Archive for the Vehicle Reviews Category

Drive to Five Review: Nevada Ghost Towning in the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

Posted in Ghost Town, MDX, Nevada, Utah, Vehicle Reviews on February 13, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra):  246,192

Odometer (MDX):  5,756

Trip Distance:  1,056 Miles

I needed a workhorse to travel back to an 1800s mining town this past weekend and Acura gave me just the right vehicle for the job.  After now completing over 1,000 miles in the latest iteration of its 3-row SUV, I can say with a certainty that the latest MDX is a capable, fun-to-drive machine that offers up first class comfort for a trip of that distance.  Do I have to give it back?

This now marks the fourth time I’ve put a third-generation MDX through its paces.  Here are some prior reviews from here on the blog:

Coming up in April, Las Vegas, Nevada will once again play home to a regional Acura NSX club meet-up called WestFest.  Last year, the event brought out over 50 cars and 80 people.  As part of the planning committee, my role is to establish and plan out the logistics of a scenic group drive to be held on Saturday, April 28th.  It’s not easy to come up with drives for a caravan of that size.


  • Where haven’t we been yet?
  • What will traffic & weather patterns be like on the day & time of our trip?
  • What are the road conditions – are they appropriate for a group of sportscars?
  • Are there any tolls or park fees to consider?
  • How can we keep everyone together, or does it make more sense to split the group?
  • Are there places for fuel and snack stops along the way?

As one can imagine, it takes a great deal of effort to coordinate such an activity.  I partnered up with my friends Dane and Brandon, both Las Vegas locals, to take the MDX out on Saturday morning and scout the terrain.  It was the perfect vehicle for our expedition to the desert:  Second-row accommodations are posh, with captains’ chairs and plenty of space all around.  There are of course independent climate controls for passengers in those areas.  Meanwhile, I pampered myself up front with a heated seat heater, heated steering wheel, and convenient cup holder for my iced caramel macchiato.  You’d think we were going to the local shopping mall and not to the middle of nowhere.

Our drive route for the day was about 160 miles and took us 4 hours from start to finish, including our sightseeing and lunch stops.

Nelson, Nevada is one of many ghost towns in the vast expanses of land around the southwest.  It’s nestled in El Dorado Canyon, about 12 miles off Highway 95 to the east.  If you blink, you might miss the turnoff, so it’s a good thing Dane was coaching me from the passenger seat on where to make my exit at Highway 165.  We passed only one other vehicle on the way into Nelson from there.

The two-laner got a little more narrow, a little more rough, and more curvy as we dipped down in elevation toward the Colorado River.  Soon the buildings of the old mining town came into view, along with dozens of old cars left out to the elements with windows down (or broken out) and interiors rotting away.  I parked the MDX in a dirt lot and we got outside to wander around a little, noting how silent it was outside aside from the scuffling sound made from our shoes on the gravel.

We must have been the first tourists in town that day, because an old man came out of what appeared to be the main general store and put away the ‘closed’ sign while inviting us inside.  The wooden building doubles as his home, but he sells all sorts of remnants of the Wild West in there.  My favorite display was an exhibit of some the various films that the town of Nelson has appeared in, including the Kurt Russell classic “Breakdown.”

Luckily for us (and unlike Kurt Russell’s red Jeep Grand Cherokee in that movie), the MDX was didn’t give us any check-engine lights or troubles of any nature.  We snapped a few photos in Nelson before continuing eastward another few miles to where we could nearly drive right to the banks of the mighty Colorado River on a dirt road.  There was a nice paved turnaround spot that I think will make for a perfect photo-op for the group of NSXs at the April event.

Our next destination on the drive loop was Searchlight, Nevada – a teeny spot on the map that (like most small towns in that area) – got its start as a mining community in the late 1800s but mostly dried up by the mid 1950s.  The name came from one of its original prospectors who said, “It would take a searchlight to find gold out here.”

Dane, Brandon, and I rolled onward toward Highway 164 westbound and then over to Interstate 15 northbound.  I hit the gas on the onramp.  For a full size SUV that’s loaded down with technology and comfort niceties, the MDX still scoots down the road with more than ample power.  I observed an overall combined MPG of about 26 despite going heavy on the throttle a few times.  Range on a full tank is in the high 400s.

The Country Club Buffet at Primm Valley Casino, right along the California-Nevada state line, satisfied our hunger before we made our last stop of the day.  Stacked along the east side of I-15 are 7 columns of vividly painted boulders, referred to as “Seven Magic Mountains.”  The massive rocks were cut from a nearby quarry and painted fluorescent colors by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.  The art installation was opened in 2016 and will be removed sometime this year, so I was glad to get a chance to see it.

The MDX stickers at $58,000 as-tested, including Tech & Advance packages with a full suite of AcuraWatch driver-assistance aids.  I found the LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist System) to be helpful but could do without the ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control).  I much prefer to set a cruise speed and have it be maintained – with the Adaptive engaged, the vehicle starts slowing down well in advance of approaching a vehicle ahead, so you have to change lanes very early which isn’t always possible or convenient.  It’s something I could learn to live with, but just an observation.  The only other gripe I had was with the aesthetics of the black wheels.

There’s a lot to love about the MDX.  Those captivating jewel eye headlights with LED turn signals are just as much “function” as they are “form.”  The ELS Studio Premium audio system will knock your socks off.  I set the bass and the subwoofer to maximum levels for optimal punch, and it retained crisp clarity all the way up to max volume level 40.  Sirius XM channel “90s on 9” never sounded so good.  And if it’s solitude you want, a quiet cabin is easy to achieve too.  I sailed along at 75 mph with minimal wind, road, and engine noise.  The MDX’s 7-speed dual-clutch transmission keeps the revs low at those speeds.

It was tough to give the keys back after being pampered for 7 days, but I was glad for the opportunity to sample the high life!  Below is a 7-minute video and a collection of other photos from my week with the Modern Steel Metallic MDX.  Thanks, Acura, for the loaner!

Back seat comfort

Fueling up at Circle K in Phoenix

And we’re off!

Rolling into Las Vegas at sunset

5,000 mile milestone!

Arrival in Nelson

The ‘general store’ in Nelson

Loved this 1950 Buick!

Next stop:  Interstate 15

Red carpet treatment!  Brandon & Dane getting the door at Primm Valley

Seven Magic Mountains in the Nevada desert

Brandon’s 1993 Legend L 6-speed coupe

MDX parked in front of Siegfried and Roy’s house in Las Vegas!  See the “SR” on the gate?

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

2017 “AutoMobility” & Los Angeles International Auto Show

Posted in California, Car Show, Legend, Road Trip, Vehicle Reviews on December 1, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  556,770

Trip Distance:  379 Miles

Greetings!  I’m jotting down a few words here from the Media Center at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  LACC is now pretty familiar turf for me, as I’ve had the opportunity to attend a number of times.  Here are write-ups from my prior LA Auto Show visits:

I had to miss 2016 due to work engagements, but I still made it to some of the social eventsRedline Reviews‘ Editor-in-Chief Sofyan Bey was kind enough to extend an invitation to me so I could be a part of the festivities this year.

After two full days about about 10 miles walked between the South Hall and the West Hall to see all the latest and greatest, I can tell you there is a lot of change brewing in the automotive industry as a whole.  Personal mobility is taking on a whole new dynamic, as technology speedily moves toward an increased focus on autonomy.  As cars become faster, safer, and more efficient, similar strides are being made in self-driving technology.  It’s no mystery, though, that I’m a driver.  Is “automobility” something I should dread or embrace?

My trek to LA started on Tuesday afternoon from Phoenix in the Legend coupe.  It’s a tried and true road warrior, and certainly a more comfortable cruiser than the 1992 Integra I drove to Utah last weekend for Thanksgiving.  The closer I got to the epicenter of the 13-million-resident LA metro area, the more congested my beautiful open roads became.  I was delayed about 35 minutes on I-10 nearing Riverside thanks to a combination of accident + commuter traffic.  Gotta love it.  In all, the 379-mile one-way trip took me close to 7 hours.

Wednesday was a jam-packed day of press conferences, kicking off with a BMW presentation around 8:30 and a stampede of journalists migrating from one booth to the next throughout the day.  Some of the big news this year?  Oh just a few highlights that stuck out to me:  Lexus coming out with a 3-row RX SUV.  BMW launching a convertible i8 and new M5.  Mercedes has a new CLS.  Mazda’s next-generation 6 sedan is out.  Subaru has launched its biggest SUV yet, a 3-rower called the Ascent.  Nissan’s “Kicks” replaces the Juke, and Hyundai has its own new cute-ute called the Kona.

600 horsepower, all-wheel-drive BMW?  Hotness.  Not to mention that color.

Jeep’s Wrangler comes back again looking about the same but with a completely new chassis and lots more tech.  Kia debuts its new Sorento, Infiniti shows the QX50, and Lincoln ditches its alphanumeric naming conventions for traditional names like its new Nautilus (replacing the MKX).  That’s a step in the right direction, don’t you all agree?  It was a slow-ish show for Honda & Acura, with no formal press conferences but still plenty to look at inside the respective booths.  I can’t begin to squeeze two full days of automotive news into a few paragraphs here, but check out Redline’s YouTube playlist on the auto show for a glimpse at some of the sights and sounds we enjoyed.

The vehicles on display at LAAS are only part of the appeal of the event.  It attracts some of the world’s renowned auto journalists.  Our team ended up seated in the Media Center right behind most of the Jalopnik staff, including Andrew Collins who I can thank for this awesome piece he put together about a year ago.

The after-hours activities this year were just as entertaining, with a Hyundai-sponsored party the first evening at Novo night club, and a social event in West Hollywood the following night at Doheny Room where I connected with a few fellow journalists.  All too soon, it was time to again part ways with those colleagues.  The Redline team flew out Friday morning and I made my way (90 minutes to drive 38 miles – thanks again, LA!) toward Anaheim for a car show to be held Saturday morning.  More on that to come in a future post!

Acura booth with the redesigned 2018 RLX on display

Don’t mind if I do hang out here!

I admired some of Honda’s hardware while in the booth.  These dozen or more awards are just from this year’s LA Auto Show alone!  There are boxes and boxes of things like this sitting at the corporate office in Torrance.

Fellow car geeks Brian and Chris

Some of you may recognize this ‘other’ Brian – none other than the famous Brian Cooley from CNET.

Quick shot with the Redline team (Sofyan, Peace, Rob) and Honda’s Davis Adams.

Street parking the coupe in West Hollywood!

This might just be the best motel parking space I’ve ever had.  Huge.

Bonus:  A few pics from last weekend’s Thanksgiving trip to Utah

Brother’s redoing his living room and said I could park in it.  Why not?

My nephew Locke

Cruising around some of my old stomping grounds

HUGE shout-out to blog reader Eric who had this custom embroidered Polo shirt made up for me, with the date of my 555 milestone from back in October!  Thanks, Eric!

Over and out!




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 ( 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

Drive to Five Review: 2017 Mazda MX-5 Retractable Fastback

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on July 24, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  554,341

Odometer (MX-5):  5,261

Going topless in Phoenix in July is risky business – you’re likely to get burned.  This weekend, I didn’t care – I’ve never owned a convertible and I wanted to enjoy the wind in my hair a time or two while I still have any hair at all.

Mazda has aced the formula of what it takes to build a fun-to-drive, budget-friendly sportscar.  The MX-5 that showed up at my house last Wednesday was the 4th generation of a car that launched in 1989 as simple two-seater with a modest 116 horsepower engine and a light chassis.

Today’s version has grown in size and stature, but it holds true to the original objective.  This generation debuted in the fall of 2014 for the 2016 model year.  And just last fall, a special version of this latest MX-5 — the RF, or Retractable Fastback — came to light.  And isn’t it a looker?  “Soul Red Metallic:”  It’s a paint color that’ll cost you $300 additional, but it’s worth it.

These days, it doesn’t seem like 155 horsepower gets you very far (that’s only about 20 more than a Toyota Corolla).  But when you’re in a car that only weighs 2,300 pounds and has dimensions as tight as this one, it’s more than ample.  Besides, this car is all about handling and that’s where its abilities really shine through.  The overall driving feel reminds me a lot of my Integra GS-R, and it made even my little urban 3-mile work commute seem like a theme park ride.

I’d like to simplify this car review into lists.  I’m a list person and I’ve gotten in the habit at work of summarizing things with just bullet points for my senior leaders who are very busy.  So let’s look at a few paragraphs for Love It, Hate It, and Would I Buy It (at $33,885 as-tested).

Love it:

  • Fun Factor.  The MX-5 is like the go-kart I rode at Fiesta Family Fun Center in St. George, Utah when I was growing up.  It’s just so easy to toss around.  The short wheelbase lends itself to an ultra-tight turning radius – maybe even as good as the Prelude 4-Wheel-Steering I had back in the day.  Shift action is crisp and the clutch is easy to get the hang of.  And the convertible top is seriously a one-touch operation.  Cake.
  • Style.  I appreciate that this car sets itself apart from the sea of midsize sedans clogging up the roadways.  It’s something different, something sporty, and something fun to look at.
  • Compact Stature.  Mazda’s “Zoom Zoom” tagline came to mind as I was busting down the 51 freeway, easily able to zip in and out of traffic with a blip of the throttle, a few revs of the Skyactiv 2.0 liter motor, and a turn of the wheel.  And parking at Scottsdale Fashion Square was done lickety-split.  Having a car like this makes you appreciate being the little guy.
  • Audio Experience.  In a cabin as small as the Miata’s, it doesn’t take much audio power to blast your ears.  And the Bose 9-speaker system truly does rock.  Aside from the music, the sounds from the exhaust are equally pleasant – just enough growl at low RPM to give it a sports car feel, but low enough intrusion at highway speed to not give you a headache.  The retractable hardtop seals out most of the road and wind noise with ease.
  • Community.  In this case, the incentive for buying a car has nothing to do with the actual car itself.  People who own these cars love them.  Consider my friend Jeff, who’s owned 6 of them, including the red 2008 in the lead photo of this blog entry.  Or Sofyan, who even though he’s reviewed hundreds of cars on his YouTube channel, chose to buy an MX-5 for his own vehicle. Look at the Sahuaro Miata Club here in Arizona – over 100 active members and regularly-scheduled meet-ups.

On Saturday night, I was driving northbound on Central Avenue in Phoenix and was passed by another Miata.  We exchanged “Nice car!” and head nods.  It’s awesome to think that something as simple as a car could enable someone to meet friends and engage socially, but in this case it’s true.  I love that about the Miata and its tight knit family of enthusiasts around the globe.

Hate it:

  • Ergonomic challenges might make this a tiresome driving experience on a daily basis.  Ingress and egress even for someone of my average height are a challenge, especially if you have a backpack to toss in or other cargo.  The driver’s door swings wide and you have to really reach for it.  And certain placement of the controls made for awkward body contortions.  The volume knob is located down on the console instead of the instrument cluster.  To get to the knob, I kept hitting my elbow because it’s located so far back.
  • Storage limitations.  Along those same lines, I found a tough time even carrying a laptop bag in the car when I had a friend riding with me.  The passenger side footwell is extremely narrow and the small storage compartment in the center console armrest is barely large enough for my work badge and a pair of sunglasses.  Though I guess it would teach people to simplify and not collect car clutter?
  • Visibility.  Those pillars in the driver’s blind spots – though nice to look at from outside – are not easy to overcome when it comes to seeing what’s going on around you.  Even backing out of my own driveway – knowing how many dog-walkers and bicyclists we have in the neighborhood – was a little scary.  I suspect the ‘traditional’ convertible would have better all-around visibility than the RF.

Would I buy it?

Averaging upwards of 45,000 miles per year, my driving patterns for my primary daily car consist of more long-haul than short-haul.  A Miata doesn’t make sense for me because it lacks the cargo capacity, low-RPM cruising, and comfortable touring ride that I need when I’m driving coast to coast (or to Alaska).

However, if I had the money and space for a weekend cruiser – a car to take up the Catalina Highway on occasion or to blast around town on a Saturday night date, during our 8 or 9 months of prime (AKA not scorching hot) weather, I would absolutely consider an MX-5 as the right fit for the bill.  I’d like to call it “the cure for the common commuter.”  A Miata drive every few days is just what the doctor ordered for injecting a little bit of fun in the driving experience.

Many thanks to Mazda for tossing me the keys to this little dose of sunshine.  I appreciate it.

7-minute video here with some observations, driving scenes, and demo of the top operation:

2013 – with my friend Mark’s “NA” Miata

2016 – when James was sampling the ND for the first time (and next to my NSX)

Cabin perspective

Tight quarters in the center armrest console

Cruising around with Hy – though, this shot was in the 2008 model and not the 2017.

Red shirts to match red cars.

2008 and 2017 MX-5s, side by side

Which do you prefer?

“Driving Matters” on the license plate frame – truly a Mazda Mantra.

2.0 liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder with 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque

Evening cruise with my friend Rob

Quick pic near my office on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix

Headlight cutoff as seen at night

Red rockets!

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!

Drive to Five Review: 2017 Acura MDX Advance; Canyon Lake Legend Meet

Posted in Arizona, Legend, MDX, Vehicle Reviews on November 1, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  548,850


Odometer (MDX):  1,817


Last Thursday at Bashas’ supermarket in uptown Phoenix, I put the newest Acura MDX to the test doing what it does best!  I made all the soccer moms jealous with every family’s dream ride:  a three-row SUV that brings the comforts of home into a grocery-getter that’s surprisingly fun to drive.


This striking $57k top-line model brings in all the bells and whistles, including some new-this-year amenities for second-row passengers:  heated seats and captain chairs.  The kids never had it so good!



Prior MDX write-ups are here.  I’ve been lucky to get my mitts on a couple prior iterations of this fine people-mover:

Now in its third generation, this 2017 model is the ‘refreshed’ version of the bodystyle that debuted in 2014.  This latest version wears Acura’s refreshed front end with a grille devoid of the “shield” we’d become familiar with since 2009.  Instead, the styling is now derived from Acura’s Precision Concept and is pentagonal in shape.  Continuing rearward, the design is clean and carried over from prior iterations.  The wheels are 20″ in diameter and a handsome design.  Bling bling!


The MDX gives me a “they’ve thought of everything” feeling.  The lights on underside of the sideview mirrors turn on as you approach the vehicle at night to illuminate the ground below.  The liftgate is powered electronically.  And the auto start/stop feature (a fuel-savings enhancement to shut off the motor temporarily at idle when stopped) can be triggered by the level of brake pedal pressure applied.  It took me a couple of minutes to figure that one out, but I fell in love with it when I did.



Bottom line:  this is the most technologically-advanced MDX ever, and it has to be:  the three-row luxury SUV segment in which it dwells is extremely competitive.  And clearly Acura is doing something right:  The MDX is the brand’s top-selling vehicle, moving over 5,000 units in October 2016 (up 23% over the prior September).


My test vehicle was a White Diamond Pearl All-Wheel-Drive “Advance” model with Tech, Advance, and AcuraWatch packages.  Basically, “fully loaded.”  The driver seat is 10-way adjustable.  The climate control system has 3 zones.  Everything is push-button or even hands-free.  If you can’t get comfortable driving this MDX, you’re a lost cause.  I had my fair share of fun with it during my 7 days of cruising around in it.  The MDX is the king of the urban jungle.  I noticed that for being a larger vehicle it’s still easy to navigate in crowded city streets and still has great visibility.


It’s easy to see why SUVs have such a stronghold on modern families.  It was nice to have the higher step-in height, and I loved being able to reach straight out the driver side window to swipe my badge and get into my office’s parking garage (as opposed to being in the ILX and having to reach upward to reach the sensor).  Similarly, ATMs are so much more convenient when they’re right at arm level.  I could get used to that!


Power delivery in the MDX is smooth and predictable with the 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter engine and 9-speed automatic transmission.  For having so many gears, I found the MDX to do surprisingly little gear-hunting.  It is decisive and determined to understand its driver.  While my travels didn’t take me off the beaten path, based on my prior experience with putting a third-gen MDX through its dirt-road paces, I would proclaim this SUV just as comfortable on-road as off-road.  Versatility is the name of the game.


Is there room in my garage for an MDX right now?  Absolutely.  Do I have a need for one?  Not at all.  Which isn’t to say it would come in handy from time to time.  As a single 34-year-old, I may not fit the target buyer market for this vehicle.  For those who do, it hits an absolute bullseye.

Many thanks to Acura for letting me behind the wheel!




Few other fun pieces of news below from the past week or so.

1979 Honda Accord from The Simpsons – Thanks, Tim, for sending this to me.  Love it.

MDX at night


My friend Daniel stopped by in his 2012 Acura TL, bringing the Acura count at my place to 8.


I put up some new posters at the house including three nice, framed 24×36 prints.


Battery replacement for both Legends!  Both were 4+ years old.  Thanks Autozone.


On Saturday morning, I met up with some Legend owners for a cruise to Tortilla Flat near Apache Junction in eastern Mesa, Arizona.  We cruised up Highway 88 through the Tonto National Forest.


Left to right:  Gabe, Leon, Tyson


Leon’s interior on his 127,000-mile 1994 LS coupe in Pearl White is really nice.


Gabe’s car looks great too considering it is 24 years old and has 257,000 miles.


Great scenery all around!


Group shot


Headed back toward civilization, but stopping at the shores of Canyon Lake for a pic.


2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Track Event in Phoenix

Posted in Arizona, Vehicle Reviews on April 27, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  543,115


Odometer (ILX):  161,603


There’s nothing like a little “horsepower high” to break up a mundane Tuesday!  I escaped the office for a couple of hours recently to attend a track event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona.


The Ford Performance program – formerly known as SVT (Special Vehicle Team), and also formerly known as SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) is the company’s division dedicated to performance and race vehicles.  Anybody else remember the long-gone 1998 Ford Contour SVT?


The performance program has recently undergone a lot of changes both in structure and in branding, and Ford has developed a new lineup of vehicles tailored around speed and performance for people who demand more get-up than the average Joe.


Many of those vehicles were on display at the track, all the way from the entry level Fiesta ST up to the supercar “GT” model which debuted recently and hasn’t yet gone on sale.  Somewhere in the middle of that hierarchy lies the Mustang, and Ford’s engineers have gone to great lengths to make this one a viable contender against the competition.


Jim Owens, Marketing Manager at Ford Performance, gave our group of 25-30 individuals a run-down on the lay of the land.  His organization’s goal is to instill the “addiction” for performance in consumers early on and work them through the product lineup as they mature and are able to move on to bigger and better offerings from the company.


After some safety briefings and an introduction to the track layout, I was saddled up in the passenger seat of the 526-horsepower, 6-speed manual Mustang “Shelby GT350” beast and driven around by a professional driver from Ford’s race team based in Salt Lake City at Miller Motorsports racetrack.  Finally I had the chance to do some of the driving myself.  The rumble of the V8 powerplant was unlike anything I’ve driven recently.  I found the clutch take-up to be intuitive and easy to balance.  In a flash, I was already in 3rd gear and I stayed there for pretty much the entire driving portion, taking instructions from my passenger and doing my best to not make a fool of myself on the track.


I had a riot!  The car revs willingly to the high end of the rev range because redline isn’t until 8,250 RPM.  I had a great time pushing the car nearly that limit on the long straightaway and I found it to be a better-handling car than I’d expected.  For a $48k entry level starting price, the Shelby GT350 is a helluva play toy for grown ups.  Many thanks to Ford for the invitation to the event!  Here is a short video showing brief highlights from my day.



Here are a few more photos from the past several days:

On Saturday morning, I went to Tucson and test-drove a clean 1994 Legend GS sedan 6-speed.  Oddly enough, this car used to belong to my friend Ryan in Utah 5 years ago!  I shared a walkaround video with him.


That afternoon, my friend Leif and I attended a historical tour of the sights in Phoenix surrounding a controversial murder case.  Back in 1931, a woman named Winnie Ruth Judd killed her two best friends in a sort of dramatic love affair ordeal.  She cut up the bodies, put them into large trunks, and shipped them to Los Angeles via the railway.  She later was caught, convicted, and spent 40 years of her life in jail (though she escaped 7 times).  What a story!

Our two-hour ride took us to some of the sights in town which were significant in the case, including the home of Winnie’s (married) boyfriend Jack Holleran which we went inside, and a drive-by of the original “murder house” in central Phoenix.


“Hip” Historian Marshall Shore led the tour


Starting point was the historic (and also very hip) Clarendon Hotel


ILX with the Clarendon in the distance


The scene of the crime!


On Sunday, I had a lake day with friends at Lake Pleasant, a 12-square-mile lake formed from the Agua Fria river.  We rented a couple of boats and spent the day exploring around.  Here is the approach of Scorpion Bay Marina.


Half of our group on boat #2


I gave my friend Ira a scare.  He tracks my location and saw me out in the middle of the water.


Part of the group.  Living the Arizona dream!


There was some drama this week when my storage unit roll-up door was backed into.


Luckily, the car was far enough forward (plenty of room!) that nothing was damaged.


Hope everyone is having a great week!  Getting closer to Friday!