Fall can be a fickle time in Michigan, especially on the western side of the state, home of GingerMan Raceway, the high-speed facility we use for testing our Automobile of the Year candidates. This year, though, we were welcomed by glorious, peaking fall color brought on by an early cold snap that sent the maple leaves and acres of blueberry bushes into red, yellow, and orange overdrive.
The beauty of being in a remote location where no one could find us meant, unfortunately, that we couldn’t find the world much of the time, either. Our full team of web editors took over the hotel conference room every morning, battling spotty Internet service to deliver our usual daily flow of Rumors at automobilemag.com. The good news? Our Facebook page, the Twitterverse, and our Instagram photo album were jam-packed with our posts. (We take your “Likes” to heart, by the way.) Automobilemag.com‘s social-media sage, Ben Timmins, handed out a two-page, single-spaced, typewritten guide to being, well, social. A regular Miss Manners he was, with hashtag lists and tips for us on how to be your (constant) BFF.
The AoY exercise followed that of years past. We brought twenty-seven of the hottest new releases for 2013 — culled from an amazing sixty eligible candidates — to our GingerMan headquarters. We mapped out the best local two-lanes, many of which were quite deserted, as test routes. No tickets, no accidents, and only a few scalloped tires ensued from the usual overabundance of testosterone. (Yes, I have testosterone. No, I don’t have a moustache.)
We were joined by several contributors, including design editor Robert Cumberford (who spent Day One with food poisoning), columnist Ezra Dyer (see his Tesla Model S versus BMW M5 video at automobilemag.com), hot-foot Preston Lerner, and, for the first time ever, adventure writer and contributor Jason Harper (who enjoyed a few full nights of sleep away from the new baby back home).
Before we left, we made some important decisions. The first: that we would move the announcement of our annual All-Stars award winners to a summer issue, when we have had a chance to spend time with more new cars and distance ourselves from the hoopla of selecting the Automobile of the Year.
Then we chose our Design of the Year, a unanimous decision. The surprise here is that no Porsche has ever won Design of the Year. We also brought back Racing Car of the Year after an eight-year dry spell just to honor the audacity, the brilliance, and the bravery of the Nissan DeltaWing. And, as funny a choice as “Cameras” seems for Technology of the Year, there are still a vast number of people out there who have yet to experience a simple backup camera — technology we’ve come to take for granted — let alone a camera that can lay on the brakes because it sees things you can’t. Thank God.
We do have an honorable mention for Technology of the Year. It is also one word: Knobs. Please give us back some knobs to tune the radio and to sort out the temperature and fan speed without trying to find the online owners’ manual buried within the greasy touchscreen.
The Man of the Year was a slam dunk for Sergio Marchionne, after several years of overruled nominations. Well, guess what? He’s still in business, still stirring up trouble, still speaking his mind, still working like a dog, and still skipping the media hoopla as a rule.
Automobile of the Year is always the final night’s big tussle. But not this year. Although not a unanimous decision — a few stalwart believers raised a vote for the charming Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S — the Tesla Model S arrived and sucked the air out of our collective lungs. There was virtually nothing this car didn’t do in astonishing fashion. It shot down the road like a jet plane on takeoff. It sailed over the lumpiest farm roads with nary a hint in the cabin of the brutality the suspension was enduring. And it took to the racetrack like a slot car of the gods. “Actually, this was a bottle of water,” said Harper, holding up a wine bottle at dinner. “But it rode in the Tesla and now it’s a bottle of wine.”
Pretty much sums it up.