A great way to evaluate new cars and SUVs is to drive them back-to-back on great roads. Most consumers don’t have that luxury, but members of the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) get that experience on their annual Run to the Sun event.
This year journalists spent three days driving two-dozen highly varied cars and SUVs (as tested prices ranged from $28,985 to $427,875) hundreds of miles over stunningly scenic roads across Washington and Oregon. The routes covered twisty mountain passes, the windy Columbia River Gorge, and the wide open Central Oregon high country. Venues varied from busy cities to desolate ghost towns.
Besides the mandate to have fun driving, the group was tasked with picking winners in four categories plus an overall Northwest Most Fun to Drive Vehicle. The categories were convertibles, coupes, sedans, and SUVs.
There was agreement among all drivers that coincidentally matched this author’s picks. I will detail my second and third choices for each category in follow-up Autoreviewers.com posts.
NORTHWEST MOST FUN IN THE SUN CONVERTIBLE—2019 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA CLUB RF
The nimble Mazda Miata has been a perennial favorite at the event simply because it is so much fun to drive spiritedly. It’s not the quickest or fastest car, but it feels athletic and very well connected to the road. The Mazda Miata is snug but comfortable. Thirty years of MX-5 refinement have produced the world’s greatest street legal go-kart.
NORTHWEST MOST FUN COUPE—2020 TOYOTA GR SUPRA
The all-new Toyota GR Supra is a rocket. It just flat goes and you dearly want to go fast in it. It’s a little tight getting in, but once ensconced you feel like you and the car are one. The twin-turbo inline 6-cylinder engine is a torque monster. It just pulls and pulls as you click through the gears with the paddle shifter equipped 8-speed automatic transmission. The 2020 Toyota GR Supra is the very definition of a sports car.
NORTHWEST MOST FUN SPORTS SEDAN—2019 MERCEDES AMG GT 63 S
A high-end luxury four-door sedan that goes like a Corvette seems incongruous, but not once you experience this jaw-dropping Mercedes. Acceleration is muscle car quick and handling is breath taking, yet luxury and comfort are superb. This super sedan tears up the tarmac with 630 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque, but it can also cruise comfortably all day long. It costs the better part of 200K and is far more car than most American roads, but if we ever win the lottery the AMG GT 63 S is on a very short list of dream cars.
NORTHWEST MOST FUN SUV—2019 ALFA ROMEO STELVIO QUADRIFOGLIO AWD
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the sports car of SUVs. A twin-turbo V-6 produces a whopping 505-hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t too long ago that these numbers would have stunned sports car fans. The Alfa is much more than raw power—it also handles extremely well, far better than its size would suggest. As an SUV the Stelvio is also all weather, all-occasions practical–a combination that’s hard to beat.
NORTHWEST MOST FUN TO DRIVE VEHICLE—2019 MERCEDES AMG GT 63 S Four-Door
The super sedan superstar Mercedes AMG GT 63 S impressed the assembled journalists so much that it was voted the favorite most fun vehicle. It was my top pick, also. The group didn’t award second and third places in the overall category, but my ballot had the Toyota GR Supra as runner-up to the AMG GT 63 S and the 2019 Dodge
Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody in third place. The Challenger will be featured in the post about all the coupes at Run to the Sun.