After 17 straight years as a Carsguide Car of the Year judge, I was wondering what to expect as we assembled the 10 finalists for the 2013 awards.
There are always a few surprises, things to learn and like and loathe, and the field is more varied and relevant this year than at any time in the past. We have baby cars, family cars, an old-school wagon, SUVs, even a new-age Benz, and the value is outstanding in every case.
One of the early favourites is the last of the true Aussie cars, the VF Commodore. It looks a little out of place, so big and bland as a starting-price Evoque sedan, and is quickly put right into its place as we begin the 60-kilometre driving loops used to assess the various contenders. That place is the past.
These days the Commodore is an all-rounder in a world of specialists, and that's why it - and the Ford Falcon - are heading into history. And why the Commodore cannot win a COTY crown in 2013.
There was a time when big Fords and Holdens made all the sense in the world, as they could cover every base from commuter car and taxi work to a family fun runner, a working wagon, and even a hotrod sporty sedan. It was a one-size-fits-all solution, even if the tailoring was never an ideal fit.
Now the world has arrived in Australia, with 60-plus brands all competing in the toughest new-car scene on the planet, and there are cars which do every job better than a Commodore or Falcon. It's bespoke tailoring at its best.
We have the proof right in front of us as the COTY contenders run through the loops and hoops.
If you want a classy new family car, the Mazda6 is better.
If you want a roomy family wagon, the Kia Rondo is better.
If you want a flexible runabout, the Subaru Forester is better.
If you want maximum bang for your bucks, the Mercedes-Benz A200 is better.
So the Commodore finishes in the middle of the pack and, despite our patriotism and support for carmaking in Australia, that's what it deserves. It's a good car, and easily the best car to wear a Holden or Commodore badge, but that's just not good enough in 2013.
This reporter is on Twitter: @PaulWardGover