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Motor Press Guild’s Drive Day – TIME TRAVEL


Motor Press Guild’s Drive Day – TIME TRAVEL

Motor Press Guild’s Drive Day


MALIBU, CA – Between the summer of 2007 and November of 2010 I was gainfully employed (one of the few instances in some 40 years of labor in which I’ve so identified) as the Product PR manager for American Suzuki. With an office in Brea, California and a home in nearby Fullerton, I spent a reasonable amount of time interacting with SoCal’s automotive media, occasionally at our own Suzuki initiatives, more often at larger gatherings hosted by LA’s Motor Press Guild. And in spending that time I was able to know a number of journalists in and around those Southern California zip codes. That’s worth a mention because, in early June, I attended a day of driving hosted by that same Motor Press Guild in Malibu, and after almost a dozen years removed from the community, it seemed as if I knew very few.

In Malibu, several OEMs gathered to expose some of their latest and greatest to those journalists electing to make the drive (or flight – we had one journalist from Atlanta!) to the Calamigos Ranch Resort, just off the Mulholland Highway. Not everyone was there. Ford, GM and 2/3rds of Germany were absent, while Mercedes-Benz was present. But those that did attend brought more than a few newsworthy drives. 

I started by taking the new Lexus GX 550 offroad. In its Overtrail+4WD spec the GX 550 is exactly what you want in an adventure vehicle, with a tight footprint, generous ground clearance and prodigious power from its twin-turbo V6. And don’t let its $80K window sticker give you pause; you can buy it for yourself and pass it down to your children…and their children. The MPG team had constructed an aggressive offroad lap above the resort’s parking area, and while we – myself and a Lexus PR rep – were appropriately cautious (this was the first drive of the day – and it wasn’t my SUV), it was quickly obvious that this is what the GX 550 was designed to do. Similar spec in the next 4Runner would probably save you $20K, but then, you wouldn’t have a Lexus. 

At the other end of the psychographic spectrum was Fiat’s all-new 500e. Within its now-iconic profile – with respectful updates – sits 117 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque, all of it sustained by 42 kWh of battery capacity. The end result is about as much fun – and efficiency – as you’re gonna’ get for your $34K and 150 (or so) miles of range. The challenge, of course, is to convince Americans that they only need 150 miles to do most of their driving. (And on those occasions when you need more, you can rent.) The 500e is perfect for the daily grind, especially if you decide you’d like to reduce the grind. Regrettably, in most communities the challenge won’t be affording the 500e; it will be locating a Fiat (FIND IT AGAIN, TONY?) dealer.

If an EV can be regarded as increasingly mainstream, than Honda’s Acura would seem to have hit the sweetspot. Sharing its platform with Honda’s equally new Prologue, the Acura ZDX combines real utility, performance and range with a heaping helping of style. The drive was brief, but the initial impression was overwhelmingly positive. Honda also had a Prologue available, but with the high interest in it the wait time was overly long.

Another surprising highlight was Subaru’s redesigned Forester. I’ve liked Foresters since buying a base version in 2011, still driven by our son and grandson. Of late, however, I didn’t like its sheetmetal or elevated price point, thinking any variant of the Crosstrek represented a better all-around buy. With the new Forester you get attractive sheetmetal, a planted stance, and a more refined feel when heading down the highway. It’s still on the elevated end of the compact crossover price guide, but that’s offset by its historically high resale. In short, it’s worth a look – or a longer look – if you’re in the market. 

Also present was Hyundai’s all-new Santa Fe, now with three – count ‘em, three! – rows of seating. With sheetmetal inspired – make that ‘really inspired’ – by Land Rover, the Santa Fe is an aggressive departure for Hyundai, and based on having seen more than a few on the roads, would seem to be striking a chord with the buying public. As a fan of the previous gen, it may take me some time to find the Defender-esque styling on point, and was surprised that the available turbo four didn’t feel more responsive. Give me a week – and later this summer I believe I’ll get that week – to get a better feel, but at this point I’d try and find a remaining ’24…or perhaps get a Tucson immediately beneath it, or Hyundai’s Palisade one size larger.

I also had a chance to visit variants of two cars recently tested. While a week earlier I enjoyed the turbocharged four under the hood of the Genesis G70, a brief drive in the twin-turbo V6 confirmed that more is actually better; this thing was explosive. And the same contrast was drawn between Volvo’s V60 Cross Country, featuring a mild hybrid drivetrain, with the MPG’s V60 Recharge. The V60 Recharge offers a plug-in hybrid, along with balls-to-the-wall horsepower and acceleration. As mentioned in my review of the Cross Country, there’s also a substantial price diff – the Recharge pushes $70K, while the Cross Country runs between $50,000 and $60,000. And then, of course, are the legal fees associated with ‘demonstrations of speed’.

There was more to drive, but more journalists wanting to drive them. Hyundai’s ‘N’ version of its Ioniq 5 was in demand, as were the new Tacoma and Land Cruiser. And while I’ve reviewed Alfa Romeo’s Tonale plug-in, I haven’t driven it in Malibu – or on the Mulholland Highway. Maybe next time…

My thanks to the MPG board for their work and enthusiasm, and the OEMs for their participation. As you’d guess, I wasn’t bored.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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