Trip Distance: 758 Miles
Let’s test-drive some new cars! Today’s update brings you a summary of my wild & crazy weekend o’ fun. The first half consisted of an automotive program local to the Phoenix area, and the second half involved me taking a crazy drive to California and back so that I could be there for fewer than 24 hours. Sounds like me, right?
For the last 5 years, I’ve volunteered to help with a Phoenix area “COTY” (Car of the Year) program that caters to folks who are athletic in nature. It strives to weed out and select the new vehicles each year that stand out as superior for those who demand more from their vehicles: Those who participate in outdoor sports, primarily. So it makes sense why GM entered its new Colorado pickup truck, and also why they chose to outfit it with all sort of accessories like an optional kayak rack in the bed.
This year’s “Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year” (ALV) program was based at the San Marcos resort in Chandler, Arizona. In all we had 28 new vehicles vying for awards in 8 categories. The two-day event was structured with a media/journalist day on Friday and then a consumer/athlete day on Saturday.
Prior year ALV event write-ups can be found here:
New this year was a destination drive to lunch in Fountain Hills, Arizona at the Eagle Mountain Golf Resort. In the afternoon, there were both on-road and off-road short drive routes made available for the 35 or so journalists who attended. The location, Butcher Jones Recreation Area, was perfect for both types of driving as it was adjacent to a nice, curvy two-lane paved road as well as some gnarly dirt backroads. I got a chance to try my hand at driving a new Toyota Tacoma TRD on some incredibly gnarly terrain using its “crawl control” feature. The Ram Rebel won first place in the extreme off-road category.
I also got my first chance behind the wheel of Acura’s second-generation NSX supercar, stickering at $197,000. The NSX was entered in the event as a special feature only, since clearly its abilities from a cargo-carrying and off-road perspective are limited. Acura’s Allie Coulter reserved a 40-mile drive for me in the car and I must say I fell in absolute love with it. While the driving experience differs dramatically from that of my 1992 NSX, that doesn’t make it “bad.” It’s just a 2017 approach to a 1990 formula, and that means the car is faster, safer, more technologically advanced, and…. missing a clutch pedal. I can honestly say that’s the only place I find fault with it.
How does the car behave, anyway? I punched it in Sport Mode getting onto the Beeline Highway southbound and it kicked me back into my seat. Zero-to-sixty only takes about 3 seconds in that car, so the G-forces are enough to plant you firmly in your nicely bucketed seat. The intoxicating part about driving the NSX is the growl of the motor behind the cabin. It emits such awesome sounds at any RPM. Visibility was better than I’d expected. And the car turned more heads on the 101 southbound freeway during rush hour than a supermodel.
On Saturday, there were test-drive opportunities made available to about 60 athletes who came to the San Marcos to evaluate vehicles and cast their votes. Other key winners were the Nissan Titan, Kia Cadenza, Kia Soul, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Nissan Armada.
At the conclusion of the ALV awards ceremony, I grabbed the Integra and hit the highway to drive off into the sunset on Interstate 10. For the next 6 or so hours, I let the I GS-R’s 1.7-liter, VTEC engine sing to me at 4,500 RPM at 80 miles an hour. Traffic in Corona, California was jammed thanks to road construction, but I finally made it to my hotel in Torrance a little after 9:00 p.m.
This was only the second year of the “Neo Classics” 80’s & 90’s Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS). It is hosted at Toyota’s headquarters. Last year, I attended with my Legend coupe. This year, I decided to showcase my ‘newest’ car, the Integra. I was in good company. Just moments after my arrival, a squad of “DA” bodystyle Integras like mine rolled in and I was able to park next to them and make a few new friends.
I also reconnected with a few old ones, including Jeff Koch from Hemmings, Ryu Asada who’s a designer at Mattel / Hot Wheels, and Ben Hsu from Japanese Nostalgic Car. The quality of both cars and of people is always exceptional at the JCCS event so that’s why I hope to keep attending year after year.
Thanks for coming along on my weekend adventures! The rest of my photos and a short video are below.
ALV kick-off dinner last Thursday night at “La Stalla” in Chandler, AZ (sponsored by Toyota)
Groups assembling to do the car drives & reviews
Acura’s 2017 MDX Advance
Sweet NSX photo captured by Mark Elias Media Services
Love the design of Kia’s new Cadenza
Davis Adams from Honda, along with a couple other event participants around the new Ridgeline
Nissan’s Titan showing some off-road prowess
Breakfast is served!
Midpoint / driver change for Friday’s media drive
The Ridgeline pickup bed doubles as an ice cooler!
Biggest downer about about Fiat 124 Spider which was entered: this automatic transmission.
With Shad (GM) and Darryll (VW)
Audi’s new Q7 was on-hand for evaluation.
Its most intriguing feature to me? Four-wheel steering. My 1991 Prelude had that! Here is comes as part of a $4,000+ option package.
With Will who drove up from Tucson to participate
Now, for some pics on the LA trip: Quick visit to Honda HQ in the Integra
Arriving at the show at the same time as my friend Chris in his immaculate second-generation Prelude.
Lineup of “DA” Integras. These guys were all California locals but very welcoming!
With Chris and his Prelude.
One of the Integras had Honda S2000 gauges!
Say what you want, but I loved this ultra base model 1985 Civic DX with only about 40,000 miles on it.
Aztec Green shining during a brief glimpse of sunlight (it was overcast most of the day).
I love seeing original ads & paperwork laid out like this on display.
Ultra clean Honda CRX. It’s tough to find one of these that hasn’t been heavily-modified!
Armando and his two Subaru SVXs.
Met a new friend named Brian who drives this immaculate Berlina Black 1991 NSX.
And Chris brought out his real Polaroid camera and took this shot (which he later scanned for me). It’s hard to believe just how far camera technology has come. But I love how vintage it looks!