The Best Cars, Trucks, and SUVs from the 2023 MAMA Rally
Every spring, the members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association gather in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, to test out the latest and greatest vehicles in various driving environments. The event takes place in and around Road America, one of the nation’s most iconic race circuits, and includes a mix of street drives, track, off-road, and autocross courses. I’ve been attending the event for about a decade, and each year I’ve been able to experience vehicles I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to drive.
For 2023, the automakers who brought vehicles included Toyota, BMW, Lexus, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, Genesis, Volvo, Polestar, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Dodge, Jeep, Wagoneer, Ford, Chevrolet, Lucid, Nissan, Chrysler, Mini, Volkswagen, Honda, Acura, Subaru, Alfa Romeo, and Mitsubishi. All told, there were 88 cars, trucks, and SUVs on hand for journalists to drive. Given the time constraints, I didn’t drive every one but tested about 25 vehicles during my visit. I’ve shared some of my favorites below:
2023 Mercedes AMG GT 63 S
This sexy track beast reminded me how much fun V8 engines can be. The AMG GT 63 S is a 4-door coupe powered by a hand-built, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that cranks out 630 horsepower and 664 lb-ft. of torque. That power goes to all four wheels via a 9-speed transmission. It performed astoundingly well on the Road America race track, rocketing off the start line with a 0-to-60 time of 3.1 seconds. And while I only got to push it to about 130 MPH, it can hit a top speed of 195 MPH with a long enough straight. There’s also something about German-engineered cars that just feel solid and substantial, and the AMG GT 63 S ticks all of those boxes too.
2023 Ford Bronco Raptor
The Ford Bronco Raptor has the power to crush the other kids. Rolling on gigantic 37″ all-terrain tires, this tricked-out Bronco absolutely demolished the off-road course, letting me choose any driving line I wanted thanks to its elevated chassis, upgraded suspension, and exceptional 13 inches of front wheel travel and 14 inches in the rear. Ground clearance is 13.1 inches, so it had no trouble negotiating the roughest and rockiest portions of the off-road course without the slightest scrape. I didn’t get to push the Braptor to its limits on Road America’s slow-rolling trails, but its 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 engine makes an ample 418 horsepower and 440 lb-ft. of torque for quick Baja-style enjoyment.
2023 Lucid Air Grand Touring
You might not have heard of Lucid, but you will. The first vehicle from the luxury EV maker is a home run. The Lucid Air Grand Touring is insanely fast and offers more than 500 miles of driving range per charge. The car I drove was equipped with the 819 horsepower drivetrain, but there’s also a Grand Touring Performance model with an astounding 1050 horses and a 2.6 second 0-to-60 time. The Lucid Air’s interior is incredibly spacious, with more rear-seat legroom than I can remember ever experiencing in a sedan. The cabin features beautifully sculpted, curvaceous surfaces, high-end materials, and a canopy-style windshield that curves over the heads of the front-seat passengers. Everything is controlled from a slick touchscreen, including vehicle dynamics and premium features like massage seats and an immersive 21-speaker sound system with Dolby Atmos support.
2023 Lexus RZ 450e
Lexus’ first battery electric vehicle is a winner in almost every way. With a 0-to-60 time of 4.7 seconds, the all-wheel-drive RZ 450e crossover accelerates quickly and offers a dynamic and engaging driving experience. It’s also impressively quiet and has a clean, modern interior straight out of a concept car. It’s roomy for its size too. The only real downside here is its driving range is less than spectacular. Its 64.0 kWh battery pack offers a range of 196 to 220 miles, depending on the trim package you go with.
2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison
Developed in collaboration between Chevrolet and American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), the Silverado 1500 ZR2 Bison is the most off-road capable Silverado you can buy straight from the dealership. This truck showed off its prowess on the off-road course, easily climbing up and down steep hills and navigating uneven surfaces. The pickup’s press-hardened steel skid plates are more durable than others, offering excellent underbody protection, while its steel bumpers are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The 6.2-liter V8 under the hood provides plenty of grunt with 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft. of torque, and Multimatic DSSV dampers and specially-tuned springs offer an impressively smooth ride on rough terrain.
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse
This bold and angular muscle car might not suit every Mustang fan’s tastes, but it’s got it where it counts. Ford Performance took the naturally aspirated, fourth-gen Coyote 5.0-liter V8 engine and squeezed out every last drop of power – without adding turbos. This monster makes 500 horsepower and 418 lb-ft. of torque, and it has a fantastic exhaust note. It’s also got a 6-speed Tremec manual gearbox with a slick 3D-printed titanium shift knob. While I wish I had gotten to drive the Dark Horse on the track, the brief street ride-along I got to take with Ford’s pro driver gave me a small taste of this dark pony car’s visceral power and the amazing new curved glass dual-display dashboard that’s available on all 2024 Mustangs.
2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus
Sharing its underpinnings with the Alfa Romeo Tonale, this Italian-made Dodge is wonderfully fun to drive. The Hornet R/T features a zesty little 1.3-liter turbocharged engine and a 44 horsepower belt starter generator that work together to produce 288 horsepower and 383 lb-ft. of torque. Rolling on 20″ rims with four-wheel independent MacPherson struts and adaptive damping shocks, this little crossover handles like a dream and goes exactly where you point it on the track. This particular specimen was also equipped with the Track Pack, which includes black Alcantara seats, aluminum door sills, a sports leather steering wheel, and Brembo performance brakes with red caliper covers.
2023 Mazda CX-90 Premium Plus AWD
The Mazda CX-90 might hold seven passengers, but you’d never know that from how it drives. Despite its size, Mazda’s engineers worked their magic to make this family-friendly SUV feel like a compact car when behind the wheel. The 3.3-liter, turbocharged inline-6 engine is no slouch, offering up to 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque, and the I-Active all-wheel drive system is as sure-footed as any on the market. The high-end Premium Plus model is exceptionally luxurious, with quilted Nappa leather seating, ultrasuede trim on the dashboard and doors, and comfy second-row captains chairs.
2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 Limited AWD
Now that I’ve driven the Hyundai Ioniq 6, I’ve tested all of the currently-available cars powered by Hyundai’s E-GMP electric vehicle platform. Those also include the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the Genesis GV60, and the Kia EV6. All four of these vehicles are outstanding in their own ways, but the Ioniq 6 is the most energy efficient of the bunch, thanks to its streamlined, aerodynamic design. The Limited AWD model I drove provides 270 miles of range, but the range winner is the more stripped-down SE RWD model, which offers an impressive 361 miles on a charge. Like other E-GMP cars, the Ioniq 6 recharges quickly if you can find a DC fast charger, going from 0 to 80% in as little as 18 minutes on a 350kW charger. Like most EVs, its low center of gravity helps with handling and control, and the AWD models are especially quick thanks to a combined 320 horsepower and 446 lb-ft. of torque. I also love the open and airy feel of the Ioniq’s interior – a comfortable, modern, and minimal space to enjoy daily driving.
This year’s MAMA Rally was one of the best I’ve experienced. I must thank the MAMA Board and Rally Committee, all of the participating automakers, the folks from fleet management companies DriveShop and G. Schmitz and Associates, and the professional driving instructors from CGI Motorsports. Also, a special nod to the Road America crew. Without their time and dedication, auto journalists like me wouldn’t have such an excellent opportunity to test drive nearly as many cars.