BMW 7 Series
The shortlist for the European Car of the Year has been announced, with models from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mazda, Vauxhall, Skoda and Volvo all in contention to win the coveted title for 2016.
A long list of 40 cars was announced in the summer, but that has been whittled down to just seven entrants. Judges, including Autocar's Matt Prior, will take part in final judging early next year before the winner is announced on the eve of the Geneva motor show in March. Last year, Volkswagen's Passat took the title. The winner in 2014 was the Peugeot 308.
European Car of the Year 2016 - the finalists
Audi A4 - the fifth generation of Audi's junior executive saloon went on sale in the UK in November. Featuring a heavily updated interior and minor styling changes outside, this larger A4 comes with more storage space than its predecessor as well as an updated range of engines. We've already awarded the new A4 a four-star rating in our road test.
BMW 7 Series - BMW's new luxury saloon competes in the same market as the dominant Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but early tests have rated it well. Developments for the new model include the adoption of new six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, as well as the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain for the first time. We've awarded the new 7 Series a four-star rating in our road test.
Jaguar XE - One of the biggest new car launches of 2015 was Jaguar's new BMW 3 Series rival, the XE. Featuring a new range of 'Ingenium' diesel engines and based on Jaguar Land Rover's aluminium-intensive architecture, the XE has proven itself a worthy rival to the premium German brands in our group tests. It has also earned a four-and-a-half-star rating in our road test.
Mazda MX-5 - Mazda wanted to return to the fun driving roots of the original MX-5 with its latest model, which made its public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this summer. Priced from £18,495, the new MX-5 has shown that enjoyable motoring needn't be expensive and has fared well in group tests against faster and more expensive rivals. Our road test earned the latest MX-5 a four-and-a-half-star rating.
Vauxhall Astra - The new Vauxhall Astra is shorter and lower than the car it replaces but features more cabin and storage space inside. It also comes with a much improved interior layout, evolved styling outside and a more efficient range of engines. Prices starting from £15,295 make it competitive in the UK, too. In our road test, the new Astra has been awarded a four-star rating.
Skoda Superb - the cliché goes that Superb is just the right name for Skoda's executive saloon. In its latest generation that remains true, as the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat rival continues to offer an excellent blend of frugal engines, great cabin design and luxurious ride quality. We've awarded it four stars in our first drive.
Volvo XC90 - The all-new XC90 is a far more premium product than the car it replaces, and as such is aiming higher than ever before. The range is crowned by a T8 'twin-engine' hybrid model with CO2 emissions of just 49g/km. The car is based on Volvo's SPA platform, which will also underpin the upcoming S90. We've given the new XC90 four stars in our road test.