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video: Recap: Northwest Auto Press Association’s “Mudfest”

Saturday, May 02, 2015
Brad Boyer, GoLocalPDX Auto Expert

2015 Jeep Renegade
Twenty years ago, the automotive journalists in the Northwest set out to select their favorite SUV of year with an event called “Mudfest."

The two-day evaluation covered on road driving and some light off road activities. Over the years, the event has grown and changed almost as much as the segment of vehicles being evaluated. SUV’s have morphed into smaller, more car like vehicles that are much more comfortable to drive while still maintaining some off road capabilities. Vehicles evaluated in this year’s Mudfest included the newer compact SUV, a host of “crossover" vehicles or CUV’s and even some trucks.

The Northwest Auto Press Association (NWAPA), which is made up of 45 voting members representing newspapers, magazines, television, radio and web based automotive outlets from all over the country, now more accurately refers to its award as the Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year. This year’s overall winner was the 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4X4. 

Last week, twenty-four members tested twenty-seven different vehicles on both paved and off road tracks. The on road test was conducted at Sanderson Field in Shelton, Washington and the rugged off road adventure was held at the Tahuya Offroad Area nearby.  Journalists tested on-road capabilities on a decommissioned runway at Sanderson Field with a customized track layout that tested each vehicle’s acceleration, slalom, panic braking and backup camera capabilities. Two off-road courses were used: a moderate course designed for typical outdoor activities with plenty of dirt, mud, deep puddles and ruts; and an extreme off-road course for highly-capable vehicles, subjecting them to the more rigorous conditions designed for leisure off-roading that benefits from locking differentials as well as superior axle articulation and approach angles. Although only two vehicles were officially entered in the extreme capability class, the 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4x4, 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4x4, and 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE were also qualified for the tougher course.

Crossover and sport utility vehicles competed in five different categories: compact, premium compact, family, premium mid-size and full-size, and extreme capability. For the first time in Mudfest history, a pickup category was also included. The attending journalists selected from among these category winners to determine an overall winner. While all the vehicles performed extremely well, the winners in each category were: 

  • Best Compact: 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4x4
  • Best Premium Compact: Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE 
  • Best Family: 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4x4
  • Best Premium: 2015 Acura MDX AWD
  • Best Extreme Capability: 2015 RAM 2500 Power Wagon Crew Cab 4x4
  • Best Pickup: 2015 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel
  • Best Overall: 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4x45 


The all-new 2015 Jeep Renegade expands the brand’s global vehicle lineup, entering the growing small SUV segment, while staying true to the fun-and-freedom lifestyle for which the Jeep brand is known. Renegade delivers a unique combination of best-in-class off-road capability, open-air freedom and convenience, a segment-first nine-speed automatic transmission that contributes to outstanding on-road and off-road driving dynamics, world-class refinement, two fuel-efficient MultiAir engines and gets 30 mpg. 

Watch Mudfest's 2015 video here:

Brad Boyer is owner of Carcierge, a car concierge company providing expert assistance on anything car-related. He also co-hosts Test Miles on 101.1 FM KXL on Sundays, and is a founding member of the Northwest Auto Press Association. You can email him your car-related questions at [email protected]

  • #10

    2002 BMW 7-Series

    We have all become used to all the high-tech gadgetry in today’s vehicles and even the computer mouse type designs to control the gauges, BMW was ahead of the curve on its I Drive system it introduced in their flagship 7 series. Maybe even a little over its skis too as it required a two-day training session for the public relations staff that handed out the cars to the media just to understand the complexities.

    Owners complained vigorously about how difficult it was to use and eventually just tried to avoid it altogether. The 2002 was also a huge overhaul in the exterior styling as well. When the tarp was taken off the new 7 the front and side view was astonishingly beautiful. The rear view…? Well, let’s just say Kim Kardashian would have been jealous. It wasn’t at all what the BMW buyer wanted. 

  • #9

    Subaru Baja

    This vehicle has been making an ironic sort of comeback in popularity. It’s really so impractical and ugly that it now has a great kitsch following. The Baja really didn’t know what it wanted to be. It wasn’t really a sedan and wasn’t really a pickup. Instead of offering the best of both worlds it offered less of both.

    There was no middle seat in the back to make room for the rear section to fold forward. The problem there too was that only a portion of it folded forward. It was a nice little truck to drive but it was really a truck with a tiny bed that couldn’t really haul anything.

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons 

  • #8

    Saturn Ion

    This was one sad little car. The quality was terrible -  it was horrible to drive with no road feel, power or handling. The interior was badly laid out and all the plastic pieces made it feel like a hot wheels car (without the cool track).

    The Ion was manufactured by General Motors between 2003 and 2007. In February of 2014 it was on the list of GM vehicles recalled because of faulty ignition switches. In 2004 after being saddled with and unexpected long term loan of the 2003 Saturn Ion, Car and Drive Magazine wrote of its experience, “Anxious to drive Saturn's all-new little guy, we were soon anxious to get rid of it. Not one editor could say he or she liked the car, which, according to our road test, had a ‘pigheaded transmission, anxious steering, bar-stool seating, muddled styling, [and a] cyclopean dash.’ The acceleration numbers didn't make it any more popular.”

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons 

  • #7

    Fisker Karma

    This may seem an odd choice to be on a worst list as it is stunningly beautiful but as Donald Sutherland’s character uttered in the movie The Dirty Dozen when looking at the troops, "Very pretty, General. Very pretty. But, can they fight?" That’s what it felt like driving the Fisker and the answer was no.

    It was the brainchild of the Henrick Fisker who was responsible for designing the BMW Z8 and served as design director for Aston Martin. The first car to be produced by Fisker Automotive was the Fisker Karma, a hybrid luxury car which debuted in January 2008 at the North American International Auto Show with great fanfare. It was supposed to hit the market in 2009 but that date was missed. The Fisker Karma production was launched in November 2011. 

    What really gets the Karma on the list is the huge over-promise, under-delivery element. Fisker was given access to $529 million by the Department of Energy as part of the green initiative. It was going to be the Tesla beater but while Tesla has already paid back it’s loan, Fisker declared bankruptcy in 2013 with only 2,450 units built and $193 million of the DOE loan gone. Fisker Automotive was acquired by China's largest auto parts company, and plans to restart production of its Karma. It will also complete the half-finished development of a second model, according to a senior executive. 

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons

  • #6

    Cadillac Allanté

    This widely expensive Cadillac roadster was heavy, unwieldy and had a convertible top that required two people to take it off and store in the back. It was GM’s attempt to compete with the European two-seater sports cars like the SL500.  In a word, Fail. GM had the bodies made by Pininfarina in Italy and then finished up the rest of the production in Detroit.

    The Allanté was manufactured from 1986 until 1993, with roughly 21,000 units built over a seven-year production run.  

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons

  • #5

    Chrysler TC by Maserati 

    Not to be outdone by GM, Chrysler decided to get in on the European styling by offering either a bad Chrylser or a very bad Masertai. It was hard to determine which manufacturer looked worse. Chrysler's TC by Maserati was based on a modified second generation Chrysler K car and introduced at the 1986 Los Angeles Auto Show.

    After two years of development delays, the TC became available in late-1989 and 7,300 units were manufactured by the time production ended in 1990. All cars sold as 1991 models were actually manufactured in 1990.  Lee Iacocca, who did a lot of good things at Chrysler and sold a lot of books, was a proponent of the new model "to change the way the world looked at Chrysler" and to create a new image for the automaker.

    The problem was it reminded people more of a Chrysler Lebaron which was much less expensive than a Maserati. 

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons 

  • #4

    Plymoth Prowler

    Chrysler, in the mid 90’s thought what every older driver wanted was to remember the 50’s hot rods, so it came out with its super cool, hot-rod-looking Plymoth Prowler. It was a real retro looking roadster with the open wheel front end and the big rounded rear fenders.

    The designers were said to have been given free rein to develop whatever hot rod, sports car they could create. The Plymouth Prowler was produced for the 1997 and 1999-2001 model years. After the Plymouth name was discontinued in 2001 the Prowler was sold as a Chrysler Prowler for the 2001 and 2002 model years.

    Besides the complete lack of vision out of the car, the worst feature was that it was all hat and no horse…as in horsepower. It looked as if it was like the hot rods of old but was “under” powered with a standard 3.5 liter, V-6 engine producing a paltry 250 horsepower. 

  • #3


    Just the word conjures up the USA pride in the fact that, while maybe we built some crummy cars over the years, at least we weren’t responsible for this little high maintenance proletariat transportation device.

    In 1985, Malcom Bricklin began importing the Yugo GV to the United States. Spending any seat time in this vehicle was scary to say the least. Built in Soviet-Bloc Yugoslovia, it made its U.S. debut at the 1984 Los Angeles Auto Show. At time it looked is if the little hatchback offered buyers some value with a 55-hp engine that was capable of 30-mpg fuel ratings and a 110-mph top speed for just $3990.

    But the old saying was never truer than with the Yugo, you really do get what you pay for. Most car companies take a less dramatic way to end production than the Yugo that was built at the Zastava's Kragujevac factory.  The factory that was suspected of making weapons and military vehicles was bombed by NATO forces during a Kosovo air-raid. That was mercifully the end of its car-manufacturing days.  

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons 

  • #2

    Pontiac Aztec  

    It was a tough call which GM vehicle would get the number one slot but the horror that was this ugly SUV seemed to be generated by multiple layers of incompetence rather than the complete disregard for the consumer as our number one choice.

    Like the Baja, the Aztec has taken on a new cult status with one of television’s greatest characters driving it. But even Walter White from Breaking Bad and his bad ass fedora could not save the Aztec from being a hideous vehicle. It was something of a crossover vehicle but did neither well and its plastic exterior made it the butt of many a joke and conversation.

    It’s likely that when Pontiac marketing reps determined giving one away to the first Survivor winner they thought of all the great press they would get. However, following the finale of the show, Howard Stern went on the air the next day and talked about what an ugly vehicle it was and that even if they gave him one, he wouldn’t take it. GM forecast sales of up to 75,000 Azteks per year, and needed to produce 30,000 annually to break even. Just 27,322 were sold in 2001.  The Pontiac Aztek was sold from 2001 to 2005. 



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