Zipping Around…Again

All Photos by Randy Stern

All Photos by Randy Stern

It’s been a while since I “Zipped.”

“Zipped?” What’s wrong with me? Am I some sort of…um…?

No need for alarm. I am only speaking Zipcar speak.

This Zipster has been away from the fleet since the beginning of this year. It has been a while, but opportunities do present themselves to Zip again.

Let me back up a bit. The car sharing leader Zipcar is a unit of AvisBudget Group, the rental car giant. They have leveraged the Zipcar brand to expand in many global cities by providing hassle-free access to their vehicles practically anywhere. This includes airport locations, next to Avis or Budget stalls. In all, you need their app, the website or to call into their reservations line to set up a Zipcar for you. Their fleet ranges from economy cars all the way up to luxury and prestige automobiles – in all markets.

The last time I Zipped, I tried out a few vehicles to accomplish some tasks – one being a funeral of an old boss at a former employer.
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A Year in Carmmunity – 2015

InCarNation bringing everyone together for a "tailgate." - All Photos by Randy Stern

InCarNation bringing everyone together for a “tailgate.” – Photo by Randy Stern

This is a year where V&R’s profile was raised locally.

This site has become more than just a blog. It is seen as a media outlet for the local car community, although it has not fully covered it to its deepest levels. Yet, this year yielded some stories of interest, including the rise of a truck club, the collaboration between two divergent clubs to form a huge event, the local exotic car club’s efforts towards engagement, the forming of a new club and the experiences – good or bad – of being in the car community itself.

If one element stands out as to what drives this continuing story, it would be the people. A community centered around the automobile has to have people dedicated to its enthusiasm. I have met some extraordinary people that embody its spirit to the fullest. They, too, are a huge part of this story.

It was a very good year inside of this story. One would end the story here and move on. However, this story is not going away any time soon.

As soon as I saw V&R’s logotype on the back of a couple of t-shirts of a club and a lifestyle brand, I knew that it has been etched in for the time being. I still get requests to add V&R as a sponsor or partner with their club or organization.

Who are these clubs that currently partner with V&R? I figured it’s time to introduce you to these four awesome organizations that I had the privilege of attaching this site’s name to.

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Los Angeles 2015: Another View From The Sidelines

2017 Buick LaCrosse - Photo courtesy of General Motors

2017 Buick LaCrosse – Photo courtesy of General Motors

Last year, I had the privilege of covering the Los Angeles Auto Show on site at the Convention Center downtown. Coming home to L.A. to cover the show was something I had dreamed of when this career took off back in 2011. Having the experience of last year under my belt, I figured I’ll stay home for this year’s show.

It is not unusual for me to cover the show from the confines of my home back in Minnesota. Sure, I might miss a few things, but I always make sure that I am perfectly OK with that.

However, the L.A. Auto Show featured a lot of different debuts. Some of the vehicles have already showed up at previous auto shows or special events prior to the November 18th media date. What I want to present in this rehash of the auto show are production-ready vehicles that made their first appearance in Los Angeles for this show.

Which of these production-ready vehicles caught my attention the most? Rather, which of these vehicles made me go “ummm?” Here you go…

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Adventures in Media Opportunities – 2015 Edition

The final sunset flight of 2015 - Photo by Randy Stern

The final sunset flight of 2015 – Photo by Randy Stern

Progress is a good thing.

This year, I experienced progress and growth as an automotive writer/journalist/blogger. Though traffic is down on Victory & Reseda from last year’s phenomenal year, the real growth came with making inroads with the car community here in the Twin Cities, as well as solidifying my place among my peers in being a generalist in vehicle reviews and other related subject matter.

If you work hard, you can yield some rewards. That came in the increased amount of work-related travel accomplished this year. I never thought I would welcome invitations to participate in various media opportunities both locally and afar. They were received and I yielded some of my better work out of them.

The travel opportunities were either paid out of my own pocket or through the courtesy of the hosting manufacturer. It does not matter who paid for what, the experiences and the work stand above everything else. But, still, for someone like me – a small time writer struggling to make this a standalone vocation – earning each opportunity were completely worth the effort doing so.

With that said, I thought I would share the highlights from seven such travel opportunities, plus three additional local OEM-sponsored events that I took part in during 2015.

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All The Sedan You Need

2016 Scion iA - All Photos by Randy Stern

2016 Scion iA – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda Review of the 2016 Scion iA

With the rise of the crossover in this car market, it seems that we forgot all about the sedan.

This is actually not true. A once over of the sales figures for October of 2015 saw several automakers experiencing a rise in sedan sales. Even its leading compact crossovers ended up being outsold by the mid-sized sedan sitting across the lot. Looks like the good ol’ car still has legs against the newfangled crossover.

Understand that not one size fits all. Nor are car budgets the same for everyone. While the attraction to subcompact-sized crossovers is strong in urbanized areas – places where parking is a premium – not everyone has the budget to buy one. Have you seen the prices for these tiny, but mighty machines? Not the base prices, mind you…rather the sticker price after you add several creature comforts to keep up appearances while you take the bus to work and enjoy your renovated fourth floor condominium around the corner from the coffeehouse and the boutique you go to on a regular basis.

Some of us understand the value of an automobile. Yet, some of you know that while we want to pay a reasonable price for a new vehicle, we want one that does not cramp our style. Nor should it be a burden to park on the street or in tight underground garages of even the newest condo towers. We also want a car that will take us to our suburban workplaces, even when transit is not accessible out there. It has to be frugal on gasoline and more than competent to drive when fighting traffic out into the suburbs.

This is the job for a subcompact car.

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The “Seductive Strength” of The Original Luxury Crossover

2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport AWD - Photo by David Dewhurst/Dewhurst Photography for Lexus/Victory & Reseda

2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport AWD – Photo by David Dewhurst/Dewhurst Photography for Lexus/Victory & Reseda

A Victory & Reseda Preview of the 2016 Lexus RX

The Lexus RX pioneered the conveyance known as the luxury crossover. It has done so by providing its “fanatical” and loyal customers the space, comfort, performance, efficiency and capability they wanted in this type of vehicle. Most likely, an RX owner will trade in for a new one – one of the highest levels of vehicle loyalty in its class.

This year alone, Lexus owns the segment with a 15% share of it. If you own the market, you need to maintain that leadership no matter what comes your way.

This is the story of the 2016 Lexus RX. This fourth-generation vehicle has the monumental task to retain its segment leadership, its loyal, “fanatical” customer base and to be a step ahead of everyone else.

It is easier said than done – the whole business of maintaining your leadership above all comers. Continue reading

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In Search Of New Roads

All Photos by Randy Stern

All Photos by Randy Stern

Chevrolet was trying to “Find New Roads.” It lead them to the Twin Cities.

To promote the coming of several new models for the 2016 model year, Chevrolet put on a road trip to feature their biggest introduction as they meander across the lower 48 states from Detroit to California. For the sixth generation Camaro, it was a chance to get them on the road to see how they cover this vast nation of ours.

The product itself is indeed significant. The effort is very ambitious. There is more to it than what it seems.

There is a lot to consider about the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro. This road trip is apt because this is the first Camaro to be produced in the USA since 1992 at their Grand River assembly plant in Lansing, Michigan. After the plant in Van Nuys, California – a few miles from where I grew up – closed, fourth generation Camaro production moved to Canada and the St. Therese plant in Quebec. The fifth generation Camaro was solely built at General Motors Canada’s main production site in Oshawa, Ontario. The significance of promoting this all-American Camaro is important now that they are leaving the Grand River facility to dealerships across North America is the core element in showing the mass of changes to the car itself.

The Alpha platform that houses the Cadillac ATS and CTS now underpins the Camaro. Continue reading

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My Favorite Vehicles for a Fall Colors Drive

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4X4 - All Photos by Randy Stern

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4X4 – All Photos by Randy Stern

November is here. The fall colors have already bloomed…or have fallen all over your yard. Pretty isn’t it?

Fall also means a chance to get away from home and enjoy those colors. That means going far away to see what are still on those branches or not. In the northern climes, time is indeed running out. For those southerly, it is happening as we speak.

Since you need a getaway to enjoy the explosion of red, brown, orange, yellow and whatnot, perhaps you should consider the way to get to see these blooms.

Well…I have a few suggestions. These happen to be my favorite vehicles to take a drive to see some fall color.

There are some criteria to selecting these vehicles. First, they would have to be all-weather vehicles. They do not necessarily have to all-wheel drive, but at least to be able to handle any weather event this season could throw at you. It could be the early snow on the ground that would shock anyone in denial of the coming of winter. These vehicles also have to be comfortable to drive…or to ride along in. After all, it isn’t just you that’s going on this road trip. Not only should it be comfortable, but also fun to drive in any climate.

If there is more than you going, you might as well offer up enough trunk space for everyone’s bags. Bags to fill a weekend’s worth of fall foliage and frolic. Said vehicle should also have a huge glass area so you can see this foliage come alive. At least they should enough for the great view ahead. These vehicles should also be quiet enough not to disturb the environment – and they do mean being hybrids, either! Lastly, I will cap these vehicles with a sticker price of under $40,000. Why that much. Road travel should not be for certain income brackets – it should be for everyone!

My list may not be what you are thinking. I’ll own that part. But, I’m sure they include some vehicles that may have forgotten on your list. Not to mention, I have driven them, enough to know they would the right vehicles for the task at hand.

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Commentary: How Should I Cover The Continuing Story?

The root cause? - Photo by Randy Stern

Photo by Randy Stern

“So, Randy, what is your take on the whole Volkswagen crisis?”

Seems to be that everyone thinks I have the answer to what was happening at Volkswagen AG, let alone Volkswagen of America. It is a hot subject due to how Volkswagen handled the crisis with stop sales, executive turnover and a jumble of numbers that are confusing to anyone following this story. Though my responsibility as one covering the automotive industry is to put my byline on the line and state what facts were available in this forum, I was hesitant to do so.

Why? I was busy with other things, first off. Secondly, the story needed around the clock care that I could not commit to. Plus, there are the readers, social media followers and other friends who already had their own opinions one way or another about the subject that my own words would be frankly meaningless.

Who wants to read what I had to say about the Diesel emission crisis at Volkswagen? What kind of perspective could I bring that would be different and distinctive than what anyone else had said or writer? What information am I sitting on that no other journalist, blogger or social media enthusiast already had?

That was my corner that I got pinned into.

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Smooth Piloting

2016 Honda Pilot Touring Elite AWD - All Photos by Randy Stern

2016 Honda Pilot Touring Elite AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Honda Pilot

You may not like what I am about to say. Yet, I have to establish something that may be unsettling for those have owned them. It could be that I have to take liberties on what could be contrary to consumers…maybe somewhat enlightening to enthusiasts.

I was never a fan of the Honda Pilot.

To me, they were just a quick way for Honda to get on the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s bandwagon. I never felt they were properly executed. The designs for the past two generations seemed uninspiring. The last one reminded me of a Jeep…very upright in design, yet engineered to not follow it off-road.

The interiors were “meh.” Just “meh.”

Though, I would point out that that Honda actually made a better Pilot. It is called the Acura MDX. The current one is absolutely wonderful.

For Honda to compete in the mid-sized crossover/SUV arena, they had to build a Pilot that had to be a home run in design, engineering and execution. Back in February at the Chicago Auto Show, we witnessed a glimmer of hope. A new Pilot for 2016 was unveiled that looked like it was ready to compete with the Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Pathfinder. It was at that size – a bit more svelte than before. It looked like it could accommodate three rows of family and friends.

Then, I read the specs. A nine-speed automatic that my colleagues criticized on the Acura TLX with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, actuated through a series of buttons on the console appeared on the new Pilot. Then, we found out that the V6/nine-speed combination would permeate across Acura’s crossover lineup. I thought that Honda has gone mad.

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