2017 MAMA Rally: We Sampled Some New Offerings
Every year the Midwest Automotive Media Association assembles at the Autobahn Country Club race track in Joliet, IL to sample some of the automotive world’s newest offerings. We got the chance to drive several new models, and we include some initial impressions below. Each one will be getting a full review soon, so keep checking back for those in the coming weeks. While there were many different kinds of cars, we decided to mainly sample those on performance since we were at a track!
2018 Honda Civic Type-R
Few times have enthusiasts been so excited for a new model as this turbocharged Civic. The ‘Type-R’ versions of many Honda performance cars have been around on and off since the 90’s, and after a long hiatus they’ve returned once again. We loved the revvy 306hp turbocharged engine, snappy 6-speed manual shifter and laser-like handling. The car felt at home on the track, and we wished we had it all to ourselves for a whole day of lapping. That being said, driving modes and electronic dampers change several key parameters to make it more comfortable to drive on the roads. So now you don’t have to lose you filings during the week to have fun on the weekends. If only they had dialed back the wings and vents about 15% – it’s just a little too ‘tacked-on’ looking and not integrated well enough with the design. Still, this one is a home run.
2018 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Widebody
We recently tested the gleefully and savagely-powerful Hellcat, but wished for some better cornering grip to go along with all that power. It’s almost like Dodge was listening, because they now offer a wide-body version with fender flares first seen on the Dodge Demon. The fender flares allow 305mm-width tires front and back, and there are two benefits. First off, it looks fantastic. I’ve always felt the Challenger looks a bit too tall for its proportions, but these flares add just the right amount of width. The second benefit, obviously, is grip. There’s more lateral grip, but even more importantly there’s a ton of corner-exit bite so you can now power out of corners without a big powerslide! They managed to make a Hellcat even more fun, which is no easy task!
2018 Mercedes GLA45 AMG
This quirky little crossover SUV sported an eye-catching green paint job and a snarly 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder cranking out 350hp. It had driving dynamics to match the aggressive good looks, but is more of a hot-hatch than an actual SUV. That’s okay with us, however, as hot-hatches are some of the most fun cars on the road. Its small size, big torque and AWD meant that even on a wet track, we could really scoot with this thing. And the interior keeps up Mercedes’ relentless march forward in terms of design, materials and craftsmanship. The biggest gripe was how much engine sound they pumped through the speakers, really unnecessary considering how nice the burble of the actual engine is. Either way, this is a really cool way to have lots of space in a small vehicle and still go fast.
2018 BMW 530e xDrive
In the world of big German luxury sedans, the bigger the engine, the better has been the conventional logic. But now, with the addition of this plug-in hybrid, you can have all the instant torque of the electric motor combined with the efficiency of a 2.0-Liter turbocharged 4-cylinder resulting in a luxurious and quick performer. With 67 e-MPG, this plug-in makes the most of your power grid. It also makes the most of the 111hp electric motor, using that to get the car off the line in an incredible smooth, quiet and powerful manner. In fact, it makes the car feel a bit like a Rolls Royce given how smooth it is, and takes away one of the main gripes we have about the 4-cylinder’s buzzy nature. Coupled with a sumptuous and ergonomically-ideal interior and a price tag of only $68k with lots of features, this may be our favorite large German sedan!
2018 Lexus LC500
This one isn’t exactly brand new, but we have been itching to try it out. The big Lexus coupe delivers with an incredibly high-line interior, powerful and nostalgic normally aspirated 500hp V8 and supermodel looks. The interior materials actually remind me more of a Ferrari than a Toyota, making this the most successful execution of the Lexus ideals that I’ve experienced. The engine is tangibly better than the 460hp version in the ‘F’ versions we’ve tested, and the chassis is willing, albeit a bit hefty for the corners. Overall, this is well worth the small premium you’ll pay price-wise over say, an RC-F coupe. If you’re in the market for a quick and classy 2-door, this needs to be on your list.
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio