The 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD, winner in the Subcompact SUV category at the NWAPA Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition. (Northwest Automotive Press Association photo)

The 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD, winner in the Subcompact SUV category at the NWAPA Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition. (Northwest Automotive Press Association photo)

Jeep Wrangler is Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year

Twenty-six vehicles competed in the group’s annual Mudfest competition near Shelton in early May.

Mudfest: A spring tradition for members of the Northwest Automotive Press Association.

It’s our annual Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition, when we invite car manufacturers to submit the SUV, crossover or truck of their choosing to undergo two days of rigorous testing on paved and unpaved surfaces.

NWAPA started this competitive event 24 years ago. It has been held at various locations since then, and for the past several years the chosen site has been The Ridge Motorsports Park near Shelton.

Twenty-six vehicles participated in Mudfest 2018 during the first week of May. For pavement testing, vehicles were driven on an autocross course and The Ridge’s go-kart track, where acceleration, handling, braking, rear-view camera function and other features were evaluated.

For unpaved testing, a custom-made off-road course with dirt, mud, rocks and ruts was constructed at The Ridge for gauging how well each vehicle could handle uneven, slippery and steep conditions.

Optional sections of the off-road course provided extra challenges for vehicles with extreme off-road capability, where they could demonstrate their low-range four-wheel drive competence, axle articulation, and approach, breakover and departure angles.

Vehicles competed in five different categories: Subcompact, Compact or Midsize, Family, Premium, Truck, and Extreme Capability. Twenty-six participating NWAPA members selected a winner from each of the six categories, and from among them an overall winner, the Northwest Activity Vehicle of the Year.

The Jeep Wrangler, the classic off-road vehicle that has been completely re-engineered for 2018 to also deliver an impressively civilized on-road ride complete with the latest in automotive technology, was covered in mud by the end of the event but really cleaned up on awards. It was voted best in two categories: Extreme, and Compact or Midsize.

Wrangler also took the grand prize of 2018 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.

Here’s the list of winners in all categories:

Subcompact SUV: 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

Compact or Midsize SUV: 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

Family SUV: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL 4Motion

Premium SUV: 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i

Truck: 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4

Extreme: 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association.

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