IT IS A BUFFET TABLE OF CARS FOR YOUR PLEASURE AT IMPA TEST DAYS
By Vinnie Richichi
(Monticello, NY) They are two days that many of us who write about cars wait for all year...Test Days sponsored by the International Motor Press Association. Held in the Catskills at the Monticello Motor Club...a shared community of motorcar enthusiasts some 60 miles north of NYC... it is a chance for manufacturers to show off the latest rolling stock while the members of the association get to test drive the cars through some of the beautiful back roads of Sullivan county and on day two the spectacular track at the MMC where you can really put a car through it's paces. While several manufacturers were represented there were a few cars that were "The Cars"... cars that everyone wanted to drive…
THE CHEVROLET CAMARO Z/28 RETURNS AN ICONIC OFF THE SHOWROOM FLOOR HOT ROD TO THEIR PORTFOLIO
THE NISSAN GT-R BRINGS EVERYTHING THE COMPANY HAS LEARNED ABOUT RACING TO THE STREET
Fiat/Chrysler may have had three of the most interesting cars at the track with The 707 horsepower Dodge Challenger "Hellcat", the latest edition of their "halo car" the Viper, and maybe the most impressive car on the lot from a design standpoint, the Alfa Romeo 4C. Each had long lists of journalists who wanted to drive them and driving the 4C became the badge of honor for the day. GM not to be outdone had the track ready Chevy Camaro Z/28 in attendance which might have tied the 4C and Hellcat for the longest wait list of the two days.
THE 707 HP CHALLENGER ROCKED THE TRACK
WHILE THE VIPER ROLLED IT
The BMW stand was very popular as they had two of their futuristic "I drive" vehicles among the cars in attendance, the quirky all electric I3 and the radically designed and quite attractive plug-in hybrid I8 , both representing the high technology direction of the German automaker.
It was good to see Mitsubishi back at Test Days with a 2014 Evolution, still one of the best bang for the bucks, fun to drive small performance cars out there even if it is a bit long in the tooth.
I also got a chance to work my way through the spectacular off road course that was set up by Land Rover who carved out a piece of backwoods trail that put the Jeep Cherokee and Wrangler and the Land Rover I drove through some pretty rigorous off road challenges including my favorite...the sound and feel of squishing mud!
The two day affair gives people who drive and then write or report about cars and trucks a chance to take them through extreme conditions and talk a bit to people who design them.
Here are some of my favorites of the two day session...
On The Road...
Acura was represented this year by the New TLX, a solid well built sedan that runs in the mid size BMW 3 series, Cadillac ATS class. Nice handling with all wheel steering, lots of power with a 290 HP V6 and a 9 speed transmission. Lots of tech goodies, power and comfortable while being extremely gripping and nubile on the road. It also handled extremely well in a track test run.
Chevy... had the 8 speed automatic Corvette on hand. While not as engaging as the 7 speed manual I drove earlier this year the transmission was set up well and with shift paddles could give you a bit more connection to the driving experience. I called it the “set it and forget it” Corvette.
Cadillac CTS-V Coupe...This ain't no Coupe de Ville! Maybe it should be called the Coupe de Quick as the Corvette engined Caddy combines neck snapping power, cat like handling and top of the line luxury. Still is one of my favorites to drive and be seen in.
Nissan Juke NISMO… I don't know that you can find a small car that is as unique as the Juke and set up with the NISMO package it is a fun to drive quick little small car. You can fell the GT-R in this one.
Mazda MX 5 Roadster...this will be the last year of the iconic sports car in it’s present form and it was a trip down memory lane just cruising down the country road with a tinge of fall in the air listening to the tuned exhaust...why I fell in love with the Miata oh so many years ago.
Maserati Ghibli...a solid well mannered road car with some Italian personality! That's what I got out of the Ghibli. Excellent materials inside, a well set up chassis under that had some of the best road feel of the day and a body Bellisima, the Alfa was not the only Italians getting noticed at the MMC .
EASILY THE MOST POPULAR CAR AT THE EVENT THIS YEAR
The Alfa Romeo 4C...It takes some contortionism to get in to and especially to get out of but once you are in and comfortable it is an unbelievable experience. The steering was so precise, so well tuned the car just set up perfectly in the corners and had enough to whip out of the curves and rumble up the straightaway. Add to it the incredible beauty that is in the cabin as well as outside on the lines and you get a track experience that is as close to driving a racing version of a sports car as you will find. It is a car that makes you feel special driving it!
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat...suppose you hit the gas pedal and always knew that there was more? That's the Hellcat. Call up the power and it will answer with brute strength that you will not be able to use all of. The track didn't do the Hellcat justice...you needed to get it out on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Too much car for 99.9% of America.
Chevy Camaro Z/28...Driving a Z/28 for a guy who was around for the original in 1968 is like a celebration that the American Hot Rod is not dead. It is an animal on four wheels that handles in the curves like a sports car, gives you unlimited high revving power, pins you back in your seat and much like the Hellcat had pop to spare. Give me this one on the Salt Flats as well.
Honda Civic SI...My sleeper of the day. You can feel the Honda Racing DNA in this little revver. Loved slapping the gears in the manual, listening to the engine rev, feeling it stick to the track and having fun driving it in every curve.
Jaguar F type Coupe...an incredible combination of power, handling, beauty, style and sound the F type maybe was the most un-hyped car on the lot but yet gave me the most pleasure out of spending a half hour on the road in it. It is a perfect sports car in so many ways from the way you fit in it, the way you feel when you drive it and the seemingly never ending crush of power that is there to draw on when you hit the gas.
Also a lot of fun was the Catskills Concours where journalists who own classic cars brought them to display including yours truly who had a chance to do a lap around the track with a GM engineer who helped design the 2015 Corvette suspension. It was his first ride in a C1 Corvette!
THE CATSKILLS CONCOURS FEATURED JOURNALISTS PERSONAL CARS
Click below to take a lap around the Monticello Motor Club with Vinnie!