Archive for the PAPA Category

ILX 7-Year Anniversary: PAPA Visit to Apex Motor Club – Maricopa, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, Milestones, PAPA, Racing on June 16, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  215,000

About 45 minutes from my house is an automotive playground called Apex Motor Club.  Designed with the idea of becoming the “premier motorsports club of the southwest,” Apex was co-founded by entrepreneur and automotive enthusiast Matt Williams.  Matt graciously invited a handful of members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) to attend a media program on Wednesday morning, June 12, designed to give journalists a glimpse of exactly what the facility currently offers – and will offer in the future.

The heart of Apex is its 2.2-mile track, part of “phase 1” of three phases of expansion that the facility will undergo in the coming years.  The track itself offers something for pretty much any skill level.  I experienced it from a beginner’s perspective in a series of parade laps that got my blood pumping.  If a “parade lap” can do that, imagine what kind of full-on competitive racing could do.  Matt and his team welcomed us with an introduction to the history and the infrastructure.  Apex is located in Maricopa, Arizona, a small community on the outskirts of the greater Phoenix area.

Today, the amenities are relatively scarce aside from a shade pavilion and some portable toilets.  But there are plans in the works to build a clubhouse, restaurant/bar, pro shop, and private garages on the property.  Considering the entire project just broke ground less than a year ago, there has already been some impressive momentum.  Over 100 memberships have already been sold.

The highlight of my trip was when journalists were invites to experience the track firsthand.  I was sandwiched between a Corvette and a Porsche, and we followed a Camaro pilot car.  My little ILX felt understandably a little out of place.  But for each of the 5 successive laps, I got a little more confident in not only the layout of the track but in how to best control my vehicle.  For a “parade” lap it was a pretty spirited experience, and I can confidently say I left plenty of tire tread – and probably a good deal of my brake rotor lifespan – out on the track.  I definitely had a grin on my face when it was all said and done.

In a fitting conclusion to the trip, my 2013 ILX rolled 215,000 miles on the way back to Phoenix – perfect timing since that day was the 7-year anniversary of the day I first took ownership in 2012.

Entry to Apex in Maricopa

Some of the Apex-branded vehicles on-site

Staging area for vehicles

Getting our introduction to the lay of the land

Brittany from Apex, and Matt Ferguson from Barrett-Jackson

Some of the Apex team including co-founder Matt Williams (second from left)

Track tour in a Ford Raptor pickup

Entry to the 2.2-mile course in the ILX

This wasn’t my ILX’s first time on a track.  In 2012 I drove it on the high speed oval at Nissan’s proving ground.

Phoenix Automotive Press Association Event: Gladiators & RAMs

Posted in PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on May 19, 2019 by tysonhugie

It’s always a special treat when I get an invitation to road test the latest in automotive offerings because I spend such a good chunk of time driving vehicles that are “old school.”  Whether we want to accept it or not, the year 2020 is just around the corner and even though the year “sounds” so far in the future, it’s nearly upon us.

Technology has come a long way:  The electronic capabilities of a vehicle have gone far beyond the AM/FM cassette tape decks of yesteryear and evolved into navigation systems, self-driving aids, driver assistance / safety features, and much more.  Gadgets and gizmos are everywhere to be found, and some are easy to figure out while others require a bit more of a learning curve.  The owner’s manual of one of the RAM pickups that I drove on Thursday was 700 pages long.

Fiat-Chrysler representative Scott Brown and a few others from his team hosted some members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) for a ride-and-drive event in Paradise Valley, Arizona to showcase some of the latest from the brand.  One featured vehicle was a new-for-2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup truck, answering the question “Why can’t I have a Jeep and a truck at the same time?”  I guess we can call it a Juck, or a Treep.  Either way, I loved it.

The Gladiator that I drove was powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine coupled with a 6-speed manual transmission.  You read me right, a real honest-to-goodness shifter and a clutch pedal – and that was my favorite thing about it.  The ability to be in complete control of the vehicle gave me a great deal of confidence when cruising around the drive loops in Paradise Valley, even if not being able to adequately experience any of its go-anywhere / off-road capabilities.  As the only open-air truck on the market, Gladiator puts its occupants out in nature where many of them want to be.  The windshield even folds flat just like the traditional Wrangler.

Also available for demo were a handful of pickup trucks, all the way up to a RAM 3500 Laramie Longhorn which offers luxury car amenities on a vehicle that boasts enough power to pull a house off its foundation and drag it around the block.  It’s no mystery that RAM’s formula is getting something “right” – in 2018, the company sold over 600,000 trucks and RAM is #1 in the heavy duty segment with 40% of overall market share.  Here again we see RAM leading the pack in tech:  auto-tailgates, trailer towing packages, auxiliary cameras, and even power convex mirrors are among some of the features that can be equipped on these trucks.

When Motor Trend named RAM 1500 the truck of the year for 2019, the voting was unanimous.  Scott pointed out that it was the first time the answer has been so cut & dry.  After sampling some of RAM’s offerings, I can definitely see the allure.

Thanks to Scott and the rest of the FCA team for the hospitality!

Our host venue

Gladiator interior

This Gladiator was headed to the “Overland Expo” in Flagstaff, equipped with all sorts of custom features

Sticker on on the ‘Overland’ Gladiator concept

Detail on stitching on one oft he RAM pickup door panels

Power Wagon, and it does have plenty of power.  Some of these trucks have torque figures of 1,000 lb-ft.

The underside of the center console has a mathematics reference grid, including the Pythagorean Theorem.  Gotta love all the “Easter Eggs” that manufacturers sometimes hide for us to find!

Thanks Scott!

Gas Guzzling Gone: Electrified Transportation Debut at “Nikola World” 2019

Posted in PAPA on April 18, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  565,345

On Wednesday morning, I took one of my 25-year-old Acuras to have its emissions checked, just like I had done 5 times prior – every couple of years since 2008 when I first bought it.  The numbers looked good, I paid $17 and received my certificate, and went on my way.

I’m now good to register for another 2 years in that car, now with over 160,000 miles on the odometer.  But after seeing a presentation earlier this week on alternative fuel – hydrogen / electric – vehicles, it made me start questioning the future of my my old gas-burners.

And what about my trusty Legend coupe with 565,000 miles on the odometer?  Even if it achieved the 26 mpg highway rating its entire life, it has burned 21,730 gallons of gas.  Chew on that for a minute!

We are living in an era when electrified transportation is catching on like wildfire.  There are electric cars that can outperform traditional supercars and muscle cars by quite a margin.  Advancements in battery life and corresponding range capability have opened the doors to many people who previously might not have ever considered shifting away from driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

A company at the forefront of that shift in mindset is called Nikola Motors, and if you haven’t heard of it by now, you will soon.  Nikola has already taken deposits on $14 billion worth of semi trucks that are hydrogen & electric powered.  Clients like Anheuser-Busch, CAT, and Ryder have already pledged their intent to do business with Nikola, and the company is about to break ground on a new manufacturing facility here in Arizona that will employ 2,000 people and start cranking out trucks by 2021 or 2022.

Nikola’s product lineup, I learned, goes far beyond the big rigs.  A huge launch/media event at WestWorld in Scottsdale gave me, as well as about 70 other journalists and 2,000 other spectators, a first look at a few of the products that Nikola has been working on behind the scenes for the last few years, since the Salt Lake City-based startup began to pick up momentum.  Its CEO, Trevor Milton, took the stage and shared his passion for transportation innovation that has led him to this point.  “The world is ready,” he said.

I was seated in the 4th row back in the Media section soaking it all in.  Arizona governor Doug Ducey and other notable stakeholders in the initiative were present and expressed comments on why they support Nikola and its objectives.  Solar energy will power the manufacturing facility, and zero-emission transportation is just one of many things that people in Arizona and elsewhere will preserve the nature of our landscape for future generations.  I found it especially interesting to be introduced to some of the products we’ll see hit the streets and trails in the coming years.

The first was an all-terrain vehicle called the Reckless, which, unlike other side-by-side ATVs or UTVs in the powersports community, will be be fully electric — designed for use in military operations when stealthy movement is critical.  It can also be fully submerged, driven via remote control, and contains a landing pad for a drone at the tail end.  Another was the NZT, pictured above, which is a fully enclosed side-by-side for off-road use that provides full HVAC control as well as isolation from dusty trails.

Jordan Darling, VP of the Powersports arm of Nikola, discussed the merits of the company’s “Water Adventure Vehicle,” or WAV.  It looks like a traditional waverunner, but of course, it’s electric.  Imagine being able to access parts of our waterways and lakes that are currently forbidden to watercraft with internal combustion engines.  And did I mention it also has cruise control?  The design itself was inspired by super bikes.

And lastly, we got a look at two of the big rigs that Nikola has pioneered:  Its “Two” and “Tre.”  Both are said to outperform traditional diesel heavy haulers by a landslide (“2 to 3 times faster” we were told) and offer a suite of comfort and safety amenities that are industry firsts.  They are controlled from the driver’s seat via large flat screen panels on the interior, and due to having no engine nor transmission tunnel, offer expansive space within the cabin.  Anheuser-Busch has already puts its name down for 800 trucks.  Today, its current fleet travels over 350 million miles per year.

I’m anxious to see where this technology goes and to be honest, even though I’m a die hard for my old-school automotive technology, it’s fun to be living in an era where we have the capability to take our transportation to the next level.  I wonder how the staffers at the Arizona emissions check station would react if I showed up in an electric vehicle?  Sounds like a good opportunity for a hidden cam prank.

Thanks to the Nikola team for the invitation!  Here is a short video and a few photos below.

A gal on my shuttle bus to the venue clearly was a little behind the tech times, and I can’t help but say I was a little jealous.  Flip phones remind me of simpler times.

Refreshments being served prior to the product launch reveal program.

There were 45 countries represented at the event.  I was probably one of only a handful of people who only had to drive about 15 minutes to be there.

Nikola’s message about preservation and sustainability was well presented.

Nikola’s “Tre” will be a Europe-only truck.

Quick Q&A with Dave Magers, CEO of Mecum Collector Car Auctions

Posted in Arizona, Car Show, PAPA on March 18, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  565,313

Odometer (ILX):  213,342

I shook hands last Friday morning with the CEO of the largest collector car auction in the world!  I was one of 11 journalists from the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) who were invited to an exclusive Q&A with Dave Magers during the opening weekend of Mecum Auctions’ first event in Phoenix.

Mecum is a powerhouse in the collector car marketplace, launched in 1988 with humble family beginnings but today hosting 14 auctions nationwide, each one at about $30 million or more in sales.  That’s a lot of steel & rubber changing hands each year (roughly 15,000 vehicles, actually).

While most of the Phoenix & Scottsdale community thinks of “auction month” as happening in January (see recent post from Barrett-Jackson), Mecum came to the Valley of the Sun at a time when it could have the exclusive spotlight.  It also operated out of a facility that more readily accommodated visitors with on-site parking and other niceties:  The State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team.

Dave invited us behind-the-scenes to learn more about what it’s like in his role and the thought process that goes into strategy for where / how to expand the Mecum enterprise.  Clearly he and his team are doing something right:  The Phoenix auction was just put into contract last November.  It was initially designed to accommodate 600 vehicles over two days.  That 600-vehicle registration cap was reached in a mere 48 hours.

After some additional rework and coordination, the event was reconfigured and expanded to sell about 1,400 vehicles over three days, closing out on Sunday just in time for a Garth Brooks concert to take over the venue the following morning.

I was greeted at the entrance to the main forum by 2 red LaFerraris, each likely valued at $3-4 million or more.  A small 8×11 sheet of paper in front of them said “Available for Immediate Purchase.  Text such-and such phone number.”  I failed to take down the number, but if any of my readers have a craving for speed and a fat wad of cash to blow, hit me up and I can probably find out where those cars ended up.

The lineup of cars looked a lot like other collector auctions I’ve been to, with a high volume of predominantly domestic makes and models from the 1950s through 1970s.  Other outliers were there, but fewer and farther between.  Dave indicated that the auction prides itself in “treating everyone equally.”  A bidder who purchases his high school dream car for $25,000 may in fact have more attachment to the car and more satisfaction in the bidding process than someone who plunks down $2M on an exotic car for an investment.  So the Mecum team treats everyone the same.  In thumbing through the booklet of available cars, I did come across a bit of an oddball find:  This 1996 Accord EX Wagon, lot #T110.  I’ll have to see what it went for.

Ever think about how most of these auctions cater to 50-60 year old men?  It’s no mystery:  They are the demographic with enough disposable income to buy their dream cars.  Knowing this, Dave and his marketing teams customize their messaging accordingly: If you’re 25, he wants you to follow the auctions online, and probably buy a ticket to come spectate.  If you’re 50, he wants you to come buy something.  He’ll always market toward 50-year-olds, just that the cars they’re looking for will evolve.

Dave’s concern is about a “gap” of vehicles between about 1980 and 1995 when cars (to most people, anyway) weren’t as collectible or desirable.  Guess what?  That’s where some of us thrive, and it’s clear from sites like Bring a Trailer that the 1980s and 1990s collector community is very alive and well (I’ve now auctioned 3 vehicles from that era and each one of them has far exceeded expectations).  Niche buyers and collectors of those types of cars just aren’t going to venues like Mecum as their marketplace of choice.  And that’s perfectly okay!

Speaking of which, does anyone want an absolutely insanely mint 1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible?  Say no more.  It’s right here.

Someone in our group asked Dave about his personal cars.  When he’s not “touring” with his auction’s 33 semi trucks to destinations nationwide, Dave commutes 140 miles round trip per weekday (!) from Chicago to a Walworth, Wisconsin in a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, but the two favorites from his collection are a Ferrari 458 Italia and a Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS Gullwing.  A man of good taste indeed.

Many thanks to the Mecum team for their hospitality.  I have no doubt this year’s auction was a complete success and I hope you will enjoy coming back to the Valley of the Sun for years to come!

Here was a sweet Nova SS 396 that I saw.

In a few other updates:

Mom is still happily cruising around in her new RLX.  She had the OEM splash guards and spoiler installed this past week.  She also rolled the 22,222 milestone.  I hit the same milestone in my ILX in December 2012.

I added a sticker to the mirror in the cabinet in the garage.  “Eat, Sleep, Acura.”

And I finally took the chance to go through my old stash of license plates and do something decorative with them.

Some of them are now used as a border along the ceiling in the laundry room, which is the entrance to my showroom.

I saw this relic 1985 Celebrity while at the local pick-&-pull junkyard on Saturday.

I had a couple of friends over on Saturday night:  Michael S (in a white 1993 Integra GS) and Michael O (in a blue 1988 Legend L).  It was fun to have some new guests in the garage for a little bit.

Michael S’s Integra just completed the 150,000 mile mark and Michael O’s Legend has 190,000.

Finally:  A friends recently made some fun acquisitions, including Ryan here (at left) picking up a 1992 Vigor.

Then Chris, here at left, picking up a 2016 MDX Advance.

And Ira, who snagged a brand new Civic Si that nearly perfectly matches his NSX!  Oooh, that blue!

Congrats, guys!

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.