Run to the Sun 2019: On-Road Adventures in Fun, Fast Cars

2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 S

“Membership has its privileges,” as the old American Express slogan went.  And being a member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) has allowed me to drive some amazing cars over the years. Some of the best cars have showed up at the organization’s annual Run to the Sun event held each summer. This event, now in its 13th year, started as a drive program that was mostly (if not all) convertibles. As times—and cars—changed, so did the format. But the theme has always been on fun performance vehicles.

This year’s event showcased 24 different models from 22 different marques ranging from A (Acura) to V (Volkswagen) with many others in between. The lineup looked like this:

2019 Mercedes-AMG G63

2020 Ford Explorer ST

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

2019 Mini Countryman JCW

2020 Acura RDX R Spec

2020 Volvo XC90 T8

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2020 Toyota GR Supra

2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Wide body

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2020 Lexus RCF Track Edition

2020 Nissan 370Z Special 50th Anniversary Edition

2019 Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge

2019 Polaris Slingshot

2019 Mazda MX5 Miata RF

2019 124 Fiat Spyder Abarth

2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

2019 Honda Civic Type R

2019 Volkswagen Arteon

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Anniversary Edition            

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4-Door

2020 Subaru Legacy XT

2019 Kia Stinger GTS

2019 Genesis G70

Yes, that’s a lot of cars to drive. But the beauty of Run to the Sun is that we get to drive all of the vehicles. It’s not a drive event where everyone runs to the most high-performance or expensive rig. Instead, all of us writers get to drive everything. And at the end of the event, we get to vote on our favorites. And yes, we all have faves. Here were a few highlights for me:

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Orange 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

I was absolutely giddy about the very orange 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1’s ridiculous power. And by that I mean the car’s supercharged 6.2 liter LT5 engine making 755 hp, 715 lb/ft of torque. It will do 0-60 in a blistering 2.8 seconds and has a top speed of 212 mph. No, I didn’t verify that. Magnetic ride control. Carbon fiber bits. Bulging hood.

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 with hood open

On top of this, it’s remarkably comfortable. The power on this thing cannot be overstated. It’s a freaking beast and it’s a sensory experience to say the least. Under a cautious lead foot, this thing will rip like none other. Jaunts to the speed limit (and beyond) happen in no time flat. And with the downforce bits, this thing always feels totally planted. And that orange colo.—I’m in love. Our tester had an MSRP of $142,075. Not cheap, but for this kind of performance, who cares.

2019 Polaris Slingshot

2019 Polaris Slingshot

Still want to have a blast but can’t afford $142K? Maybe the Polaris Slingshot is more up your alley. This three-wheeled contraption is technically a motorcycle, so in Oregon and Washington, you’ll need a helmet, but you don’t need a motorcycle certification to pilot it. This one-wheel-drive fun factory employs a 2.4-liter GM four-pot making 173 hp and 166 ft/lbs. of torque put through a five-speed manual transmission and a belt-driven rear wheel.

Polaris Slingshot rear wheel

While I might not want to daily drive a Slingshot, I can’t remember the last time I drove something that was just a kick in the pants to drive at pretty much all speeds. Yes, the back end will come around quickly, so care is needed in the corners. I will say that on the Interstate, passing semi-trucks was a bit hair raising since you’re so low to the ground. But the combination of an open-air cockpit, plenty of power, and a raw driving experience, the Slingshot was nonstop fun.

2019 Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge

2019 Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge

If we’re talking top-of-the-line luxury, we have to mention the 2019 Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge. At a stratospheric $427,875, the Wraith provides unparalleled levels of opulence for the discerning buyer. Driving a Wrath is a very unique experience. Its silky smooth 6.6-liter V-12 engine makes 624 hp and 605 lb/ft of twist. And while it accelerates with gusto, it’s incredibly quiet. Cruising was no different: When I had the car at 60 mph, it sounded like I was going about 30. The ride can only be described as like driving a responsive cloud. It rides softly, but for a vehicle of this size and weight (it clocks in at 5,202 lbs.), it’s impressive.

2019 Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge driving

The interior is classic and contemporary, but there was a learning curve as to where pretty much everything was. And the suicide-style doors (with power-closing option and jamb-mounted removable umbrella) are simply decadent. Add to this 21” carbon-alloy wheels, a Bespoke Audio system, and a Starlight headliner, and you’ve got the best vehicle I can think of to be luxuriously transported to pretty much anywhere.

Overall Winners

Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 S front

Overall, however, one of my favorite vehicles was the car most voted for by NWAPA members: the 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 S Four-Door. This sedan takes the performance of a supercar, the passenger space of a sedan, the versatility of a hatchback, and mates them all into one stunning package. This combo netted the vehicle the NWAPA Most Fun To Drive Vehicle award at the event. Truly spectacular in pretty much every way, the GT 63 S looks as good as it is fast. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 making 630 hp and 664 lb/ft of torque, the sedan’s nine-speed Speedshift transmission sends power to all four wheels via the company’s 4Matic AWD system.

Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 S wheel

The car has classic lines and a timeless front fascia that looks amazing from every angle. This model was equipped with the optional 21” forged monoblock wheels wrapped in high-performance summer tires. (Grip is not a problem.) If you’re into tech, this car has it in spades. From the configurable gauge cluster, to the programmable interior environments (complete with LED lights and different breezes available), the GT 63 S is a feast for techies. There are so many modes, so many options, so many customizable variables that the combinations are seemingly endless. Drive modes, suspension tweaks, layout options—incredible.

Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63 S interior

Aside from the incredible performance and tech amenities, the car’s interior amenities were simply magnificent. Creamy white interior upholstery is paired with both sliver, carbon fiber, and medium wood tones to create a super-modern German interior. This is a car you could drive for hours and hours without fatigue. It was just the right combination of modernity, sophistication, power, and comfort. As tested, our model stickered at $184,285 including destination and gas-guzzler tax.

2020 Toyota GR Supra

This AMG wasn’t the only award winner at the event. The Northwest Most Fun in the Sun (Convertible) went to the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club RF. The Most Fun Coupe was the all-new 2020 Toyota GR Supra. The Northwest Most Fun SUV went to the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD, and the most fun sedan was, well, also the AMG GT 63 S again.

Over the course of three days, 25 members drove two dozen different 2019 and 2020 model-year vehicles on some of the best roads in America, with routes ranging from wide-open high desert highways to twisty canyon roads. From our base at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA, we traveled roads throughout the Columbia River Gorge and central Oregon.

You can expect to hear more about the cars we drove in the coming weeks. Each was distinct and had its own fun factor. You know, our mantra is that “every vehicle is an adventure,” all of these vehicles could give you times you’d never forget. Stay tuned for more.

2019 Mazda Miata RF Club

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