WCOTY 2011: Guest judge Eric Bana

“Let’s invite someone famous to COTY,” we thought. “Someone who loves cars and is handy with the wheel. Funny bastard, ideally.” Sadly Jay Leno wasn’t available, so we let Eric Bana tag along. Here’s what he thought of the final six…

Audi A6:

“I have to admit I’m a fan of Audi, even though I’ve never owned one. The A6 supercharged 3.0-litre impressed me with its shove. I could get used to that, and spot-on for an executive sedan. The brake pedal is underdone, though – the soft pedal makes me conscious of the weight of the car. I also don’t find the front end all that inspiring, and I thought the chassis would drive tauter.”

Ford Focus:

“The Focus hits well above its price category. The GDi [engine] is absolutely fantastic, and just a few horsepower short of being a really great car. Actually, it’s the perfect car for a young person. Not too much power in a fantastic chassis that has great turn-in and nice change of direction, yet as stable as you could want. The cabin is beautifully quiet and has loads of interior space. The one area the Focus fails for me is the console, the buttons in particular. Looks cheap.”

VW Scirocco R:

“I love this car. As soon as I finished the road loop I wanted to go again. One of the best engines I’ve ever driven. The feel, the sound, the responsiveness. It reminds me of the Lancer Evo in that regard. I could do the Bathurst 12 Hour in this tomorrow. The chassis feels really taut, well-balanced, inspiring. Except… the seat is too flat, and lacks support under my thighs which I noticed during braking. But still; I reckon this car is almost as exciting as my daily driver 911 Cabriolet, and a performance bargain.”

Skoda Yeti:

“I fail to see the appeal of the Skoda Yeti. It’s an SUV that looks like a delivery van. I get that it’s very good value, and hard to fault for practicality and performance, though for me the economy model is underpowered. I don’t understand this car, which I think is an indicator of how challenging the COTY judging process can be. I really have to guard against personal taste tainting objectivity.”

Range Rover Evoque:

“The Range Rover Evoque won me from the moment I laid eyes on it. Land Rover really nailed the styling; it’s so similar to the concept. I’d have to say the Evoque surprised me the most of the cars I drove. So much better than what I expected. The turbo-diesel engine is responsive and eager, and quiet. I was genuinely surprised by how the chassis handled twisty roads. So nimble for an SUV – nimble by any standard. The Evoque’s capable nature really hides its speed, too. Gets along quicker than it feels.”

Honda CR-Z:

“I was trying to remind myself it was a hybrid and judge it accordingly. On the other hand, I was trying to forget it was a hybrid and see what I thought. I wasn’t that impressed to begin with, then it came into its own as the speed crept up. I like that initial thrust down low, makes the CR-Z feel lively, even though it’s not a screamer. Damping feels a bit sharp, but that also makes the car feel alive. Great driving position, good instrument layout; it feels special. Visibility is an issue, though, especially rearward. One of my first jobs was driving around in a little Honda CR-X back in the early days, and it reminded me of that with its go-kart feel through the front end. I like that feeling, and could really exploit the CR-Z when we got onto the twisty stuff. I just hope every customer test-drive includes enough twisty roads to let the CR-Z shine.”

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