Annual Run to the Sun Event features sport and performance cars
Ahh, the delight of driving 25 sports cars and those with outstanding performance elements over two days in the Pacific Northwest is a driver’s delight. The annual Run to the Sun (RTTS) event, organized by the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA), provides journalists the opportunity to test a diversity of smooth handling and powerful vehicles, many of those being convertibles.
The 2015 event in late September is one of three events NWAPA produces each year, but the only one where there is no journalist scoring or awards provided to automakers. The spring Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year award, or Mudfest, tests some 25 SUV, crossovers, and trucks on- and off-road to determine category and overall winners, while the summer Drive Revolution offers testing, scoring, and awards for the best alternative fueled vehicles.
Basing near SeaTac International Airport, the 25 RTTS entries represented a wide variety of characteristics, as well as a massive difference in price, for two days of road driving where each journalist drove a segment in each vehicle.
Those tested this year were the 2016 Acura ILX TECH, 2016 Acura RLX SPT HYB SHAWD, Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, 2015 Buick Regal AWD GS, 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe, 2015 Corvette Stingray Convertible, 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, 2015 Dodge Viper GTC, 2015 Fiat 500C, 2015 Ford Mustang I-4 Coupe Premium, 2014 Ford Mustang GT Coupe Premium (V-8), and 2016 Honda Accord 2-Door EX-L.
Also in the mix were the 2016 Hyundai Veloster R-SPEC (our lowest priced entry at $21,745), 2016 Jaguar F-TYPE R Coupe, 2015 Kia Forte Koup SX, 2015 Lexus RC-F, 2016 Mazda X-5 Miata, 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600, 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution R, 2016 Nissan Maxima SR, 2016 Nissan 370Z Nismo Tech, 2025 Roll-Royce Ghost (our highest priced entry at $380,325), 2016 Scion FR-S, 2016 Subaru WRX STI, and 2015 Volkswagen Golf R.
Many of the entries were definite sports and racing cars, like the pleasant driving Mazda Miata convertible, powerful Chevy Stingray, the throaty Mustang V-8, the raucous Viper, robust Hellcat, sharply styled Veloster, WRX racer, potent FRS, quick Nismo, and renowned Alfa Romeo, though some we found extremely difficult for entry and egress, especially the Alfa and Viper.
Others in the group provided both sportiness and performance, such as the smooth driving Acuras, Buick Regal, Cadillac ATS, Honda Accord Coupe, Jaguar F-TYPE, Lexus RC-F, and Lancer Evo, though the latter goes away after the final 1,600 upgraded limited edition models of the 10th generation Evo are sold in the U.S.
The category of fun cars to drive include the Fiat 500C (the Pope likes it!), Honda Accord Coupe, Kia Forte, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima, and VW Golf. These are sporty, but not necessarily as appealing to Gen Y group, though each performed well in our event.
While it may be difficult to compare the racers to more classy vehicles tested, each has its attributes and RTTS entries like the Mercedes-Maybach ($202,935; second highest of the entries) and Roll-Royce Ghost were superb. The Maybach has a 6.0-L V-12 bi-turbo engine that can rock your socks off with its 523 HP and 612 lb.-ft. of torque, plus it has amazing comfort, safety, and tech features. It also is an absolute delight to drive and had a rear console refrigerator, an $1,100 option on our tester.
What is there to say about the Ghost except that its hand- made and provides beyond belief performance with its V-12 (6.6-L, 48-valve) engine that produces 563 HP and 575 lb.-ft. of torque. This is a genuinely classy, huge, and comfortable vehicle to drive with a list of features that is almost unbelievable. Its interior spaciousness is mind boggling, but the downfall is 15 MPG overall fuel economy. While our tester had an MSRP of $286,750, that popped up just under $100,000 with numerous options that included the $2,500 federal gas guzzler fee. But those that can afford the price tag may not be troubled by fuel costs.
Our Day One test, with 14 legs, took a circuitous route from our hotel at SeaTac to Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier National Park for lunch. Driving the winding roads inside the park was a delight for those in the sportier models, though speed is well controlled inside the park. Heading down the backside on Highway 123 provided drivers and passengers a spectacular fall display of colors and again fun roadways for sportsters.
Day Two was on the Olympic Peninsula and again offered gorgeous scenery in forests and along Hood Canal. Our lunch stop was at a private 1950s diner and car museum that amazed even the most experienced automotive professional.
In the end, each car provided its own comfort, driveability, and sportiness. While we enjoyed the classy comfort of the Maybach and Rolls-Royce, the Veloster, WRX, Miata, and others were genuinely fun to drive.