For the third year in a row, we’ve made the trek from Ontario down to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania for the International Motor Press Association’s annual Test Days. Our merry band of miscreants grew to 3 this year, as Tom Williams joined video guru Scott Simmons and I in our quest to bring our readers more quality content.
Our objective this year was a bit different from past years where we’ve tried to cover as many vehicles as humanly possible in a short period of time. This year, Scott and I attempted to spend more quality time with each vehicle to put together another collection of videos. This being his first year at Test Days, Tom set out to drive as many cars as possible. Don’t worry though, Scott & Tom also did a few shoots. I’m sure the highlight of these will be from the time they spent driving the wicked Aston Martin DBS.
I suppose I had a two day long brain fart when it comes to photography. On day one, I got some great shots of the 2010 Ford SVT Raptor and everything after that is horribly overexposed. Yes, photoshop will help but it just isn’t the same! Day two was cold and rained hard all day and my camera didn’t leave Scott’s rented Dodge Journey. Oh well, I’ll just have to work with some of Tom’s pics and let the video do the visuals.
Here are a few highlights of the event from my eyes:
Most likely to be raced straight off the showroom floor
Ford’s 2010 SVT Raptor is a hard core off road speed machine. The numbers only tell part of the tale: 320 horsepower and 390 ft.-lb. of torque. Couple this with a suspension package that was designed with FOX Racing and you have a truck that is about as close to Baja ready as they come.
Acura brought along a TL SH awd for us to play with. I’ve never driven the current TL, as I just can’t get past the ugliness of that chrome beak up front. This year we chose the TL to give Tom a couple of introduction laps of the soggy wet Pocono Raceway. During the first lap, I found that the TL felt unflappable on the we track, never putting a wheel wrong, never activation the techno nannies. On lap 2 I picked up the pace just to see if we could make it miss a step. If I had gone any quicker, the result when it finally did break loose would not have been pretty. Very impressive vehicle.
Jekell & Hyde
I must say that while the Jaguar line has an incredible history, I have never really gotten too excited about the more modern offerings. Hopping behind the wheel, the XKR convertible feels not that much different from any other car. Except of course for the real wood and polished aluminum and soft leather and Alcantara surfaces. Trundle down the laneway and it feels like you could be heading to church on a Sunday morning. Tip into the throttle though and the beast breaks through. The supercharged 5.0l V-8 quite literally explodes with a raucous bellow from the pipes that is accompanied by the feeling of your hind region being slammed into the seat while your neck attempts to recoil your head back into place. Perhaps the time has come for me to investigate Jaguar further.
It won’t be a surprise to anyone to hear me say that the Lotus Exige 260 that I drove is the most pure track day car I have ever experienced. With the reliability and tractability of a mainstream production car combined with the spirit of Colin Chapman, this thing is an absolute winner. What surprised me the most is how easy it is to drive, even on a wet track. Ask anyone who has driven a top flight race car and they’ll tell you they are hard to drive at anything below 10/10ths, when they become easy to drive. I suspect this is the case, as the Exige was indeed easier to drive the faster I went. When I got fast enough to coax out some four wheel drifts (old school style, not this new hang it out and burn the tires off stuff) the Exige was absolutely predictable and drama free. While getting in the tiny door opening wasn’t too bad, one of the funniest moments of the day must have been the attempts at extracting me from the car. This car might be the worlds best incentive to lose weight.
Funniest on track moment ever
During the lunch time classic car parade, 4 of us piled into Crash Corrigan’s VW High Top Camper for a lap. Crash was enjoying a smoke as we made our way out onto the track. Apparently Mrs. Crash and Craig Van Batenburg were getting quite cozy in the back as the Camper tossed back and forth. I didn’t have time to see, as I was holding onto the dash with one hand and the video camera with the other. Did I mention that none of us were wearing seat belts? Not that we set any speed records mind you. Our top speed, heading the wrong way on the Pocono banks was a whopping 65 miles per hour! I think I might have peed myself, I was laughing so hard but my shorts were too wet from the rain to tell. Hopefully I managed to hold the camera still enough to actually share some of this.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll have video of the Raptor, XKR, Exige, DBS and more. Stay tuned!