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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

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.

The deplatforming fight shifts to the courts

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Capitol riot and tech firms' sweeping attempt in its wake to dislodge the online far right are kicking up efforts to have the courts settle knotty questions about online speech and power.

Why it matters: Legal battles could force the people angry at Big Tech to bring more rigor to arguments that have often devolved into messy sideshows.