The annual Canadian Car of the Year program (CCOTY) is a unique opportunity provided by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) for members to test the year’s latest and greatest cars, SUVs, CUVs and trucks back-to-back on road and track to determine the year’s Canadian car and utility vehicle of the year. The featured track is the driver development track at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (née Mosport), the former the roads in and around the Caledon area where the track’s located. There’s even an advanced off-road course to really put the CUVs and SUVs to the test. While we test cars year ‘round, aside from the odd comparison choice rare is the chance to test them shoulder to shoulder as we do here.
Vehicles are broken down in to categories and Wheels.ca had a number journalists on-hand to put everything to the test. What follows are our picks for the best Large car:
4th: Buick Regal Sportback
I wanted to like the Regal more, I really did; after all, it’s an intriguing take on your average mid-to-full size sedan, what with its nicely accessible hatch and all. The hatch makes not only for easier loading, but some cool Audi A7-esque fastback looks, too. All good stuff, and areas where the Regal did well in our rankings. It also has a nice, comfortable ride that does justice to the Buick name. Where it starts to fall off is its cramped back seat, over-use of hard plastics inside (compared to the rest of this company, anyway), plain interior detailing (the gauges are especially boring) and a somewhat lethargic powertrain.
3rd: Toyota Avalon
I was actually quite surprised to find how low this finished, less so when I realized that it fell out of the top two by just a fraction of a point. The latest Avalon looks the business – Toyota continues to impress with its styling, from its little Corolla hatch all the way up to its Highlander SUV – and has superbly roomy interior digs that are actually a little more Lexus than Toyota in appearance. And—huzzah!—it’s the first Toyota to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Compatibility. All good stuff. It gets let down by something I never thought it would, however: its ride. All those cushy seats and that nice leather inside suggests a supremely comfortable ride and while it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, I found it unexpectedly crashy over harsher bumps. The V6’s engine note also gets a little harsh as you climb the rev range, and it has the priciest cost of entry, too.
As was the case with the MX-5 in our Sports/Performance roundup, the 6 shouldn’t feel too bad as it missed top spot by about a tenth of a point. The latest version of Mazda’s mid-size is handsome (especially in the Soul Red Crystal ‘do seen here), has a very clever cylinder deactivation system – a first for a four-cylinder – and precise steering and handling with minimal body roll. Further, because Mazda has no luxury arm, its higher trims have to hopefully steal sales from the other guy’s luxury arm and the 6 is no different, with watertight panel gaps, high-quality materials throughout and great seats.
1st: Kia Stinger GT
The other reason the Mazda6 finished where it did is simply that the Stinger drives so darn well. It’s properly powerful, too, its 3.3 L twin-turbo V6 launching it forward with gumption on the wings of 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, fed to all four wheels through a slick 8-speed auto transmission. Then, when it comes time to settle things down, you’ve got Brembo brakes at all four corners. Handling duties are managed by dynamic dampers and torque-vectoring to provide the stability of AWD and responsiveness of RWD. Inside, fancy stuff like wine-red leather, Audi-esque electronic shift lever and flat-bottomed leather-wrapped wheel are all great adds. Little details such as Mercedes-like circular vents and aluminum pedals round-out the package inside. It looks serious outside, too, all chunky body panels, flash wheels and glowing headlights. The only reason it didn’t finish higher is the price, where only the Avalon eclipses it when it comes to its as-tested cost.