Driving with a purpose at the 2019 Run to the Sun
Every year, the Northwest Automotive Press Association gathers some of the best performance cars and SUVs on the market and we drive them around Oregon and Southwest Washington for two days. This is an unusual event because it gives us critics the chance to drive competing models back-to-back and compare them against each other on the same stretch of road.
Vehicles participating in the early September event were provided by the automakers, and we divide them into categories including convertibles, coupes, sedans, and SUVs. In each category, we're asked to choose our favorites.
In the convertible category, we drove both the 2019 Mazda Miata RF and the 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth. These cars are based on the same chassis, but Mazda and Fiat give them different engines and suspension, and dramatically different looks. Between the two, the Mazda offers more power and a Northwest-friendly retractable hardtop design, but the Fiat got my vote for its rev-happy 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and classic Italian looks.
It's hard to choose a favorite among the high-performance coupes at the event, but the all-new 2020 Toyota GR Supra was a standout. This car is the result of a partnership between Toyota and BMW, and the twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine is remarkable. Although it's rated at a modest 335 horsepower, the Supra feels like it's got much more. If you like sport coupes, the Supra should be at the top of your test-drive list. Another standout was the 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition, which brings together the best of Lexus luxury with all-out performance.
For those who prefer four-door cars, the sedan category offered a number of excellent choices. My favorite was the 2019 Genesis G70, which offers a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine with 365 horsepower, all in a smooth, supremely comfortable package. However, the closely related 2019 Kia Stinger GTS was also impressive with the same Hyundai-derived engine and a more sporty demeanor.
Among the SUVs at the event, the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD was most impressive. This vehicle is named after the legendary road through the Stelvio pass in Italy. Equipped with 505 horsepower and huge brakes, this SUV could race any sports car through the Alps. Alfa's aggressive design and an angry exhaust note make the Stelvio my top choice. However, competition for the Stelvio was intense, coming from the new 2020 Ford Explorer ST. Ford's 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6 is tuned up to 400 horsepower. The Explorer offers more interior room and a 10-speed automatic transmission that delivers breathtaking acceleration.
Those were my favorites at the event, and detailed reviews will appear here in the next few months. Overall, what impressed me was the value and performance available on the automotive market this year. It's a great time to be shopping for a new car.
NWAPA Run to the Sun - Top Picks
2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth: $41,695
2019 Mazda Miata RF: $38,955
2020 Toyota GR Supra: $57,375
2020 Lexus RC F: $105,160
2019 Genesis G70: $52,495
2019 Kia Stinger GTS AWD V6: $47,670
2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio: $94,340
2020 Ford Explorer ST 4WD: $55,830
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