The Joy of Driving, Malibu Style

Calamigaos Ranch

The Motor Press Guild (MPG), the Southern California non-profit association for automotive journalists, annually brings together writers with automotive manufacturer representatives and their cars. The most recent of these events was held the first week of June at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, high in the Santa Monica Mountains, not far from where the television show MASH was filmed.

Manufacturers brought an assortment of 30 2024 model year cars, SUVs and trucks for journalists to drive on the twisty mountain roads and, for the capable trucks, a rugged off-road course.

This brief, alphabetical overview is of the eight cars I was able to take out for a spin. Prices are MSRP. The rest of the cars and trucks at the 2024 MPG Drive Day is at the end of the story. If Clean Fleet Report previously reviewed a car on this list, the link is included.

Time was the restricting factor limiting the number of great cars I could drive at the event. Oh well, maybe next year!

Honda Prologue
Honda Prologue

This midsize crossover’s dual motors produce 288 horsepower (hp) and 333 pound-feet of torque (lb.-ft.) sent to all four wheels (AWD) through a single-speed transmission. The all-electric range (AER) is 273 miles. The rear-wheel drive, single-motor base Prologue has a price of $48,795, while the highly optioned dual-motor AWD Elite we drove lists for $59,295.

The steering wheel-mounted paddles are used to select a dynamic drive mode of Normal or Sport, which I used in conjunction with the one-pedal driving. The ride was smooth and quiet, with aggressive cornering only inducing manageable body roll. This will be the perfect entry EV for people replacing their gasoline-powered SUV. With its range, fast charging capability and interior space, it will make them very pleased they’ll never to be visiting a gasoline station again.

EV9
Kia EV9
  • Kia EV9 Long Range AWD GT-Line

The 2024 EV9 three-row SUV went on sale in December 2023 and is setting the pace for family-sized vehicles that don’t use gasoline. Roomy inside, a family of five and all their gear can hit the road for 277 all-electric miles of silent, emissions-free driving. For shorter trips, seven can easily fit in the EV9.

Dual motors power the eAWD with 379 hp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque with 0-60 times of 4.3 seconds. If you have the need for size, efficiency and a great ride, check-out the EV9. Pricing ranges from $56,395 to $75,393 for the EV9 Long Range AWD GT-Line we drove.

  • Kia Sorento X-Pro SX Prestige AWD

Kia had the midsize Sorento X-Pro SX Prestige AWD available to take on the off-road course, which we gladly did. It’s not built for rock crawling, but the off-road capability was easily demonstrated. The turbocharged 2.5-liter engine was good for 281 hp and 311 lb.-ft. of torque, driving all four wheels through an 8-speed dual clutch transmission. We encountered loose rocks, sand, ruts and steep inclines and declines, all of which was masterfully handled by the Sorento X-Pro. Pricing for the MPG Drive Day model was $49,400.

Lucid Air
Lucids on the lawn

Lucid is known for offering the longest-range production EV on the market that can go 516 miles. The model they brought to the journalist event was the 430 hp single-motor, rear-wheel drive, Air Pure with a mere 419-mile all-electric range, which is still more range than all other EVs. The Air Pure has a futuristic body design with a minimalist, large greenhouse cabin.

This is a very nice electric sedan, and with a base price of $79,700, will get a lot of attention of buyers looking at luxury EVs.

Land Rover Defender 130
Land Rover Defender

The King of England drives one, so notch that up as a positive for this iconic British SUV. The 3.0-liter mild-hybrid inline 6-cylinder roars to life with 296 hp and 347 lb.-ft. of torque powering all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. This hustles the 7,450 pounds to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, so getting to the club or symphony on time won’t be an issue.

You don’t buy a Land Rover Defender 130 for the fuel economy, but to ride in luxury and style. Pricing starts at $69,100.

Aaron Cole, product communications Subaru, said “the WRX is the only car here today with 50% more pedals.” And what a blast it was driving through the Santa Monica Mountains with that third pedal and the 6-speed manual transmission. Painted in Ignition Red, it looked as fast and fun. The 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine delivered 271 hp and 259 lb.-ft. of torque. The Brembo brakes, Bridgestone Potenza S007 summer tires, and new-for-2024 stiffer springs, revised damping rates and improved steering response felt great as we whipped around mountain twisties tightly confined in the Recaro seats.

Subaru WRX
Subaru WRX

There are not many manual transmission cars left anymore, so get on down to a Subaru dealer and take a spirited test drive. Pricing as tested was $41,665.

The Land Cruiser was pulled from the USA market after the 2021 model year, with outrage and ire from Land Cruiser loyalists. First introduced in 1958, it returns as an all-new model retaining the same off-road DNA as earlier generations, but with a significant change. The V8 is gone and it now comes exclusively with the turbocharged i-Force Max hybrid powertrain that produces 326 hp and 465 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to a full-time four-wheel drive system.

Toyota Land Cruiser, John Faulkner
Toyota Land Cruiser on the rocks

With expert guidance from a Toyota representative, we headed-out on a off-road course with varying surfaces of loose rock, sand, dirt, ruts, dips, switchbacks and steep inclines and descents. The top of the course looks west on the backside of where the television show ‘MASH’ was filmed, and south over the Pacific Ocean. The Land Cruiser has a Crawl Control function that acts as a low-speed, off-road cruise control with five selectable speeds. Downhill Assist Control is another standard off-road feature that helps navigate descents by limiting the speed of the vehicle. We used them all and give a big thumbs-up for getting us back to base camp safely.

There are three grades with these base prices. Land Cruiser 1958 at $55,950; Land Cruiser at $61,950; and First Edition at $74,950.

Volvo C40 Recharge
Volvo C40 Recharge
  • Volvo C40 Recharge EV Extended Range Single Motor Rear Wheel Drive

The C40 Recharge previously was only available with dual motors, all-wheel drive, and a 226-mile all-electric driving range. This is all fine, but many EV buyers didn’t need the extra traction, second motor power, wanted more driving range and a bit lower price.

Volvo listened and new for 2024 is the C40 Recharge with a single motor and rear wheel drive, longer driving range (297 all-electric miles) and at a lower price, all of which makes it very appealing. That means little if it isn’t a good EV, which (no surprise) it is. Our short drive was comfortable and quiet, delivering excellent acceleration, brake regeneration and handling.

Volvo has four EVs, largest-to-smallest, with these base prices: EX90 at $76,695; XC40 Recharge at $40,500; C40 Recharge at $53,600; and the EX30 at $34,950. If you are in the market for a premium EV, visit your local dealer.

A Special Treat

MPG Drive Days are a special treat, even for auto journalists who review dozens of cars a year. These short drives give us the opportunity to get a taste of cars we have not driven, and can lead us to schedule them for a longer period.

The auto manufacturers work hard to develop good relationships and communication with journalists. They know without honest and objective reviews, getting out the word to you the consumer, would be difficult at best. Clean Fleet Report thanks all the participating auto manufacturers that were part of the Motor Press Guild’s 2024 Drive Day.

So Many Vehicles

These vehicles were also at the 2024 MPG Drive Day, which we did not have time to drive. Those in bold have links to reviews by Clean Fleet Report, some of which may be of previous years’ models.

Acura

          – ZDX Type S

Alfa Romeo

          – Tonale

Fiat 500e
Fiat 500e

Fiat

          – 500e

General Motors

          – Chevrolet Silverado

          – Fox Factory Edition

Genesis

          – G70

          – GV80

Hyundai

          – Elantra N (DTC)

          – Ioniq 5 N

          – Santa Fe XRT

          – Sonata

Lexus GX Overtrail
Lexus GX Overtrail

Kia

          – EV9

Lexus

          – GX Overtrail+

Lucid

          – Air Touring

Mercedes-Benz

          – AMG GLB 35

          – E 350 4MATIC

Nissan

          – Ariya

Polestar

          – Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor

Ram

          – 1500 Rebel

Mulholland Hwy sign

Subaru

          – Forester Touring

Toyota

          – Tacoma TRD Pro

          – Camry SE

          – Crown Signia

Volvo

          – V60 Recharge: Polestar Engineered

          – XC60 Plug-In Hybrid Black Edition

Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) to be notified of all new stories and vehicle reviews.

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.



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