New Roads Found in The Carolinas

The Blue Ridge Parkway – All Photo by Randy Stern

New adventures, new opportunities…these are what I always worked hard to achieve.

This seems to be the theme of this work on this site of late. So far in 2017, I experienced Snocross, Monster Jam and Supercross. I even got to party with the Twin Cities City Auto Show and several automotive retailers from across the state. The way things have been going, who knows where I would end up to file a story onto here?

That answer came a couple of weeks ago. An e-mail came from a brand/manufacturer that I have done a few things with over time. They invited me to come to a place that I was curious about to drive a new vehicle that I felt would be an important one for that brand/manufacturer.

It has been a year-and-a-half since I last participated in a media launch drive. It was in the Raleigh-Durham area for the 2016 Lexus RX. I had a very successful time with Lexus, but that was all. Health issues – physical and emotional – prevented me from doing anything worth while in 2016. I only looked no further from my personal Facebook page to see what I was missing. Doing so did not help matters.

I vowed to center my writing efforts on telling my own stories – repeatedly. Continue reading

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Great Ambitions

2017 Kia Cadenza Limited
2017 Kia Cadenza Limited – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Kia Cadenza

Luxury can come from the most unlikely sources.

It is a flippant statement to make considering that Kia has been presenting us with luxurious products for the past few years. Were they supposed to do this? Was it supposed to be the job of the Hyundai side of the company to execute luxury products above all?

We’re way past that now. It is now expected that Kia would augment their lineup with fine automobiles. The previous Cadenza moved the bar once set by the SX Limited versions of the Optima and Sorento. Then came the K900, which sparked the discussion as to why Kia wants to play in the same sandbox as Lexus.

With the establishment of Genesis as a brand within the Hyundai-Kia complex, should Kia still offer fine automobiles?

Think about Audi for a moment. Audi plays in the same sandbox as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but does so with subtle forms of automotive excellence. OK, the quattro all-wheel drive system is far from subtle. The Audi Sport models are definitely not subtle. But, if you have been in an A3 or A4, then you get this mix of sport and luxury with an approach towards absolute excellence thrown in.

This is what Kia is striving for – being Asia’s Audi. Not Acura nor Infiniti. Kia.

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Twin Cities 2017: Being There

All Photos by Randy Stern, except otherwise noted

Six years ago, I had to convince the pass gate people that I was there to meet with a communications person from Chrysler on the first day of the Twin Cities Auto Show.

It was six year ago when the trajectory of this work went into hyperspace. All of the work, door knocking, competing and finding regular readers was not in vain.

This year, it was my door that was knocking. When I answered it, it was the Greater Metropolitan Automobile Dealer Association. In addition to putting together a four-article package for the magazine I write for locally, GMADA asked me to provide with additional content in the program for the 44th Twin Cities Auto Show, along with additional web content.

I went back into hyperspace. Then delivered on content that everyone at GMADA really liked. To that extent, I found myself wearing a different badge than my colleagues in the media local. I was honored, but very humble about attaining such status. Yet, I found myself at the Minneapolis Convention Center three times in the course of two days – Roll-In on the day before the show opened, the Media Preview along with V&R’s Meetup on the morning of the opening of the show, and several hours later for the Opening Night Party with GMADA.

This was just a span of six years. It felt like forever. Yet, my humility never prepared me for this larger role in the Twin Cities Auto Show. This was far from my own wildest dreams.

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Quickies: Catching Up on Stuff, the Winter of 2017 Edition

Yep…drove that. All Photos by Randy Stern

Could I write about car I drove over a period of time?

I could, but it depends on how much time and interest I gave it. Some vehicles are worthy of a full article, while others simply get the “quickie” treatment. There are some vehicles reviewed that appear in other publications as well. The latter is part of an agreement towards exclusive content to that outlet.

You read this explanation before. It bears repeating sometimes. There’s been plenty of new eyes on this site, it is perhaps best to explain these things.

Lately, I have not published a lot of “small drives.” These small drives may be a short time, but might yield mixed results. For now, let’s call them “quickies” for the sake of categorization.

Enough discussion…let’s get through this short list.

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“Look! It’s Got G-Vectoring!”

2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring
2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring – All Photos by Randy Stern

In June of 2013, I was introduced to what would become a staple of this work in the automotive media.

It was a car. Moreover, it was a car that would cement a love for a brand that has been an integral part of this work. In a segment where seating five adults would be enough to claim as many units sold per year, the latest generation of the Mazda6 showed that you can do exactly that and engage enthusiasts, too.

The trick is to do all of this at a reasonable cost.

For every model year of this generation, a Mazda6 would show up for me to work with. Sometimes, I would have to place it in context of a different story, while keeping the car in mind. At least this is a good car to create a story around.

Recently, I received my fourth Mazda6 – a 2017 Grand Touring model. Heck, they all have been Grand Touring models. This is a good thing considering how well equipped and technologically advanced this particular model is.

What would make this 2017 edition different than the rest? For this model year, Mazda has equipped a new piece of engineering deep in the bowels of this car and the smaller Mazda3. They call it G-Vectroring Control.

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Geneva 2017: Intrigue in Switzerland

2018 Volkswagen Arteon – Photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America

The Geneva International Motor Show never disappoints.

It is not just the intriguing products that will never come to North America. This show also includes those that will come here, but with a certain flair designed to engage and excite. Of the debuts that popped up at PALEXPO, there has been plenty of both that came across V&R’s radar back in Minnesota.

Let’s tackle the debuts from Geneva, shall we?

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Commentary: GM – Opel/Vauxhall + PSA = ???

Carlos Tavares (L) of PSA Groupe and Mary Barra (R) of General Motors announcing the deal – Photo (c) GM

Just before PALEXPO opened up to the world’s automotive media for the 87th Geneva International Motor Show, there was some major news to report.

General Motors and the PSA Groupe – the parent firm of Peugeot and Citroen – agreed to a $2.3 billion transaction sending Opel and Vauxhall into French hands. PSA will get all of the operations involving Opel and Vauxhall, including the Russelsheim engineering center, six assembly facilities, five component production sites, the operations of GM Financial Europe and the employment of 40,000 people.

The potential results of this transaction gives PSA a 17% market share in Europe – second largest in that region. It gives a greater base for PSA to leverage the assets of Opel and Vauxhall towards better operating margin improvements, along with adding more context to their overall product plans. By adding Opel and Vaxuhall to the Peugeot/Citroen/DS portfolio, PSA Groupe could deepen their mainstream product choice available to European customers.

On GM’s side, the $2.3 billion transaction infusion will help deepen investments already under way under Renaissance Center’s leadership. It also helps in facilitating the company’s transformation through their mobility efforts and product development.

It all sounds great. However, there are some questions that needs to be addressed on both sides of the transaction.

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Commentary: On the Air With…

Tom Stryker on the air in La Crosse – Photo by Randy Stern

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a radio air personality.

They called these men and women “disc jockeys” in my day. They had to multitask between cuing up vinyl records, filling air with talk and plugging in commercials. From records, they went to cartridges – and dial pots went to flip pots.

Today’s radio broadcasts are run with massive automation thanks to using computer files for everything from pre-recorded voice breaks to music files to creating transitions between station promos, commercials and such.

But, why do I bring this up? Continue reading

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The Forecast Called For…

2017 Lexus GX 460
2017 Lexus GX 460 – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Lexus GX 460

When I was a Boy Scout, they told us to simply “be prepared.”

As I was looking on my vehicle work schedule last week, I had to smile. Perhaps I had the right vehicle to work with considering what I have been reading all week.

Upon arrival of this vehicle, the National Weather Service made this forecast for the following evening for V&R Headquarters:

Rain before 8pm, then rain and snow between 8pm and 11pm, then snow after 11pm. The snow could be heavy at times. Low around 29. Northeast wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible.

The forecast continued to state the following for the next day:

Snow. Patchy blowing snow after 2pm. High near 30. Blustery, with a north northeast wind 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible.

In other words, I may have the right vehicle to manage about 24-plus hours of a snow storm that would dump a total between 7-17 inches of the white stuff. Continue reading

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How About a Date?

All photos by Randy Stern

It’s been a while since I had a date.

Yes, I realize that this is a website with a focus on automobiles, but let me get to that part shortly.

There is, however, a connection between dating and the automobile. You have been on dates when one of you drove the other to dinner, a movie or a concert. You hid the flowers in the backseat…or candy or some other romantic gift. You were the one finding parking at a nearby coffee shop or driving as a chaperone for a lucky couple.

Come to think of it, taxis, Ubers and Lyfts are automobiles, too. You did use one of them to get to your date in a larger city.

The date I had was not with a human. It was with a car. Yes, a car.

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