Little did I know that would get me into the Chicago Auto Show the year after that.
For some reason, I am glad the world did not stop on New Year's Eve in 1999.
The 2000s opened up many doors for this automotive scribe. It began in February of 2001 when a friend and cohort in that "movement of Bear-identified gay/bisexual men" proposed that I become a part of his fledgling online magazine out of Chicago. Little did I know that would get me into the Chicago Auto Show the year after that.
The decade yielded a platform for my automotive writing – the genesis of Victory & Reseda.
Automobile-wise, I was going through many different kinds of vehicles in three locations throughout the 2000s. What worked for the Northern Virginia-Philadelphia run, certainly did not work for the Madison-Chicago or Madison-Minneapolis runs. I also found my vehicle tastes expanded from mainstream American sedans to various other types. In particular, crossovers and SUVs figured for my time in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The reason? Snow.
Let's take a look back at last decade and which vehicles stood out amongst the plenty I drove. No surprises, possibly – you may have read about them on this site already.
2000-2006 FORD TAURUS: No surprise, indeed. Again, the Bull played a significant part of my driving adventures from DC to Duluth. The Taurus may not have been its old self, but it still racked up some serious miles. One such trip found me driving from Chicago to Edina and back. Another found a friend and I in Des Moines. Another decided to chill next to a Polaris Ranger near Sandstone, Minnesota. In all, the successful run of the full-sized Taurus marked some good times throughout the decade – even as the price of petrol began to climb to unseen levels.
2000-2009 FORD FOCUS: Chrysler's Neon was quite the segment changer. This did not sit well with Ford. To replace the Escort, it went to Europe (again) for a solution. It came up with the Focus. Early Focuses were simply wonderful cars. Though they employed a lot of US regulated design features, most of the car was recognizable for ones driven on the other side of the Atlantic. They were spacious machines that drove well and handled long distances with ease. For example – an economy run from Iowa City to Milwaukee. The Focus also made those Madison-to-Chicago runs fun. Later Focuses (i.e. extended versions of the first global generation) tried hard to match the earlier model’s feats, but not as much as the true first generation cars. Still, the Focus was the target for all compact cars to be measured for a long time.
2006-2009 HYUNDAI SONATA: The car was inoffensive, but conservatively styled. It was competent, but not overly ambitious. What that generation of Sonata was to become Hyundai’s stepping stone towards its image today. Hyundai needed a car that would compete in the Camry/Accord/Altima arena. It did – with plenty of space, reasonable comfort and plenty of power options. I drove more than enough of this past generation of Sonatas of every stripe to confirm this from GLS 4-doors missing a few options to the luxurious V6-powered Limited. It also has the distinction of being the first #VOTY award winner. Not bad for a car I loved flogging around town, in the snow and up to Duluth on an oft occasion.
2001-2006 HYUNDAI SANTA FE: This vehicle did two things for me – it was the first Hyundai and the first crossover that I truly enjoyed. The design was a bit weird, but it grew on a lot of people attracted to Hyundai. It actually was one of the most comfortable, nicest riding crossovers of the mid-2000s. The Santa Fe did open up a lot for me in terms of accepting crossovers and SUVs into my automobile life. Because it was well laid out, had plenty of power from its 2.7-liter V6 and all-wheel-drive system. If you asked an owner, they might agree with well the Santa Fe also held up over the years – another benchmark for Hyundai. From the Santa Fe yielded plenty of oversized wagons with higher ground clearance, and so forth.
2006-2009 DODGE CHARGER: The LX Platform – first generation – was a beast. An outgrowth of the DaimlerChrysler "merger of equals," the Germans provided plenty of pieces for a platform based on an older version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Chrysler added an engine and a design – thanks to Ralph Gilles and his design team. At first, people balked at the idea of a four-door Charger, since it had been a two-door for the most part. Once people got it, the Charger became an icon bolstered by customizers, Hip-Hop culture, Mopar enthusiasts and three letters that resemble an exhaust burble – SRT. The Chargers I usually ran in were the mid-level SXTs with Chrysler's 3.5-liter 24-valve V6. Argue as you may, I like that engine – all 250 horsepower of it. The Charger grew on me, which probably entrenched my love for Mopar products. And, why not? The Charger remains an icon amongst Moparians today.
2003-2008 MAZDA6: This was one of the sedans that exemplified "Zoom-Zoom." The car was concentrated and exuded all of the moves you want in a touring sedan. Coming from the last 626 sedan, the Mazda6 dialed back the size, while dialing in driving engagement. It was the first car I really enjoyed driving in my early years here in Minnesota.
2005-2009 PONTIAC G6: Back in the 2000s, I actually had fun with some General Motors vehicles. The G6 was no exception. Based on the mid-sized Epsilon platform, the Pontiac was the better of the brunch. It had dialed-in design, decent space, and a sporty demeanor. It was all I asked for in a car – no matter the body style, engine, and trim.
2006-2009 CHEVROLET IMPALA: The other GM vehicle I enjoyed the most was the big Impala – the direct rival to the Taurus. It was so comfortable to drive that I practically took them everywhere. It also induced a "phase," where I would be happy in a Chevrolet Impala – and nothing else. It was probably the most appropriate vehicle for the decade – especially here in Minnesota.
All photos by Randy Stern