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2017 MPG "Droptops & Dirt"
Membership has its Priveleges

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Jun 29, 2017

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

by Glenn Oyoung The Motor Press Guild (which, with “MPG” as its shorthand name wins the best organizational acronym ever) is based in Los Angeles and is the largest automotive media association in North America. MPG works with OEMs to organize driving events that are my hands-down favorite benefit of being a member. In one day, you can get behind the wheel of a literal buffet of press cars and get a feel for which ones you'd to do in-depth reviews of.

The 2017 “Droptops & Dirt” was no exception, providing journalists a “surf & turf” combo of convertibles and trucks & SUVs. This year’s event was held at Calamigos Ranch, in the heart of Malibu Wine country. The location was a perfect spot with access to off-road trails to test the trucks, and plenty of winding mountain roads to test the droptops. My day didn’t quite turn out the way I had originally planned, but I decided I was not about to lose out on some seat time. I hustled to Malibu and was able to get some seat time before last call.

Toyota Tundra TRD Pro My daily driver is a Tundra Limited so I was curious to see how the exalted TRD Pro variant would fare on the rough terrain above Calamigos Ranch. The answer: superb. The TRD Pro attacked the steep inclines, deep crevices, and dusty descents with ease. I’ve had the pleasure of off-roading my Tundra before and comparing the two I felt more confident with the TRD-tuned springs paired with the Bilstein shocks in my corner. I would have loved to get behind the wheel of the TRD Pro Tacoma and Ford Raptor that were on hand to compare. That will have to wait for 2018.

Jaguar F-Pace Next up, I jumped into a Jaguar F-Pace. I was surprised that the powers that be were offering this up to test on the trails vs. the road – and was gently reminded that this is after all a product of the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) group. Touché – the Land Rover side of the equation alone has made a business of facilitating expeditions for more than a century so one could reasonably expect that off-road knowledge to permeate the feline division as well. I marveled throughout my entire time behind the wheel at how effortless the F-Pace managed the off-road trails that I had literally just driven through in a purpose build 4WD truck. The F-Pace’s AWD system featuring Intelligent Driveline Dynamics and Adaptive Surface Response transferred power as needed to maintain traction and momentum. At one point I was surprised to have negotiated a steep incline with deep ruts, without so much as increasing the throttle more than ten or fifteen percent. Is the F-Pace more likely seen helping urban dwellers get groceries at their local organic farmer’s market? Of course. But can the F-Pace also get the farm itself – no matter what the terrain? Absolutely. That’s pretty incredible.

Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Last but definitely not least, I had the chance to jump in the Miata RF – a car I was literally willing to endure four hours of LA weekday traffic to experience. As I patiently waited my turn I felt like a kid again, waiting for my turn in the line at Autopia. The Miata RF (short for “retractable fastback”) lived up to its reputation as a worthy successor to the Miata name. Six-speed manual transmission, terrific visibility, and Super Mario Kart-like handling all add up to a smile-inducing experience. Take 12 seconds to open the retractable roof, add in sun-kissed wine country scenery, and throw in as many apexes as you like – voila – you have driving joy and a temporary balm to the travails of suburban living. What about the oft-cited lack of power coming from the 155hp inline-4? In my brief dance with the RF I didn’t find myself wishing I had more power, but only a longer-term test with city and freeways thrown in can tell. That being said, I still think of “RF” as “really fun" and on the way out I was reminded why. There were two first-gen Miata's parked in the lot, one with a hardtop secured, one without. With the RF you don't have to choose between a focused apex dive-bombing session or a wind-swept cruise. I'm looking forward to doing a full review of this little badboy in the fall. 2017 Droptops and Dirt was a super fun event, we’re excited to get some more time behind the wheel of these cars in the near future. Thanks to our friends at the Motor Press Guild for hosting another fantastic event.

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