Its Cool to Own a Volvo Again…

You couldn’t miss it. It was green. A long box with windows. I jumped into the rectangular wonder many times on my way home from school.  Babysitting for a little boy who just loved the new movie “Star Wars” and playing with storm troopers my lot in life at the time.

I noticed a few other Volvos in town as the diagonal line across the grill stood out along with its strong styling.  Cars were very important at my house…quizzes about cars were given before, during and after trips to the Jewel-Osco or Eagle Foods or anywhere for that matter.  The men in my family kept little sister busy with polishing chrome bumpers and Turtle Wax runs on two wheels.  That Volvo showing up in the driveway across the street where the “new” neighbors lived sparked quite a discussion.  Words like safe, square, sturdy, green, and strange were exchanged.

As the person who rode most often in that car I remember it being roomy and brand new…something that didn’t happen over at our house.  The constant rotation of beaters and beauties that my four brothers and father ran through the driveway was, I’m sure, the talk of the neighborhood just as the Volvo was.

As I cruised the Chicago Auto Show during media days all those memories came flooding back after one look at that grill.

Volvo XC60 front

Photo by Jules Stayton

Once again the Volvo brand is the talk of the town as it makes a resurgence through its XC40, XC60, XC90 SUVs and S series sedans.  The XC60 has claimed 2018’s North American Utility Vehicle of the Year.  This win follows the XC90’s in 2016 in the same category.

Showcased at the Chicago Auto Show, Volvo makes an impact.  Each model’s attention to detail in both the interior and exterior is significant.  With production of these SUVs in both China and Sweden, Volvo recognizes that the American market is one of value and plans on investing in a new billion dollar production plant in South Carolina that will provide over 3900 jobs when it starts production of the S60 in the fourth quarter of 2018.  The XC90 will follow in 2021.

Safety continues to be a hallmark of Volvo via its City Safety System.  Steer Assist has been added.  Oncoming Lane Mitigation uses steer assist to temper head-on collisions. Lane changes are abated with Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS).

Volvo XC60 headlight

Photo by Jules Stayton

Signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlights will be just a blur as the new 407 horsepower T8 Twin-hybrid engine races zero – 100 Km in just 5.3 seconds in the XC60.  If diesel is your preference the D4 and D5 engines bring 190 and 235 horsepower to the table, respectively.  The T5 and T6 are equipped with a turbo and supercharged gasoline engine and push horsepower to 254 and 320 all in the luxury compact SUV class.

Volvo XC60 rear view

Photo by Jules Stayton

The XC60 in my hands a couple of weeks ago was a true pleasure to drive.  Supple leather seating and that wonderful minimalistic Scandinavian design shouts comfort as the center console headquarters all necessary functions.

Volvo XC60 interior

Being in the market for a new SUV myself, this Volvo tops my list. I admit I am a sucker for the wood elements trimming out the inside of the XC60.

Smooth-as-silk acceleration with speed-on-demand characterizes this Volvo and one can see why it is raking in the accolades.  A crowded class is narrowed when looking for genuine luxury and performance. It’s not limited to this model, however.

Fresh off its 2018 European Car of the Year award at the Geneva Auto Show this past week, the XC40 is nothing to scoff at.  President and CEO of Volvo Hakan Samuelsson, 2018 World Car Person of the Year, remarked that “winning this award with our new XC40 is perfect timing”.  The third SUV is not just the little sister to the XC60 and XC90.  Taking a share of the small SUV market is Volvo’s goal with the XC40 and plans on the United States and Chinese markets taking significant shares.

Leading the charge, consumers can elect to join the “CARE by Volvo” subscription service to explore options other than ownership or leasing that includes multiple drivers and ride share features. One flat fee garners use, insurance, maintenance, and repairs via a two-year commitment. Patrons have a choice of the XC40 or the new V60 estate (that’s station wagon to you and me) just released last week by way of suburban Swedish driveway event. Multiple drivers can be accommodated by exchanging a digital key via “Volvo On Call”.

Future Volvo cars in the 40 series will be built on the new compact modular vehicle architecture (CMA) including a hybrid and electric option utilizing multiple engine types adding even a three-cylinder format. The three-cylinder is a first for Volvo in its 91-year run. 2019 is the ambitious goal the company has set for itself for all Volvo models to be “electrified”.

Photos by Jules Stayton

Saying that I’m considering a Volvo to just about anyone and they respond with an eye roll and “really”?  That’s when I come back and start listing all of the award-winning models in the line-up and harken them back to the days-gone-by when everyone wanted a Volvo for safety.

Now everyone wants a Volvo for safety AND style!

Its one way to again be the talk of the neighborhood.

BMW – The Brand Making Waves

We’ve all wished for it.  The eternal hope that we might someday sit in a fine specimen of automotive greatness feeling the rumble under us as we motor down an infinite highway of pleasure…

Hello, Hello!  This is reality…remember me!  Rarely do mere mortals commence on a path to this dream, but one can get pretty close…it’s called The Chicago Auto Show.

Hundreds of cars descend each February, near icy Lake Michigan, upon McCormick Place to the delight of those mere mortals to put a little spice in their winter by making some of those dreams come true…almost.

Having been an attendee for years, I know exactly how you feel.  Its cold.  It’s a pain getting there. Its…its…glorious once you head up those escalators and see the globe waiting for you.  You’re almost there!


Photo by Jules Stayton

Check that winter coat, by golly, and get in there!  Never has such care been taken to display all that each manufacturer holds dear this model year.  Well, maybe, there is Detroit (a close second especially with that Bullitt move this year), L.A., New York, etc.  but being the true Midwesterner…Chicago all the way baby!

I was able to live a dream this year by attending as a member of the media.  Up close and personal just got real.  The drama, excitement and the sheer love of cars bubbles up like champagne during media days.  We all took a long drink for two days and I especially savored sipping the bubbly at BMW.

BMW i8 with Jules
Jules Stayton in BMW i8

See that smile on my face…dihedral, scissor, butterfly, batwing, gull-wing or falcon, sliding, suicide, canopy, swan, etc.  Doors, doors I love them all for they are the portal.  The BMW i8’s scissor doors are very functional and give a wider entry point for taller drivers like myself.  Sliding into the seat and swinging the legs around  into the cockpit is effortless.  I believe my BMW product specialist said I was “the most graceful so far today” which I wore like a badge of honor.  Closing and opening the doors was a breeze with the smooth mechanics and use of carbon fiber by BMW.

BMW i8 butterfly doors

BMW i8 interior

BMW i8 nose

Photos by Jules Stayton

The i8 combines electric and combustion engines through BMW’s  eDrive technology for 369 horsepower and a 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds. This roadster in E-Copper is meant to play with the big boys, nicely.  Four driving modes COMFORT, SPORT, ECO PRO, and eDRIVE, add to the allure of the i8 as a car of the future made for the present.

BMW i3

Photo by Jules Stayton

The i-Series drives the electric revolution for the brand.  One hundred i3s were leased by LAPD in 2016,  beating out Tesla, to conserve emissions/carbon footprints. At half the cost of Tesla per unit, the three-year contract between BMW and LAPD allows for technology improvements and lays the groundwork for use as a possible patrol car sometime in the future.  The infrastructure needed to supply charging stations for the plug-ins is growing in California thanks to the LAPD investing in charging stations for the bevy of i3s.

BMW Laurel Motorsport M2 Edition art wrap

Photo by Jules Stayton

Lastly, as I roamed the BMW corner this Laurel Motorsport M2 art wrap edition caught my eye that was provided by Laurel BMW of Westmont, IL.  Ever popular, the M-Series’ newest member is a hit with those wanting high performance in a smaller package.

BMW conducted extensive tests of its mettle at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and winding roads 5000 feet higher at Mount Charleston.  Living in Las Vegas for 20 years, I know these areas well and working some magic as the elevation increases incrementally towards Mount Charleston is a challenge for many autos but the rewards are worth it!

Mount Charleston, Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo by Jules Stayton

The Chicago Auto Show is definitely the place to go for winter dreamin’. It is the one show where most attendees are actually shopping for their next car.

I’ll put BMW on my “brands to consider” list from this year’s show, as a good Midwesterner would.

A little bit of February-in-Chicago dreamin’ is good for the soul.

Why should California get all the glory…







FCA’s Beautiful Child Continues to Excel – Alfa Romeo in All Its Glory

I grew up in a large family by today’s standards, my parents in even larger ones.  Often, genius runs in families.  We see this in the Olympic athletes that are second or third generation and as talented or more than their parents or grandparents.  Whether nature or nurture or both has shaped us, it shows up in what we become.

When Fiat and Chrysler merged in 2014 to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) the Italian and the American came together as one and the ensuing plethora of children resulting from the union ensued.  Abarath, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati and Ram Trucks blended like the Brady Bunch.

I was especially taken with two of the siblings at the Chicago Auto Show just a couple of weeks ago.  While cruising the Concept and Technology Garage, formulated for the media to get a head start on the show by getting up close and personal with both the cars and their product specialists, I was stunned by the Alfa Romeo Stelvio sitting before me in Alfa Rosso.  Starting at $41,995 and $37,995 respectively, the Stelvio, like the Giulia, have entered their classes by storm.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio frontAlfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio (1)

Photos by Jules Stayton

Four trims complete the Stelvio lineup:  base AWD, sport AWD, Ti AWD and Ti Sport AWD.  One might also choose the Lusso package on the Ti for those wanting luxurious touches and Lusso-exclusive light walnut accents in the cabin. The race-inspired Quadrifoglio bumps up the horsepower, handling and price ($79,995 plus a $1,595 destination fee) but still boasts the Q4 AWD system.  Whether it’s the Quadrifoglio’s 505 horsepower or the 280 horsepower yielded from the Stelvio it’s balanced 50/50 weight distribution manages the eight-speed transmission nicely with available steering column-mounted paddle shifters.  The Stelvio is the consummate Italian as it is produced at the Cassino plant in Frosinone, Italy.

Berj Alexanian, my product specialist, was eager to have me set eyes on the Giulia Quadrifoglio as well after we took our walk around the Stelvio drooling all the way.  I remember first setting eyes on the Giulia in 2016 at the Chicago Auto Show. Jules needs a Giulia I thought…

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio full

Photo by Jules Stayton

I still think that today…Jules needs a Giulia Quadrifoglio! The “halo” would look great in my driveway.  I would have to settle for the show floor to visit with my future this day.

I guess Jules knows how to pick em’.

Praise overflows for the Giulia in the form of Motor Trend Car of the Year®, Car and Driver’s 10 best, and most recently the Best New Luxury Compact Car Award from Good Housekeeping Magazine in cooperation with Car and Driver.

The Giulia’s all-aluminum 2.0-liter, direct-injection turbo with an eight speed automatic transmission is a class leader with 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft. of torque charting it’s zero-60 in 5.1 seconds at its top speed of 149 mph.  Should the Quadrifoglio’s motor sport DNA be in your future like mine, 505 horsepower screams 3.8 seconds in zero-60 mph.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio front R panelAlfa Romeo clover emblemAlfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Photos by Jules Stayton

The Chicago Auto Show was the perfect setting for FCA to showcase this branch of the bunch.  The Stelvio and the Giulia, each with its own praise and slot in the market that even Alice would approve.

Large or small, blended families don’t always find harmony as FCA has…hopefully it will last.

At least everyone played nice at CAS, making their parents proud…



Fifty and Fabulous – Subaru Marks Anniversary with Special Edition Reveal at The Chicago Auto Show

Fiftieth birthdays can be fun, frustrating, fitful and/or fantastic.  Subaru jumps to Fifty and Fabulous with their Anniversary Edition line in Heritage Blue unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show last week.

Thomas Doll, President and COO of Subaru of America, Inc. was the leader of the festivities that started with his keynote address at the Midwest Automotive Media Association‘s (MAMA) breakfast on day one of media days at the Chicago Auto Show.

MAMA Breakfast

Photo by Jules Stayton

MAMA President Jill Ciminillo offered the introductions as President and COO of Subaru of America, Inc. Thomas Doll took the podium.  Doll outlined many of the points that have been key for Subaru.

Subaru’s successful 10 year run of overall sales increases is staggering given the mood of the market at times over that same span of years.  Riding their high, they’ve given 50 new 2018 Subaru Crosstreks to Meals on Wheels that will aid in delivering over 53,000 meals to 3,700 seniors in 39 states.  Crosstrek sales have lifted the numbers for Subaru as well as the Impreza.

Having reviewed both models in the past year, which are posted here on, I can see why they’ve triumphed.

lake shade 2018 Crosstrek
Subaru Crosstrek, Photo by Jules Stayton

Subaru Impreza, Photo by Jules Stayton

Marketing campaigns drawing on emotions have been gold for Subaru.  The “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru” focus and making pets part of the advertising, Doll revealed the three-row Ascent by bringing the ever popular canine family, the Barkleys, on stage with him for emphasis at the Los Angeles Auto Show.  The Ascent will be built at the Lafayette, IN plant.

Not to be outdone in LA, Subaru revealed a lineup of Heritage Blue models all at once at the Chicago Auto Show.  Darkness, spotlights, stars, sheets, oohs and ahhs flowed as the lights came up on Subaru’s sparkling diamonds.

Photos  and video by Jules Stayton

According to Marilyn, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.

Maybe turning 50 isn’t so bad after all…




Volkswagen Builds Its Presence at The Chicago Auto Show

The days of our youth are scattered with experiences that few but us recall.  Many times though, those youthful experiences are remembered for a lifetime.   Their impact surfaces during our adult lives often to mold and shape our futures.  This was so for President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. Hinrich J. Woebcken.

As CEO of the North American Region as well, Hinrich was an exchange student in high school.  He went to the prom, perfected his English. and spent time in the American culture.  His tenure in America shaped the essence of his desire to bring German engineering to the U.S. market through Volkswagen and its offerings.

Hearing him recollect his days as a teen in America and the profound influence it had on him for a lifetime was one of the subjects he touched upon at the Economic Club of Chicago Luncheon at the first of two media days at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show.

ECC luncheon

Photo by Jules Stayton

Re-living days gone by isn’t something any Volkswagen executive would like to do given VW’s woes surrounding the emissions issue.  When asked by David Snyder, COO of Chicago CRED, Woebcken said that one of the most important aspects of getting through that or any other business crisis is transparency.  Sounds familiar.

Volkswagen is steaming ahead with multiple platforms and models made just for the American market.  Bigger is better in America and the addition of a mid-size SUV fits the bill.  The Atlas has been named Good Housekeeping Magazine’s 2018 Best New Midsize SUV for its “exceptional handling, spaciousness, and practicality”. With almost 100 cubic feet of cargo space, the Atlas boasts room for just about anything, I would also be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there are 17 cup holders too.

VW Atlas

Captain’s chairs are available in the second row and car seats don’t have to be removed to access the third row seat.  A rocker lever positioned on the shoulder of the chair initiates the forward movement so passengers can enter the third row. I’m 5′ 10″ and I had no trouble in and out of the third row and sat comfortably.  Volkswagen had a clever display, seen here, right next to the Atlas with all of the “stuff” that would fit into that 100 cubic feet of space.  My product specialist Sheila was happy to tell me of the Atlas and its popularity and if you would like to know more click here. The Atlas is manufactured by the German automaker in Chattanooga, Tennessee at its Volkswagen plant.

Another big moment on day one of the Chicago Auto Show for the VW brand was the release of a new member of the team replacing the CC, the Arteon.

Billed as a luxury sedan for a mid-size price, the Arteon is longer and sleeker than the CC with 268 hp from a 2.0-liter TSI® engine that carries an eight-speed automatic transmission.  4Motion® all-wheel drive is an available option. In a crowded mid-size class Volkswagen hopes that the exterior styling and cab-backward design will give more room and status to hungry buyers hoping for a sedan that stands out from the crowd.

Journalists are hungry for more than just the story and a free breakfast drew all of us to the Volkswagen corner again on day two to discuss the newly re-invented Jetta.  Designers were going for the “elegant, yet athletic” look for this 2019.

VW Jetta

Photo by Jules Stayton

VW’s best-selling model is set to dazzle more than just 20 something females.  It’s strong lines and front grille are undeniably Volkswagen.  This compact sedan will surely make a splash in the busy class.

Not to be outdone by the Atlas, Arteon or Jetta, the Tiguan has also been re-designed. Fresh off its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award when equipped with driver safety Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking.  The Tiguan garnered a “Superior” as well on the Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) test.

VW Tiguan

Photo by Jules Stayton

Unique to its class, the Tiguan is the only compact SUV to offer an Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. It is crafted on the premise that most collisions are not one single event, but multiple events after initial impact.  As soon as the airbags detect a collision, the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System engages and hopefully prevents more events as it disrupts the kinetic energy of the initial crash.  It is standard across all trim levels.

Whether the Atlas, Arteon, Jetta, Tiguan or any other Volkswagen product is on your radar, know that VW’s presence at the Chicago Auto Show media days was significant.  Multiple contact points and food win favor among journalists.  Easy to access and open, honest conversation about issues facing the brand are helping move Volkswagen forward.

Volkswagen offered answers, predictions, plans, lattes and hope for the future.

I wonder if Hinrich knew just how important going to the prom in America would be all those years ago…

Start It Up – Concept and Technology Garage at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show Media Days

The Chicago Auto Show has already begun for some.  Prepping for any event involves careful planning and follow through in order to make it successful. #CAS18 gave it’s media the opportunity to rev-up their experience by hosting the Concept and Technology Garage on Wednesday, February 7, 2018.  

Those of us who were able to defy the odds and arrive on time come plane, train or automobile to Chicago in February, were treated to driving experiences, in-depth chats with manufacturer representatives and a few surprises as you will see…

For me, I rolled in after one cancelled flight and a day long train ride…but I made it! Registration complete and media credential hanging around my neck like a gold medal, I was off.

**NOTE:  One important thing to know about attending The Chicago Auto Show is footwear.  You will be hoofing it all over creation.  Get out those comfortable shoes.

Upon entering, what does my wandering eye see? The KIA Stinger GT Federation Concept car in a most stunning shade of orange.  Some oranges…not so much…this orange…YES!  KIA rep Neil Dunlop was more than happy to give me the low-down of the specs and specials that make this KIA tick.  Waiting in a short line was worth it to take this concept for a spin around the garage.

Video by Jules Stayton

What a dream.  Handling, acceleration, braking…all A+.  Designer and engineer influence surface in the skin of this Stinger.  Body hugging bolstered seats provide stability and feel like a firm hug from a high school sweetheart as the well-appointed interior reflects necessities within easy reach.

I reluctantly give up my seat of comfort and allow the next person in line to light-up their life.

My eye turns to the next kid on the block…the Lexus Black Panther inspired LC Concept Coupe.  Highly anticipated, the movie releases on February 16, 2018  and if the car has anything to do with it’s success…brace yourself for a box office bash!  

Photos by Jules Stayton

Claws on the side view mirrors, panther on the hood, ground effects, WOW. What a statement in “deeply saturated, iridescent Structural blue”. An eight month process takes place for this “first-of-its-kind” paint.  There is no blue pigment, instead, a reflection of blue light.  The Black Panther LC Concept Coupe is part of the limited-edition 2018 Lexus LC Inspiration Series.  Collaborating with Marvel Studios, this Lexus is special.  Only 100 will be sold in the U.S.

Fresh from being voted “Best in Show” at the L.A. Auto show by…looking beautiful in Alfa Rosso…comes the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) brought multiple models from some of their various platforms…Alfa Romeo,  Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram Trucks .  Alfa Romeo rep Berj was friendly and well versed in his brand.  He encouraged me to stop by the floor of the show to see interiors and the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio,  I did and they are spectacular.

Photos by Jules Stayton

Being in the market for an SUV myself, I welcomed a chat with FCA rep Jordan about the all-new Jeep Cherokee.  Having been a Cherokee owner in the past…this is not the Jeep I remember.  Luxury seating, leg room galore and functionality…accolades abound.  Four inches wider in the cargo area will fit my golf clubs nicely, thank you.  I’m liking the re-design very much.

Jeep Cherokee

Photo by Jules Stayton

Why wouldn’t a Concept and Technology Garage include a snow monster concept like the Nissan  370Zki (Ski)?  After all, it IS February in Chicago.  It’s presence almost guaranteed the snowstorm that hit on day two of the media preview.  Complete with American Track Truck front skis and Dominator® Tracks on the rear, it forms the biggest souped-up snowmobile you’ve ever seen.  Hauling the 370Zki was a loaded Nissan Armada complete with the Snow Patrol concept trim package that will tower you three inches higher than the production model.

Photos by Jules Stayton

The Leaf came equipped with Pro Pilot Assist Technology, Nissan’s flagship semi-autonomous feature.  The Kicks took its place in the garage as well as the Star Trek inspired Rogue and 2018 Special Forces TIE Fighter Altima.  

Photos by Jules Stayton

Whew, glad I wore those comfortable shoes.  

The thrill of the day, driving some “old” technology the 1950 Ford F1 truck.  My Ford rep in tow, we cruised the room in the three speed manual transmission.  No power steering, giant steering wheel…what a way to end the event with the opposite of “technology” but innovative in concept.  The F1’s current day counterpart receives “Truck of the Year” year after year, I guess it succeeded as a concept in its day.

The million feet of show space and over 1000 cars wait patiently for the media to descend…we are revved up thanks to the Concept and Technology Garage…more Chicago Auto Show coverage to come…goodnight for now you beauties.

Waiting Patiently

Photo by Jules Stayton


#CAS18 Solace — Part Three

With the Chicago Auto Show ready for race day, the third and final thoroughbred is in the starting gate as a new premiere sponsor, Wintrust.

Since 1991, Wintrust has provided a hometown bank to the Chicagoland area.  Big bank function with small community bank feel makes Wintrust stand out from others.  Knowing their customers and valuing local businesses are its hallmark. Growing to over 150 locations, what better premiere sponsor for #CAS18.

The Super Car Gallery is Wintrust’s gem this year as well as providing vouchers for discounted tickets at their locations.  The Chicago Auto Show’s longtime presence and the prestige it has garnered over the years makes the perfect match for sponsorship.

Additionally, Wintrust continues its involvement with the 27th Annual First Look for Charity Gala held on the eve of the official show opening.  Friday, February 9th will surely be the black-tie event you don’t want to miss this winter.  Proceeds for the #FLFC18 will go to local charities.  In the past, over $2.5 million has been raised annually for an estimated $50 million+ since its start in 1992.

A big thanks goes out to the Chicago Automobile Trade Association as the producer of the Chicago Auto Show with an event that never disappoints year after year.  For more information head to