On a wet April day, the Northwest Automotive Press Association gathered together more than 20 local automotive journalists to test out the best the automotive community has to offer for the off-roads. This annual off-road test-a-thon, called Mudfest, pitted man and 28 machines against the elements over a two-day period at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton.
These vehicles were tested on a paved course and an off-road course with dirt, gravel, and, that’s right, mud. The six categories of Mudfest 2016 included Compact SUV, Premium Compact SUV, Family SUV, Premium SUV, Extreme Capability Vehicles, and Pickups.
The first day of testing took the vehicles around The Ridge Motorsports Park’s 1/6 scale go-kart track, a perfect replica of their larger track, to test out the cornering abilities of each vehicle. The second day was set aside for nothing but off-roading, with Extreme Capability vehicles tested on a more rigorous track to try out low-range four-wheel driving, axle articulation, sharp approach and departure angles, and more.
It was hard, but someone has to do it…
After two days of road testing and mud-slinging, the professionals of NWAPA present to you the best of the vehicles tested at Mudfest 2016!
Best Compact Utility Vehicle: 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring
$26,240 base MSRP, $27,640 as tested
Mazda has come up with a genius system of offering driver-centric cars that are all a hoot to get onto the road. Well, Mudfest proved that the CX-3 is just as much fun off the road as it is on. The predictive all-wheel drive Mazda has engineered retained their sporty driving feel during the on-road testing while keeping a sure foot in some pretty deep mud.
Our test model cam with 18-inch alloy wheels covered in P215/50 R18 all-season tires, has heated power mirrors for those cold mornings, leather-wrapped steering wheel with buttons for your infotainment, cruise controls, and calls. Mazda’s easy-to-use infotainment system offers Bluetooth streaming, integrated apps, and more.
While not it’s intended uses, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD performed perfectly in all our testing. To check out your own 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD, please call or visit your local Mazda retailer!
Best Premium Compact: 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD
$41,000 base MSRP, $49,775 as tested
This safe and capable Volvo offers a 2.5L turbocharged 5-cylinder engine creating 250 horsepower and 266-lb.ft. of torque. The torque-vectoring Corner Traction Control system kept our cornering tight and enable us to conquer the road course while the all-wheel drive system featuring Instant Traction tackled the slippery slopes of our off-road track without hesitation.
On the inside, the 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD offered power front seating, a leather and silk metal steering wheel, and a Harman Kardon Platinum Sound System. On top of the impeccable interior, you’ll get many of Volvo’s safety features as standard, including forward collision braking, lane departure warnings, and more.
You don’t get to be the Best of Premium Compacts without having some serious specifications. Test drive the 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD on your own at your local Volvo dealership.
Best Family Utility Vehicle: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition
$39,365 base MSRP, $51,315 as tested
There’s a lot of the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition on this list and that’s because it’s a capable, luxuriant, and tech-packed. It meets and exceeds many of the requirements to be top contender, such as top of the line technology, an eco-friendly engine, and
Our test vehicle came with the special 75th Anniversary Edition package, 20-inch bronze wheels, an 8.4-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, phenomenal leather-trimmed bucket seats, and so much more. It was powered by a 240-horsepower, 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel engine, which achieves 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. Connected to the powerful engine is an 8-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission which handles shifts deftly and smoothly.
While all of the vehicles tested at the Mudfest 2016 were spot on for both on- and off-road capability, creature comforts, and technology offered, there can be only one king. Check out your local Jeep retailer to test drive a 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4 75th Anniversary Edition.
Best Premium Utility Vehicle: 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Drive-E
$43,350 base MSRP, $52,505 as tested
What really sets Volvo vehicles apart is the slew of standard safety features that many manufacturers charge a premium for. Well, the 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Drive-E is a premium SUV that has premium standard safety features such as anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution and assistance, a high-strength steel unibody cage, all-wheel drive with instant traction, low-speed forward collision avoidance, and more.
Powering this leather-clad and wood-trimmed SUV is a 2.0L turbocharged and supercharged engine putting down 302 horsepower and 295-lb.ft. of torque. You’ll get an 8-speed transmission with paddle shifters on the steering column. You’ll also get the Volvo Sensus infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, 8 speakers, HD radio, USB and AUX inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for ancillary devices, and more.
This is seriously one capable and stunningly featured SUV. To test drive a 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD, please call or visit your local Volvo dealership.
Best Extreme Capability: 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4×4 75th Anniversary Edition
$33,695 base MSRP, $48,035 as tested
It’s a mud festival, so you’re bound to find several Jeep vehicles on the list of ‘best’. That’s the case with the super practical, extremely capable, and utterly stylish 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4×4 75th Anniversary Edition.
Powered by a 3.6L V6 engine, this off-roading machine has a heavy duty Dana 30 solid front axle and 44 heavy duty rear axle, a 3.21 rear and front axle ratio, a transfer case skid plate, a 22.5-gallon fuel tank, and more.
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4×4 75th Anniversary Edition is capable and comfortable, so head on down to your local Jeep dealership today!
Best Pickup: 2016 RAM 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4
$45,200 base MSRP, $53,150 as tested
The 2016 RAM 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 is a serious machine capable of tackling some serious terrain. Our test model RAM had a 5.7L V8 HEMI powerplant pushing out 395 horsepower and 410-lb.ft. of torque. Mated to this fierce-sounding engine is an 8-speed automatic transmission and an anti-spin differential.
Sliding through the mud pit sideways in this beast brings an instant smile to one’s face. While the outside of your truck is getting a mudbath, you’ll be gripping a heated steering wheel, luxuriating in 10-way power-adjustable heated front seats, and listening to a 6-speaker UConnect 8.4 infotainment system with Bluetooth and more.
To test drive the rip-roaring good time 2016 RAM 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4, connect with your local RAM specialist!
Best Overall: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4 75th Anniversary Edition
$39,365 base MSRP, $51,315 as tested
You’ve probably already guessed it, since this vehicle has graced two other category winning places, however… The 2016 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle is the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition. This rough-and-tumble family utility vehicle gives the kind of off-roading experience you’d expect from a name like Jeep while offering great comfort and technology. Seriously, just go check one out at
The 2016 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle is the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition. This rough-and-tumble family utility vehicle gives the kind of off-roading experience you’d expect from a name like Jeep while offering great comfort and technology. Seriously, just go check one out at your local Jeep dealership. They’re just that good.