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NWAPA Mudfest: 2021 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year Competition

The Genesis GV70 Takes Home The Surprise Win

2021 NWAPA Mudfest winner 2022 Genesis GV70
(All Photos/Doug Berger for NWAPA)

NWAPA Mudfest is a vehicle testing event held each year in Washington by the Northwest Automotive Press Association to evaluate the latest crop of AWD/4WD vehicles. For over 25 years now automotive journalists have been attending this event and crowning the “Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.”

The Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year winner at the 2021 NWAPA Mudfest was the 2022 Genesis GV70. While a bit of a surprise winner, especially considering the competitors, it is a worthy one.

NWAPA Mudfest 2021

I was one of eighteen automotive journalists who convened at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, WA for two days of evaluating the latest crop of 4WD/AWD CUV, SUV, and trucks. Every one of us drove all nineteen of the vehicles being evaluated on-road and off.

NWAPA Mudfest 2021 NWAPA Mudfest 2021The 19 vehicles tested:

  • Mazda CX30
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Toyota RAV4 Prime
  • Genesis GV70
  • Mercedes-Benz GLB 250
  • Acura MDX A-Spec
  • KIA Telluride
  • Jeep Wrangler 392
  • Ford Bronco 2-Door Badlands
  • KIA Sorento
  • Subaru Outback Wilderness
  • VW Atlas
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee L
  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Jeep Wagoneer
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz
  • RAM 1500 TRX
  • Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

Vehicle Evaluations

NWAPA Mudfest 2021The first day of testing was held on the go-kart track. We got to experience a great mix of corners and elevation changes, while the narrow track width and short straights kept top speeds down. I squealed more than a few tires, and had a blast doing it!

NWAPA Mudfest 2021 Mercedes GLB 250 off-roadThe second day was held on a groomed off-road course that offered up a steep hill, a small rocky water pit, a few sidehills, a log pile, and a series of alternating holes to test articulation. The small CUV had a go-around on the first steep obstacle, as they would have high centered on the top of the hill. A separate short steep and loose off-road course was on offer for the more off-road capable vehicles being tested. It was a great place to test advanced off-road driver systems like driving modes, one-pedal driving, off-road cruise control, hill-descent control, and surround camera systems. While not crazy difficult off-road scenarios, these courses did test the vehicles beyond what 95% of owners will experience in these vehicles.

An online survey was completed at the end of each day of testing, where votes were tallied. Besides an overall Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year category, there were also vehicle type categories.

2021 NWAPA Mudfest Winners

  • Subcompact and Compact Family: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD
  • Mid-and Full-Size Family: 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392
  • Compact and Midsize Luxury: 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige
  • Full-Size Luxury: 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II 4X4
  • Pickup Trucks: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD
  • Extreme Capability: 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392
  • NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year: 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige

Winner: 2022 Genesis GV70

NWAPA Mudfest 2021 Genesis GV70 off-road

“The all-new 2022 GV70 came out on top with its excellent on-road drivability, surprising off-road capability, and premium interior. This newest model from the Genesis brand demonstrated an unbeatable combination of performance, features, capability, and technology during the NWAPA’s 26th Mudfest competition.” -NWAPA’s official 2021 Mudfest press release stated.

The 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige is an impressive vehicle in a lot of ways. The styling inside and out is quite unique, and very Genesis. Lots of sharp angles meet big curves on this vehicle’s body panels to create a unique look. The wheels really pop as well, and don’t look like anything else on the market.

On-road fun is really where the Genesis GV70 excels. It is nimble, has direct but numb steering, and has a pretty good exhaust note. Not great brakes or tires do let it down a bit. The 3.5L V6 turbo under the hood puts out a solid 375 hp and 391 lb.-ft. of torque, which are plenty to propel this little CUV to a good time.

Driver ergonomics are quite good. The steering wheel has a huge range of adjustability, coming back further than many, which is good for tall drivers like myself. The front seats are very comfortable and adjustable. The bottom cushion doesn’t tilt back far enough for optimal comfort, however. I’m not a fan of the active seatbelt either, as it is a bit annoying.

While it was usable off the pavement, the GV70 for sure isn’t meant for off-road activities. Just look at the massive wheels and lowish ride height.

As tested the 2022 Genesis GV70 had a sticker price of $65,045. Not inexpensive, but the vehicle is loaded with all the luxury and creature comforts you could want.

My Pick: RAM TRX

NWAPA Mudfest 2021 RAM TRX off-road

My pic for the winner this year was quite a bit different than the group of assembled journalists. I’m probably one of the more active outdoor adventure sports and experienced off-road driving people in the group, so come at this from a bit different perspective. In this lineup of vehicles, it’s impossible for me not to pick the 2021 RAM TRX truck as my choice for 2021 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.

The TRX is super capable on and off-road, extremely fast, sounds great, has a top-notch interior, and looks beastly (in all the right ways). Price, $87,000, and size, this is a very wide vehicle, the TRX is the perfect outdoor adventure companion.

Final Thoughts

NWAPA Mudfest 2021 Jeep 392 Wrangler off-roadI was quite impressed with the 392 Wrangler, GLB 250, Santa Cruz, MDX, and CX30. Each had its strong points, which outweigh the negatives, and each is worthy of consideration for your next adventure vehicle.

I was honestly disappointed with the Ridgeline, Atlas, Telluride, and RAV4 Prime. All just missed the mark for me in terms of all-around quality, reasonable price tag, as well as on and off-road performance.

Everyone has individual needs out of their vehicle, opinions about brands, and different relationships with vehicles. Luckily we live in North America, where adventure vehicle options are plentiful and ever-growing. There is surely something out there that suits your tastes and needs.

Bryon Dorr
About Bryon Dorr

AutoWise Editor-in-Chief Bryon Dorr has been a lifelong automotive enthusiast. From the supercar posters on his childhood walls to the massive Hot Wheels/Matchbox collection, Bryon has been dreaming about automotive adventures his entire life. For the past decade+ Bryon has pursued a career in automotive photography and journalism. He's worked for a wide range of the top outlets in the overland, off-road, adventure motorcycle, and general automotive media. His current household automotive quiver includes a custom overland 2013 GX460, a 2020 Ioniq Electric, and a 2006 KTM 950 Adv. He recently sold his 996TT, and is on the hunt for a new performance car.