Tag Archives: road america

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

Veloster N a hot hatchback, but avoid snow …

With apologies to the late Dr. John, I was in the right place, but it must have been the wrong time. … I been in the right trip, but I must have used the wrong car.

The day after Hyundai’s Racing Red Veloster N arrived, it snowed. I know, it’s too early, but it snowed. It was exactly the wrong time to have this peppy high-value street racer, this boy (and girl) toy that is perfectly aimed at the bullseye that is the youth market. Continue reading 2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 BMW M2 Competition Coupe

BMW M2 a fast car on track, but tough on the tushie …

BMW is as synonymous with racing as Porsche and Ferrari, but also known for making road-worthy sedans and coupes that offer at least a modicum of civility and practicality.

As its 3 Series and 5 Series cars have continued to grow, both in size and price, BMW wisely stepped back toward its roots to create both a 1 and 2 Series. These are smaller and less pricey, comparatively, from its mainstream offerings. Continue reading 2019 BMW M2 Competition Coupe

MAMA 2019 Spring Rally: Car heaven for auto journalist

So many cars to choose from

Mark and I love this event. We get to hang out at our favorite race track, Road America, that’s practically in our backyards. For two days, May 22-23, we attended The Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) annual Spring Rally.

We joined about 100 other automotive journalists from all over the country driving the latests from the automotive manufacturers on the track, on the streets of Elkhart Lake, off-road and even some autocross. The manufacturers tell us they love this event because of the quality time they get to spend with all of us and receive lots of feedback on their vehicles. So, what to hop in first? Hop in and go for a ride.

There were some other fun cars that we took for a spin that we did not capture on tape like the Ford Mustang GT 350 that had the best growl of any of the cars. The color kind of reminds me of the Mustang that Parnelli Jones drove in the Trans-Am series during the late 60’s.

Dodge had two of their Challengers, the Redeye and this Hellcat Scat Pack. The Redeye was pulled from the track because of the slick conditions that morning so we hopped in the Scat Pack. I’ve driven one before but not at Road America. The 485 hp Hemi did not disappoint and even though they did their best to keep our speeds down at Kettle Bottoms I was able to get the Challenger up to 127 mph.

We closed out the afternoon both with an opportunity to drive this brand new Acura NSX. If the other cars we drove were cuts of meat, this was the prime rib. So smooth to drive. We both decided to start saving up to buy one but at $199,000, it’s going to be a while.

By far the best paint job of any vehicle at Road America. It takes the factory 5 days to paint this Acura TLX PMC edition. It was almost like you could put your hand in, it was so deep.

Time to do some off-roading

Mark and I split up in Thursday morning with him going to do so auto cross on Road America’s go kart track while I headed for some good muddy fun at the off road course. There, I got my second chance to drive the new Jeep Gladiator.

Related: Read about my first drive of the Gladiator.

This Rubicon edition was the most capable of the test vehicles in its class, which included the Chevy Bison and Ford Ranger. While the course wasn’t as large as the one I drove on in California, it had a good mix of mud ruts and hills. It’s not just me that has this love fest going on with the Gladiator, my fellow automotive journalists liked it as well as it was one of three nominated for MAMA’s Family Vehicle of the Year. There was also a Gladiator Overland Edition (MSRP* Starting at $40,395) went for a spin in enjoying the twisty roads around Elkhart Lake along with the sunny day topless. Good windy fun especially remembering how Wednesday morning was so damp and cold.

Next I grabbed the Gladiator’s little brother, the Renegade, to get dirty. I have been really sceptical of this Jeep since it’s based on the Fiat 500 L which has a choppy ride and interior that looks like it assembled with a bunch of cheap plastics found in a dumpster. Not so with the Renegade. This Trailhawk edition came with the 177 hp, 1.3L turbo mated to a nine-speed automatic. Other features included, all-speed traction control, electronic stability control, Select-Terrain System with rock mode, and 17 inch wheels among other goodies. With the Trailhawk package, a running ground clearance of 8.7 inches, approach angle of 30.5 degrees, break over angle of 25.7 degrees, and departure angle of 34.3 degrees, it’s clearly the most off-road capable against its competitive set which includes the Mazda CX3, Chevy Tracy, its cousin the 500L, Honda HRV, and Kia Soul. It’s optional My Sky Power Retractable/Removable Panels added $1,595 to the $27,290 base.

The beast of the group, and by far muddiest, at the event was the Ram Power Wagon. There was no mud hole or hill that challenged this bad boy. I even had a couple off opportunities to goose it and heard its 6.4L, 410 hp Hemi growl.

While the Ford Raptor is built for speed, the Power Wagon is built for rock crawling. Its approach, departure, and breakover angles are big, 33.6, 26.2, and 23.5 degrees. It has 14.3 inches of ground clearance and can ford up to 30 inches of water. Oh, in case you were to get stuck, it comes with a Warn winch that can pull 12,000 lbs, almost a third more than the truck weighs. If you’re into rock crawling, at $53,015, it’s a good deal.

Mark and I both had a chance to take the Kia Telluride out for a spin. I was impressed with Kia’s biggest SUV yet. It reminded me of my 2017 Dodge Durango but I think the interior in the Telluride is nicer. Its 291 hp V6 was very responsive, it had a really quiet ride, and the latest tech. Pricing ranges from $31,690 all the way up to $43,490. If you’re in the market for an SUV, the Telluride is for sure a consideration.

It’s hard to say goodby

So Mark and I were done for the day but took one last look at some of the cars that were in the paddock area taking a break from the racing event going on Thursday. We saw this Corvette that looked as if someone had lobbed paintballs at it. I kind of liked it. Then there was this cherry Mustang, and finally the official car of Road America, the Corvette in Elkhart Lake blue.

So long newspaper life, but wait, there’s more!

A few of my earliest Milwaukee Sentinel columns. Ignore that sketch of the young punk reviewer!

The times, and location of car columns, is a changin’ ….

There comes a time to say goodbye to parts of our lives.

Since 1984 my byline has appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel, and later the Journal Sentinel, first on feature stories, then business stories and since at least 1989 on a car review column, Savage on wheels. On Jan. 21 my last column appeared in the Sunday Cars section.

We had a lot of fun in those early Sentinel years. Just for grins I tested a military version of the Hummer during the Gulf War, drove the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, tested a watercraft on Lac La Belle, a Duck at the Wisconsin Dells, and drove a one-horse open sleigh at Old World Wisconsin. I even got to fulfill a childhood dream by taking a 3-day Skip Barber racing class at Road America, and while the Andretti clan didn’t have anything to worry about, I had a blast, and got faster each day.

By my estimate I’ve driven more than 1,500 cars and trucks for my reviews, although never a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Yet I did get to drive a Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Lotus, along with numerous Jaguars, Audis, Mercedes, Lexus, and Jeeps, even off road. Heck, some brands I tested in that stretch are long gone — Plymouth, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Scion, Suzuki. Looks like brands starting with P and S are doomed!

Don’t ask which car was my favorite, I can’t pick just one.

I left the paper 18+ years ago for a magazine career at Kalmbach Media and there was no reason the Journal Sentinel had to let me keep writing the column. But the editors did, and I’m eternally grateful.

So this is just an online thank you note to everyone who has supported me at the newspaper, and all my faithful readers for 30+ years who have been critiquing (mentally and via email) my reviews, my annual Zoomie awards, and stories from the Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee auto shows. It was a great ride. Thanks so much.

But wait, there’s more … While bidding goodbye to my newspaper home of 35 years, this is not goodbye for Savage on wheels. There’s still my website, AND, some good news will be coming shortly from another trusted Milwaukee media outlet that plans to carry my weekly car and truck reviews. So stay tuned!

 

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Beauty goes to the bone with Lexus LC 500h …lex2a

Beauty should be more than skin deep when a car crosses the $100 grand threshold and beauty goes clear to the bone with the Lexus LC 500h. This is the hybrid version of the luxury car maker’s grand tourer (GT).

I’d tested the V8 powered 2+2 screamer during the summer and was wowed by its looks, power, handling and interior design and comfort. All the good stuff remains. In fact, not much is different in this hybrid version, save the hybrid system itself and the fact it’s mated to a 3.5-liter V6. Continue reading 2018 Lexus LC 500h

2018 Lexus LC 500

Lexus LC 500 breathtaking to see, and drive …2018 Lexus LC 500

Forgive me while I catch my breath. I just spent a week driving, and drooling over, the new Lexus halo car, the LC 500. If looks could kill, we’d all be dead.

Lexus has created the most striking looking car of the decade, and not surprisingly, it’s a treat to drive. Folks call such handsome hot rods with a tiny back seat grand tourers. They’re not officially sports cars with two seats due to that fake seat in back. No one with legs will fit comfortably. Continue reading 2018 Lexus LC 500

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited  improves its on-road abilities … 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara

I’m not too proud to say that I used to dread test driving a Jeep, especially the Wranglers as they have traditionally been the most basic of vehicles meant for crushing rocks, splashing water and wallowing in mud.

I love the outdoors as much as the next guy, but slopping around in muck and then bouncing all the way home like I’m in an inflatable bounce house is not my idea of fun. Continue reading 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4