The Car of The Year-Philippines (COTY-P) Awards Group ate itsef up in automobile avarice recently with its second executive car, luxury car and ultraluxury car testfest. Held at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club in Antipolo, Rizal on February 11-12, 2006, the testfest featured seven vehicles introduced as 2005 models, with pricetags worth five or six times a COTY-P member's normal salary - the Hyundai Sonata 3.3L V6, the Honda Accord 3.0L V6 (the 2005 Car of The Year), the Volvo V50 station wagon, the Mercedes Benz C 180 Kompressor Sport and S 350 (long wheelbase) and the Audi A4 2.0L and Audi A6 2.4L.

As with the previous COTY-P testfest weekends (held on the last three weekends of January 2006), the second COTY-P luxury car testfest featured two phases: an instrumented test and a qualitiative test. In the instrumented test, all seven entries were subjected to a 0-60 kph acceleration test, followed by a test of 60kph to zero braking ability, with each vehicle's performance recorded on a current model GTech meter and tabulated in a computer.

The second phase was a qualitative test where journalists drove each vehicle - to gauge matters such as ergonomics, ride, handling, ventilation, safety, audio system performance and visibility - in a predetermined route around Forest Hills. "The route where we tested the vehicles in Forest Hills is no different from the route that we used for the past three testfest weekends. Our very technical course tests an engine's torque going a steep 35-degree incline. It reveals poorly sorted suspensions thanks to off-camber turns, downhill esses, and even a wicked dip that can lift a driver off his or her seat at only 50 kph. A series of fast and slow corners can test a gearbox's responsiveness, be it a manual or an automatic. Several cul-de-sacs can test a car or truck's turning radius and braking tests can likewise be done on the short straightaways within the course. In other words, virtually every aspect of car performance can be evaluated here, save for sustained high-speed driving. This course, though small, is definitely not boring, even if you're not driving flat out," said COTY-P president Manny de los Reyes.

Following a price-based classification scheme, the Hyundai Sonata, the Honda Accord 3.0L V6 and the Volvo V50 station wagon were classified as Executive Cars (Php 1M to Php 2.499M). The Audi A4 and the Mercedes Benz C 180 Kompressor Sport were grouped as Luxury Cars (Php 2.5M to Php 3.999M). Only two cars came to play in the Ultraluxury Car (Php 4M and up) category the PAudi A6 2.4L and the Mercedes Benz S 350 (long wheelbase).

All seven vehicles were rated and tested by COTY-P members and fellow motoring journalists from different broadsheets, magazines, TV shows and websites. "COTY-P testing is for all of us and not just for any one publication or radio/TV program. It would really be nice to look our counterparts from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. in the eye and say that we are part of the Philippine Car of the Year. Our system here is still a far cry from those of the European, North American and Japanese COTYs but they have had decades more experience. But we have to start somewhere. Also, several local media outfits (print and broadcast) have their own respective car awards but this does not mean that results will conflict or that one group's tests are better than the other. Even in Europe, America and Japan, various media have their respective awards but they all unite to form their respective countries' COTY. We should be the same," said Mr. de los Reyes.

Next weekend (February 18-19, 2006), COTY-P will hold its second SUV testfest at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club in Antipolo, Rizal. The unveiling of the Car of the Year - Philippines will be on March 29, 2006 at The Rockwell Tent, The Powerplant Mall, Makati City. The public unveiling of the winner will coincide with the opening of the Manila International Motor Show on April 6, 2006 at The World Trade Center, Roxas Boulevard.