The Volkswagen Passat Fuel Economy Challenge

2018 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SEL Premium
2018 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SEL Premium – All Photos by Randy Stern

One of my favorite sedans I have worked with has returned.

The current Volkswagen Passat has always engaged me with its combination of performance, economy, space, and comfort. After all, it has one of the largest cabins in the midsized family sedan segment. Not to mention a smooth ride with a bit of Germanic firmness, though designed for American families in mind.

For 2018, the 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder TSI engine gets a bump in displacement and horsepower. Of course, any change to this favored sedan is welcomed, but it also needs to be tested. Of course, I was curious how this new 2.0-liter TSI engine would do with its bump in horsepower in an old familiar shell.

The horsepower bump is just four horsepower – 174 vs. 170 in the old 1.8-liter version. There is no change in the torque rating, which I found interesting. Still, a 200cc bump is displacement should translate into something greater, right?

The 2.0-liter engine has many tunes available across the Volkswagen lineup. Continue reading

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Quickies: Extending Volvo’s Winning Streak

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R Design
2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R Design – All Photos by Randy Stern

Volvo’s winning streak continues. There seems to be stopping them now!

After the latest XC90 compiled enough awards and kudos to fill up a trophy room – including #VOTY16 – the new XC60 began to receive its share of accolades. Not just the North American Utility of the Year, the latest version of the popular compact SUV just received the World Car of The Year at the New York International Auto Show.

With every award has a reason behind it. The current XC90, the XC60, and #VOTY17, the V90 wagon, are examples of how far Volvo Cars have come in the past few years. This is all thanks to their Chinese patron Geely’s fiscal commitment towards giving Volvo Cars autonomy in developing a new line of superb automobiles that uphold the brand’s tenets of leadership in safety engineering and technology. In addition, Volvo Cars are creating automobiles that are now desirable for their intended audiences.

While they are at it, Volvo Cars wanted to create a vehicle for a segment they find needs cultivating – the premium subcompact SUV. Continue reading

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New York 2018: Saving The Best For Last

Lincoln Aviator Concept – Photo courtesy of the Ford Motor Company/Lincoln Motor Company

Remember Vanessa L. Williams?

The vibrant New Yorker’s rise to the top came at the expense of a photo shoot that cost her the Miss America crown. Williams did rise above the controversy with a resume of music, film, and television credits. One of those credits came with the title of this remote report of the 2018 New York International Auto Show. You probably guess which song…

It is true about NYIAS. The OEMs found that if they saved their “best for last” – meaning the last major auto show in North America – that people might pay attention to upcoming products arriving as soon as the doors close at the Javits Center in Manhattan.

It appears that this year’s New York International Auto Show is living up to its reputation. How so? Here are my picks from the show…

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Commentary: “Potholes in My Lawn”

Pothole season 2018
Photo by Randy Stern

How was your winter?

Ours was “interesting.” It is a way we Minnesotans express our feelings when we know we had it bad or indifferent. To be honest, it was a very indifferent winter.

However, one look at the roads will tell you a different story. The potholes were many around the Twin Cities. They varied in size and depth, but there were more than enough to perhaps look at resurfacing several roads that may have been ravaged by them.

A week ago, the City of Robbinsdale attempted to fill in some of the potholes near my home. They filled them, but they did surface them. In fact, some of them already sank below the road’s surface after a couple of inclement rounds afterward.

Understand why I talk about potholes. Continue reading

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Another Short List of My Favorite Roads

All Photos by Randy Stern

For the Fifth Anniversary of V&R, I I re-posted an My Favorites on the roads I enjoyed over the years. I only came up with five.

Yep, just five.

Perhaps it is time for another round of My Favorite Roads of All Time – or, something like that.

Since spring is supposedly upon us (remember, I live in Minnesota. We get snow in April), we have this itch to get back out there and drive. There are some great roads out there – across the country and so forth. Each one is deserving of a drive – or many.

I wanted to go down the list of roads I did not mention the first time around. Without delay…here we go!

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Commentary: Reclaiming Conner Avenue

Chrysler Employees Motorsports Association Show 2015
Could *this* happen at the old Conner Avenue plant in the near future? – Photo by Randy Stern

Remember when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles closed the Walter P. Chrysler Museum on their Auburn Hills, Michigan campus? The biggest question that came out of the closure of this center of automotive history was the disposition of the collection curated at the museum. There was a lot of historical vehicles in this collection that not only needed a home – but needed to be preserved by the company.

Around the same time, another closure was announced. It was FCA’s Conner Avenue facility. This was the production facility of the Viper, which was being phased out due to low demand for the Dodge/SRT front engine/rear drive supercar.

It seemed serendipitous that the two closures would become intertwined with the future of both the historic collection and the Conner Avenue facility. FCA announced that its 400-vehicle historic collection will be relocated to the Conner Avenue plant as a meeting and display space for the company. FCA stated they will use 99,000 of the total 400,000 square feet of space at the former assembly plant, including collection storage and meeting space. They hinted that it would be open to the public at a later date.

In the meantime, FCA would auction off a 1,800-piece collection of Viper memorabilia to benefit the United Way of Southeastern Michigan. Continue reading

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My Favorites From This Short, But Semi-Sweet Auto Show Season

2018 Chicago Auto Show
All Photos by Randy Stern

My Auto Show season came to a close on St. Patrick’s Day. It was a sweet ending with the car club I am a board member of. A dozen people showed up and we went at our own pace across the show floor at the Twin Cities Auto Show.

The travel debacle of Chicago yielded to a staycation in Minneapolis. A tale of two hotel rooms and polar opposites of experiences marked my time between the only two stops on the auto show circuit.

Sure, I could have done more. I could be in New York next week. However, I marked Chicago and Twin Cities as simply “it” for 2018.

When I think about these two auto shows, I have to mark some of the good and bad from each one. I would rather concentrate on the good.

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Twin Cities 2018: The Tale of Two Video Tours

Photo by Randy Stern

Do you want more coverage of the 45th annual Twin Cities Auto Show? Here’s a couple of videos to drop on you…

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Quickies: From the 45th Twin Cities Auto Show

All Photos by Randy Stern

So, the 45th Twin Cities Auto Show…how was it?

In my opinion, it is much better than before. Perhaps the best that I attended since 2005. I saw more engagement with two interactive ride-along events from Jeep and Mitsubishi, the new Luxury Ballroom and Acceleration Alley, and other expanded exhibits across the floor.

There are a few nitpicks, but it is best to not go into them. They’re just from my own perspective in terms of logistics and a few experience-based concerns.

For another positive point is the expanded Ride & Drive offerings at our show. Last year, we saw only a few. Continue reading

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On the Dial: Songs About Radio

2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo 7
What’s behind that screen – and map – is a song about the radio… – Photo by Randy Stern

Radio can be a lonely business. Or, it can be collaborative with a great engineer and other staff to support you on the road.

Having done some radio as a guest, I understand how that side of the speaker is a challenge to deliver a great shift or program for the listener’s edification. Even with the ability to do live radio from a home studio, technology does not fully cover the breadth of what truly happens to deliver programming.

So, why is radio so romanticized?

If you look at how popular culture portrays radio, we might get an idea of how the gap between art and reality presents a picture that is somewhat distorted. The truth, there is some truth to the art presenting radio and the work that goes into broadcasting.

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