Where was I the last couple of days? I was at the Northwest Automotive Press Association's (NWAPA) "Run to the Sun." This annual driving event brings a number of new cars and NWAPA members together for a multi-day driving extravaganza.
The field featured a variety of cars from various segments from entry level to ultra luxury. The list looked like this:
- 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD Tech
- 2010 Cadillac CTS-V
- 2010 Chevrolet Corvette GS Convertible
- 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T
- 2010 Viper SRT10 Coupe
- 2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium
- 2011 Honda CR-Z EX w/Navigation
- 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS
- 2011 Infiniti M37X AWD
- 2010 Jaguar XFR
- 2010 Jaguar XKR Convertible
- 2010 Kia Forte Koup SX
- 2010 Lexus IS350 Convertible (w/F-Sport parts)
- 2010 Lotus Evora
- 2010 Mazdaspeed3
- 2011 Mercedes-Benz E550 Cabriolet
- 2011 Mercedes SLS AMG
- 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart
- Mitsubishi iMiEV
- 2010 Nissan Z Roadster
- 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
- Suzuki Kizashi Turbo Concept
- 2011 Volvo C70 T5 Convertible
- 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition
Over the course of three days, I got to drive each one of these cars on some great roads in northwestern Washington. There were a number of remarkable cars. Here are just a couple that really stood out:
Favorite Overall Car: 2011 Ford Mustang GT
Why: I'm a long-time Mustang fan, and the '11 GT is the total package. They've brought the 5.0 back with dual overhead cams, a 7,000 RPM readline, and lots of thrust (412 hp, 390 ft/lbs. of torque). But, it's more than that. The outstanding combination of comfort, handling, obtainable price, and sound make this such a complete, well-executed package. This American icon continues to be iconic.
Biggest Surprise: Cadillac CTS-V
Why: The CTS-V is a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8-powered luxury sport sedan. I knew it'd be fast, and figured it'd be a "nice" car. However, I didn't expect it to be as fast or as nice as it was. It goes like hell, sounds like heaven, and has a cool interior (the speedometer and tachometer leave red trails as they rev up—really neat). Here again, the combination of suspension tuning, interior quality, outstanding exhaust note, and overall badassness really impressed me. It's great to see American cars that are truly impressive!
Favorite Small Car: Honda CR-Z
Why: Hey, this is Subcompact Culture, right? Of the smaller vehicles at the event (not including the excellent Lotus Evora), the Honda CR-Z was a standout, and not just because it's brand-spakin' new. The combination of size, shape, and driving dynamics confirmed that the CR-Z is a fun, frugal, and reasonably priced car. The interior is appealing, the exterior looks better in person, and if driven like a hybrid in Eco mode, you will get better-than-EPA-rated fuel economy.
Why: Equally amazing cars for way different reasons. It's a tale of the scalpel versus the sledgehammer. The AMG SLS is extremely fast, yet is easy to pilot, Its gorgeous, inviting and comfortable interior features gullwinged gateways. All superheros should be gifted an SLS AMG.
The Viper is punishingly fast and is more than two handfuls to control. Viper allows you to sit inside it and then makes you hold on for dear life under full throttle. The automotive equivalent of trying to ride a bull. Make that a rabid bull possessed by the devil—but in a totally good way.
They're both stupendously powerful, perversely extreme in many aspects, and get more stares than Megan Fox at a nude corndog eating contest. And I've said too much.
Expect to see some more driving reports about these vehicles soon!