This past week we were able to make the annual trek to Denver, Colorado and participate in the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) event, the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience (RMDE). This year was the ninth annual RMDE, and we have now attended for the past six years.

This is always a great opportunity to get into many new vehicles within a two-day period, get some seat time with many of the manufactures public relations representatives, along with renewing friendships we have made in the RMAP organization over the years.

Each year, RMAP chooses a different location for the two-day ride and drive, but it always includes some mountain driving west of Denver. This year, the drive started at Wooley’s hotel just south of the Denver Airport and from there we headed into the mountains eventually ending the day at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs.

The first vehicle we had the opportunity to take was the all-new 2020 Nissan Versa, and what a great ride it turned out to be for under $20,000. Keyless entry, push button start, a digital dashboard and even adaptive cruise control were included for the almost fully-loaded Versa. It also handled the freeways with ease and made it to the first swap point at 6,000 feet with no problem!

Then it was on to the new Subaru Legacy, and it has been about four years since we were in a Legacy — and boy has the luxury level risen. The new infotainment package was something to behold with the screen looking to be as large as the one in the new Ram truck. It would even rival that of a Tesla.

All this great technology was wrapped in a great looking sedan and lest we forget that it comes standard all-wheel drive from Subaru. The perfect family sedan for Utah and the intermountain West.

Of course Ram brought a couple of trucks, so we had to try them out right? We got into a 2019 Ram 1500 that had been taken through one of the Mopar plants around the country for some extra additions right after it left the factory.

There was a 4-inch lift included along with a fantastic bed liner. At dinner, a representative from Mopar gave us the lowdown on how they change many of the products that FCA has in there line. It was really cool to see how they can quick they can get a vehicle in transformed and out of their facility. Seems that if you are thinking of adding on to an already great FCA product, the time to do it would be before it arrives at the dealer, as all of the Mopar enhancements will remain under the same warranty.

That afternoon we had the opportunity to jump in and drive any of the program vehicles on a short drive route around the resort. We had a great opportunity to take out the new Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade.

These are a couple of mid-sized SUVs that have come into the market and made a huge impression, especially the Kia with buyers having to get on a waiting list to purchase a new Telluride. From the outside, the two look quite a bit alike with the Telluride having perhaps a more rugged look to it.

Inside there were differences with some of the tech in the vehicles, with the Telluride coming with a full digital dashboard and the Palisade sticking more to the traditional analog look-and-feel to it. Both of these are three-row family hauler SUVs that are meant to compete with the likes of the Chevy Traverse, the VW Atlas or the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Whatever the secret sauce is for Kia, we are hoping to find out when we have more time with these vehicles. However our son Landon is convinced that their next vehicle will be the Telluride for his growing family!

The next day we got to spend some serious time in the new 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE, which turned out to be loaded with all kinds of technology and luxury. It seems that every year as Toyota brings forth new designs; the Lexus influence seems to always make its way into the mix.

At first glance, the new Corolla looks so much like a Lexus it is hard to tell the difference, especially at night with the great new lighting package that comes with it. We are looking forward to having more time with the new Corolla as it is definitely not what it used to be!

Our last vehicle of the day on the way back to Denver was the new Mazda3 sedan, and a great ride it proved to be as we went from high in the mountains twisting back into the valley headed for the east side of Denver to Wooley’s.

The new Mazda made the trip with ease and was extremely comfortable to drive and ride in. There was plenty of power and the adaptive cruise was a huge help as we got back into the heavy afternoon traffic, we always love all the safety features that come in a Mazda.

This year’s Rocky Mountain Driving Experience was that and more, what a great opportunity to get into some of the new vehicles headed to the market with technological additions that we could have only dreamed of just a few short years ago.

Craig and Deanne Conover have been test-driving vehicles for over eight years and have had the opportunity to drive many makes and models. They receive a new car each week for a weeklong test drive and adventure. They both love having the unique opportunity of trying out new cars. They reside in Springville.

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