Moving on up

Well guess who’s working their way into the realm of automotive journalism…this guy. A week ago I submitted two automotive review articles to Topspeed with the hopes of getting published. I am happy to report that I received the great news yesterday (Tuesday) that they chose one of my reviews to publish.

The review can be found here: 2019 Acura MDX

If my articles generate enough traffic (as they welcome more from me), this will open up lots of doors and many opportunities for Perks Garage. These opportunities will help me to bring you more content on a larger scale.

So take a look at my article, a little different than my usual writing style but it is also a different platform.

Thanks for your support.

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2019 Acura MDX Tech Package

Over the weekend a friend bought a very sleek looking black on black 2019 Acura MDX with the Tech Package. He and his wife were looking for a vehicle that is large enough to haul around their growing family and still have room for the in-laws on road trips. He and his wife went down the checklist before making their purchase. Is it spacious? Check. Does it have good power? Check. Is it well-built with quality materials? Check. Does it handle well? Check. Is it reliable? Check. All the boxes were checked. Oh, wait forgot one. Is it a luxury brand? In that typical yet upscale Hondaesque feel… Check. Just subtle enough to let you know that you are in Honda’s premium brand. Justification for the price tag, I assume.

Prior to purchasing the vehicle, I ran down the list of all the SUVs that I could find with his checklist in mind and he shot all of them down because the manufacturer was not a luxury brand. Typical brand snobbery as he is used to driving BMWs and Infiniti’s. It is always easier to make recommendations without regard to “Brand name” from the outside but at the end of the day, it is the buyers choice. And they landed on the MDX.

The SUV is surprisingly nice and does have a more premium feel over Honda. The first thing that I noticed is that the seats are comfy, softer than past Hondas and Acura’s that I have owned or driven. For 2019 they decided to use natural wood inserts throughout the cabin rather than the painted plastic pieces of days past. The cabin is very welcoming and surprisingly subdued in contrast to let’s say a Benz clad with various aluminum materials and buttons everywhere. Acura has done a great job blending in the day to day instruments by finishing them in black. This provides a monochrome look to not be too distracting for the driver. Speaking of drivers, I had the opportunity to take it for a test spin. To be honest, I was not expecting much from a full-size SUV now that I am into smaller performance-oriented cars. I’ve owned a 2003 Ford Expedition, 2005 Acura TL and 2013 Honda Crosstour V6 and we currently have a 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec, so using these as a benchmark help to give me perspective.

Acura found a way to make a vehicle of this size feel small to some degree. There is great visibility and the interior space is airy, but it drives like a crossover. It’s no slouch on the road, I mean it scoots and turns when you direct it to do so. Riding on 20-inch wheels and with a 290hp and 267tq V-6 pushing a light-ish 4054lbs (FWD) body, the MDX actually gets off the starting line with a sense of urgency.

The Tech Package includes your standard safety features: Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and cross traffic sensors, but the tech is turned up a notch by including Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow and Brake Assist (Collision Mitigation Braking System) that will stop you in your tracks. You can set a distance between you and the vehicle you are behind along with a max speed and feel the vehicle slow down and speed up. If traffic slows to a stop the MDX will nestle down for you and resume following the car ahead once everyone starts moving again. Basically, with the Lane Keep Assist keeping you centered, the Adaptive Cruise Control taking care or the vehicles speed and the Brake Assist protecting you from a rear end collision – the car can almost drive itself. Of course, you will want to keep your hands and feet ready to take over at a moment’s notice, but nice to see the advancements in technology.

I admit, I am impressed. It has a similar feel to my TLX, not as stylish as the A Spec Package, but very nice overall and great value. I was concerned that the “Sport” mode and paddles wouldn’t really do anything but they wake up this unassuming family hauler. Once the Dynamic Mode button is pushed and “Sport” is highlighted on the dashboard, there is a noticeable growl from the V6. Accelerate and you will see that the revs hang to redline and the paddles shift the transmission rather quickly. Just like in the TLX when decelerating in “Sport” you can feel the transmission downshift like a manual car. A feature that I quite like, but then again, my daily driver is a manual hot hatch. Again, I am impressed. And although I prefer the styling of the its A Spec variant, the MDX with Tech Package is a respectable choice overall.

During my time with the MDX my friend brought up an old commercial by Lexus and I was wondering where he was going with this conversation, but then it clicked. Remember the Lexus commercial where they show a marble rolling down the exterior lines of the body gaps on the vehicle. This was done to show the precise fitment and quality of final assembly for the premium brand. Well, he noticed a few things about the MDX after spending a few days with his new vehicle and pointed them out to me. The body gaps of the exterior are not perfectly even. If you run you finger along the gaps, you will notice that one side may have a slightly larger spacing than the other. This was very noticeable on the hood. The gas door does not sit completely flush when closed, it has a little play. And the slightest of interior item fitment issues can be seen from different angles, but those are nothing worth mentioning to a dealer. American assembly issues? That is one of the big complaints about Ford vehicles. With those few imperfections, would you still consider this a Luxury Japanese brand or does Acura get bumped down from its moniker as Hondas premium brand? Not sure, but I will give it a thumbs-up for changing my perception of SUVs being heavy and sluggish and devoid of life.

In the end, although I personally prefer the styling of the A-Spec variant, you cannot go wrong with the Technology Package trim level. Good choice and enjoy your new purchase.

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2016 Orange County International Auto Show…Press Coverage

Well, it finally happened.  I was granted a media pass to cover the #Orangecountyinternationalautoshow.  This opportunity was a great way to get in and take pics and video before the little sticky hand kids were allowed to enter and muck up everything.  Perks Garage is very thankful for the access and looking forward to covering more events in the near future.

During my prep for the event, I have been working on setting up a YouTube channel to host the videos we take here at Perks Garage to provide a full in debt review of features and functionality of vehicles, both new and old.

It felt pretty good to arrive at the auto show and be asked for my confirmation letter as then granted access.  I quickly parked the Audi, grabbed my gear and headed in for an unobstructed point of view of the cars on display, and the layout of the event.  Once inside a greeting table confirmed my name was on the list and provided me with my pass.  I was too late to receive a lanyard but I didn’t care…I have arrived.  There were plenty of other people from various media outlets.  Local News channels, fellow bloggers, YouTubers, and even some foreign independent channels roaming the floor.  Everyone was taking pictures and videos and interviewing people spewing out vehicle specs.  It is like a Hollywood gala for auto enthusiast…the bright lights and cameras minus the boogie attitudes.  I was not quiet ready to interview people, I just wanted to act as the cameraman/ videographer.

I had on hand my Canon, Galaxy Note 5 and a small handheld video recorder.  I took loooootttttsss of pictures and quite a few videos.  I took my time and was able to see every vehicle and even test drive a few that they made available for us.  Mazda, Honda and Toyota to name a few were on hand to do test drive demos soI jumped at the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5.  Disappointment quickly set in when I found out it was an automatic and the streets were pretty congested by that time.  After the test drive and brief survey, I did receive an email invite to attend a Mazda MX-5 track event, so that will make up for the weak test drive.  Insert corny car nut verbiage riiight…here!  “Yay Mazda…Zoom-Zoom!”

All in all the event was great.  Free access, free snacks and drinks, unobstructed views and full access to some very nice vehicles.  Thank you Orange County International Auto Show for the media pass.

Now on to some pics…A LOT OF THEM!  Scroll down to check out some video footage.

#orangecountyinternationalautoshow

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Also check out our new Perks Garage YouTube channel for more coverage.

Here are a couple of the videos available on the channel.

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All images and videos property of Perks Garage 2016!

 

May 4th

Well today is a special day.  Not because it is Star Wars May the Forth be with You day, but for another reason.  This date always reminds me of my little racing co-driver, die-hard rider, my road dog, my little “egger-on”.  Every automotive or motorcycle enthusiast, street racer, or even a mechanic that is a father has thought (and hoped) that one day their little gremlins will grow up to be like them.  Along that road of parenting and teaching them right from wrong, you experience the things that shape their future and begin to accumulate memories. Memories that make you smile, make you cry and thinking back on them, they even make you burst out laughing uncontrollably at what may have been the most frustrating time ever in my life.  These memories pop up throughout the years at family gatherings, graduations and in random “remember when” conversations.  Now that today is May 4th, I want to share a few of these special memories with you…enjoy!  

Now as far back as I can recall, she was always excited to know I would be the one picking her up from school.  Every so often, she reminds me of how she loved to hear the obnoxiously loud exhaust of my 94 Honda Civic rumble as I came speeding down the street playing some loud hip hop joint.  My car was fairly low and looked as though it was hovering at times and I loved it, and as little as she was, she loved it just as much.  As she got older, she would be my racing buddy and sit in the passenger seat of my Honda Accord.  She would fantasize that she was driving in her dream car…the Lexus IS300.  Now when this car came out, we would both drool when we saw one.  I was particularly fond of the IS in that eye-popping Auburn Sky Pearl exterior color, the black Alcantara seats and the 5 speed with that polished round shift knob.  Yeah, that was the one for me!  This was Lexus’ attempt at stepping up their game and going after the “young executive” market, a new territory for them at that time.  They were trying to shake that grandpa persona that they were known for.  The IS was a small, sporty 4 door.  It had a pretty plush interior and a low price point.  Nowadays, the streets of SoCal are flooded with the newly redesigned and refined IS 250s and 350s and the aggressively designed F Sport package, but “where’s the all-new IS-F Lexus…I’m waiting?!”  

Ok, now back to the story.  My young co-pilot wanted this car and at times pretended that she was piloting this vehicle and racing me down the freeway whenever we went for a drive.. You should have seen her little feet working those imaginary gas and clutch pedals.  One hand gripping the invisible steering wheel and the other shifting gears.  On a rare occasion or two or three or four times, where we were actually, kinda, somewhat, partially involved in a freeway Fast and Furious showdown with some other Paul Walker wannabe, this too-short-to-reach-the-pedals instigator would get excited.  She would shout out, “They are flashing their hazards.  Doesn’t that mean they want to race?  Let’s get’em!”  Whats a father supposed to do?  You can’t let your kids down.  LOL.  As the years passed and her 16th birthday was upon us, it was the time that all parents dread…driving lessons.  Now my wife, she has no patience for this and I don’t blame her.  I stepped up to do the teaching and in a stick shift, no doubt.  The words “Oh Boy!  This should be interesting,” were uttered a few times.  Looking back, I wished we had recorded this, as it was the most frustrating, painstaking, terrorizing time of our lives… and that was just starting the car.  

Now the car to be used for these driving lessons was my car at the time, my customized 2005 Acura TL.  SIKTL 2005 Acura TL 5925356 This car was the most expensive car I had bought and, as usual, I dumped money into it right away: wheels, exhaust, expensive body kit, short shifter, and custom headlights.  This car was a beast, a suit-and-tie kinda beast, with its black factory leather Recaro-like seats and Brembo brakes.  I really miss that car. 

Since our now 16-year old co-pilot was now ready to start terrorizing the streets, we started off with a few lessons.  “Now ease off the clutch and listen to the exhaust tone as it changes when you apply the gas. SLOWLY!  Feel the car.”  I believe that having a throaty exhaust helps people learn how to drive a stick because you can hear how much throttle you are inputting.  A little trick I use on the wife as well.  “Babe, I need to put an exhaust on the car so I can teach our kids how to drive a stick shift.😉”  I guess after she reads this, I will not only be banned from the dealerships, but the muffler shops as well. 

So after a few burnouts lessons in the TL, we went back to practicing in an automatic and let the driving instructor do his job.   Later that year I traded in the TL for a 2008 United Gray VW Rabbit. I named it “Mr. Jack Rabbit”.  It was a lowered two-door 5-speed, with a Magnaflow exhaust, cold air intake, short-shifter and 18 inch wheels.  Why?  Because I’m a tuner and this is what I do😊.  This was my baby after I traded in the TL and also my intro to German cars. 

With a few lessons down, my teenage co-pilot finally driving an automatic comfortably, it was time for a refresher on driving a stick shift.  So, as it goes with teenagers and hormones, they have NO PATIENCE!!!  It’s amazing how much we had this little Jack Rabbit bucking like a bronco auditioning for the rodeo.  I mean, what happened to what she learned just a few months ago?  And what happened to all the fun we had? The smiles? The laughter?  How did we get 100 feet from the house just for her to give up, pound the steering wheel, throw a fit, jump out of the car and walk home?  How did I get left alone, strapped in the passenger seat of my own car in the middle of the street with the driver’s door wide open?  WHUUUUUUUUUUT?!   I mean what happened to my little enthusiast? Where was that persistency and that “can-do attitude” she had through the first few lessons in the TL?  Kids! 

I sat there perplexed. You have to be kidding me!  We made it this far only to have a temper tantrum in the middle of the street.  Talk about grumpy!  After that unfortunate incident, the garage was now closed.  I retired and left the driving lessons to the professionals.  She got her driver’s license, and as it goes with most kids, you can’t tell ‘em anything after that.  

Fast forward a few years, I get a random phone call from my daughter. “Thank you for teaching me how to drive a stick.  There was a co-worker that was very sick today and I had to drive her car to take her home.  No one in the office knew how to drive a stick except for the two of us.  The guys were all looking around the office confused, so I jumped behind the wheel.  All the guys were saying, ‘you’re going to stall.  You won’t get out of first gear.’ Hahaha.  I showed them.  Started it up, threw it in first and eased off the clutch and we were off…HA!” 

This was probably the proudest dad moment she has given me to date.  Of course, we always laugh about the temper tantrum incident, but apparently she did learn something from me.   So on this day, May 4th, I just want to say…HAPPY 24th BIRTHDAY ASHLEY!  I LOVE YOU!  Now if she can just slow down that Mustang!  Darn Kids! 😉