YOU WOULD think being a Wheels Car of the Year judge would be the best job in the world. And, well, it is, but it’s not as cruisy as some would think.
Being a judge for Wheels Car of the Year requires a focused and exacting outlook to car testing, along with enough mental fortitude to survive the week-long testing process.
Volvo XC60: one year on from its COTY victory
For this year’s COTY we brought along seven of the best judges to put our contenders through their paces, each with a unique skillset and viewpoint to ensure our testing process is as representative as possible.
So without further ado:
While he spends his louche-sounding life domiciled in Italy and driving new cars all over Europe, the one thing that unfailingly draws John Carey Down Under each year is his role as the most senior COTY judge. No one brings more gravitas, knowledge, or combative cussedness to the table. It’s hard to argue with someone who has decades of experience, but that doesn’t stop other judges from trying.
Editing Wheels is enough of a challenge the other 51 weeks a year, but marshalling the resources for, and herding the typically creative (and thus disorganised) cats at, COTY is one of the role’s more mountainous tasks. Inwood handles it all with his trademark unflappability, of course, while just being a judge at Car of the Year was, and remains, a dream come true. So, not work at all, then.
No one, but no one, gets more excited about COTY each year than Byron, who counts down the days from the moment each one ends until the dawn of the next. He’s also been known to count the number of stitches in a steering wheel, or a seat, and then remember that information forever. Being a judge is the job this man was put on this Earth for, and no one brings more anal-retentive joy to the role.
Motoring journalism isn’t just in Hagon’s blood, it’s what he lives and breathes. No one puts in more hours or pumps out more words each year about the car industry, and there is very little in the motoring universe that he doesn’t know about, nor have a strong opinion on. Most often heard saying: “you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why”, Hagon is a huge presence and a key part of the team.
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes Noelle slightly different to the rest of the judges, and then it comes to you – fashion sense. Indeed, it’s something rarely seen at any COTY. Other than that, Faulkner is very much typical of a Wheels judge – an enthusiastic and skilful driver and equipped with strong opinions on just about everything. She also gets her own toilet everywhere we go.
Some people see life, and thus cars, from a slightly different angle, which is what makes them, and their opinions, so interesting. Enright, the prose-gifted deputy editor of Wheels, brings a certain quirkiness that could only come out of the strange little island nation we used to call home. Over there he’s written for Pommy titles like The Times, Car and Autocar, but we try not to hold that against him.
While he looks like a big, red-brick house with eyes, Westerman – Wheels’ resident word nerd and production engine room – is a man of passionate intensity and natural curiosity. He’s not just interested, he’s invested. He also often drives as if there’s a deadline he’s in danger of missing and writes with humble humour. This year we’ve managed to drag him out of the office and into the melting pot, where he’s sure to stir things up.