Me jotting down driving impressions in the Toyota Supra. Photo: Curt McAllister

This week, I managed to get away from the office for 2 days for some fun — and important — driving.

The big picture: I'm one of approximately 50 professional automotive journalists on the jury for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, now in its 26th year.

  • The awards honor vehicles that have raised the standards and become new benchmarks in their class.
  • Vehicles are judged on criteria including: innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value.

How it works: We evaluate the newest cars, trucks and crossovers throughout the year and then vote on the ones we think are worthy of further consideration for the year's best.

  • We then gather in the fall to drive the semifinalists back-to-back on some of Michigan's best roads to refine our comparisons.
  • It's not fair to compare a Corvette sports car to an entry-level Kia, so we compare vehicles against other vehicles in their class, not against other nominees (unless they're in the same class).
  • We then vote a second time for our favorites.
  • 3 finalists in each category will be announced in November and the winners will be awarded in early 2020.

At this week's drive event in Ann Arbor, I got seat time in most of the semifinalists, which include 12 cars, 12 utilities and 5 trucks.

Quick impressions, without giving anything away:

  • The new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette was a surprise; moving the engine completely changes the driving dynamics. I'll have more in an upcoming review.
  • The Audi e-tron is impressive; it's an electric mid-sized crossover with everything you love about Audi, plus seamless acceleration — and no emissions.
  • The reborn Toyota Supra — shared with BMW's Z4 and available only with an automatic transmission — is still massively fun to drive.

Go deeper

NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York City's coronavirus positivity rate has ticked up to 3.25%, its highest since June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The jump — from 1.93% on Monday — came on the first day that public elementary classrooms reopened in the city after months of closures, but guidelines state that all public schools will have to shut if the citywide seven-day positivity rate stays above 3%.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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  5. States: Cuomo extends New York moratorium on evictions until 2021.
  6. World: More than 1 million people have now died from coronavirus — India the second country after U.S. to hit 6 million cases.
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AppHarvest is going public

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Why it's a BFD: This is about to be a "unicorn" based in one of America's poorest congressional districts. AppHarvest CEO Jonathan Webb tells Axios that the company will employ around 350 people in Morehead by year-end, and that its location allows its product to reach 75% of the continental U.S. within a one-day drive.