A muddy 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition won its category and was selected as the Best Overall Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year at Mudfest 2016. The 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD, a category winner, traverses the go-kart track at The Ridge Motorsports Park during the Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year event.The rugged 2016 Jeep Wrangler 75th Anniversary Edition glides down a muddy slope at Mudfest 2016 near Shelton, Wash.

Jeep and Volvo models take top awards at Mudfest 2016

Shelton, Wash.-The Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) named the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition as the 2016 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year at its annual event, affectionately called Mudfest.

Twenty-six automotive journalists tested and scored 28 vehicles over two days in the 22nd staging of Mudfest, held at The Ridge Motorsports Park, a 170-acre premier race park known as The Ridge, near Shelton.  

The first day of testing involved handling, braking, slalom, and acceleration on the tight go-kart course at The Ridge. The second day offered two off-road custom courses designed for Mudfest testing. A moderate course for crossovers and most SUVs tested handling and off-road capabilities in dirt, mud, and ruts, while an extreme course for a limited number of Mudfest entries pushed the limits for hardcore off-roading.

The extreme course, requiring vehicles to use low-range four-wheel-drive systems, subjected vehicles to axle articulation, steep approach and departure angles, plus extreme mud and water driving. Plentiful mud, ruts, a rough log course, and a small lake were all part of the custom course designed by The Ridge to test the most rigorous off-road capabilities of select vehicles.

Vehicles competed in six categories that included compact, premium compact, premium utility vehicle, family utility vehicle, extreme capability, and pickups. Overall scoring included performance issues, technology features, capability for on- and off-road driving, fuel economy, and pricing.

A wide range of vehicles were tested and scored at Mudfest, each offering variable driving characteristics and capabilities.

Compact utility vehicles included the 2016 Fiat 500x Easy, 2017 Kia Sportage SX, 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring, 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT, 2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium, and the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited. The category winner was the Mazda CX-3, which performed well beyond most journalists’ expectations.

The premium compact utility vehicle category offered the 2016 Acura RDX Advance AWD, 2016 BMW X1 xDrive28is, 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan SE, and the Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD. Best Premium Utility winner was the Volvo V6, which offers an exceptional turbocharged 2.5-L engine, a touring chassis, a very adaptable all-wheel-drive system with instant traction, and amazing technology features. It performed extraordinarily well on- and off-road.

In the family utility segment, competitors included the 2016 Ford Explorer Premium, 2016 Honda Pilot Elite, 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Ultimate, 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 75th Anniversary Edition, 2016 Kia Sorento SX-L AWD, and the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL.

Not only was the Grand Cherokee named the Best Family Utility Vehicle, this genuine SUV won the overall Mudfest award for good reason. It has phenomenal Quadra-Trac II 4WD and Selec-Terrain systems, as well as tech and handling features that make it a real winner. While not in the extreme vehicle category, this Jeep handled that course with ease, offering off-road and hill-climbing capabilities usually found in vehicles like Land Rovers. Other editions of the Grand Cherokee model have won the Northwest Outdoor Vehicle of the Year award in the past.

The premium utility category offered a unique grouping of vehicles that included the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e, 2016 Lexus LX570, 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG, 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E, and the Volkswagen Touareg Sport. Volvo captured another Mudfest win as the Best Premium Utility Vehicle for its XC60 that offered top fuel economy and very competitive pricing in its group, as well as superior application of technology, interior function, and overall handling. It was one of the most enjoyable vehicles tested at the event.

The extreme category at Mudfest provided some of the most exciting test-driving at the event. The 2016 models of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary Edition, Nissan Titan XD Pro 4X 4WD, and Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 all performed with gifted capability and offered exciting uphill, downhill, rut, mud, and water driving.

In the end, the Wrangler, a performance whiz with its spectacular rock-climbing attributes and overall off-road technologies, won the Best Extreme Capability award. One reason was that the loaded Wrangler had an MSRP of $44,235 while its competitors were priced at $58,165 and $84,260. The Jeep simply provides uncommon dynamics, generous standard equipment, and astounding handling in off-road conditions for a great price.

The final category at Mudfest involved some serious pickups, 2016 models of the Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 Diesel, Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve (Diesel), RAM 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4x4, and the Toyota Tacoma TRD 4x4. Each offered top-rated performance and capabilities, but the award for Best Pickup went to the RAM Rebel, a true beast in off-road conduct with its 5.7-L HEMI engine, superior air suspension system, and a 4x4 system that makes severe off-roading seem like child’s play.

NWAPA, a professional organization of automotive journalists and media members founded in 1991, comprises 45 voting members representing more than 100 newspapers, magazines, journals, television and radio stations, media groups, and the Internet.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.