Odometer (Legend): 531,624
Odometer (ILX): 100,290
Ever seen one of these?
I hadn’t, either. You’re looking at the brand new 2015 Jeep Renegade: known as a “cute brute” for its compact size, yet capable off-road versatility. It will be going on sale next spring, but I got a special first-look last Friday at a kick-off event for this year’s Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program in Chandler, Arizona. Let’s test-drive some new cars!
Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year was launched in Fall 2004 as a small awards program centered around bringing athletes and automobiles together. Since then, it’s evolved into an event that attracts over 100 athletes, around 30 vehicles, and even celebrity judges like retired NFL players. The idea behind the event is that “active” people – runners, bikers, hikers, sports players – require more from their vehicles than the everyday customer. How well does the vehicle accommodate gear? That is the type of question used in the evaluations. The program was held at the Chandler campus of Local Motors, a domestic automaker known for its go-anywhere Rally Fighter automobile.
Prior write-ups from my ALV participation are here:
I captained a team of 10 people who were assigned to evaluate the “Green” category of vehicles. The three vehicles which we cast ballots on were the following:
- Kia Soul EV
- Toyota Prius Plug-In
- Volkswagen Golf TDI
Before our test-drives got started, a representative from each of the automakers had the chance to conduct a brief walkaround highlighting the features of their vehicle. Jessica Peraza representated Toyota, Darryll Harrison came from VW, and James Hope from Kia. Each of the vehicles in our group represented a very unique foray into alternative fuel industry.
Kia Soul EV
The Soul, not surprisingly, delivers instantaneous torque thanks to its all-electric powertrain. A 600-pound battery is located in the floorboard of the vehicle, keeping its center of gravity low and helping with handling. For around $35k, the Soul offers up a 95-mile range when equipped with a full battery charge. I found some of its features pretty clever, including the fact that there’s a button on the instrument panel for “DRIVER ONLY” which optimizes climate control efficiency when there’s only one occupant in the vehicle.
The Prius is a fleet favorite in the Phoenix area, as there are hundreds zooming around the streets at any given time – finished in bright neon green and with Discount Cab labeling all around. I’ll confess right here and now: I’ve always “judged” the Prius (and those who drive them). The car hits its target spot-on, though. For anyone needing the ultimate in efficiency with plenty of cargo space, its name is the first that comes to many of our minds. I mashed the accelerator on the Interstate 10 onramp and found power to be surprisingly acceptable. Around-town, the car simply glides around effortlessly. The Plug-In model that we tested will run about 10 miles on electric-only before the gas engine kicks in. Pretty slick!
Volkswagen Golf (Winner)
The Golf TDI, which won the category, was the definite crowd pleaser. It offered mpg in the 40’s while still exhibiting some fun-to-drive dynamics. The model we tested was the $27k “SE” trim level with a 6-speed manual transmission. Similar to the family of Jettas that I drove recently at a PAPA event, the Golf further shows just how far diesel power has evolved in terms of efficiency and everyday applications. The power comes on quickly in the low-RPM range, and the Golf handles like a much sportier car, with plenty of grip in the corners.
Among the 30-someodd other vehicles that I had the opportunity to drive were the Cadillac CTS V-Sport and the Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD. The Cadillac, at 420 horsepower from its twin-turbo motor, was an absolute riot to drive. And driving the TLX, of course, made me feel right at home. It’s dignified when you want it to be, and it’s an engaging fun-to-drive car when the mood dictates, too. I’ll be reviewing a TLX for a full week in the near future and I’ll share more detailed driving impressions at that time. The well-loved Acura MDX came out for competition, too.
Here’s a photo album on Facebook with over 100 pictures from our day’s fun.
Best Value On-Road Category
Luxury On-Road Category
Luxury Family Category
Best Value Family Category
Off Road Categories
ALV Co-Founder Nina Russin kicks things off with a welcome on Saturday morning.
Athletes take a break from the judging to sit in the shade and tally their ballots.
Jack, Tyson, Paul. You might recognize these troublemakers from previous Drive to Five road trips.
Paul getting settled into the Prius. It’s a little different driving experience than his 2013 Acura TL SH-AWD.
GM representative Craig Eppling rode along with me during my spirited test-drive of the powerful Cadillac CTS.
Thanks for joining for the fun!