The Review Garage

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



2018 Chicago Auto Show

by Jason Fogelson

I went to the 2018 Chicago Auto Show last week as a guest of Nissan, and I covered the event for Here’s a link to my article for them, which was entitled “Must See Vehicles from the 2018 Chicago Auto Show.”

I love going to the Chicago Auto Show. Of the major US new car shows, it is always the most relaxed and easy to navigate. The event happens at McCormick Place, a massive convention center, and the lucky journalists stay in one of the high-rise hotels that are connected to the building — which means that the weather is not a factor during the day. And that was a good thing this year, as the weather was cold, snow fell constantly and there was no reason for man nor beast to be outside.

The trip in was a pleasure, as Nissan invited Detroit-area-based journalists to travel to Chicago with them via Amtrak. Getting to my closest train station in Dearborn was a bit of a struggle, as the big snow storm extended across the Midwest and dropped several inches of the white stuff on the roads during the night before my departure. I had planned to take a Lyft or Uber for the 10-mile trip to the station, but when I was ready to leave, there were no willing drivers available. I had to wake my wife, who donned her winter coat over her pajamas without complaint and drove me through the snow-covered streets. The train trip to Chicago took about four hours, most of which I spent chatting with other journalists. Nissan shuttled us to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, where warm rooms awaited.

On the first night, I attended Nissan’s welcome party in an adjacent hotel ballroom, and then took an Uber to the Lexus party in an event space on the other side of downtown. Lexus had a 10th Anniversary F-Sport RC-F on display, along with a West Coast Customs replica of the Black Panther’s LC. An Uber back to the hotel afterwards, and on to bed.

In the morning, I attended the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) breakfast, with a keynote address from Subaru of America’s CEO, Thomas Doll. Then, it was off to the show, running from press conference to press conference. At the end of the day, my dogs were barking, but I still found the energy to jump on a shuttle to Geno’s East for the annual Mazda Pizza Party. I’m not really a deep dish guy, but it was a very nice meal and a good time hanging out with Mazda PR folk and auto journalists. I had a ticket for a music event, Sweet Home Chicago, but chose instead to return to the hotel for some rest.

The next day, more press conferences, more snow, lots of writing. I made a quick swing through the show floor to take some photos (I’m sharing some here for your viewing), and prepared for my flight home. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans, as I got notices from Delta Airlines that my plane was delayed from a 4:45 pm departure to 9:00 pm. I decided to punt, and bought a ticket on the 5:40 pm Amtrak from Union Station back to Dearborn, because I was pretty sure I’d make it home — and it would be better than sleeping at O’Hare airport. I finally pulled in to Dearborn station at 1:00 am, and made it home by 2:00 am in an Uber.

All-in-all, an excellent trip, made a little bit frustrating by the weather. It could have been worse — I could still be sleeping at O’Hare.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson.


Holden Commodore: A DriveWays Review . . .

by Frank A. Aukofer

To drive a Holden Commodore in Australia means learning about a comfortable and welcoming culture as well as witnessing the end of a nostalgic era some Americans still dream about.

This is a story about a car that is both familiar and unfamiliar, as well as an experience in a foreign country that in many ways is not foreign at all.

We traveled to Sydney, Australia, on a vacation trip and the folks at Holden loaned us a new Commodore — the last of a popular and endearing model that dates back to 1978. The company, which is part of General Motors, has stopped production in Australia and will switch to importing cars from Opel in Germany, and SUVs and trucks built in Thailand and South Korea.

MY16 VFII_Range Static_HRThe Commodore is the type of car many Americans embraced back as far as the end of World War II in the last century. Here it would be described as a full-size four-door sedan with rear-wheel drive and eight-cylinder power.

It is 16 feet four inches long with 107 cubic feet of space for passengers and a trunk of 19 cubic feet. Power is delivered by a 415-horsepower, 6.2-liter pushrod V8 engine with 415 pound-feet of torque—a configuration used by many General Motors, Ford and Chrysler models over decades, even recently in the Chevrolet Corvette sports car. The transmission is a silky six-speed automatic.

This Australian car has been — and is — sold in the U.S. At various times in recent years, it has appeared as a Pontiac GTO, Pontiac G8 and, currently, Chevrolet SS. To see a near clone of the Holden Commodore, check out an SS at your Chevy store.

MY16 VFII_SS-V Redline Ute_F3Q Dynamic 4_HRDriving comfortably in a foreign country requires an understanding of the people and the culture. The driver needs to have a knowledge not only of the rules of the road but also a feel for the mindset of other drivers and how they react in different circumstances. There are countries—India is one example—where even very experienced drivers should not drive without a long and careful learning curve.

That is not the case in Australia. Though it follows the mother country of Great Britain in driving on the left (or correct side, as some say), there are no surprises for Americans except for adapting to the mirror image on turns and roundabouts. The rules of the road, traffic signs, motoring courtesy and highway markings are all familiar. As in Canada, the speed limits and distances are in kilometers, not miles.

MY16 VFII_Hood Vents and Fascia Ducts_HRCanada, it is safe to say, is the country most familiar to U.S. Americans, and Australia and New Zealand are a close second. However, you do have to get used to the local accents, which can be charming if sometimes unfathomable.

We drove the Holden on a trip south from Sydney toward places with names that included Wollongong, Austinmer and Stanwell Tops. It included terrific views of the Tasman Sea and a long stretch through the scenic forestland of the Royal National Park. Comfort and visibility were outstanding, especially in the back seat.

The Commodore was as competent as any big sedan in negotiating the park’s twisting road — not unlike driving in Vermont. It cornered flat, with little body lean, and delivered generous power for passing and brakes that, as the old saying goes, would stop the car on a dime and give you nine cents change. However, the road did make an enthusiast pine for a Mazda Miata two-seater.

MY16 VFII_Sportwagon LED tail lamp_HRWe stopped for beers at Ryans Hotel in Thirroul, New South Wales —appropriate because my traveling companions were Richard and Dorothy Ryan of Rockville, MD, along with wife Sharlene. After a turnaround in Bulli we headed back to Sydney by an inland route.

Overall, the experience reminded me of a more innocent and less divisive time in the U.S., where we drove big cars with big engines and Americans were like Australians are today—folks who go out of their way to help, and where cab drivers, waitresses and other service people amazingly refuse tips because they just don’t do things that way.

MY16 VFII_Brembo brake_HRIt’s where, in a city with a metro population of five million, you can buy a transportation pass for $10 and ride the ferries, trains and buses all day Sunday, essentially for free, and end up with $7 on the card to be used another time.

In today’s confrontational political climate, some Americans have vowed to move to Australia or New Zealand. They’d be happy.

MY16 VFII_SS-V Redline sedan_side Dynamic_HRSpecifications

  • Model: Holden Commodore SS four-door sedan.
  • Engine:2-liter V8, 415 hp and 415 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Passenger/trunk volume: 107/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,000 pounds.
  • Fuel consumption: Estimated 18 mpg combined city/highway.
  • Price as tested: $47,190 (Australian dollars), $36,250 (U.S.)

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

MY16 VFII_Calais V_R3Q Static_HRPhotos (c) General Motors

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