Archive for November, 2013

ILX Thanksgiving Drive to St. George, Utah

Posted in ILX, Utah on November 28, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  528,058

528058

Odometer (ILX):  60,756

60756

Trip Distance:  430 Miles

map_to_sgu

Hello readers:

Just a quick note of gratitude to those who have followed my travels for the 2.5 years since Drive to Five was born.  I thank you for your continued interest and I look forward to having you along (digitally, anyway) for each and every future trip!

Today, I drove to my hometown in Utah to spend a couple of days with family and friends.  By 7:00 in the morning, I was at the junction of Loop 101 and Interstate 17 in north Phoenix.

interstate17

My next turn was at Highway 74, the Carefree Highway, where I had the two-laner to myself as I made my way toward Wickenburg, Arizona.  Dawn and dusk are my favorite times of day to drive.

carefree_highway_ilx

Nestled midway between Mesquite, Nevada, and St. George, Utah lies a campground called Virgin River Canyon.  It’s home to 75 developed sites and overnight use costs $8.  I haven’t ever stayed there but it’s a scenic place to pit-stop along Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge.

ilx_virgin_river

This stretch of I-15 was one of the most expensive pieces of road ever constructed, at an estimated $100 an inch.  That’s because it plows through huge sandstone cliffs and required a great deal of time & effort to complete.

virgin_river_gorge

Once I arrived in St. George, Utah, I visited my favorite car photo backdrop:  Pioneer Park on the Red Hill.  Pioneer Park covers 52 acres and is a rock climber’s paradise.  Growing up, I spent a lot of time there with friends.

ilx_at_pioneer_park

Here are a few Thanksgiving shots that I captured of the ILX.

ilx_pioneer_park_2

It was a perfect day for windows-down cruising in St. George, with plenty of sunshine & temps in the 60’s.

ilx_redrocks_2

ilx_red_rocks

Soon, it was time to head over for dinner with the family, including grandma.

tyson_doce

Smells like home cookin’!

todd_tia_doce

On the agenda for tomorrow:  A local hike that’s sure to provide some stunning views.  More on that later this weekend.  Thanks again for following, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

ILX Drive: “Taliesin West” in Scottsdale, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on November 26, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  528,000

528000

Odometer (ILX):  60,266

60266

Trip Distance:  30 Miles

map_to_taliesin_west

coupe_at_work_2

Only a 30-mile trip this weekend?  Yes, indeed.

Wet weekend weather (rare for us Arizonans) kept me from traveling too far from home, but it was a nice break from all the action this past couple of weeks including the trip to the Los Angeles Auto Show.  I’ve been greatly enjoying my Acura ILX 6-speed.  The ILX was just featured in a Road & Track write-up about the “three pedal club”, since the 2.4-liter model comes only as a stick shift.  Check out that article here.

It has been said that Frank Lloyd Wright was once asked to introduce himself under oath in a courtroom.  “I’m Frank Lloyd Wright,” he said, “the greatest architect in the world.”  Humble he was not, but FLW was indeed one of the most influential architects in history.  Over the course of his lifetime from 1867 to 1959, he designed over 1,000 structures.  Three friends and I hopped in the ILX on Sunday to visit one of them:  Taliesin West.

taliesin_outside

josh_paul_tyler

Josh, Paul, Tyler and I visited Wright’s winter home, in Scottsdale Arizona.  Frank Lloyd Wright had been born and raised in Wisconsin.  In the early 1900’s, he built a studio and home on a 600-acre estate near the town of Spring Green which became known as Taliesin.  In his later years, Wright desired (like so many others do!) to spend the cooler months in Arizona.  Taliesin West was built in 1937 and became his home as well as a studio for aspiring architects.

One little known fact about FLW was that he loved cars as much as he loved architecture.  Our tour guide told us that Wright owned between 80 and 90 vehicles during his lifetime.  And these weren’t plebeian Ford or Dodge models; Wright was driving Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Cord L-29s.  Wright saw “automobility” as contributing to individual liberty and key to eliminating rural isolation.  One of Wright’s early apprentices, John deKoven Hill, stated:

“The car was part of his stance, his outward appearance as far as the world was concerned.  It was a matter of his persona – how he looked, what he stood for – his artistic judgment.  The cars he drove and the way he dressed were all part of a general picture of presenting himself and his work in the right light.”

Imagine that – cars being used as status symbols.  Apparently that’s been going on for over a hundred years.  It’s no wonder that luxury automakers like Acura have a loyal customer base of people who are willing to pay a premium for that level of status.  Wright’s Cord L-29 (pictured below) cost more than $3,000, six times the price of a Ford at the time.  It was the first American production car equipped with front-wheel-drive.  Wright loved his car so much that he wrote a letter of praise to the company president that was later featured in a “What Owners Say” promotion by Cord.

ACD Cord 024

Wright’s other pride and joy was a 1940 Lincoln Continental.  He customized it by removing the roof over the front seats and cutting half-round “opera” windows in the back.  He had it (and many of his other cars) painted his favorite color as seen here:  Cherokee Red.

wright_cherokee_red_lincoln

Below is a scan I took from the Winter 2010 quarterly Frank Lloyd Wright Magazine.  Notice what it says about the 1940 Continental in there:  This car had logged over 200,000 miles by the time Wright passed away in 1959.  I knew I liked this guy for a reason!  That 1940 Lincoln Continental, and a similar 1941 model that Wright also owned, are both now restored and owned by film producer Joel Silver.

flw_lincoln_1940

Come along with me on the below photo gallery of Wright’s 600-acre Taliesin West estate and I’ll recount a few of the interesting facts that were shared with us during our 90-minute tour.

taliesin_west_sign

Recent rains have taken their toll on the property.  “If it doesn’t leak like a sieve,” our guide told us, “it’s not a Wright home.”

paul_tyler_josh

Wright faced his home toward the southwest so that it would make the most efficient use of available light & heat during the winter months when he stayed there.  He envisioned his home as a boat, sailing through the open desert.  Below, Tyler, Paul, and I were standing at what Wright would have considered the bow of his ship.  Water supply for Taliesin West comes from a well that’s 480 feet underground.

tyler_tyson_paul

Inside, the roof was covered in canvas to allow in light.  Windows were not added to Taliesin West until the late 1940s, a full ten years after it was built.  Wright had originally intended for it to be an open-air structure.  The chairs pictured here are “origami” chairs.

living_room

When the windows were added, Wright asked this vase to not be moved.  Instead, a hole was cut around the vase so that it could stay exactly where it was sitting.

vase_in_window

Plush green grass was planted to provide a place for children to play.  Wright had many dozens of apprentices who brought their families here.

taliesin_courtyard

Doors at Taliesin West often require visitors to duck or tightly squeeze through.  Wright thought thought of this as a way to “compress” his visitors before “releasing” them into the larger spaces inside.  He used space as a way to move people into the areas where he wanted them to reside.

paul_tyson

This is a “selfie” I took facing a mirror in Frank Lloyd Wright’s bedroom.

mirror_selfie

His bathroom was constructed almost entirely of stainless steel.

bathroom

The dining room faced the McDowell Mountains.  Wright didn’t like to obstruct corners of the building with supporting poles.  Notice that the glass here is joined at the corner and the support system is further back.

dining_area

Out in the yard, there’s a dragon on a rock that was originally designed to be used as a water fountain.  Wright’s wife, Olgivanna, had it converted into a gas-powered flame-thrower!  It’s still used today during special engagements.  Notice how the surrounding plant is partially burned.

dragon

Rarely will you ever find 90-degree angles in a Frank Lloyd Wright home. Every wall or ceiling is tilted in some fashion, because Wright didn’t like how straight walls felt like “living in boxes.”

fountain

“The reality of the building does not consist in its roof and walls but in the space within to be lived.”

quote

This auditorium can house over 100 people and was often used for special black-tie occasions and concerts.  It was the last building added to the Taliesin West estate before Wright passed away.  Its nonparallel ceiling & floor and angled walls make it almost like a giant megaphone, transferring sound clearly all the way to the back row.

auditorium

Thanks to my friends for joining on this adventure!  I took a picture of my ILX at the entrance to Taliesin West much like Frank Lloyd Wright may have liked to do with his prized 1940 Continental.  Except, I’m guessing he would’ve custom-ordered his ILX in Cherokee Red.

ilx_front_at_taliesin

In other news:  A few weeks ago, I met an online celebrity (to me, anyway!) named Leif who runs a page called “Ugly House Photos.”  As a Phoenix area real estate agent, Leif gets to see more than his fair share offbeat or interesting discoveries in peoples’ homes.  Give his page a look!

tyson_leif

Finally, we have a milestone to commemorate today:

For awhile now, we’ve been following the progress of my friend Francesco in Italy as he racks up the kilometers on his 2005 Fiat.  He first reached out to me in May 2012 at 240,000 kilometers.  He sends me updates every once in awhile, and I’m happy to report that this past weekend he rolled the big 300,000 mark.

Congratulations my friend!

francesco_300k

2013 Los Angeles Auto Show with 2theRedline

Posted in Car Show, ILX, RLX on November 22, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  527,902

527902

Odometer (ILX):  60,130

60130

Trip Distance:  767 Miles

scottsdale_to_la

The City of Angels welcomed me this Wednesday & Thursday for a feast of automotive eye candy.  It’s hard to believe that it was already a year ago when my friend Branson and I took my Acura ILX to the 2012 LA Auto Show.  It was time once again to head westward and see the latest reveals from Acura as well as other automakers.

I attended the show as media colleague of the “2theRedline” team.  2theRedline is a YouTube auto review channel with over 30,000 subscribers.  Featured there are hundreds of videos highlighting many late-model vehicles.  Sofyan Bey, host of the channel, takes viewers beyond a simple “specs & walkaround” of the vehicles and instead takes us inside each one and allows us to experience a digital driving experience with his candid & thorough feedback.

redline_logo

The big debut from Acura was the flagship 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid, Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive.  This sedan is the most powerful in the company’s 28-year history and delivers an impressive 377 horsepower.  On top of all that, it sips fuel, achieving 30 miles per gallon with combined city/highway driving.  The powertrain specs are a tongue-twister:  We’re talking about a V6 engine, but the fine print takes some time to digest:

  • 3.5 Liters
  • Single Overhead Cam
  • Direct Injection
  • i-VTEC (Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control)
  • 7-Speed Dual Clutch Transmission
  • 3 High-Output Electric Motors

That makes for some fun science & engineering, but the bottom line is most important:  This thing scoots.  A first for Acura is the head-up display which can show Sport Hybrid system operation, turn-by-turn navigation, speedometer and compass, as well as alerts from various driver-assistance systems.  Also new to the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD are a push-button transmission gear selector.  Pricing for this model is yet unannounced.  I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and take the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD for a spin.

tyson_with_acura_rlx

Sofyan allowed me to “host” 2theRedline for a 2-minute segment discussing some of the features of this newest iteration of the RLX.

tyson_hosting_2tr

Check out the video here:

On the Honda side, the star of the show was a car called the “FCEV Concept.”  At Honda’s press conference on Wednesday afternoon, my colleagues and I sat transfixed by the lights, music, and water show that was performed before us — just before a white sheet was pulled off the FCEV for dramatic effect.   The FCEV is Honda’s latest creation in fuel cell powered driving.  Here’s more info on this unique ride:

The curious contraption is powered by a fuel cell that uses a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen to create electrcity, which powers the wheels and the car’s electronics. The result is emission-free motoring, with water and heat the only byproducts. Clean, it most certainly is.  Fuel cell technology has the added benefit of more range (and therefore less worrying about running out before you reach your destination) and faster charging than a standard electric battery.

Range for the FCEV is 300 miles, and it can refuel in just 3 minutes.

fcev_conference

Also, here’s a 10-minute video from my iPhone capturing the complete unveil.

My ILX made the trip to California and back effortlessly.  Even faced with heavy rain in the Riverside area as I made my return trip eastbound on Thursday night, the car was confident and controllable.  I ended up turning over 60,000 miles on the odometer near Quartzsite, Arizona before approaching the Phoenix metro area.

60000

For the rest of the nitty-gritty on this trip as well as the people & cars that made it memorable, enjoy the photo gallery below.  It was a great Auto Show and I’m already looking forward to next year’s.

A lot of people hate the long, sparsely populated stretch of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and the California state line.  I love it.  It’s the type of road where you can set your cruise control and just relax.

la_distance_sign

My Garmin Nuvi GPS unit led the way for the drive.

garmin_la

As I got closer to that CA state line, the sun had started to descend beneath the horizon.

ilx_interstate_10

This, my friends, is my favorite time of day to drive.

sunset_i10

For once, traffic in LA was a breeze.  Within about 6 hours of my departure time from Phoenix, I was arriving in downtown at the Westin Bonaventure hotel.  I met up with my friends there, including Sofyan pictured here.

sofyan_with_ilx

Sofyan and I took my ILX for a spin.  He drives a Fathom Blue ILX 6-speed back at his home in Washington D.C. so he felt right at home!

sofyan_tyson_with_ilx

Redline Productions provided me the Media credential that would allow me into the show.

tyson_nametag

Weather in Los Angeles was overcast and a bit wet for my two-day visit, but our view from the 20th floor of the hotel was still pretty nice to look at.

view_from_hotel

Arriving at day 1 of the auto show: Sofyan and I were ready to geek out on all the shiny new rides.

tyson_sofyan

I made a beeline for the Acura exhibit, of course.  Here was the new RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD in all its glory.

rlx_side

rlx_rear

rlx_right_rear

Notice that push-button transmission selector on the center console.

rlx_interior

The entire Acura booth is new & improved this year with a fresh redesign.  The RLX and MDX were featured on turntables, with the rest of the Acura models (black in color) surrounding the center stage.  There was no NSX on display this time.

acura_booth

The ILX there was a 6-speed manual.

ilx_at_show

I met up with a good friend from Atlanta named Davis who runs Rockland Media.

davis_adams_with_tyson

On the automaker side, I met up with Chuck Schifsky, Manager of Acura Public Relations.  Chuck asked how the ILX was doing and I happily gave him a full report.

chuck_tyson

Here’s John Watts, Sr. Manager of Digital Marketing.  John played a key role in my Drive to Five celebration as well as my entry into the ILX ownership world.  He and I have continued to keep in touch over the years.

tyson_john

Finally, I met up with Alicia Jones (National Manager, Honda & Acura Social Marketing) and Lauren Ebner (Assistant Manager of Social Media at Honda).  These ladies are fun to visit with and I always look forward to reconnecting with them at events like these.  Social media is a lot more difficult to manage than it looks!

alicia_tyson_lauren

The new Civic coupe sports a fresh front end for 2014, as well as some new technology including push-button start for certain trim levels.

civic_coupe_front

Honda Accord Hybrid was named as 2014 Green Car of the Year, thanks to its remarkable 50 mpg rating.

honda_booth

A few non-Honda/Acura cars also caught my eye.  One was the Cadillac Elmiraj concept.

cadillac_elmiraj

The new Subaru WRX was unveiled before a huge spectator crowd.

wrx_reveal

Beautiful Audi R8 in matte blue – I enjoyed!

blue_r8

Just hanging out inside a $400k Lexus LFA!

tyson_inside_lfa

Jackson, Sofyan, Rob, and Tyson – finishing out day 1 at the auto show.

jackson_sofyan_rob_tyson

I had considered attending an after-party in West Hollywood sponsored by one of the automakers, but I took one glance at the map and decided against that idea.  Look at all that red!  LA traffic at its finest.

la_map

Day 2 of the show was a little more laid-back.  Each automaker had brought out its entire fleet for display.

sofyan_at_honda_booth

I had the opportunity to meet a celebrity!  Brian Cooley, host of “CNET on Cars” auto reviews, was filming a piece on a Ford Fusion Plug-In, and I approached him to get a picture.

tyson_with_brian_cooley

I was star-struck!  What a great time at the LA Auto Show.

In closing, what you can’t see in my hand in the below picture is a license plate.  An ARIZONA license plate.  Yes, my friends, I have now taken full custody of the ILX and made it my own!

tyson_with_ilx_license_plate

This means the ILX and I are in it for the long haul, and you can expect to see a whole lot more in the future as I continue to explore the country in my Acura.  Thanks to all of you for reading!

ilx_plate

Drive to Five Review: 2014 Acura MDX

Posted in Arizona, MDX, Road Trip, Vehicle Reviews on November 19, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (MDX):  3,180

3180

Odometer (ILX):  59,275

59275

Odometer (Legend):  527,902

527902

ilx_mdx_headlights

Button Bestseller

Of the 14,296 new Acuras sold last month, 39% of them were this one single model.  What makes it so special?  After being coddled and pampered by Acura’s flagship RLX Advance sedan last weekend, I set out to put its SUV counterpart through a similar evaluation and find out.

mdx_ilx_head_to_head

When I was growing up, my family’s go-anywhere rig was this Grenadine Metallic 1988 Jeep Cherokee Laredo 4×4.  My dad called it the “rattle trap,” and for very good reason.  It was perhaps the most unrefined vehicle I’ve ever been in.  We subjected it to multiple rugged hunting trips and I recall at least one time when the inline-6 engine overheated while pulling our 2 jetskis home from Lake Mead in Nevada.

jeep_right_rear

Those 15″ Eagle Alloy custom wheels were so 1990’s, weren’t they?

It’s mind-boggling how far the SUV world has come in the 25 model years since that rickety 1988 Jeep rolled off the line.  I got a brief taste of the all-new 2014 Acura MDX Advance at the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year competition a couple of weeks ago, and the MDX reigned supreme in the “Luxury Family” division there.  As over 100 athlete evaluators agreed, luxury is a role that the MDX fits very well.  It provides so many creature comforts that the window sticker has 54 separate bullet points to describe everything that’s included.

mdx_interior

Most journalists would probably be content to just drive the MDX for a week in their normal urban commutes (yawn).  On Saturday, I decided to grab a few adventurous friends and take things a step further:  I took the MDX off-roading.

group_with_mdx

Today’s Route

Arizona Highway 88 – the “Apache Trail” – has long been a favorite drive of mine.  It’s a road with split personalities:  for the first 20 or so miles, it’s a paved two-laner with hairpins and sharp curves in abundance.  For the last 20 miles, it’s an off-road experience with some of the best desert scenery in the southwestern United States.  I last drove this road in June in the ILX.  On Saturday, I rallied a few amigos and headed for the Apache Trail hills in search of some MD Xcapades.  Here’s the route we took from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake.

az88_map

Fueled up on $7.95 “All American” breakfast combos from the Waffle House in Apache Junction, Arizona, 9 of us set out in 3 vehicles to explore these great back-roads:  the 2014 Acura MDX Advance, a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder, and a 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer.  For the first stretch of road, I took the lead and set the pace as we climbed the twisty switchbacks of the Apache Trail.  I loved the MDX step-in height and its commanding presence on the road (I’m used to cars that sit much lower).

The 3.5 liter V6 was anxious to provide necessary torque.  Did you know that its 290-hp powerplant has no scheduled tune-ups for over 100,000 miles?  That’s something worth considering if you’re a hyper-miler like me.  The degree of body roll was far less than I would have expected from a vehicle of its high profile.  On the road, the MDX behaved more like a sedan than an SUV.

tyson_driving_mdx

vehicle_lineup_on_az88

A Change of Scenery

Soon, we passed a yellow sign on the side of the road:  “PAVEMENT ENDS 500 FEET.”  I was unfraid.

As the blacktop ended and we passed a Saturn Vue that was crawling along at a snail’s pace, the MDX began to show its prowess as a mountain crawler.  Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) gave me confidence and competence in conquering the road’s terrain.  Right away, I noticed how helpful the MacPherson strut front suspension was at soaking up the washboard ruts on the road.  The suspension tuning, coupled with the AWD system, enabled all 4 tires to grab even when I went heavy on the throttle.  The MDX grips the road like it’s driving on fly-paper.  I tried unsuccessfully for 22 dirty miles to get it to lose traction.

mdx_front_right_on_apache_trail

15mph

You know those grab handles attached to the ceiling above each door inside most vehicles?  Better make sure those are tightly fastened before attempting to descend the “Fish Creek Grade” on the Apache Trail.  The ruts in the narrow dirt road quickly increased in size, the grade led us sharply downward, and there was nothing but a wooden plank guardrail separating us from plummeting into the sandstone canyon hundreds of feet below.  Still, the MDX was easy to navigate.  Its ground clearance was more than ample for making this descent, and the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters allowed me to keep the vehicle in 2nd gear without riding the brakes.

view_on_apache_trail

The MDX hauled 6 people down the dirt road with ease, and the truest testament to MDX people-hauling capability was this:  Nobody got motion sick!  After Nick and Kurt got settled into the far back seat, I heard Nick ask, “Now, where’s the button that I push for Tyson to bring me a drink back here?”  He found accommodations adequate there, which is rare for anyone who’s ever been forced to squeeze into the tiny seats found in most 3-row SUVs.  But I won’t be offering in-flight beverages any time soon.  Sorry Nick.

mdx_on_apache_trail_2

Return to Phoenix

Our crew took but a few minutes to soak up the sights at Roosevelt Dam before setting out for the trip back to Phoenix.  Roosevelt was, after all, the largest stone dam in the world when it was completed in 1911.  My passengers were all too anxious to hop back into their seats and get cozy once again for the drive back home to Scottsdale.  Paul took shotgun while Conor and Brad took the 2nd row – mastering the how-to of the MDX’s “Entertainment Package”.  They watched a DVD featuring some classic Will Farrell skits from Saturday Night Live.

With plenty of amenities for driver and passengers, the MDX made our 2-hour drive home quick and painless.  We quite enjoyed the heated/ventilated seats and the ELS audio system to the fullest.  Even at 65-75 mph, the MDX was quiet and refined.  The adaptive cruise control & lane departure systems (as also found on the recently reviewed RLX) added safety and ease to my driving experience.  All-in, this MDX retailed for $57,400.  For those interested in knowing, I averaged 20.7 miles per gallon with my lead foot, right in line with the EPA 21 mpg overall rating.

dirty_mdx

mdx_pathfinder_lancer

Pro:

  • Very solid, premium materials.  “I love the feel of this leather,” said my friend Jason.
  • Cavernous (and very usable) storage.  Even the center console is huge enough to accommodate a purse or small laptop.  I stored a hooded sweatshirt and my camera in there.
  • Nice luxury touches.  The interior door handles are backlit by blue LED lights at night.
  • Ride quality both on- and off-road.  The MDX is extremely versatile – a true go-anywhere vehicle.
  • Comfort & convenience is top notch. Tri-zone climate control makes everyone happy.

Con:

  • Touch-screen is subject to glare and fingerprints, both of which impeded my visibility at certain times of day.
  • Entertainment system operation somewhat complex to learn.  One of my passengers said, “Kids would never figure this out.”  To which another said, “They’d probably figure it out faster than we are.”

Final Take

When the 2014 MDX showed up in my driveway last Wednesday, I text messaged a picture of it to a friend. “I’ve always liked the MDX,” he said, “… for upple-middle class mommies.”  Indeed, this vehicle is a home run with families.  It’s the SUV that moms choose when they’ve become too good for a Honda Odyssey minivan.  But in my week with the MDX, I became convinced that there’s so much more to this vehicle than just being a complacent people-hauler.  It’s equally at home on a dusty, remote mountain road as it is in a strip mall parking lot.

The MDX is the perfect match for anyone who needs all-terrain, all-weather capability but who doesn’t want to sacrifice creature comforts.  I only wish it had rained torrential downpours on Saturday so I could return the vehicle to Acura wearing a thick layer of well-earned mud.  Thanks to Acura for letting me take the MDX for a whirl!

Check out the rest of the pics and video from our day below.

Washing cars before the drive.  Only a true car fanatic would do such a thing.  Nick and Kurt wiping down the Nissan 300ZX convertible.

nick_kurt_washing_z

Matt’s Pathfinder was an Australian-spec, right-hand-drive vehicle.

matt_in_rhd_pathfinder

Breakfast of champions.  Or, breakfast of fatties.  Waffle House is a great place to start the day.

waffle_house_breakfast

Arrival at Tortilla Flat, Arizona:  This place was once a stagecoach stop and is now a popular tourist destination for those exploring the Superstition Mountains.

z_arrival_tortilla_flat

We happened to arrive shortly after a group of Mustang owners, so we backed our 3-row SUVs in as if we belonged there.

suvs_with_mustangs

Road conditions got progressively worse as we distanced ourselves from civilization at Tortilla Flat.

tortilla_creek

Corralling the troops for a quick chat before beginning our next leg.

group_at_tortilla_flat

Tyson, Paul, Conor.  I don’t remember what I was gesturing for.

tyson_paul_conor_tortilla_flat

Finally, feeding the MDX a taste of Arizona dirt.

mdx_on_apache_trail

As the Apache Trail made its way toward Roosevelt Lake, there are dozens of opportunities for shots like these.  Views are spectacular year-round.  Here, the MDX was in the lead with the Pathfinder and the Lancer following behind.

apache_trail_cars

We made a stop at the Fish Creek bridge to do a little hiking.  It was perfect weather outside, after all.

mdx_fish_creek_bridge

The MDX “Jewel Eye” headlights mirror those found in its RLX sedan sibling.

mdx_lancer_at_fish_creek

This bridge dates back to the early 1900’s when construction workers used the Apache Trail to deliver supplies for construction of the Roosevelt Dam.

nick_kurt_at_fish_creek

Hiking around a little – Nick, Alan, Matt, Ian, and Conor

group_at_fish_creek_2

Back to the vehicles we go.

pathfinder_mdx_lancer

A layer of dust descended on the formerly nice MDX paintjob.

dusty_mdx

Here’s where we tried out some of the MDX’s people-hauling skills, with rows 1, 2, and 3 each filled with 2 passengers.  Nick and Kurt tried out the back.

nick_kurt_mdx_backseat

Conor and I rode up front.

group_in_mdx

Kurt says I always capture him pointing.  So, he found something to point at!

kurt_pointing

Ian’s Lancer looked right at home on the Apache Trail as well – ready to rally.

ian_lancer

I was impressed with how well Ian’s car was able to keep up with the SUVs in our caravan.

ian_lancer_on_bridge

I’ve blogged before about the 357-foot-tall Roosevelt Dam.

roosevelt_dam

As well as the 1,080-foot-long bypass bridge on Highway 188.

group_at_roosevelt_lake

I’d definitely say we were inspired by the Inspiration Point Interpretive Overlook.

inspiration_point

On the way home, Conor and Brad test drove the Entertainment system, which came with a 16.2″ wide-screen monitor and wireless headsets.

conor_brad

Here’s that center console I was writing about earlier.  Massive space!

mdx_console

Time for an MDX bath with the help of friends.  I did a great job supervising this effort while Conor, Paul, and Brad slaved away.

group_washing_mdx

Conor drives a silver Acura TSX so he knows all-too-well how to keep an Acura looking shiny.

conor_washing_mdx

The MDX and its sibling ILX share a family resemblance but each vehicle has a distinct purpose.

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Signing out until next time!

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Reader’s Ride: Jason’s 2010 TL SH-AWD

Posted in Reader's Ride on November 17, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  527,894

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Odometer (ILX):  59,237

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A new Acura roamed into the neighborhood this afternoon.  My good friend Jason, who’s joined for various Drive to Five escapades in the past including Coronado Trail, stopped by my home to show off his sporty new ride.

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My driveway often looks a lot like an Acura dealership’s lot.  Feast your eyes on this stunning 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6-speed manual.  That’s a mouthful to say, so let’s just call his car one word:  HOT.

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Paul, at left, has the white 2013 TL SH-AWD.  Jason’s “new” 2010 on the right is Crystal Black, and it’s in showroom shape for being already 3 years old.

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Jason and his friend Jouhl made Phoenix one of their pit stops en route to their hometown in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Jason just picked up his new TL yesterday in Sherman Oaks, CA.  His total drive will be 12 hours or so.  Here my ILX is sandwiched between the two TLs for a photo-op.

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The interior is nicely outfitted in black leather.

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With fewer than 25,000 miles on the odometer, this car has a long life ahead.

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I must say, after having taken Jason’s car for a quick ride around the block, I loved it!

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This car is powered by Acura’s 3.7-liter V6 with 305 horsepower.  Plenty of oomph for those onramp bursts.

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Safe travels to Jason and Jouhl as they continue their journey home to New Mexico tonight!  I look forward to meeting up with them for a drive in the near future.

Drive to Five Review: 2014 Acura RLX Advance

Posted in Arizona, RLX, Road Trip, Vehicle Reviews on November 13, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (RLX):  7,339

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Odometer (ILX):  59,099

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Odometer (Legend):  527,807

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The Acura RLX greeted me with “Come on in, Tyson,” by illuminating its exterior door handle as I approached the driver’s side.  I stepped carefully over the stainless steel door sill and settled into the ivory-skinned bucket seat.  My index finger instinctively went for the start button and awakened 310 well-trained horses from their slumber.  The subtle sound of Jazz music drifted through the airwaves via 14 high-end speakers, and the car’s automatic climate control immediately customized the cabin environment to my liking.  This, my friends, was not just a car.  It was a full-blown, Acura-fied luxury travel experience and I had just scored a front-row seat.

RLX Heritage

In its day, the Acura Legend was the biggest and the best that the Honda lineup of automobiles had to offer.  When my Legend LS coupe was new in 1994, it sold for a whopping $41,885.   For comparison, a top-line Honda Accord EX at the time was $19,950.  The Legend flagship had features that were far ahead of its time.  Twenty years later, the Acura RLX carries on that same mission:  It delivers unsurpassed tech features, the most advanced safety systems in the industry, and performance levels that only sports cars could dream of in the 1990’s.

Here’s the RLX ancestry summarized in simple list form:

  • 1986 – 1995:  Acura Legend
  • 1996 – 2013:  Acura RL
  • 2014+:  Acura RLX

Generations 1, 2, and 5:

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Generation 3:  This was my mom’s 2000 3.5 RL that we loved dearly.

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A year ago, I traveled to the Los Angeles Auto Show for the debut of the all-new RLX Concept.  The world was mesmerized by its Jewel Eye headlamps and its innovative Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS).

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It’s time to now put that design to a real-world Drive to Five evaluation.  The latest iteration of Acura’s flagship sedan brings more to the table than ever before;  I shared the extensive list of features of this car in my post linked above, so I won’t go into those details again.  Let’s cut to the chase:  How’s it perform?

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Where To This Time, Tyson?

The engineers of the RLX have gone to great lengths to give it optimal handling and balance.  I thought it fitting that I would put that P-AWS to test in a drive with several friends on one of Arizona’s curviest roads:  the Catalina Highway.

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Constructed in 1933 as a way to reach the resort town of Summerhaven from Tucson, Arizona, the Catalina Highway climbs over 6,000 feet in a distance of 27 miles.  And these aren’t leisurely miles.  This is the type of highway where “both-hands-on-the-wheel” attention is critical.  Catalina is loaded with hairpin curves, narrow shoulders, and blind corners — all great elements for a thrill ride.  I took the ILX there last year.

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My tester RLX was dressed in the color that every luxury sedan looks best in:  Black.  The Crystal Black Pearl RLX that I drove this week was equipped with both the Tech package and the Advance package.

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After logging over 300 miles in the RLX on Saturday, I felt like I could hop back in the driver’s seat and easily do it all over again.  To that end, I have discovered perhaps the RLX’s best attribute: It’s a car that makes every drive seem effortless.  Its quiet, composed, and predictable behavior makes it comfortable for any distance.  I would, without hesitation, drive the RLX to Fairbanks, Alaska and back.  Twice.

My friend Ryan, who drives a 2006 Acura TL, stated, “The ergonomics are very Honda.”  It takes just a few minutes to get comfortable and to become acquainted with the key controls.  The interior design is masterfully executed in both form and function.  Two-tone door panels add visual interest and the sweeping instrument panel gives a feeling of cavernous interior dimensions.  I’m quite certain the rear seat leg room is better than any first class airline.  Oh, and those back seats are heated, too.

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Canyon Carving

Now here’s where I wanted to lure out the RLX’s alter-ego.  Inside that chiseled body and vault-like interior, does this car have a heartbeat?  Can it evoke any kind of performance driving excitement?  I assure you, after absolutely mashing the RLX accelerator to the floor and flying up the Catalina Highway, the answer is a resounding YES.

Most people wouldn’t take a luxury car in hot pursuit of a more powerful 2-seater sportscar, but that’s exactly what I did.  When Matt set an aggressive pace up Mount Lemmon in his Nissan 370Z 6-speed, the RLX was right there on his tail.  Sport Mode, I discovered, changes the entire personality of the RLX.  Shift points are modifed.  Engine response is notably different.  And when pushed, the RLX chassis is composed and firm.  When others in our 8-car caravan were having to cut corners in the twisties, I was able to keep the car within my lane and retain absolute control over its direction.  Dare I say it?  This car was fun to toss around.  And “toss” isn’t a word that you usually associate with a vehicle that weighs 4,000 pounds and has features like a power rear window sunshade.

With the stereo blasting Sirius XM channel 51 (BPM), all 4 windows down and the moonroof wide open, I was in my element, calling those 310 willing horses into action.  On one leg of the trip, I had a passenger, Jack, comment, “This thing has some growl when you get on it!”  He wasn’t kidding.  The engine note from the direct-injected 3.5 liter V6 is addicting; one listen and you’ll want to hold the car in gear with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and let it sing all the way to the redline.  That’s what I did.

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Return to Phoenix

After having my faith in Acura’s “Precision Crafted Performance” heritage reinforced, my friends and I headed back to Phoenix with our hodge-podge of vehicles.  The RLX feels right at home at 80 mph on the interstate.  In fact, the cabin was so quiet that Jack was asleep in the passenger seat for a good chunk of the drive.

The RLX is just about as close as you can get to an autonomous car:  With the lane-keeping assist system (LKAS) activated, the car will retain its position in a lane.  If the driver removes his or her hands from the wheel long enough, it will prompt with a message “Steering Required” to make sure he or she is awake.  The adaptive cruise control made my trip a breeze – even with notoriously heavy traffic on the Tucson-to-Phoenix I-10 corridor.  The car maintained a preset distance from the vehicle ahead of us.  These types of features would make a long drive amazing.

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Real-World Insights – Pros:

  • The ultimate cross-country ride.  Very refined, quiet and smooth on the highway.  Zero wind noise.  The doors close solidly.  The car has “substance” and feels quality throughout.  Grant Road in Tucson is in horrible shape, but the RLX made it bearable.
  • Comfort is top-notch.  Ventilated seats work almost immediately – a feature that would be used frequently here in Phoenix.
  • Safety and driver-assistance features are great helps, especially the adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist systems.
  • Competent canyon carver.  Despite its size, the RLX suspension is confidence-inspiring.  P-AWS is subtle yet important for helping this big car feel nimble in tight cornering situations.
  • Luxury is cutting edge.  Love the little touches like power folding sideview mirrors.  Jack said, “Now this is luxury” when he was playing with the rear window sunshades.

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Cons:

  • Front-wheel-drive platform does exhibit some tire spin from hard acceleration.  AWD will help this car launch with more authority.
  • Dual-screen instrument panel interface is often duplicative in nature.  When I changed the music volume via the steering wheel control, it showed the audio level in 3 separate places!  Also, the album art is teeny and there appears to be plenty of space to make it bigger.
  • For a $61k car, it should have foglights.

Final Take

The Acura RLX gets more than its share of criticism.  I heard, “Looks like an Impala,” a couple of times this week while showing it off.  And some people will never get over the front end styling no matter how much Acura refines it.  But I honestly feel like if everyone who judged this car would take a few moments in the driver’s seat before declaring it a failure, their ballots would swing completely in the other direction.

The RLX brought just a huge grin to my face as I threw it around the corners at Mount Lemmon, and it pampered me in the process.  The travel experience in the RLX can be as engaging OR as effortless as the driver wishes to make it.  That’s the beauty of this car.  Want to rocket up the mountain and hug those curves?  Great.  Feeling drained after a hectic workday?  I can think of no better vehicle to commute in.  The RLX can play many roles, and I can say with certainty that it’s a vehicle I would be proud to own.  Thanks to Acura for the loan!

Here are the rest of the pictures & a video from Saturday’s adventure.

Kelvin, Jim, Brad pre-departure

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Staging for the trip:  NSX, 370Z, RS5, TL SH-AWD

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The guys, chatting it up before leaving the Phoenix area

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Kelvin checks out the interior of the RLX

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I guess the Acuras didn’t get the “let’s back in” parking memo.  Nick’s Aztec Red Nissan Z was by far the lowest vehicle of the bunch.

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How’s that synchro-rev tranny treating you, Matt?

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Taking a breather at Windy Point lookout, about halfway to the summit.  Will, Matt, Alan, Paul, Kurt, Nick

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What was Kurt pointing at here?

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Little hike to a scenic overlook:  Allen, Paul, Brad, Tyson

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Soaking up the scenery:  Kurt, Paul, Nick

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The guys admiring some of those RLX lines

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Two sport coupes with completely different missions

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Lunch at Fortunato’s Italian Deli on Tanque Verde Rd in Tucson

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Will gets cozy in the RLX driver seat

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Kelvin takes a peek at its 3.5-liter engine

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And Kurt… well, I don’t know what Kurt was doing here

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A look at the RLX dual-screen interface

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Rolling back home

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And a sunset pic with the Acura brothers, Tyson and Paul

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Thanks as always to my friends for joining for the drive, whether in person or via the blog.

For Sale: 1988 Acura Legend L Coupe

Posted in Legend on November 10, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  527,770

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Odometer (ILX):  59,042

59042

“Classic car restoration.”  If you’re like most people, these words conjure up images of a barn find 1968 Camaro in a couple decades worth of dust, undergoing a transformation to a chrome-laden hot rod with a souped-up, thundering V8 motor.  For me, a recent restoration effort took a completely different route.   It’s hard to believe that the earliest Acuras from the 1980’s are now considered historic vehicles.

The Legend coupe, which debuted in 1987, was an iconic car that launched Acura into the front lines of a competitive luxury car battle.  It offered the complete package:  All the amenities that the German luxo-brands were offering, but with Honda reliability.  It soared to the top of the sales charts and was widely praised for its technology and driving demeanor.

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Over the last couple of months, I took a non-running, low-mileage Persian Red 1988 Acura Legend and put it back on the road where it belongs.  After sitting unregistered and non-driving for over two years, the car was in dire need of some critical maintenance when I took ownership of it on Labor Day weekend.  It was mechanically overhauled and brought back to running, driving, & braking condition.  My extensive “Build” thread on the Legend forums has amassed over 7,800 views and 250 responses since I started it in September.  Now it’s time to find this orphan Legend a new, worthy owner since I don’t have the space for it.

If anyone you know is looking for a clean classic Legend coupe, please have them give my Ebay ad a look.  The car has only about 98,800 miles on it and is barely broken in by Drive to Five standards.

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Here’s the link to my Buy-It-Now (Or Make Offer) listing on Ebay.

Getting the key back in September:

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After hundreds of hours of effort, it’s looking like a nice ride again:

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262 copy

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Thanks to my friend John for his photography work, and to my many other friends who helped me along the way with sourcing parts and completing this project!  Hope it goes to a good home.

A few screen shots from my Ebay ad:

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