Chicago Auto Show Blog

Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally 2018

Posted by: Holly Macaluso

Last week, the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) hosted its annual Fall Rally where nearly 80 media members gathered at the Autobahn Country Club to test-drive 70 of the industry's newest cars, trucks and SUVs on track, on street and off road.

While many of the vehicles at the 2018 Fall Rally were incredible, we focused on notable vehicles in the industry as well as some of our favorites.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is a high-performance SUV designed to stir emotions. The luxurious leather interior and stunning exterior design uses authentic Italian craftsmanship. New standard features included in the 2019 Stelvio include rear-wheel drive (RWD) and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration.

The 2019 Stelvio comes equipped with many standard premium features for a luxurious experience. Some impressive features included a direct-injection 280-hp turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter engine delivering 0-60 MPH in 5.4 seconds, DNA drive mode selector, remote start with passive entry and bi-xenon headlamps.

2019 Maserati Levante
The luxurious and sporty 2019 Maserati Levante was presented by Head of Product Marketing for Maserati North America, Matt McAlear. Focusing on the GTS model, McAlear made the case that this trim is a good value compared to competitors in the segment. The GTS starts at $119,000.

The 2019 Levante GTS has a powerful 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 550 hp and does 0-60 MPH in 4.0 seconds. "Our all-new 2019 Maserati Levante Trofeo and GTS SUVs represent the pinnacle of modern-day Maserati engineering. Their Ferrari-built twin-turbocharged V8 engines and standard all-wheel-drive systems are perfect for conquering any Midwest road, no matter the conditions," said McAlear.

The 2019 Levante comes standard with Adaptive LED Matrix headlamps, an 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, SiriusXM radio, power adjustable steering column and remote start.

Maserati also offers an abundance of Safety and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These include highway assist, adaptive cruise control with stop & go, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, active blind spot and lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and 360-degree surround view camera.

The 2019 Maserati Levante is one of the finalists in the MAMA Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year Award, along with the 2019 Lexus ES. The winner will be announced at the MAMA opening breakfast during the 2019 Chicago Auto Show.

2019 Infiniti QX50

The all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50 is a confident crossover that focuses on power and elegance. Infiniti designed this vehicle completely around its customer with increased cabin space, high quality materials and improved technology and safety features.

Infiniti proudly showcased the QX50's VC-Turbo engine, which is the world's first production-ready variable compression ratio engine. This engine allows for smooth-shifting, greater control, advanced power and fuel efficiency.

Infiniti's ProPILOT Assist Intuitive technologies within the QX50 allows for direct adaptive steering and intelligent cruise control. These systems support the driver with acceleration control, braking and steering during single-lane highway driving. This cutting-edge technology can operate completely on its own in stop and go traffic, if the driver chooses. The technology used for the ProPILOT Assist Intuitive technology includes distance control assist; back-up collision intervention; predictive forward collision warning; blind spot warning and intervention; lane departure warning and prevention; and forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

Infiniti continues to improve the QX50's in-vehicle technology. Head-up display is a feature located in the driver's line of sight to alert and inform the driver when necessary. Within the QX50 there are two display screens in the center console. An 8.0-inch upper touchscreen displays essential information to the driver, including navigation instructions and system messages. There is also a 7.0-inch lower touchscreen that displays apps, climate control and entertainment functions.

2019 Kia Forte

The Kia Forte is redesigned for 2019 as a compact sedan that pulls inspiration from the Stinger, Kia's high-performance sports sedan. Four trim levels are offered for the 2019 Forte including FE, LXS, S, and EX.

Notable features include:

  • A new line of Smart Stream technologies designed to help increase fuel efficiency in a variety of situations, resulting in an EPA-estimated combined 35 MPG for the FE trim.
  • Standard 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and Kia Drive Wise technologies.
  • Safety tech features including forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keeping assist driver attention warning, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. More advanced driver assistance systems are available including smart cruise control and blind-spot collision warning.
  • Standard projection or full LED headlights, aimed to achieve the highest ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and IIHS.
  • Increase in length in order to accommodate for more rear leg room and additional cargo space in the trunk.

2019 Subaru Ascent


The 2019 Ascent is most definitely designed for Americans -- it easily accommodates large baby strollers, child seats, sports equipment, big luggage and enlarged coolers. One of Subaru's main focuses when designing the Ascent was cargo capacity. It offers seven-passenger seating with second-row captain's chairs or eight-passenger seating with a bench replacing the captain's chairs. With the eight-passenger bench seating, three child car seats can fit next to each other in the middle row. The door openings are extra wide to fit large child seats.

Subaru also focused heavily on holistic safety when designing the Ascent. All-wheel-drive and Subaru's EyeSight system (which provides forward collision warning and emergency braking) come standard on the Ascent. Also available is lane keep assist, lane away (which, essentially, is lane departure warning with a beep warning), lead vehicle alert, EyeSight HUD (which alerts the driver when the car in front of them moves from a stationary position), reverse automatic braking, blind spot and rear traffic alert and overall excellent visibility.

In regards to fuel economy, the Ascent achieves 27 MPG (26 MPG for the more fully-loaded models) and doesn't need premium gas to hit these numbers, unlike some of Ascent's competitors. Subaru built the Ascent on its new Global Platform and the new 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sits under the hood producing 260 hp and 277 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 2019 Subaru Ascent is also up for a MAMA award; it's one of the MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year Award finalists.

2018 Nissan Kicks


The 2018 Nissan Kicks prides itself on the amount of value for the price of the compact crossover. The Nissan Kicks targets the average traveling consumer and has prepared the vehicle for the urban landscape.

Highlights include:

  • The 2018 Nissan Kicks is available in three well-equipped models -- Kicks S, Kicks SV and Kicks SR.
  • Features expressive style, personal technology, intelligent safety, efficient powertrain and strong value positioning.
  • Along with the technology on-board, Kicks features an available Intelligent Around View Monitor.
  • According to Nissan, Kicks is the only vehicle in its segment to offer standard Automatic Emergency Braking for under $18,000 MSRP.
  • Roominess to enhance driver and passenger comfort.

Bottom line: The Kicks is a practical crossover that comes at an affordable price.

Our team also came up with their "pick-to-clicks" from the 2018 MAMA Fall Rally.

Mark's Pick-to-Click: 2019 Ram Rebel




If you read my review of the 2019 Ram 1500, you know I feel it is the best pickup truck ever. What I didn't know at the time was how supremely capable the Ram was off road. Equipped with the Rebel package, the Ram is simply a hoot to hoon on dirt trails. The comprehensive off-road package is perfectly in synch with the truck's tough-but-mature nature and makes an off-road novice look like a pro. In back-to-back drives with several competitors, the Ram consistently provided the best off-road composure on a variety of surfaces.

For those that don't know, the Rebel package is available with the Quad Cab and features 18-inch wheels with 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, an electronic-locking rear differential, coil-spring or active-level four-corner air suspension, one-inch suspension lift, Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs, hill-descent control, tow hooks, and skid plates on the transfer case, steering system, oil pan and gas tank. Starting price is $44,795, and for just $1200 more buyers can get the terrific Hemi V8. Compare that to the Ford Raptor that starts at $52,170.

While off-road capability might not be on the top of many Chicago-area buyer's lists, it's nice to know that the Ram has what it takes to tackle whatever life throws at it.

Jim's Pick-to-Click: Lexus ES 350 F-Sport




The 2019 Lexus ES is entirely new from the ground up. At first glance it's apparent this sedan no longer resembles a re-badged Toyota Camry. While it shares a global platform with the Camry and Avalon, nothing else is the same. The new ES350 is modern with a sleek coupe-like side profile. The now-signature Lexus grille looks good with the rest of the lines on the ES350. It's bold, sporty and distinguishable. The overall car is lower, wider and longer than the previous generation which adds to this new chiseled look.

Available in four trim levels, there is a flavor for everyone. An all-new 8-speed V6 engine generates 302 horsepower and gets 33 MPG on non-hybrid models. The ES 300h hybrid provides a potent 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 215 hosrepower with 44 MPG and a 581-mile range making it one of the most fuel-efficient, non-plug-in hybrids around. 

If you're looking for fun, opt for my personal favorite, the first ever F-Sport model. The F-Sport adds an adaptive variable suspension system, exclusive bolstered sport seats, 19-inch wheels and goes 0-60 MPH in 6.6 seconds. The new ES line is also filled with safety and technology such as steering wheel climate control, 10.2-inch heads up display, a climate concierge, Amazon Alexa/Apple Car Play, pedestrian recognition and much more. Prices for the new ES start at $39,000 and climb to the $50,000 range.

Lexus did its homework and listened to consumer feedback when they went back to the drawing board with the new ES. The results are a fresh new take on a nearly 30-year-old mid-size FWD luxury sedan that turns heads outside and more than satisfies the driver inside.

Jen's Pick-to-Click: 2019 Acura RDX




The 2019 Acura RDX is fully-redesigned to be more luxurious, fun-to-drive and offer more tech than ever before. Its enhanced styling, performance and standard technology features set the RDX apart from its competitors in the luxury SUV segment.

Notable enhancements for 2019 include a panoramic roof, standard Acura Watch (a suite of safety features and driver-assist technology) and Acura's True Touchpad Interface (a system developed to be both intuitive and safe for the driver to operate while on the road). The True Touchpad Interface uses absolute positioning with 1:1 mapping, which means wherever the driver touches on the pad directly corresponds with the 10.2-inch standard infotainment screen on the dash.

There are many customizable options available. The new RDX features an integrated dynamics system allowing the driver to choose particular drive modes, including: comfort, snow, sport and sport plus. There are also four different trim packages available: Base, Technology package, A-Spec package and Advance package. The starting price point for the 2019 Acura RDX is $37,300.

Kick the Dust Up



The MAMA Fall Rally also offered an off-road course for attendees to put designated vehicles through their paces. Throughout the day, rally-goers had the opportunity to maneuver SUVs through a hilly, dirt course in the woods and "kick the dust up" with trucks on a dirt trail. Designated off-road vehicles included a 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, 2019 GMC Sierra AT4, 2019 Subaru Forester, 2018 Toyota 4Runner Limited and 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 4MOTION.

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