Western Automotive Journalists’ Media Day Review
Once a year a group of automotive journalists including Clean Fleet Report gathers on the Monterey Peninsula to drive a selection of the latest models available. This year we had the opportunity to sample a variety of vehicles, with First Drive stories scheduled to appear in the near future.
Here’s a preview of what we drove over two days and a headline of what we thought (in alphabetical order):
- Acura MDX Sport Hybrid – This is a big SUV that is now pushing close to 30 mpg with some careful driving. It’s got some odd gearwork inside, but comes loaded with luxury items.
Chrysler Pacifica Plug–in Hybrid – Chrysler’s rep told us the plug-in nature of this model may not be highlighted and we found out why. The added fuel economy (84 MPGe with a 32 mpg in gas-only mode) is nice, but the overall car is the best minivan I’ve ever driven.
- Ford F–250 Super Duty – Diesel is definitely not dead in this class of big truck. The power and added fuel economy are expected, but the luxury in this serious work truck is a real plus.
- Honda Clarity – The third entry in the fuel cell car sweepstakes is a stunner. It looks great and travels as smooth as we’ve come to expect from most electric cars. It’s good competition for the Toyota Mirai.
- Jaguar XE 2.0d – A sure-footed AWD sedan that feels a bit like a throwback—specifically the first generation BMW 3-Series—and that’s not a bad thing.
- Kia Niro Hybrid – My colleagues have already praised this model highly so my expectations were high, but like several other Kia models—it delivers.
- Land Rover Discovery Td6 – Another big, high-riding SUV, this one with diesel power giving it mid-20s mpg. The torque from the diesel reinforces a feeling of invincibility.
Mazda CX–5 – Mazda seems to keep pumping up this model, which is the heart of its SUV lineup. It’s understated, but a real pleasure to drive while tagging on fuel economy up to almost 30 mpg on the highway.
- Mercedes–Benz GLA 250 – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this little red number. It looked sporty, but offered a hint of SUV utility. It turned out to suffer from this kind of schizophrenia, which muddled its image.
- Toyota CH–R – Toyota finally jumps into the hot subcompact SUV segment with this wild-looking model. It’s fun, but quirky in more than just its looks.
- Toyota Prius Prime – This round the plug-in Prius gets a redo to distinguish it from the non-plug-in Prius and also adds some new gadgets. It’s definitely a step up, but the competition hasn’t been standing still so it is going to continue struggle with all but Toyota loyalists.
- Zero Motorcycles – Zero brought out its full line of electric bikes and got a lot of attention for the bikes quiet performance. It turns out police all over the country love that combination (quiet+performance).
In addition to all of the fun hardware (and trust me, I didn’t have a chance to try everything I wanted to), WAJ Media Day also gave me a chance to learn more about Navdy’s head-up display and get updated on why high-strength steel is still used so extensively in the auto industry.