|If you aren't a speed freak with the mentality of a high school student, you couldn't help but enjoy driving a Hyundai Sonata gas-electric hybrid over winding country roads draped in fall colors.|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, automobile writers who gathered for their annual race-track ritual served to focus attention on the environmental damage caused by the antiquated internal-combustion engine.
The emphasis at Test Days is speed, though members of the International Motor Press Association are warned repeatedly they are there to "test" the latest production models, not "race" them.
I attended Wednesday's session at Monticello Motor Club, which bills itself as "North America's premier automotive country club and private race track" just 90 minutes from New York City.
TV commercials show cars being driven at 100 mph or more, appealing to the male race-car driver fantasy, and then the manufacturers bring their most powerful -- and loudest -- models to Monticello.
There, auto writers and other IMPA members, who pay $100 each, can drive some of the fastest, most expensive cars made over the challenging 4.1-mile race track, loud mufflers echoing off of the surrounding hills.
But course workers were ready to report over-enthusiastic drivers who put a wheel off the track or wiped out traffic cones meant to slow them down.
The penalty: Cutting of the wristband all IMPA members had to show to get on the track.
Nissan didn't bring its all-electric 2016 Leaf, and Toyota didn't show up with the highly anticipated 2016 Prius, the next generation of the world's best-selling hybrid.
The only all-electric car there was the 2015 Tesla Model S I drove from my home in New Jersey.
Early today, Tesla downloaded new software to all owners who bought their Model S four-door hatchbacks after October 2014, giving them Autopilot, Autosteer and Autopark, a huge step toward a fully autonomous driving experience.
One owner reported commuting to Manhattan on the Long Island Expressway this morning, and using Autopilot, which he said worked flawlessly both at 60 mph and in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
One of the cars in high demand on Wednesday at Monticello Motor Club was this 645-horsepower Dodge Viper.
Test Days Coordinator Paul Licata scolded unnamed members who were doing "burnouts" in the Hellcat on public roads.
If the writers or VIPs damage the cars, they aren't held responsible, though the fleet-management companies will insist that any one of their drivers who scratches or dents a car pay for the repairs.
It won't happen in my lifetime, but I can envision a day when production cars equipped with internal-combustion engines of 200, 300, 400, 500 and more horsepower are banned from public roads, and can be driven only on a race track like the one at the Monticello Motor Club.
This Dodge Challenger with a 392 cubic inch V-8 engine is what the company calls a Scat Pack Shaker Model.
Options on this 503-horsepower 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GTS include $9,900 for Solarbeam Yellow Paint and $8,500 for an AMG Carbon Ceramic Braking System. Total retail price is $171,900.
|Pilgrim drove a stock Cadillac ATS.|
To me, the onetime owner of a 1966 Fort Mustang GT, the new model is noisy, heavy and not much of a thrill, even on a race track.
The most entertaining car I drove on the track Wednesday is this 380-horsepower 2016 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe with a manual, 6-speed transmission, above the below.
|Jaguar calls this color Italian Racing Red. The car's MSRP is $91,145.|
|Jaguar's 6-speed manual transmission.|
The 707-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. When I drove it on the track, an instructor gave me tips on turn in and braking.
IMPA Test Days Coordinator Paul Licata reminding automobile writers they were at a private race track on Wednesday to "test" cars, not to "race" them.
I took a spin on public roads in a Fiat 500 that was similar to the one Pope Francis rode in when he visited the United States.
One of the public road loops marked with IMPA signs included Dingle Daisy Road in Monticello, N.Y., connecting Sackett Lake Road and Route 42.