2022 Western Automotive Journalists Media Days - 2 Days of Driving Some of the Best Cars by Bruce Hotchkiss
Special Correspondent, West Coast Bureau
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Every year the Western Automotive Journalist (WAJ) hosts a collection of cars, and I use the word cars to mean vehicles, for its members to try out. In 2020, there was a hiatus due to Covid, then last year 'Media Days' was reconstituted as a day and a half event in Half Moon Bay, CA. It was repeated this year also in Half Moon Bay. I can only speak for myself but I had a great time, and below are the vehicles I drove.
I'd like to thank the WAJ exec team (thanks Brian) for pulling it all together. Our base was The Aristocrat Hotel. The driving route was down Hwy 1 to San Gregorio, then north on Stage Road back to Hwy 1. The weather was cooperative, the surroundings gorgeous, and the route allowed us to get a real-world driving impression of the various cars.
So here's the cars presented in alphabetical order with my opinion of each.
2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Type S w/Advance
It seems like the MDX has been around forever. Yet somehow it felt fresh. You can't beat the Acura V6, especially the turbo 3.0-liter in this MDX. 355-horsepower, and a 10-speed automatic trans. True fuel economy isn't great (21-mpg highway) but it handles well and the ride is good. It wins the 'Best Paint Color' (purely subjective) with the stunning Apex Blue Pearl. Look at spending around $72,550 plus.
2022 BMW i4 M50
An electrified Bimmer? Why not. I talked to someone who drove it before me and got a warning that it was a real 'neck-snapper'. It did not prepare me. This EV has 536 hp; I've driven cars with this kind of power before. BMW says it will hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. So will a lot of cars. But in the i4 M50 you hit the accelerator and wait a micro-second, then 'BAM'. Honest, I braced myself and as the car shot forward the back of my head slammed into the head rest. Wow. There's more to it than all out acceleration of course. After all it is a BMW. Prices start at $65,900.
2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid
If I was in the market for a new small pickup the Maverick would be a good choice. I'd prefer they'd named it Ranchero but they didn't ask me. You can get a Maverick Hybrid for $19,995. I'd probably go with the EcoBoost engine just because the Hybrid engine just didn't excite me. And I'd tell everyone I had a new Ranchero.
2022 Genesis G80 AWD 3.5T Sport
I generally love any Genesis. As the name suggests this G80 had a wonderful 3.5-liter, 375-hp, twin-turbo V6. As befits a luxury car the power doesn't hit you in the face but it is there. It moves the two and a quarter ton G80 to 60 mph in about 5 seconds with no drama. About the only complaint I'd have would be the white seats. Give me something that hides my messiness please. Starting price is $63,700.
2022 Honda Civic Si
Okay I would skip the Blazing Orange Pearl but other than that the new Si put a smile on my face. Part of that was because it is a manual transmission. Yes they still make manual transmissions only now they call them 'theft' control devices because so few can actually operate one. It really is a fun car and it's not that expensive, $27,500, very close to the cost of the 1989 Si with inflation figured in. It's economical (37-highway mpg) too!
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III 4X4
I guess is hypocritical of me to laud a gas guzzler. If so, so-be-it. The Grand Wagoneer knocked my socks off. The original Grand Wagoneer had the highest demographics of any domestic vehicle (or so I've been told) and it really wasn't that good. The 2022 is OMG! good and beautiful. Jeep really sweated the details. The ride may be the best I've experienced in a SUV. The Series III uses the 6.4-liter V8 that makes one of the best V8 growls as it spits out its 471-hp. The down side is that fuel economy is rated at 18-highway and 13-city. But if you can afford its starting price of $107,995 you can afford the fuel. According to Jeep you can even take if off-road, after all it is a Jeep.
2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line RWD
If there was an EV star the Kia EV6 GT-Line is it in my opinion. If you routinely read my stuff you know I am partial to Kia. The EV6 is good-looking, the interior is well-laid out, and its performance is very good. EPA says it will go 310 miles on a charge (yes there are cars that do better), Kia says it will sprint to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. The EV6 starts at $40,900; the GT Line RWD starts at $51,200.
2023 Kia Sportage HEV SX Prestige AWD
Another hit from Kia, this one a hybrid. EPA estimated fuel economy is 38-mpg across the board for the AWD. I'm going to see if I can get one for a full week. Price starts at $36,900.
2022 Lexus LX 600 F Sport
Big news from Lexus, the evil touchpad is gone from some models including the LX 600 F Sport. I feel vindicated! Very nice SUV, 409-hp, twin-turbo V6, and everything you've come to expect in a Lexus (except that touchpad). The F Sport starts at $102,345.
2022 Lucid Air Dream Performance
Never heard of Lucid? Trust me you will. Much is made of its 1,111 hp and its range of up to 516 miles. Like the BMW electric above, the Lucid is other-worldly quick. But I was more impressed with its refinement. This is not some cobbled together electric car, it is a true luxury car. Right now the Lucid Air is not for you and me (well not me for sure) because it is pricey - $179,000. It is an all-American car and that's worth a lot in my book. The importance of the Lucid Air in my opinion is what it means for future products.
2022 Maserati Levante Trofeo
First thing you have to do when confronting this Maserati is ignore the color and imagine it in what they call Blu Emozione. There, that's better. Now think what a 3.8-liter, twin-turbo, 580 hp V8 under the hood can do for your soul. Yeah, it's got a great snarl, one that you can make louder with a little switch if you like. Maserati says this is the fastest SUV in its market. I can't attest to that but specs say it will see just shy of 190 mph. It isn't cheap ($160,900) but it was fun.
2022 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT53 4-Door Coupe
How could an AMG Mercedes not make a big impression? But for some reason it didn't. It has a turbo 3-liter, inline 6-cyliner that puts out 429 horsepower. It has a swoopy looking body, big tires, and as befits a M-B it is not ostentatious. Yet for some reason it just didn't light that fire in my soul. If it lights your fire it's $103,650.
2023 Subaru Solterra
Don't tell anybody but the Solterra and Toyota bZrX are twins of different mothers. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong with this EV but the styling is a tad wild. According to Subaru the Solterra has all the Subaru attributes including AWD. The one area it seems to fall short is its range - 220+ miles. Starting price is $44,995.
2023 Toyota bZ4X Limited FWD
The Toyota version has a weird name doesn't it? Unlike the Subie it is FWD (there is an AWD version available) which gives it a bit more range, up to 242 miles. One problem noticed on both the Toyota and Subaru versions was that no matter how it was adjusted the steering wheel obscured part of the instrument panel. There is a base version that starts at $42,000, while the car I drove lists at $46,700.
2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone
This is supposed to be the fuel efficient Tundra. It's a hybrid; the 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 and electric for a combined 437-hp and 583 lb-ft of torque. The EPA rating is 22-mpg on the highway. In my short jaunt it showed 20.3-mpg at 55 mph. Not great. For my money if you want economy go with a make with a smallish (3.0-liters) V6 diesel. Tundra is a nice truck but I couldn't live with that fuel mileage. The price of $73,530 is in the ball park for a truck like this.
2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Pro S
I expected more from VW. A few years ago I drove a e-Golf and liked it even though the range was not great. The ID.4 is good looking. The range isn't great but it's not bad at 280 miles. The price is on par with others at $41,230, but somehow it just didn't excite me. I thought the electric motors were the noisiest of all I drove. Sorry VW.
A thought about EVs in general: Because they are otherwise so quiet any noise becomes an issue. Tire and wind noise is a problem of varying degrees in every single EV I've driven.
I think EVs are coming whether you like it or not, and not just because some government mandates them. There are still problems with most EVs but these will be overcome. Pricing is a big issue, but it is an issue for almost all vehicles.
Longevity is a big question, maybe not for the original purchaser but down the line. What shape will a 5- or 10-year old EV be in for the second or third buyer?
I don't think we've seen the end of the internal combustion engine - yet. Stay tuned.
I am thankful for the auto companies that provided their vehicles and employees to answer our questions. There was a good array of cars. Hopefully next year we'll see more auto makers show up.
As I said at the start the WAJ team put on a great event, but they had help. The folks at DriveShop and Page One Automotive not only got the cars to us, but kept them spotless all the time. Their work was never done.