Lexus LC 500 to Volkswagen Jetta GLI
By Bill Schaffer
Mount Hood – Here are the cars from the Lexus LC 500 to the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, which made up the balance of the 24 cars in the 2017 NWAPA Run to the Sun. When the two-day drive was finished, the NWAPA members chose favorites.
Each of the 24 participating journalists drove 24 of the most interesting cars and performance SUVs available in the U.S. market on the 24 legs of a 525-mile route. The event was based out of a resort in the shadow of snow-capped Mount Hood and the drive took us through the Cascade mountain range where we passed 10 volcanic peaks, traversed deep canyons, crossed spectacular prairies and ended by winding our way back to Portland, OR down the famous Columbia River Gorge. (The prices are rounded to the nearest thousand.)
Lexus LC 500 — $103,000, 471-hp Lexus calls the all-new LC 500 a World Class Luxury Coupe, and it might be the world’s best. Elegant, refined, sophisticated, beautiful – the LC has it all. It’s fast, producing of 4.6 second 0 to 60 mph time and it has a top speed of 168 mph. But this is a luxury car beyond looks and performance, it’s a statement.
Mazda Miata MX-5 RF – $34,000, 155-hp.Even competing with 23 other fantastic cars, the Mazda Miata MX-5 is always exciting. It’s the essence of sports car. The little Mazda Skyactiv engine accelerates quickly — only 5.8 seconds from 0 to 60 mph, and it has a top speed of 125 mph. The handling is perfect and it’s pure fun to drive. The new RF trim, adds a coupe like dimension while still offering open-air motoring. The only downside for the Miata is tight quarters and limited cargo space.
McLaren 570S — $200,000, 570-hp never thought I’d get a chance to drive a McLaren. It was intimidating, simply because of the name and scarcity – there have only been about 10,000 McLarens built in the last seven years. The car is easy to drive – once you get in – but it feels foreign because it’s the controls are so different from a typical sports car. It accelerates from 0 to 60 in just 3.21 seconds and has a top speed of 204 mph.
Mercedes-Bends AMG GT C Roadster — $179,000, 550-hp.The AMG vehicles are a step up from the regular Mercedes models. Each engine is hand built by one person and the car is a masterpiece of innovative technologies. The GT C is easy to drive, beautiful, comfortable and extremely fast making a 0 to 60 mph run in 3.0 seconds with a top speed of 196 mph. The only down side is the tight interior space and cargo capacity.
Mercedes-Benz E43 — $91,000, 396-hp.In the same vein as the BMW M series cars, the Mercedes AMG models set the standard in refined high performance. The E43 is one of my favorites of the 24. The technology is the best in the industry and the performance and handling is right there with the best. Zero to 60 mph takes 4.2 seconds and it uses a 3.0-liter V-6 — with twin turbochargers. Top speed is limited to 155 mph.
Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 — $40,000, 221-hp.And now for something totally different, but very interesting. This Mini Countryman is a plug-in hybrid powered by a 134-hp 3-cylinder engine and an 87-hp electric motor. Tests show a 6.8 second, 0 to 60 mph time and a top speed of 131 mph, so it maintains the spunkiness of a Mini but better fuel economy. The EPA says it gets 27 mpg on gasoline only and 65 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).
Nissan GT-R Nismo — $178,000, 600-hp.I have driven the GT-R on a few other occasions, and I still think it’s the fastest car I have ever driven. Over the last dozen years, it’s been imported into the U.S. market, it has gone from being a brute, to a much more sophisticated all-wheel drive performance car. There is no messing around with this car, it’s designed for speed. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 180-mph.
Nissan Maxima SR — $39,000, 300-hp. The Maxima was a late substitute for the Rolls Royce Ghost ($416,000) which was pulled due to an electrical problem. The Maxima is comfortable, quiet, and fun to drive. It’s quick, too, making a 0 to 60 mph run in 5.9 seconds. Top speed is limited to 135 mph.
Subaru WRX Limited — $35,000, 268-hp In the 27 years Barbara and I have been writing about cars, the Subaru WRX is the only car, until recently, that we considered buying. It’s fast, fun and versatile. I prefer this model to the quicker STI version, because it more refined and comfortable. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds and has a top speed of 144 mph.
Volkswagen Jetta GLI — $29,000, 210-hp.The Volkswagen reputation runs toward more basic transportation, but we find VWs to be more sophisticated and powerful than the numbers would indicate. It’s fun to drive, solidly built and very much the kind of inexpensive sedan that enthusiastic drivers love. Zero to 60 mph takes 6.3 seconds.
Volvo XC60 T8 — $72,000, 400-hp.Volvo keeps impressing me with its new products and innovative technologies. Initially it was the far-out safety equipment, but now it’s the innovative power trains that have my attention. Volvo committed to an all four-cylinder lineup a couple years ago and the T8 does it with the works – turbocharging, supercharging, and an electric motor to create the equivalent of 200 horsepower per liter – WOW! Volvo claims a 0 to 60 mph time of only 4.6 seconds. I love Volvo’s amazing comfortable seats and innovative styling.
At the end of the event the journalists voted on the vehicles we had driven and as a group selected the following winners:
Best Performance Sedan: 2017 Honda Civic Type R
Best Performance Coupe: 2017 Acura NSX
Best Convertible: 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster
Best Performance SUV: 2018 Audi SQ5 3.0T quattro
Overall Winner: 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster
For me, the voting turned out to be an exercise in futility. Although I didn’t necessarily agree with all the winners, the program was more of a study of superlatives, because each vehicle was remarkable in its own way and for very different reasons.