Archive for the PAPA Category

Fast Car Friday: 2018 Southwest Lifestyle Media Drive in Chandler, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on October 21, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  563,683

Every once in a while, I get to feast on an automotive sampler platter by driving a dozen or more new cars in a single day.  Sounds like a pretty awesome way to see where the auto industry is going, right?  This past Friday, I participated in the Southwest Lifestyle Media Drive in Chandler, Arizona at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

The available offerings came from a wide array of configurations:  A 104-horsepower Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid and a 797-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye are at vastly different ends of the performance spectrum, but both of them played a strong game as contenders in this unique “vehicle of the year” program.

The Southwest Lifestyle event builds on a former event called the Active Lifestyle Vehicle (ALV) of the Year that was 14 years running.  ALV Co-Founder Nina Russin stepped away after her many years of success, and journalist Becky Antioco took the reins to reinvent it as something fresh and new.  The result was a 1-day program hosted at the Bondurant Racing School facility where about 20 journalists put 17 vehicles through their paces and ultimately cast ballots to name top winners in 5 categories.  Here were the final results:

  • Car of the Year – Best Value:  2019 Kia Forte EX
  • Car of the Year – Performance / Luxury:  2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Redeye
  • SUV/CUV of the Year – Best Value:  2019 Subaru Ascent
  • SUV/CUV of the Year – Luxury:  2018 Lexus LX570
  • Truck of the Year:  2019 RAM 1500 Longhorn

SLMD kicked off on Thursday evening with a reception at the Sheraton Grand Resort, giving local journalists the chance to interact with representatives from the auto manufacturers in a casual setting with food & beverages.  Friday’s activities started early, with a lineup of fully spit-shined new cars ready to pound the pavement by the time registration got underway at 8:00 a.m.

Both on- and off-road drive routes were made available – the latter subjecting the trucks & SUVs to a pretty gnarly series of terrain challenges that were custom-built for the event by Bondurant staff.  Scott Brown from Fiat-Chrysler was proud of how the company’s latest Wrangler “JL” made light work of those obstacles.  It was a very competitive playing field all around, and ultimately the Subaru took top honors.  Journalists may have been swayed by the fact that it has 19 cup holders.

For the on-road portion, a 20-minute drive route gave journalists the chance to subject vehicles to both city & highway driving environments, thanks to easy access to the Interstate 10 onramp and traffic-free surface streets in the near vicinity.  This playground was where I first experienced that nearly-800-horsepower Hellcat as well as the new, limited-edition 480-horsepower Ford Mustang Bullitt.

The Mustang’s release coincides with the famous Steve McQueen movie “Bullitt” which was released 50 years ago exactly, and the model plays homage to that heritage and history.  According to Sam Schembari-Negroni from Ford, engineers even modeled the car’s exhaust note after the original.  I found the car an awesome all-around package – especially its slick-shifting 6-speed manual.

Rounding out the lineup were an assortment of other trucks, SUVs, and passenger cars – each selected for the event because of the characteristics that make them great vehicles for folks living in the southwest.  In about 4 hours’ drive time – broken up by a delicious BBQ lunch sponsored by Fiat-Chrysler, I had the opportunity to drive 12 of the 17 vehicles, and I can say with a certainty that I’m excited about the direction things are going in the auto industry and it’s a great time to be a driver and enthusiast.

I thank the Southwest Lifestyle Media event directors as well as the automakers for the opportunity to participate!

New Kia Forte

With Natalie Kumaratne from Honda and James Lee from Six Speed Blog, at the opening reception

Our host facility for Friday’s fun

Event Directory Becky gives us a welcome & instructions

Test-driving a Honda Pilot Elite

The Volkswagen Alltrack, left, was 1 of 3 vehicles in the event with a manual transmission, which I was glad to see.  The Infiniti QX50, at right, was a nice family cruiser.

This was some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had.

My pick was a “burnt ends” combo platter with cole slaw on the side.

Winner in the luxo-SUV category was this big Lexus

Scott Brown, right, explains some of the features of the new “JL” Wrangler Sahara.

Buy a Car Like You Buy a Snickers: Carvana Vending Machine Tour

Posted in Arizona, PAPA on September 19, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  207,017

It wasn’t long ago (exactly a year, now that I look at it) when I introduced you to Carvana’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona.  A nice facility it was – complete with a “library” study area that felt like it was plucked out of a 19th century Victorian mansion.  Now, Carvana has upped its game even more in the Tempe area, with a vending machine that dispenses cars.  And this one (the company’s 12th) is the largest in the country.  It’s 9 stories tall and has capacity for 34 vehicles.  But unlike that snack machine in the hallway of your undergrad university, you can’t shake it when your purchase gets stuck, and you’ll need a heck of a lot more than just spare change to buy its contents.

Carvana and other similar, 100% online-based car-buying companies have changed the way we think about purchasing a vehicle.  While many oppose the movement saying, “This is one step closer to making used cars an appliance you can buy on Amazon,” is that such a bad thing?  For the many people who want to cut out the salespeople and the negotiation, maybe the convenience is worth the mystery of buying a car without driving it first?  Here I was sampling a 2011 TSX Sport Wagon with detailed inside & outside, 360-degree views.

That’s one heck of a token.

I’ll be the first to say – the Carvana business model appeals to me in concept, but I’m likely not a target customer for this scenario.  Number one, the cars I’m usually hunting for are far too old (and rare) to be in Carvana inventory – even with 10,550 cars on the list.  And number two, a test drive is an absolute must when it comes time to actually pull the trigger on something.

But I admire the effort, and I can’t argue with the fact that our Carvana tour guide said they’re cycling through inventory in the vending machine every two days.  That’s pretty good volume, and it doesn’t even take into consider the vast majority of people who take delivery via flatbed truck at their homes rather than opting for the novelty of a token-dispensed automobile.  And they do have a 7-day, 400-mile, “no questions asked,” return policy.

It was a lot of fun to get up close and personal with the vending machine, including a demo of its operation from within the tower.  Along with a few other members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) I was glad to finally get a glimpse of this cool concept that I’d been watching under construction for the last several months along the Loop 202 freeway.

Word to the wise, though:  It is a greenhouse, and it heats up like one.  If that Silverado were a Snickers, it would have melted already.

New car scent – bottled!

Photo booth as part of our media event.

Thumbs up for the cupcakes & refreshments!

Here are a few other news bits:

My friend Hy who recently hit 130,000 miles on his 1993 Honda Accord SE has now passed the 25-year ownership mark.

We took the car up to the dealership where it had been sold new, on the anniversary of the occasion (September 8).  Congrats, Hy!

After owning my 1992 Integra GS for 4 months, I decided to say hello to the prior / original owner.  She was glad I did.

I finally finished putting my display case together, including some very special Ayrton Senna swag.

Thanks to my friend Charles for this:

Couple of articles for you to peruse, including this great one from Eric Weiner on the nostalgia of 1990s Acuras for Hagerty.

And this piece for ClassicCars.com, which is a variation of what I already posted here on the blog regarding JCCS.

Finally, some used cars you will probably want to consider:

My friend Ira is selling his STUNNING 2002 NSX-T with only 35,000 miles on it.  It’s 1 of 13 in the color combination.  He recently upgraded to a Nouvelle Blue 2017 model (as seen in the background), so the gen 1 is up for grabs.  Check out the link to the consignment shop here.

And we have a special TSX Sport Wagon here:  Owned by one of Acura’s senior executives and well-preserved with only 44,000 original miles.  This is a 2012 “Tech” model in Crystal Black Pearl on black leather, with some upgraded 19″ Honda Factory Performance wheels and a Whispbar roof rack system for you cyclists out there.  Any inquiries, contact me directly and I’ll put you in touch.

There were only around 10,000 TSX Sport Wagons produced – around 8% of 2nd gen TSX production.  Very few are out there in this color combination with such low miles and well kept condition.

Have a great week!  I’m off to the Grand Canyon tomorrow for a hiking adventure, so don’t try to reach me!

Hot Stuff: Toyota’s Arizona Proving Ground (TAPG) Intro & Presentation

Posted in PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on August 16, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  563,505

It’s a little ironic that a vehicle tested and developed almost exclusively at the one of the hottest places in the desert came to be painted in a color called “Windchill Pearl.”  That’s exactly what happened with the 2019 Toyota Avalon that was on display for the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) journalist group last night at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Now in its fifth generation, the Avalon continues to raise the bar ever-higher as Toyota’s flagship sedan.  Cory Tafoya, Principal Engineer from the Vehicle Performance Development team, walked PAPA members through a slideshow illustrating how Arizona’s test track has become such an important venue for not only the Avalon project, but for every Toyota model from the tiny iQ microcar to the six-figure supercar Lexus LC500.

Every automaker puts its prototype and in-development models through the rigors of hot weather testing, and for good reason.  Last December I was able to make a visit to one such track (but operated by Honda) in Cantil, California where I drove the new Acura NSX at 155 miles per hour on the oval.  Toyota’s oval is even longer at 10 miles in total distance – making it, in fact, the longest oval track in the world.

Located about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, desert ground was broken for the new Toyota Arizona Proving Ground (or TAPG) in a 1991 ceremony.  The facility went on to become one of the largest of its kind, with nearly 80 miles of testing facilities across 12,000 acres.  In April 2018, it celebrated 25 years of being in operation.

Look at that Camry breaking new ground – figuratively and literally.

Test track in relation to Phoenix:

Speakers in the PAPA program included a few of the roughly 40 associates who work at the proving ground, as well as Technology Communications Analyst Brian Watkins who had flown in from Ann Arbor for the presentations.  Project Manager Richard Woodroffe gave an overview of track operations and fielded questions from the group regarding “typical day” workload tasks, security / surveillance, and a little about how the innovations at the track end up being incorporated into production vehicles.

DJ Quint then shared some fun sidebar stories about extracurricular activities that take place at the track – namely, participation in a small grassroots race team that campaigns a 2013 Scion FR-S (now badged as a Toyota 86) in a series of endurance races in the western United States.  Starting with limited resources and little race experience, DJ and his colleagues have gone on to successfully compete in 27 events over the last 4 years and aspire to take part in this year’s “24 Hours of Thunderhill” event in California later this year.

As for the Avalon, it’s come a long way since its 1994 model year debut.

My grandpa is 88 years old and has two Avalons (2000 and 2006).  Avalons are among the most reliable cars on the road today.  The new direction for Avalon is to inject some performance and “sport” into a model that historically has catered only to people like my grandpa.

Cory Tafoya is proud of the work he’s been able to do to the latest iteration, including large forward advancements in suspension technology called AVS (Adaptive Variable Suspension).  The 2019 model on display at the Art Museum was eye-catching and surprisingly sporty-looking with its aggressive lines, quad outlet exhausts, and LED lighting.

Now if only its “Windchill Pearl” color had brought Phoenix a cold front along with it.

 

Urban Jeeping: Fiat Chrysler Media Event in Paradise Valley, Arizona

Posted in PAPA on May 21, 2018 by tysonhugie

It’s a Jeep thing – and I definitely don’t understand it fully – but after spending a few miles behind the wheel of the all-new 2018 “JL” Wrangler Rubicon (with a huge grin on my face) I can definitely see why Jeep culture is so strong.  It’s just a shame I had to experience it in the urban grid of central Phoenix as opposed to the red rock Mecca of Moab.  Maybe next time I’ll sneak away for a more “extended test drive” (wink, wink).

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) hosted a handful of members from the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) last week for an up-close look at some of the brand’s new products, including the the Wrangler, refreshed Cherokee, and all-new Ram 1500 pickup truck.  With typical generations lasting upwards of 10 years each, engineers have to work extra hard to make sure their vehicles will withstand the test of time both mechanically and aesthetically.  The Wrangler’s iconic shape has changed very little over the years, and that’s for good reason.  But its underpinnings are as advanced as any modern vehicle should be.

We received a demo from representative Trevor who showed us how the soft top mechanism operates and how the windshield folds completely flat.  Did you know that the fold-flat windshield feature dates back to wartimes, when Jeeps had to be packed as tightly as possible into crates for overseas transport?  I think it’s cool how Jeep has preserved some of those nostalgic features.

The entire vehicle has been built to endure any kind of abuse thrown at it.  Pre-production JL Wranglers were put through 16 hour “mist tests” with non-stop exposure to water, and all of the dash and electronic components still operated successfully.  There are a total of 5 USB ports in the vehicle.  Just when you thought there was a competition to incorporate the most cupholders in a vehicle, Jeep has now done it with USB ports.  Cuz you gotta have your iPhone fully charged to capture video of that next summit up Hell’s Revenge trail.  Yikes!

The Rubicon that I drove was a 6-speed manual, 4-door in Firecracker Red.  It took me a minute to get accustomed to the clutch engagement point but once I made my way out of the parking at Lon’s at the Hermosa, I was enjoying every minute of having the wind my hair and the sun on my face.  The Wrangler is just an all-around fun vehicle to drive – and for being such a capable off-roader, it surprised me how gracefully it handed city surface streets in and around the Paradise Valley area on my 6-mile drive loop.

My favorite Ram was the Bighorn in white – a truck so advanced, it practically drives itself… through any terrain… with a trailer.  Throw a task at this truck, and it will probably reign victorious.  Ram trucks are now available with a largest-in-class 12″ touch-screen, 100+ safety & security features, and a 360-degree surround-view camera.

Some of the other features I found impressive were related to towing.  The truck itself is long enough to begin with, but adding a boat or camp trailer behind it makes for a pretty nerve-wracking driving experience.  FCA engineers have lessened the stress by developing a blind-spot-monitoring system which smartly takes into consideration the length of the trailer AND the truck combined.  Now that’s smart trucking.

Thanks to Scott Brown, Carrie Owens, and others who made this midday press preview possible!

Fellow automotive journalist Jeff Koch who’s photographed my cars for Hemmings

Refreshed Jeep Cherokee – now with more conventional headlight design

Ram Longhorn 1500:  20″ wheels, heated seats all around, and genuine wood & leather interior.

Fancy!

Might need to get me one of these babies!

Test Drive Friday: 2017 “Active Lifestyle Vehicle” (ALV) of the Year Competition

Posted in Arizona, PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on October 21, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  556,095

There’s nothing quite like an ‘unsupervised’ test drive.  When I took off from home base yesterday in the 2017 Dodge Durango SRT with its 475-horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi V8, I was grinning from ear to ear.  Fiat-Chrysler representative Scott Brown had just unlocked the beast’s full potential for me just moments before by teaching me how to put it in “Sport” mode.  Who knew that a 5,300-pound, 3-row luxury SUV could have a sporty side at all?  I can assure you, it does.  And I’m sure everyone within a mile radius heard me, too.  The exhaust note belched like a muscle car.

(photo below by Mark Elias)

Each fall, automotive journalists and athletes get together to put about two dozen or more new vehicles through their paces and select winners in 9 categories.  This year was ALV’s 14th, based at the Hilton Phoenix-Chandler and taking place on Friday, October 20th.  There are so many “car of the year” programs around the country, but this one positions itself a little differently:  ALV hones in on the opinions of people who have special and more demanding needs for their vehicles – namely, athletes and outdoorsy types.  Bicycle-hauling capability, then, among many other criteria, is one of the things that each registered vehicle is evaluated based upon.

Things got underway on Thursday night with a dinner at Crust Pizzeria in downtown Chandler, sponsored by Toyota.  Friday was a full day of automotive action, with both on- and off-road drive routes available to give attendees a chance to put the vehicles through their paces.  The Butcher Jones Recreation Area, near the banks of Saguaro Lake, offered a perfect setting with multiple types of terrain to demonstrate each vehicle’s unique handling capabilities. I drove there in a 2017 Honda Fit, the bright blue “jellybean” as Public Relations representative Davis Adams called it.  Nicely equipped for $22,000, the Fit was a delightful little ride with a versatile interior, which is probably what pushed it to the winner’s circle when it was voted the best entry in the Urban category.

See all that leg room he has?  Lounge ready!

Sometimes, though, the joy in the event wasn’t just talking tech specs with the manufacturer representatives, but rather getting to know them better.  Nissan Public Relations’ Jannelle Grigsby, fresh in from LA, rocked out with me to SiriusXM radio station “BPM” at full blast, moonroof open and windows down in the newly refreshed 2018 Pathfinder.  It was great to get to know Jannelle and the many others who came out to teach us about what sets their brand’s vehicles apart from the competition.  Jannelle’s Titan took home an award in an off-road category.

Taking my drive loops up the Bush Highway, I cycled in and out of vehicles throughout the day, driving 17 of the entered 27 in total.  I had my faves, for sure.  The new Alfa Romeo Stelvio had incredible pick-up for a 4 cylinder SUV.  The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, though dressed in minivan sheetmetal, is an absolute riot to drive thanks to its torquey powertrain.  The Volvo XC60 had the best audio system in the whole group, made by Bowers & Wilkins.

And as much of a Honda guy as I am, the 2018 Camry XSE V6 absolutely knocked my socks off.  It feels like so much car for $36,000.  It’s also sporty looking, fast, and loaded with tech features you’d expect to see on a luxury car.  I haven’t yet driven the newest Honda Accord but the Camry is fighting hard for its position in the very competitive midsize sedan market segment.  Representative Chad Moore was understandably very proud of what Toyota’s engineers have achieved.

We were privileged to be in the presence of several elite athletes who cast their votes as well.  Triathlete Lewis Elliot and retired NFL player Mark Walczak participated in the day’s events to contribute their athletic perspective.  At the conclusion of our driving day at 4:00 p.m., I drove the Chevy Equinox back to the Hilton.  It was a super comfortable and easy vehicle to commute around in.

Volkswagen, which had brought out the Tiguan and Atlas, satisfied our afternoon snack cravings with refreshments back at the hotel, and then Kia capped off the night by sponsoring a poolside cocktail hour and dinner.  We got an up close look at the all-new Kia Stinger sedan, glistening in blue paint and drawing a crowd outside from hotel guests who weren’t even part of our program.

Meanwhile, team members from The Carlab in Orange County tallied up the votes and ALV’s emcee Rosalie Michaels announced all the winners at the conclusion of the program around 9:00 p.m.  Here were the winners:

  • Best Value Extreme Off Road:  2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X
  • Best Value Family:  2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
  • Best Value Off-Road:  2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk
  • Best Value On-Road:  2018 Volkswagen Tiguan
  • Green:  2017 Chevy Bolt EV
  • High Luxury Off-Road:  2018 Ram Laramie Longhorn Southfork
  • Luxury Family:  2017 Dodge Durango SRT
  • Luxury On-Road:  2017 Alfa Romeo Stelvio
  • Urban:  2018 Honda Fit

Complete vehicle entry list by category:

A few video scenes from throughout the day:

Ready to start a day of driving with Sandra Muñoz (Latinaology) and James Lee (Six Speed Blog)

Our Hilton home base rolled out the red carpet

Breakfast sponsored by Nissan (pictured is Eric Noble from Carlab)

Nina Russin (Carspondent.com) kicking off the activities

With Acura’s Andrew Quillin and the new MDX Hybrid – a fantastic family ride with intuitive handling, impressive performance, and loads of tech

James seems to like the Stelvio!

Let’s just zoom on on his face to be sure:

With Toyota’s Chad Moore and Hannah Johnston in the Camry

Vigor + Civic Type-R in the hotel parking lot.  Finest expressions of Honda performance!  Haha

Quick Introduction: “Carvana” Headquarters in Tempe, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, PAPA on September 14, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra):  240,067

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a vending machine eat your quarters!  If you’re like me, you might have an unlucky relationship with them.  One Phoenix-based company called Carvana has made buying a used vehicle a lot like buying a Snickers.  (Photo credit:  Carvana)

The Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) received an invitation from Director of Communications Amy O’Hara to get a behind-the-scenes look at Carvana on Wednesday, September 6th at the company’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona.

Carvana came about as part of DriveTime, but was spun off and currently operates as a standalone company.

The idea?  Simply put – to make car buying “not suck.”  Give people back their Saturdays, take away the stress and haggling, and ultimately, give people the power to make a vehicle purchase online as simply as they’d make a purchase on Amazon.com.  So far, it’s working.  Launched in 2013, Carvana now has over 7,000 cars in inventory, has expanded to 36 markets and 6 vending machines, and has been ranked in the top 5 on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies.

The car buying process starts with a simple online search application where customers can narrow down their selections and find a vehicle that fits their needs.  From there, the financing (in-house), purchase, and even trade-in can be done online.  When the new vehicle is delivered, the trade-in gets picked up.  Seriously it’s a one-stop-shop operation.  Delivery can also be via one of the 6 vending machines (our closest here in Phoenix is Dallas) and Carvana offers $200 toward the outbound flight of the buyer if they elect to fly in and drive home.

Putting to rest any concerns about satisfaction, Carvana allows buyers a seven day, money-back guarantee so they can drive the vehicle they’ve purchased and find out if it really fits with their lifestyle.  Just for kicks, I searched for an Acura RLX.  There are 3 available.  Amy told us that buyers save on average $1,400 compared to Kelley Blue Book Retail values.

Amy showed our group around the Carvana headquarters overlooking the Rio Salado area.  It’s a large, modern, and open floorplan completed just a few months ago to house the roughly 600 colleagues who work there.  Employee perks are pretty sweet, too.  Among the neat features were a pickleball court, multiple refreshment areas (fully stocked!), and even a “library” equipped with comfortable leather couch and a secret bar that hides behind a rolling bookcase.  “When can I move in?” I felt like asking.  (Sorry, no photos of those special areas were allowed).

Carvana takes great pride in the people who it employs and who it serves.  There are two separate walls in the facility that are plastered in Polaroid-like images of happy customers taking delivery of their vehicles, and another wall dedicated exclusively to moms.  That’s right, a mom wall, showing photos of Carvana employees’ mothers taking delivery of their cars as well.  It truly does feel like a family atmosphere rather than an office or workplace.

Here’s a 30-second video showing a little about how the vending machine experiences goes.

To someone like me who has never purchased a vehicle “sight unseen” the thought of carrying out a complete automotive purchase process online is a little unsettling, but after seeing all the buyer protection in place and learning of the thousands of satisfied customers Carvana has picked up in its mere 4 years, maybe the company is on to something!  Many thanks to the Carvana team, and specifically to Amy, for letting PAPA pay a visit!

(Oh, and since we already asked:  No – you can’t shake the vending machine and get a free car, sorry)

 

Press Preview: 2017 Jeep Compass Limited

Posted in PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on June 6, 2017 by tysonhugie

The good folks at Fiat Chrysler Automotive are friends of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association, and I was one of a handful of journalists invited two weeks ago to attend a launch event locally for the new 2017 Jeep Compass.  If this face looks like a close tie to its larger and more upscale sibling the Grand Cherokee, that’s intentional.

Scott Brown, based in Los Angeles as the West Region Manager, brought a handsome Compass for our group to see & experience – along with a team of subject matter experts who could educate us on what sets it apart from its predecessor as well as from the competition.

The hot “CUV” or compact utility vehicle segment is hot, and about to get even hotter.  The Jeep ‘fomula’ comes through strong with the new Compass,  according to engineer Jim Lyman who’s the Global Model Lead with 26 years’ experience with the company.  The segment accounts for a staggering 6.5 million units sold globally per year – and it’s still growing.  The key to positioning the Compass is in its “something for everyone” strategy:  17 different powertrain configurations, 4 different price classes, but all with Jeep’s known strengths in trail-rated traction articulation and all-terrain capability.

Cosmetically the Compass is a cut above the model that preceded it, now with bi-xenon HID headlamps, standard keyless entry, and additional soft-touch interior materials.  A great deal of development has gone into improvement of driving dynamics, too, with a fully independent front & rear suspension and “active drive” 4×4 system.  Standard power comes from a 2.4 liter, 180-horsepower gasoline engine and 3 transmissions are available including – and this I appreciate – a 6-speed manual.

While it’s sure to look nice prowling the parking lot, Jim ensured us that this Compass is also designed to inspire confidence in other terrain situations.  (Just so you know, it’s capable of fording up to 19 inches of water and pulling 2,000 pounds!).

Base price comes in at $21,000 with the top-line, as-shown here version coming in at $34,000 in Limited trim.  My time was short during this brief introduction event, but this little CUV will come my way in a couple of weeks when James has it for a week on test, so I’ll follow up with my driving impressions at that time!  Many thanks to FCA for the inside scoop!

PAPA group

Two-toned (panda-themed?!) interior

Here are a couple other random pics from the past few days — including this shot of my TL and Jason’s Mazda 6 when Jason stopped by to stay with us for one night.

I received a gift of some Jay Leno’s Garage detailing supplies from a friend.  I didn’t know Jay was getting into his own line of car care stuff, but I’m excited to give this stuff a whirl.

Heartfelt messaging on some silos in southeast Gilbert, Arizona.

Legend GS ready to take on the streets for this week’s National Acura Legend Meet in Sacramento, to be driven by my friend Alex who’s flying in from Florida today.

The coupe is going, too.  It’s only about 800 miles each way from Phoenix.

Phoenix attractions:  I stumbled across a page online that outlined some of the history of Phoenix, Arizona and it identified this home along 10th St & Buckeye Rd as one of the oldest in existence in the area.  It dates back to 1879.

You can tell it was built with ‘river rock,’ which seems out of place today given the home’s location in the middle of the urban grid, but at that time it was probably a plentiful construction supply.  Not sure who owns this place or what its future holds.  It’ll probably sit there another 138 years just like it has so far.

Have a great rest of your week!