Is This “Eco?”

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco
2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra

Have we overused the word “Eco?”

Maybe it’s me, but a lot of entities use this word in many, many ways. If I am correct, calling something “Eco” means it is supposed to be environmentally friendly and helpful towards making our world a better place for our children. That’s wonderful and dandy, but I somehow fell it is bit overused for a lot of different things.

In terms of automobiles, we need to have this word bantered about because of impending changes to fuel economy and emissions control standards worldwide. In the USA, the upcoming revisions to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will tighten up for all manufacturers. Therefore, automakers are working on better ways to meet these new standards as much as possible.

Sometimes, the word “Eco” works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Then, there some redundancies. The newest Toyota Prius has a model called the Two Eco. Isn’t the Prius “Eco” enough?

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The Next Generation Tuner Car

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, USA

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

Hybrids demand respect from the performance community.

Race cars with hybrid propulsion systems have become the dominant force in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class in the. This is achingly apparent at the most well known and storied event in endurance racing: 24 Hours of Le Mans. Hybrids were the only powertrain of choice. Diesel has even lost its stranglehold on competitiveness it has had in recent years. Spark ignition in combination with electric motors and batteries were able, in the case of Porsche, to complete an incredible twelve better laps than the Audi R18 diesel hybrids. It is undeniable that this mixture of power and efficiency will make the hybrid the king of speed in the 21st century.

It was inspiring to follow the Toyota TS050 with its 2.4 liter twin turbo V6 and an 8 megajoule electric motor/generator, known as an MGU in the WEC, combination making 986 horsepower trading the lead with the Porsche 919 with its 900 horsepower 2.0 liter V4 plus MGU. Massively powerful yet extremely efficient, both of these cars represent what is possible once you let go of the preconceived notions of what is racing and what it wasteful noise and exuberance that doesn’t win championships.

Toyota – and not Porsche – should benefit the most from the dramatic battle it fought at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Continue reading

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Commentary: The Act of “Brexiting”

InterMarque Spring Kick-Off 16
A mighty industrial power once built these by hand. Now what? – Photo by Randy Stern

It is tough not to talk about politics these days.

In fact, I would rather not. There’s just too much opportunism, acrimony, hatred, anger and just pure vile when it comes to some form of political discussion. Social media does not help things. It was intended to be a place to connect with others. Whereas, it has become a court of public opinion and a bastardized version of democracy.

When politics began to affect the economy, it is at the point where we should pay close attention. After all, when someone wants to screw with your paycheck – you will feel it.

Where I come in is when politics affect the automotive industry. This is where I would suggest getting a tub of popcorn…

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Bringing IndyCar Engine technology To The Streets

Underneath Scott Dixon's winning car is advanced engine technology - Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing

Underneath Scott Dixon’s winning car is advanced engine technology – Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing

IndyCar is the guiding light for engine manufacturers.

Downsized, turbocharged, high compression ratios, and exotic materials – this describes the 2.2 liter twin turbo V6 specified by the Verizon IndyCar series. These engines are designed, built and supplied by Honda or Chevrolet. The teams select which engine will work for their entries.

These engines have influenced many of the new powerplants that are powering cars on the road today. What is learned on the racetrack is having profound effects on the way automakers design and build engines. These engines include the 2.0 liter Drive-E engine from Volvo, the 3.5 liter D4S V6 from Toyota, the 2.7 liter EcoBoost from Ford and the 3.0 liter twin turbo V6 from General Motors. These four engines epitomize where engine technology is going. NASCAR nor Formula 1 has done what IndyCar has in advancing engine technology.

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Your Turn: Introducing KUMAKART

KUMAKART! - All Photos by Iain Bennett

KUMAKART! – All Photos by Iain Bennett

“Your Turn” is back!

V&R has not always been about Randy Stern, Tyler Lipa and other writers who have contributed to this site. It is about you! Yes, YOU! You got an automotive-related story to tell – tell it here! That simple!

To help bring this segment back is my friend Iain Bennett. I have known this globe-trekking, tech-infused Toronto-based gentleman for 21 years now. I think he was somewhere in Europe at the time working for a company that no longer exists today. How we met was through the Internet – back then it was a new frontier, unrefined as it is today. Today, Bennett adds blogging and producing music to his work adventures.

This piece involved the purchase of a new car for Bennett.

Am I now a switcher? 

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The Speculator: May I Suggest…?

Holden Colorado7 - Photo courtesy of General Motors

Holden Colorado7 – Photo courtesy of General Motors

OK, what if I were some product developer for some automotive manufacturer? If given the license to develop new vehicles for the automotive market, what could I come up with?

“Oh, this has got to be good…”

After more than 15 years of covering this industry, I’m sure that I can have some license on using my imagination to consider the possibilities of products in the marketplace. It also helps to understand demographics and to which populations would buy certain vehicles. This is not just some exercise on what I would like to see out there in our showrooms. But, rather, an exploration of “what if” there was something people would love to own, even if it meant feeding a niche market.

In this Speculator piece, I began to study, review and imagine what products would be awesome for the USA automotive marketplace. Of course, there will be considerations regarding upcoming CAFE regulatory updates and other emissions considerations.

In all, it is time to have some fun…don’t you think?

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Commentary: Let’s Talk About Your Driving Habits

*bleeping* Downtown Minneapolis Traffic
Photo by Randy Stern

We all think we’re the best drivers in the world.

In truth, we are not. We learn how to drive, then we take what we learned and try it out on the roadways. As we grow older, we think we’re still competent behind the wheel. With kids, spouses, significant others in tow, we become a unit with only one person behind the wheel. Yet, the unit is never unified – no matter the noise within the cabin. Let’s not forget about our daily commute as we are locked in on trying to get to work on time and praying that we get home in one piece.

Add all of this to today’s electronic distractions. Our smart phones remain untethered to our infotainment systems, as we juggle it to our ear while our hands are on the wheel. We are found behind the wheel texting, taking camera phone shots, updating our Facebook status, Snapchatting…and so on.

Meanwhile, we’re doing stupid stuff on the road. Continue reading

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Still The Enthusiast’s Compact?

2016 Mazda3 S Grand Touring 5DR
2016 Mazda3 S Grand Touring Hatchback – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Mazda3

Has it been two years ago already?

Social media is a wonderful thing, sometimes. This Wednesday morning, Facebook decided to pop up a memory from two years ago that I did an extended drive in a 2014 Mazda3 to test out fuel economy and driving dynamics. After my time in the Grand Touring hatchback with its 2.5 Liter Skyactiv engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and tech goodies, I summarized my experience in this car as follows:

“To reiterate, the Mazda3 is a damn good compact car. Heck, it is a damn good car. Need I say more?”

“Damn good,” I said. Good to be the best compact car in this market, I said.

Sales-wise, it is doing OK. It leads all Mazda models in sales volume, averaging 10,000 units a month in the USA. Granted, it is just a fraction of the sales volume its more prominent rivals – the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, to name a couple. Even as crossovers/SUVs still hold true to families and people with active lifestyles, the Mazda3 still signify its position as the enthusiast’s choice in the segment. Yet, non-enthusiasts are enjoying its economical side, as well as its practicality and versatility.

I could declare all of this as the end of the story. Continue reading

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Historiography: Where Dreams Comes True

Kolbe Honda still stands
The last car dealership in Reseda, California. All Photos by Randy Stern

We love and hate car dealers.

We love them, since they spark our dreams. That old car in the garage racked up plenty of miles and repair bills. When it becomes apparent that it needs to be replaced, the first place we look is at a car dealership. Perhaps something on that lot would pique our interest. Perhaps not.

Once we fixate on that replacement vehicle, the fun begins. The automotive retailing process spawns one of the most time consuming and difficult consumer transactions known to the universe. Yet, it is one of the variable transactions one can go through – if the process is simplified by the consumer.

Automotive retail is a lucrative business.

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Commentary: Is Skoda Coming Here?

Skoda Superb - Photo courtesy of

Skoda Superb – Photo courtesy of

Skoda is coming to North America…maybe.

Obviously, this was a surprise news item. Automotive News broke this story, as Volkswagen AG has been trying to find a way to offset sales losses across the group. In North America, that means looking at the Volkswagen brand to see whether it is still viable to sell its products in this market. For Skoda, it is to offset the collapse of the Russian automotive market.

This could be a classic case of Peter saving Paul. Yet, it is more complicated than that. Let me explain…

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