The task was a simple one; the decision was anything but. Naming the most significant European import of the year for the 2003 european car Grand Prix trophy was the most difficult decision we've faced in the five years of this annual accolade. Our eight-car field is so loaded with talent that the panel of judges spent days behind the wheel of each car to learn all we could of their strengths and weaknesses, and many hours in the office (and a couple of bars) were spent debating their merits and deficiencies.

The most important goal for the european car Grand Prix panel of testers was to identify that one car which is able to reach into the soul of the automotive enthusiast and arouse the desire to climb behind the steering wheel for the simple enjoyment of driving.

To understand the european car Grand Prix is to wind out a great motor along a twisting country road; it's to pit a superior chassis against the challenges of changing surfaces and devious apexes; it's to revel in the dance between pedals, steering wheel and shift lever; it's to find yourself grinning from the sheer joy of driving.

We don't use performance figures in this competition. We're more interested in how the car is an important step forward for the manufacturer. Is it because of the introduction of exciting new technology, or is it a well-aimed thrust into a new market segment? Underscore the word "significant," though don't suppose our definition of the term remains constant. Each of the cars in this year's contest is, in some way, extremely important to its maker. A common comment from our panel went something like, "Any of these cars could find a place in my garage." But we couldn't very well call it an eight-way tie and design eight different trophies. Our contest demands a winner, and finally all agreed that one car showed all the traits that qualify it as a champion.

Eight Great Contenders for our Car of the Year

Mercedes-Benz E500 Porsche Boxster S BMW Z4 Roadster
Saab 9-3 Jaguar XJR New Beetle Convertible
Volvo S60 R Audi RS6  

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