The Internet loves lists and the year-end period is full of them. This one in particular caught our eye, with two of our favorites – the BMW 7 Series and the Jaguar XE – making the cut. Behold the shortlist of nominees for European Car of the year 2016, released ahead of the awards ceremony on February 29 at the 2016 Geneva Motorshow. The AFP is right to note that this year’s pack is one of the most competitive in recent times.

There are many car of the year awards around the world but what makes the European event so noteworthy is that it represents the oldest, most mature, diverse and demanding of all automotive markets (North American car enthusiasts, register your complaints with the AFP).

Well, to be fair, it is an especially strong pack of contenders this year and crucially, there’s a very strong chance that the winner could be crowned car of the year for the very first time. Only two shortlisted manufacturers – Audi and Opel/Vauxhall – are former winners. Believe it or not, BMW has never won the top prize…

Audi A4

The latest generation car builds on the foundations of the last A4. It’s not overly aggressive to look at and it’s competent, rather than exciting to drive. But where it impresses is in comfort and refinement and that all-round sense of well-being that’s needed to stand out alongside the latest BMWs and Mercedes.

BMW 7 Series

Despite being runner up on numerous occasions, BMW has never won the ultimate prize. Even though the 7 Series sets new benchmarks for driving dynamics and tech in the highest echelons of the executive sedan sector, the fact that it is such a premium vehicle may count against it. Nevertheless, it is the first car that can be remotely parked via its key fob and has a very clever transmission that uses GPS to automatically pick the right gear to suit the road ahead. The luster of this series is precisely why it is one of our favorites.

Jaguar XE

Lightweight (check out that almost-all-aluminum body), economical – so much so that it leads the class – and engaging to drive, this is one of the best Jaguars in years and certainly the most complete sedan. Even the infotainment and active safety features are on a par with the best from Germany and Japan.

Mazda MX-5

Despite changing trends and tastes, Mazda has never been tempted to tamper with the MX-5’s recipe. The latest generation is just as much fun to drive as the original car and is just as easy to live with.

2016 MX-5 Club (PRNewsFoto/Mazda North American Operations)

Opel/Vauxhall Astra

With the Astra, a huge dose of premium German quality has been injected into the mass-market family hatchback sector dominated by the Ford Focus and VW Golf. Sharp lines, good looks, full web connectivity and concierge service all come as standard.

Skoda Superb

If the Skoda emblems were hidden, it would be very easy to convince drivers that they were getting behind the wheel of a BMW or an Audi. The Superb really does live up to its name in terms of comfort, rear passenger space, quality and even exterior styling.

Volvo XC90

Like the 7 Series, the XC90’s price might put it out of the running as affordability is a criterion of the judging panel. However, this is the safest car currently on sale at any price and one of the most comfortable. It is also proof that making an off-roader that’s as elegant as it is robust is not a trait exclusive to Land Rover’s flagship Range Rover.

Volvo XC90

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