2018 marks a year of change for AJAC’s annual TestFest

Written by Lee Bailie on .

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BOWMANVILLE, Ont. – Time to grab my clipboard and pen, throw on a lanyard and jump into as many vehicles as humanly possible over two days to determine which one is best.

What am I talking about?

Why TestFest, of course, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s (AJAC) annual testing program that is used to determine the Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year.

Now before I dive in here, I should mention that I have been an AJAC member since 2012 and have participated in TestFest every year since. I am also a voting member for the Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) program, with this year marking the third consecutive that I’ve entered ballots.

This year, the program was altered a bit to encourage more manufacturers to submit entries for consideration and it seems to have worked. Total entries this year tallied 56 (there were just 34 last year), and manufacturers that didn’t send cars last year, including Nissan-Infiniti and Jaguar Land Rover, entered cars this time around.

It is also worth noting, however, that some manufacturers who have participated in the past (including BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz) did not send cars to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) north of Bowmanville, Ontario, the site for TestFest for the third year running. Some wanted to maintain observer status this year, while others didn’t have cars available due to later production dates.

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Aside from a greater number of entries, another difference is this year’s event did not feature the same-day, back-to-back category testing that the Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) program has used since its inception.

In its place, the AJAC board elected to make the testing program a year-round affair, where members would be available to vote on all vehicles they've driven / reviewed.

As regular visitors know, I publish a lot of reviews for Ignition, both here and in print, so this is a change I welcome – and if it helps encourage more manufacturers to participate in the CCOTY, so much the better.

With this reality in mind, not only for myself but for many other AJAC members, TestFest has been recalibrated to provide an opportunity to test and vote on vehicles that may not have been driven previously. It also enables members to re-familiarize themselves with models they may not have driven recently.

As for yours truly, with the program's test days being reduced from four to two, combined with the fact that I had already driven most of the cars in my assigned categories (small premium car, large premium utility and premium sports & performance), I didn’t test as many vehicles as some of my colleagues did during TestFest – my total rose to just 15. But this isn’t an issue as I’ve driven many more vehicles throughout the year and will be voting on them.

The category winners will be announced in December, and the 2018 Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year will both be revealed at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto next February. For more information on the program, go to ajac.ca.

And with that, I must off – many ballots await my attention.

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Photography by Jordan Lenssen for AJAC

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