On February 13, the men and women of the New England Motor Press Association met at the group’s HQ to do what we do best– drive! Being located in the heart of New England, NEMPA members and press vehicles alike are subjected to a unique combination of winter conditions seldom found elsewhere in the country. That’s why this collection of automotive journalists is perfectly suited to determine the best winter vehicle of 2016!
It has been said that the ideal winter vehicle is one that provides all the capabilities necessary for winter weather, but not at the expense of daily usability year round. With that in mind, the assortment of vehicles tested ranged from go-anywhere SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Land Rover Range Rover to performance and luxury vehicles like the all-wheel-drive Cadillac CTS-4 and Volkswagen Golf R.
“You can read opinions from writers and commentators all over the country, but you have to live in New England to really evaluate what makes a vehicle work in the winter,” said Craig Fitzgerald, president of the New England Motor Press Association. “There aren’t many places in the country that have the mix of elevation, coastline, snowfall, ice, rural roads and jam-packed cities the way New England does.”
The main streets and back roads around NEMPA HQ are the perfect microcosm of this mix. With a winter’s worth of frost heaves and potholes doing their best to get in the way of drivers, NEMPA members were afforded every opportunity to put the broad list of vehicles through all of these conditions.
“We’re not testing these vehicles on race tracks or made-up off-road courses.” Continued Fitzgerald, “We evaluate these vehicles in real-world driving conditions that can range from a wintry mix in Boston to a full-on blizzard just a half hour north or west of the city. It’s not just about how the vehicle drives in the snow, it’s about how it works when you’re held up in four hours of traffic during a raging winter storm.”
And it is not just all-wheel-drive vehicles, as automakers are getting clever with vehicle-and-tire pairings. As Fitzgerald explained, “Manufacturers are sending sports cars equipped with winter tires to prove that they’re capable as year-round drivers, too.” The Mazda Miata with Blizzak tires was a great example of this application.
From smart tire selection to advanced all-wheel-drive and traction management systems, the definition of an effective winter vehicle could not be broader in 2016. It is the responsibility of the members of the New England Motor Press Association (some of which pictured deliberating, below) to determine which of these vehicles are the best suited for not only winter, but inclement conditions all year long.
The winners of the 2016 NEMPA Winter Vehicle Award will be presented at an awards dinner following the NEMPA MIT Technology Conference on May 26. Finalists and category winners will be announced prior to this event.