2023 Western Automotive Journalists Best of the Bay Media Days

Like so many of us organizations took a big hit from the pandemic. The Western Automotive Journalists (WAJ), of which I've been a member of since 1997, almost died. But thanks to the efforts of a handful of dedicated members - Michael Coates, Doug Berman, Heather Durham, Jon Rosner, and Alex Stack (aka "The Board") - plus the folks that get cars to us (DriveShop and Page One Automotive), and some wonderful auto companies, WAJ has and will survive.

A dedicated group of content providers, of which I was one, and car companies recently gathered at the Vintner's Resort (vintnersresort.com) to drive cars and find The Best of the Bay in five categories - Sedan, SUV, EV, Technology, and Overall. The results will be announced by WAJ very soon but for now here's the cars and my thumbnail impressions.

2024 Acura Integra Type S - This is one of those cars I'd love to own but my wife would hate. When you put it in Sport+ mode it's loud, fast, noisy, and oh so much fun. 320 horse power and a 6-speed manual will get your blood flowing for sure. It's pricey (over $50,000), and my license would be in jeopardy if I owned it but what a way to go!

Genesis G80 Electrified

Genesis GV70 Electrified

2023 Genesis Electrified GV70 AWD and G80 AWD - I recently had a Electrified G80 for a week (https://www.brucehotchkiss.net/2023/09/2023-genesis-g80-electrified-beautiful.html) and loved it. The Electrified GV70, a SUV, is just as great. Genesis get extra points for coming from behind to now challenging the best in record time. I'd be proud to have a Genesis product in my driveway.

2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport AWD - This surprised me, it's funny what a little extra ground clearance, and some aggressive looking tires will do for a nice but uninspired SUV. It felt nimble, and smaller than it actually is. I doubt too many owners will ever really go off-roading with it but it looked capable for some rugged trails. 

Hyunda Ioniq 5 (courtesy of Hyundai)

Hyundai Ioniq 6

2023 Hyundai IONIQ 6 Limited AWD and IONIQ 5 Limited AWD - Two of the nicest EVs available. Both have decent range, up to 361 miles for the 6 and 303 for the 5. Fit and finish are superb, and the ride is excellent. I prefer the looks of the 5 over the 6 but which would you like?

2023 Kia EV6 GT AWD - The EV6 is such a gorgeous car that it's hard not to fall in love just looking at it. It's modern without being weird. It has a range of up to 310 miles. Flawless execution and flawless driving. 

2024 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD - Turbo! I expected more oomph so I was disappointed in the Seltos. It's 195 horsepower is smooth but unexciting. There was nothing wrong with the Seltos I just expected more from a car with Turbo in its name. 

2023 Lexus RZ 450e Luxury - Very nice driving vehicle but I just couldn't come to grips with the styling. 

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Premium Plus - If there was a class for best paint the Artisan Red Premium would have won. Back in June '23 I reviewed a CX-90 and thought it was a serious contender (https://www.brucehotchkiss.net/2023/06/2024-mazda-cx-90-33-turbo-s-premium.html). For some reason the PHEV version with its 4-cylinder engine and electric motor combination of 323 hp didn't feel peppy. Maybe it is because the PHEV weighs about 500 lbs more than the 3.3-liter turbo 6 version.

2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG EQEX4 - This was the biggest disappointment for me. It felt humungous, and with 5,800+ pounds it is rather obese. The dash was so shiny that I kept being distracted by the reflections on the right end. Yes it is super quick, 3.1 seconds to 60 mph according to Car and Driver, but if that's it's claim to fame it isn't enough to win me over.

2023 Toyota Crown Limited and Prius Prime XSE Premium - I recently reviewed the Crown and liked it. (https://www.brucehotchkiss.net/2023/09/2023-toyota-crown-limited-blast-from.html) It is a car aimed at people my age. It's easy to get in and out of, roomy, and frugal. 

2023 Toyota Prius Prime XSE Premium - It's been a long time since I've driven a Prius, the first main stream Hybrid. They've always been a bit weird looking for my tastes but they still are what people think of when they think hybrid. The new Prius Prime has more power without sacrificing economy. It should keep the Prius faithful happy and attract some new devotees. 

Technology - Tech is a tough category. What constitutes good tech in a vehicle? Judy Turner, the wife of a fellow content provider, said, and I'm paraphrasing, that good tech is not intrusive and offers a value. A couple that come to mind are attention monitors and emergency braking. The attention monitors tell you when your eyes wander from the job of driving. I usually score close to 100%. Emergency braking takes over if something or someone is in your path and you don't stop. My introduction to it was from Volvo in 2008. I recently had emergency braking save me when I wasn't hard enough on the brakes as someone in front of me stopped abruptly. It works and should be on every vehicle.

As you can see the list of auto makers to offer their vehicles for our evaluation was slim. So kudos and many, many thanks to Acura, Genesis, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota. 

Those who weren't there, know that you were missed. Next year?

We had fantastic accommodations at the Vintners Resort. I can't say enough about how beautiful the rooms are, and the setting, surrounded by vineyards, is fantastic.

The meals were very good with an exceptional dinner at John Ash & Co. courtesy of Hyundai. 

I'm not telling what my choices were for Best of the Bay. As soon as the winners are announced I'll let you all know. 


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