Quickies: Driven at #MAMA17SR

The highlight of #MAMA17SR: 2017 Rolls-Royce Dawn – All Photos by Randy Stern

My fourth Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally was intended to make up for a lost year away from it. The Road America course, the nearby countryside and the Osthoff Resort were fine hosts for a well-run event.

Before I go on, my sincerest thanks to MAMA, the Rally Committee and the red-shirted volunteers for making this a solid event this year. They made sure that the Rally was incident-free on the track and that everyone knew what to do.

I also wanted to thank my colleagues in the media and industry for being a part of this, as well.

On to what I drove at the MAMA Spring Rally.

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#MAMA17SR: Well…

All Photos by Randy Stern

How do I make up for a lost year?

I thought I did when I returned to the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s Fall Rally last year after skipping the larger Spring event at Road America. Yet, there was that void of not being in Elkhart Lake, the confines of one of the best motorsports venues in this country and of the many colleagues I do not normally see even on an annual basis.

That lost year was not intentional. The hospitalization from the prior month was a major factor in my not being at Road America with MAMA. I heard that I missed a lot. I also heard that I did not. Either way, I knew I had to come back.

My return was not a sure bet, either. I was concerned about having enough money to self fund the trip to and from Elkhart Lake. That eventually resolved itself and I registered for the media association’s largest event. Through client work, contracts and magazine work, I was able to hit the road eastbound from The Cities to Road America.

There was one factor that has come up running up to the event and through it: Continue reading

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Hamsters with Snails Making Turbo Noises

2017 Kia Soul ! Turbo – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Kia Soul…with a turbocharger!

From the onset, the Kia Soul was designed to be a cool car.

Consider the familiar box shape behind the engine compartment. Also, consider the quirks in the design that has attracted an average of 10,000 customers each month. It was once the best selling Kia model in its lineup, yet it maintains being one of the top sellers of the brand. After seven-plus years of it being in the market, we can certainly call this a success.

What makes the Kia Soul a success? It is simply because it is cool, hip and quirky? That certainly helps. Is it because it is practical and fun? That helps, also.

Maybe it’s the Hamstars? Those adult-sized hamsters that have been selling the Kia Soul in its commercials might be a huge factor, but I can certainly imagine that they helped in drawing consumers to this subcompact crossover.

No matter which factor is key in the Soul’s success, there are measurements that confirm its popularity among its diverse group of owners.

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Commentary: A Change at The Top in Dearborn

Meet the New Boss: New Ford CEO Jim Hackett – Photo courtesy of the Ford Motor Company

Was Mark Fields fired…or did he retire?

It was already an extraordinary news cycle in the early hours of Monday morning. It did not involve anything violent or tragic. It was a change of command in Dearborn at Ford Motor Company’s World Headquarters.

Prior to the news conference in Dearborn, we were all lead to believe that Fields was indeed given his walking papers and told to never come back to headquarters again. However, it came out that Ford’s board made the decision to switch to a new Chief Executive Officer the previous Friday. At that time, Fields elected to retire instead of a more inhumane form of departure. Fields has put in 28 years at Ford and is eligible for a company pension.

Either way, we do know who replaced Fields. Continue reading

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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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