Over the past year they tested a shortlist of 21 cars and found the XF the clear winner, ahead of the Volvo XC60 and the VW Golf diesel.
There were four categories in the COTY award:
- Family – Volvo XC60. Runner up: Honda Accord
- Sports – Audi TTS. Runner up: Mazda MX-5
- Economy – VW Golf diesel. Runner up: Ford Fiesta
- Luxury – Jaguar XF. Runner up: Audi A6
The awards were conceived in November last year stemming largely from the fact the US-based World Car of the Year judging panel did not have a single woman judge in 2007.
Chief judge, New Zealand’s Sandy Myhre, said it is often hard to find a woman’s voice in the automotive industry and its media.
“We searched for quite a while to gather together women motoring writers who could qualify to vote for this award and it wasn’t easy because female motor journalists aren’t exactly thick on the ground.“In the end we have eight judges from around the world whose work is of the highest calibre and who are all published writers,” she said.
Determined to be more than just another motoring award, the judging criteria was tweaked from the standard COTY categories to ones the female judges found more relevant.
Quarter-mile grunt and ball-tearing cornering were given less emphasis, while safety, ease of driving, storage space, value for money, child-friendliness, colour and sex appeal came to the fore.
The judges considered the Jaguar XF to be well-constructed, competent, comfortable, and a combination of sport and luxury ideal for women.
Myhre said the surprising result sent a message to car manufacturers and dealers and to the advertising world.
“The primary objective of these awards is to educate.“Overall the most exciting thing for us as judges from various countries around the world is that for the first time and collectively we have had our own say in our own way as to what cars we are impressed with.”
One of those women was Australia’s Liz Swanton, who has been writing about all things motoring for years, contributing to some of the country’s most esteemed publications.
She met “good mate” Myhre at Bathurst 10 years ago and was enthusiastic to join the judging panel when she was asked.
“It was heavy going, but a great experience. Really exciting to be a part of,” Swanton said.
She drove around 15 of the vehicles and also had the XF at the top of her list (just), and admits she was surprised with the result.
“It was by 0.5 for me in the luxury [segment]. It just pipped the Aston Martin [Vantage] on value for money, it’s marginally more affordable,” she joked.“It’s a beautiful car. My feeling is that it’s finally Jaguar’s return to what Jaguar always was in terms of its values and the look and the feel of the car and it reminds me of the really beautiful Jags of yesteryear.”
Swanton, who test drives cars less frequently now than in the past, was also impressed with the quality of the finalists at the lower end of the market.
“To realise how far a lot of cars have come with features that a few years ago would have been optional extras, there’s so much stuff now that’s standard features, particularly with safety.”
Swanton said the women were planning to get together for the presentation ceremony in London early next year when they will get a chance to debrief and plan for the future of the award, which will involve many more women from even more countries.