Rocky Mountain Driving Experience 2023: Day Two

After spending two eventful days in the Rocky Mountains as part of the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience (RMDE), I had hundreds of photos from the event. I drove about twenty vehicles along some of the most beautiful roads in the world. Day one’s writeup is already online and you should go read it before proceeding: RMDE 2023: Winter Park. This post will cover some additional vehicles and talk more about my thoughts about the many different cars, trucks, and SUVs I drove.

To start, I enjoyed the Range Rover Sport, which I’ll be back behind the wheel of in a week or so, as it happens. As with Land Rover, the Range Rover team has really figured out how to add modern luxuries to the base “tough car for wealthy drivers”. Yeah, that’s my categorization, not the official company slogan:

rmde 2023 - range rover sport

What I didn’t convey too well in my previous article about the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience is that our venue was really beautiful, both the roads we traversed and the overnight spot at Winter Park. For example, I talked about the Alfa Romeo Tonale (toe-nall-ee), but didn’t show how it was presented to us during our hosted dinner from Stellantis:

rmde 2023 - alfa romeo tonale in front of winter park plaza

Switzerland? Not quite, this is Winter Park Village and it’s a combination of lodging and retail – mostly restaurants. It was beautiful in our late spring weather, but you can just imagine it with 24″ of snow. Gorgeous. It was worth noting that restaurant employees were out taking pictures of the Tonale too, and one guy apologized for having sat in the car to check out the interior too. Lots of interest in that Alfa Romeo!

I won’t say that some of our roads were at higher elevations, but they were. It was still impressive to see a meaningful accumulation of snow in mid-June along the route:

rmde 2023 - snow in june, rocky mountain national park

Overall, our weather was pretty good, though we definitely encountered some rain showers and at least one heavy downpour as spring slowly, finally eased out of the picture. New cars, great tires, none of us were at any risk from the poor driving conditions, of course. And speaking of beautiful spots…

rmde 2023 - guanella pass summit

I have to guess that in early January this road is either impassable or four-wheel drive only. Some of our vehicles could still have made it – one certainly hopes the Range Rover would live up to its name, if nothing else – but clean roads and the last vestiges of snow at the 12,000′ elevation Guanella Pass made for some stunning vistas. On the way up, we also passed a herd of mountain goats too, which was fun.

One of my favorite cars to drive was the Nissan Ariya, the company’s latest addition to its EV lineup:

rmde 2023 - nissan ariya

It’s a far better design – and more comfortable – than the Leaf, but years of selling the Nissan Leaf has taught the company a lot about EV design and performance: The Ariya is also a zippy EV that’s quite fun to drive. I’m a rather lukewarm fan of Nissan design so it was also nice to see the interior rethought entirely, with controls embedded into the dash and a completely different gauge display. I’ll have this car to drive for a week in a month or two, so I’ll write quite a bit more about it then.

Other cars had frankly weird interface elements, something I always analyze when I am test-driving a vehicle. For example, the Kia EV6 dashboard. Here’s a closeup:

rmde 2023 - kia ev6 dashboard detail

Where’s the climate control? If you press the fan icon on the right side, the labels for the knob change to denote that it’s a climate control knob. Tap on the paper airplane icon and it goes back to controlling audio. This is an overloaded control and will doubtless be quite confusing to people. It’s also not good design, even if it does save a knob. Sometimes, more single-purpose knobs are better. Unless, however, you’re Hyundai, in which case you can end up with a monstrosity like this center control area in the Santa Fe:

rmde 2023 - hyundai santa fe center console button array

That’s an interface only a jet pilot can love, as I said in my previous writeup. Yes, there are a lot of buttons, but holy function overload, Batman!

By contrast to both of these, the Genesis G90 had a good balance of controls and layout convenience:

rmde 2023 - genesis g90 center console controls

Logical icons, light indicators for feedback, and those two glorious door close buttons on the lower left and lower right corners. Did I mention how much I loved the pushbutton door closing feature?

Interestingly, all three of these are Korean car brands so it’s possible the interior designers know each other. Either way, Kia and Hyundai might want to talk to Genesis about finding a balance between too little and too much, for the sake of future drivers worldwide.

Finally, while Mercedes brought its beautiful EV to the event, it also brought a straight internal combustion vehicle too:

rmde 2023 - mercedes benz gle 63s

This is the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE-63s and it was really a great drive too, though if I had my druthers, I would definitely go for the EV every time. Similar in size, but like all EVs, the other Mercedes would blow this one off the road in a head-to-head drive comparison.

And that was it for the 2023 Rocky Mountain Driving Experience. I got back in my Infiniti QX80, drove home, and passed out. Apparently, that was a popular post-driving-event activity, from what I heard! I’ll be back next year, for sure. #rmde2023 #rmapmedia #cars #auto


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dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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