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"These cars are pretty amazing out here," I said to MT editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine, as we filled our hatchbacks with Chevron's premium petrol, both of us grinning from ear to ear, still relishing the comedown off adrenaline. He'd been driving the 2010 Mazdaspeed3, I'd been trailing in the 2010 Subaru WRX. From our starting point to our fuel stop 12 miles down the road, it took us all of 10 minutes. Average speed: 78 mph. That may not sound especially brisk, but on the challenging curves of our secret Sport/Utility of the Year test loop in the Santa Ynez Valley, that's a hasty clip.

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