As the leaves turned in the Catskills, greenery and green cars were hard to find

On a visit to Monticello, N.Y., an open top, manual transmission, deserted two-lane roads and a gorgeous fall day are an unbeatable combination.


MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- Quiet has returned to the two-lane roads that wind past clusters of homes framed by fall colors.

This week saw the annual invasion of the International Motor Press Association, whose members were unleashed at the wheels of performance and super cars with incredibly loud mufflers.

IMPA, the country's oldest organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals, set up camp at the Monticello Motor Club, a 4.1-mile race circuit and playground for the wealthy nestled in the Catskill Mountains.

Many sponsors

Sponsors of the so-called Test Days included Detroit and foreign automakers, manufacturers of tires and automobile sound equipment, PR Newswire and the private club where the event was held.

Previous Test Days took place at Pocono Raceway and Lime Rock Park.

On Wednesday, writers and publicists had access to a parking lot filled with some of the fastest cars in the world, many of which could be driven on the track.

Others were meant to be driven only on quiet public roads in Monticello and nearby villages, set amidst lakes and wooded hills. 

On Tuesday, the first day of the event, all driving was restricted to public roads except for IMPA members who signed up for drives or rides with instructors on the challenging race circuit.

I did hot laps in a Fiat 500 Abarth and a Lexus GS sedan with 467 horsepower, but actually enjoyed driving several other cars over nearly deserted public roads that were a breath of fresh air compared to the congestion of northern New Jersey.

Among them were the FIAT 124 Spider, Infiniti Q60, Jaguar F-Type, a luxury sports car with loud snap, crackle and pop exhausts; and Volvo S90 AWD Inscription, a comfortable sedan that is the biggest Volvo I have ever seen.

Being confined to public roads didn't lessen the excitement for some IMPA members.

For example, a writer for the Chicago Tribune syndicate who gave me a ride in a McLaren GT shouted, "That's 90 [mph]," as he paddle shifted up through the gears on Route 42 toward Montcello's economically depressed downtown.

One of the few green cars at the event was the highly anticipated Acura NSX, an all-wheel-drive supercar bristling with 573 horsepower from a twin-turbo V-6 and three electric motors, above and below.
A pro racecar driver at the wheel of the Acura NSX took me on the fastest lap I have ever experienced at the Monticello Motor Club.

Green cars

Sadly, there were no purely electric cars at the event.

Chevy didn't bring the Bolt, the first $40,000 EV with more than 200 miles of range, even though the four-door hatchback is expected to go on sale at the end of the year.

And as usual, Nissan had IMPA members lining up to drive the fearsome GT-R, but disappointed me and others by not supplying an updated all-electric Leaf with a longer range. 

Typically, most of the writers and publicists who attend Test Days are gear heads, speed freaks and lead foots who are wined and dined by the automakers, and loaned new models for a weekend or a week.

They willingly engage in a conspiracy of silence about climate change, the 53,000 deaths every year from auto emissions, and the environmental benefits of hybrids and EVs.

I heard one IMPA member boast of driving a Fiat 500 Abarth at 107 mph on a Nevada highway, complaining he was the only one of 10 writers in a caravan of speeding Fiats pulled over by the police. 
Toyota Mirai, Prius

Toyota brought the Mirai, powered by electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell; as well as the Prius Prime, a plug-in gas-electric hybrid that has an EV range of 25 miles.

I got behind the wheel of both, and found the Mirai far quieter and more refined than the pre-production model I drove in Manhattan last April at the New York Auto Show.

The Prius Prime only went a few all-electric miles before the gasoline engine kicked in, because its handlers from Event Solutions International (ESI) forgot to plug it in overnight.

Both the Mirai and Prius Prime approached the quiet of a Tesla Model S.

Two more photos of the mid-engine Acura NSX, above and below. 

Toyota's Prius Prime, a gas-electric hybrid, wasn't plugged in overnight, and yielded only a few miles in all-electric mode on Wednesday, above and below.

Toyota Mirai is a car in search of hydrogen fueling stations, above and below.

Hydrogen gas reacts with oxygen in the air and produces electricity to power the vehicle.

This McLaren GT, which cost more than $200,000, didn't match the excitement of the Acura NSX.
The Alfa-Romeo 4C Spider with paddle shifters was a hoot to drive on the racetrack.

A Ford Fusion gas-electric hybrid.

A driver returning to the pits at Monticello Motor Club.

Tuesday's lunch at the Monticello Motor Club included veggie burgers, coleslaw, and potato salad. I didn't attend that night's banquet at Honor's Haven Resort & Spa in Ellenville, N.Y., but was told no fish was available for IMPA members who don't eat meat.
Eggplant Rollatini, Potato-Crusted Cod and Caesar Salad were on Wednesday's lunch menu at MMC.

I had dinner on Tuesday night at Crust Italian Eatery in Rock Hill, N.Y., a restaurant next to my hotel. Steamed Clams were $10. A glass of red wine was $6.

I also had a Caprese Salad with Fig Balsamic Glaze ($12), but the only off note were the roasted tomatoes, which had been refrigerated and were much too cold.

Crust Italian Eatery bakes 24-inch pizzas. Bottle of wine are $20.
On the way home, I stopped to charge my Tesla Model S 60 on Route 300 in Newburgh, N.Y., where six free Superchargers were available in the parking lot of a strip mall, above and below.

Customers were dining outdoors at Cosimo's on Union Ristorante & Bar, which serves wood-fired pizzas. I had a yogurt next door at Hoopla Frozen Yogurt (51 cents per ounce).

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