The Next Connection

OnStar 4G LTE
All Photos by Randy Stern

What is this thing they call “4G LTE?”

I have been hearing about this for a year now. As I understand it, it is the fastest current speed your smart phone could connect to. This speed will allow your texts, your dirty laundry on Facebook, and your ability to become the greatest Candy Crush player in the neighborhood quicker than usual.

Big deal…

Actually, it was. Continue reading

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Quickies: The Seventh Sign

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI – Photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America

Seven. It is a lucky number, by rule of thumb.

Since 1975, we have been graced with seven generations of the Volkswagen Golf. In the USA, we called two of those generations the Rabbit. No matter what you called it, this was VW’s best answer to continue the legacy of the original Beetle.

The front-engine, transverse-mounted, water-cooled compact remained a mainstay in the VW lineup for North America. Though eclipsed by the Jetta in terms of sales, the Golf reminds us of how the breed has evolved. Yet, it also serves as the platform of one of the most beloved hot hatches of all time – the GTI.

After reading about it from Europe, the GTI was finally introduced in the USA in 1982. Continue reading

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Advancing the Minivan

2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite
2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2014 Honda Odyssey

Minivans.

I know what you are thinking: Why do we need to talk about them? Are they now dinosaurs in the marketplace. Who really buys these things?

First off, minivans are still an essential part of family transportation. Why? Have you been in a three-row crossover and try to fit more than five adults in one and have them sit comfortably for a long journey? The larger ones could do this well, but only a few others could, too.

This is where the minivan comes into play. However, some minivans are not made equal. Some are even more comfortable than others. Some offer more amenities than others. Some even offer a fun feature that would be worth buying the entire vehicle.

Continue reading

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Historiography: The “Ugly” Subcompacts of the 1970s

AMC Gremlin
AMC Gremlin. Photo by Randy Stern

Were these cars considered “subcompacts” or “compacts?”

That is a 44-year old question that has scratched the heads of those of us who lament and laugh of these cars. In particular, how do we map the advent of a new class of American car to today’s automobiles?

History has a relative position as the needle is adjusted. What we consider a subcompact today might be considered a “minicar” in the early 1970s. Yet, it is hard to calculate positioning the lineage of the Ford Pinto to today’s Ford Fiesta. Then, maybe, it was correct.

What baffles me was the designation of what were “compacts,” “mid-sizes” and “full-sizes” of three or four decades ago were larger than what we consider them today. It is as we shrunk the Big Mac to slider size and called it a “medium” car.

For the purpose of this discussion, the focus is on three of the biggest laughs in American car history – the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto.

Continue reading

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They Made This

2015 Chrysler 200 Limited
2015 Chrysler 200 Limited. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2015 Chrysler 200

The game has changed. Or, has it?

The past Super Bowl gave Chrysler another banner to fly. This one, spoken by Bob Dylan, ensured us that “Imported from Detroit” has transformed into truth. The Sterling Heights-made 2015 Chrysler 200 was presented as Southeastern Michigan’s weapon into the biggest battle in North America – the Mid-size sedan segment.

The pride in building this sedan shows. The new 200 also changes perceptions about North American cars, especially those in “heart of the market.”

In the process of forming this review, a total four 200s were driven. At the Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally, a 200C and a 200S with all-wheel drive took their turns in the countryside near Elkhart Lake. A month later, a 200 Limited did a couple of laps within Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds to look at noise, vibration and harshness, along with extreme handling. To complete the story, another 200 Limited arrived for a real test on a realistic proving ground – the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Having the 200 on our home turf provided a change to answer some serious questions about the car’s place in the segment and the overall marketplace. Considering the excitement before driving the 200 the first time, has these high expectations been met?

Let us get this out of the way: Continue reading

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Historiography: Of Porsche, Piech and Volkswagen

Porsche 356
A family resemblance? All Photos by Randy Stern

“Like peas in a pod.”

Or, would you rather think “Reese’s peanut butter cup?”

The story of Porsche and Volkswagen has always been intertwined with each other. It is a story of a family – sounds like a television series already. Sometimes, you wonder if it really is a television series – almost like the “Hatfields and McCoys.” Instead, their names are Porsche and Piech.

It all began with a single man. He got married, had a business partner – who became part of the family. The rest reads like a script from “Dallas” or “Dynasty.”

Continue reading

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Commentary: Showing Off Our Automotive Love at Work

The Editor's Garage
All Photos by Randy Stern

We express our love for the automobile in many ways.

This is not just talking about the cars we own and drive, but rather outside of the vehicle. For example, we often use the inside our homes to extend this love. From posters, artwork, flags, signs – and so forth – to signify our love for one brand or rather the machine itself manifesting in many ways. You might even find some models – in plastic and/or die-cast metal – as a three-dimensional, scaled-down paean to our favorite vehicles.

You may even find some of these in a person’s office or cubicle at their place of work. If someone really loves cars, they will know by what in and around the computer – or, on the walls.

That is the thing: We often show our personality at work by how we dress up our workspace. It could be a calendar with cars on alternating pages, a picture – maybe a few – on the wall, and something even more significant. You may see the occasional scale model, which is traditionally reserved for the “boss’ office” and normally mounted on a stand.

The latter is no longer the realm of the boss’ office. Continue reading

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Commentary: The Heirloom’s Convergence

2014 MLB All Star Game
All Photos by Randy Stern

When I committed to writing about automobiles over baseball, it was a liberating experience.

The results have been many. Doors opened and experiences multiplied through the journey of covering the automotive industry and its products.

On occasion, I would return to baseball. It is not exactly an obligatory thing, but it is deep in my DNA that it could not be totally eliminated. Though I could be deep in discussions about the 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT or watching the supposed early production units of the 2015 Ford F-150 slowly coming out of hiding, there would be a blip of baseball that would come across the screen – any screen. It is that piece of eye candy that distracts even anyone’s field of vision.

Continue reading

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The Answer: QX60…Hybrid

2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid AWD
2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid. All Photos by Randy Stern

Oh look, it is another hybrid!

Wait, is that an Infiniti? Better still – a JX35?

Yes, V&R reviewed the JX35 back in January of 2013. There have been some changes since then, despite it looking practically the same as before. First, the name has changed. We can no longer call it a JX35, but rather QX60. It is still the same looking luxury three-row crossover that I found the soul of the original Infiniti deep inside of it – the Q45.

The other change may be just as subtle from the outside. Continue reading

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The Speculator: Envision This!

2011 Chevrolet Equinox 5
Wait, that Buick rendering sort of looks like me! All Photos by Randy Stern

You hear that cheering in the background? It is because General Motors is going ahead and replacing one of its more popular vehicles.

Though reports show a heavily revised Chevrolet Camaro in disguise during testing, it is not the vehicle I am referring to. This one is even more important to GM on at least two continents. For one, it has been a success for the two brands it is sold under. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave both versions their Top Safety Pick + designation. In another market, it opens the door for the popular brand to include a right-sized product slotted between two strong selling models.

This story however was prompted by a leak. Continue reading

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