Category Archives: Opinion

What’s New @ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Video on the event

FCA holds an annual event at their Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan for journalists to give them a taste of what the brand has coming to dealer showrooms as well as a taste of future products with upcoming launch dates.

 

What’s New

Most of the FCA line is well established, and new often means tweaks to horsepower, Jeep Gladiator Rubiconwhich often translates into dollars, as horsepower sells well.  Ram Trucks have been refreshed over the last two model years, and their products are doing well, challenging their competitors in the market. Jeep continues to power sales and profits for FCA. And with the recent Gladiator launch, Jeep’s mid-sized pickup truck benefits from having Ram in the family.

FCA Vehicles line upFiat, Alfa, Chrysler have been lagging in new products, with Voyager, a lower cost 2020 Charger Scat Packnameplate variant of Pacifica, a being the most recent. Maserati was not on the field for this event, but the muscle power leader, Dodge, and SRT put out for display a meaty wide-bodied Charger with some muscle-bound Hellcat power and ScatPac V-8 Hemi.

The Dodge Boys from the NYIAS Demon Launch 2016

Leave it to the Dodge Boys to show that the love for American Motor Muscle is still alive at FCA with both Challenger and Charger, vehicles that you can raise a family in and be the fastest down the drag strip at the same time. Even if the sheet metal is basically the same for most of the recent decade, both of these machines continue to pump iron.Charger SRT HellCat

 

 

 

Off-Roading

20190627_093346We gladly reconnected to the Jeep Brand, one that has a long history with this writer. Taking to the off-road trails with Brandon Girmus in a stock Gladiator.  Having the pickup’s marketing manager show off his baby from the navigator’s seat was a lot of fun, as he knows which buttons and switches to apply, and when to use them. Plus, we got to talk about the completion of his recent history project an early Military Jeep, and his desire for a Forward Control. No doubt we will see him working on one of those soon.

 

Work and Play, It Is What You Haul

Ram Truck Towing Case EquipmentOne of the benefits of having muscle power and the might of the FCA brand is that Dodge Durango towing a Challenger ScatPacktowing thing becomes easy. Be it with a Ram Heavy Duty Truck pulling a massive piece of construction equipment, a Dodge Durango pulling a swift race-ready Challenger, or a Jeep Gladiator pulling a really nice boat. Was also a highlight.  One might think the experience is pretty much the same no matter the tow vehicle, Not so at all, each provided very different experience to the driver. And yes, pulling with a Cummins Diesel, Rocks.

 

Flashing Lights and Sirens, It’s the Cops

Dodge Durango PursuitTaking to the test track, we got the behind the wheel of two of Dodge’s police pursuit vehicles. The Charger and the Durango. And we see why so many departments put these into their fleets. Fast and furious and dedicated to the job, FCA Dodge Charger Pursuitmakes sure they offer what Officers of the Law need when it comes to their rolling office and detention facility. Police vehicles are very focused on the job at hand, without any fluff.

 

Road Course

Abarth Steering WheelAbarth, taking to the track in a six-speed 124 Spider with the top down made you want to spend more time, topless in Pure Michigan style.  Throaty and growly, agile and comfortable, this little 2-seater was more fun around the test track that should be allowed by law. Fiat 124 Spider with Jeep

 

While our opinion is that FCA has an aging fleet of vehicles, they still produce ones that have a lot of value and merit in the marketplace. FCA’s has some very dedicated employees who love what they do, and it shows when they talk about the products. Kudos to FCA that they instill that kind of pride in their employees, as it is not easy to earn, especially in today’s world.

Words and Images by William West Hopper

William West Hopper shown with a Jeep

Mr. Hopper currently serves as the President of the Washington Automotive Press Association and has been reporting and working in the automotive industry throughout his career, starting in heavy trucking, then managing a Telco Fleet, and now reporting on the latest news from the automotive industry.

FCA invited Mr. Hopper to attend 2019 What’s New event providing transportation, food, and lodging.  This is not compensation for reporting about the brand or the event. His opinions expressed here are his own.

 

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Officer Matt, Pulls Over To Test New Autos

5/16/2019 – 2019 Spring Brake  –  Bear Mountain State Park, Bear Mountain, New York.

Automotive Rally Tents

Upon arrival, approximately 50 different vehicles were grouped by manufacturer. Prior to arrival, I surveyed the list of cars and formulated a plan that would maximize my time to test drive as many vehicles as I could by 1530.

 

 

Officer Matt and the 2019 Acura NSXThe first vehicle driven was Acura’s NSX. Luckily, my teammate had secured a reservation to be the first test driver of this $190K Supercar. By far the most anticipated drive of the day and the NSX did not disappoint.  The sheer power of the car and its ability to stick to the road like glue was absolutely amazing, producing goosebumps on my arms and chills down my spine. The fit and finish were very luxurious. The seats and steering wheel felt as if they were designed specifically for me. The exterior was a statement of beauty with artfully designed curves and creases precisely where they needed to be placed as if Michelangelo himself designed the shell. Everywhere you drove, heads turned to look and listen.

 

2019 GMC Sierra Denali Pickup Truck climing a gravel hill
2019 GMC Sierra Denali Pickup Truck is almost too pretty to take offroad.

The rest of the day was spent testing vehicles ranging from compact sedans to full-size trucks. A notable appearance was the GMC Sierra Denali 1500. As luxurious and useful as a truck could be, it fell short when compared to similar trucks in its class due to the lack of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist. The “revolutionary” new tailgate was cumbersome to use after spending ten minutes trying to figure it out.

 

Red 2019 Acura TLX A-Spec
2019 Acura TLX A-Spec made on the same production line as the NSX.

Another vehicle that got my attention was the Acura TLX A-Spec with SH-AWD. This upscale sport sedan had never even registered on my radar as a vehicle that would impress me. Boy, was I ever wrong, as soon as I stepped into the vehicle, the interior design was subtle yet sporty and luxurious all at the same time. Every button and switch was placed exactly where it needed to be. The operating system was incredibly easy to figure out. The sound system was incredible when compared to other

2019 Acura TLX A-Spec Dash
Acura TLX Interior every button and switch was placed exactly where it needed to be.

higher-end luxury vehicles. The mix of leather and suede on the heated and cooled seats, perfectly proportioned. Outside, the pearl coat of burgundy paint complemented the aggressive exterior styling cues perfectly. To finish off, the exterior was a gorgeous set of black rims. I kept finding myself wandering back to the TLX throughout the day, admiring it. At a price of just around $44K for a fully optioned top of the line, model forced me to see how affordable and attainable the Acura really is. I found myself smiling not only while behind the wheel, and even now, each time I think of it.

 

Genesis G90 Parked in front of a rock face
Genesis G90 a worthy competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series.

 

Genesis G90 rear seat controls provide access to the entire entertainment system, climate control, navigation, and audio system.
Genesis G90 rear seat controls provide access to the entire entertainment system, climate control, navigation, and audio system.

The final vehicle that commanded my attention was the Genesis G90. A worthy competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series. Sliding into the rear seat is like entering a private jet. The G90 is a vehicle to be driven around in, not just drive.  Rear seat controls provide access to the entire entertainment system, climate control, navigation, and audio system.  With heated and cooled rear seats, the only thing missing was a massage function. The rear passenger seat had a single button that would turn the seat into a fully functioning lounger, sliding the front seat all the way forward and down towards the dash to allow the rear occupant to stretch out. Feeling as if you were enveloped in an incredibly soft sofa and could easily take a nap.

 

 

Genesis G90 Dash view from rear seat.
Genesis G90 provides a multitude of driving assistance options, and they are phenomenal.

The G90 driver experience was just as luxurious, minus the rear passenger lounge seat. With a quick and responsive engine propelling the car forward from a dead stop to 60mph with barely an effort, and with minimal noise. Genesis provides a multitude of driving assistance options, and they are phenomenal. The lane keep assist and nearly autonomous driving assistant made driving even on twisty mountain roads a breeze.

 

 

Rear of the Genesis G90
Classic Design makes the Genesis G90 a worthy competitor.

At the cost of almost $20,000 to $30,000 below what one would pay for a comparable S Class or 7 Series. The only reason I can think of why wouldn’t you want a G90 before one of its competitors would be the brand badge bragging rights. Perhaps it was wise of Genesis to distance their flagship vehicle from the Hyundai line, creating a new image to compete with Mercedes and BMW.

 

Reflecting on a day driving more than 25 vehicles, this was my first automotive journalist rally,  and for me, it was a resounding success.

Words by Corporal Matthew Rihl,
Photos by William West Hopper
Corporal Matthew Rihl is a Field Training Officer and member of the Honor Guard with a local Virginia police department in Virginia.
Corporal Matthew Rihl is a Field Training Officer and member of the Honor Guard with a local Virginia police department.
Corporal Matthew Rihl has served the public for 15-years with a local county police department in Virginia. In addition, he is also a Field Training Officer and a member of the Honor Guard. Officer Matt is a vital member of the LGBT Fallen Heroes Fund, which its sole purpose is to honor surviving partners and family members of LGBT police, fire, EMS and the military who have been killed in the line of duty during a special ceremony during National Police Memorial Week every year in Washington, DC.

 

Spring Brake is put on by the International Motor Press Association for professional automotive journalist members, offering them the chance to experience many different vehicles in one day. Membership and an entry fee are required to participate. Neither Matthew nor William were compensated for their time or reviews of any automobiles.

Why Is It Always A White Van?

The Toyota Sienna TRD at the Race Track in One Lap America in 2016
The Toyota Sienna TRD at the Race Track in One Lap America in 2016

Whenever there is a wacko nutjob on the loose they always seem to be associated with a white van.

Look at our current news cycle with the MAGNA Bomber, back when DC was plagued by the Beltway Sniper, what were they on the lookout for, you guessed it, a White Van. Though in that case, the vehicle was a blue full-size sedan, still everyone was saying “be on the lookout for a white van.”  If there is any talk of a child abductor or a terrifying clown with candy and thoughts of evil doings, the image includes the iconic white van.

Never is it a beat-up pickup or a ragged hatchback, not even a rattletrap SUV? Well maybe once in a California freeway chase with a Bronco, and it was white. The White Van is the vehicle that society assigns to any man who engages in an act against the people. We will not go into the fact that it is never a female, it is always a male and a white van.

White Chevrolet Astro Van AutocrossingAs the owner of a white van, two now in the past 26-years, this is not the image that we as white van drivers are after.  Who drives white vans? Normal everyday working people, plumber, carpenters, telco or cable folks, delivery drivers, who are the drivers of white vans.

 

At one time the van was the symbol of freedom, out on the open road, off to catch the waves, out to the wilderness with bikes, or off camping. Now, this vehicle casts an evil shadow on the thousands of people who own and drive one every day.

White RAM ProMaster City VanYes, there are plenty of us who are not mass-murders, loco extremists, or someone with terrorist thoughts.  Smile at the guy in the white van as you pass each other on the road, he is no doubt the one that is making our world a better place.

 

 

This is the opinion of William West Hopper – Images by William West Hopper