The Pacific Northwest, a general term for the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, is well-known for its outdoor culture – no surprise, given the area’s gorgeous scenery. The population of these states are generally centered around one big city (Seattle, Portland and Boise), surrounded by thousands of acres of natural beauty to be enjoyed in all four seasons. In our quest to tell America about the benefits of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), we traveled to The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington, where we were proud to sponsor the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s (NWAPA) annual Mudfest event.
The event tests both on-road and off-road capabilities of various vehicles, with multiple awards at stake such as the Best Compact Vehicle, Best Family Vehicle, Best Pickup, and more. One vehicle would also earn the title of Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year. As automakers are selling SUVs, crossovers, pickups and other off-road-ready vehicles at an unprecedented pace, NWAPA’s awards are coveted.
This year’s field of entrants included brands among adventurers like Jeep, Subaru, Honda and Volkswagen. Luxury brands like Mercedes and Volvo even joined the fun, showing “rugged” doesn’t mean “uncomfortable” in their vehicles. A common theme among the entrants? Increased use of AHSS. We already know AHSS-intensive vehicles have been taking home the industry’s top awards. So as automakers look to increase the capabilities of their off-road vehicles, they are stiffening chassis and reducing weight by using more AHSS than ever. A stiff frame enables better handling and fuel efficiency – crucial features when off-roading – and a lighter vehicle means the engine doesn’t have to work as hard. Throw in the Pacific Northwest’s love of the environment – their states are beautiful, and they want to keep them beautiful – and the business case for using AHSS in outdoor activity vehicles is clear.
After testing was finished, the votes were tallied and the last vehicle exited the local car wash, the winners of the 2017 NWAPA Mudfest were announced:
Best Compact: 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk
What a way to start off a new generation! The newly re-designed Jeep Compass’ Trailhawk trim proved it belongs in the storied Jeep lineup as it takes home some new hardware. The new Compass was designed and built with extensive use of AHSS – more than 65 percent in the body structure. This is likely the first of many awards for the Compass, which should put the Jeep brand in line for some healthy sales numbers.
Best Premium Compact: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
The VW Golf Alltrack made good on its name, showing it was capable of handling all sorts of terrain, whether off-road or on-road. Boasting a significant amount of AHSS in its stamped body and chassis, the Golf Alltrack is designed to weather almost anything the road can throw at it. The hatchback’s AHSS usage is part of a larger overall effort to reduce vehicle weight while improving vehicle performance, which has proven successful across the industry. We’d say Volkswagen did a great job – and it looks like NWAPA members agree!
Best Family Vehicle: 2017 Subaru Forester
It wouldn’t be a Pacific Northwest event without a Subaru, would it? But this Forester isn’t taking home an award because of its name. The Forester’s ring-shaped frame uses AHSS in select areas to optimize occupant protection in the event of an accident in any direction. Strength and wisdom in material selection ensures this large SUV keeps a family secure at every mile – and on every terrain. Combined with Subaru’s famous all-wheel-drive capabilities, you have a winning recipe!
Best Premium Vehicle: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Jeep has never been a stranger to the podium, and the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee is usually the vehicle taking home the hardware. It’s no different here at the NWAPA Mudfest, where members were enthralled by the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s handling. The ride comfort and the luxury interior made it a popular vehicle to be driven! The Grand Cherokee’s AHSS body structure provides torsional stiffness, giving the vehicle more control over any terrain it’s traversing.
Best Pickup Vehicle: 2017 Ford Raptor
Building off of a legacy of off-road expertise, the brand-new Ford Raptor is king of NWAPA’s pickup hill. With a chassis unique to the vehicle, rather than borrowed from the F-150, the Raptor distances itself from its brother by adding more weight-saving AHSS, giving it the strongest frame of the F-Series trucks. Rigid and fully-boxed, the frame helps keep the driver in control no matter what it’s hauling – or what’s underneath the tires. Ford’s use of AHSS is being rewarded with some shiny new hardware!
Best Extreme Capability Vehicle: 2017 Land Rover Discovery
Event attendees loved the Discovery’s capability in the mud, while keeping them cozy inside in true Land Rover fashion. We see this victory as a testament to Land Rover’s use of AHSS in key areas of the vehicle, such as in the Discovery’s lightweight subframes. Stiffness in the subframes allow for better steering and chassis performance, especially when the vehicle is off-roading. As larger vehicles capture more market share in today’s automotive industry, this recognition will serve Land Rover well as it seeks volume from America’s outdoor lovers. In addition to this award, the Land Rover Discovery was also given the title “Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.”
Events like the NWAPA Mudfest are a great way to engage with automotive media and to see what experts are saying about the vehicles they cover. It’s also an opportunity to show how AHSS is accelerating innovation in today’s automotive industry.
What do you think of the awards NWAPA handed out, like the 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk winning Best Compact Vehicle? Are any of these vehicles now on your wish list? Let us know in the comments.