Best Cars from the Rocky Mtn Driving Experience, Part 2

I already wrote both about the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience, a great event for automotive journalists, and about some of the cars I had a chance to drive in part 1 of my review. What I wanted to do in this second part is highlight some of my favorite vehicles at RMDE this year, rather than bore you with the full list.

The goal of the event is to wow us journalists with the different cars so we’ll be favorably inclined towards the companies and eager to share our thoughts and experiences with the individual cars. Manufacturers that participated included BMW, Mercedes, Nissan, Jaguar, Land Rover, VW, Dodge, Mazda and many more. Lots of cars and trucks!

To be fair, while some of the cars were fairly mundane, there were indeed some vehicles that elicited grins from all the drivers, cars in high demand as we vied for keys and our 20 minute driving slot through the back hills of beautiful Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley Hotel was our base of operations, so that was fun too, albeit a tiny bit creepy.

Yadda yadda. Enough chat, right? Let’s talk cars. And let’s start with one of my favorites:

2018 bmw 530E X-Drive

This is the gorgeous 2018 BMW 530e X-Drive. “e” because it’s a plug-in hybrid with an eDrive electric motor in addition to the 2.0 liter twinpower inline turbo gas motor. It’s incredibly comfortable, quieter than you can imagine, elegant and really fun to drive. As with all hybrid vehicles, it’s fast and super responsive. In fact, if you’ve never driven a hybrid, you’re missing out. Heck, even the hybrid Chrysler Pacifica minivan is remarkably peppy from a stop!

But this particular BMW is a real beauty, and while it isn’t a head-turner like some of the other vehicles we had available, I was quite pleased to have extended time behind the wheel with this 530e. Of course, the price tag on this beaut reflects its luxury status: $68,760. Not a starter car unless you just landed 8 figures in funding for your startup.

2018 dodge challenger hellcat

Weighing in with a similar price tag, this 2018 Dodge Challenger “Hellcat” had me laughing as soon as I started the engine up. A deep, satisfying rumble and a give-me-a-ticket red is very much a head-turner. More importantly, though, the 6.2 liter supercharged HEMI V8 SRT engine was just ridiculously powerful, a true beast of an engine, particularly in a vehicle this size.

Sure, it’s comfortable inside, the stereo’s nice, the nav system works, and it’s sweetly retro with the two-door design, but it’s the drive that makes the Hellcat so fantastic. It’s so powerful, in fact, that I felt like I had to ride the brakes at slow speed because it just wanted to burst out and fly down even the smallest, quietest roads. And opening this baby up to check out acceleration is like training to be a NASA astronaut; you’re pushed back against the seat and can’t help but whoop as you barrel down the road.

Disclaimer: I never exceeded the speed limit, of course. Though I might have gone zero-to-speed limit a bit more aggressively than most drivers. 🙂

While the Challenger line isn’t super expensive for a classic American muscle car, the Challenger SRT Hellcat does indeed have a high-end price. As driven, this Redline colored Dodge costs $76,180. And if a flashy muscle car is your thing, it’s worth every darn penny.

2017 mercedes benz sl450

A more elegant and refined drive, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL450 is the car you want to have when you’re cruising down Highway 1, heading to a production meeting in Malibu. More than just about any other car at RMDE, this one says “yes, I’ve made it” and while it’s not going to appeal to most younger buyers – particularly the price – the SL450 is another smile-inducing drive.

Featuring a quite capable 3.0 liter V6 BiTurbo engine that pushes out 362 horsepower, it’s really the comfort features of the SL450 that make it so enjoyable to drive. Better yet, it’s quite surprisingly quiet when drive with the top down, unlike many convertibles that can be ridiculously loud for driver and passengers.

This was also the most expensive vehicle in the lineup, with an as-driven price of $108,385. If you’ve ever wondered what the 1% are driving if they don’t want a flashy Lamborghini or Ferrari, this is it. Indeed, this vehicle is why Mercedes still holds on to its well-deserved premium vehicle reputation. It’s a delightful, elegant ride, and sure to impress even the most jaded car person.

2017 RAM 1500 Night Edition

After all these beautiful cars, a truck? Yes, because the 2017 RAM 1500 “Night” Edition is pretty darn cool too. Turns out that modern work trucks are really well designed and have far more features and comforts than you may realize. I’ve always thought of pickup trucks as basically just functional, but the RAM 1500 was quite comfortable and my colleague and I had fun zipping around and finding spots for photos. More importantly, RAM hasn’t forgotten the requirement for the truck to be, well, a truck, and this model was equipped with some great features, including an elegant and highly functional set of lock boxes in the back cargo area.

The RAM 1500 also has a towing capacity of over 5000 pounds with its hefty 395 horsepower engine, so whether you’ve got a boat, trailer or just are dragging around construction equipment, it’s ready to roll and ready to keep you rolling. All while enjoying XM radio and enough back seat space for your crew – or family – to join you on the adventure.

Base sticker price for this truck is only $36,890, by the way, far more affordable than the other vehicles I’ve highlighted in this post. The Cargo Management System in the back, however, is a $1200 addition, so as with all vehicles, the off-the-lot price is going to be a bit more depending on what’s on your want list.

That’s it for my favorite vehicles at the Rocky Mountain Drive Event 2017. Next year I look forward to more hybrids, perhaps an all-electric or two and, who knows, maybe an autonomous car too. Until then, it’s back to my own car and dreams of expensive luxury vehicles for me…

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