Travelogue: Knocking on “Death’s Door” (County)

Sunset over Ephraim
All Photos by Randy Stern

The idea of a “romantic getaway” should be one where the locale and the company should be equally romantic.

Let me back up for a moment and personal here. Yes, I am in a relationship – albeit a long distance one. I’ve known Jason for 16 years – we thought we were cute when we saw each other on our regular commute on Madison’s Metro bus system to our mutual employer. We became friends 14 years ago. We got closer every year since. While we dated other people, there was a chemistry happening that eventually got more intense and deeper over time.

Still, 338 miles separate us – me in the Twin Cities, him in Southeastern Wisconsin. How can we bridge the distance? Making the effort to plan visits and enhance them further.

While I was in Wisconsin for the 2018 Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally at Elkhart Lake, I decided to bookend the media confab with spending more time with Jason. The plan was to head up for a “romantic getaway” after my return from Road America. It would be our first such getaway as a couple.

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Quickies: An Exercise in Overindulgence at #MAMA18SR

2018 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge – All Photos by Randy Stern

The one theme I wanted to explore at the 2018 Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally was to explore the idea of luxury and prestige further. I left Road America completely satisfied that it was completely fulfilled.

Here is the idea: you love the upper end of the market. You love luxury, exclusivity, and the universe of bespoke. You may have a JDM driftmobile or an APR-tuned Golf GTI, but your neck will turn when you see a Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, or Ferrari drive by.

As you have seen lately, V&R has increased its coverage of the upper end of the market. It is not because it was necessary, but a reflection of observations and trends seen lately through our lens.

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#MAMA18SR – The Experience of It All

All Photos by Randy Stern

In 2013, I arrived at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin confident, but nervous as I attended my first Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally. Each year yielded its own experience – both good and otherwise.

Now, I attended my fifth MAMA Spring Rally at Road America. Let’s see what this time around would bring experience-wise.

The momentum going into this year’s MAMA Spring Rally was on the upswing. I turned in the third “hot/big headline” car in-a-row, I regained momentum from my outlets, readership, and personal life. Even an old outlet of mine reached out to me to cover Spring Rally for them. It almost felt like an Ice Cube track…

I figured that this would not be my first time at the rodeo. Continue reading

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“We Don’t Need To Show You No Stinkin’ Badges!”

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD
2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Kia Stinger

Why are you fixated on badges?

It’s like any consumer goods that we obsess ourselves over badges. Think about badges as you would labels. If a label is from a well-known reputable brand that has always offered quality goods for the price, most consumers would buy them sight unseen. But, if we see a label that offers style and luxury at a higher cost, we think it is the absolute best you can get.

There is a form of snob appeal in play here. Your Yves Saint-Laurent dress shirt is better than your Ralph Lauren Polo one, better than a Van Heusen one, which is supposedly better than a house brand at JCPenney. You would rather cook on Calaphon pots and pans than house branded ones bought at Target. A Rolex watch is simply better than a Seiko, as it is better than a Timex.

Snob appeal is very strong with the automobile. Take for example these newfangled five-door hatchbacks that are becoming the cool new ride in the marketplace. Audi has two of these models, while BMW offers three of them. The RS 7 is a thermal-nuclear beast with a 560-horsepower monster underneath its hood. There is no one as bad as this one.

With 560 horsepower, the Audi RS 7 is as practical as a small station wagon. Well, almost…

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To Answer Your Question, Let’s Compare Them All!

2017 Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio
All Photos by Randy Stern

Considering I had a short run of big headline, high horsepower cars – I felt compelled to do a mental comparison of them.

Except, there was a small problem. To compare them, I have to throw out the old “apples to oranges” comparison. Because comparing an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and the Lexus LC 500 is exactly that – apples to oranges.

Yet, it would seem somewhat logical to examine which one would be more suitable for the “living with it” testing environment. The Alfa Romeo represents the intersection of its past and present, as fine-tuned by a Ferrari-developed twin-turbocharged V6 and yards of carbon fiber all around. On the other hand, there’s the Lexus grand tourer that was originally a concept turned into a production car with a powerful V8 underneath its hood.

This comparison could be one for the ages Continue reading

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(Our) Favorite Vehicles of Our Childhood

MNVW Track day 7.22.17
All Photos by Randy Stern

We shape our view of the automobile based on what we know…and how we comprehend it.

Growing up, that idea of the car, truck, minivan, and SUV was simpler then. Our memories shape how we were transported to school, after-school activities, and the occasional family night out. Your parents came home from their commute from work with the familiar fumbling of keys to lock up the vehicle after a hard day at a job that puts food on the table and a roof over your head.

Remember those days? You are probably living them right now.

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From Concept to Production…to This!

2018 Lexus LC 500
2018 Lexus LC 500 – All Photos by Randy Stern

I know what you’re thinking…

“Oh, great, Randy is reviewing another Lexus! He must be such a fanboy of the brand himself that his journalistic integrity is just dust by now…”

If you think that way, then perhaps you can wait and read my consumer-focused review of this same car in the lifestyle magazine expected to be published in July. That is, if you don’t mind the intended demographic of the magazine, some of the editorial content and perhaps a few adverts inside said publication.

Incidentally, said magazine was once the Minnesota Magazine of The Year. In 2016.

However, if you think otherwise…then, read on…

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Quickies: Vantage Point

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
2019 Aston Martin Vantage – All Photos by Randy Stern

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Aston Martin?

In this country, it’s Sean Connery – playing James Bond. That silver DB5 has a lasting effect on people, especially when they do not realize that (a) Aston Martin had a long history before its big screen debut and (b) there had been many other Aston Martins produced since.

For those people who know both (a) and (b), there is also another perception to tackle. We know Aston Martin as a purveyor of great grand touring coupes. Sometimes, they’ll pour more horsepower into these coupes to create relevance when pitted against other marques.

When they created the first Vantage, Aston Martin wanted a sports coupe that would rival everything from the Jaguar F-Type to the Porsche 911 and everything else in-between. Continue reading

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Commentary: “The Rolls-Royce of SUVs”

All photos courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

It is now a reality – the Rolls-Royce of SUVs.

Rolls-Royce debuted their latest addition to their growing line of automobiles – the Cullinan. For three years, the bespoke British brand and member of the BMW Group announced it would make this vehicle. A series of videos shot in Scotland, the United Arab Emirates, Colorado and Utah relentlessly teased us by showing its capabilities in these regions.

From prototype to a real-life model the teasing is over. The “high riding” Rolls-Royce Cullinan is set to go on sale. All with a 562 horsepower 6.75-liter V12, suicide doors, and off-road capability to boot.

It brings up a lot of old and new questions. Continue reading

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The Quadrifoglio Experience

2017 Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio – All Photos by Randy Stern

For years, I have always wanted to drive an Alfa Romeo.

Even before I finally got a chance behind the wheel of a 4C coupe a few years ago, I felt that I was unworthy of piloting an Italian icon. Even if a Milano or a 164 had an automatic transmission, I passed on that opportunity while circling one on the showroom floor.

Recently, I did a couple of dealer-based drives of Alfa Romeo’s latest vehicles – the Giulia and the Stelvio. It’s great that I was able to experience what these vehicles were all about. Yet, its short time in my care yielded only basic information, despite volumes of endorphin-inducing moments of joy.

Twenty minutes does not equal the full Alfa Romeo experience. Continue reading

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