Every year at about this time, the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) holds an event called Mudfest, one of my favorite things in the world. It’s the organization’s Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition, in which participating members evaluate and score SUVs, crossovers and pickups for their design, power, performance off-road and on pavement, fuel economy, passenger cabin comfort and function, application of technology, pricing, and overall personal appeal.
Mudfest 2017 took place recently at The Ridge Motorsports Park near the city of Shelton in Mason County on the Olympic Peninsula. The 170-acre venue includes a full-sized racetrack, a go-kart track that is a one-fifth scale version of the bigger track, a motocross track, and a lot of open space, a portion of which gets turned into an off-road area when Mudfest rolls around.
There are three short courses within the off-road area. One is designed for vehicles with average off-road ability, another for those with extreme off-road capability, and a third for those that fall somewhere in between the two. Many of the in-betweeners were driven successfully on the extreme capability course, though they were not entered in that category.
Twenty-six members of NWAPA, representing print, online, radio and television media, spent two full days testing 27 vehicles on the go-kart track and the off-road course. Heraldnet.com was represented enthusiastically by your dedicated Cars and Me correspondent.
Vehicles compete in six different categories: Compact Utility Vehicle, Premium Compact Utility Vehicle, Family Utility Vehicle, Premium Mid- or Full-Size Utility Vehicle, Extreme Capability Vehicle, and Pickups. From among the winners in each of these categories, one is selected as best overall, the NWAPA Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.
Every SUV, crossover and pickup on the market is not included in the competition, obviously. NWAPA extends Mudfest invitations to automotive manufacturers every year in advance, with the number of slots available limited to a manageable amount. Manufacturers choose which of their vehicles to enter in the event, and vehicles are accepted by NWAPA on a first-come, first-served basis.
With all the rain this spring, we were hoping for a huge amount of mud in the off-road area. It rained nearly all day the day before the event, but not on Day One, when we drove on the kart track, and not on Day Two, the off-road day. So there was mud, just not the huge amount we like to have. Plenty enough to still have a lot of fun, however.
Here are the winners of Mudfest 2017:
Compact Utility Vehicle: 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk
Premium Compact Utility Vehicle: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack S 4Motion
Family Utility Vehicle: 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring
Premium Mid- or Full-size Utility Vehicle: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Extreme Capability Utility Vehicle: 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury
Pickups: 2017 Ford Raptor Super Cab
Best Overall, NWAPA’s Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year: 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury
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.