By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Photos by NWAPA/Josh Mackey & Bill Schaffer
To go back to part one click here:?northwest-automotive-press-associations-mudfest-2014-part-1
Snoqualmie, Wash. ??Officially titled ?NWAPA 2014 Mudfest — Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year?, the annual event was created in 1994 by the North West Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) to select a vehicle we believe to be the best suited for northwestern families. That first year happen to be overly wet and muddy, very muddy, so the nickname ?Mudfest? was given, and it stuck – literally.
This year, the utility vehicles were divided into five classes, Compact, Premium Compact, Family, Premium Standard and Extreme Capability. Winners were chosen in each category and an overall winner was crowned 2014 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year by the panel of 26 Northwest-based automotive journalists.
Here is our assessment of each of the 23 participating vehicles, we drove through a modified autocross style course, on county highways and through a specially prepared off-road course on the DirtFish Rally School property about 30 miles east of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. (Extreme Capability Vehicles used a special extreme course.) The 315 acre facility is on the 97-year old site of the old Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co., which was renamed Weyerhaeuser after the war and now it?s the home of the DirtFish Rally School.
It is interesting getting to drive 23 vehicles back-to-back, but it?s also time consuming, so NWAPA brought in a special coffee beverage truck to help the judges keep alert and a food truck so we didn?t have to leave the judging area to eat. Even with that, we just barely finished driving all the vehicles on the prescribed courses.
Here are thoughts about the Family Utililty Vehicle category entries.
Each vehicle is listed with its base price — price as tested (including destination charge,) EPA fuel economy numbers (city/highway/combined mpg) and horsepower.
Family Utility Vehicle
2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LTZ
Price as tested: $62,000 — $70,580
EPA fuel economy: 16/22/18 mpg.
Engine: 355-hp, 5.3-liter Ecotec3 V-8
Transmission: 6-Speed automatic
(See our recent review at https://ourautoexpert.com/general-motors-2015-full-size-suvs-test-drive/)
All new and significantly improved, the Chevy Tahoe LTZ is like a rolling showcase for new technologies from the running boards that magically appear from underneath when a door is opened to the Magnetic Ride Control to the heated and cooled seats. The designers did a great job of giving the big box a great new look. This top level Tahoe model is a beautiful machine, but it?s hard to get over the un-Chevy like $70,000 price tag — it?s worth it, but just a surprise. The Tahoe is comfortable, fast and especially agile for the size.
2014 Dodge Durango Limited AWD
Price as tested: $38,395 — $49,960
EPA fuel economy: 14/22/16 mpg.
Engine: 360-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8
Transmission: 8-Speed automatic
The Dodge Durango gets our vote for one of the best looking vehicles in the competition. It?s also a Hemi which means it has great acceleration and very good road manners. Like many of this year?s competitors, the Durango is loaded with all the power, comfort, safety and technology goodies.
2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD
Price as tested: $28,395 — $31,380
EPA fuel economy: 16/24/19 mpg.
Engine: 283-hp, 3.6-liter V-6
Transmission: 6-Speed automatic
Looking back at our nearly 3000 item list of cars we?ve driven in the last 20 plus years, we discovered we?ve never reviewed the Journey, and it was the vehicle that surprised us most. The Journey is fun to drive and quite spunky. It?s a great value and feels like a much more expensive vehicle than the price tag would indicate.
2014 Honda Pilot 5-door 4WD Touring
Price as tested: $41,420 — $42,250
EPA fuel economy: 17/24/20 mpg.
Engine: 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6
Transmission: 5-Spd. Automatic
(See our recent review at https://ourautoexpert.com/2014-honda-pilot-test-drive/)
The Honda Pilot might be aging, rolling over into the fifth year of the production cycle, but it?s still a contender providing a solid comfortable ride and good handling characteristics. Watch for a new model in the next year or two, but in the meantime the Pilot does a great job for a family looking for a three row SUV/crossover.
2015 Kia Sorento SX AWD
Price as tested: $38,300 — $39,195
EPA fuel economy: 18/24/20 mpg.
Engine: 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6
Transmission: 6-Speed automatic
Kia continues to amaze us?with each new iteration they make a leap forward, and the latest generation of the Sorento is another big leap. We must not be the only ones that think that, because the NWAPA judges picked the Sorento as the Best Family model. All new last year as a 2014 model the 2015 model from the competition is basically unchanged. The styling is clean and contemporary plus the interior is well organized and as comfortable as any of the competitors. The Sorento boasts three rows of seating to carry a large family, and it rewards the driver with the nimble handling and spirited acceleration. We like Kia?s user friendly UVO communication system and navigation system ? both are standard equipment on the SX model.
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SE S-AWC
Price as tested: $25,795 — $32,720
EPA fuel economy: 24/29/26 mpg.
Engine: 166-hp, 2.4-liter 4-cyl.
Mitsubishi has gone through tough times in recent years, but they are still putting out some good products and the Outlander is one of them. An excellent value in the Family category, the Outlander looks good, handled all the road conditions with enthusiasm. Outlander also has by far the best fuel economy in the category. We?re not big fans of CVT transmissions, but this one doesn?t give you that ?winding up? feeling some do. It could use a little more horsepower — a turbocharger would really help.
2014 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4×4
Price as tested: $41,200 — $44,545
EPA fuel economy: 19/25/21 mpg.
Engine: 260-hp, 3.5-liter V-6
Transmission: Xtronic CVT
In its 29 year history, the Nissan Pathfinder has evolved from being a hardcore off roader to its present crossover status. Still capable of moderate off road driving, the Pathfinder has matured into a nice comfortable people mover. Nissan has switched nearly all its transmissions to CVTs and they?ve done a good job giving them a positive feel. We especially like the Pathfinder V-6 engine, which still ranks as one of the best engines in the industry.
We can?t remember a Mudfest competition where we had so many closely matched entries. As a recap here are the winners.
* Best Compact: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4
* Best Premium Compact: (Tie) Volvo XC60 T6 AWD
and Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
* Best Family: 2015 Kia Sorento SX AWD
* Best Premium Standard: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4 ECODiesel
* Best Extreme Capability: 2014 Land Rover Range Rover HSE
* Best Overall: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4
Each year NWAPA uses proceeds from the entry fees to provide several scholarships students at several northwest college and universities. This year, in addition to the scholarships, NWAPA donated $1,000 to a local K9 Search and Rescue organization in support of its tremendous contribution to the recent Oso, Washington landslide recovery efforts.