Mercedes-Benz E-Class named as NZ Car of the Year

By David Thomson on Sat, 10 Dec 2016

We will be covering the announcement in more detail next week, but just to keep readers up with the latest in news, I'll open this week's editorial by acknowledging the Mercedes-Benz E-Class as New Zealand's 2016 Car of the Year.

The technically-advanced luxury saloon was confirmed as Car of the Year (Coty) on Wednesday night at a gala dinner in Auckland. Given that the 350d variant of the new E-Class is one of just a few cars to have earned the maximum five-star Drivesouth road test rating this year, its latest trophy success comes as no surprise to me.

Mind you, with some pretty talented rivals making the finalists' list from which the E-class was eventually picked, this was a tough title to win.

As it happens, this is just the second time a car adorned with Mercedes' famous triple star has scooped national car of the year honours. Mercedes' previous winner was the smaller C-Class in 2000.

In the 29-year history of the Coty award, a Mazda has secured top honours five times, followed by Ford and BMW with four wins apiece, and Honda with three. Mercedes-Benz now joins Volkswagen, Nissan and Toyota as one of four manufacturers to win Coty honours twice.

With Lexus, Porsche, Holden, Citroen and Peugeot also having enjoyed a win over the years, the Coty trophy is one that gets shared around the motoring world.

Past winners have included two-seater sports cars (two iterations of the Mazda MX-5, the Honda S2000 and the Porsche Cayman), mainstream small, compact, medium and large cars, and the occasional larger luxury machine such as this year's winners.

One of the curiosities of Coty is that an SUV has never won top honours, despite being well- represented in the list of finalists in recent years. Five of this year's 10 finalists were SUVs. With hindsight it seems extraordinary that the Ford Territory missed out on winning the trophy when it appeared in 2004, beaten by the Nissan Maxima. Mind you, back then large saloons such as the Maxima were among the country's most popular new cars.

How times have changed, to the point this year that just one large car, the Holden Commodore, sits in the list of New Zealand's 15 strongest-selling new cars. By contrast, 10 of those top 15 models, including four of the top five, are SUVs.

No doubt, an SUV will eventually have its name engraved on the Coty trophy, which is named in honour of former Press motoring editor Peter Greenslade.

In the meantime, well done to Mercedes-Benz and its fabulous E-Class.

David Thomson