TC Auto Show to feature Truck Summit

November 16, 2019 by · Comments Off on TC Auto Show to feature Truck Summit
Filed under: New car introductions, Weekly test drives, Features, Autos, Uncategorized 

Ford has reintroduced the Ranger midsize pickup, which will make the rounds of auto shows for 2020.

By John Gilbert
If you are able to attend any of the world’s major auto shows — such as Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris, Japan, or the Big Four in the U.S., Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Detroit — the magnitude is amazing. But that doesn’t mean the smaller population centers are any less intense in their interest. And most of them aren’t that small.

That interest in Minnesota will ride a new idea, armed with an impressive economic impact study that shows the auto show may have a financial impact on the region of $19 million every year, with a nine-day run that makes its earnings greater than the Super Bowl or the Final Four.

If you don’t care about the huge congestion at the Big Four shows, you might be able to calm down and enjoy the Twin Cities show., which runs from March 7-15.

A young enthusiast was mesmerized watching drivers take on the Jeep off-road demonstration at the Twin Cities Show.

My fondest memory of the Twin Cities Auto Show came a few years ago, while taking a pre-opening run through the displays at the Minneapolis Convention Center. There was a Jeep display, where a huge hill had been formed and rides were given to show how steep an incline, and descent, the new Jeeps could handle, which was better than some state fair thrill rides. As I watched the demonstration, there in the foreground was a kid, exactly the kind of kid who might spend his spare time playing with a model truck in his backyard sandbox, and he stood there, transfixed as he gazed at the Jeep going up and over.

That was a couple years ago, and I should have realized then exactly why our country, and particularly our state, had started on a transition from cars to trucks.

It has happened, of course. And when the Twin Cities Auto Show opens February 7, 2020, the focus will be on its Truck Summit on February 6 to break down the reasons for the shift.

Chevrolet brings back the Blazer — old name, all-new SUV.

There are a lot of other significant vehicles that will fill the huge site, with particular emphasis on the emerging electric car phenomenon that could change the world’s auto industry. But there also will be dozens of trucks, from Ford, Ram, Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan, Honda for pickups and all the newest SUVs and crossovers being shown by virtually all manufacturers.

Sleek lines set off the all-new Lincoln Aviator, another old name redone.

We are fast closing in on the start of the U.S. major auto show season, which begins later this month with the Los Angeles show, and continues with Chicago in February, New York in April, and Detroit in June. The Detroit date is the major departure, because it always has been in early January, but has shifted to summertime.

A lot of people in the auto industry are curious and anxious about that shift, moving the traditional mid-winter Detroit exposition to summer, and the anxiety is because a number of hard-core auto observers are concerned that the once-heralded major shows have faded in the intensity of interest by both auto makers and consumers. The question for us in Minnesota is, where does all that leave us, here in flyover land?

Jeep’s popularity led to the new Gladiator, sort of a Wrangler with a pickup bed.

The Twin Cities Auto Show has always been a solid attraction for consumers, coming in early March, with the major difference being that while the four majors are manufacturer-backed shows, the rest of the nation’s shows are dealer-created. There are some large ones, such as Miami, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, among others, but instead of luring the hottest and newest concept cars and new introductions that the manufacturers save for the Big Four, the smaller shows are limited by whatever the local dealerships are willing and able to provide for display.

For 2020, the Twin Cities Auto Show is taking a proactive approach, for two good reasons. First, the Twin Cities dealerships — the Greater Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association — want a larger piece of the usually picked-over pie. Second, and perhaps more significant, the entire nation is being taken over by truck and SUV purchases leaving cars behind, and the Minnesota region is outstripping the rest of the nation in our hunger for trucks.

So the Twin Cities show organizers have come up with a plan and will hold an industry first, a National Truck Summit. The show itself will run from March 7-15 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and on the eve of the show, Thursday, March 6, the GMADA will join up with Automotive News, the industry’s leading worldwide source for automotive information, to focus the industry’s attention on the show as the focal point for the truck and SUV industry.

“We love our trucks in Minnesotans,” said Scott Lambert, GMADA president, who produced some surprising documentation to back up what seems like a general claim. “We use them to pull our boats in the summer an to get home safely despite the snow and ice in the winter.”

Honda unveils a new-generation CR-V in all forms, including electrified.

Nationally, SUVs and pickup trucks now comprise 69 percent of all vehicles sold, which is a startling fact if you haven’t paid attention to the classification of vehicles joining you at the stoplight. In Minnesota, however, that number is over 82 percent — 82 percent trucks and SUVs, leaving only 18 percent for cars of all sorts.

“Minnesota is uniquely positioned to host a national discussion on consumer interest in trucks,” Lambert said. “They are really part of how we live and work here. We think we can make a dent in the truck market.”

Mary Velline, the Twin Cities Auto Show director, and Lambert approached the University of Minnesota’s department of economics and found precisely the right person. Professor Amil Petrin, who grew up in Michigan and got his doctorate at the University of Michigan, has been a professor at Minnesota for the past decade, and readily acknowledges he is a car fanatic.

Cars won’t be overlooked, particularly specialty cars like the 2020 Toyota Supra.

“I come to the show here every year, just to see what’s new,” Petrin said, adding that he also has observed with some curiosity how major events such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four in basketball seem to readily pull out impressive numbers for their economic impact on the region, and, he noted, sometimes they get in trouble when the numbers are proven over-optimistic.

“Part of the reason I took this on is because in most cases, you can’t tell where they came up with the numbers,” Dr. Petrin said. “So when Scott and Mary contacted me last year and said they wanted to see an accurate appraisal of what the economic impact of the show was, I was eager to take it on. First of all, I love talking about cars.”

Petrin said there are internet surveys and various types of research that can be done, and he insisted his research would be both accurate and transparent. “That was part of what we did,” he said. “We studied how we could come up with with the most accurate way to measure better, and we rigorously set out to get the right raw data as an aid to the community.

Hyundai’s Palisade, the largest SUV ever from the South Korean builder, has been a huge hit.

We did a direct electronic exit survey and that was extremely helpful in determining how many people came for several days. At $19 million for an event that lasted only nine days, the economic impact of this show is both significant and wide-reaching. It indicated that in addition to ticket, concession and parking revenue, many visitors stayed overnight, to also attend sports events or for other tourist activities, like theater, or shopping downtown or at the Mall of America.”

Petrin’s study confirmed that the show attracts the obvious ticket revenue, and $670,000 in parking, and also generated over $10.5 million on food, lodging at hotels and Airbnb locations, and on other activities.

Show director Mary Velline pointed to the two-weekend run of the show, and said: “Each year, the Twin Cities Auto Show brings a large and reliable crowd of people from all over the country into downtown Minneapolis for two weeks. Besides show attendees, the downtown is filled with the people responsible for the set-up, take-down and display of the show.”

Ford has revised the Explorer and offers a new sporty version of it for 2020.

The day before the show opens, the Truck Summit will take over the Convention Center, with a luncheon, consumer focus groups, manufacturers representatives, the latest new trucks, and various demonstrations, including a panel of automotive experts and the release of two years of consumer data that indicates just why we’ve all become so crazy about trucks.

sportshort

September 19, 2018 by · Comments Off on sportshort
Filed under: Uncategorized 

What happened last night in sports up north.

CR-V adds turbo power to stay on top

June 28, 2017 by · Comments Off on CR-V adds turbo power to stay on top
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos, Uncategorized 

Honda’s CR-V compact crossover SUV keeps improving, now with turbo power.

By John Gilbert

   If you know folks who own a Honda CR-V, chances are they love it. And, chances are it might be four or five years old, or older, and they still love it.

   The CR-V has been an enduring vehicle for Honda, helping establish the trend toward compact SUVs, which proved immensely popular when gasoline was expensive, and have continued their upsurge in popularity even when gasoline became cheap.

   With the new 2017 CR-V, Honda has made so many changes that its left even popular auto magazines in the distance. Take Motor Trend, for example. That magazine runs annual editions that run little capsule descriptions of all the new cars, trucks, and SUVs. It is very helpful if you’re looking at buying a new vehicle, because it helps with the research and cuts down the usual comparison shopping chore.

    That issue came out last October. In its capsules, it ran pieces on the all-new Ridgeline, the Pilot, the Odyssey van, the HR-V, and the CR-V. Under CR-V, it says: “The CR-V remains unchanged. All CR-Vs are powered by a 185 horsepower 2.4-liter inline-4…”

    I got the chance to spend a week with a new 2017 CR-V, and it was remarkably peppy and handled extremely well, and it had quite a different look to it. Unchanged? I think it is greatly changed.

CR-V’s thorough new design has flashier exterior and luxury interior.

  Believing Motor Trend, I didn’t bother to look under the hood for several days. The CR-V ran well, handling all weather conditions, and seemed to uphold the tradition of being a new halo vehicle for Honda. Finally, I raised the hood. Sure enough, there was no 2.4-liter engine in sight — instead, it was a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder, with a turbocharger hanging onto the engine. 

    Honda is not new to turbocharging, and in fact has some progressive engineers who have established breakthrough technology with some previous turbos on vehicles such as the Acura RD-X. And Honda has used turbos to extremes while fiddling at the highest echelon of motorsports, places such as the Indianapolis 500 and Formula 1.  

Ergonomics always have been a staple of CR-V design and the new one doesn’t vary.

Honda had resisted the temptation to add turbochargers to its mainstream production vehicles. Turbos take a stream of exhaust gases that are headed for the tailpipes, and instead channels the flow to spin a generator turbine wheel that, in turn, force-feeds a more potent airflow into the engine’s intake. That air sucks in more fuel, and the result is more power and more efficiency.

   The new CR-V, changed quite dramatically, thank you, is also changed under the hood. Instead of a 2.4-liter that produces 185 horsepower, the comparatively tiny 1.5 develops a quite amazing 190 horsepower and 179 foot-pounds of torque, thanks to the turbo.

    While it feels light and agile (because it is!), the CR-V also has improved fuel efficiency, up to EPA ratings of 26 miles per gallon city, and 32 mpg in highway driving. All the while feeling quicker and more agile.

  

All controls are within fingertip reach from the driver’s standpoint.

Other more subtle tricks include a more aerodynamic shape amplified by  an active-shutter grille, which closes at cruising speed, when cooling isn’t needed, to form a barrier against air streaming in.

    Honda now has bracketed the CR-V with an all-new larger Pilot, which is a truly full-featured luxury SUV now, and a smaller and more basic HR-V, which I was slightly disappointed in, but only because I was accustomed to the CR-V and the high standards it had set and maintained.

   The new CR-V comes in various forms, starting with the LX at a base price of just over $26,000; the EX starting at $26,695; the EX-L (meaning leather upholstery) starting at $29,000; and the Touring model, starting at $32,000. The base LX starts with a front-wheel drive version, which should handled even Duluth type winter driving without difficulty. But the available all-wheel drive is the trick answer, because it is a “real-time” system that transfers torque away from any wheel where any tendency to spin is detected by the sharp-witted computer.

   

Compact on the outside, the CR-V is spacious on the inside.

Stressing its safety and creature-feature style, the CR-V has Honda Sensing, which includes a suite of items such as lane-keep assist, collision mitigation, and road-departing mitigation which use computer aided technology to alert you if you wander across a lane-dividing line without signaling, and can be set to gently prevent you from wandering across that lane line.

   Honda also has added the trick first developed by Ford for its Escape, where you can walk up to the CR-V from behind, holding your sacks of groceries, and wave your foot under the rear bumper, causing the tailgate to unlatch and open. Very handy.

   The interior of the CR-V is upgraded too, although I’d like to make a strong suggestion to Honda to be careful how they “improve” their controls and switchgear.

     My favorite feature of all Hondas is that they tend to have ergonomically perfect instruments and controls, meaning that you reach for something and it’s there. Even if you’ve never been in the vehicle, the lights are right where you think they should be, same with the wipers.

    In recent model changeovers, however, there seems to be the tendency to make some items a bit more complex. Don’t do that! The CR-V still has logical redundant switches on the steering wheel, and you can pretty well operate everything from there.

    Otherwise, you can operate the audio system’s technical complexities via the large navigation screen, which includes touch-screen operation. Personally, I’m not a fan of touch-screens. Seems to me, after three or four days, you need some high-tech stuff to clean the fingerprints off the touch-screen.

  

Nothing has changed more than the grille on each CR-V generation, and this time the stylists got it right.

Especially if you’ve stopped by the Great Lakes! Candy Shop in Knife River, and got overly friendly with some of those home-made caramel things. Let’s see you try to make it all the way home without sampling some of the goodies, after which you need some high-test washer fluid to clean the touch-screen.

    As for the prices of the CR-V stable, each model offers all the features of the previous model, plus some added stuff. So the prices go up commensurately and each level seems to be a relative bargain. And while the basic LX is in the mid-$20,000 range, the completely loaded Touring model might reach the mid-$30,000 level. My favorite is the EX-L, because I like leather seats, and I’d pay extra for them, as well as the other features that model adds.

    And so as not to embarrass anyone at Motor Trend, we’ll keep it a secret as we jump at that 1.5-liter turbo with its CVT, accepting power increases over the 2.4, as well as delivering fuel economy of over 30 mpg on the highway.

Cute Fiat 500x handles ‘Minnesota Riviera’

January 18, 2017 by · Comments Off on Cute Fiat 500x handles ‘Minnesota Riviera’
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos, Uncategorized 

Cute and capable Fiat 500x proved capable of dealing with Minnesota’s snow and cold.

By John Gilbert

If you want to escape from the rigors of Northern U.S. wintertime, what better destination than sunny Italy? It doesn’t seem as logical to go from Italy to Northern Minnesota’s ice-locked clime in January, but that’s what my little red Fiat 500x did for a week.

I knew it was not overmatched, when we got hit with a Duluth-quality blizzard of 6-8 inches of snow, followed by a bone-chilling 20-below-zero frigid spell. My wife, Joan, delivered a bowl of hot oatmeal in the dawn’s early light, and as I finished a follow-up cup of coffee, I stood up, pulled out the Fiat 500x key fob and aimed it out the kitchen window. Push the  button twice, watch the lights blink, and notice the exhaust vapor streaming out of the tailpipes. Autostart. What a wonderful invention.

When it was time to leave, I bundled myself into my favorite down parka and headed out, climbing into an already soothingly warm vehicle. With all-wheel drive in the 500x, all was well. Well, almost. The only failure of the Fiat 500x is the inclusion of Nexen tires, which I’m sure are very smooth, round Korean-made tires for nearly every road surface. “Nearly every” does not include Duluth, Minnesota, avenues in wintertime.

The Fiat 500x tried to hide under a blanket of snow, but its Italian red showed through.

Switching the 500x to all-wheel drive didn’t help much, because the Nexens wanted to slither around dangerously anytime you applied throttle. I found, in fact, that leaving the 500x in front-wheel drive worked almost better, because you only had the front tires spinning and slithering instead of all four seeking their own direction.

We have a joint venture here, with an American company contributing a lot to the mix, an Italian company putting it all together, and a Korean company supplying the basic 2.4-liter engine design, and those Nexen tires.

If the 500x had some highly competent all-season or winter tires — my choice continues to be Nokian — the car would have been the greatest winter “sleeper” car on the planet. As it was, an AWD crossover shouldn’t require white-knuckling inside your gloves. Read more