Commentary: What Turns Your Ignition?

Photo by Randy Stern

Are these the keys to your heart?

We have two here. One is from a Lexus, the other from a Lincoln. A contrast of two luxury cars for which you can walk up – or press a button – and get in. Then, you press a button…and the vehicle comes to life. These are simply two keys that start your ignition and get you going, until you stop it. Still, we call them “keys” these days…

Why am I talking about a key? There was a story several years ago where listed the ten coolest key fobs out in the market. The weighted Bentley switchblade key/remote locking fob obviously came in first. The list also includes some very prestigious names, such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover and Cadillac. Each key and fob is distinctive in relation to their brand.

A Range Rover owner can lose their key down a canyon and not get crushed to death if it fell within 30 feet of the point of departure. Some keys no longer employ a blade to enter into a lock or ignition cylinder. Older Toyota Prius and Volkswagen Passat models will let you shove the fob into a slot onto the have you push the button to start the car.

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Quickies: An Impressive Compact Car

2017 Subaru Impreza Sport Sedan
2017 Subaru Impreza Sport Sedan – All Photos by Randy Stern

Unless you are a dye-in-the-wool Subie fan or enthusiast, no one would ever suspect that the Impreza would be a strong contender among compact cars.

This is a statement that needs further explanation. You see, compact customers run in two packs. One, there are enthusiasts who are loyal to their brand. They would rather have their car than any car. Subaru WRX and STi owners are very loyal to the core. They love their turbocharged boxer engines, all-wheel drive and the many other quirks in owning a Subaru.

For everyone else, there has to be a reason to buy a specific car. It has to be a very good reason. When it comes to buying a compact car, it has to be of necessity. It has to be practical, economical and peppy enough to get around traffic. With that in mind, there are lots of models to choose from. For reliability, the most popular compact is the Honda Civic. The Toyota Corolla is a dependable choice. To drive like an enthusiast, there is the Mazda3. To fly the American flag, there is the Chevrolet Cruze. You get the idea.

What if I told you that there is a new compact car that drives better than any of these vehicles listed? Continue reading

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My Favorite Loss Leaders

Brian O'Connor Memorial Car Show Fundraiser
Everyone loves a Grand Am! – All Photos by Randy Stern

This decade saw six brands simply disappear from American showrooms: Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Mercury, Saab and Suzuki. They join the misbegotten that danced in front of us for our dollars. Some of these brands ended a lengthy history of success – and failure. Others were exercises on what was wrong with Detroit. You can decipher which ones were which.

Were there any memorable vehicles from the six brands that were wiped away from automotive history? Save for Hummer – yes. Why not Hummer? Never driven one – and I always felt they were utter garbage to begin with. A form of spit-elegance brought upon by the worst design for in-combat transport ruining a successful design forever. Thanks to Chrysler (and Fiat), World War II’s greatest invention lives on.

As for Pontiac, Saturn and Mercury – I enjoyed plenty of miles driving vehicles sold under these brands. If I were to compile a list of five favorites amongst the misbegotten, they would be the following…

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Historiography: Born From Jets

Saab Show/Swap Meet 9
All Photos by Randy Stern

When automobile brands disappear, it becomes a challenge to try to maintain their legacy.

This is the new challenge for Scion owners. Though Toyota made a commitment to honor warranties, continue with service and parts support, the owners of these cool cars have the burden of keeping the brand relevant for their enthusiasts and current owners.

This is a challenge that continues for many other orphaned brands. Since 2000, we witnessed Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Mercury, Pontiac, Hummer, Suzuki, Daewoo and Saturn disappear from our showrooms. Their legacies have not been as honorable to support on a larger scale. You could still get service and parts for these brands, but even that is becoming challenging these days.

This is true for Saab. The once unique manufacturer from Trollhattan still invite a hearty group of enthusiasts to keep the flames of the old Swedish car company alive worldwide. In America, this remains true to a core group of loyal owners and enthusiasts. They often meet to discuss the challenges of maintaining their chosen rides. Yet, their uniqueness keeps these loyal folks together to maintain the legacy of a car that was complicated and brilliant at the same time.

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Up On Two Wheels

Supercross Media Preview
All Photos by Randy Stern

Rarely does Victory & Reseda cover anything with two wheels.

In this case, it is driven by your interest. I found out that aside your love for four-wheeled transport, you also love two-wheeled – preferably motorized – transport, too.

Importantly, you also like to advance your love of two-wheeled, motorized transport in the motorsport arena. You may enjoy the global excitement of MotoGP, which brings the best riders in the world on superbikes at the best road courses around the world. You may like dirt track racing, putting high powered bikes onto the dirt oval.

Then again, you might like motocross and Supercross. Of all of the motorcycle motorsport series, motocross and Supercross is the most popular in this country.

To explain these series, it is as simple as summer and winter. Continue reading

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Watching The Big Trucks Fly

All Photos by Randy Stern

Deep inside all of us is a person that loves crazy things that drive, fly and land.

This is not to reduce the fun and excitement of Monster Jam. It is a form of entertainment that is borne in the psyche of unfiltered joy. It is the sight of a 12-foot high by 12-foot long vehicle, on 60-inch tires and the highest suspension lift known to machine take on dirt hills to go as high as 35-40 feet in the air.

We love that kind of stuff.

Unfortunately, I used to snub my nose at things like this. I found the commercials ridiculous and the idea of such a vehicle just childish and cartoonish. If I wanted something like this, the vehicles had to be more down to Earth, running around some tarmac…you get the idea.

There comes a time when the experience has to be achieved. All snobbery and disdain for things such as Monster Jam must be set aside for a brief episode in life.

So, I attended my first Monster Jam at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Continue reading

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Commentary: Mitsubishi Eclipse….As Another Crossover?

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors North America

To the collective groan of, frankly literally anyone who has heard the news, Mitsubishi brought back the Eclipse…as a crossover.

Mitsubishi did acknowledge that they are playing off the name of the extremely popular sports car which sold 1.8 million units over it’s 23 year lifespan, so it’s not like they’re trying to hide it. Then they tried to justify it with some hot trash about the astronomical origins of the name and how the car’s lines reflects said astronomical event to justify the naming conventions. Nobody is fooled. Really, it’s just Mitsubishi trying to capitalize on the Eclipse moniker. Hoping that since people will remember the Eclipse fondly, it will translate into better sales for the new truck.

This feels really gross but it isn’t the first time a brand has gone about doing this in the past. The issue at hand here, while most companies at least attempt to have some common theme with their naming, Mitsubishi honestly doesn’t give a shit. Now, this isn’t me blasting Mitsubishi because I don’t like them. Honestly I really want to like Mitsubishi. They have the potential for really great stuff, it just seems that they’re in serious fiscal trouble and they’re panicking to get back on track. What they should do is calm down for 5 seconds and follow Mazda’s lead.

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Historiography: A Personal History of Flight

…indeed! All Photos by Randy Stern

I arrived from my trip to the Chicago Auto Show this past Friday. The memory of a successful show still lingers. It was a great trip overall.

However, there is nothing like getting psyched up for a flight to the destination…and wind down on the one coming home.

Though the destination and the work done there are the centerpieces of any trip, it is the journey there and back that bookend a good trip. When everything clicks perfectly, that is considered a great trip.

Over the years, the amount of flying have fluctuated over the years. Some years, I’ve seen more of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport than I ever anticipated. Other years, I felt that going to MSP is indeed a special occasion. Either way, the airport is a familiar location – whether it is Terminal 1 or 2. I have my routines when I check in, go through security and when picking up people there.

Which airlines do I choose to fly? Continue reading

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Quickies: Higher Voltage

2017 Chevrolet Volt – All Photos by Randy Stern

You can never give up when you truly believe in something.

Electrification is a part of the mobility scheme for the future. Though the indicators show that we will see growth in electrified vehicles – everything from light hybrids to plug-in battery-charged models – early indicators have been mixed. While you see plenty of Tesla’s premium vehicles on the roads, other EVs have not been as present. Toyota saw growth in the Prius, but that has been cooled down in the past several months.

This is not stopping Chevrolet from trying. The 2017 Bolt EV has been winning accolades left and right – including Motor Trend’s Car of The Year and the North American Car of The Year. The Volt continues in an all-new guise with its mission still intact, along with some improvements.

Over five years ago, I had a chance to work with a Chevrolet Volt. It was a ground-breaking vehicle that was designed for electric propulsion as its primary power source, backed up by an internal combustion “range extender.” The result was something that was odd looking, but worked quite well. Yet, it battled hard in the marketplace, while hybrids were trying to nudge their way into the mainstream of the market.

For another publication, I was invited to drive the 2017 Volt by a local dealership. I did…briefly. I will say that it has certainly improved in this second generation model.

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Chicago 2017: “Blair Witch,” “Star Wars,” and Then Some…

All Photos by Randy Stern

I could do a standard-issue look at the 109th edition of the Chicago Auto Show. However, I have done that plenty of times.

In fact, this is my tenth time I visited the show. This marks the 15th anniversary of my first one – credentialed as media. That now makes it nine years as a media person, the seventh in a row.

So, how do I talk about the 2017 Chicago Auto Show that won’t be as predictive and boring?

Let’s just start from the beginning – the night before the Midwest Automotive Media Association breakfast.

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