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. Some of my colleagues have been impressed with their time in this car.
- 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.