Photos by Doug Berger
Portland, Oregon – This year the group of cars was the best ever with cars like the BMW i8, Rolls Royce Wraith, Nissan GT-R, Dodge Viper, Bentley Continental GT Convertible, Dodge Challenger Hellcat and Mercedes-Benz S550.
The first day of the drive started in Portland and went through the Cascade Mountain forests and lava fields to spend the night in the western themed town of Sisters, Oregon on the east side of the Cascades. The second day the drive went further east into Oregon’s expansive high desert area stopping in places like Shaniko and Maupin before returning down the Columbia River Gorge to Portland.
Each automotive journalist drove each car about 15 to 20 miles before stopping and switching to the next one in the rotation, before finally driving all 25 cars.
Here’s the basic information and pricing on each car in alphabetical order, along with a quick observation about each:
Base price $95,500 plus$ 925 destination charge. The event vehicle also had 11 options including full leather interior, Night View Assist Plus, Burmeister 3-DSurround Sound along with the Premium, Sport, Warmth and Comfort, Air Balance and Driver Assist packages. The price as test was $128,545.
When was the last time you drove a car with an automatic fragrance atomizer that wasn’t hanging from the rear view mirror? It seems as if this car had every conceivable feature the auto industry has ever created. The car is exceptionally comfortable, but it also handles beautifully when pushed through the corners. The Mercedes-Benz S550 is almost a utopian car. Read our review soon at www.iVeho.com.
Base price $20,695 plus $795 destination charge. One option on the event car, the Premium Package, added premium audio, sunroof, and a few minor cosmetic enhancements. The price as test was $22,940.
The Mitsubishi Lancer was the least expensive, and least powerful of the event fleet, however it performed quite well. The SE is a mid-level trim for the compact sedan. The Lancer handles nicely but not at the same levels as other models in the drive. The Lancer seems solid and well built. It’s an outstanding price, especially for an all-wheel drive car.
2015 Nissan GT-R Black 2+2 Coupe
3.8-liter, twin-turbo V-6, 545-hp, 463-lb.ft. of torque, six-speed double-clutch transmission with paddle shifters, Brembo brakes and all-wheel drive. 0 to 60 mph 3.0 seconds. 16/23 mpg.
Base price $111,510 plus $1,595 destination charge. The only option was floormats. The price as test was $113,400.
The Nissan GT-R was the fastest accelerating vehicle in the event, and it is one of the best handling cars built. The single model has a long list of standard features mostly directed to performance; however there are more creature comforts offered on this car than ever before. For such a fast car, it’s very easy to drive, but the ride is rough. Navigation and a very comprehensive performance computer are standard equipment. You can read our review of the 2014 GT-R at http://ourautoexpert.com/nissan-gt-r-premium-test-drive/.
Base price $284,900 plus $2,500 destination charge. Options included two-tone exterior paint, more than $20,000 for decorative woods, the $38,825 Wraith Package and a $700 umbrella. Price as tested $370,850.
The Rolls-Royce Wraith is everything I’ve heard and imagined it to be, and more. Rolls-Royce describes the Wraith as the ultimate gentleman’s gran turismo. It’s difficult to describe the level of bespoke luxury, comfort and performance. The Wraith also has some very interesting technologies like a Satellite Aided Transmission which processes GPS data to predict the driver’s next move and automatically selects the appropriate gear for the road ahead plus it uses the same information to enhance steering and suspension dynamics. In the short 28 miles I drove the Wraith I was impressed with the opulence, but was intimidated the price. It’s quick accelerating and feels large, but also feels “soft” on the corners, but I think that’s the prescribed nature of the car.
Base price $24,700 plus $755 destination charge. There were no options on the event car. The price as tested was $25,455.
We recently reviewed the Subaru BRZ, which is a near twin to the Scion FR-S. Both are exceptionally fun to drive sports cars. It’s low to ground and a challenge to get into, but once in it’s a nice comfortable fit and provided me with an excellent driving position. The engine is responsive, the transmission precise and the handling excellent.
Subaru WRX STI Sedan Launch Edition
2.5-liter turbocharged horizontally-opposed (Boxer) four-cylinder, 305-hp, 290-lb.ft. of torque, six-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive and Brembo brakes. 0 to 60 mph 4.8 seconds. 17/23 mpg.
Base price $37,395 plus $795 destination charge. The very well-equipped Launch Edition had no options. The price as tested $38,190.
The Subaru WRX STI is probably as close as you can get to buying a race-ready rally car. Even though Subaru has added a nice interior appointments and comfortable seats the car still has a certain ride roughness of that goes along with the precision of handling attributes. The engine is especially responsive with virtually no turbo lag, which made it one of the more entertaining cars at the event – providing a high level of driver confidence.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn Hatchback
2.0-liter TSI® turbocharged, four-cylinder, 210-hp, 258-lb.ft. of torque, six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. 0 to 60 mph 5.8 seconds. 25/33 mpg.
Base price $30,695 plus $820 destination charge. The event vehicle had only a few minor accessories and no options. Price as tested $31,865.
The Golf GTI Autobahn is the top model of the GTI lineup and as such is very well equipped with most all the comfort, convenience and entertainment features that VW offers.
The Golf GTI is all new for 2015, and reflects the model heritage along with a significant level of improvements. Like all previous VW GTI’s, this one of the cars that defines the ‘hot hatch’ category.
Driving all these wonderful cars over a two day period is something like being the proverbial kid in a candy store. Each one offers its own delights and idiosyncrasies. As a general observation, the level of the cars and quality is amazing, at all the price points.
I had driven many of the cars already, and I included links to the reviews of those cars. A few of those I hadn’t driven surprised me with how good they are, especially the Cadillac ATS Coupe, Mercedes-Benz C400, Mercedes-Benz S550, BMW i8, Chevrolet SS and Alfa Romeo C4.
Comparing notes with my fellow journalists the inevitable question comes up, “Which car would I buy from the group?” I’m a fan of sport sedans and coupes, so the sports cars and hot rods don’t appeal to me for an everyday driver. Based on price and practicality, my favorites included the Audi S4, Hyundai Genesis and Cadillac ATS Coupe – they are reasonably priced and practical, while still being very fun to drive. If money were no object the Bentley Continental GT Convertible and Mercedes-Benz S550 would top my list.
I’d like to thank the participating auto manufacturers for the chance to drive their cars!