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The All-Stars Align

All the cars are stars

When we sit down to decide which vehicles we will invite to compete for our annual All-Stars awards, we have one goal: Bring only the best. We chose 23 vehicles to attend our 2017 edition, representing a broad spectrum of the market — everything from the extraordinary $276,040 Bentley Bentayga to Honda's frisky $22,135 Civic Hatchback. No price caps, no defined niches, just the models we think are among the most representative of our ethos, the No Boring Cars brigade with All-Stars potential. Just being invited to the event means they are special.

As regular readers know, we've also adjusted our eligibility guidelines to keep the field to vehicles on sale in the previous calendar year. So the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Lexus LC 500, and Alfa Romeo Giulia — cars you have already seen on these pages — just missed the cut. Next year.

One of the key factors we take into account when choosing contenders is what a vehicle means in the context of the overall automotive landscape. Take the Toyota Prius Prime, for example. Although we can probably all agree the Prius isn't exactly exciting to drive, it has come to define hybrid vehicles. It changed how people look at electrified cars and established Toyota as a pre-eminent player in the space. We wanted to understand if the Prime, Toyota's latest plug-in hybrid version of the Prius, moved the car into another stratosphere. If that was the case, then it would warrant consideration as an All-Star. Not every vehicle we invite has to rocket from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds or be capable of crushing a race circuit to be in the running.

Given that many of the competitors aren't track rats, we wanted to ensure our program allowed for even more on-road evaluation than before. Our location this year? Fabulous Las Vegas! With Sin City as our base of operations, our first port of call was Mount Charleston west of the Strip. We staged at the Resort at Mount Charleston, a cool little hotel near the ski slopes. From there, we drove each competitor on a glorious, curvaceous stretch of Nevada's Highway 158 that crests at more than 8,400 feet. It was a stern test that allowed for in-depth examinations of steering and suspension feel, as well as power under hard acceleration going up and braking going down. And, of course, we also evaluated each vehicle's interior setup, tech and safety features, and more.

After two days on the mountain, action shifted to the track, specifically Speedvegas, a slick new facility just a few miles south of the heart of the Vegas Strip. (Unfortunately, after our visit, Speedvegas experienced a crash that claimed two lives. An investigation into the incident is ongoing. ) On the 1.5-mile circuit, we got the measure of performance-oriented machines such as the Aston Martin DB11, Nissan GT-R Nismo, Ford Focus RS, and others.

Once we had our fill of the go-fast set, it was time to cast the ballots. I'm particularly proud of the team we assembled this year: 19 voters representing a wide swath of experience and ages. From our esteemed automotive design editor Robert Cumberford, who has attended just about every All-Stars event in Automobile's 31-year history, to championship-winning race driver Andy Pilgrim to newly hired editor Ed Tahaney, the opinions varied widely, and all were extremely passionate.

With the final votes tallied, the six winners, shot at the unbelievably scenic moonscape of Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park northeast of Vegas, were the clear-cut top vote getters, with the NSX garnering the most. It came as no surprise. As I outlined in my March column, the NSX is one of the most accessible supercars of this era and allows even the most inexperienced drivers to comfortably push their limits. What did come as a bit of a shock (sorry) is the Chevy Bolt EV. It doesn't look like much at first glance, but it blew away most editors with its range and overall capability. The close-but-no-cigar crew included two excellent sedans, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Genesis G90, and the hyper luxurious Bentayga. Each contender received at least one winning vote, which speaks to the quality of vehicles on hand and to the diversity of editor opinions.

We know how fortunate we are to be able to spend the better part of a week ripping around in some of the world's best cars, and though we have a little fun along the way, we never take lightly the importance of seriously and fairly assessing all of them. We hope you enjoy it, and, as always, let us know your thoughts at letters@automobilemag.com.