2004's Most Significant New European Car
Photography: Rob Hallstrom, Les Bidrawn
We've got this love-hate thing with
european car's annual Grand Prix award. Each year, for
the past 6 years, our test crew has loved getting out on
the road to sample some of the best new cars in the
world...but they hate the fact that we have to decide on
a winner. Like a lifeboat captain, though, Editor Brown
keeps telling them that there's no going back on this
We've considered how to alleviate
the pain of making a choice. Should our competition be
more objective, utilizing some sort of timing and
scoring scheme? Should our opinions be bolstered by
megabytes of data and hours of testing? Should a
computer program spit out a winner?
No. Here's how it goes at european
car: The cars are driven over the course of a week's
time, over all types of roads, and opinions are formed,
reflected by notes in each driver's judging manual.
Then, instead of getting numbers at the track--an unfair
playing field for passenger cars--we engage in hours of
open debate, referring to our notes and memories,
calling upon our years of experience to ferret out the
essential natures of the competitors. Then, it's very
simple: A decision is made and a winner named.
What do we argue about? Our
disputes tend to focus on handling, steering, brakes and
engine. And usually in that order. Cars standing still
provide their own fascination, but we prefer to judge
our vehicles on how well they get down the
road--preferably a windy one, of course, where the force
of gravity, our equilibrium's best playmate, exerts its
stimulating influence on body and mind.