2014 Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year Competition

Posted in Arizona, Vehicle Reviews on October 20, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  531,624


Odometer (ILX):  100,290


Ever seen one of these?


I hadn’t, either.  You’re looking at the brand new 2015 Jeep Renegade: known as a “cute brute” for its compact size, yet capable off-road versatility.  It will be going on sale next spring, but I got a special first-look last Friday at a kick-off event for this year’s Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program in Chandler, Arizona.  Let’s test-drive some new cars!

Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year was launched in Fall 2004 as a small awards program centered around bringing athletes and automobiles together.  Since then, it’s evolved into an event that attracts over 100 athletes, around 30 vehicles, and even celebrity judges like retired NFL players.  The idea behind the event is that “active” people – runners, bikers, hikers, sports players – require more from their vehicles than the everyday customer.  How well does the vehicle accommodate gear?  That is the type of question used in the evaluations.  The program was held at the Chandler campus of Local Motors, a domestic automaker known for its go-anywhere Rally Fighter automobile.


Prior write-ups from my ALV participation are here:

I captained a team of 10 people who were assigned to evaluate the “Green” category of vehicles.  The three vehicles which we cast ballots on were the following:

  • Kia Soul EV
  • Toyota Prius Plug-In
  • Volkswagen Golf TDI


Before our test-drives got started, a representative from each of the automakers had the chance to conduct a brief walkaround highlighting the features of their vehicle.  Jessica Peraza representated Toyota, Darryll Harrison came from VW, and James Hope from Kia.  Each of the vehicles in our group represented a very unique foray into alternative fuel industry.

Kia Soul EV

The Soul, not surprisingly, delivers instantaneous torque thanks to its all-electric powertrain.  A 600-pound battery is located in the floorboard of the vehicle, keeping its center of gravity low and helping with handling.  For around $35k, the Soul offers up a 95-mile range when equipped with a full battery charge.  I found some of its features pretty clever, including the fact that there’s a button on the instrument panel for “DRIVER ONLY” which optimizes climate control efficiency when there’s only one occupant in the vehicle.

Toyota Prius

The Prius is a fleet favorite in the Phoenix area, as there are hundreds zooming around the streets at any given time – finished in bright neon green and with Discount Cab labeling all around.  I’ll confess right here and now:  I’ve always “judged” the Prius (and those who drive them).  The car hits its target spot-on, though.  For anyone needing the ultimate in efficiency with plenty of cargo space, its name is the first that comes to many of our minds.  I mashed the accelerator on the Interstate 10 onramp and found power to be surprisingly acceptable.  Around-town, the car simply glides around effortlessly.  The Plug-In model that we tested will run about 10 miles on electric-only before the gas engine kicks in.  Pretty slick!

Volkswagen Golf  (Winner)

The Golf TDI, which won the category, was the definite crowd pleaser.  It offered mpg in the 40’s while still exhibiting some fun-to-drive dynamics.  The model we tested was the $27k “SE” trim level with a 6-speed manual transmission.  Similar to the family of Jettas that I drove recently at a PAPA event, the Golf further shows just how far diesel power has evolved in terms of efficiency and everyday applications.  The power comes on quickly in the low-RPM range, and the Golf handles like a much sportier car, with plenty of grip in the corners.


Among the 30-someodd other vehicles that I had the opportunity to drive were the Cadillac CTS V-Sport and the Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD.  The Cadillac, at 420 horsepower from its twin-turbo motor, was an absolute riot to drive.  And driving the TLX, of course, made me feel right at home.  It’s dignified when you want it to be, and it’s an engaging fun-to-drive car when the mood dictates, too.  I’ll be reviewing a TLX for a full week in the near future and I’ll share more detailed driving impressions at that time.  The well-loved Acura MDX came out for competition, too.

Here’s a photo album on Facebook with over 100 pictures from our day’s fun.

Urban Category


Best Value On-Road Category


Luxury On-Road Category


Luxury Family Category


Best Value Family Category


Off Road Categories


ALV Co-Founder Nina Russin kicks things off with a welcome on Saturday morning.


Athletes take a break from the judging to sit in the shade and tally their ballots.


Jack, Tyson, Paul.  You might recognize these troublemakers from previous Drive to Five road trips.


Paul getting settled into the Prius.  It’s a little different driving experience than his 2013 Acura TL SH-AWD.


GM representative Craig Eppling rode along with me during my spirited test-drive of the powerful Cadillac CTS.


Thanks for joining for the fun!


2013 Acura ILX 2.4: 100,000 Miles Achieved

Posted in ILX, Milestones on October 16, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  531,618


Odometer (ILX):  100,025



Monument Valley, Utah


History Lesson

I’d already been driving my 1994 Acura Legend for 8 years when I started this blog in March, 2011.  I had 467,000 miles on my car and was determined to push it to half a million.  Acura took note of my enthusiasm, and we got in touch with one another.  Amid fanfare and fun, we celebrated the 500,000 milestone together on November 4, 2011 at headquarters in Torrance, California.  Over the next few months, Acura engaged me in part of its launch campaign for an all-new entry model to the lineup called the ILX.  I was privileged to meet the design teams, experience the car before it saw the public eye, and even travel to the assembly plant for an exclusive tour.

The capstone to my involvement with the ILX launch happened when a car that I’d ordered to my specifications was delivered to a local dealership in Tempe, Arizona in early June 2012 and I was presented the key.  The agreement at the time was that I’d blog about the car here, on my site, for a year.  And that I did.  I rolled around on a California license plate with a Honda-owned “fleet” car for over a year.  On November 22, 2013, Acura was sufficiently satisfied with my efforts and had sent me the title to the car.  I registered it in my name on that day, and it already had over 60,000 miles on it at the time.  The rest is history.  I’ve continued daily driving my little ILX ever since.  And, just a little over 28 months after getting the key, I rolled 100,000 miles on the odometer yesterday.

Burr Trail, Utah


Now, about my car itself.  The very first 2013 Acura ILX rolled off the assembly line at Honda’s Greensburg, Indiana assembly plant on April 23, 2012.  I was there that day.  That first ILX, by the way, was a Fathom Blue Pearl 6-speed manual.  My ILX was built a couple of weeks later, in May 2012 according to its VIN sticker in the driver’s door jamb.  It is production #000082, which means it was the 82nd (manual, 6-speed) ILX produced.  If we want to get into even greater detail, it was the 6th “Silver Moon Metallic” ILX 2.4 built.

Grand Coulee Dam, Washington


My car had a base price of $30,095, but it’s equipped with $5,140.28 in dealership add-ons.  These are as-installed prices from Acura of Tempe, where I got the car, per a recent quote list.

  • All Season Floor Mats:  $147.00
  • Illuminated Door Sill Trim:  $499.00
  • First Aid Kit:  $30.14
  • Trunk Tray:  $123.00
  • 17 Inch Diamond Cut Alloy Wheels:  $1,732.00
  • Decklid Spoiler:  $519.00
  • Front, Side, & Rear Underbody Spoilers:  $1,910.00
  • Rear Bumper Applique:  $101.00
  • Wheel Locks:  $79.28

I’ve since added $885 worth of window tint & 3M Clear Bra, a moonroof visor for $108, and chrome grille inserts specific to the Hybrid model for $67.

I took delivery of the car when Sr. Manager of Digital Marketing, John Watts, handed me the key on June 12, 2012.  The car had 16 miles on the odometer.  Since then, we’ve had quite the wild ride.  I’ll share here just a few of the highlights over the last 100,000 miles.

Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming


100,000 Mile Highlights

 Highest & Lowest Elevation Paved Roads in North America

  • Mount Evans, west of Denver, Colorado (14,130 feet) – July 2013
  • Badwater Basin, in Death Valley National Park, California (282 feet below sea level) – July 2014

Yuma, Arizona


National Parks

Kayenta, Arizona


Auto Shows

  • Los Angeles International, Los Angeles, California – November 2012 & 2013
  • SEMA, Las Vegas, Nevada – November 2012 & 2013

Inglewood, California


Random Destinations Large & Small

Carefree, Arizona


Memorable Road Trips

  • Winding down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in America, San Francisco – August 2012
  • Driving on the high-speed oval at Nissan’s proving ground in Stanfield, Arizona – September 2012
  • Visiting the ghost towns of Modena and Cisco, Utah – December 2012, February 2013
  • Getting sandblasted at White Sands National Monument in Las Cruces, NM – March 2013
  • Roaming around a copper mining town called “Bagdad, Arizona” – March 2013
  • Getting stuck in the sand at Four Corners National Monument – May 2013
  • Cruising Historic Route 66 from Kingman to Seligman, Arizona – May 2013
  • Exploring the Million Dollar Highway, Colorado Route 550 from Durango to Silverton – May 2013
  • Off-roading on the Apache Trail to Roosevelt Lake, Arizona – June 2013
  • Navigating sandstone landscapes in rural Utah on Hell’s Backbone Road – August 2013
  • Driving Grandma to a family reunion in Spokane, Washington – August 2013
  • Road tripping to Colossal Cave in Tucson, Arizona – September 2013
  • Carving Coronado Trail’s 400+ curves within 100 miles, Arizona – October 2013
  • Hitching a train ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad in Clarkdale, Arizona – December 2013
  • Visiting the Back to the Future House, Roslyndale, California – March 2014
  • Taking a 3-Acura tandem road trip to Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona – April 2014
  • Traveling 358 miles just to see a roadside attraction called “The Thing” – May 2014
  • Enjoying a father-son road trip on the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming – June 2014
  • Time traveling to Tombstone, Arizona in the Wild West – September 2014
  • 3 Castle Visits:  Mystery Castle, Tovrea Castle, and Montezuma’s Castle

White Sands, New Mexico


Media Attention

Beartooth Pass, Wyoming/Montana



U.S. States Visited (19 of 50)


Key Milestone Dates & Locations

  • 10,000 Miles:  Sylmar, California  (8/10/12)
  • 25,000 Miles:  Sedona, Arizona  (1/13/13)
  • 50,000 Miles:  Baker City, Oregon  (8/15/13)
  • 75,000 Miles:  Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona  (4/20/14)
  • 100,000 Miles:  Fort McDowell, Arizona (10/15/14)

San Francisco, California


Maintenance History

Total Maintenance Cost:  $2,603.31

Key Notes:

  • 15 Oil & Filter Changes (0W20 Oil)
  • 4 Engine Air Filter Replacements
  • 1 Recall (5,392 Miles)
  • 2 Sets of Michelin Pilot MXM4 Tires  (52,327 Miles)
  • 1 Rear Brake Pad Replacement  (96,461 Miles)

Detailed History as Follows (Spreadsheet Screen Capture):


Note that my only non-“routine” maintenance was replacement of a passenger side fog light housing for $120 at around 72,000 miles.  The glass lenses — as well as the foglights’ placement low in the front bumper — make them highly susceptible to cracking.

Drive to Five Milestones

I’ve had so much fun with this website over the years.  Since I started the blog in March 2011, I have posted more than 400 times.  There have been 250,000 views worldwide and around 3,300 comments.  It’s fitting, too, that the blog is on track to hit 100,000 views in the year 2014 alone.  Check out my YouTube Channel for videos of many of my milestones & drives.  I also actively post on Facebook and Instagram.

Modena, Utah


What’s Next?

It’s business as usual around here for the foreseeable future.  I may scale back the road tripping just a bit to focus on things at home.  Anyone who’s seen the towering weeds in my backyard knows that I’ve been out of town far too much to keep up with my chores.  I’m not planning on making any automotive changes, but I’ll continue to take you along for my adventures and bring you periodic “new car” reviews as vehicles become available in the Phoenix-based press fleet.

Thanks for being a part of the journey!

Four Corners


Here’s a 100,000 mile roll-over video for your viewing pleasure, as well as a detailed walkaround of my car.  It’s 10 minutes long.

Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car Magazine: November 2014 Feature

Posted in Blog, Legend on October 14, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  531,614


Odometer (ILX):  99,809


My pride and joy just made the cover of a magazine, and I’m absolutely thrilled.  Some of you may remember when I met up with photographer Jeff Koch from Hemmings earlier this year.  Well, the fruits of Jeff’s labors – and those of his colleague Mark McCourt who put together the written copy – came together in a feature story for the November 2014 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.

My 1994 Acura Legend coupe was featured along with two other cars:  A 1972 Citroen SM and 1984 Volkswagen GTI.  Each vehicle has achieved impressive mileage thanks to diligent care & maintenance over the years.

Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car launched in 2005 with a focus on collector cars built outside the U.S.  Its ‘parent’ publication, Hemmings Motor News, has been around since the mid-1950’s and is widely considered to be one of the core magazines of the collector car industry.  It sells 215,000 copies per month.  Many thanks to Jeff and to Mark for the opportunity to participate in such a cool story.  More here, too, at this Hemmings blog entry.

EDIT 10/15/14:  Per Hemmings policy, I’ve removed the full-resolution versions of the article.  I’m not allowed to post those until the current issue is off the newsstands.  So, check back here in about a month and I’ll have them re-loaded.  For now, feel free to grab a copy at your local magazine retailer or online at the Hemmings website:)


Cover – Check out the Legend thumbnail pic!


Page 1


Page 2


Page 3


Page 4


Cave Creek, Arizona: Sears Kay Ruin Hike & Big Earl’s Greasy Eats

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, Road Trip on October 12, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  531,609


Odometer (ILX):  99,625


Trip Distance:  81 Miles


Let’s get the heck out of town!  In the matter of a short 3-hour jaunt today, my friends and I squoze (squeezed?) in a scenic drive, a hike, and some great grub.  I’d say this Sunday funday got off to a really nice start.  This morning, my friend Jack, Ian, and Brian stopped by to ride as passengers in the ILX as we headed to the hills northeast of Phoenix, Arizona.  We made our way northbound on Loop 101 and Pima Rd, followed by a turn down Cave Creek Road toward its dirt road terminus.  Our first stop included a history lesson.


Sears Kay Ruin has a self-guided hike that we stopped to get a closer look at.  Historians believe this site was occupied between 1050 and 1200 AD by the native Hohokam people.  The place gets its name from a rancher who occupied the area in 1887.  The site at one time was elaborate with 40 rooms or more, but today the walls are weathered and worn down to just a couple of feet high.  From the parking area, the one-mile loop was steep at times but not overly strenuous.  The 360-degree views were worth every drop of sweat.


After the hike, we headed out in the ILX toward the end of the pavement on Cave Creek Road.  The twisties got a little more intense but the pavement was fresh so conditions were right for having a little bit of cornering fun.  The ILX definitely handles differently when I’ve got 3 passengers as opposed to when it’s just me.  I actually prefer how “planted” it feels when there’s a little more weight in the car.


When I see a sign that says “Pavement Ends,” it’s usually more an invitation than a warning.  It only encourages me to keep pressing onward to see what might lie around the next bend.  Further up the dirt road lies Seven Springs Campground was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 and has 25 different sites.  It’s 9 miles 0f narrow gravel road with blind curves at times, but you can bet I’ll be going back to explore its entirety soon.


Our last stop was at a lunch destination with a very odd name:  Big Earl’s Greasy Eats started out as a 1935 Standard Oil gas station in Phoenix but was moved in the 1950’s to its current location in Carefree, Arizona.  Since 2002, it’s operated as a restaurant.  The menu consisted of standard diner-type fare, and I opted for the mushroom & Swiss hamburger accompanied by some sweet potato fries.  All in all, a perfect mini adventure and a nice escape with friends.  Thanks for joining us for the drive!

Parking at Sears Kay trailhead


Information on the Sears Kay history


Some of the ruins.  These have been reinforced over the years.


Ian, Brian, Tyson


Jack posted this snazzy pic of me behind the wheel.  Follow him on Instagram!


Here’s a look at Cave Creek Road, just prior to where it turns to dirt at the north end.


Menu at Big Earl’s


Parking at Big Earl’s


Tyson and Jack enjoying the weather in Cave Creek, Arizona


Patio at Big Earl’s


Ian strutting his stuff at Big Earl’s


RNR Auto Blog Review: 1994 Legend Coupe & Sedan

Posted in Blog, Legend on October 8, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  531,579


Odometer (ILX):  99,300


My buddy Ruben’s at it again!

Take a drive on over to RNR Automotive Blog and check out his recent review & photos of my 1994 Acura Legends.

Link here

This is the third in a series of reviews Ruben has done on my cars:

Thanks again Ruben for the feature!


Just for kicks today:

You all know how much I love re-creating old pics — as in, staging a shot that’s in the same location, with the same background, with as many of the same conditions as possible.  On my way to Long Beach for JCCS a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in Desert Center for a picture of the ILX at this run-down gas station.

Two days later, my friend Jack happened to be traveling along that same stretch of road and he copied my picture by parking his red 2002 Lexus IS300 in the same spot.  Ha!  Nicely done, Jack.


Southern Utah Trip: 2014 St. George Marathon

Posted in ILX, Road Trip, Utah on October 6, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  531,574


Odometer (ILX):  99,001


Trip Distance:  878.2 miles


I traveled around 878 miles this weekend, but 26.2 of those were more painful than all the rest.  For those miles, I traveled by foot.  Well, by New Balance running shoe anyway.  It’s tradition each October to spend a weekend in my hometown and participate in the St. George Marathon which travels along State Route 18 and beautiful Snow Canyon State Park.  Here are write-ups on the previous trips to the St. George Marathons I’ve blogged about.

It seems that with each passing year, my training gets less and less involved, and that definitely held true for the 2014 event.  Having run only a maximum of 6 miles at a time since January, I was poorly prepared for what was to come.

On Saturday morning, a delayed race start (7:00 a.m. instead of 6:45) meant it would be a little warmer on the course for all of us.  The heat, as it turned out, was what really drained my energy.  I had a strong start, but by mile 7 I’d crossed into new distance territory and my body didn’t like it one bit.  My mom blew past me at mile 8, just before we had to tackle this huge hill (she’s pictured in blue shorts here).  I was amazed that we’d even seen each other, considering the fact that we hadn’t started together and there were 7,998 other registered participants!


At mile 10, I could tell I was overheating and dehydrated.  I took advantage of a downhill at mile 14 to let gravity do some work for me, but the road quickly again leveled out and I told myself I’d never do this again.  A fitting song came on my playlist just then:  “Run, Run, Run” by Vicci Martinez.

It was around mile 16 when I slowed to a walk because I could tell there was a blister on my left foot.  I needed to get my mind off the race for a minute, so I turned my phone off “airplane mode” and checked text messages and emails while I walked.  I’m pretty sure I was the only person on the course reading his monthly HOA newsletter at that moment in time.  An aid station up ahead called to me like an oasis in the desert, and I downed 3 cups of Gatorade and half an orange when I got there.  That gave me enough fuel to pick up the pace again just a bit.


My grandma was sitting alongside the road at mile 24 in the same place she’s been every year.  She’s definitely my most dedicated fan, and she’d gone to the effort of writing up a poem on posterboard to provide me (and my mom) some motivation.  The last couple miles of the race took us winding through central St. George, with lots of crowd support and fanfare as we neared the finish.  I saved a little energy for one last dash during the last couple of blocks, then came to a stop and felt the extreme sense of relief in knowing that I’d finished.  My cousin Nicki, who’d long-since finished the race, caught my finish on video.  My bright orange shirt was pretty easy to spot.

It wasn’t the ice cream sandwich, the Texas Roadhouse rolls, or the yogurt that I most enjoyed in the fenced-off runner recovery area after the race.  It was the chocolate milk, and I chugged a few cups of it in delight. I ended up with a 4 hour, 43 minute finish time.  This was over 20 minutes slower than my time last year.  Look at how much my pace slowed toward the finish!  Slow poke.


We spent the afternoon relaxing with family.  Here are the rest of the pics from this weekend of fun.

I had the privilege of shuttling my cousin Nicki between Las Vegas, Nevada and St. George, Utah for the race.


Unfortunately, the ILX was victim to a hit-and-run in Las Vegas early Friday morning.  I’m still trying to get ahold of my motel’s parking lot surveillance camera tape, but sometime between 1:00 and 7:00 a.m., the back bumper got hit & creased.  Bummer!



Carbo-loading at Pasta Factory in St. George, the day before the race.


Ready to rock and roll!


Bonfires at the start line helped keep the chilly wind from making us too uncomfortable.


I thought it very fitting when this song came on.




Passing a mile marker somewhere.


Grandma on the roadside.


And her sign:


My friend Kerri was in her front yard cheering on the participants, too.


Best reward ever?  Chocolate milk at the finish line.


And an ice cream sandwich.


Mom showing off her muscles.  She pulled off a 4-hour finish time.


Much-needed relaxation.


Hanging with cousins.


Oh yeah, and those “sport” pedals in the ILX?  I made the mistake of trying to drive barefoot after the race.  Those little rubber nubs lit my blisters on fire every time I pushed in the clutch pedal or brake.  Ouch.  I had to pull over and find my flip flops before continuing on.


Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Press Preview: 2015 Ford Mustang & Others

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on October 2, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  531,570


Odometer (ILX):  98,048


“It provokes you.”  Those are the first 3 words I said when I climbed out of the 2015 Ford Mustang GT after a spirited test drive in Chandler, Arizona this afternoon.  The car and its beastly rumble act as an immediate testosterone boost to anyone who takes the helm.  It’s almost as if the 435-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 is begging for its driver to do things that law enforcement would consider naughty.


Today, I attended a special media preview for PAPA members where we got to spend some time tooling around in a variety of models from Ford’s 2015 roster.  The selection was broad:  From an ultra-basic 3-cylinder Fiesta to the mighty Mustang musclecar, there was something for everyone in the fleet.


It’s not the first time I’ve gotten the chance for a first-hand look at upcoming Ford models, as some of you may recall my write-up on the new F-150 from back in May.  Ford seems to have its act together these days, as I was impressed with that I saw & drove.  It seems I went incrementally in terms of driver engagement:  I started out with the run of the mill Fusion and wound up ending my day with the stunning 6th generation Mustang.  Each vehicle had its similaries but yet offered a distinct driving experience.  I’ll share just a few thoughts about each.



The “Brick Red” Fusion that I drove was one that felt the most like a hum-drum rental car — and for good reason.  This car has made its way into company and rental fleets in huge numbers.  Its predictability and “friendly” driving demeanor make it a perfect fit for that type of use — it’s easy to figure out within just moments behind the wheel.  I thought the auto start/stop from the 1.6 liter inline 4-cylinder was a little choppy, so I’d probably turn that feature off if I owned one of these.  Fit & finish was nice and for $22,400 I’d say it’s a nice bang-for-the-buck deal.




C-MAX Hybrid is Ford’s only vehicle that’s offered in a “hybrid-only” variant.  It was available in Europe long before it came to the United States in September 2012.  The C-MAX’s continuously variable transmission acts like it wants to continue pulling the driver forward even after releasing the pedal.  It took some getting used to.

Capless fueling is a nice touch, but people who buy the C-MAX hope to not be refueling very frequently.  Touting a 42 city / 37 highway mpg rating, this vehicle directed at the hyper-milers of the driving world.  To that point, the gauge cluster even includes a graphic with a tree & leaves on it.  The idea here?  When you drive in a fuel-consumption-friendly manner, the leaves on that little tree actually spread and grow.  When you romp on it, the tree goes barren like it’s January.  Weird, I know.  But if playing games with trees and graphics is what it takes to get people to lift their right feet and save gas, then so be it!






Here the rig that the Honda CR-V is a little afraid of.  The Ford Escape brings to the table some impressive technology and a nice sense of style.  I found the ride to be comfortable and the controls easy to operate.  I did find the climate control placement odd.  With the shift lever in Park, some of the buttons are actually blocked.

The Escape that I drove was a top-line “Titanium” model with 19″ alloy wheels and some cool gadgets & gizmos.  One example:  Let’s say you’re walking up to the back of the vehicle with your hands full of grocery bags.  As long as you have the key fob in your pocket, you can wave your foot beneath the back of the rear cargo door and it’ll raise itself automatically.  Pretty genius.







Isn’t this just the cutest little thing?  Here I present to you the Ford Fiesta:  the vehicle with Ford’s smallest motor ever.  Its tiny 1.0 liter, 123-horsepower turbocharged 3-cylinder has a unique sound to it.  The car takes its time getting up to speed, but for an around-town commuter, the oomph should be sufficient.  The 5-speed manual transmission had a nice feel to it but the shift knob itself felt “light.”  Perhaps it could be weighted a bit for a more substantial feel.

The Fiesta’s motor needs to be revved up substantially before it provides much tangible power.  I found it interesting that there was a little “up arrow” shift light that shows up in the gauge cluster when the car feels like it’s time to move to the next gear.  Again, the idea here is economy so this car wasn’t designed to be all that sporty.  My next tested vehicle, however….


Hey look, Acura RL!




Here we have that little red car’s evil twin.  Next up:  Fiesta ST.  When you see the “ST” badge, know that it stands for Sport Technology.  In other words, you’re looking at a car that’s been tested and tuned to offer quicker responsiveness and better handling than its lower-trim counterparts.  It’s no wonder Ford decided to call this color “Performance Blue,” because it only took until the end of the block before I could tell the car had been developed with fun-factor in mind.  First of all, its Recaro seats are perhaps the most form-fitting I’ve ever experienced.  The side bolsters are so huge that they hold the driver in an unbreakable grip.

The ST is powered by a 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline 4 which sends 197 ponies to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission.  While I found the transmission not quite as seamless as the one I’ve grown accustomed to in my ILX, I did enjoy the shortness of the throws and the feel of the clutch.  The car happily revs to redline, and it’s in the beyond-3,000 RPM range when the thrills ramp up rapidly.  This is a car that turns every driver into a giddy high schooler with something to prove.





The big kahuna, here’s the all-new 2015 Mustang GT.  Wider, lower, and more powerful than its predecessors, this is the car that you need if you’ve got a hankering for some V8 grunt.  I put this rig through its paces and quickly learned that the power delivery is enough to put – and keep – a huge grin on any driver’s face.  The transmission is a 6-speed manual “Getrag” unit that has a solid feel to it.  And YES, since you’re all asking me right now:  This thing will gladly sacrifice a little tread on its rear tires for a spirited corner when asked.  I took a U-turn and gave it just a little bit of throttle in 2nd gear and the experienced the Mustang’s traction-control assistance keeping me from getting sideways.  Fun factor?  11 out of 10.

I got a kick out of the fact that the Mustang’s speedometer says “GROUND SPEED.”  Clearly someone in the design team had a sense of humor, and I appreciate that.  The Mustang’s diversity is what’ll drive it to sell like the American favorite that it is.  The car can be had with 3 different engine choices, ranging from a 4 cylinder, to a V6, to the top-tier V8 which I drove.  Even the ‘base’ 4-cylinder is no slouch, putting out 310 horses.  Starting at $23,600 – it’s a solid entry into the sports car world.



Hope you enjoyed the test drives, and a huge thanks to Ford for entrusting me with a few minutes behind the wheel of each of these fine rides!  Have a great weekend, all.


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