Quickies: From the 45th Twin Cities Auto Show

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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. For 2018, we had Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Jaguar, and Land Rover join Ford, Toyota, and Mazda in conducting these test drives for show attendees.

For this wrap-up of the Twin Cities Auto Show, I have put together this Quickies piece as what was driven during my time at the Minneapolis Convention Center. And, there were plenty…

2018 Twin Cities Auto Show

2017 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI: Where was the Mk7.5 GTI? It would be great if we knew, but let’s pretend it was there. Let’s consider the new bumpers and taillights, the revised center stack, and other new details seen on the revised Golf Family and set them aside for the time being.

In essence, nothing has really changed mechanically in the Mk7.5. This Mk7 Autobahn edition showed me one thing: No matter which version, the GTI’s soul is still there. It shows how remarkable the original hot hatch still is – sure-footed, the right performance at the right moment, and a simply satisfying car overall.

Who cares what generation or revision it is in – the GTI is the hot hatch to end all hot hatches. Enough said.

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2017 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA GLI: One would think that this would be a counterpoint to the GTI, but it is not. Yet, it also represents a vehicle that has also undergone some updates, but not before it will be replaced by an all-new model.

As much as the current/outgoing Jetta received its knocks for lowering its quality to match an affordable price against the big selling compact sedans, the GLI will change those minds quickly. The quality is better than the Jetta SEL because Volkswagen knows that GLI customers want a better car to befit its sporty credentials. It drives that way, although adding Dynamic Chassis Control would make it absolutely perfect. The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine may have 10 less horsepower than the GTI, but it has all of the spunk needed for those wanting a GTI with a trunk and proper rear seat room.

Why are you forgetting about the Jetta GLI? Are you waiting to see if there will be one for the new generation model? This one will do nicely, thank you. Oh, and you’ll have plenty of fun driving one, too!

2018 Twin Cities Auto Show

2018 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 2500HD: I have driven the current half-ton pickup, but not its heavy-duty equivalent. I tried the version before it – my first truck I ever reviewed. There had been many advances in this round of General Motors’ big workhorse, but where to start.

Its updated Duramax diesel – with a massive 910 pound-feet of torque – is smoother than ever. It simply feels like a half-ton, except for the mass of truck around it. The crew cab is solid with familiar interior features from the half-ton. The big thing here is the High Country trim – Chevrolet’s top of the line. Is it the Bowtie’s version of GMC’s Denali? Not quite, but it is luxurious on its own.

This round in the Silverado HD shows that it can be driven in a place like downtown Minneapolis without a problem. It’s a nimble as a big truck can get.

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2018 CHEVROLET COLORADO ZR2: Off-road capable trucks are a growing, but small segment made for those who desire adventure. For those who think a Ford F-150 Raptor is too big for the trail and need diesel power to get through more technical trails – that’s what the ZR2 is all about.

I was not much of a fan of General Motors’ midsized truck initially. It would take one that had superlatives to rethink my complete evaluation. You had the Duramax four-cylinder diesel powering this example, along with a GM-designed suspension and traction management system. Add aggressive exterior pieces and a really comfortable and spacious driving position, and you get one that wants to play at an off-road park.

As for its short stint in the city, I think you can scare some folks in this thing. Then again, the ZR2 is designed to get you away from the urban jungle instead of playing in it.

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2018 CHEVROLET TRAVERSE: Crowning the Volkswagen Atlas as best in class is a bold move for a brand that has finally cracked the code on mid-sized, three-row SUVs. This also encourages others to step up its game. But, if there is one that should be crowned the “most improved” in its class – that crown should go to the Chevrolet Traverse.

For starters, it is slimmer on the outside, compared to the previous Lambda platform version. It is also lighter – and feels that way. Its nimbleness will surprise you for having a spacious cabin with real three-row comfort and an expansive cargo hold. The V6 is also smooth and quiet, along with its equally smooth nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive system. The cabin is typical GM, which you can take either as good or indifferent. Although, you do get a lot of goodies in the High Country version, as driven on this short run.

Would you give the Traverse a chance? If it comes down to access to the third row from both sides of the vehicle, then get the Atlas. I would also shop the Traverse and a couple of other competitors to confirm your choice.

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2018 FORD ECOSPORT: To finally bring one of Ford’s most popular global vehicles to this market, a few adjustments were made – including a new cabin and front end. The fact that Ford was able to translate the Ecosport for USA audiences may be worth the risk of doing so.

For the city, it is just fine. The 1.0-liter Ecoboost three-cylinder turbocharged engine suited downtown Minneapolis driving just fine. Keep in mind, that you can get the tiny engine only with front-wheel-drive. Twin Cities folks will most likely get the all-wheel drive with the larger, more powerful 2.0-liter engine. The cabin space is fine, but I would familiarize yourself with the side-hinged tailgate and the location of the release. I was fine behind the wheel, but I wondered about the quality of the cabin.

I will be getting one in later this year for another publication. For now, I have a little taste of this coming attraction.

2018 Twin Cities Auto Show

2018 JAGUAR E-PACE: The premium small SUV segment has grown another rival. The smaller E-Pace is set for battle against the segment-leading Lexus NX, along with the usual suspects from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.

There are plenty of cues design-wise from across the Jaguar lineup – big grille, horizontal taillights and a sloping roofline. However, the size-proportion makes the E-Pace a bit small for a Jaguar. Step inside to a mix of advanced Jaguar touches, but devoid of old world charm. The latter is perhaps something we need to get over since the brand is looking for a more global approach to its design. However, that driveline is superb: 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, 9-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive. Dynamic mode makes the E-Pace First Edition I drove a “leaper” in its own right. That thing leaps!

The problem I have with the E-Pace is that lacks a certain air that speaks to the British heritage of Jaguar. It has a personality, but I just wish I can spot it visibly. It takes a drive to discover that personality.

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2018 RANGE ROVER VELAR: What makes a Range Rover a Range Rover? Typically, a Range Rover is a symbol of off-roads excellence born from the original in 1970. Today, they are luxurious machines that are capable to satisfy the needs of their well-heeled owners.

The Velar is simply a mid-sized softroader slathered with luxury and technology. The dual touch screens on the center stack lead the technology parade for the comfortable and spacious Velar. My R Dynamic HSE tester had the 3.0-liter supercharged V6, offering a mass of power when needed. The all-wheel-drive may look like it has the capability of its more off-road brethren – the Range Rover Sport, for example – but it needs a few adjustments on the lower touch screen to accomplish such capability, including ride height and terrain management settings. Otherwise, the Velar looks elegant and advanced for the brand.

While it presents a new kind of proposition for Range Rover customers, I still question its position among other capable products in its lineup. But, if you do not take off-road capability as a priority, the Velar will do such fine. After all, it is simply an elegant premium mid-sized SUV, if you think about it.

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2018 JAGUAR XF SPORTBRAKE: We always complain that we can’t have nice things. Like station wagons. This is proof that we can have nice things – and they are awesome! The XF Sportbrake is exactly that: awesome.

This is the answer to the proverbial question of wanting a fast wagon. The 3.0-liter supercharged V6, combined with its 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, encourages you with its exhaust growl to do silly things with a wagon. The chassis is taut and nimble, though Dynamic mode will reveal a leaping cat that may have already pounced on whoever is in front of it. The interior may lack Old World charm, but it is a great place to plot your next prey, even with a bunch of flat-packed goodies for the new home office.

If you must have a wagon, give the XF Sportbrake a chance. I can assure you that you will be won over by that exhaust note alone.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicles provided by their respective manufacturers as part of public Ride & Drives at the Twin Cities Auto Show

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