Top 20 Moments From the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience

Angelia McGowan of Creative Auto Reviews provides her take on doing reviews while staying at the Stanley.

Which car is your favorite? This is the question I hear the most from people when they learn that I’ve been test driving automobiles for a few years and writing about it. With sincere intentions of answering their question I respond by talking about one vehicle and within 60 seconds their eyes are glazed over as I ramble on about the different features available across a number of makes and models.

Angelia McGowan of Creative Auto Reviews has fun with the spirit of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado where she stayed while participating in the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience.

Forewarning. My response is not going to get any shorter now that I’ve added more cars to my portfolio of driving experiences. In August 2017, I joined more than 25 national journalists at the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience (RMDE) to test drive the latest models from 20 different manufacturers. This annual event, presented by the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, including support from Automotive Media Solutions, Driveshop, and Rocky Mountain Redline, took place in Colorado between Golden and Estes Park. Before heading out, we proclaimed our license to be cool behind the wheel by signing a litany of waivers covering vehicles valued up to $100,000 each.

Our job? Test drive. Test drive. Test drive.

Think of this event as musical chairs, but instead with cars and the laughter of journalists as we zig zag from one vehicle to the next, swapping cars in designated parking lots along the Peak to Peak Highway. Our headquarters for this year’s event was in Estes Park at the historic Stanley Hotel, made famous by the movie, “The Shining.” I saw or felt no ghosts. But I was fascinated by all of the mirrors, and half expected someone else’s face to stare back at me. No such tales to tell.

Below are my 20 most memorable moments from the 2017 Rocky Mountain Driving Experience.

  1. Kicking off the first day by listening to a presentation on the 2018 Jaguar F-Pace 25t R-Sport – aka the 2017 World Car of the Year and 2017 World Car Design of the Year – and knowing that I would be the first driver of it during this event. Let the test drives begin. Woohoo!

    Jaguar F-Pace
  2. Taking the not-so-shy Energy Green-colored 2017 Honda Civic Si up a one-way dirt road and truly appreciating the backup camera feature while backing up.
  3. Realizing that it is absolutely possible for the sporty 2018 Toyota Camry XSE V6 to feel like a Lexus. It’s low to the ground, has interior features reminiscent of a Lexus and the exterior offers a two-toned color that gives it a style all its own.
  4. Admiring the look and feel of the 2018 all-new Hyundai Elantra GT. From the outside the size is deceiving. A ton of space comes with the stylish interior.
  5. Getting a better understanding of the hands-on/hands-off steering wheel conversation during a luncheon and informative presentation by Nissan regarding their advances in autonomous driving.
  6. Finding the location of the door handle on the side door of the 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE while enjoying the view at Mary’s Lake. The high placement of the handle is only the beginning of the unique vibe the artsy C-HR is offering the young at heart. Just think diamonds.

    Toyota C-HR
  7. Experiencing the responsive steering in the 2017 Soul Red-colored Mazda CX-5 when quickly pulling over to the shoulder of the road to capture an image of it in front of the Chapel on the Rock in Allenspark.
  8. Watching fellow journalists pass me on the road, knowing they are truly appreciating the excitement with each shift of the six-speed 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF.

    Mazda MX-5 Miata
  9. Monitoring the energy savings as I drove the 2018 BMW 530e X-Drive to the Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Electric vehicles are their own kind of cool.
  10. Working to assume the no-fear position while sitting high in the 2017 Nissan Titan King Cab pickup truck. Much admiration to diesel truck drivers who regularly travel through the mountains.
  11. Hanging with the 2017 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 while watching an auto photographer get into his stance to wait for another test car to pass on the road. By the way, the Coop has a cool little red lever to start the engine.

    Mini Cooper S Countryman
  12. Making a note to self: “Next time please sleep overnight inside the 2018 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Coupe so you can be first in line for the test drive.”

    Chevrolet Corvette
  13. Enjoying the peace along the way.
  14. Being greeted by the ultimate duo, 2017 SL450 and the 2017 AMG E43, when attending a cocktail party hosted by Mercedesat the View Restaurant overlooking Estes Park, and then getting seat time the next day.
  15. Enjoying the irony of not being a whiskey drinker while sitting in the Whiskey Bar at Cascades Restaurant, which carries a selection of more than 1,000 whiskeys. Cheers anyway!
  16. Feeling the 2017 VWGolf Alltrack TSI SE W/4Motion calling my name.
  17. Learning about features on the 2017 Ram 1500 Night Edition, specifically the button on the left side of the steering wheel that allowed me to move the brake and gas pedal closer to me without moving the seat back and forth. Short legs, long legs? The Ram’s got you covered.
  18. Realizing that hauling butt down the mountain in the 2017 Ram 1500 Night Edition ain’t no joke. So why was I laughing all the way down?
  19. Experiencing the support of the autonomous emergency braking system on the Land Rover Discovery Td during heavy rain and traffic while coming down the mountain. Good looking out!
  20. Sitting in the driver’s seat of the 2018 Land Rover Discovery Td, my last test drive of the event, and having a fleet manager walk up to the door. My response: “I take it you want the keys back?” He smiles.

Unfortunately, I didn’t move fast enough to get seat time in all vehicles (i.e. Subaru, Alfa Romeo and Acura), but nonetheless I added a bit more to my portfolio. So you see I can’t possibly name a favorite.

The better way to approach me might be to tell me what model you’re looking for in your next ride and ask me if I’ve driven it. If yes, then what are my impressions? We can talk about comfort, safety, performance, seating and cargo capacity, telescopic steering wheels, connectivity, horsepower, mileage, pricing, etc. Whew! Don’t get me started.

This article was originally published at CARs (Creative Auto Reviews).

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