Kia’s Lovable Family Hauler

2019 Kia Sorento SX Limited AWD
2019 Kia Sorento SX Limited AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2019 Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento is a lovable family hauler.

It’s true. It does the job very well – it always had. For a three-row SUV that welcomes family and coddles them with creature comforts and nice manners, it has to show off a fun side.

Not necessarily. Families want to feel comfortable and drivers want a competent vehicle. There is no reason why anyone would leave off the Sorento off their shopping list.

Want proof?

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Travelogue: Finding Fall Colors

All Photos by Randy Stern

Minnesota is a blessed state.

The past 14 years have shown me a lot through every sub-zero winter day, every humid summer day, and every time the temperatures begin to rise in the spring and plunge in the fall. I have found a place I call home where there are truly four seasons.

Some may argue otherwise. I heard that Minnesota really has two seasons – winter and construction.

This state’s fall comes earlier than the rest of the nation’s midsection. Somewhere along the Canadian border, the leaves will turn many different shades of earth tones until they fall off the tree. This happens as early as Labor Day. Eventually, the temperatures drop and the foliage changes further south.

This phenomenon is one where the heart flutters, emotions run deep, and an appreciation of place takes hold on the human soul.

In those 14 years of living in Minnesota, I never had the chance to chase the fall colors. Continue reading

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Elevating The Segment

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited
2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2019 Toyota Avalon

The last Toyota Avalon raised the bar for the brand’s large sedan made for the North American market. It was developed on a new platform that still shared some DNA with the Camry, yet it evolved into its own as a big car worth owning and driving.

Keep in mind that the big Avalon has been with us since 1994 over four generations. Also, Toyota has always made such big, luxurious sedans for many markets around the world. Remember the 1969 Crown? It may have been the same size as a Chevrolet Nova, but this sedan exuded luxury like no other Japanese car of its time.

Then, came the Cressida – a car that hinted at things to come from Toyota. It challenged the notion that the Japanese can make a car that was smaller than a Ford LTD Crown Victoria but can offer luxury on the level of a Mercury Grand Marquis – even a Lincoln Town Car!

From the Crown to the Cressida to the Avalon, Toyota witnessed how its big sedan has weathered the challenges of the marketplace. Continue reading

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Travelogue: The Road To/From #MAMA18FR

Over there…is Chicago. – All Photos by Randy Stern

Normally, I would talk about the journey to the Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally. Well…what about the journey from it?

Rather, let’s talk about the entire journey…

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#MAMA18FR – More Than Just Getting “Out of The Office”

Perhaps a bit too much fun? – All Photos by Randy Stern

Why do I still get excited about going to media events?

It would be easy for me to say that it “gets me out of the office.” That’s just too obvious. However, there are a few opportunities available to me that let me network with fellow colleagues and manufacturer representatives these days.

You have to create your own opportunities. You take up invitations, budget accordingly, and attend. Whatever happens, happens. You can mark your experience as whole – good or bad.

I am proud to say that I am still a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. They love putting on product-based programming from informational luncheons to full-blown drive events. I have attended the Fall Rally, which is a prime example of the latter.

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Sexiness, Luxury, and Sustainability

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Toyota Camry

Remember back in January of 2017 when the new Toyota Camry was introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit?

Toyota Motor Company chairman Akio Toyoda proclaimed the latest version of their most popular product in the USA as “sexy.” Some of us looked at each other and wondered “how?” Well…

One of the big storylines of the 2018 model year has been how the Toyota Camry became the only sedan to buck the trend towards SUVs and crossovers. It shows that this “sexy” midsized sedan can still attract both loyal and conquest customers – along with fleet and commercial sales – to its charms.

Earlier this year, I worked with a 2018 Camry in the XSE trim and the powerful V6. Talk about sexy! It’s a sporty midsized sedan that shows what a Camry can be when given some bravura and whey protein. This time around, I got a double dose of sustainability and luxury – the Hybrid XLE, to be exact!

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Commentary: So Long, Slug Bug

2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune
Photo by Randy Stern

The first time around was an icon mired in global history and eventual conflict. The second time around was just for nostalgia’s sake.

The Volkswagen Beetle had a shape that was simple, fun, joyous, and spoke to the needs of world transportation. Whether it was the original air-cooled, rear-engine car or the Golf-based retro coupe, Beetles brought joy to the masses.

The 2019 model year will be the icon’s swan song. But, will we miss it?

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#VOTY18 – Let’s Do It Again!

Awarding #VOTY17 #Back2BackVOTY
V&R’s Randy Stern awarding Russell Datz of Volvo Cars North America the #VOTY17 Award at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show – Photo by Volvo Cars North America for Victory & Reseda

It’s almost that time…it is #VOTY time!

For the umpteenth time in this site’s history, we are getting things under way for a new season of #VOTY – all the way to the awarding of #VOTY18.

Getting to the #VOTY is the hard part. Each candidate vehicle receives a full evaluation of the format, metrics, and process is undertaken. These numbers are crunched and are presented to a Short List for panel evaluation. Then, a list of finalists is available for your vote. It is that simple.

Here is the official format of #VOTY18… Continue reading

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Commentary: Going Back To Its Roots

The New Crest
Photo by Randy Stern

This was a move that should not have happened in the first place.

When Johan De Nysschen was named the head of General Motors’ Cadillac brand, those of us who knew of his work with Audi and Infiniti knew what he could do to the “Standard of The World.” He did exactly what we expected him to do – change the nomenclatures to alpha-numeric badging and move the brand’s main operations elsewhere.

From some skewed perspective, moving Cadillac to New York was a charming idea. Just as De Nysschen moved Infiniti from Nissan’s corporate headquarters in Yokohama, Japan to Hong Kong, New York was seen as the place for the brand to strengthen its identity. It did – sort of.

However, there was a cost to removing Cadillac from the confines of Renaissance Center. It seemed that De Nysschen wanted Cadillac made in his image while eschewing its glorious past. The CT6 and the upcoming XT4 are byproducts of De Nysschen’s moves. However, no one could explain the sales retreat Cadillac had globally – in particular, in North America. While the brand had no problem selling Escalades and XT5s, the rest of the lineup did not inspire consumers to jump out of their Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, Lexuses, and Audis for the cars adorned with a widened ultra-modern crest.

It all had to come to a moment of truth. < !_-more-->Actually, there were two. First, De Nysschen left Cadillac – and General Motors – this past April. Steve Carlisle came in to clean up the mess the Dutch executive left behind.

Now, Carlisle and his team are moving Cadillac back to where it started – Detroit.

It’s about damn time!

Cadillac was an invention of Detroit. Its roots were of the city. Its namesake was the founder of that city. The crest was of the family whose name is adorned on its vehicles. Its Clark Avenue complex was revered as the place where the “Standard of The World” was created. The innovations that won two Dewar Trophies were born in that city.

Though Cadillacs ran the streets of New York carting some of its most important movers and shakers, they were not made with New York in mind. They were made for a wider audience – and a wider world.

Cadillacs carried heads of state, entertainment industry icons, barons of business, and those who aspired to become one of them. It is not just New York were Cadillacs roamed. They ruled Rodeo Drive, Pebble Beach, Miami Beach, the old money of Boston, the new money in Chicago, and the tree-lined streets of Grosse Pointe.

In all, Cadillac was a Detroit product. Not a New York one. Yet, it needed to be a global one. That was where it all went wrong.

From its fashion-forward New York base, Cadillac failed to capture the rest of the world on the scale De Nysschen hoped it would. Not because the Germans have a stranglehold on the luxury car market. It is because the world took one look at Cadillac’s products and went elsewhere for their wares.

We did not expect De Nysschen to reinvent the 1959 Coupe de Ville. But, the distraction of New York may have prevented some key product development opportunities that delayed essential products from debuting at critical times. Case in point – the XT4.

Returning Cadillac to Detroit will not only end this experiment in self-indulgence that failed on many levels. It will be huge cost savings to General Motors in the short and long term. By bringing back the Cadillac leadership team and other key players for the brand to Detroit will cut the cost of travel and induce more hands-on approaches for product development – a given if you ask me.

That does not eliminate other challenges that lay ahead for the brand and GM as a whole. Further tariffs and semi-coherent trade deals will further impact the production and sale of vehicles made in Canada and China, along with key construction materials and components from suppliers outside the USA.

Cadillac’s return to Detroit will be seen as a triumph if measured towards a brand resurgence. Yet, there are challenges ahead within and outside GM that could make this return a moot point. It takes new product to help stir the customer base – both loyal and potential conquest.

So, Cadillac, as soon as you settle back into Renaissance Center – get back to work, stat!

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More “Aloha” For The Money

2018 Hyundai Kona SEL
2018 Hyundai Kona SEL – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Hyundai Kona

Back in June, I had my first drive in the 2018 Hyundai Kona in Detroit. This car exhibited an “aloha” feeling as it drove through a chunk of Southeastern Michigan and into some really cool parts of the city. This “quickie” drive was done in an Ultimate AWD model with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

With that first taste of the Kona, I wanted to bring it to our home stomping grounds of the Twin Cities to see if that “aloha” feeling remained. Instead of a turbocharged top-of-the-line model with all-wheel-drive, I received the value model – the SEL with front-wheel drive and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

It does seem odd that in our Minnesota climate that anyone would want just front-wheel drive. That was the first thing that popped in my head prior to its delivery. However, winter has not arrived. It means there’s plenty more decent days of temperate air and drier conditions to drive on.

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