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Two days of track, road and off-road testing yields a few surprise winners in the Mudfest 2021 competition.

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige on the track during Mudfest 2021.The Northwest Automotive Press Association named the 2022 Genesis GV70 as the top vehicle at its annual Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition. The all-new 2022 GV70 came out on top with its excellent on-road drivability, surprising off-road capability and premium interior. This newest model from the Genesis brand demonstrated an unbeatable combination of performance, features, capability, and technology during the NWAPA's 26th Mudfest competition.

"The 2021 NWAPA Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition brought together a diverse group of vehicles that reflects the evolving SUV and pickup markets," said NWAPA President John Vincent of U.S. News & World Report. "The 2022 Genesis GV70 luxury crossover brought together phenomenal road manners, elegant integration of technology, and an unexpected ability to tackle off-road obstacles with little drama."

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige demonstrating its off-road capabilities during Mudefest 2021.The annual event is also known as Mudfest. First and second place winners in other categories included the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD, 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD, 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392, 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced Badlands 4X4, 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4MATIC, 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II 4X4, 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum, 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD, and the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4X4.

NWAPA automotive media professionals spent Sept. 8 and 9 driving 19 vehicles through a mix of on-road handling and off-road courses at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Wash. The first day's activities included on-road handling testing while the second day took journalists through a custom-made off-road course constructed at The Ridge to evaluate the capabilities of the sport utility vehicles, crossovers, and pickups.

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prome XSE AWD completed most of its track testing on electricity alone at Mudfest 2021.Portland Tribune/Pamplin Media Group automotive reporter Jim Redden participated in the event. His comments on some of the winners are below.

Entrants in Mudfest competed in six categories: Subcompact and Compact Family Utility Vehicles, Mid-and Full-Size Family Utility Vehicles, Compact and Midsize Luxury Utility Vehicles, Full-Size Luxury Utility Vehicles, Pickup Trucks, and Extreme Capability Vehicles. NWAPA members also selected an overall winner: The Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - A second electric motor that powers the rear wheels gives the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD full off-road capabilities.While the competition was fierce, and the voting was close, there can be only one winner from each category. These vehicles earned the praise of the NWAPA media professionals who evaluated the vehicles:

Subcompact and Compact Family – 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD

• Runner up – 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

Mid-and Full-Size Family – 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392

• Runner up – 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced Badlands 4X4

Compact and Midsize Luxury – 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige

• Runner up – 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4MATIC

Full-Size Luxury – 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II 4X4

• Runner up – 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum

Pickup Trucks – 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD

• Runner up – 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4X4

Extreme Capability – 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392

• Runner up – 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced Badlands 4X4

NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year – 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige

• Runner up – 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 is named after the 392 cubic inch V8 that powered it around the track at Mudfest 2021.The on-road evaluation venue included portions that tested acceleration, handling, braking, rear-view cameras, and more. The heart of the on-road testing took place on The Ridge's go-kart track, complete with elevation changes, sharp corners, and sweeping curves — creating the type of conditions drivers encounter on the road every day. That was supplemented by drives on the public road that leads to the facility.

The vehicles were also evaluated on an off-road course that simulated rough Forest Service roads that northwest drivers often encounter on weekend adventures. Plenty of loose dirt, deep ruts, steep climbs, and dramatic descents formed the second day's route, challenging each vehicle's four- or all-wheel drive systems. The venue allowed the vehicles to showcase state-of-the-art technologies, including 360-degree cameras, hill descent controls, and state-of-the-art traction management systems.

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 is as off-road capable as it is fast.The testing course featured an optional section for extremely capable vehicles which took these SUVs and pickups through steep climbs, deep moguls, and extreme descents on loose dirt to test their prowess and features, such as low-range four-wheel drive, axle articulation, plus approach, breakover, and departure angles. Vehicles were required to complete this course to be eligible for the Extreme Capability category.

Jim Redden's comments:

"All of the vehicles entered in Mudfest 2021 are worth considering for anyone who spends much time in the outdoors. While some are better suited for larger families or serious off-roading, they are all capable of at least reaching moderate camping, fishing and hunting sites.

"This year's Mudfest was also another reminder how much SUVs have evolved over the years. All of the vehicles in the first Mudfest were based on truck or truck-like frames. Most of the 2021 entrants were car-like unibody crossovers. Although the majority were not cleared to tackle the most extreme course, that does not mean they are not off-road capable. They all handled the basic off-road course, which had far more obstacles — like a large log pile — than most owners will ever encounter.

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The small bed did not prevent the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD from winning the Pickup Truck category at Mudfest 2021."The participating journalists voted for the winners and some of them surprised me. The 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD is a remarkable blend of luxury, performance and capability. But it only has two rows of seats. Several other vehicles — including the three-row 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II 4X4 — have higher ground clearance and can carry more people deeper into the woods.

"I was also surprised — but pleased — that the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD won the Pickup Truck category and placed second in the NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition. Much like the older versions of the Subaru Brat, it has a very small bed, which limits its practically. But powered by a peppy turbocharged 2.5-liter engine and equipped with a locking center differential, it was a blast to drive and handled the light off-road course with ease.

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD demonstrated it can handle moderate off-roading at Mudfest 2021."Two of the winners reflect the conflicts that are roiling the automotive world these days. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD won the Subcompact and Compact Family category. It is a plug-in hybrid that can go more than 40 miles on electricity alone before switching over to a traditional fuel-saving hybrid mode, which is good for the planet. The 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392 that won the Mid-and Full-Size Family is named after the incredibly powerful 392 cubic inch V8 stuffed under the hood that gets terrible mileage but makes it fun to drive. It's worth noting that Jeep also makes a plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe that goes 21 miles on electricity alone and delivers up to 49 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) that was not entered in the competition, for those of you who want to go off road and save the world at the same time.

"I want to commend Vincent, event co-chair Perry Stern and all of the others who pulled Mudfest 2021 together despite the ever-shifting restrictions being imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Everyone had to be vaccinated or present proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test to participate, and wear masks when not eating during indoor activities. I sincerely want to thank the manufacturers who participated, including those that did not place. I will include my Mudfest impressions of those vehicles when I review them.

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The all-new 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II 4X4 combines luxury, three rows of seating and serious off-road capabilities."Doug Berger, who photographed the event, also deserves credit. He worked to get every driver in every vehicle in as many stages as possible. Berger has helped document previous NWAPA events and hopefully will be available for future ones.

"And a final thanks to DriveShop and Page One, the two companies that provide auto writers with test vehicles and who staffed the event. They worked tirelessly to make sure each was as clean and safe as possible under difficult circumstances. We couldn't do it without them."

DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II 4X4 was not afraid to play hard during Mudfest 2021.About NWAPA

NWAPA is a professional organization of automotive journalists and media members from throughout the Pacific Northwest and Southwest Canada. Founded in 1991, it includes 61 voting members representing newspapers, magazines, radio stations, media groups, and the internet. Members of the organization have been testing SUVs and crossovers since the advent of the modern sport-utility vehicle in the mid-1990s. Non-voting NWAPA members include representatives from automotive manufacturers and related industry professionals.


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