WAJ Media Days were intense, crazy, and overwhelming – all in a good way, of course. With 64 cars from 25 automotive brands on hand and the ability to jump in any/all of them, it was quite an experience. In addition to meeting some new manufacturer reps and WAJ members, it was a pleasure to meet some of the ones I’ve previously been in contact with in person. The highlight was the Ride and Drive event.
Media Days – Monterey Back Roads Ride and Drive
As I was the WAJ member, I did all the driving and Frans was my photographer, navigator, etc. We had four main routes and drove the following:
BMW X5 xDrive35i
This is a beautiful car that excels in design and functionality. The X5 was so smooth that it was like floating over the road, no matter how rough it might be.
- Pros: Wide and clear audio/navigation display, double vents, driver seat adjustable back width (hugs you on the sides), smooth acceleration, quiet, light suspension
- Cons: Fussy turn indicators, small steering wheel
The extra cab provides enough room for company but isn’t ideal for curving backroads or short people.
- Pros: Extra cab, dash display unobstructed by steering wheel
- Cons: Sluggish acceleration, narrow rear-view mirror, hard seats, hard-to see audio/navigation display with heavy glare, wide turn radius, floor set deep
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Solid SUV that handled everything I threw at it. The tight suspension was great for turns but gave me a headache on long stretches of bumpy pavement.
- Pros: Comfortable seats, automatic downshifting, substantial steering wheel, hugs turns, powerful
- Cons: Controls in odd places, extremely tight suspension, overloaded dash display but no option to show navigation in it
Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
I can now say that I drove a Corvette but it was more of a novelty than a proper road test. Uneven surfaces and curvy roads at 30 mph resulted in overly cautious driving and non-stop shifting. It was also a challenge to get the right gears (the 6th and 7th gears kept throwing me off).
- Pros: Looks slick, convertible, speedometer projected on windshield
- Cons: Very low to the ground, cumbersome convertible operation, seven gears
Quickie Test Drives Around the Loop
After returning to the main venue, we had another hour to take other cars around a designated ‘loop’.
- Dodge Challenger RT Shaker
As a loud, muscle car with minimal extra, this is really the kind of car of some teen boy/young guy. ‘Nuff said.
- Cadillac ELR
Luxury hybrid with a surprisingly rugged feel, making it more appealing to a younger crowd. Tight suspension but almost too tight for anything other than smooth asphalt.
- Land Rover Range Rover Sport
The Range Rover has an overall aesthetically pleasing interior and takes next to no effort to drive. Automatic rain detector came in handy during the inclement weather.
Whew, after six hours of backroad driving (and getting lost) in seven different cars, I was pooped. It had been ages since I drove a manual stick-shift so the constant changing of gears around turns wore me out. Taking ownership of everything else while I focused on driving was tiring for Frans as well. It was really a unique experience in entering the world of automotive journalism.
I also found one other fact to be true, age and physical frailties can’t keep boys from playing with their toys. Each journalist was assigned to a group of four. However, when the groups 1-2 was invited to head out, it seemed like some 30 people left the room. Yeah, ‘waiting your turn’ was pretty non-existent among many attendees. Next time we’ll be better prepared to get in our ‘first choice’ models and maybe even get the confidence to tackle the racetrack portion!