MAMA Spring Rally Roundup
Each spring, car manufacturers and auto writers flock to Elkhart Lake, Wis. to partake in the annual, highly-anticipated Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Spring Rally – two days of jam-packed events including hot laps on the famous Road America track, street driving to test out MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year contenders, hot-hatch autocrossing, go-karting fun and a challenging off-road course.
Manufacturers brought approximately 100 vehicles for journalists to sample. We spent our time in some vehicles that graced the floor of the 2016 Chicago Auto Show where Chicagoans could see them for the first time.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
The Pacifica is so different from the outgoing Town & Country model, Chrysler decided to change the minivan’s name altogether so consumers didn’t have any preconceived notions. On the exterior, the Pacifica is longer and wider than the Town & Country, as well as 200 lbs. lighter, due to updates like all-aluminum sliding doors, a magnesium/aluminum liftgate and a magnesium dashboard structure. Inside, the cabin is more upscale than before and even comes standard with active noise cancellation technology.
The minivan also features an extra storage compartment for bags or purses, an available panoramic sunroof and an optional vacuum (the vacuum reportedly reaches a longer distance than its competitor, and can even clean out a car parked next to it). Kids can be entertained on longer road trips with flip-up entertainment screens that are now mounted to the back of the driver and passenger headrests (they conveniently include inputs for smartphones or tablets). Via its Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, Chrysler even developed an “Are We There Yet?” app that virtually tracks the vehicle in route to its final destination to help alleviate some of those pesky questions. Another convenient feature worth noting is the grocery bag hooks on the back of the seats.
For safety, the 2017 Pacifica offers forward collision warning, a 360-degree camera system, and blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert. Now, owners can wave their foot under the power-sliding doors or power liftgate, when their keys are in their pocket, prompting the doors to open. Chrysler thought of everything when it comes to this sleek family hauler. The Pacifica is available now in dealer showrooms, and there’s a hybrid model that will be available later this year.
2017 Chevrolet Volt
The 2017 Volt and Bolt EV were prime attractions at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, and it’s no surprise as more and more people are becoming familiar with hybrids, hybrid plug-ins and electric cars. Big news for the brand, the 2017 Volt will be available in all 50 states (the 2016 model was only available in select markets — mostly where low- and zero-emission vehicle sales are mandated).
Like its predecessor, the 2017 Volt is an extended range electric vehicle. Chevy is quoting an all-electric range for the new Volt of 53 miles. Total range is 420 miles. Likely the most notable and exciting feature on the 2017 model is the adaptive cruise control – which lets drivers set a speed and buffer distance between the car in front of them, allowing the car to automatically speed up or slow down – resembling features of an autonomous car.
Additional safety and technology features on the 2017 model include forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, low-speed braking, blind spot warning and intelligent high beams. The 2017 Volt is also hitting showrooms now.
2017 Acura NSX
(Photo credit: Larry Nutson, The Auto Channel)
On the track at Road America, Acura had a professional racecar driver doling out hot laps – as one may imagine, the waitlist was never-ending! While some were disappointed they couldn’t get behind the wheel, they had to admit it was also (perhaps) more enjoyable riding along with a professional. What’s most interesting about the NSX could be that it’s been described as a “gentle” or “refined” supercar. In other words, the average driver can utilize this vehicle every day as not many people have the luxury of track racing weekly.
Apparently, Acura’s intent with this vehicle is to appeal to an everyday driver – not for the vehicle to collect dust in a garage somewhere until it’s time to race. However, with a vehicle that can go from 0 to 60 seconds in 3 seconds and reach a top speed of 191 mph, it certainly lives up to its racing reputation.
The NSX just entered production and will be rolling out to customers shortly.
2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Toyota chose the Windy City to debut the 2017 TRD Pro Series, including the TRD Sport trim level, which was available for test drives and off-roading during the MAMA Spring Rally. The Toyota Tacoma will rejoin the 2017 TRD Pro family with all-new off-road equipment designed Toyota Racing Development (TRD) to make it even more off-road capable than before. The new Tacoma TRD Pro was designed for extreme off-roading enthusiasts and is the most adventurous TRD production model offered so far.
The off-road course at Road America was the perfect place to put the Tacoma through its paces. Toyota designed the Tacoma TRD Pro to not only look tough, but to perform in the toughest off-road environment. The 2017 model features 16” black alloy wheels – fit for climbing large rocks and splashing through muddy waters – with improved suspension droop and bottom out protection. Additionally, the locking 4WD system features Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), ensuring the best possible traction no matter the climate or terrain. Convenient technology includes rear parking assist, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
The new Tacoma TRD Pro will be available this fall.
As they say at MAMA...That's a Rally! Until next year, anyway.
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