2009 Automobile of the Year - Vile Gossip

Excuse me while I duck yet another phone call from a cable television news channel that wants me to predict exactly which day the evil Cerberus will be folding its tent and blowing town, leaving Chrysler in a smoldering heap. Or exactly who, what, when, where, how, and why General Motors will finally be going bankrupt. Well, let me dust off my honorary degree from Kirtland Community College, ponder those mysteries for about three seconds, and leave town via the back roads with the rest of the staff.

It's time for the annual Automobile Magazine Automobile of the Year drive, which feels a whole lot more productive at this point than wringing our hands live on national teevee. The far-flung staff and contributors of Automobile Magazine have been conducting this exercise for twenty years now, and although the venue and cast of characters changes each fall, it remains one of the best weeks we spend together.

This year's festival of fast roads took place, uh, somewhere. A place we haven't been before, in a state far, far away. Somewhere the police wouldn't be waiting for those two dozen shiny new cars and their speedy little out-of-town drivers. Or, the police wouldn't have been waiting if the manager of the hotel hadn't decided it would be a thoughtful and responsible gesture to call the local cops and have them do a little extra nighttime parking lot surveillance while we were there. Swell. And what do you suppose they thought we were doing with the blue Corvette ZR1 sandwiched between the red Dodge Challenger R/T and the silver Porsche 911 Carrera 4S that was parked alongside the sleek Jaguar XF? Car show, maybe?

Thankfully, our very organized and crafty road test editor, Marc Noordeloos, had devised a new test procedure. Rather than breaking the cars into two groups that would then chase each other in a long, fast, law-breaking caravan through the countryside, we had a choice of six routes that we used randomly over the course of a couple of days, traveling solo, returning to base to swap cars and make notes. Not only were we less of a visual menace to the locals, but there was a lot less of the competitive driving we tend to indulge in when two of us are on the same road. If you know what I mean.

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