NWAPA’s AWD and 4WD Leaders
Photos by Ryan Douthit, MediaSpigot LLC
The Northwest Automotive Press Association’s (NWAPA) two-day 2019 Mudfest event offered up the newest 4WD/AWD vehicles for review, by 25 automotive journalists. In its 25th year, Mudfest let’s journalists choose which rigs were tops—both on and off pavement.
On-road testing included slalom, brake checks, back-up challenge (using back-up technology), and a jaunt on the tarmac go-kart course. Off-pavement testing included an easier track, as well as an extreme trail for those equipped to tackle tougher terrain. Twenty-two vehicles competed in these categories:
- Subcompact and Compact Family
- Mid-and Full-Size Family
- Compact and Midsize Luxury
- Full-Size Luxury
- Pickup Trucks
- Extreme Capability
- The NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year
Champions of 2019 Mudfest were selected on several criteria: ride/handling, powertrain, fuel efficiency, technology, exterior design, interior comforts and more.
Subcompact and Compact Family
2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The 182 hp ’19 Subaru Forester took top honors in this class. Boasting improved legroom and rear cargo space, this AWD runabout was responsive and performed solidly on tarmac and dirt. Our $31,815 Sport was rated at 26 city/33 highway/29 combined, was built on Subaru’s new global platform, and had oodles of safety features—like EyeSight, Blind-Spot Detection, Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, and DriverFocus.
Mid-and Full-Size Family
2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD
The ‘20 Kia Telluride SX deservingly won this segment and was the runner up to win overall compliments. It was a surprise—its options, agility, looks, and driving impressions on and off road were outstanding. Our $46,860 V-6-equipped Telluride SX tester was a great value. The seven passenger platform is perfect for families heading out to trailheads or forest service roads. The 291 hp, 3.8L V-6 had 8 inches of ground clearance, multiple driving modes, and center differential lock mode for off-tarmac opportunities, keeping power distribution at 50% front/50% rear.
Compact and Midsize Luxury
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC
The all-new ’20 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC AWD exuded comfort, the latest in technology, and great off-tarmac capability. This $98,725 SUV offered a turbocharged 3.0L inline-six engine that boasted 362 horses and 369 lb-ft of torque. It had multiple driving modes and a special driving feature enabling the suspension to quickly lift and lower the vehicle, rocking itself, to help owners get unstuck in challenging terrain.
2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i
Mudfest’s journalists awarded top honors to the ’19 BMW X7 xDrive50i. Our $120,645 vehicle included a 4.4-liter turbocharged V-8 that created a whopping 456 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Offering up to 8.7 inches of ground clearance, this X7 had loads of safety and technology—which included tons of airbags, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic warning, and lane-departure warning.
Pickup Trucks, Extreme Capability, and NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The hotly anticipated Jeep truck cashed in at 2019 Mudfest: earning wins for the best truck and extreme capability categories, as well as the overall NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year award.
The Gladiator = 100% truck, 100% Jeep. Its off-road features include front and rear steel bumpers (front is winch-ready), front and rear lockers, Dana 44 front and rear axles, a front disconnecting sway bar, Falken all-terrain tires, Fox shocks, lots of safety features, as well as 1,600 lbs of payload capacity, and 7,650 lbs of towing capacity.
The Gladiator boasted an open-air cockpit: doors and roof removed; front windshield lowered. Off-road prowess was remarkable; it chomped up boulders, glided over dirt, and took whatever we threw at it.
Each 4×4 and AWD vehicle is worth a test drive, if you’re interested in purchasing a new adventure rig.