A Merit Badge for the Big Blue Truck

2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn Mega Cab 4X4
2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn Mega Cab 4X4 – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty Pickup Trucks

Let me start off with a story…

The Boy Scouts of America introduced a merit badge called Truck Transportation in the mid-1970s. It is one of the few merit badges that have young boys look at the industrial complex that feeds into their community’s economy. They realize that some Boy Scouts may be interested in pursuing a life in the world of transport of goods either behind the wheel or back at the office.

Full disclosure – yes, I was a Boy Scout in the mid-to-late 1970s. My brother attained Eagle Scout status sometime during that era. Me? I stopped at Star Scout, but I have the dubious honor of becoming one of the first – if not, the first Scout to earn the Truck Transportation merit badge in my troop, district, or, even council.

Funny thing, they have renamed all of the districts and councils since my brother and I left the Boy Scouts. Our troop(s) no longer exist. But, hey, I did retain plenty of what I learned from that merit badge.

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Commentary: Crazy Luxury Minivans

Photo courtesy of Lexus Worldwide via Motor1.com

First of all, don’t panic. This van is not coming to our shores.

But, you panicked. It is because you saw the Lexus LM debut at Auto China in Shanghai a few weeks ago. The luxury van stole a few glances beyond Asia.

To explain what the Lexus LM is, you have to look at the Toyota Alphard – a popular minivan sold in Japan and across Asia. The LM takes the Alphard and updates the interior to Lexus standards – wood, perforated leather and seating for seven. The LM 300h is offered as a hybrid model with the familiar 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with the parallel hybrid electric driveline. You can also get this in a V6 model – the LM 350.

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Quickies: Round 2 of This Year’s Vehicles Covered Elsewhere

2019 Subaru Forester Touring
All Photos by Randy Stern

Why was everyone mad at a groundhog? Did we not get the spring we wanted?

And, what a spring. Lots of good things happening on the V&R front. Except for the fact that I was working on items for everyone else. Not that it’s a bad thing…

In this quarterly revisiting of vehicles published elsewhere, I fondly recall a diverse group of vehicles from many manufacturers across the globe. Then, we ponder the larger question of the universe…I believe there is a lyric from P!nk that describes what I am considering here…

No fear! Here is what I have been working with for the past month, or so – yes, I covered a lot in a single month to fill a page – that you might not have a chance to read on here…until now!

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Commentary: What This Past Auto Show Season Taught Us

WAPA EV Day at the 2019 Washington Auto Show
All Photos by Randy Stern

OK, class, what have we learned – or, taken away – from this past auto show circuit?

I hope the answer is as simple as “a lot.” It is not that easy. This auto show circuit was laden with good news cottoned with some palace intrigues and storylines that even the blogger with the lowest traffic among every else can pick up on.

There are some storylines developing that can set the course of the next several months – and, years – towards the future of the industry and the trends that will take hold as soon as this is published.

From the floors of McCormick Place, the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and of all other auto shows that I did not set foot upon, this is what I have gleaned as possible outcomes from the 2018-19 season.

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Ride A Painted Pony

2018 Ford Mustang GT
2018 Ford Mustang GT Premium Fastback – All Photos by Randy Stern

The Ford Mustang and I have one thing in common – our birth year.

The original Ponycar’s arrival into showrooms occurred a couple of months later – April 17, 1964, to be exact. Starting at $2,368 for a bare bones Mustang two-door notchback coupe, some 22,000 customers basically said “just take my money” upon first sight. I’m sure there were many of those first day customers who test drove one and slapped their hard-earned money on the salesman’s table for one.

Last year, the 10-millionth was produced at the Flat Rock Assembly plant near Detroit. This was a milestone given how the Mustang has grown to become the best-selling sports coupe in the world – not just in the USA and Canada. The painted pony is now sold in 150 countries, driving a share of 15.4 percent of the segment’s sales. Since 2015, a half-million Mustangs went into customer’s hands – seeing the roads around the Goodwood Estate, Mount Panorama, the Great Wall, Ipanema Beach, and everywhere in-between.

I had some experience with the Mustang. Well…OK…let me qualify this. My brother and I owned a Mustang that was less than spectacular – a 1974 Mustang II Ghia in Lime Yellow with an Avocado vinyl roof and matching vinyl interior. We experienced how the Cologne V6 was not-so-well-matched to the oft-recalled C3 automatic transmission. We felt quite embarrassed with its color scheme and lack of satisfaction it eventually gave us in the end.

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Travelogue: (Re)Connecting DC and Baltimore

Good ol’ DC! – All Photos by Randy Stern

There is a thing about returning to a place I have once lived some decades ago. It is not just the memories that food back of places I once roamed. But, rather, the continuous shock of the new.

I keep on forgetting how Washington, DC and the surrounding suburbs are in constant evolution. New Administrations bring in new people to set the tone for the region in the course of a Presidential term.

Some 39 miles away, Baltimore looms away from the power structures of the Pennsylvania Avenue NW. A historic city that evokes the inspiration of Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem, of Edgar Allen Poe and his dark poetry and prose, of Charles S. Dutton and his civic duty to bring a different image of the city to television, and of John Waters who can flip his beloved city on its side through a crazed form of camp.

Beyond these two historic cities are fields of tangible legacies. Some still evoke scenes of bloodshed as a nation divided fought for the cause of humanity. One felt that people who seen as inferior should remain as such. Others believe that it is wrong to enslave humans in a nation that promoted freedom through democracy.

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New York 2019: Knocking on 2020’s Door

2020 Lincoln Corsair – Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Motor Company

Two cities have been vying for our automotive attention this week. While Shanghai has been rolling out the more exotic stuff, New York offered up more things that are down to Earth – more like, down to our country’s consciousness.

Needless to say, my focus was already on New York. Not because they are introducing new products for our specific market, but of their significance. Rather, the manufacturers saved the best for the last major auto show in the Western world.

By the best, what exactly do I mean? Let me run down the six new vehicle debuts that will play a significant part of the upcoming 2020 model year. And, no, these are not aligned with the future “The Jetsons” laid out for us in cartoon-land.

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Eight Years of V&R…So, Which Vehicles Are Missing?

2011 Lexus HS 250h
All Photos by Randy Stern

This site’s eight years have had its moments. These great moments that were beyond limited to the four I listed in the last article.

We also had the opportunity to work with some great automobiles – also, too numerous to list beyond the four we posted before. Maybe, someday I’ll have a list of everything that made this website and my own media work worth these past eight years.

However, you may have found that there were a few vehicles missing among the well over 350 of them utilized for editorial on this site. This is the purpose of this article – to list out those vehicles that have been missed by this work.

It is actually not that long of a list. However, you may be scratching your head and wondering “how come I did not have that in for review or for an article of some sort.” Too many reasons. Maybe missed opportunities? Who knows? Who cares?

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Technology, Yes, But It Is Still a Luxury Compact SUV

2018 Audi Q5
2018 Audi Q5 2.0T quattro – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the Audi Q5

As I was planning my trip to Washington, DC and Baltimore for the Washington Automotive Press Association’s EV Day at the Washington Auto Show, an e-mail came from a public relations representative from Audi. It was an interesting pitch regarding the expansion of their vehicle-to-infrastructure technology that includes Traffic Light Information and Green Light Optimized Speed Advisory features.

I’ll admit that, at first, I ignored it. Then, she followed up with asking if I would like to try out the technology. Eventually, the discussion turned towards this trip to Washington. Therefore, I was scheduled an Audi Q5 for the purposes of experiencing this advances technology.

Before I go off the deep end of driver assistance technologies and the brass tacks of vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, there is a vehicle to discuss here. A very important vehicle for consumers in higher income brackets who simply want a compact SUV to roll around comfortably in places, such as Washington, DC.

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For The Love of The 4Runner

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road – All Photos by Randy Stern

Let’s state some facts, shall we?

First off, 4Runner sales are on the rise. The first quarter of 2019 saw a 4.1-percent increase in deliveries over the same period in 2018. It is the sixth best-selling vehicle in the Toyota lineup – one of seven that are selling over 10,000 units per month.

Then, there’s the reports and accolades pointing to the longevity of 4Runners out on the road. Between Autoweek, iSeeCars, and other outlets, their reports put the 4Runner among the Top 10 or Best In Class in terms of dependability and durability.

Lastly, we keep on forgetting that the 4Runner is built as a body-on-frame SUV. According to enthusiasts, that is considered a proper SUV. Therefore, we see 4Runners going into off-road trails and overlanding everywhere across North America.

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