Archive for the Vehicle Reviews Category

Driver’s Ed Extreme: Race Weekend in a Dodge Challenger & a Toyota Supra

Posted in PAPA, Racing, Vehicle Reviews on November 19, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  572,259

Twenty-two years ago today, on November 19, 1997, my student driving instructor Mr. Hiatt at Pine View High School issued me this Practice Permit.  Apparently I was 5’8″ and 130 lbs at the time.

How many miles have I driven since then?  It’s tough to quantify.  In my Legend coupe alone, I’ve logged 477,000 miles.  The ILX has traveled about 220,000.  And I’ve owned 27 other cars besides those two over my 22-year driving career.  Safe to say I might be a million-miler.  But even I still have things to learn.

“Everyone deserves to be a better driver,” is a saying I learned from my friends at Out Motorsports who spend their weekends in the relentless pursuit of speed and skill with their racecars.  My own professional driving experience is pretty limited, but I had the chance this past weekend to get behind the wheel of a couple very sweet performance cars to refine the entry-level skills I’m starting with.

Under new ownership this year, the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has its home base at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona.  Formal classes start around $1,900 and include a one-day program with these components:

  • Ground School
  • Throttle Steer
  • Slalom
  • Accident Avoidance Drill
  • Handling Drill – Oval
  • Skid Control Training
  • Autocross Session
  • Track Lead & Follow
  • Graduation

During a media event for the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) last Friday, I got a taste of these offerings at a special event hosted by Bondurant’s Public Relations Agency.  And I must say, I came away impressed and grinning from the chance to put a high-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat through its paces.

The learnings came directly from one of the industry’s best drivers:  Rob Knipe, who personally instructed actor Christian Bale for the recent film “Ford v. Ferrari.”  I’m pleased to report that my best autocross finish time at the end of the exercise was only about 1 second slower than the best time for our group.  But what did I learn?

Some of the key skills that I came away with were fundamentals about understanding weight transfer (optimizing balance of the car’s behavior under acceleration and under braking) and keeping eyes elevated, looking at a wide angle view.  As drivers, we characteristically focus on only certain aspects of our field of vision, keeping a narrow and shortsighted perspective.

But it’s important in a racing situation – and in everyday driving – to take it all in as best possible:  Look where you want the car to go, not necessarily directly where it’s headed.  On a related note, we were instructed to avoid “target fixation.”  While it’s natural to look exactly at an object or obstacle we are headed toward, it’s important to look away from it, focusing on a desired destination.

Since the Challenger I drove that night was an automatic, I had little to worry about from a gear-hunting perspective.  I mashed the gas pedal when it was appropriate to, and trained myself to brake at the right times – in advance of a turn, putting weight on the front tires where it needed to be.  Thanks to traction-control aids I also managed to attack the entire course at the limits of my abilities without a loss of control which could have been embarrassing in front of my journalist colleagues!

Also on display was a not-yet-on-sale 2020 Dodge Charger Hellcat “Widebody,” pictured above, with massive 305-series tires that help this sport sedan achieve max performance.

On Saturday, I made the trip to Wild Horse Pass once more, but this time for a Toyota program.  New for 2020, the fifth-generation Supra has big shoes to fill, since the outgoing model was discontinued over 20 years ago and there has been a great deal of hype around the successor.  This time, Toyota partnered with BMW to create a sportscar that reignites the nostalgia by way of an inline-6 engine which is what the last generation Supra (called the “Mark IV” by enthusiasts) was also powered by.

Dave Lee, Vehicle Product Training Specialist, gave our group the lowdown on some of the engineering features, design background, and performance stats of the new Supra while waiting for our track session to begin.  Benchmarking Porsche Boxster and Cayman, the Supra achieves 50/50 weight balance and has a surprisingly smaller wheelbase than its “86” (formerly FR-S) sibling.

All Supras are powered by a 3-liter, 335-horsepower engine coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission.  A low center of gravity, launch control mode, active differential, and grippy Michelin Pilot SuperSport tires ensure that all the power gets to the ground exactly when it needs to.

Toyota had slotted our group’s track time into an already-existing National Auto Sport Association (NASA) event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park which meant our time was closely calculated.  I saddled up in the driver seat with my helmet securely fastened and with a professional driver in the passenger seat.  The Supra launched me around the 1.6 mile track with speed and agility.

Photo credit:  Six Speed Blog

I remembered thinking to myself a couple of times, “I have never driven my own vehicles this hard,” as the trainer yelled at me “BRAKE HARDER!”  It took a couple of laps until I got comfortable actually pushing the vehicle to such an aggressive extent without feeling like I needed to apologize to it.

The Supra left me feeling impressed.  Even with a helmet on, I had ample head room to pivot and oversee my surroundings.  The acceleration was responsive and rapid, and the car’s lack of body roll was confidence-inspiring.  With each lap, I shaved time off – thanks to being more comfortable with the car, with the track, and with my skills.  I think I need just one more session to really fine-tune my expertise ;).

Thanks to the folks at Dodge and at Toyota for letting me satisfy my need for speed!

Jared & Rebecca from ClassicCars.com

Part of the Dodge fleet at Bondurant

Getting ready to head out for a “lead and follow” session

With Paige & Jessica from Toyota’s Public Relations team

Great minds think alike:  Each ‘demo’ Supra had its own maintenance binder

Thumbs up to this one

Test Drive Friday: 2019 Southwest Lifestyle Media Drive – Chandler, Arizona

Posted in PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on October 25, 2019 by tysonhugie

This past Friday was sweet.  And not just because of the sugar cookies.

One of the best benefits of being affiliated with a local automotive media community is the chance to get behind the wheel of new vehicles each year to see how & where the industry is evolving.  You may recall my prior involvement with a program called the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year (ALV) starting in 2012.  ALV eventually evolved into a broader scope – focusing not only on certain types of vehicles but rather exposing journalists to a little bit of everything.  It was phased out after 2017.

The Southwest Lifestyle Media Drive was then launched in 2018 to better align the Phoenix area press event with the key stakeholders, the vehicles in consideration, and the brilliant landscape that many of us call home.  And instead of being a formal road test or evaluation event, it’s a no-strings-attached opportunity to put vehicles through their paces without worrying about needing to tally up scores in a mountain of paperwork after the fact.  I like the evolution that this event has taken.

The host venue for this year’s activity was the Crowne Plaza San Marcos in Chandler, Arizona.  It’s a historic and hospitable place to begin with, but it also at a crossroads of some great driving opportunities in both urban and freeway settings.  Event Director Becky Antioco stated that there were 13 vehicles available to experience, and over the course of the day I was able to experience several.

The standout vehicle for me – and I never thought I’d say this – was a 2020 Toyota Camry with special “TRD” (Toyota Racing Development) add-ons.  A Camry with sporting aspirations?  Unheard of.  But all it takes is one look at the aero treatment, the custom interior, and the stunning color to know that this Camry is a little something special.  I ran it through the gears (8-speed automatic, of course) in a spirited launch up the Loop 202 onramp and enjoyed the 301-horsepower V6’s exhaust note.

The surprise came when I pulled up the monroney spec sheet and realized it’s priced at $32,920.  That’s some serious sticker shock in a positive way instead of a negative way.

One of the media drive’s main sponsors this year was Nissan.  A product representative gave us a walk-around of the Versa “SV” – an impressively equipped sedan for its $14k-21k price point.  Back in the day, the big competition was in the number of cup holders a vehicle had.  Today, it’s all about the tech, and the Versa has 3 USB ports.  It also has fancy things like “rear door alert,” to audibly notify the driver a reminder that they’ve put something in the back seat if the doors are opened in a certain sequence before starting a drive.  Innovation at work!

Another vehicle that stood out to me was the latest Ram.  The tailgate opens via the conventional method, but has also has a trick up its sleeve:  You can open it down the middle like a set of barn doors, too.  Think of the versatility here – especially if (as in our test truck) your pickup has a tonneau cover securing valuables being hauled in the bed.  I like it.

Thanks to the SW Lifestyle planning team and to all the manufacturers who put the event together!

Drive to Five Review: 2019 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring Sedan

Posted in Civic, Vehicle Reviews on September 10, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Civic):  4,000

The other day, I was enjoying a rare, quiet, movie night at home and ended up picking the 2006 flick “Employee of the Month,” starring Dane Cook.  One of my favorite lines in that movie refers to a Honda Civic.  A 1981 Civic, to be exact.  After a golf ball attack ensues, the proud owner of a rickety old Civic proclaims, “This is an ’81 Honda – how dare you?!”

That car (and clip) make me think of this brilliant magazine ad from back in the day.

Certainly there are many of us who can relate to the protective attitude about our vehicles.  My younger brother drove a hand-me-down 1984 Civic 1500 “S” hatchback in high school – a hand-me-down from my great-grandmother.  This was what our family’s driveway looked like 20 years ago.  Two Legends, a Prelude, and a Civic.  Those were the days!

The Civic has been around as Honda’s compact vehicle offering since 1972 and it has been in its current (10th!) generation since the 2016 model year.  My current 2013 Acura ILX rides on Civic underpinnings and so I can already attest that the level of reliability is all it’s cracked up to be.  Where the Civic differs greatly from its Acura sibling is in sheer volume of sales:  In August 2019, here were some select stats:

  • Civic:  34,808 units
  • Accord:  30,558 units
  • ILX:  1,439 units
  • RLX:  38 units
  • NSX:  25 units

The only vehicle that sold more than the Civic was the CR-V at 44,000 units.  Honda has a home run on its hands, and I set out over the past several days to find out why.

My test-car was powered by turbocharged 4-cylinder engine coupled with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).  The Touring trim level brings nice amenities including leather interior, 10-speaker audio system, and a host of tech like cameras and navigation.  It also has nice looking 18″ alloy wheels, LED headlights & taillights, and a rear decklid spoiler to set things off cosmetically.  Total MSRP including destination and handling runs $28,220.

I had the chance over the past 7 days to put about 500 miles on the car in a combination of city and highway driving environments, and took the chance to assemble some ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ along the way.  To keep things simple, I’ll just dish out the review in that format.

Likes, in random order:

  • Tech – The window sticker on this car reads like Acronym City.  Check some of these out, and study them for the quiz later:
    • ACC – Adaptive Cruise Control
    • CMBS – Collision Mitigation Braking System
    • LDW – Lane Departure Warning
    • LKAS – Lane Keeping Assist System
    • RDM – Road Departure Mitigation
    • FCW – Forward Collision Warning
    • EBD – Electronic Brake Distribution
    • VSA – Vehicle Stability Assist
      • Basically, this Civic almost drives itself.  Do you like all that “helpful” tech, or are you against it?  I’ll let you decide for yourself.
  • Audio – SXM, bluetooth compatibility.  I was driving along and heard an amazing song I liked on the radio.  When the song concluded, I pulled into a church parking lot, paired my iPhone, found the song on YouTube, and blasted it again.  That kind of tech compatibility is awesome!
  • Camera (right side + rear).  Did you know that this car activates a passenger sideview mirror-mounted camera every time you turn on the right turn signal?  It’s pretty sweet.  The back-up cam also has nice resolution.
  • Looks – LED front end – to me, the car “looks” high end from many angles.  The whole front end is graced with LED lighting treatment.  I like the black grille, and the wheels seem borrowed from the sporty “Si” trim model and have a nice look to them.
  • Value / Packaging – I remember being excited about some of the aforementioned features when I first tested the 2014 Acura RLX (a $60k car).  Here we are a few years later talking about how they are available on a < $30k compact.  It’s pretty sweet.
  • Interior Ergonomics – The more I got acquainted with the Civic, the more I liked how things are placed inside the cabin.  I was pleased that there is a compartment for a cell phone below the instrument panel.  And the center armrest opens up to a HUGE storage bin with removable cup holders.
  • Highway Driving Dynamics – The Civic is super smooth at anything above 55 or so.  It would make a great long-hauler.  Perhaps why my friend James took it to LA and back when he tested it a few weeks ago.
  • Anonymity – Sometimes you just want to blend in, and this car does a good job of that – especially in the color that I tested.  I’m also going to put this attribute on the ‘Dislikes’ section.

Dislikes, in random order:

  • City Driving Dynamics – As much as I tried to make the most of the Continuously Variable Transmission, I just couldn’t love it.  One morning on my commute to work I was so discouraged to get blasted off the line by an aggressive-driving old Altima.  I didn’t stand a chance.  I like my torque delivered more rapidly when hitting the accelerator.
  • MPG – I admit to being heavier on the throttle than most people would be, but I still only got about 29 mpg which is quite a bit lower than the 33 mpg combined on the EPA rating.
  • Tech Nitpicks – I didn’t like the clicky sound the steering wheel volume audio button made, or where it was located.  I also think there should be a “manual” button or knob somewhere on the dash to advance the track / radio station.  It would mean being able to keep eyes on the road a little better.  Finally, when the right-side cam is activated via turn signal, you can’t do anything with the audio system unless you hit the Home or Audio button to go back to that screen.
  • Anonymity – This is on the bad list, just like it’s on the good list.  Since I was driving a Civic, I started noticing Civics, and, they’re everywhere.  I guess that goes back to the fact that Honda is selling over 30,000 of them every single month.  I like to stand out a little more.

Main takeaways:

For a comfortable, tech-packed compact commuter, it’s tough to do much better.  The Civic is economical without being completely uninspiring.  It looks good both coming and going, the connectivity is modern, and the chassis is nimble and precise.

As an enthusiast, I need a little more engagement from the powertrain – quicker off-the-line swiftness and more tangible connection with how the engine is revving and when.  Perhaps there’s a way to configure an Si model (manual, please) in a way that blends everything I like about the latest Civic into one package.  I’d say go ILX for about the same price, but the ILX doesn’t have a stick anymore.

For now, I am happy to recommend this car to anyone who wants a compact car with exceptional bang for the buck and effortless reliability.  A little anonymity on the streets isn’t always a bad thing either.  The sheriff will never even see you coming.

Video:

Platinum White Pearlescence: 2019 Acura ILX A-Spec Review

Posted in Del Sol, ILX, Integra, Vehicle Reviews on June 26, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (2013 ILX Premium):  215,114

Odometer (2019 ILX Premium A-Spec):  5,329

It’s about time I got to try out the latest ILX!

Since its mid-2012 debut as a 2013 first-year model, the gateway model to the Acura brand has undergone two separate ‘refresh’ exercises – the first in 2016, and now again in 2019.  Quality has improved, tech has advanced, styling has evolved, and yet the pricetag has stayed constant and even gone down throughout the way.  At $32,545 as-tested for the A-Spec variant that I put a few hundred miles on over the past week, I consider it a very strong bang for the buck.

It’s no mystery that the elimination of the manual transmission option that took place in 2016 was a dagger to my heart and soul, but the new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission is not that bad.  In fact, I sort of enjoyed more of a kick-back driving style over the last few days.  It must be old age settling in because I’ll be turning 38 later this year.  Yikes.

The ILX I tested has essentially the same motor as my 2013:  a 2.4-liter, 201-horsepower, straight-four with iVTEC.  So it goes without saying that long-term maintenance should be a breeze (I’m well into the 200k+ range with mine).  Where the new ILX sets itself apart from mine is in terms of the technology.  Navi with voice recognition, touch-screen display, ELS Studio premium 10-speaker audio, and a host of safety features are all things that are “new” to me.

Beyond that, the aesthetic treatment is handsome, with the A-Spec package bringing in 18″ wheels, sport red leather seats with suede inserts, a contrasting decklid spoiler, and exclusive badging.  I have to admit I considered for a moment whether Acura would notice if I swapped the interior of the 2019 into my 2013, but it’s probably best that I not find out.

It was fitting that along with the new ILX came a 2018 Kelley Blue Book “5-Year Cost to Own” trophy that Acura representatives gave me for my display case.  I can’t think of any other individual who can attest with 100% certainty of that.  The car has cost me $7,600 to maintain over the course of 215,000 miles.  That includes 29 oil changes, 8 air filters, 2 sets of rear brake pads, 2 transmission fluid changes, and 4 sets of tires.

I found the newest ILX to deliver all that I’ve come to know and enjoy from my 2013 – sans the clutch pedal – and even a bit more.  I think the 2019 would make a great, efficient, reliable daily driver for someone that gives exclusivity and value at the same time.  Consider the fact that Acura sold only 1,351 ILX models nationwide in the month of May 2019.  To put that in perspective, that same month the company sold 5,415 RDX models and Honda sold 32,800 Civics.  Personally I love driving something that not everyone else drives.

Dig It:

  • Large back-up cam screen
  • Audio system +++
  • Blind spot monitoring tech
  • Appearance – exterior, especially rear
  • Nimble, fun-to-drive dynamics
  • Improvements to details like the key fob quality
  • Subtle features like a “Start” button that changes color
  • Bang for the buck – so much content for the price

Meh:

  • Aux + cig lighter hook-ups are in the center console under a lid
  • Rear cross-traffic alert overly sensitive – beeps when cars are passing by even far away
  • Front turn signals are LED, rear are halogen – should be uniform
  • Multiple people commented on the obnoxiously large “A” emblem up front
  • I don’t know if I’ll ever be a fan of black wheels
  • Some LED license plate lighting would be an inexpensive way to class up the rear

Here’s a video I put together, and below are some pics from my week with this sweet little ride.

KBB awards on display!

The subtle yet effective aesthetics are evident here

From this perspective the cars are 100% similar

The LED taillights are perhaps my favorite feature of all

Head to head

The bottom line

Keys – old, new.  The new is more durable and feels heavier / higher quality.

Check out the comparison of “A” badges

Short vid and pics from over the weekend, including a jaunt to “Horny Toad” in Cave Creek for lunch, and a meet-up with friends in east Mesa.

The Captiva Blue 1993 del Sol Si belongs to fellow YouTuber Chris Sadowski.

Mirel came out in his Legend

Mirel, Chris, Tyson, Corey, Nick, Jonathan, Greg, John, Ken

Two of the cars in attendance were extremely rare Turbo Grand Prixs, produced in partnership with McLaren for the 1989 and 1990 model years.

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!

NSX Visitors, TLX Video, & a Gas Station Called The Thumb

Posted in Arizona, Restaurants, TLX, Vehicle Reviews on October 24, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra Sedan):  72,211

You know when you’re at Chili’s and someone orders chicken fajitas that come out from the kitchen steaming sizzling and evoke interest from jealous onlookers at other tables?  That’s called the “fajita effect,” at least according to my friend John who was visiting from North Carolina this past week.  John was one of a few of my friends who joined for an evening at one of the American middle class’s favorite chain restaurants.  Since John was in his red 2000 NSX, my house that night looked a bit like an Acura dealership.  The other cars you see here are a loaner 2018 TLX, my friend Jack’s 2006 RSX, and my 2013 ILX.  Another friend commented, “All your exes (X’s) are home.”

John was in the middle of a monumental 8,000-mile road trip from coast to coast, and back.  He started out in NC around September 10 and made his way to San Francisco, California in time to participate in this year’s NSXPO.  From there, he spent additional time roaming around California, working his way south to spend time in Joshua Tree National Park before starting his eastbound return trip, which is what brought him through Phoenix.  He ended up staying 3 nights at my place and I was happy to have him around.

Joining the party was Trent Streeter from Tucson who you met in a recent AcuraConnected article, who drives a beautiful 1992 NSX in Berlina Black.  I made space in the garage for both to park indoors while they were at my house, and I must say I enjoyed having some nice looking eye candy in there!

We attended a Cars & Coffee event in Chandler, along with several other NSXs.

My NSX is running & driving in tip-top shape thanks to some extensive preventive maintenance performed at Acura of Tempe.  Here are the items that were addressed:  Replace timing belt, water pump, tensioners, cam sensor, outer belts, replace valve cover gaskets and cam seals, replace VTEC solenoid seals, replace coolant hoses, replace rear brake pads, resurface rear brake rotors.

While all of this was being done, I roamed around in a loaner 2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD.  I enjoyed it a lot – especially its all-wheel-drive and confidence-inspiring handling during a couple of unusually rainy days here in Phoenix.  I put together a 10-minute video showing some of the highlights.  I took the car to a couple of important destinations.

One was a gas station & restaurant called The Thumb in Scottsdale which has been featured on TV (Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives).  They have great BBQ – I went with the pork brisket breakfast tacos, which sound like an odd combination, but trust me – it works.  They also sell race gas (95 octane).  I did not fill up the TLX with that.

The other destination was a historically significant home on 2nd Street in Phoenix near my office.  It was the site of 2 murders in 1931 by a woman named Winnie Ruth Judd.  She gained national notoriety not just for the fact that she killed her two roommates over a love affair, but because she later dismembered their bodies and mailed them in luggage via train to Los Angeles with intent of dumping the bodies into the ocean.  She spent most of the rest of her life in & out of insane asylums and court rooms, but lived to the ripe old age of 93.  I saw a film about her at a cool spot called FilmBar.

This purple home is where Winnie’s crime was committed.  Today, 87 years later, it’s surrounded by high rise condominiums.  It’s the only original home left on the entire block.

Here’s FilmBar where I saw the flick.

Here’s the video I put together on the TLX.

Another interior shot of The Thumb; this one features the fish tank.

Delicious breakfast tacos + potato salad on the side.

Racing fuel sold here!

Trent’s custom NSX interior.

Tyson, Trent, John

John gave me a silver NSX to add to my collection of memorabilia.

I got the 1994 Legend GS out for a bit of fun in the sun.

Special shout-out to my friend Rick from Rick’s Audi Double YouTube channel for sharing some logo stickers with me.  If you’re into car detailing and have even the slightest obsessive-compulsive disorder, you’ll definitely want to subscribe.

The 1990 Honda Accord EX got some mechanical loving this week with a $1,200 timing belt & water pump service at Hon-Man in Tempe.  The car’s prior timing belt was 10 years old and due for replacement for a time-based interval.  It is running & driving perfectly.

For those who haven’t had enough YouTube yet, I have 2 more videos for you to check out.  The first was put together by my friend Dom when I let him drive my NSX back in September at NSXPO.

In this next one regarding Acura’s return to Precision Crafted Performance, I make an appearance at around 6:40 in.

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.