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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

Updated 27 mins ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.