Throwback Review: Hamsters Not Included

2010 Kia Soul 7
2010 Kia Soul +. All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda “Throwback Review” of the 2010 Kia Soul

So, what is “cool?”

It’s an objective definition that pervades actual agreement amongst us. It’s not at all absolute as the concept of “cool” is fluid. What was cool ten or so years ago isn’t cool now. And, so forth…

I attempted to ask the question on Facebook to some limited responses. Again, the question went nowhere – just like arguing over one’s coolness over another.

Then, we add the word “hip.” What is “hip?” It was a Ska song from about 30 years ago, but that’s not the right answer for this purpose. Would it be better if I asked whether “hip” is another level of “cool?” That would confuse everyone reading this blog…

“Hip” and “cool” are two objective words being tossed around the automotive world to find a way to sell automobiles to the younger crowd. Think “Scion” for a moment. That’s Toyota’s great idea to sell its most non-mainstream vehicles through a different brand while still sharing space at the local Toyota dealer. The Honda Element was once considered “cool” and “hip” before it became the darlings of the urban home rehabber set.

One thing I’ve noticed about these “cool” and “hip” conveyances: Not a lot of people aged 18-30 are driving them. Owners of these vehicles tend to be older – much older. So, how do you sell these “cool” and “hip” automobiles to the younger, undergraduate or working-straight-out-of-high-school set?

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Commentary: An “Outsider’s” View of The Car Scene in Minnesota

Vehicular Carnage III
Photo by Randy Stern

Car season began in Minnesota a month-and-a-half ago.

I was reminded of it at the time by the flood of social media posts with anxious enthusiasts waiting to arrive at AutoMotorPlex in Chanhassen prior to the new gate time. Old habits changed, since the City of Chanhassen has enforced a “no line up” rule in front the garage condo complex where the first Minnesota Cars & Coffee of the year took place.

Auxiliary events took place to varying degrees of success. One meet saw a car roll over. Not sure what happened there, but it made the rounds in social media. Otherwise, I was told how successful the first Minnesota Cars & Coffee was, as well as other events that I missed out on due to battling illness. I managed to stop by a dyno event at Porsche Minneapolis in the small window that I was semi-healthy enough to do anything.

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Throwback Review: Goldilocks…Your Ride Has Arrived!

2007 Mazda6
2007 Mazda6 i Sports Value Edition. Photo by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda “Throwback Review” of the 2007 Mazda6

Call me Goldilocks.

Yep, I’m the guy who knows that things are “just right.” I have an intolerance to things that are too hard, too soft, too hot, too cold, too large and too small. Whether it is chairs, beds, porridge…wait, isn’t that called oatmeal these days? The idea here is sometimes you have to explore to find things that are “just right” for your life.

Automobiles are no exception. I complain about the most intricate details that do not register with many people. The driver’s seat is uncomfortable, the steering feels contrived, the tweeters sound tinny, the key operates the door backwards…and so forth. When it comes to the automobile, Goldilocks has nothing on me!

My Goldilocks found a vehicle that was “just right.” It came in a familiar skin with a welcoming badge on the grill. It also felt as comfortable as my favorite shirt or the memory of my last conga drum. My Goldilocks, ironically crossed with my subcultural identity as a bear, found the Mazda6 “just right” for me.

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Trekking The Globe…and Your Neighborhood

2017 Toyota Land Cruiser
2017 Toyota Land Cruiser – All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser

Name the world’s greatest SUV?

The first thing that comes to mind here in America is a Jeep. The Wrangler will do anything it wants. This is why their owners are one of the most loyal and deepest group of enthusiasts in this country. No ATV-rated off road trail is safe from a heavily modified Wrangler or CJ.

The next response would be from the genteel crowd, who has embraced the Land Rover and Range Rover as their own. While the Defender kept the original formula working until 2016, it is the top of the line Range Rover that astounds even the poshest people of its ability to laugh at green lanes and steep downhill grades. A wash-up would bring it back to country club status.

Jeep and Land Rover may have kicked off a tradition of rugged, go anywhere transportation that began at the end of World War II. But, how can we exclude the one is seen in more places around the world in this conversation?

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Throwback Review: Driving The Dream

2010 Dodge Challenger 3
2010 Dodge Challenger SE – All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda “Throwback Review” of the 2010 Dodge Challenger

What better way to celebrate a national holiday (Independence Day in 2010) with a national icon – and a trip back to memory lane! As if I was driving a dream…

I often talk about the family’s 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. It was perhaps the only car from my childhood that left an indelible impression on me. There remains a kernel of nostalgia for cars such as the Barracuda as I can only imagine how it would drive today.

Then, Chrysler brought back its sister – the Dodge Challenger. It evoked thoughts of my childhood. These were good thoughts – centered on a certain beautiful blue Barracuda with matching vinyl interior and a white vinyl roof. Memories of being dropped off at Vanalden Elementary School for class or for Cub Scouts.

Instead, Dodge concentrated on selling its most powerful models first. Continue reading

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The Head-Turning Return of The Civic Hatchback

2017 Honda Civic Sport Touring hatchback
2017 Honda Civic Sport Touring hatchback – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

This car almost won #VOTY16.

It placed second behind the Volvo XC90. Considering how dominating the Swedish SUV was throughout the process, some people found that hard to believe that a compact car would have been crowned our highest honor.

But, it is true – all of it.

For those who actually believed that the tenth generation Honda Civic would have become #VOTY16, there is a consolation. It is eligible again for the VOTY.

How would the Civic be considered for VOTY again? Continue reading

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Color Wars!

2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country
All Photos by Randy Stern

What color speaks to you?

It depends on your mood really. Your personality, above all. How you view the world – or how the world views you. But, ultimately, color comes from your life – from the clothes you wear, the colors you choose for your home, etc.

There are arguments over colors – and the psychology of them. Perhaps if you’re into the Green Lantern series, where there is a battle amongst the colors of Lanterns or factions, then you probably understand these arguments over the importance of color in our lives.

When it comes to automobiles, we often think in two terms about colors: How individual we are and how much we care about or car. An individual thinker would rather pick a color that speaks to them. If it looks great on a car – and both the car and color reflects the personality of the owner – then, you can see where the relationship between car and owner will go for the term of the car loan.

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Throwback Review: 4DSC

2009 Nissan Maxima 8
2009 Nissan Maxima 3.5S – Photo by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda “Throwback Review” of the 2009 Nissan Maxima

What does 4DSC stands for? If the photo above was not obvious, a history lesson is called for.

About twenty years ago, Nissan decided to change the game on Asian four-door sedans. When they introduced the 1989 Maxima, they continued the front engine/front-wheel-drive format and concentrated on massaging the 3.0 liter V6 for performance instead of tepid luxury. Thus with the sporty SE sedan, the 4DSC was born: The four-door sports car.

Since then, the Maxima had slipped away from being the 4DSC. The last Maxima were curious mix of California-penned origami and hideous details that detracted from the 4DSC first foisted upon the market back in 1989. Nissan knew it had to compete distinctively in the entry-level premium sedan market by bringing its own sexy back.

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Throwback Review: Wanting to Be Everything to Everyone

2007 Hyundai Elantra
2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS – Photo by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda “Throwback Review” of the 2007 Hyundai Elantra

At the 2007 New York Auto Show, Hyundai’s rolled out its latest global attempt at a prestige-class automobile. To coincide with its debut, Hyundai Motors America began a new marketing campaign comparing its models to other prestige brands. For example, to compare a Sonata V6 to a BMW is a stretch. If it works to bring consumers wanting a BMW without paying Bavarian prices into Hyundai showrooms, maybe the guys in Fountain Valley are the smartest people in the room.

With a new 2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS at my disposal, I hoped to test this theory. Yet, I also wonder what cars would an Elantra compare to upmarket. If I find that it fails to compare with anything other than a Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 or Honda Civic, then whom am I fooling?

After a few miles in the Elantra, I began to compute Hyundai’s new marketing strategy in my head. How does this compare to a Volvo C30, S40, MINI Cooper, Audi A3, Volkswagen Rabbit or Jetta? Does it need to be compared to these vehicles for the sake of its eminent move further upscale? Rather, does it matter at all since the Elantra is designed for the middle-of-the-road consumer looking for a compact sedan to commute in?

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Throwback Review: Reconsidering the Ford Escape

2008 Ford Escape
2008 Ford Escape XLT – Photo by Randy Stern

In honor of our upcoming 300th vehicle review, Victory & Reseda will be reposting our older reviews for your reading pleasure. This way, we can show you our work when Randy had to rent cars and write about them, just to cut his teeth in this business. If one thing was true about this work – things have certainly got better in the automotive business, in terms of product, engineering, safety and technology.

We have to start somewhere. Without further ado, here is Randy’s first published vehicle review ever – the 2008 Ford Escape

Over the past several years, I had the displeasure of driving a couple of Ford Escapes. Why would I describe my experience with one of the best selling small SUVs as “displeasure?” There is an old adage that goes: “if it quacks like a duck, it is a duck.” Now, replace the word “duck” with “SUV.” You can tell where this going.

It is not that I dislike SUVs. With only one exception, every SUV I’ve driven would be best described as a modern version of the Conestoga wagon. As you site high up above the traffic, you feel the suspension shake you along even the smoothest of tarmac. Let’s not forget the lack of fuel efficiency these buckets employ. Shall I talk about the comfort a SUV lacks even around town?

So, why did we go crazy over these beasts of burden a decade ago? Continue reading

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