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Best vehicles for 2011 revealed by AJAC

After testing dozens upon dozens of comparable vehicles back-to-back and amassing more than 40,000 points of data, members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada determine the best all-new cars and light trucks available in Canada this year.

By Bill Roebuck

2011 Chevrolet CruzeThe Chevrolet Cruze was named the 2011 Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) during the opening of the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto on Feb. 17, 2011. Also announced were the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year, the Best New Design, and the Best New Technology for 2011.

Commenting on receiving the award, Kevin Williams, GM of Canada's president and managing director, said "We are very proud to receive AJAC's 2011 Canadian Car of the Year honours for the all-new Chevrolet Cruze, which reflects a major refocusing of investment on smaller vehicles and fuel efficient technologies. The Cruze represents our line in the sand: We're playing to win -- and delivering the goods -- in the small car business."

General Motors won three out of the 11 'Best New' categories that were announced by AJAC in October 2010. All Best New category winners were eligible to compete for the overall crown of either the Canadian Car of the Year or the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. The Chevrolet Cruze was also the category winner in the Best New Small Car over $21,000 class. The other finalists in the top three list were the Ford Fiesta (Best New Small Car Under $21,000) and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel (Best New Family Car).

2011 Ford EdgeAt the same event, the Ford Edge was named the 2011 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. The Ford Edge was also the category winner in the Best SUV/CUV in the $35,000 to $50,000 price range. The two other finalists in the top three were the Hyundai Tucson (Best New SUV/CUV Under $35,000) and the Volkswagen Tourag (Best New SUV/CUV Over $50,000).

"We are pleased to receive the 2011 Canadian Utility of the Year award from AJAC," said David Mondragon, president and CEO, Ford of Canada. "The Canadian-built 2011 Ford Edge features industry-leading technologies that create a whole new in-vehicle experience."

Ford of Canada won two out of 11 Best New categories October. 2010.

Another award presented to manufacturers by AJAC was for Best New Technology, and the winner for 2011 is the Ford Inflatable Seatbelt, available on the 2011 Ford Explorer. This category also had two other finalists in the top three, Hyundai's Lithium-Polymer Battery and Toyota's Bongiovi Acoustics Digital Power Station. There were a total of 11 technology entries in all.

Ford Inflatable SeatbeltFinally, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG won AJAC's the Best New Design award for 2011. It was chosen from among the top three finalists for 2011; the other contenders included Audi R8 Spyder and the Jaguar XJ Supercharged.

"Innovative, avant-garde design has shaped the image of the Mercedes-Benz brand for over 125 years, and we are thrilled that the members of AJAC have recognized the fascinating and unmistakable silhouette of one of our latest masterpieces with this award," said Marcus Breitschwerdt, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Canada. "With its stunning lines, trademark gullwing doors and hallmark wide radiator grille that prominently features the Mercedes-Benz star, the SLS AMG is instantly recognizable as a Mercedes-Benz. A contemporary interpretation of a legendary classic, the SLS AMG is reminiscent of the widely celebrated 300 SL, while also providing a glimpse of the future direction of Mercedes-Benz design."

The top three finalists for the 2011 Best New Design award were the Audi R8 Spyder, the Jaguar XJ Supercharged, and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

"The intent of the AJAC Best New Design award is to identify and reward the vehicle that exhibits the best balance of form and function", said Richard Russell, chair of AJAC's 2011 Canadian Car of the Year awards. Accordingly, the AJAC journalists selected the winner based on a combination of aesthetics, function, and brand essence. The aesthetics component reflects the sheer beauty of the design. The function component assesses the manner and degree to which it accommodates the practical requirements of the vehicle type. And brand essence considers its success in conveying the image, heritage, and values of the specific brand.

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGOverall category winners from the 2011 competition are listed in the table below.

"We are extremely proud of the Canadian Car of the Year program," said Russell. "We have gained a great deal of experience and made continual adjustments to the program through the past 26 Canadian consumers with the most accurate, unbiased and useful information possible to assist them in making purchase decisions. This is possible because of the participation of more than 70 experienced automotive reviewers (including CarTest.ca's editors and contributors), thorough evaluation procedures and the impartiality assured by secret ballots submitted to and tabulated by the international accounting firm of KPMG.

"Unlike other awards, this is not a popularity contest based on the opinions of a few people. Our winners are determined on a combination of measured facts and subjective evaluations of more than 20 parameters by the journalists -- more than 40,000 pieces of data in all. Most importantly, they are based on actual testing of the vehicles back-to-back, on the same roads and in the same conditions on the same day."

The vote results that determined the winners are available to consumers as a resource buying guide on the AJAC website. Also available are the comparative test data derived from the journalists' extensive four-day evaluation of 48 all-new models (144 vehicles in all) in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario in October. This annual event is known in the industry as TestFest. Shell Canada is the official fuel supplier of the event.

The rigorous evaluation program includes real-world driving on public roads. A variety of routes are chosen to reflect the normal use for each class of vehicle so that the test and vote results are relevant to potential car and truck buyers.

All the detailed data for the 2011 model evaluations can be found on the AJAC website at www.ajac.ca. For those looking to buy a 2010, 2009, or even a 2008 vehicle, AJAC archives the comparative test data from previous years on its site too.

Canadian Car of the Year Categories
2011 Winners
Canadian Car of the Year
Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year
Best New Design
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Best New Small Car (under $21,000)
Best New Small Car (over $21,000)
Best New Family Car (under $30,000)
Best New Family Car (over $30,000)
Best New Luxury Car (over $50,000)
Best New Prestige Car (over $75,000)
Porsche 911 Turbo S
Best New Sports / Performance Car
Cadillac CTS-V Coupe
Best New Minivan
Best New SUV / CUV (under $35,000)
Hyundai Tucson
Best New SUV / CUV ($35,000 - $50,000)
Best New SUV / CUV (over $50,000)
Best New Technology
Ford's Rear Inflatable Seat Belts


























For comparison, the list of 2010 winners can be found at this link: http://www.cartest.ca/2010_canadian_car_of_the_yea2bd.htm.

Posted February 28, 2011. © CarTest! Bill Roebuck is the editor-in-chief of CarTest! and a voting member of AJAC.

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