The Road to #MAMA16FR…and Then Some

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport at Journey's End
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 GT AWC – All Photos by Randy Stern

I love taking road trips.

There are two ways to take this. When a time constraint is imposed, road trips can be harrowing, frustrating and counteractive. All I can fixate is the time I have to be there, or the time promised to the person (or people) on the end of the road. It feels like an extended auto race, where there are no driver changes, quick stops for food, fuel and toilet use and it is all speed all the way through. I fear for those who see me at the end of such trips.

However, a good road trip is one where there is the luxury of time. There is also the extra incentive to explore and enjoy new surroundings. There are some cases where I rediscover places I have been before. There is always time to enjoy the drive, eat when I need to and get there relaxed…maybe a bit tired from the drive.

In working with vehicles for publication, I found that when I have one that I have worked with before, there is an incentive to repurpose the story to frame an adventure…or, just a road trip. Lately, that has been true with the 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, the 2016 GMC Sierra Denali and the 2016 Chrysler 200. In total, four states were covered by these vehicles for the purpose of your reading pleasure.

Which leads me to talk about this next vehicle…and the road trip I put it through.

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#VOTY16 – Here Is How It Works!


It is #VOTY time!

This year is not just any old #VOTY. It is back and we’re awarding it for the tenth time! Therefore, we are calling #VOTY16 a celebration!

To celebrate, we are getting things under way for a short season of #VOTY. We made some adjustments from the last time we did a full #VOTY in 2014 to make sure that more eligible vehicles are considered than before.

Getting to the #VOTY is the hard part. Each candidate vehicle receives a full evaluation on 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.

Or is it? Here is the official format of #VOTY16… Continue reading

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Fifty Years and 43 Million Cars Later

2016 Toyota Corolla S
2016 Toyota Corolla S – All Photos by Randy Stern

Fifty years ago, Toyota wondered whether their Corolla would hit the right note with their intended customers. It had a lot of potential – it was small enough for the world, offering efficiency with its peppy engine, provided comfort for all who occupy the car and it was built to the company’s highest standards.

Over the past half-century, Toyota sold 43 million Corollas worldwide. This volume was sold across all eleven generations – each one with a different story to tell. And, for the sake of repeating myself, there were plenty of stories they to tell!

While the E10 started it all, the E20 put the Corolla on the map. The E30 expanded the breed with the new Coupe and Liftback, adding a new chapter to the Corolla story. I remember the Liftback being the most compelling Corolla of its time. They were quite fun to drive with its lower height and coupe-like driving position. That would be the first Corolla I ever drove.

The E80 platform put the normal Corollas onto a new front-drive platform, it was the rear-drive AE86 that took on a life of its own. They would introduce us to Toyota’s new 16-valve, dual overhead camshaft engine – the 4A-GE. The AE86 would become a hero to many enthusiasts in the drift scene. The E80 generation also spawned one of my favorite cars of all time – the AE832 3-door hatchback. That body, combined with the 4A-GE, would envelop into Toyota’s only hot hatch contender for this country – the Corolla FX16 GT-S. I loved that generation!

While Toyota sold millions of Corollas with subsequent front-drive generations, my engagement with car withered away. Continue reading

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Commentary: The Immediate Social and Industrial Impact of a 238-Mile Range EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV -Photo courtesy of General Motors

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV – Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is defining what a practical EV looks like.

Electric cars might not be what will make a difference to meet the looming Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for 2025. The future will see greater and greater market penetration of electric cars. Tesla has been a force of chaos in the automotive world, and it is not clear if it will ultimately be a force of good or evil. Chevrolet and its new Bolt EV is the culmination of a large automaker taking electric cars seriously, and, with 238 miles of range, they have a winner of their hands.

Electric cars have mostly been relegated to the realm of elite luxury cars and strangely designed urban runabouts that appeal to a small market. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is what an electric vehicle looks like when the combined muscle of a massive, mature multinational corporation decides to create an electric vehicle that can have mass appeal.

Many outlets are quick to draw a comparison between the Bolt EV and the 2017 Tesla Model 3. While both of these cars are positioned as mass-market vehicles, but unlike the boundary-pushing Tesla, the Bolt EV has its rubber clad feet in the world of today and the world of tomorrow. This is why there doesn’t seem to be a reason to compare the two. It will be Bolt EV, not the Model 3, that will define what the EV market will look like in the next fifteen to twenty years.

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Nissan Raises The Hybrid SUV Ante

2017 Nissan Rogue - Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

2017 Nissan Rogue – Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Is there a worse time to build an all new hybrid?

Nissan laid the Altima Hybrid to rest in 2011. Despite higher fuel prices than today the Altima Hybrid did not sell well. Nissan, under Carlos Ghosn, has always been able to craft deals with other automotive companies and Nissan’s first hybrid came from Nissan leveraging Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. Now Nissan is back with a completely new, in-house designed hybrid system. Nissan has made some unique technical choices to make their system stand-out in a much more crowded hybrid market than the one Nissan left in 2011.

Nissan chose the newly revised 2017 Nissan Rogue as the chariot for this new system. This new system creates another interpretation of how to mix electric motors and gasoline engine power.

Toyota has the best-selling and best known system, which uses a mechanical continuously variable transmissions running through two electric motors that are meshed with the gasoline engine to generate any road speed that is desired by the driver. Nissan simply wants to do something different.

Nissan is extremely well known for its Xtronic CVT. Continue reading

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Upward Mobility

2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD
2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Mazda CX-9

Mazda has been one of those brands that make this job a bit easier to work with.

In my case, it is based on familiarity. I mentioned the fact that I owned a 1979 Mazda 626 coupe, which was originally my brother’s. If you ask him about that Mazda, you will get a different picture than my experience. Granted, it was not perfect, but it was fun. At that time, I was all about fun…and going to work…and trying to make a living…and so forth.

For as long as I have been writing about the automobile, I loved working with Mazda and its products. They have evolved into fulfilling its promise of “Zoom-Zoom,” though some may argue otherwise. Heaps of praise has been put upon the CX-5, which is a crossover/SUV for enthusiasts or those who like driving engagement. The Mazda3 has been named “best in class” and enthusiasts enjoy the Mazda6 over other models, even as not a lot of people of buying them.

Then, there was the CX-9. It was a byproduct of Ford’s ownership of Mazda. Some have argued that the CX-9 was not “Mazda enough” to be Zoom-Zoom…these days, the advertising slogan is “Driving Matters”…even with three rows. I mentioned the fact that it has garnered its share of accolades above all comers in the three-row mid-sized SUV segment. I thought it was “more than competent,” despite its size, heft and its huge thirst for gasoline.

With every challenge comes an opportunity. Continue reading

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The Last Road for The Show

2016 Chrysler 200 Touring
2016 Chrysler 200 Touring – All Photos by Randy Stern

Back in 2014, we were pleased as punch when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles introduced a mid-sized family sedan to compete with the big boys. However, things have since changed…

It was a bold promise made during Super Bowl 48 with Bob Dylan being coherent for once in extolling the virtues of this new sedan. A car that was going to set the tone for 2015 with a Fiat-sourced, Chrysler-massaged platform extended to accommodate a car of Mazda6 proportions. It would be one a few left in the class with V6 power, more so with all-wheel drive.

Then, we reviewed it. At least, I did. If they sent the V6-powered model with all-wheel drive, we would think it was a great product and was beyond the class leader’s imaginations. However, the real volume was to come from front-wheel drive, four-cylinder versions. In order to supplant the outgoing Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger in rental fleets, they had to take the new Chrysler 200 as its replacement. All FCA had was a single model that was handsome and advanced for its kind.

So, I reviewed it…for three outlets. It was good, but middle-of-the-road good. That was what I expected from the 2015 Chrysler 200 Limited on the streets of the Twin Cities.

Then, something happened. Continue reading

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What Would Randy Buy…the 2016 Edition

2016 Scion iM
It actually looks good in front of the house… All Photos by Randy Stern

Last September, I explored the question that you have been asking me for too long. It seems that you all think I have some magic savings account somewhere and that, all of the sudden, $75,000 appears. Heck, we automotive writers don’t make that kind of money…a few do, but not I.

I think you are crazy. Seriously.

However, I will acquiesce this time to again answer your question n of what vehicles I will buy if I had the money to do so today. There are some clues based on the reviews you have read on Victory & Reseda. Then, there are some surprises…

I would suggest putting down what you are drinking now before you go on…

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Historiography: Downsizing

1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville – All Photos by Randy Stern

September 30, 1976 may not be on everyone’s calendar – but it should be.

On that date, the American automotive industry showed us the way forward. It was a response to a series of events that had framed the future of the automobile. These events included the imposition of emissions controls by the Environmental Protection Agency, new crash protection standards from the National Highway Traffic safety Administration and the OPEC Oil Crisis.

Through the mid-1970s, the standard-sized American automobile became simply too big to handle. On average, a full-sized sedan was stretched out to about 224 inches long by 1975. This included the addition of 5 MPH bumpers. Engines were mainly V8s, ranging from 5.7 liters upwards towards 7.5 liters in displacement. In 1970, horsepower for these big V8s were around 300, but emissions controls and new Society of Automotive Engineers performance measuring standards dropped them almost in half.

The worst part of this picture was fuel economy. Although gas pump prices were just several cents per gallon, driving the big cars were simply no problem. After all, they sometimes averaged 12 MPG. Yet, the OPEC Oil Crisis put a damper on our driving habits – gas rationing, limitations of days when we can drive and even the rise in fuel prices.

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On The Trail, Through The Woods and Beyond

2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Gone Gandy Dancing
2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk – All Photos by Randy Stern

A few years ago, the universe felt disturbed by the presence of a very un-Jeep looking Jeep.

We are talking about the Compass. Granted, it was the first Jeep to be considered a crossover after decades of being the brand associated with outdoor recreational vehicles. Years of building sports utilities came down to a car-like and car-acting oddity that simply looked…odd. No worries, since it and its sibling, the Patriot, will see the end of production by the end of the year at the Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant.

All production in Northern Illinois will be supplanted by the hottest product in the Jeep lineup – the Cherokee. When it arrived, people saw the front end and felt the universe shift to something uncomfortable. Initial production units did not help its cause, as the ZF-designed, in-house built nine-speed automatic transmissions had issues with its lower gears. Still, many flocked to get this latest Jeep – sales have been averaging 15,000 units per month. Rental car fleets and families alike were snapping up Cherokees as they were the latest

I had the chance to drive two of them in 2014. Continue reading

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