Editor’s letter

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, EIGHT JUDGES WILL HAVE CAST THEIR VOTE FOR THE 53RD WHEELS CAR OF THE YEAR. AS I WRITE THIS, MY 10TH YEAR OF COTY TESTING IS STILL A WEEK AWAY, AND I HAVEN’T A CLUE HOW IT WILL GO.

GLENN BUTLER

Okay, that’s not true. I’ve been salivating about COTY for months now, and I can’t wait to begin the best week on the Wheels calendar. Seven huge days living with, and driving, this year’s most interesting new vehicles. A whole week with seven other enthusiastic and opinionated judges and a top-notch, car-mad support crew of eight photographers, videographers and car wranglers.

This year’s COTY will be the biggest ever, in every measurable way… including the bill.

Yes, I have expectations. But I’m not going to share them. COTY has taught me the folly of predicting the winner ahead of judging week.

But that hasn’t stopped me trying. Every year, the night before testing begins, I stick my prediction on the fridge at home. And every year that car

We’ve given COTY a lick of paint this year. Nothing drastic, just a few judicious tweaks

has progressed to Round Two, at least. As far as picking the winner goes, though, I’ve got a better strike rate with the Melbourne Cup.

I reckon it’s because right before COTY begins my mind is in ‘comparo’ mode. All year we rate vehicles against their competitor set. COTY makes use of that knowledge, but with a big difference. As you know, COTY compares cars primarily to five criteria: Function, Value, Safety, Efficiency and Technology.

We’ve given COTY – the longest continuous automotive award in the world – a lick of paint this year. Nothing drastic – if COTY were a car, this year’s update would not be new enough for inclusion in COTY! – just a few judicious tweaks to ensure it remains sharp in a rapidly evolving automotive world.

First and foremost, we’re opening it up. Instead of restricting participation to the few, we’re giving more of the class of 2015 a chance to impress the judges. COTY is about finding the one vehicle that most evolves the automotive landscape, but it has a significant secondary role recognising the cars of the year. It’s also our de facto Road Test Annual.

We’re also dropping the minimum sales volume requirement, which was originally implemented to keep high-priced luxury machines and supercars out. Not anymore. COTY recognises that cars like the Mercedes S-Class coupe and BMW i8 – both now eligible – are often vanguards for automotive advances. If they’re worthy, we’ll include them.

Third, we’re cranking up our coverage. COTY contenders are, by the fact of their inclusion, the cars of the year, and we’re excited by their potential. Being considered for COTY is an achievement, and I’m not sure we’ve recognised that sufficiently in the past. We’ve therefore added 32 pages to the February 2016 issue to make sure every COTY contender gets its moment in the sun. We’re also giving the build-up to COTY more attention, starting this month (see page 16).

The goal, apart from great content, is to make our COTY coverage as complete as possible. And to take you deeper into every moment.

Also, we’re skipping a year. Well, sort of. This year’s winner will be the 2016 Wheels Car of the Year – not 2015 – recognising its year of reign instead of the year in which it arrived in Oz.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the thoroughness of our judging process. As Robbo often said, it’s the COTY process that delivers the winner. I reckon this is why some outsiders have a hard time with our choice. And why my fridge is often wrong.

COTY panel: 37 percent new!

CONGRATULATIONS to Alex Inwood, Damion Smy and Toby Hagon on earning their COTY judging wigs this year.

Staffers Damo and Alex (above, being groomed by Ponch, Robbo and Byron) live, breathe and sleep Wheels all year round, and are two-thirds of the magazine’s full-time cartesting staff.

Toby’s inclusion, too, is a no-brainer. He’s been reporting on the Australian new-car landscape for two decades, is a regular contributor to Wheels, and is also a fi ne driver with two Bathurst enduros under his belt. Welcome blokes, and get your COTY arguments ready; it’s going to be a cracking year.