The Rocky Mountain Driving Experience 2024: Day One

2024 rmde auto event colorado - logoI’ve been a member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press for quite a few years now. I fell into writing about cars many years ago thanks to Kia and the Dad 2.0 conference. Now I spend about 50% of my time behind the wheel of loaner cars rather than my own trusty Mazda CX-5, and I have to admit that it’s great fun.

The challenge with the auto journalist world, however, is logistics; manufacturers want us to have lots of time in lots of vehicles, but how to schedule it all? What happens if there’s an accident or, as recently happened, hail or other weather damage? And how long is a car “journalist ready?” (the answer to the last question is 10,000 miles: Once a vehicle has more than 10K, it’s pulled from the fleet).

One logical solution, then, is to have drive events where we can meet up with the car companies, get a briefing on what’s new and interesting, and have some time with each of their newest vehicles. Scale that up to have a dozen manufacturers (or, as we call ’em in the biz, “OEMs”) and you have the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience. It’s a two-day vetted journalist-only driving event where we typically get access to about twenty vehicles. There are typically reps from each of the OEMs to answer questions and highlight key features and improvements too, and they’ll even tag along on drives so they can point out all the latest and greatest features.

All in all, a great experience and one I look forward to every summer!

2024 rmde auto event colorado - vehicle lineup

This year we moved the event to Frisco, Colorado. If you go to Breckenridge, one of my favorite mountain towns, the route has you take I-70 to the Frisco exit. Frisco is a gateway city, but has its charms and scenic spots too, most notably Dillon Reservoir and the slightly vertigo-inducing Dillon Dam. You can drive across the dam and one side has water just a few feet below the road level while the other drops a precipitous 231 feet down to the Blue River area.

One of the logistical challenges with an event like this is getting the vehicles from the starting point to the venue, and that’s become part of the fun of RMDE. This year we started at a rather humdrum business hotel in Englewood, a suburb of Denver and headed up to Frisco on an interesting mix of highways and smaller roads:

2024 rmde auto event colorado - route map

Day one starts with breakfast snacks, signing a stack of waivers, and being randomly assigned a vehicle. I was given the 2024 Land Rover Defender 110 Country for the first leg, highway out of the city, and the first bit of mountain driving:

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2024 land rover defender 110

The OEM explained that this design was simultaneously an homage to the classic Land Rover (look at those great retro wheels!) and an integration of all the latest safety and comfort tech. It was a very smooth ride and as we later took it on an off-road course, I can report that it still has its historical 4×4 chops too.

One of the big features this year was the rise of EVs and we had quite a few to drive. The route was split into four legs, so we had three swap points. Exactly as they sound, we’d all meet up and swap cars. This mostly went smoothly, except when we were utilizing a high school parking lot (school was out!) and had someone come out and yell at us to leave. 🤣

Anyway, leg two was my first EV: The 2024 Honda Prologue Elite:

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2024 honda prologue elite

This color is called “North Shore Pearl” and reminds me that I want to come up with the names of colors for my next professional gig! The Prologue was a solid EV option and handled the rise in elevation and tight mountain roads with ease, a quiet, comfortable ride for Honda’s first electric vehicle. Definitely worth a look.

Leg three saw me switch from EV to sports car with the sleek 2024 Acura TLX. It was definitely one of the vehicles in our little fleet with the most curb appeal:

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2024 acura tlx

The final leg had us meeting up at the South Park City Museum (yes, the inspiration for the hilarious and often inappropriate animated TV series South Park), where I switched to another EV, the considerably more spendy 2024 Mercedes-Benz EQE 350+:

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2024 mercedes eqe 350+

It was the most luxurious of the vehicles I drove and had a beautiful interior and drive experience. There’s a reason these luxury cars justify their price tags; it’s the kind of EV experience that shows how great manufacturers can find the sweet spot between their decades of design and comfort expertise and the new technologies of EV vehicles.

We reached our destination just in time for lunch and I have to admit, the hotel was a delightful surprise. Just off the highway and adjacent to a gas station and supermarket, the AC Hotel was lovely with a very modern design. It’s just a few years old and was a place I’d return if I was seeking lodging in the Frisco area.

After lunch it was a parking lot full of vehicles and an invitation to take whatever we wanted and explore the local area. Here’s what I drove during the afternoon…

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2025 toyota crown signia limited

This is the 2025 Toyota Crown Signia Limited and Toyota’s really been stepping up its game with design, particularly interior design. I wasn’t entirely taken with the Crown lineup when first introduced but this was a luxury Toyota without the Lexus label, very nice and a zippy drive. It’s a hybrid, but Toyota has an enormous amount of experience with its hybrid drivetrain (and licenses the tech to many other manufacturers).

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2025 subaru forester sport

This is the 2025 Subaru Forester Sport and Subaru diehards will immediately notice the copper accents. These repeat on the wheels and interior and add some personality to a workhorse of an SUV. The 2025 model has a lot of refinements and is a more nimble drive with a noticeably quieter interior. Like so many vehicles nowadays, the Forester now has a wide variety of trim levels and options that can easily double the base price of the vehicle, but they’re definitely worth considering because shouldn’t you be comfortable when you’re driving, not just efficiently getting from point A to point B?

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2025 Genesis GV80

Genesis is what I consider a sleeper brand. You probably haven’t even heard of it, but it’s the luxury brand of Hyundai and Kia (who are the same company, shhhh), and the Genesis lineup are really fun with tons of great luxury features. This is the 2025 Genesis GV80, their larger SUV and it is indeed roomy, but it also has power to spare and more luxury amenities than you can shake a stick at. There’s even a mode with meditation music and a corresponding display to help you chill the heck out while stuck in traffic.

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2024 lexus tx 550h+

Speaking of bigger, luxurious SUVs,  I liked the 2024 Lexus TX 550h+ too, also finding it wonderfully quiet on the road and full of the creature comforts that let you enjoy your drive rather than be exhausted by it. if you’ve driven a Lexus, though, there’s a sameness about the design that is good – if you’re a fan – or perhaps an invitation for some innovation from the company to give it a bit more personality.

And, finally, the last car I drove turned out to be my favorite of the day:

2024 rmde auto event colorado - 2024 fiat 500e ev

First off, I’m 6′ 3″ and when I went to get into this 2024 Fiat 500e EV, I was afraid it would be a flashback to Land of the Giants, but to my astonishment, the design has a higher interior roof than any of the other vehicles I drove; I sat comfortably and still had a few inches clearance above my head! More importantly, the classic, and, admittedly, somewhat austere Italian Fiat design shines through with its simple, but entirely functional dashboard design. But what’s surprising is just how fun this vehicle is to drive. An EV with far less weight, it’s super agile and able to handle even the tightest turns.

One important factor here is that Fiat has opted to trade off design and weight against range, so the 500e only has about 160 miles of range on a full charge. Alarming if you’re planning a road trip, but as a second car or a city commuter vehicle, no worries, mate! Keep in mind that most people drive less than 28 miles daily. Low enough that zipping about town, grabbing groceries, even picking up the kid from soccer practice would work out just fine. Plug it in overnight, and you’re ready to do it again the next day!

That was day one of driving. We had a lovely dinner supplied by the AC Hotel’s chef and went out to enjoy something new this year, a nighttime “lights show” with all the vehicles lined up (my very first picture, though before it got dark). This was fun, though it didn’t really get dark enough for the lighting to be effective until late. Darn summer solstice! 🙂

Day two? More on that in another post, including our off-road adventure above Breckenridge: DAY TWO!


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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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