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COTY 2015: A rush of adrenaline

POSTED BY Dinesh Appavu ON 17 November 2015

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As the adage goes; last but certainly not the least and the two remaining categories under the New Straits Times – Maybank Car of the Year 2015 Awards fit the bill like a glove. The Sports Car and Performance Car categories bring up the tail end of the 16-strong list and contain some of the most adrenaline-pumping and exhilarating nominees this year.

Segregating the nominees between the Sports Car and Performance Car classes has always mimicked splitting hairs but this year, the panel of judges agreed on a number of general criteria to adhere to in categorising them.

Expectations of sports cars hold aesthetics almost in the same light as the actual performance such as power and handling. With that in mind, one of the criteria was that all the Sports Car nominees had to be two-door models regardless of body style.

Secondly, they could be from any end of the performance spectrum, which explains the disparity in horsepower among the nominees.

In the Sports Car class, three is a crowd that comprises the Ford Fiesta ST, Mazda MX-5 and the Audi TT.

The steroid-treated variant of the Fiesta has won its fair share of admirers with unadulterated dynamics and a healthy barn of turbocharged ponies under its hood. Among the batch of B-segment hot hatches, it is the undisputed champ in terms of outright performance but it drops some points with a jarring ride and lead clutch.

While an argument can be made that it is a sports car, the other two nominees make a strong case for having your cake and eating it too.

The Mazda MX-5 is the definition of driving pleasure with a perfectly-balanced lightweight chassis that packs a modest 158hp. Granted, those are hardly tarmac-scorching figures but the ethos of the MX-5 has always placed handling and a communicative drive over outright power.

Lastly, we have the Audi TT that goes down the technology route with its virtual cockpit that turns the traditional dual-gauge instrument cluster into a single TFT display that can integrate the gauges, radio information, navigation and much more into one.

It also packs the most advanced engine and transmission combo with a 2.0-litre TFSI engine and dual-clutch gearbox.

The three nominees are undoubtedly as different as chalk and cheese with an emphasis on different aspects and the judges will take all these into account to level the playing field. The fastest century sprint time or lap time alone will not be sufficient to win this category.

Next we move onto the last category of the year, the Performance Car group that is a two-horse battle between East and West with the Subaru WRX STI and the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG.

A rich rallying and racing history lend the Subaru impressive credentials and its simple, straightforward focus on driving with a proper manual; three pedals and all, is becoming increasingly rare phenomenon in the performance driving world.

It does however come without much else apart from that trademark wing. The interior is spruced up a little with sports seats but lacks the luxuries of its competitor. Nonetheless, the WRX STI makes a worthy case for itself by being a pure, driving machine.

On the other end, we have the Mercedes-Benz and its plethora of luxuries that conceal a ferocious 355hp under a swath of leather and luxury trim in a four-door coupe body. Coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and one of the best-sounding exhaust notes in the compact performance arena, the CLA 45 AMG is the favourite here and rightly so.