Throwback Review: Never Make Assumptions About This Car!

2008 Hyundai Azera 4
2008 Hyundai Azera Limited. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda Throwback Review of the 2008 Hyundai Azera

Most of the time, assumptions fall on the side of being incorrect. In an article a couple of months ago, I assumed that a particular vehicle would drive a certain way. I also assumed that this certain vehicle is mainly geared towards a particular demographic and equated with that demographic’s primary vehicle of choice.

I was wrong on both counts.

This was prefaced two-fold. My assumptions were based on recent drives of the Sonata Limited V6. The Genesis sedan was a treat to drive with its solid manners and confident air. The Sonata, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment being a bit too soft for a car I happen to like a lot. With that said, I had a hunch that Hyundai’s entry-premium sedan entry, the Azera, would be somewhere in the middle between these two lineup mates.

Recently, a friend from Toronto had an Azera on a business trip in the States. He is truly an automotive person and knows his stuff even more than I. He came away impressed with the Azera.

As did I.

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No Comparison

2017 Lexus GS F
2017 Lexus GS F – All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Lexus GS F

I command thee to never call the vehicle featured in this review as a “four-door RC F!”

Although, you could be a third right. When the RC was developed off of the current IS platform, it had to be done on a shorter wheelbase, but a more solid and distinctive platform. It was also given a more solid platform to induce coupe performance and agility characteristics that distinguish the RC from its IS or GS brothers.

Therefore, Lexus took the front end of the current GS sedan, melded it with the midsection of the previous generation IS convertible and the rest came from the structure of the current IS. Still, it works as a coupe. In my humble opinion, it works better as the RC F.

Of course, there were enthusiasts who were upset that Lexus did not develop a new generation IS F. the last one was a groundbreaker for Toyota’s luxury brand as a way to compete against the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class AMG sedans, The IS F of yore was iconic as a performance sedan that never gave apologies – just thrills. It was not perfect, but when is a performance sedan ever perfect?

Instead of another IS F, Lexus sought to do something more substantial. They thought that performance sedan customers desired a larger car with a high-performance engine. They saw how the E-Class AMG, M5 and CTS-V drew cults of their own – more than the M3/C-Class crowd.

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Quickies: An SUV Full of Passion, Romance and Emotion?

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

Some cars are made to embody romance and emotion. They have to convey something beyond simple engagement. They have to have an overt personality that can be seen through even a suit bought from a mainline clothing store.

But, where are those cars? Who’s making them these days? And, for whom?

What I may have described is perhaps is an Alfa Romeo.

The brand’s return sparked some interest. Yet, it has not captured the heart of the market it is competing in. The dominance of Teutonic machinery has gone beyond just sales numbers at this point. It appears that their customers have forgotten what emotional driving used to be.

Just like the rest of the automotive industry, this customer base has since abandoned their sedans and coupes for SUVs and crossovers. Continue reading

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Commentary: And Now We Know

Image courtesy of Nissan North America

Let me cut to the chase: We now know the outcome of the Mitsubishi Motors transaction with Nissan.

From reading the notes of the release on Renault Nissan Mitsubishi’s “Alliance 2022” plan, there is more good news than bad. It would be “bad” if you’re a die-hard Mitsu fan. However, there is a bright side to all parties concerned. The future is going to be very bright for this alliance of three automakers.

How so? Take a look at what the highlights of the Alliance 2022 plan…

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Throwback Review: The Oversized Smart Phone

2011 Ford Edge 9
2011 Ford Edge Limited AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda Throwback Review of the 2011 Ford Edge

Before I dive into what the title of this post means, I need to go back in time…

In 2007, I drove my first Ford Edge. It was a fresh face in a market transitioning away from body-on-frame, faux-rugged SUVs to crossovers. Built on the CD3 platform – the same one that spawned the Ford Fusion – one would think it would be an efficient five-passenger hauler with the ability to tow 3,500 pounds and the space to enjoy a family vacation in the woods.

Yet, I found the Edge to wear on me after several days and a few hundred miles. Though it drove solidly, there wasn’t much feedback from the car to ensure that I was driving something that could give me pleasure in my daily routine. Still, I appreciated what it could do – especially in the dead of winter – and how it does the job for families and others who own this popular crossover.

Still, 9,000 buyers per month couldn’t be wrong – or, could they?

For 2011, Ford decided it was time to give their stubby baby crossover some rhinoplasty – and then some. Emphasize the “then some” on this new Edge.

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Frankfurt 2017: An Electric Reality?

Mercedes-AMG Project ONE – Photo courtesy of Daimler AG

The problem with covering a major auto show from the comfort of your own home is that you have to try not to live vicariously through your colleagues. Sadly, YouTube dictates otherwise…

Yet, the advantage of not being at a major auto show – especially one located across an ocean – is that you don’t have to mess around with flights, customs, foreign currency, crowds and language barriers.

There is another advantage – rather, disadvantage – to not being n Frankfurt for IAA 2017. While it is cool to see automobiles we, as Americans, will never get, it is the fact that we will never get them on our shores. That is a sad fact considering that Europe is now toying with SUVs and Crossovers like half the world is.

This brings me to my kvetch about this year’s IAA 2017. Continue reading

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Historiography: The Shock of Oil

Post ICN Cruise to a Car Show in Coon Rapids
One “casualty” of the 1973 Oil Crisis – All Photos by Randy Stern

Whenever I research and write out one of these Historiographies, one such event pops up in telling each story.

The OPEC Oil Crisis.

It is important to note this for many reasons. One, the impact of this event on “western nations” – read: The United States of America – ran very deep in the psyche of many people. This not only changed the thinking of the automotive industry, but of consumers across the board. Some might say it left a scar on this country’s psyche. Others felt it may have steered this country towards understanding consumption and striking the balance between needs and wants.

Before any of these impacts are spelled out, we should look at why American motorists found themselves in a crisis based on their dependency on fossil fuels.

To understand the events of the mid-1970s, we must understand who the players were.

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On The Air: A Rapper’s Delight

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plus
All photos by Randy Stern

A couple of weeks ago, Google created a “doodle” – the graphic on top of their main page – to celebrate the 44th anniversary of Hip-Hop. Little did we know that the music and culture that would become Hip-Hop would start with a party in the Bronx and an experiment by legendary DJ Kool Herc. Between two turntables, he extended the beat from a song onto the next.

The “Break Beat” would serve as the foundation of the music that is now commonplace today.

It is now the cornerstone of radio. Through stations that would use a format termed as “Urban Contemporary Music” or just Hip-Hop and R&B, the music and culture emerged to bring all listeners together on one level or another. Every market has at least one such station broadcasting the latest tracks – and the “throwback” jams. SiriusXM has several stations playing Hip-Hop on their service. It is also a global movement with radio outlets worldwide broadcasting both American and local tracks

But, back in the day, no one wanted anything to do with Rap and Hip-Hop. Continue reading

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Throwback Review: The One I Was Going to Buy (or Lease)

2010 Honda Civic 4
2010 Honda Civic LX. Photo by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda Throwback Review of the 2010 Honda Civic

I wondered if this career would be any different if I actually did what I intended to do…

In 2008, I entertained the idea of buying or leasing a new car. What I did not make public at the time was I did come up with a particular vehicle in mind.

In the research process, it came down to a few compact sedans based on various criteria. Why a compact? Price tag – for starters. Fuel economy in relation to fuel prices at the time made sense to go with a compact that would accommodate three people – myself included. It would be a guilt-free conveyance that had a history of reliability and high-quality quotient and was easy to operate.

Towards selecting a car to meet these criteria, I did my research. It is something I do even today as a blogger/journalist. I made my comparisons, attempted to drive the cars – rented them for the weekend, when available. Every car had its own competencies, but I wanted the most out of the kind of money I wanted to spend on it.

Yet, there was one car that was parsed out in the research. One singled out for being superb based on various factors ranging from ownership experience to ergonomics to performance. Again, I like the Elantra for being a mainstream compact sedan with a dash of style in high value. Yet, if I wanted to be daring design-wise and experience the same engineering and performance of my old 1991 Acura Integra – there is one particular compact worth buying: Continue reading

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Plugged In

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plus
2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plus – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Plug-In Hybrids are the wave of the future…

OK, before the haters have their chance to speak, let me offer up my explanation to that statement.

We live in a world where everyone is squeezed between putting gasoline in their automobiles and the messaging that we would have to drive automobiles without fossil fuels. We would plug into the electric current that runs through our homes, our workplaces and the public infrastructure. Electric cars are the future…Tesla is leading the way…

Hold on there! As much as we are reading about mandates on expanding the use of electric cars over the next few decades, there are some questions to ask here. First, is the current national and regional electrical grid ready to handle a major increase in electric vehicles? Secondly, is your household ready to take on an electric vehicle? Thirdly, is your workplace ready to take on the charging of an electric vehicle while you work your usual shift? Fourth, if you live in a multi-dwelling housing unit, will it be ready to take on an electric vehicle? Fifth, are people who will wind up with second- or third-hand electric vehicles are able to maintain them – including charging them up?

Believe me, I have more questions. If I take my own example here, having even a Tesla at home would require the landlord (my roommate, to be exact) to figure out how much it would cost to charge a car based on the monthly electric bill and to find a provision for a charging station to be installed at the house.

There is a compromise. Continue reading

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