Tag Archives: Minneapolis

This Week’s Wheels: 2012 Honda Civic EX

Just in time for the family to arrive for Thanksgiving, this 2012 Honda Civic EX appears in my driveway for the week. I hope it’s not as disappointing as the Civic SI Coupe I drove back in Minneapolis. With five us on here in the PDX for the turkey holiday, we’ll make sure to put it to the test.

Initial impressions are cheap interior plastics and some poor wearing fabric on the seats. But these are 10 second impressions.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Review – 2011 Kia Sportage EX AWD: The CUV Sporting the Most Flair

Kia isn’t known for its style or design. Kia’s biggest claim to fame is its 10 year/100,000 mile warranty. Well, that was until recently. When Kia hired ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, suddenly they had style and dare I say, flair.

This new third generation Sportage is so vastly different in almost every way from its predecessors, that it’s amazing that they sport the same name.

The exterior of the new Sportage looks like it fell out of the awesome tree and hit every branch on its way down. Beginning in the front, Sportage sports Kia’s new signature grill, flanked by swept back headlights. The headlights on upper trim models (like this EX) each have a strip of LED eye liner. Chrome trim above the fog lights finishes off the front end.

The sides have sculpting near the bottom of the doors while a character line runs beneath the window sills into the rear tail lights. Door handles and window sills are trimmed in chrome and the roof rails are covered in a with a satin metal-like finish. The side mirrors also feature LED repeaters, which is a nice touch in this class.

Around back the rear is very stylized, with what can only be described as a bubble butt. The rear view almost looks like an alien scowling at you, especially at night. The rear tail lights feature LED lighting.

With the rear window being somewhat small and the large C-pillars being kind of large, it makes for limited rearward visibility. It is clear that style played a larger role than function when it came to the exterior design – the exterior is probably the best looking exterior of any compact CUV on the market currently.

The interior is also stylized, though not to the extent the exterior is. The dash features two different finishes, one smooth and one textured, both are hard and have a low sheen to them.

The center console has a upward slant to it and it rises to meet the dashboard. The climate controls have a shiny piano black finish to them, but it is not distracting. I could imagine this plastic getting scratched easily over time though.

Both front seats were all day comfortable, with terrific seat heaters. Though only the front drivers seat features a cooling function. The front passenger will have to settle for only heat.

As I mentioned on the exterior, visibility is somewhat limited by the rear design. The C-pillars are quite large and the back glass is quite small. Further enhancing the problem are the somewhat large A-pillars in the front. While not as large as some of the competition, they are still large enough to cause some visibility issues. As with the current trend, the belt line on the Sportage is high, so resting your elbow on the window sill while driving is somewhat uncomfortable. The design also cuts into rear seat headroom. Taller passengers will need to sit up front.

Like the exterior, I found the interior to be a huge win. Button placement was all within arms reach and everything was clearly labeled. My only major gripe would be the style over function of some of the design characteristics.

Currently the new Sportage features one engine  2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that pumps out 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet to either the front or all four wheels. The power is routed through a six speed automatic transmission that has manual shift capabilities. The Sportage EX I was in came equipped with all-wheel drive and an electronic locking differential. The current powertrain combined with all-wheel drive is rated at 21/28 mpg, and I saw an average of 19 mpg in mixed suburban driving.

As with the new Sorento, I found the ride in the Sportage to be surprisingly stiff. While I can appreciate a stiff ride, over bumpy roads the suspension can feel jittery at times. Also, the steering is light when at parking lots speeds but firms up a little too much once underway.

While I had the Sportage, Minneapolis was whacked with the largest blizzard we have had in over ten years. I drove the Sportage out into the blizzard and must say I was highly impressed. I did not get stuck once. With over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours, I drove this Sportage through worse road conditions than almost any owner will ever drive through. The 18″ wheels with Hankook tires where very impressive and the stability control kept everything in line. I did lock the all-wheel drive a few times, though ground clearance did help as well. I am sure the cold and blizzard driving affected my gas mileage.

The EX AWD is currently the top trim model of the Sportage model. This Sportage featured both the Navigation/Premium Audio package as well as the Premium Package with Leather. Combined with these options and destination, the total price on this Sportage was $29,990.

The Sportage lands in a crowded market. The new Chevrolet Equinox is very competitive, and the Honda CR-V along with the Toyota RAV4 are both segment leaders. So is the new little Sportage finally ready to sell on more than price? The answer is absolutely. With more style, or flair if you will, than nearly all the competition, this Kia is ready to finally sell on design and features rather than a warranty and low price.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia

Introducing the GMC Jimmy SS Hybrid

Behold in all its glory, this very rare, super special GMC Jimmy. Very few of these SuperSport Hybrid Jimmy’s were made, finding one in halfway decent condition, that’s next to impossible. My good friend Mark just happened to stumble upon this fine example driving down the highway here in Minneapolis this week.

Ok fine, you got me. There was no GMC Jimmy SS Hybrid. But, I will say somewhere there is a Toyota Hybrid that is missing a badge of honor, and I bet it wants it back dearly. As for the SuperSport badge, who knows. What a cluster this piece of work is. I must say, the 4X4 decals really do finish off the picture.

Thanks Mark for the tip.

The Jeep Rocks And Road Tour Visits Minneapolis

This past weekend the Jeep Rocks and Road Tour visited Minneapolis. The tour is supposed to let people experience the capabilities of Jeep’s legendary vehicles. There is both on-road and off-road demonstrations provided, along with other fun-filled activities.

The tour in Minneapolis took over and transformed a vacant parking lot across from the Mall of America. The end result? A mud pit. Well it wasn’t a mud pit on Friday and Saturday. However, when I arrived on Sunday morning it was, due to rainfall Saturday night.

Though that did not make the event any less fun. The first thing I took part in was the Jeep Owner’s Playground. This was a course set up exclusively for current Jeep owners. If you brought your own Jeep you could take it through this course. The course had everything from a few high banked sand hills and rock trail, to a large hill with three humps to climb.

I was the first to hit the Owners Playground for the day. After about four runs, the large hill started to get too slick and the sides started to let me slide just a bit too much. The issue was all the rain from the night before. The entire course was becoming a sloppy mess. For safety, they shut down the large hill not long after my fourth run.

They also had plenty to do for non-Jeep owners. The main attraction was clearly the ability to drive the current line up of Jeeps on the main off-road course. Unfortunately the course had become so slick due to the rain that consumers were not allowed to drive.

Instead you were taken on the course with a professional driver. I was told a consumer did go first thing in the morning and walked away with eyes wide open. I took that to mean: “we could’ve had a problem, but we had the right staff on hand.”  I was glad to see safety was the first priority.

I went for a ride in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (Unlimited means four door). Naturally, the course was nothing this Jeep couldn’t handle – it took each obstacle in stride. Though the large 20 foot mountain was closed due to being too slick, I was told the Jeeps could make it up the mountain just fine. However, due to being so slick they might come down with more speed then they felt was safe.

Next up I visited the on-road course. This time I chose the new 2011 Grand Cherokee Laredo for the drive. The new Grand Cherokee handled the washboard section much better then my current 1999 Grand Cherokee would have, mainly due to the new suspension. The vehicle also had a decent turning radius. The steering was on center, though maybe too light? I would need more seat time to give that statement without a question mark.

For the kids Jeep had both a climbing wall and Jeep branded Power Wheels mini vehicles. This set up satisfied the different age groups. No matter what, families had something to do for the kids. Also on hand was a Jeep Wrangler Islander edition. The task was to see who could unlatch and take down the soft top the fastest. The last station/task was essentially a balancing act, literally.

They had a Jeep Compass on a wooden platform that was set on a log. The goal was to balance the Compass on the platform so either side of the platform was not touching the ground. I was informed only a few people have achieved the task, and it really is almost luck. I tried for over ten minutes, only to get severely frustrated. I failed, though for the record, I came close. Finally I gave up, but only because another person wanted a try.

Of course, other things were on hand to look at. The new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland was in a tent to sit in and play with. A very old Jeep Willys (?) was on hand, though no touching was allowed. Also on site were quite a few modified Jeep Wranglers, one with a regular 5.7 liter HEMI and another with a 6.7 liter HEMI. Both were quite beastly.

Overall the Jeep Road and Rock Tour was a very entertaining way to spend my Sunday morning. Even with some drizzling rain and the course turned to a mud pit, it was a blast.

Everyone there seemed to be enjoying themselves, even the staff! You can tell many of the staff are true enthusiasts themselves. That really does add to the experience and energy level. Until the Jeep Rocks and Road Tour rolls through town again, drive safe and clean the mud off your undercarriage.

Photography- Alex Bellus

Honda CRX – The Fast And The Furious Fail Edition

I really hope you were sitting down when you first viewed the above picture. The horror…. The Honda CRX is a highly coveted piece of Honda history. The enthusiasts around this model are loyal to the end of the earth. Many CRX’s have been either heavily modified or are rusting apart. When you find a really nice one it brings tears to the enthusiasts eyes. This fine piece of fail was spotted by myself in Dinky Town in Minneapolis. I almost cried. From the horrific paint job (by a kid with a paintbrush?!) to the wicked awesome wing! Oh don’t forget those super cool exhaust cans…. *sigh* I’m going to go cry in the corner now. Call me for dinner.

Cars & Café – September 4, 2010

Another month has come and gone which means it is time for yet again another Cars & Café.  Unfortunately this month the Saturday happened to fall on the holiday weekend known as Labor Day.  Most people in Minnesota that have a cabin know Labor Day weekend as a work weekend and I fall into that category.  As I was cleaning up boats, many auto enthusiasts in Minneapolis were gathering for coffee and doughnuts.  Oh and there were cars as well.

The weather was gorgeous (where as last month is was *ahem* crappy) and the cars flowed in.  Luckily for us my friends Ross and Alex Bellus both were in attendance reporting back.

The good is a long list this month.  The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Super Snake made an appearance again as did the Aston Martin DB7 Vantage.  The Bentley Continental SuperSport made an appearance along with three Porsche GT3 RS’s.  These are all super but the Mazda Miata with a LS3 V8 shoved in it, well that really takes a special place in my heart.  The amount of awesomeness that oozes from that is off the charts.

I’m told little to no head scratching vehicles made an appearance, so I will just have to take the word that there were few.  I did hear about a VW Golf that had digital camouflage (what!?).  Also, the above VW something or another that was chopped and had a small bed welded on on the back made an appearance.  Oh and that VW something or another had full hydraulics in the front which the owner lowered down once parking.  Also a BMW had a very unique sound system in the trunk that payed homage to BMW’s M division.

From the Super Seven to the Yenko Camaro, the cars were all there and the weather cooperated.  Many thank’s to Ross and Alex Bellus for providing the photo’s.  Until next month when the enthusiasts gather again for a cup of coffee and doughnuts, oh and the cars.

Photography- Alex Bellus and Ross

Wheels of Italy Comes to Minneapolis

This past weekend marked the 8th annual Wheels of Italy car show.  As the name implies this is a show for everything Italian.  From prancing horses to raging bulls the shows was not a disappointment.  I was not on hand this year (I attended last year) but luckily for us local photographer extraordinaire Alex Bellus was in attendance and took some stunning photography.  Alex mode note that one of the coolest rides that showed in his opinion was the Ferrari 250 California Spider.  Like last year the event was held near Lake Calhoun from 10-4pm and was open to the public.  Word on the street is that even a car or two that made it to Pebble Beach Concours hustled back to Minneapolis to make the show.  While I hope to make it again next year for now grab a cup of coffee and take a gander at the gallery below for Alex has some great shots of some gorgeous automobiles.

Photography- Alex Bellus

Fallon Dumps Chrysler and Signs Cadillac Account

Word on the street is Fallon here in Minneapolis just signed the Cadillac account.  Supposedly to do so they had to dump the Chrysler account.  This is just another shake up for the Cadillac marketing account as it just went to Bartle Bogle Hegarty five months ago.  Of course no one will comment on the situation (Fallon, Chrysler or Cadillac).

Source- Adweek

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 29: “The Luxury-Like Redux Episode”

Episode 29 starts with introducing this weeks guest Drew Dowdell owner of CheersandGears.  Moving into the garage we talk about the Chevrolet Camaro Colin was in for the past week.  We also take time for a special report on the Local Minneapolis Fisker Karma unveiling that I attended last week.  We then move along to the major news of the week segment.  This week included-

We then proceed to the clip of the week segment.  This week we featured Toyota, finally, although indirectly, is now acknowledging their safety failures for the first time in an ad  which Features their new Star Safety System. This system includes ABS, Electronic Stability Control, and the much needed brake over-ride system. (Link)

Next came our main topic which was discussing Mercury’s death and Lincoln’s future.

Last we plug our respective blogs, Cheers and Gears,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

Download this episode (right click and save)


Local Unveiling – The Fisker Karma Comes to Minneapolis

This Thursday the up coming Fisker Karma sedan will have its local unveiling.  The sedan will be shown to the public at Borton Volvo which will be the Twin Cities only Fisker dealership.

Quick run down –

WHO: Created by acclaimed Danish designer Henrik Fisker,  who also designed the BMW Z8 and the Aston Martin DB8,  the Fisker Karma combines plug-in hybrid technology with stunning design and sports car performance.

WHEN: Thursday, June 10, 2010 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

WHERE: Borton Volvo/Fisker, 905 Hampshire Ave. S., Golden Valley, MN 55426

FISKER KARMA DETAILS:

  • Combines world-class luxury and sports car-like performance with industry-leading economy and zero tailpipe emissions in electric mode.
  • With 403 hp, it can reach 60 mph in six seconds and a top speed of 125 mph.
  • Achieves more than 100 mpg.
  • Lithium-ion battery can be fully recharged in as little as eight hours from any electrical outlet.
  • A gasoline generator provides electric propulsion when the battery is low