Knibbe Ranch, Spring Branch, Texas: This celebrated cattle ranch in the Hill Country of Texas was the perfect place for ‘The General’ to get back in the saddle! Now launching its next-generation pickup trucks, General Motors is truly back in the truck wars and hosted the first drive of its all-new 2014 Chevy Silverado at this working ranch that has been used for a handful of years as the proving grounds to evaluate the country’s top trucks each fall, in an annual shoot-out sponsored by the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA).
By Sue Mead
Casablanca to Essaouira, Morocco: It was no surprise that pro navigator and rally driver Chrissie Beavis, 32, of San Diego, was successful at the arduous and difficult navigation required of competitors in the Gazelle Rally that brought her team to an eighth-place finish out of 150 teams from 20 nations. After all, the multi-talented Beavis has guided many celebrated drivers, such as Rhys Millen, Tanner Foust, Ramana Lagamann and Seamus Burke to numerous stage and overall wins, highlighted by a Pikes Peak win in 2005, a United States Rally Championship win in 2006, and Gold and Silver Medals at the X-Games in 2007 and 2008. Beavis started campaigning her own Performance Stock Class car in 2005 in the California Rally Series, and has also had class wins as a driver, with several podium finishes.
Brasada Ranch, Redmond, Oregon: Attractive new styling, more powerful and efficient engines and some of the latest creature comforts, even at the entry-level model, define the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander; it’s a crossover sport utility vehicle that seats seven. Mitsubishi says the third-generation Outlander has some “ground-breaking safety features for its class”—and we agree. It is also the only SUV at its price in its segment with three-row seating that comes standard. The new model also gets improved aerodynamics and better sound insulation; high-end technologies include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and a crash-mitigation system. While Mitsubishi has not announced exact pricing, the new model will be priced close to the outgoing version, with an impressive array of added content over the previous generation.
The 2014 model year marks the 10th time Chevrolet has introduced a new Impala – and this little antelope, born in the Year of the Snake, is a refined, modern take on “The General’s” iconic five-passenger sedan. Its looks have not always been consistently stunning-in fact, the outgoing model was growing a bit long-in-the-tooth. However, the 2014 Chevy Impala’s design team has hit it out of the park with a gorgeous design that is equal parts American muscle and European sculpture.
Outside, the all-new RAV4 has the profile of an Olympic cyclist, with a low front bumper shape that wraps up from below like handlebars and a roofline that slopes steeply back from the A-pillar like a hunched-over speed racer. Glistening headlamps have an asymmetrical shape that slants inward toward the nose, which features a V-shaped grille that emphasizes this “cute ute’s” more aerodynamic look. The rear of the ute, which features an integrated spoiler with LED lights, has a bulbous shape that belies the cargo space inside. We’re thrilled that a liftgate replaces the swinging rear door of previous model years which also held the spare tire; standard steel wheels are 17 inches, with 17- and 18-inch alloys available on higher-end trim lines. The spare is now tucked under the cargo floor.
Austin, Texas: Jeep’s update of its 2014 Grand Cherokee model makes it new; there are new drivetrains, more luxury and a bevy of options for off-road prowess define it and its sizzling sibling- the high-performance, lap-of-luxury 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT. One of the original mid-sized luxury SUVs to come to market in 1992, the newest version seats five and is an authentic competitor to VW, Land Rover, BMW, and other high-end sport utes. It’s priced from $28,795 to $50,995; the Grand Cherokee Limited with Jeep’s new EcoDiesel V6 is the lowest priced diesel SUV in the market at $40, 295, says Chrysler.
The exterior strikes a nice visual balance between refinement and ruggedness, with a grille that has been redesigned to give more luxo character overall, with distinguishing trim around each of the signature vertical slots. Slimmer headlamps and a shorter upper grille put a check in the “more refined” category, while 17-inch all-season tires (standard on base Laredo models) and a beefy lower grille have “rugged” cred – plus, depending on the trim level, tires get as big as 20 inches. The rear has new, larger tail lamps with smart LED lighting, a larger, more aerodynamic rear spoiler, and a re-sculpted tailgate. Dual exhaust tips are standard on all Limited, Overland and Summit models. Front and rear LED lighting, including bi-xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps on higher end models, make Grand Cherokee grandly bright on the road.
For its fourth birthday as a unibody crossover SUV, the Kia Sorento is getting the equivalent of a pony, a piñata party and a wardrobe of amazing new clothes all at once. Among its gifts: a completely new chassis, a new V6 engine, a redesigned interior and some vamped-up, top-of-the-line features including an entirely new high-end trim line. Kia wants to be known for design, safety and value.
The Sorento’s facelift freshens its design, while inside you’ll find improved conveniences, upgraded materials and more amenities. A top IIHS safety pick, Sorento seats five or seven (there are 2-row and 3-row versions), and comes in front-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive models that start at $24,950, including destination charges. In case you have not noticed, there are a lot of vehicles in the competitive compact and medium-sized utility vehicle (CUV) segment – and they start to all look alike after awhile. Although Sorento doesn’t look radically different from its contemporaries, it has a few distinctive features that help it stand apart. Among them: a beefy grille and deep front air dam with black hexagonal grille inset behind chrome trim. Vertically set rectangular fog lamps offset sleek, slanted headlamps.
The rear end sits high and is capped at the bottom by a kickplate with a sweet-looking oval tailpipe.
Auto shows have a personality and the Chicago Auto Show is described by automakers and autowriters as a “down-home” show—and they love it! There’s even an event sponsored by all the automakers for the press and other early attendees called “Sweet Home Chicago”! But, don’t let its slower pace and more comfortable setting make you think it’s small. In fact, the Chicago Auto Show is the largest auto show in North America and this year’s show marked the 105th annual event, which makes it the longest-running and one of the best-attended shows in the world. Sponsored by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association dealers, the show is held at the McCormick Place Convention Complex where the enormous amount of space on hand brings an ease for car makers to offer free concerts and set up experiential test tracks. There’s also a ‘social media day’ now held annually that draws a wide variety of presenters and consumers to come together to evaluate and promote this new landscape and its effect on the automotive industry. AskPatty.com was one of the presenters this year, helping to showcase the exciting and rapidly-growing arena of Marketing to Women.
But, at the end of the day, an auto show is really about new sheet metal and the introductions of new models soon to hit the streets along with the unveiling of concept vehicles that are experiments in design and technology and are meant to take the temperature of the audience, plus help automakers make decisions about whether to move forward with a particular model or technology. There were a number of both-new models that will be in dealerships soon and a few hot concepts. My personal favorites were the 2014 Toyota Tundra, the 2014 Ram Promaster, the 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO and Nissan NV200, and the Kia Crossover CUT Concept.
General Motors says that today’s pickup truck buyers don’t just use their trucks from 9-5, but also from 5-9, too! They want trucks that have the DNA or core technology of toughness for work, carrying payload, and hauling trailers, but also comfort and room for taking their kids to ball games and ferrying their family around town, as well as connectivity and good gas mileage. Listening to their customers, who are also buying more extended cab models, GM has just taken the wraps off of its next generation Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 that have been updated and renovated for 2014.
Scheduled to go on sale later this year, the stablemates have a refreshed exterior, a completely redesigned interior and upgraded powertrains for more power—but also improved fuel economy. We took a ‘first look’ at the new models recently in Detroit; pricing has not been announced. While General Motors played it safe with this model year update, and kept some familiar exterior design cues and, in some areas made modest changes, there are also some significant improvements, particularly with some technology features – the improvements offer a welcome change and are clearly a sign of many new and good things to come from The General.