting, is no help if you’re looking for an inexpensive compact sedan.

This is where the Canadian Car of the Year category winners come in: these prestigious awards are the meat-and-potatoes of the whole AJAC awards program. They are based on a division of all the vehicles new to the market into categories consistent with buying preferences of Canadian consumers. Each vehicle tested against its competitors using a range of objective and subjective parameters, and while the results may sometimes be close, the winners are certainly vehicles should be high on the list when considering a purchase. Similarly, the runners-up in each category would strongly merit a purchaser’s consideration, according to the AJAC journalists.

There was one other award given on December 4th which wasn’t based on the same rigorous procedures for selection. It was the “Most Coveted” award, given to a vehicle that AJAC journalists would most like to take home: a dream car, if you will, based purely on subjective appeal. The Most Coveted award isn’t given every year because two-thirds of the journalists have to vote, and over half of them have to vote for the same vehicle. It takes a special car to satisfy those conditions, and this year, the Audi R8 fit the bill as Most Coveted by the AJAC journalists.

Here are the category winners and runners-up for the 2008 Canadian Car of the Year awards, as selected by voting members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. It’s from these category winners that the overall Car of the Year and Utility Vehicle of the Year will be selected in February, 2008.

Small car

2008 Saturn Astra
2008 Saturn Astra. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Saturn Astra
Base price: $17,900
Price as tested: $18,049

Engine: 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder
Horsepower: 140
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Standard equipment includes: ABS brakes, 16-inch wheels, six airbags, remote keyless entry.

Runners-up:
Suzuki SX-4 Sedan
Subaru Impreza Sedan

Family Car (under $30k)

2008 Honda Accord EX
2008 Honda Accord EX. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Honda Accord EX Sedan
Base price: $27,490
Price as tested: $28,690
Engine: 2.4-litre inline-four cylinder
Horsepower: 190
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Standard equipment includes: ABS brakes, 17-inch wheels, six airbags, remote keyless entry, vehicle stability assist, air conditioning, six-disc CD changer, power group.

Runners-up:

Chevrolet Malibu
Subaru Impreza Wagon

Minivan

2008 Hyundai Entourage
2008 Hyundai Entourage. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Hyundai Entourage
Base price: $30,995
Price as tested: $37,495
Engine: 3.8-litre V6

Horsepower: 250
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Standard equipment includes: ABS brakes, 17-inch wheels, six airbags, remote keyless entry, vehicle stability assist, air conditioning, power group. Option package includes alloy wheels, foglights, leather interior, automatic climate control, power sliding doors and rear liftgate, heated seats, DVD entertainment, rear park assist.

Runners-up:
Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan

Convertible

2008 BMW 335i Cabriolet
2008 BMW 335i Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

Winner: BMW 335i Cabriolet
Base price: $66,300
Price as tested: $69,900
Engine: 3.0-litre twin turbo inline-six cylinder
Horsepower: 300
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Standard equipment includes: Convertible hardtop, ABS brakes, 18-inch wheels, six airbags, remote keyless entry, vehicle stability assist, air conditioning, power group. Option package includes special 18-inch alloy wheels, sport seats, sport suspension.

Runners-up:
Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Volvo C70

Luxury

2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Mercedes-Benz C Class
Base price: $47,900
Price as tested: $54,000
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Horsepower: 268

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Standard equipment includes: Leather upholstery, power seats, multiple airbags, stability control, ABS, premium Harman-Kardon audio, heated seats, rain sensing wipers. Optional equipment includes Premium Package with navigation, panorama sunroof, rear window sunshade, special 18-inch wheels.

Runners-up:
Cadillac CTS
Volvo S80

Prestige

2008 Audi R8
2008 Audi R8. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Audi R8

Base price: $139,000
Price as tested: $150,100
Engine: 4.2-litre V8
Horsepower: 420
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Standard equipment includes: quattro all-wheel drive, 19-inch wheels, electronic stabilization program, LED daytime running lights, heated sport seats, Alcantara/leather interior, premium audio. Options include: Navigation, Premium Package, Leather Package, pearlescent paint.

Runners-up:
Lexus LS600hl
Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG

Pick-Up

2008 Chevrolet Silverado
2008 Chevrolet Silverado. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Chevrolet Silverado
Base price: $37,935
Price as tested: $44,240
Engine: 5.3-litre V6
Horsepower: 315
Transmission: Four-speed automatic

Standard equipment includes: All-wheel drive, StabiliTrak vehicle stability program with roll avoidance, 17-inch chrome alloy wheels, ABS, six-passenger seating, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry. Optional equipment includes: power driver’s seat, locking rear differential, 18-inch aluminum wheels, Safety Package, Convenience Package, Off-road Suspension Package, Cargo management system.

Runners-up:
GMC Sierra
Toyota Tundra

Sports / Performance (over $50,000)

2008 Audi S5
2008 Audi S5. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Audi S5
Base price: $65,900

Price as tested: $69,400
Engine: 4.2-litre V8
Horsepower: 354
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Standard equipment includes: quattro all-wheel drive, leather interior, electronic stabilization program, ABS, rain sensing wipers, bi-xenon lights, power seats, power group, Bang & Olufsen audio. Optional equipment includes: Audi Navigation Plus.

Runners-up:
Audi TT Coupe
Infiniti G37 Coupe

Sports / Performance (under $50,000)

2008 Mini Cooper S
2008 Mini Cooper S. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Mini Cooper S
Base price: $30,600
Price as tested: $35,050
Engine: 1.6-litre inline-four cylinder
Horsepower: 172
Transmission: Six-speed manual

Standard equipment includes: Dynamic Stability Control, 17-inch wheels, bi-xenon lights, multiple airbags, ABS. Optional equipment includes: Premium Package, Sport Package, Chrome Package, Limited slip differential, aluminum trim.

Runners-up:
Honda Accord EX-L V6 6MT Coupe
Subaru WRX

SUV / CUV (over $60,000)

2008 Buick Enclave
2008 Buick Enclave. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Buick Enclave

Base price: $51,295
Price as tested: $60,425
Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Horsepower: 275
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Standard equipment includes: All-wheel drive, StabiliTrak Vehicle Stability Control, 19-inch aluminum wheels, heated windshield washer system, rear park assist, XM satellite radio, multiple airbags. Optional equipment includes: Two-panel sunroof, Navigation system, Bose audio system, steerable headlights, trailering package, 19-inch chrome wheels, premium paint.

Runners-up:
BMW X5
Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

SUV / CUV ($35,000-$60,000)

2008 Saturn Vue
2008 Saturn Vue. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Saturn Vue
Base price: $33,920
Price as tested: $36,085
Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Horsepower: 252

Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Standard equipment includes: All-wheel drive, StabiliTrak Vehicle Stability Control, 17-inch aluminum wheels, ABS, XM satellite radio. Optional equipment includes: Premium Package, heated front seats, trailer hitch receiver and harness, tap shift control.

Runners-up:
Infiniti EX
Mazda CX-9

SUV / CUV (under $35,000)

2008 Nissan Rogue
2008 Nissan Rogue. Click image to enlarge

Winner: Nissan Rogue
Base price: $29,598
Price as tested: $34,898
Engine: 2.5-litre inline four cylinders
Horsepower: 170
Transmission: Continuously Variable (CVT)
Standard equipment includes: All-wheel drive, stability control, 16-inch wheels, heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, multiple airbags. Optional equipment includes: Heated seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, moonroof, leather upholstery, XM satellite radio, Bose audio, paddle shifters.

Runners-up:

Mitsubishi Outlander
Saturn Vue Green Line

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