Every year, the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) puts on an event in Colorado called the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience (RMDE). This year, the event had a dozen cars and about two dozen journalists in attendance. We drove from Golden, Colorado, just outside of Denver, and up into the mountains towards Nederlands, Colorado. For two days, we experienced several vehicles and talked with manufacturer representatives about them.
Here’s what I experienced this year.
Alfa Romeo Tonale
New for the 2024 model year, the Tonale (tone-all-ehh) is a small SUV meant to slot under the brand’s Stelvio model. It also signals a change at Alfa Romeo, adding a plug-in hybrid system as a first for the Italian automaker. But, Alfa promises, definitely not the last.
The Tonale is a smooth drive with a punchy attitude when pressed. It did very well in the mountains of Colorado, where elevations exceeding 11,000 feet. The little turbo 1.3-liter and its six-speed automatic drive the front axle while an electric motor drives the rear. Altogether, it has a strong 285 horsepower–a lot for such a little machine.
As the most luxurious car in attendance this year, the G90 had a lot of eyeballs at this year’s RMDE. We did a full review not long ago (find that here) of this exact same car. Needless to say, it’s a beauty and one of the finest automobiles we’ve driven to date.
Driving in the mountains, we highly recommend the E-Supercharger model for its extremely smooth power delivery and charisma. This is one beautiful car.
GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 AEV
The GMC Sierra 1500 is a great half-ton pickup truck with a lot of plus sides. The AT4 package, which we reviewed earlier this year, adds some nice off-road gear. Including a two-inch lift and knobbier all-terrain tires. The American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) package adds specialty boron steel elements for even more rugged protection.
The GMC Sierra is high on our list of favorite trucks.
Honda Accord Hybrid
The last time I experienced an Accord Hybrid, I was only marginally impressed. It was a good vehicle, but was in a segment full of good vehicles, so it didn’t stand out. Honda has redesigned the Accord Hybrid completely for 2023 and it’s a huge improvement.
The 2023 Accord Hybrid did very well in the mountains of Colorado and proved a comfortable, confident drive in the canyons. It’s still only front-wheel drive, but it’s a good goer and definitely well suited to the twisty highways and fuel-sipping lifestyle of Colorado’s mountain dwellers.
Jeep Grand Cherokee L
Difficult to get into for a drive, the Grand Cherokee L was a popular entry into the 2023 RMDE. I hadn’t driven one since its debut a couple of years ago, but my impressions haven’t changed since then. This is a luxurious, well-balanced, and large SUV fit for hauling people and their stuff wherever you might want to go. Almost literally.
For hitting Colorado’s mountains, though, we would recommend the muscular V8 engine option in this one. Especially if a full load of passengers, cargo, or a trailer are involved.
This year, we experienced both the CX-5 (reviewed here) and the CX-50 (reviewed here). At RMDE, though, the CX-50 was a great choice for the Rocky Mountains. This particular vehicle was the same CX-50 I drove a few months ago. It’s a smooth mountain climber and does well on the windy roads thanks to Mazda’s attention to steering feel and “Zoom Zoom” architecture.
I can’t imagine that the base engine for the CX-50 is a great choice when driving in the mountains, but this turbocharged model did very well with plenty of power for the job.
Subaru Impreza RS
The Impreza has entered an all-new sixth generation and the improvements are impressive. I consider this new Impreza to be the most surprising and most-improved vehicle I drove at this year’s RMDE.
The Impreza sedan is no more, but this new RS model is now the top of the lineup and it’s impressive 2.5-liter four-cylinder outputs a solid 182 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. Making this the sportiest Impreza we’ve driven. A definite upgrade from the previous generation for this car.
As a replacement for the Avalon, Toyota’s new Crown is a beautiful car. The sportback design and roomy four-door interior are a great design element and the two-tone paint is magnificent. The Crown features an all-wheel drive hybrid powertrain by default.
Like the Avalon, the Crown isn’t quite a full-sized sedan, but is larger than most midsized offerings. It’s 236 horsepower system output, though, is plenty to keep this beautiful car going through the mountains of Colorado.
Toyota Prius Prime
Toyota is busy revamping its car lineup and the Prius has seen a full redesign as part of that. The new Prius Prime, the plug-in hybrid model of the Prius, was at RMDE this year as a front-and-center design. The new look for the Prius is mixed, in our minds, but still much sleeker and more interesting than the bulbous designs of Prius past.
Key to the new Prius Prime design is its use of a lithium-ion battery pack, which lightened the battery load while extending all-electric range. The Prius Prime can now go about 40 miles on a charge and can do so at highway speeds, no engine required. This and its much better drivability are key points in the new Prius Prime.
There were other cars in attendance that I didn’t get a chance to experience. One one taken out of use thanks to road hazards. Others were just simply overlooked for lack of time amid the hectic event.
Looking forward to this event again next year!