2008 RawAutos Car of the Year Awards!

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The moment you’ve all been waiting for is finally upon us! 2008 has been a monumental year for so many good and bad reasons. It was a year that saw a number of firsts. Our nation’s first African-American President was voted into office. Global warming is supposedly causing record cooling spells now, too. And Jeremy Clarkson voted a Corvette as Top Gear’s 2008 Car of the Year. It’s also been a year of downturns. The economy has been dropping so fast that it made the rise in gas prices seem cheap. We did, however, get a decent reprieve in our monthly gas bills. But, auto sales in 2008 tanked so bad that even car salesman were using food stamps.

To start us off, I’ll just tell you that only the top 15 cars get their pictures and possible vidoes added into the mix. But, before I give you those, I’ll share with you the bottom cars on the list… The ones that didn’t make it.

25: Bentley Continental GT Speed- “A boat with no regard for the performance it claims.” Yikes! That’s saying that Bentley isn’t an exotic race car company. Keep the power out of something with no proper way of handling it, was a high theme. I’ve talked to people who have driven this car all out, and they all say the same thing. It carries amazing speed and actually handles for a car weighing more than 5,000lbs. They loved it, why can’t you?

24: Bentley Brooklands- “AMAZING POWER. But why do I want that in a luxury coupe cruiser sort of thing?”, said one reader. I don’t know if I agree… But, I understand. I personally like that the Bentley has 774lb-ft of earth peeling torque, and available from just 3,250 RPM. I like doing burnouts in my half million dollar boat with wheels.

23: Dodge Challenger- The muscle era is back. But, unlike the baby boomers that drove this car in the 60′s and 70′s, it’s not on a weight watchers, or some other sort of diet program. That cost it any sort of title shot for 2008. Too expensive, too much weight, not enough European style performance, seemed to be the main theme of the votes. Ouch… Seems like the, supposedly, fat old Americans are tired of getting beat by the Euro snobs afterall. Also, you have to pay $695 for a 6-spd manual transmission. What is this world coming to?

22: Tesla Roadster- Fast econo car. That’s what most people called it. But, even though it saves the environment, and shows you how many terrorists you aren’t supporting with its neat digital showing of how much gas you haven’t used and wasted money on, it was too expensive and not too incredible. Some people cited the Top Gear test drive of the Tesla for reasons why it’s not worth $100,000+. That’s if you can even get one.

21: Jaguar XF- The Aston Martin flavor and flare to this Jaguar wasn’t enough for people to get all excited like others did in Europe. Maybe once the XF-R debuts, it will have a better chance next year? Cool interior workings, but too much gadgetry to make America happy.

20: Lexus IS-F- Toyota’s first performance car in ages didn’t have the luster to pull off a top-15 choice picking. The main reason was, too much refinement with not enough performance value. Who exactly wants an 8-speed automatic gearbox in their BMW M3 fighter? I don’t, and obviously it showed that you didn’t either. Traditional manual as an option, or bust. This one went bust…

19: Mercedes-Benz SL550/SL63 AMG/SL600/SL65 AMG- Even though Mercedes-Benz has seriously upgraded its new SL, it still hasn’t done enough. While it’s been made into more of a driver’s car, it’s still not a BMW, Audi or Porsche contender. With the SL550, alone, weighing 4,220lbs, and only going up from there for the AMG models, that’s just too much weight.

18: Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series- Not enough sport, but too much in some cases. Odd, I really love this car. And I expected it to rate better. But, it still has that old AMG auto-manual that wasn’t very impressive, it costs lots of money to purchase and maintain this car, as well. But, you would be most likely the only person in and around town to have one… Radical design, but not enough radical performance.

17: Maserati Gran Turismo/Gran Turismo S-The everyday man’s Ferrari. The engines are sourced from Ferrari, the build quality is finally up to snuff, and there’s a price tag that isn’t too bad on the eyes. All-in-all, you could have a GTS for about $130,000. It has the same performance as an SL63 AMG, looks better, and has four decent seats. Also, it’s Italian. But, it’s still a heavy sports car with too many ammenities. No manual, also. These are the two biggest complaints the voters had. Take note everyone, the people still want a manual over an auto-paddle-crap gearbox!

16: Ford Bullitt Mustang- Most of the popularity of RawAutos was built around this car. The hype that surrounded the Bullitt, and the even bigger event of me buying one, made this site twice as popular as it was. Thanks for that! But, unfortunately, and I have to agree, it’s not Car of the Year winning material. While I would have liked it to be in the top-15, it wasn’t. And I understand. I do still love my car. I love what it is, I love what it isn’t and I especially love what it represents. Oh, and I love the fact that the Bullitt was built to demolish the GT500 on the road courses. It succeeded.

Now, finally, I give you the real winners. These are the cars that you voted to be the best 15 of the 26 cars I asked you to number. I’m still shocked at some of these numberings. Here goes:

15: Porsche 911- Can you believe it? I hardly can. an update to the 997 model 911 is pretty all this is. Sure, you’ve got better suspension, brakes, interior, more engine power, better economy, the new PDK transmission. Some people even say that the new PDK tranny is the way of the future. Whether that’s true, I’ve yet to find out. But, I just need to know one thing, Why would you have the buttons where they are on the steering wheel? Weird. But let’s face it, it’s just a 911 update, not the 998… But, it was number 15 in your hearts, and God bless ya! It just goes to show that just a simple refresh still makes Porsche one of the baddest cars for any money on the planet.

14: Pontiac G8- Technically, this car should be #1, if you think about it. Okay, let’s take this slow before you cut my manhood off for such a comment; each one of the cars on this list, save the Tesla, X6 and IS-F, are spin-offs of other cars, previous or current models just with better performance. This was the car that came onto the scene and challenged the BMW 5-Series. Granted, I think that the advertising was a bit out of its league, you still have to applaud Pontiac for truely going after a big name like BMW with a brand new car that’s never been heard of. Many people bought the car just for that reason. Now, Pontiac did have a few misguided sentences in their ads against the 5er, but hey… It did the job, didn’t it? I test drove the G8 GT while I was in Chicago months back, and I quite liked it. A lot, in fact. My only gripe was that I wanted a manual. But other than that, the car rode and drove well. Lots of power, coupled with good amounts of luxury for a car costing 30-grand, not bad in my book. 361hp and 385lb-ft of torque give this baby a 5.2s 0-60. I can dig it.

13: Nissan GT-R- I’m still really surprised that the GT-R didn’t win. “I’d rather not have a 350Z interior in my 80,000 supercar”, said one angry voter. “The best car ever made! What other car is as fast for as cheap?!”, said an enthusiastic reader. However, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it. There are still quiet reports that engineers inside Nissan say the 7:29s Nürburgring was staged with a more powerful GT-R. Then there was the gearbox woes. As soon as you turned off VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control), you could lose your gearbox. The owner’s manual says that you’re not supposed to turn VDC off in order to use launch control, even though you can’t use it without disabling the system. So, basically, you’re not supposed to use a button that’s there for you to use. One driver found this out the hard way when he overused the launch control and fried his tranny, which Nissan wouldn’t fix under the factory warranty. That’s a $20,000 bill he had to incur on his own. This didn’t help with popularity. But, GT-R owners have still be faithful. Still, though, this car has roughly 520hp from a 3.8L Twin-TurboV6 and an all-wheel drive system that all helps it do 3.3s to 60. That’s amazing! Especially since the GT-R weighs over 3800lbs. That’s not exactly supercar weight. Also, the GT-R costs under $80,000. That’s extremely impressive. So, this car carries Porsche 911 Turbo performance, Corvette Z06 pricing, and the ability to, supposedly, school a GT2 around the ‘Ring? Hmm… Sounds like a 50/50 of scandal vs. perfection to me. All this coupled with the PS3 style navigation system that doubles as a digital readout for any piece of performance information you need to know about your car. You need to know what lateral g’s you were just carrying? It’s there… You need to know exactly what your engine is doing right now? It’s there, too. It has it all right there at your fingertips to see. Behold, the exotic car of the future!

12: Aston Martin DBS- Would anyone really question why the most beautiful car in the world made the top-15? I doubt it! It is, afterall, the Bond car of choice. It’s my favorite James Bond car, and I’m a lifetime fan of the series. The 6.0L V12 with 510hp and 420lb-ft of torque is a little underpowered to go against its main rival from Italy, the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, but it’s got a certain elegance the Ferrari can’t have. As much as I don’t like saying that the 599 has less elegance, it’s true. The DBS originally only came in 6-spd manual, but now is offered in Aston’s Touchtronic automatic. A 4.1s 0-60 isn’t too shabby for a car that weighs over 3,700lbs. It’ll also do over 190mph flat out. Like the Ferrari, it comes with carbon ceramic brakes, and a limited-slip differential. It deserves this spot. It’s one of the best looking and best going cars in the world at any price. Even if it is almost $300,000… Sure, it could use another 100hp and 100lb-ft of torque, but it still does alright. And it’s much more limited.

11: BMW X6- It’s the car that shaped a world that no one even knew was out there. It’s a four-passenger SAC, or Sports Activity Coupe. And where BMW comes up with these ideas and names, I have no clue… But nonetheless, it was a different step forward, even by BMW’s standards. The X6, however, proved to defy all odds. It handles like a sports car, has room for you, three friends, your luggage, and will still ride down the highway in luxury, sportiness and style. BMW’s X6 comes in two flavors, xDrive35i or xDrive50i. The 35i comes with the standard 3 liter twin-turbo Inline-6 with 300hp and 300lb-ft of torque. The latter, the 50i, comes with a brand new V8 that also powers the new 2009 750, and also rumored to power the 2012 M5. It is a 4.4L twin-turbo unit pushing 400hp and 450lb-ft of torque. One reader says, “I love the fact that I can have a medium sized SUV that carries just enough stuff that I want to carry, I can drive to the track, do a few laps, then go home in more style than the rest of the guys.” I don’t think I could have put it better myself… Thanks, Charles for the words of wisdom. Don’t think of the X6 as just some show and no go truck thing. It does a 0-60 in 6.2s for the xDrive35i and 4.8s for the 50i. That’s really impressive, especially since they weight 4,894 and 5,269 pounds, respectively. They can also properly tow 6,000lbs.

10: Ferrari California- It’s a Ferrari with more class than it ought to. The first, true, twin-clutch F1 gearbox from Ferrari goes into the California. That’s supposed to help this, mainly, GT style convertible to get to 60 in about 3.8s and will be flat out at 193mph at the end of the rev range. Still incredibly fast! With styling cues that date back to the original California Spiders of the 50′s and 60′s. A hard-top convertible dons the new Ferrari. It’s a first ever for them, too. And, as many road tests have gone, it holds up really well to the SL series. “It’s one of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever seen! It takes to the road the way it did back in its original days.”. “What a remarkable car. If I had the $300,000 to throw my name on the waiting list, I’d do it tomorrow…”. “It’s quite possibly the ugliest, but still most interesting Ferrari I’ve seen in modern times. It seems that Ferrari is taking a page out of BMW’s design book.” Those are just a few quotes from some interesting readers. the front-mid-engine 4.3L V8 setup produces 453hp and 457lb-ft of torque. It’ll make mince meat of anything that tries to come after it.

9: BMW 135i- When I drove the 135 I couldn’t stop saying that it was the best BMW on sale today, and that it was like a baby ///M car. It really is. And everyone else pretty much agrees. Just look at the picture. Look what’s sitting in front of it. If you’ve driven the M3 and the 135i, you’ll most likely agree with me that it would be a hard decision on which one you’d rather have. Now, I know that you’re saying an M3 is an M3 and a 135 isn’t. You’re right. To an extent. The 135i was made for the hardcore BMW enthusiast. The one who knows what a 2002tii is. The enthusiast who has driven many BMWs, loves them all, but still always yearns for more. That’s what the 135 is. It’s the BMW that gave us something more to talk about, and dream about. Where the 3-Series was good, the 1-Series is better. The 3-Series has grown in weight, classiness, technology and the likes. The 135i takes more of a classic BMW approach; less is more. I had one reader say, “I’ve driven the new M3 and the new 135i BMWs. I was impressed with the M3, more so than most cars I’ve ever driven. But the 135 had a different feeling about it. It took all of the M3′s abilities and bottled them up into a pocket rocket.” I couldn’t have said it better myself…

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8: Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione- It’s the car that brings Alfa back stateside after over a decade. Quite possibly the most beautiful car of all time, or the ugliest. I’ve heard it go either way. With it’s Ferrari supplied and Maserati massaged 4.7L 450hp V8, Maserati made and tuned suspension, how could it go wrong? The car is actually made in a Maser factory right alongside the Gran Turismo. It also comes standard with a Ferrari F-1 transmission. No other tranny is optional, though. That’s the biggest downfall according to most readers. But, it’s still pretty quick. Jeremy Clarkson loved it on Top Gear. Just look at it. Could you expect it to not drive like a masterpiece? It’s one of the closest things to a piece of art I’ve ever seen. In fact, this car is just so perfect, I can just post some picture above this writing. I’m posting the Top Gear video of it. It’s just breathtaking. I don’t get how it didn’t win… Still, with its 10 mile long list of perfection is a list, short, but still a list, of imperfections. No manual transmission, only 500 will be made, with 84 coming to America. All of them are spoken for. Worst of all, it has Maserati suspension… That’s the list of suck. Still, even if it’s crap to drive, at least you can just sit and look at it. $240,000 dollars could buy you a much funner car…

7: Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG- If this thing had a manual, I may just take it over the M3… Yes, I, the proposed BMW “fanboy”, said it. If you’ve driven one, you’ll never fault me. It drives phenomenally! I’ve never driven a car that will spin the tires at 50 mph upon stomping on the gas with the traction control still engaged. It’s got Mercedes-Benz luxury and comfort with M3 performance. Too bad it’s not quite as driver oriented as the M3. But, just great, it was. There is one huge fault, its gearbox is awful! The most dismal thing I’ve ever had the displeasure of driving. But, even though the automatic gearbox is slower to downshift than a fat kid running after the football when prompted, it was still seductively fun. I could have gotten myself in lots of trouble, so I decided to tone it down. The chassis and suspension are really nice, too. The car rides really well, goes very fast and feels nothing less than a rocket ship. Mercedes, you’ve made a winner with the C63. Now, do us all one favor… Either add a proper manual gearbox, or get some flappy paddles that actually work for this car’s speed.

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6: Ferrari F430 Scuderia- All of the F1 technology for you to enjoy on the road. This is the car that you want if you want the ultimate Ferrari for the road and track; that’s if people actually would put their Ferrari on a racetrack… I’m thinking not highly likely. But still, if you want a car that has the latest and greatest Formula 1 abilities for the road, this is the one for you! It’ll hit 60 in 3.2-seconds; the same time for the Ferrari Enzo… It reportedly laps Ferrari’s Fiorano Test Circuit in 1:23.9. The Enzo does it in 1:24.9. Yeah, it’s that insane. When you buy a Scuderia, you know you’re getting a car that can be talked about in the same conversation as the Ferrari 250 GTO, Ferrari 288 GTO, Ferrari F40, F50, and the Enzo. That’s just to name a few of the best collector Italian dream cars that Ferrari has made. The only draw back to the Scudie, as I like to call it, is there is no option for a manual. Ferrari, along with pretty much every other automaker in the world, has gotten on this kick of the paddle shift transmissions. Granted, the Ferraris are a bit more technologically advanced since they damn near come straight out of an F1 car. But still, can’t I just get a manual option? Even with that, I’d still buy this. Just wait until the RawAutos 2009 CotY Awards, when you’ll see the F430 Scuderia 16M Spyder. A Scuderia two years in a row…

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5: Lamborghini LP560-4- As fast and as nimble as the F430 Scuderia, comes in a manual, and makes you drool harder. Talk about a car that will make you cry for buying anything but. The new LP560-4 will do 0-60 in 3.3 seconds. That’s just as fast as the LP640, Ferrari F430 Scuderia, Corvette Z06, Ford GT, McLaren F1, Ferrari Enzo, Porsche 911 Turbo and GT2 and the Saleen S7. Talk about pretty amazing for a car that is  considered to be a baby Lambo, and by some, not a true Lamborghini since it doesn’t have “Lambo” doors. You can get the LP in standard manual or slightly quicker E-Gear form. It’s still not quite as technologically advanced as Ferrari’s F1 tranny, but it’s still pretty quick. And, word is from a Ferrari source, E-Gear transmissions are pretty much old technology sold to Lambo by Ferrari. That’s neither here nor there when the baby LP can run just as quick as the F430 Scuderia. I’ll take one in a manual with either white, green, orange, red, black, yellow, blue, or any other color the LP560-4 comes in. Let’s just hope the Superleggera version of this Gallardo is something to really hunt down Ferraris at the race track.

4: Dodge Viper ACR- 7:22.1. That was 3-tenths of a second better than the Corvette ZR1 around the Nürburgring. Why didn’t it get the top spot? Easy, most people didn’t like that you can’t drive it like a normal sports car. You have to be careful with any Viper, and extra careful with the ACR. Dodge recommends that you sign up for racing classes to learn and understand how to drive the Viper ACR. Yeah, it’s that scary! But, there is something to love about a car with no traction or stability control, no automatic gearboxes, not electronic gizmos to get in your way. Just raw 600+hp pumping out of an exhaust system that comes out of pipes underneath your door. Autoblog recently ran a story about the ACR on a dyno. It shows the true tail of why the Viper is really so fast… You see, when Dodge released this car, they simply said that it had no extra horsepower over the 2008 model, it simply had better aerodynamics. This seemed to be true, since, afterall, there was a giant wing on the rear deck and massive splitters on the front of the car. Well, the dyno showed that it actually had 546hp and 510lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. So…they lied to us? Yep! That’s another main reason why it didn’t get above 4th. But, it should be said that with an estimated 15% drivetrain loss, it still only has 642hp. Only, being the keyword there. I’ll take two, please! One for the track, and the other for when I wreck the first one.

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3: Porsche 911 GT2- It’s one of the few that’s actually faster than a Carrera GT on the Nürburgring. It makes no apologies for being what it is. It’s the first GT2 to ever come with any sort of traction and/or stability control. Still, with a slightly tweaked 911 Turbo engine and no all-wheel drive, I’m not sure it would do much good. With a bump from 480 to 520hp over the 911 Turbo, it’s a very wild animal. The suspension and ride has been firmed up to make it closer to a GT3 style experience with the speed of the Turbo. It’s good for a 3.2s 0-60 and will hit over 204mph when the road runs out. Motor Trend has had this car stop from 60mph in 98ft and do a 1.1 lateral grip. It posted a lap time on Top Gear’s test track, with The Stig driving, of 1:19.5. That was the same as the Lamborghini LP560-4, and .2s faster than the Nissan GT-R and Ferrari F430 Scuderia… All those other cars come only with paddle shift automatic gearboxes, with exception to the LP, which comes standard in E-Gear, but optional with manual. But, those times were recorded with paddle shift transmissions. Which goes to show that if you truly know how to drive, a manual CAN be as fast as a paddle shift, even if it has less power… Like the GT2 does. Why didn’t this thing win 1st place just for that reason alone?

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2: Cadillac CTS-V- It was created by John Heinricy and his special team inside of GM. He is a factory GM racing driver, and just recently retired as the head of GM’s performance division. Why did he retire? He created his masterpiece. Who needs to go on after they finally make the car that beats the Germans on their home turf of the Nürburgring? The CTS-V was able to record the fastest ever sedan lap time on the ‘Ring. Heinricy was the driver who did it, and his lap time was, 7:59.22. That bests the BMW M5 and M3′s of 8:13 and 8:05, respectively. You can either get the new CTS-V in 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic with paddles formation. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, all this speed is thanks to an, all new, supercharged 6.2L V8 from the Corvette ZR1. Except, instead of producing 634hp and 604lb-ft of torque, the V produces 556hp and 551lb-ft of torque. Still an immense amount of power from any car, much less a sports sedan that’s just slightly smaller than a 5-Series. This also helps give the Cadillac a 3.9s 0-60 edge, with a top speed of 191mph. The car maxes out price wise, at just over $68,500. The one drawback, though, is that you have to spend $3,400 for the Recaro sport seats. If you don’t, you get the cheap, unfitting, uncomfortable standard CTS seats. What the hell, Cadillac? Really?

And, the most special moment in all the automotive land. You picked them. For the second year in a row, we have a special prize for you! I still can’t believe this happened.

1: TIE- BMW M3/Chevrolet Corvette ZR1- I really can’t believe this. For the second year in a row, we have a tie. At the 2007 RawAutos Car of the Year Awards, the BMW 3-Series and Audi R8 took the checkered flag. It would be interesting if it becomes a tradition to have a tie. But, here you go.

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Corvette ZR1- It’s mean, it’s not too green, but it’s a $119,135 fully loaded Corvette with an Eaton supercharger, carbon fiber bits and panels, a see-through hood, touring car suspension with a race suspension setup. Oh, and did I mention it has a 6.2L supercharged V8 that plows out 638hp and 604lb-ft of torque? If that’s not enough to make your head spin, this will make your head explode; the ZR1 will do a 3.0-second 0-60 time and hit well over 200mph. All that for the price of less than a 911 Turbo? Well, it gets better. The new ZR1 offers the LARGEST brakes ever seen on a road car. They are from Brembo, and nearly identical to the ones that Ferrari had made for the Enzo. They’re Carbon Ceramic cross-drilled discs that measure 15.5 inches in the front 15 inches in the rear. That’s nuts! That’s super car presence for BMW M6 Convertible money. “The greatest car in the world!” Identically said by 16 readers.

But, there was a downside, and this is the main reason why it tied for first instead of running away with it -like it has in every publication- “The seats and interior quality are not worthy of a $100,000 super car.” That’s what more than one person said. Not too surprising to me. I hate the seats in the Corvettes. If I’m spending that kind of money, I want 100,000 dollar seats. I don’t care if they’re leather, alcantara, suede, dog hide, human hide, it doesn’t matter, so long as they hold me in place when I’m flying around a turn at 100mph. “The Corvette’s bolsters aren’t even worthy of a Lexus ES350…” That’s rough…

The final verdict, though, is that hell has officially frozen over. Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear loves this car. He voted it as his best car for the year on Top Gear and in the magazine. He hates American cars, especially the Corvette. So that’s saying something. The world will end, soon. Better start finding someone to make love to before it’s over.

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BMW M3- My personal favorite car on this list. It’s the cream of the crop. It’s the first time that an M3 has come with a V8. And this one packs the power to do battle with anyone. Its 4.0L V8 with 414hp and 295lb-ft of torque weighs less than the outgoing Inline-6 from the E46 M3. Everyone thinks the torque is a bit low. Well, that’s until you drive it. I was sad to see such low torque numbers on the new V8 M3. But, when I first drove it February, 2008, I remarked on how hard the torque will throw your ass into the seat. You will get out and have a permanent g-force mark on your pants.

The skinny bit on the M3 is simple, 4.1s 0-60, 12.3s 1/4 mile, and up to 25-27mpg on the highway. It will also tick well over 170, probably into 180, if not more, flat out. Don’t even attempt to call B.S. on me until you’ve driven this car.

M3-o-philes, including myself, were worried about there no longer being an I-6, more luxury, and a heftier weight complex. But once the specs were released and it was written abundantly that the incoming V8 weighed less than the outgoing Inline-6. That was so beautiful to read and hear everywhere you turned your head. However, it’s not until you get near the M3 that you realize the true passion of the E30 M3 was retained more than the E46 M3 was able to do. The E90 series M3 has the subtle looks of the E30, but the all-out smiles of fun and awe-inspiring tracking abilities that the E46 lacked just a tad more of. You can’t have a Car of the Year Awards program or article without including the new M3. It’s just that damn good. Drive one and realize the dreams you’ll have for years to come, even after you’ve owned one. It’s a classic in the making.

-Josh

“Happy Motoring!”

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