A Special Thank You to Mitsubishi Motors & the DriveShop Chicago Office...
As I type these words, it is literally "the night before Christmas." Right now, at this very moment, the sounds of A Christmas Story can be heard emitting from the television in our family room. Both my wife and our youngest daughter are asleep on the couch (our oldest is finally asleep upstairs after a bit of Xmas Eve naughtiness), as the twinkle of lights has placed a magical, very comfortable vibe on the house. I finished prepping tomorrow's turkey, and now here I am - in my office, typing away while awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, and reflecting on what a busy holiday season this has been - one capping another busy year. While my family is always on my mind, tonight I'm also thinking of others, hoping that the third annual "Rock Father Santa" program was able to do some good. A few weeks back, our family hit the road once more, making our annual toy delivery in one of my favorite new vehicles serving as this year's "sleigh" - the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander. I know we've done good, but I can't help but think that we could've done better... and that bothers me.
When it comes to family adventures, road trips are great, and getting great gas mileage is even better. Over the past few years, hybrids have come down in price, while also becoming quite stylish - style being something that was seriously lacking in the early generations. At the forefront of the movement, Toyota has been a pioneer in the field, with their Prius becoming synonymous with the "hybrid" name, that technology eventually rolling into other models, expanding their offerings to a full nine vehicles for 2017. Among them, the 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid is set to be one of their most popular, and there's some solid reasons as to why.
While we're still not among their ranks as an owner, there is no other automotive brand on the road that my wife and I tend to like across-the-board more than Kia. There's certainly some specific models that I love from other makers, but when we're talking about consistency from top to bottom, over the past few years, Kia has positioned themselves to have their entire family of vehicles feel like the truly belong together - from the entry-level Rio to the K900 Luxury Sedan. Toward the middle of the pack are the crossovers, and in that "compact SUV" scale lies the 2017 Kia Sportage - recently named a 2017 "Best Buy Award Winner" by my friends at Kelley Blue Book, and a "Rock Father Pick" among them. If you're in the market for a solid crossover that wins on many levels, it's time to give the Sportage a look.
A great road trip is one of the most exciting activities to enjoy with family, and a getaway during fall is one of the best times to do it. I say that, of course, with the American Midwest in-mind, but any locale that boasts the true seasonality of autumn, complete with falling leaves and a robust color palette will make for a beautiful drive. When it comes to hauling family, there's only been a few occasions where I've actually driven more than our immediate crew, fully complete at four. Sure, I've driven plenty of larger vehicles with third-row seating and plenty of people-moving power, but seldom have I actually had a full load. This trip was an exception, one in which I could use the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (on-loan from Toyota USA) to it's potential, heading straight out of Illinois and heading north to our relatives' lake house.
When it comes to the Minivan category, I have always been "that" guy - the "never-gonna-drive-one" sort that doesn't even consider the category when the occasion arises to purchase a new vehicle. Nearly six years and two kids into the parenting game, and we still do not own a Minivan - and in fact, it was indeed never considered during our purchasing excursions, neither my wife nor myself ever taking a test drive... until last year. My wife still has never been at the wheel of a Minivan, but I now have - numerous times, and with numerous models - but it didn't really start until I began sharing my love of cars as a regular feature on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine. Thing is, my view of the "Minivan" has been drastically changed over time, previously-skewed largely by the tacky models of the 1980s (the Plymouth Voyager, the horrid-looking Pontiac Trans Sport, Chevy Astro Van, etc.), and by marketing, including some that's fairly recent. I have to admit that... I've really enjoyed some of the Minivans that I've driven over this past year, and the latest is one that had previously hit me hard on the marketing-misfire note: The Toyota Sienna, aka "The Original Swagger Wagon."
This week, something unique took place at Wild About Cars Garage in Kirkland, WA - the 1st Annual DriveShop PineBlock Charity Invitational. This race, inspired by the Pinewood Derby competitions that many Boy Scouts (and former Scouts, like myself) know and love was designed to race money for charity, with each car entered gaining $50 to either Make-A-Wish Foundation, Fisher House, Feeding America or 4 Paws for Ability. Put on by DriveShop to celebrate their new name, a number of folks from the automotive industry and their journalistic/blogging counterparts were invited to take part, myself included. The Rock Daughters and I put forth a valiant effort, making a special trip to Hobby Lobby for some supplies by Revell for my first PineBlock experience in over 30 years. Unfortunately, our car was somehow lost by the USPS, and it didn't make it to the race - a disappointment (especially given how much the girls loved the car), but the folks at DriveShop assured me that my donation would still be made for the Make-A-Wish Foundation! Check out highlights from the race below...