Performance Variety at Spring Brake

TANNERSVILLE, Penn. – There are not many days better than the one I recently spent driving a unique variety of vehicles up, down and around the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains during the annual International Motor Press Association Spring Brake 2024.

Representing 16 auto brands were a diverse group of 37 two- and four-wheel vehicles for the members of IMPA to sample during #IMPASPRINGBRAKE2024 held less than 20 miles from the New Jersey border on the grounds of Camelback Resort.

I found my way behind the wheel of five quite different and unique vehicles: three featuring all-electric power, and two gasoline-fueled ones demonstrating how polar-opposite powertrains can produce solid performance.

The battery electrics were the new Kia EV9, the first three-row sport-utility vehicle (SUV) built on the company’s E-GMP (Electric Global Modular Platform); the new 601-horsepower Hyundai Ioniq 5 N BEV which both looks and acts like a high-performance vehicle, and the Lucid Air Touring, a twin-motor BEV which can challenge the German-luxury brands.

The first gasoline-fueled vehicle sampled, the new Ford Ranger Raptor pickup truck, brings all-terrain-conquering performance built around a 405-horsepower turbocharged six, while a turbocharged three-cylinder 2024 Nissan Rogue Platinum SUV was surprisingly quick considering its engine size, configuration and power – roughly half that of the Raptor.

Kia EV9

The 2024 Kia EV9, its newest battery-electric vehicle (BEV), puts the Korean brand squarely into the heart of the sport-utility fray as it is about the size of a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Telluride and Toyota Highlander/Grand Highlander.

The largest of the company’s electrics, it was roomy, and uniquely styled, inside and out. The EV9 drove like its smaller EV6 sibling – quick, sure-footed and nearly silent. The SUV’s regenerative braking could be activated and regulated with the steering-wheel paddles and included a setting for one-pedal (which Kia calls i-Pedal) driving.

Like its platform brethren, the EV9 can be fast charged from 10-80% of battery capacity in less than 30 minutes and has a projected range of 300 miles. I will have a more thorough opportunity to evaluate this SUV soon as I am scheduled for a week in a review model.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

The radical 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N provided an entirely different vision as to what the Hyundai Group could produce from the all-electric E-GMP platform. Kia has been selling a high-performance variant, the EV6 GT, for a couple of years and now Hyundai has responded with an even more powerful N version of its Ioniq 5.

Hyundai’s engineering magicians have managed to squeeze 601 horsepower and 545 pounds-feet of torque from the dual-motor machine. Punching the “N” button on the steering wheel jumps these figures to 641 and 568 [respectively] for 10 seconds. The street results of punching the N button, according to Car and Driver, are 0-60 miles-per-hour times of 3.0 seconds and 0-100 ones of 6.9!

I was not able to fully explore the N’s complete performance profile, including its 162mph top speed, but it was very quick and responsive while eating up the curves offered by the undulating and twisting Pennsylvania mountain roads.

Sport seats, a tuned suspension, new interior design (see photos in carousel above), fast charging from 10-80% in under 20 minutes and, unique-to-this model, rear-brake-cooling vents further differentiate the Ioniq 5 N from the lesser versions of the brand’s compact BEV SUV.

Lucid Air Touring

The Lucid Air Touring was the car at the top of my wish list for #IMPASPRINGBRAKE2024. I had never had an opportunity to drive one of these luxury sedans, so I was very anxious to discover what made it tick.

A 20-minute drive limits one’s experience, but I was able to quickly determine this was a luxury car on par with those coming from German auto makers. Its large, broad stance says substantial as do the large, heavy four doors (which close with a solid, reassuring “thunk”).

The dash is clean, spartan but not devoid of buttons as key, functions can be controlled without distracting touch-screen actions. The sumptuous leather seats smell like luxury and are supportive and comfortable without being stiff.

The regenerative braking system was easy to modulate and allowed for true one-pedal operation. It, like many of the car’s systems, was easily controlled by the large touch screen.

The Lucid Air drove like a sophisticated European luxury sedan: its power was always there for my use and even though I was always aware of the four-door’s size, the well-tuned chassis, firm and direct steering, allowed me to maintain confident control regardless of the road topography.

A mistake on my part clinched my assessment of the Lucid Air Touring sharing its most sophisticated chassis characteristics with German sport sedans. I approached a set of speed bumps at a speed above 35mph. The Lucid glided over the obstacles without any drama or ruffling of its feathers; I barely felt the undulations.

Nissan Rogue Platinum

The internal-combustion-engined (ICE) refreshed 2024 Nissan Rogue stood out from the Spring Brake crowd thanks to its unique three-cylinder turbocharged engine. Despite having the least amount of engine power amongst the vehicles I sampled, the 201hp compact SUV never felt sluggish or slow as I did my usual aggressive drive on the twisting Pocono roads. (Car and Driver confirmed the 2024 Rogue was no slug as it recorded 0-60 times of eight seconds.)

Inside and out the 2024 Rogue received design upgrades, while the infotainment system now is controlled by a 12.3-inch touch screen and features Amazon Alexa® Built-in, SiriusXM’s latest audio system and Hybrid Radio which uses data to supplement standard FM radio signals, so drivers can continue listening to their favorite local radio station even outside its signal area, or in areas with degraded reception such as parking garages.

Ford Ranger Raptor

Ford brought its all-new 2024 Ranger Raptor and I was anxious to jump right into the front seat. Orange stitching on the seats and throughout the interior set the Raptor apart from other Rangers as does its unique Ranger Raptor 3.0-liter EcoBoost® V6 generates best-in-class 405 horsepower** and 430 pound-feet of torque paired with an advanced four-wheel drive system, a new electronically controlled on-demand two-speed transfer case, and front and rear locking differentials for improved off-road traction.

I did not have any real chance to try the Raptor’s off-road prowess or much of its terrain-shaking performance capability, but it was still a fun drive. The ride was, as expected, firm without being jarring or uncontrolled.

There is a lot of truck within the 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor for anyone who wants a mid-size pickup truck with serious off-road high-performance chops.

Next week TBR Drives the all-new 2024 BMW X2 subcompact SUV.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.