Track Time – Summer Sizzle

Ah summer.  A time to kick back and enjoy the beautiful weather and activities that we reserve for warmer temperatures.  The winter doldrums are over and the fun begins.

The list for any car enthusiast’s summer schedule includes some much-needed track time.  I must admit that my track affair is a highlight of the season and might just be for you as well.

Anticipation of the event rides high.  A little nervousness and the need for speed overwhelms at times.  Butterflies, excitement and thrill all rolled into one make the track experience epic.

Sunshine Shelby

Most tracks give options of cars driven and time spent.  Making that choice is arduous, as driving ALL of them ranks high on my list.  I determine the Corvette, a GM icon, will be my ride.  I have driven multiple Corvette models, this will make a great addition to my roster.Jules helmet adjust

Safety first rules the roost as I am fitted for my helmet.  Snug but comfortable.  My heart races as my summertime dream is fulfilled.

Making the decision to drive on a track is not a lighthearted one.  Waivers are signed and promises given by both driver and track.  Courage brings elation.

Information is power and I prepare for instruction on making this track’s experience the best it can be.  I happen to be the solo participant today.  It’s early in the day and HOT on the track already…I’m glad to be privately tutored for a more personalized adventure.

track outline

Driving the track is a bit different from driving the normal highways and byways of life.  Care must be given to maneuver my Corvette around the curves and hit the straightaway perfectly for the chest-pumping experience I came for.

Moving away from all the other beautiful autos in the pit gleans a feeling of envy and thought of the “next time” before I’ve even completed THIS run…nobody is perfect.

Track experience cars are equipped with controls for the instructor in the passenger seat.  Trevor is my companion and we hit-it-off immediately.  A few reminders that make the track unique and we’re off!

Focus and caution rule the first few laps. Cones assist with identifying brake zones and Trevor schooling me is a welcome supplement.  He instructs and encourages me to “hit it” on the straightaway and that “he’s got it”.  A bit of assurance breaks out the lead foot I’ve always had and the glorious speed I’ve counted on is delivered.

We round the curves again and again to hone lap times and increase straightaway speed goals.  I finish with a high of 120 mph on the last lap and I’m thrilled.  This passion of mine is a wonderful reality today. It was worth the cross-country trek to take another high performance rocket for a spin. 


Summer brings excitement, exhilaration, and memories to last a lifetime.  Adding to that file by taking to the track is one of the sweetest entries of all.  Don’t be shy, you never know until you try.




Ford Mustang GT an American Icon

To muscle or not to muscle…that is the question.  Most shoppers look for practicality, space for the kids and their stuff, and/or super-sized mpg when debating their next car purchase.  Ford however, has thrown a wrench into that thinking for the last 53 years.  Thank God for the designers who had more than cargo in mind…my recent test drive of one of the most legendary sports cars ever built-in America gives testimony to that fact.

Power, performance and pure ego bubble-up inside just looking at the fine lines of the Mustang GT.  Seeing that 5.0 stirs emotions that no van ever will.  Gazing at the design features that make my ride prime, sharpens senses.  Opening the door is like entering the cockpit of a fighter jet.  Where is my helmet?  My flight plan?  Oh yea, I’m just coming home from golf, but boy does it feel good.

I’m lowered into a body hugging surround of power and placement.  Everything is at my fingertips.  The clutch is tight, I feel power under me.  This is not your Mama’s grocery getter.  The six speed manual transmission is a must and directing the symphony that is Mustang begins.

5.0 engine
Photo by Jules Stayton

Purring like a tiger, not a kitten, I rumble from the clubhouse to longing looks from jealous spectators.  Angels in heaven could not sing a more beautiful aria than the flow of air that rockets out of those pipes.  Just a little rev for the crowd and I’m off…

If you’re new to the Ford Mustang GT or just love hearing that exhaust note click here.

For $33,195 Ford presents it’s Mustang GT 5.0L 302 cu. In. Ti-VCT V8 engine.  Seems like a small price to pay for the head turns and feel of pure power off the line.  435-hp and 400 lb. ft. of torque assure its success every time.  My beauty actually rides for a combined 18-mpg in the dancing 6-speed manual transmission that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Perfecting it’s dynamics is short in tutelage and killing the engine at the line is no option, so rev it up and launch your dream.

The rubber on my 18″ wheels grip the pavement and the Advance Trac® with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) pepper my enthusiasm with reasonability…but not too much.  Selectable-effort Electric Power-Assist Steering (EPA) helps me focus on the drive, not the iron I’ve neglected to pump.

Photo by Jules Stayton


As I settle into the spacious cabin and enjoy the surprising amount of leg-room for both driver and passenger, my dream is complete.  I pass the vans with vim and vigor and peer around to enjoy the envy of those passers-by intrigued by the aforementioned exhaust note.

Important to mention is that the trunk, even without the 50/50 fold down seats in use, holds two sets of clubs easily.  That weekend away is the perfect use for this baby.

Ford offers ten models for 2017 in the Mustang line.  The V6 base model will be discontinued as they refresh for 2018.

Flex your muscles in the Ford Mustang GT, an American icon built at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, MI.



Toyota 4Runner – an SUV standout

The compact sport-utility vehicle segment is becoming as crowded as a high school math class these days, but one of the standout students continues to be the Toyota 4Runner. Homework complete and the curve carefully considered, the Toyota 4Runner crafts an easy A.

Experience plays a big part in the lure that Toyota creates in all segments.  The Body-on-Frame construction of the 4Runner furnishes added strength and safety while reducing noise and vibration.  Body-on-Frame weaves major considerations of expense and mpg together in a way that benefits consumers.  It’s a more economical build and the mpg sacrifice, due to increased weight, still retains a 17/21 ratio in the base SR5 that retails for $34, 210. Click here to see the Body-on-Frame assembly process from Toyota.

4Runner console
Photo by Jules Stayton

Keeping up with the technology of others in its class, the 6.1-inch high-resolution touch-screen keeps the Entune Premium Audio with  Connection or Integrated Navigation and App Suite ready and waiting for instructions as the driver navigates everything from the school-year to the wilderness.  The third row seating is perfect for  extra cargo whether it be human or gear. This seven-passenger provides front and rear 12v power outlets and up to 88 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down.  An available slide-out rear cargo deck can support up to 440 lbs.; tailgating just got real.

The 4.0 Liter DOHC 24-Valve V6  Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing engine with intelligence reaps a robust 270 hp @5600 rpm and 278 lb.-ft. of torque through a 5-speed automatic transmission.  Sporting around town  eliminates the need for a 4WD option in place of the standard RWD, but still renders the hauling capacity that most soccer Moms and Dads dictate.  For those off-roaders moving up the model scale to the TRD Off-Road or Off-Road Premium pushing the limit is granted with a part-time 4WD system that includes Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) standard.  Hill Start Assist Control (HSA), Multi-terrain Select, Crawl Control (CRAWL) and locking rear-differential authorizes wheels to function independently to manufacture the true off-road experience that many 4Runner customers need and desire.

4Runner 3rd row seat better
Photo by Jules Stayton

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is a racing division backed by Toyota that has been equipping the toughest of dirt-seeking mudders for years.  The TRD Pro is easily spotted with its TRD 17-inch matte-gray alloy wheels and other standard features in-line with the goal of earth exploration like Performance air filter, brake pads, oil filter, Pro Blisten® shocks and TRD-tuned front springs to go with its personalized TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate.  TRD Pro rings in at $42,400.

Options abound in the 4Runner realm.  As the owner of a 4Runner myself, I find it to be a vehicle I would choose again.  Loyalty is a cornerstone for Toyota and I am a faithful member.  Features that I enjoy are the versatile cargo/seating options, traction control, cabin comfort, smooth ride and reliability; ours has over 160,000 miles.  The 4WD adds a bit of spring to the general handling, but essentially gives the feel that most off-roaders enjoy.

4Runner fence
Photo by Jules Stayton

No matter which SUV you choose, be sure to test-drive the Toyota 4Runner.  It shoots to the top of the class by satisfying  your need for safety, reliability, style, and versatility.


2017 Impreza 2.0i helps Subaru celebrate its 50th

Subaru’s Impreza 2.0i enlivens an already stacked lineup of award-winning models for the brand.  Impreza doesn’t disappoint and flaunts safety, fuel economy and style as well as lively performance via its 4-cylinder Boxer® engine.

Subaru of America conducts a year-long party approaching the 50th Anniversary, culminating in a celebration like no other in February 2018.  With the donation of “50 cars for 50 years” for a charity to be named later this year, Subaru will also release special edition models to commemorate the occasion.

Founded by American businessmen Malcolm Bricklin and Harvey Lamm on February 15th 1968, Subaru continues its successful run with current day accolades like KBB’s 2017 Best Overall Brand and 2017 Lowest Cost to Own.

Impreza rear closeup
Photo by Jules Stayton

$18,395 starts the bidding for the 2.0i sedan honors.  Premium, Sport and Limited trim packages include a 5-door option that gives a 4-inch bump in trunk width for those weekend adventures that Subaru is famous for.  A 60/40 split makes tossing the golf clubs in for a quick nine after work,  a breeze. With 100-cubic feet of passenger space, the Impreza bestows a spacious feeling in its class.

Living in the Sport sedan as I did, garnered thrills from the 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder, 152 hp, horizontally opposed Boxer® engine used in Subaru models for the last 50 years.  Click here if you would like to see live action renderings of how the Boxer® positioning lowers the center of gravity in the engine compartment to improve handling, balance and stability.  Taking the curves of your own “C” road in the Impreza will not disappoint. Click here to see why Subaru is in a class by itself with road hugging technology.

Lineartronic® Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Adaptive Control and Incline Start Assist comes standard on the 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited.  CVT is included on my Sport as an $800 option and is worth every penny as I accessed the 7-speed manual mode on more than one tour.  A 432 Watt Equivalent 8-Speaker Premium Audio system with Harman Kardon® speakers sparked pure joy.  Five-spoke 18″ rims added a beauty that rivaled the blooms of spring.  In all, including the $820 delivery and destination charge, its price tag comes in at $27, 165.

Marking time on your commute will yield a combined city/hwy mpg in the 30s.  The SUBARU STARLINK™’s Infotainment system includes Safety and Security options as well as Multimedia  and serves as the hub in a 6.5″ or 8″ display. Click on the links to see how each functions to make the Subaru an easy choice for any driver.

Weather is no issue with Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD.  Stability and drivability video versions are yours for the viewing via these links.

Impreza and science building
Photo by Jules Stayton

Lastly, one would be remiss without mentioning autonomous features when it comes to the Subaru Impreza 2.0i.  EyeSight® technology notches each unit possessing it to the highest possible IIHA Safety rating for front crash prevention.  Stereo cameras mounted where the map lights are housed produce a 3-D image of objects in their path.  Adjustments are made automatically to avoid impact.   Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Change Assist (LCA), and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) are included in EyeSight® as well.  Lane Keep Assist must be turned on.  When functional it will give an alert to prevent “drowsy driver” issues and Adaptive Cruise Control, when activated, can be set by the driver to a particular distance from the car in front for alerts to engage the pre-collision throttle management system and avoid rear end collisions while in cruise.

A 3-year/36,000 mile New Car and Wear Item Limited Warranties plus 24-hour roadside assistance are included in addition to the 5-year/60,000 mile Powertrain Limited Warranty.  A luxury for cold weather climate owners is the 5-years, unlimited mileage Rust Perforation Limited Warranty.  It’s no wonder that 97% of Subaru Impreza vehicles sold in the last 10 years are still on the road.

Marion Subaru in Marion, IL gets a special thanks for my Impreza experience this week. Sales Manager James Shimkus and his staff,  including Service Advisor Jim Gooden and Sales Associate Grant Thurmond, made for a flawless affair.

Reasons are endless when considering Subaru for your next road experience, just ask the owners who have loved them for the last 50 years.

The Subaru Impreza is built in Lafayette, IN.

…and they emerge!

daffodilPhoto by Jules Stayton

It usually begins in the dark.  In the ground, in a cave, in a den, in a climate controlled storage facility…they all have a beginning.  Entering these recesses is voluntary.  The need for rest overwhelms the otherwise normal need for homeostasis.  Most seek refuge because of weather; who wants to trudge through winter anyway?  Damage to the body can be crippling…

October beckons them come.  Their body clock says “yes”.  Eating well and joining a partner for the “put away” ceremony is tradition.  Farewell old friend.  While they anticipate this event sometimes with woe, hope springs eternal, literally.

The winter months pass as an eerie quiet dominates the landscape.  No shouts, or sprouts. No roars or screeches. No burning or peeling.  No chasing or racing.  It’s deafening.

Flowers claim bulb.  Desert tortoises claim burrow.  Bats claim cave. Bears claim den into torpor (light hibernation where they can easily be awakened so watch out!).  Cars claim climate controlled garages or storage facilities.  Prime locations reserve quickly…the inhabitant must be willing to stake a claim early on and usually return to the location year after year.

Why the big to-do?  To preserve the species silly!  Hope springs eternal for the rite of passage to see the light of day as dusk turns into dawn.  Months pass as the anticipation of “the emerge” overwhelms the system.  Fulfilling nature’s call, returning to the land of the living, whatever you’d like to call it…it’s an awakening!

cloudsPhoto by Jules Stayton

Daylight begins to overwhelm darkness.  Shadows grow longer each passing moment and the fulfillment of dreams long hoped for, become reality.

Yes! Yes! Yes!  All of this to make a point…Pulling that sweet ride out of storage on a warm April day reigns king in the heart of its owner.  Barn under tarp, garage space reserved or climate controlled storage…the reveal is breathtaking.  Joy abounds.

Weather clear, CHECK!  Battery charged, CHECK!  Fluid levels, tire pressure, CHECK! Brakes firm, CHECK!  Go slow grasshopper, let him warm up slowly.  Creep for a mile or so and then realize that the gem that you saved for, slaved for, craved, and finally possessed is waiting for you to carve a path where you are the director of the show.

Fire it up!  It’s been waiting all winter for you…


Teen drivers…what are they thinking?

petals in puddle

They want to fit in.  Like pieces in a puzzle.  Each have their special place that makes for a masterpiece. But teens, whether driving or not, have trouble focusing on where they lie in the scheme of things.  Driving adds mitigating factors to an already overloaded teen brain to challenge it in ways it’s never experienced.

The 2017 Chicago Auto Show addressed this problem in one of their Facebook Live interview segments hosted by ABC7’s traffic  reporter Roz Varon.  Facebook Live’s video included Joe Koenig from Chicago Clean Cities and from the National Safety Council, Senior Director Alex Epstein.  Even a question by yours truly made it into the interview!

The issue of autonomous vehicles came up and Alex Epstein noted the various ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) that the market is offering consumers currently like AEB, park assist, blind spot detection, lane keeping, etc.  Over 40 technologies are available right now.  NSC assists drivers with the learning curve by providing a link on their website to My Car Does What?  This should be a first stop for teens considering a spin in the family wagon, or Tesla, as the case may be these days!

I brought up the question of whether driver’s education programs would be updated to match the learning curve of new technologies in autos for young drivers.  The concept was met with some interest by Alex Epstein, but he noted that driver’s education programs are different in many states and the NSC was working with districts to include ADAS technology instruction using the aforementioned website My Car Does What?.

In Illinois for example, the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program hoped to be the best in the nation when it was first signed into law in 2007.  It cited a previous study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to justify its strict regulations and curfews for teen driving hoping to reduce teen crashes and deaths.  The State of Illinois reports that it spent over $18,750,000 on driver education statewide in 2015-2016 that impacted the fiscal year 2017.  Amendments to the law have been made since then and the statute in its current form can be found at

2015 Teen Crash causes study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety updated the information that the GDL was based upon.

With the practice driving minimum requirement of only 50 hours, we all have quite a bit to worry about when it comes to teen drivers.  This just adds to the deck of cards one is dealt when dealing with teenagers…God love them.  So, get out there America. Teach those kids what’s important when driving, all our lives may depend on it.

My love affair with the stick shift…


I was six.  The shifter in question lived in a late 60s VW Beetle that my Dad had purchased from one of my brothers whose eye had wandered to a new mechanical love. The faded green paint, white interior, rusted floorboard and that knob on the end of a stick…I loved that car.

Being the only girl and the youngest in a family of five kids allowed me certain privileges with Dad. We ventured the streets and byways of our hometown in northern Illinois in that car and Dad taught me to shift.  He would clutch and I would shift left-handed.  I can drive in Europe thanks to him!  Timing my tiny hand with his size 11 shoe became a fun game that we “didn’t tell Mom” about.  In a house full of men, there were a lot of things we (namely me) “didn’t tell Mom” about when it came to riding in cars and on motorcycles.  That car still brings fond memories to mind as I write this blog post.  It was my first true car experience as the driver, or as close as a six-year-old could get…power like that at such a young age corrupts.

78′ Rabbit was the next VW product to drift across the driveway.  I was sixteen and wanting some independence.  Our next door neighbor was a VW mechanic so in my Dad’s eyes that sealed  the deal on another VW in our house.  Spending a whopping $800 on that orange beauty was a bargain…I paid half, Dad the other.  Funny, all that shifting left-handed did me no good as I rode shotgun on the way home from purchasing the gem. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a bit different from a Sunday drive with Dad at the helm.  A few driving lessons later on the National St. hill and he was done.  My tutelage was left to a friend who had mastered her own stick shift via the Mazda wagon of about the same year as my VW.  Manuals have peppered the landscape of my life and I currently enjoy my Subaru Legacy very much while I do some downshifting and passing on the B and C roads of life.


While I talk of the love of a manual transmission, it makes me wonder where we will go…people like me who love to drive…when cars are more autonomous.  I’m not alone in my despair, the reality of it is here.  More and more features on today’s new rides have minds of their own.  Many are for safety, others for convenience.  Today’s cars will be on the road at least 15-20 years.  I’ve got awhile before we go completely autonomous.

One thing I do know…as long as this exists (photo below)…there will be drivers of manual transmissions. Maybe I should get into racing…looks like fun to me!

I bet Dad would have enjoyed it too!

Keep shifting my friend…