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The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Author

Jason Fogelson

Automotive journalist and author. I write about cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and lifestyle for Forbes.com, YouMustBeTrippin.com, RideApart.com, Autobytel.com, Autotrader.com and other sites. I run the site ReviewGarage.com.

2016 Motor Press Guild Awards

by Jason Fogelson

I’ve served as President of the Motor Press Guild for the past two years, and the position includes the responsibility to host the MPG Awards Ceremonies, our annual black-tie-optional dinner, holiday party and celebration of excellence in automotive journalism. I’ve also been the Chairman of the MPG Awards Committee for four years running. I recruited head judges for each category, supervised the submission and judging process, and served as Head Judge for the top honor, the Dean Batchelor Award. I also wrote the script for the awards ceremony, generated the Powerpoint presentation, and booked the entertainment. In other words, I’ve been very involved and invested in this program. It’s a little nerve-wracking, considering that close to 200 industry professionals attend each year. It’s also a lot of work and a lot of fun, because it gives me a chance to bring some of my theater experience to bear on my current career. It reminds me that everything we do in the present is in some way preparation for the future, and life is a constant opportunity to learn and grow as a person.

This year’s awards were a big success, thanks to hard work from everyone at MPG. We got a record number of submissions, and the quality of writing, videography, photography and audio content was outstanding. You can see the list of winners here.

MPG Awards Excellence in Automotive JournalismPeriodically, we also give out an award for lifetime achievement. This was one of those years, and the recipient was Jean Jennings. Only the second female winner of the 13 figures who have received this honor, Jean was a unanimous choice when her name came up at a Board of Directors meeting. Auto journalist Michael Jordan gave a testimonial speech, and I got to set up the award and present the trophy to Jean. It was a great honor, and the highlight of the evening for me.

Here’s what I said about Jean during the ceremony:

We received an unusually large number of nominations for this award this year. Doug Stokes, last year’s recipient, claims that giving him the award opened the floodgates — now, anyone could get one. But that’s not true. Ask Doug to show you the list of previous recipients in his wallet for proof.

Despite the long list of potential recipients, the minute that Jean’s name came up in our Board meeting, the discussion was at an end. We immediately knew that she was the right choice, and voted unanimously to honor her tonight.

I’m going to let her friend Michael Jordan tell you all about why Jean deserves this award. But first, I want to tell a small personal story…

I first met Jean at Pebble, during the heat of the afternoon. My friend, the late Patrick Paternie, waved me over to join him, Jean and Michael Jordan at a shaded table. Jean and I instantly began chatting about pop music, a shared passion. She insisted that I would love Blue Nile; I knew that she’d be into Dawes. We exchanged email addresses so we could continue our conversation, and she and Patrick departed, leaving me with Michael Jordan.

Michael looked at me, and asked whether I had spoken with Jean before. When I answered “No,” he said — “That’s impressive. She doesn’t usually take to strangers.”

I figured it must have been a fluke, but no — every time I have seen Jean since our first meeting, she has been warm, generous, funny and friendly, and I’ve never heard of anyone who has had a different experience. I guess we just figure that a person who has such an impressive background and such a list of achievements as a leader in her field must be guarded and hard to approach.

If I had allowed myself to think about Jean’s achievements as a test driver, as a writer, editor, publisher and media figure, I might have been intimidated. But all I ever see is this friendly beautiful face, usually beneath a wild hat and sporting a giant smile. I’ve followed her work from Car and Driver to Automobile Magazine to Jean Knows Cars, and I’m honored to know her personally.

Jean Jennings, on behalf of the Motor Press Guild, I’m honored to present you with the Dean Batchelor Excellence in Automotive Journalism Lifetime Achievement Award.

MPG Awards Excellence in Automotive JournalismThis was my final turn as host of the Motor Press Guild Awards. Our by-laws limit me to two consecutive terms as President, so I’ll be turning over the gavel to my successor in January. It will be a melancholy day for me, as I’ve really enjoyed my time as President, and I’m very proud of the organization’s accomplishments. But it will also be a relief, as the volunteer position took a lot of time and energy to fulfill. I’ll still be on the Board of Directors for another two years, and I’ll remain devoted to the MPG and its members. I just won’t have the tremendous responsibility of running a 700-member not-for-profit organization any longer.

Photos by Myles Regan.

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Automobility LA and the Los Angeles Auto Show

by Jason Fogelson

Last week, I attended the press days for the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show. Actually, there was a change this year. The traditional press days have been subsumed by a new event, an industry trade show called “Automobility LA.” This new event combined the expected press conferences and new model reveals with the previously separate Connected Car Expo that had preceded the auto show. Instead of two days of back-to-back events, I was now faced with four days of reveals interspersed with keynote addresses, panel discussions and presentations from technology companies in addition to the automotive OEMs. Many of the auto companies chose to move their reveals off-site, competing for attention by diverting journalists away from the main venue at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It turned the whole week into a bigger slog than usual, compounded by the rampant exchange of germs that left me and a number of my colleagues sick as dogs with the LA Auto Show Grippe.

I did manage to get some work done during the week, though. I was part of Autobytel’s team, helping to produce this Must See Vehicles at the LA Auto Show, and I put together this list of Must See Crossovers and SUVs at the LA Auto Show.

I also did a few executive interviews for Forbes.com: Reid Bigland of Maserati; and Don Swearingen of Mitsubishi.

Also coming soon: a review of the 2017 Lamborghini Huracån RWD, and an interview with some of the Lambo execs.

So, despite the Grippe, it was a pretty good LA Auto Show.

I Love Motorcycle Museums

By Jason Fogelson

I love motorcycle museums.

I grew up going to all kinds of museums with my family, and it became a habit when I travel. I go to art museums, history museums, natural history museums, car museums, technology museums, craft museums – just about any collection that someone opens up and calls a museum, I make time for.

My very favorite museums of all are motorcycle museums.

I can trace my love of motorcycle museums back to The Art of the Motorcycle, an exhibition at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum in 1998. Museum Director Thomas Krens engaged architect and designer Frank Gehry to create a beautiful environment that placed over 100 bikes on platforms along the museum’s spiral rotunda. At the time, the exhibition was a smashing success. It changed the way that people thought about motorcycle design, elevating it in consideration. Viewing the bikes in a traditional museum context filled me with pride at my choice of hobby, because like every biker, I already knew that motorcycles could be works of art. Now, everybody knew.

Not every motorcycle museum is as classy as the Guggenheim. Some are downright greasy holes in the wall; some are set up as time capsules and still life representations of a moment in time; some are simply warehouse spaces with bikes lined up side-to-side. But the opportunity to wander through collections and to see bikes in person that I’ve only experienced through photographs and description keeps me going back.

You can read about my Five Favorite US Motorcycle Museums on the Best Western site.

Motorcycles and Music

By Jason Fogelson

I listen while I ride.

Purist bikers often brag that they never listen to music, podcasts or radio while they ride. The roar of the wind, the song of the engine — that’s their music.

I like to create my own soundtrack for my ride. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I often sing along while I cruise down the road. I don’t need to know the words. I don’t worry about being on key. I just sing my heart out, and I sound great inside my helmet.

I’ve even experimented with Tuvan Throat Singing and I think I can actually do a little bit of Polyphonic Overtone Singing. You can’t practice this anywhere else other than inside your motorcycle helmet, because you’ll drive everyone around you insane. Trust me on this one.

I wrote about Motorcycles and Music for Best Western’s travel blog. Take a look, and you’ll find my list of top 25 motorcycle riding tunes.

 

2016 Miami International Auto Show

by Jason Fogelson

Earlier this month, I traveled to Miami to attend the latest edition of the Miami International Auto Show. The show ran from September 10 – 18 at the Miami Convention Center. As Gloria Estefan and Buster Poindexter used to say, “Hot, Hot, Hot!

Not only was it hot and humid in Miami in September (surprise, surprise), there were plenty of journalists on hand for the manufacturer’s reveals and events. The star of the show was Nissan with two reveals: The 2017 Rogue and the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo.

You can read all about it in my article for Autobytel.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson.

Harley-Davidson’s New Milwaukee-Eight Engine

by Jason Fogelson

A new engine from Harley-Davidson is big news. Last week, the Motor Company revealed its new Big Twin engine, the Milwaukee-Eight. Initially, this new engine will appear in the touring lineup, including the Road King, Electra Glide, Road Glide and trike variants – thirteen models in all. Some will get liquid cooling in addition to the air/oil-cooled versions, and there will be two new displacements: 107 cubic inches (1,750 cc) and 114 cubic inches (1,870 cc). Harley promises 10 percent more power and 8 – 12 percent faster acceleration, along with better heat management, lower vibration and a richer exhaust note. The Touring bikes will also get new front and rear suspensions, with easier tool-free pre-load adjustment for the rear. I can’t wait to ride these new bikes.

8186The engine defines generations in Harley-Davidson motorcycles, as styling evolves slowly.

Over the years, there have been numerous Big Twin engines fitted in Harley touring bikes.

  • 1909 – 1911: V-Twin
  • 1911 – 1929: F-Head
  • 1929 – 1935: Flathead
  • 1936 – 1947: Knucklehead
  • 1948 – 1965: Panhead
  • 1966 – 1983: Shovelhead
  • 1984 – 1999: Evolution
  • 1999 – 2016: Twin Cam

The first 6 engines got their names from H-D customers, nicknames that stuck as buyers bonded with their bikes. Starting with Evolution, the Motor Company’s marketing department took charge of the nomenclature.

The Milwaukee-Eight probably gets its name from Harley-Davidson’s hometown, hyphenated with a reference to its four valve per cylinder (eight valves total) design.

MY17 Lit Book Outtakes

I can’t wait to ride a new Harley-Davidson Touring bike. Stay tuned for a full review.

You can read my report on the Milwaukee-Eight at Forbes.com.

2017 Yamaha SCR950 Review

by Jason Fogelson

Everything old is new again. Motorcycles travel through trends where form follows function, then fashion determines form. It has happened over and over again, and will continue to happen as long as motorcycles are lifestyle accessories and not transportation.

Witness the latest trend: Scramblers.

BJN11415Back in the late 50s/early 60s, scramblers were the dual sports of their day. Stock standards were modified with knobby tires, upswept exhausts and mid-set footpegs. They were then ridden on the streets, on fire roads, on trails and all over the desert by tough riders who wanted to challenge themselves and their motorcycles. Picture Steve McQueen riding with his buddies, covered in dirt and dust. They’re riding scramblers.

Fashions change. Dedicated dirt bikes with long-travel suspension overtook scramblers. Sport bikes overtook standards. Choppers came and went, then came and went again. Dual sports rose. Cafe racers returned.

Now scramblers are having their day again.

BJN11750The latest is the 2017 Yamaha SCR950. It’s a very good bike. Is it a go-anywhere, rough-and-tumble scrambler in the tradition of the bikes of old?

Read my 2017 Yamaha SCR950 review on Forbes.com to find out.

Sturgis and Home Again

by Jason Fogelson

So, I finally did make it to Sturgis. I’ve had it on my wish list for almost two decades, and one thing or another has always kept me from getting there.

In case you don’t know, “Sturgis” is what motorcyclists call the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, which just happened for the 76th time in and around Sturgis, South Dakota. Every August, bikers converge on the tiny town for a week of riding, drinking, eating, shopping and hanging out. 2015 marked the 75th annual gathering. It was the largest to date, with an estimated attendance of over 739,000. This year’s event was substantially smaller – probably in the 400,000 range.

Harley-Davidson has been a major sponsor of Sturgis for decades, and the vast majority of the motorcycles on hand are Harleys of assorted vintage. Still, wander the streets of Sturgis, and you’ll see bikes of every brand and style parked along Main Street. Many brands have formal displays and demo fleets in town, including such unlikely candidates as Moto Guzzi, Ducati, Royal Enfield and Can Am.

IndianRideCommand-2Indian Motorcycle has made a substantial push to increase its visibility at Sturgis, having scheduled most of its public and press debuts at the Rally over the past three years. The company puts up a big display and experience center on Lazelle Street in downtown Sturgis, and was the motorcycle sponsor at the Buffalo Chip, Sturgis’ 400-acre campground and event center.

Indian’s push into Sturgis is bold and audacious, and makes a whole lot of sense. Indian wants to take a chunk of Harley’s business, and this is where the customer base comes to live the motorcycle lifestyle. I saw a surprising number of Indian motorcycles on the streets – many more than the brand’s modest sales figures led me to expect. Despite Harley-Davidson’s dominant market position and loyal customer base, Indian is starting to gain a foothold.

My Sturgis experience was a positive one, I’m glad to report. I spent a lot of time riding, and got to see some of the major area attractions like Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer, Deadwood and Hill City. I rode in the big procession of the Legends Ride, and I saw the final heat of the Hooligan Races at the Buffalo Chip.

Mostly, I got to have the experience of being in the majority on the roads as a motorcyclist, a very rare opportunity for those of us on two wheels. At first, it was a little disconcerting. I’m used to seeing occasional bikes on my rides in different parts of the country. Even when I attend motorcycle events, the concentration of bikes thins out quickly away from the venue. But during the Black Hills Rally, there are bikes everywhere. Every parking lot is full of motorcycles. Eighty percent of the vehicles on the road are motorcycles. A few days in, and I felt the empowerment of being part of this group, and I realized that I fit in by virtue of my passion for traveling on two wheels. Even if I didn’t share many of the political views I saw advertised (Guns! Trump!), I started to see the great range of individuals at the Rally as my people.

I don’t know if I ever need to go back to the Rally, but I will definitely return to the Black Hills during the off-season. It’s a beautiful part of the country, with fantastic roads and beautiful natural settings. The Old West atmosphere is for real, and I want to explore it without the crowds.

You can read my article about Indian Motorcycle’s 2017 Lineup at Forbes.com.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson

2017 Ford Super Duty Pickups

by Jason Fogelson

There are a few vehicles that dominate their class. The Ford Super Duty Pickup Trucks crush the competition, and the 2017 Ford Super Duty will maintain that dominance.

One of the most interesting statistics that I heard from Ford during a recent launch event in Denver, Colorado was that 90 percent of Super Duty owners use their trucks for towing. At first, I balked at this figure. How could that be true? But then I considered the truck’s capability, and realized that it made sense. If you’re not going to be towing, or if you only tow a light load, an F-150 or competitive light duty truck is robust enough, and you’ll get a better ride on a day-to-day basis when you’re not towing.

The gap has narrowed between F-150 and Super Duty (F-250, F-350 and F-450), however. The new Super Duty now has the same cab as the F-150, and a much better suspension system than before. The ride is better, and the available creature comforts are very similar.  Super Duty doesn’t punish you with a pogo stick ride when unladen, and new steering enhancements have improved low-speed handling significantly.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Super Duty trucks on the road as daily drivers and lifestyle vehicles in the future.

Read Jason’s 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4 Crew Cab King Ranch Test Drive and Review at Autobytel.com.

Read Jason’s 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty: First Drive Review at Autotrader.com.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson

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