Nestled 7,300 feet in elevation, Mount Ord, just 70 miles northeast of Phoenix was our destination to put some all-wheel drive, cute-utes to the test. My buddy Tyson, who had a 2016 Acura RDX Advance on test this week had suggested Mount Ord after many collaborations on destination choices.
Low and behold, when we do these all-wheel drive challenges like we did in the Toyota RAV4 crossing the Bloody Basin trail, they end up being relatively easy routes that a rented Kia Rio could conquer. But the 6 miles of dirt road that leads to the top of Mount Ord proved to be quite the opposite with torturous rocks, steep hill climbs and deep snow. Needless to say I was little nervous with the Mazda CX-3 AWD I had on test…
We left Scottsdale around 10:00am with a good group of friends among us. With a quick stop in Fountain Hills for a Starbucks run and group photo opt, we hit Highway 87 North towards Payson. Our turnoff was a quick right hander onto Forest Road FR626 and right from the get go it was slow going as these rocks weren’t going to be kind to my 18-inch wheels and low profile tires. As we kept climbing the grade got steeper and with the rise in elevation, snow and ice started to show its ugly face. With Tyson ahead of us in his advanced all-wheel drive RDX, there was a hint of struggle climbing through the snow which had me concerned with the Mazda’s CX-3 poky 2.0-liter engine. Disengaging the traction control and slipping the gear lever into manual, we managed to climb the snow without skipping a beat.
Halfway up to the top, it was closed off and thus commence a hike to finish the rest of the route. Since I’m out of my element, I was slow going and told everyone to proceed ahead of me. It was a good thing though the road was closed, the snow got more prevalent and deeper the higher we got and the last stretch of hill climb proved be a challenge just to hike let alone for one of our crossovers to make it through. Once to the top our friend Chandler had the magical key to the watch tower, unfortunately because I was out of breath, I didn’t bother climbing the 9-flights of stairs to the very top.
After an intense hike, we all were famished and headed up the road about 10 miles to this little Bar and Grill called Jakes Corner. All except one person order the hamburger before swapping cars and heading back to Phoenix. I had the chance to take the driver seat of the RDX and it wasn’t anything surprising out of a premium crossover with a plush ride and spirited authority from its 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 with a total output of 279-horsepower from its six-speed transmission.