Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – May 29 – The Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) hosted its annual Spring Rally last week at Road America, one of the world’s premier road racing tracks. Over the course of two days, nearly 100 media members from across the country had the opportunity to put nearly 80 vehicles through their paces in a variety of driving opportunities, including on-track, street, off-road and autocross.
Automakers from 25 different brands selected the 2019 MAMA Spring Rally to showcase their latest cars, trucks, SUVs and CUVs to top-tier automotive journalists. A handful of the attending manufacturers also provided detailed overviews of their latest products.
Photo Credit: Cars.com
Lexus officially opened the MAMA Spring Rally with a breakfast presentation featuring the 2020 Lexus RC lineup—particularly the high-performance RC F model. Bob Gleich, senior product trainer for Lexus, said the 2020 RC F is lighter and more capable than before. He also reiterated that the F is highly capable on the track as the vehicle relies on a variety of technologies to help make its performance accessible to drivers of varying skill levels.
Refreshed and redefined for 2020, the RC F receives enhanced performance (with weight reduction) and an updated, aggressive design. Taking advantage of the reduced weight, RC F engineers also retuned the chassis to give the car a more responsive feel. Under the hood is a 5.0-liter V8 engine that puts out 472 horsepower and 395 lb.-ft. of torque.
Photo Credit: Cars.com
The RC F also comes in a Track Edition, a limited production model intended for hardcore enthusiasts. Both the 2020 Lexus RC F and the RC F Track Edition are in production and will be available at dealerships shortly. Pricing for the 2020 RC F starts at $64,750, and the Track Edition starts at $96,650.
Photo Credit: Cars.com
Following a morning of track touring laps and street drive evaluations, Nissan’s Karen Long discussed the brand’s commitment to sedans, the overall state of the sedan market and the company’s latest reveal, the 2020 Nissan Versa.
Despite the growing SUV and crossover market, a recent survey – conducted by third-party research firm Edelman Intelligence – found that 78 percent of respondents would consider purchasing a sedan. Moreover, U.S. sedan owners are just as satisfied with their cars as non-sedan owners.
Long discussed the continued importance of the sedan market, highlighting the 2020 Nissan Versa, the brand’s smallest and most affordable sedan. The 2020 Versa embodies the Nissan Intelligent Mobility philosophy; it’s fully equipped with safety and connectivity features such as standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, and available intelligent cruise control, which can bring the vehicle to a complete stop if needed.
Inside, drivers can stay fully connected with seamless smartphone integration and a tablet-like 7-inch touchscreen infotainment display. Heated front seats and customizable gauges (such as music playlists to fuel economy history) are also a bonus.
“The MAMA Spring Rally was a great event for Nissan to showcase the all-new 2020 Versa and speak about our commitment to the sedan market,” said Karen Long, senior manager sedans, CMM, Nissan North America. “We’re thankful to have had the opportunity to engage with such a great and influential crowd and to have them drive some of our latest vehicles.”
The 2020 Versa will arrive at dealerships later this summer. Pricing has yet to be announced but Nissan said it will be priced competitive in the segment.
Quite literally shifting gears, Hyundai put its Veloster N in the spotlight by bringing five models for journalists to drive on track, on street and in the autocross. Mike O’Brien wrapped up the first full Rally day with a dinner presentation on the Veloster N, highlighting the three key pillars of the vehicle’s “fun-to-drive” theme: Corner Rascal (with precise control through corners); Race Track Capability; and Everyday Sports Car (easy to control from urban commutes to track driving).
The “N” in its name both represents Namyang, Korea (where Hyundai’s engineering center is based and where the vehicle was born), as well as Germany’s Nürburgring, one of the longest, most tradition-steeped, challenging and busiest race tracks in the world (where the vehicle was honed). Also of note, the letter “N” represents a chicane. Built for the track, the Veloster N features a 275-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, N corner-carving differential, electronically controlled suspension, N “grin control” drive modes for precision and control, and a variable exhaust system.
Photo Credit: Cars.com
Racing attributes aside, the Veloster N offers the following as standard equipment: 8-inch audio display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, premium audio, LED headlights and taillights, Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car Service, proximity key with push button start, and automatic temperature control.
“The Veloster N is another example of Hyundai’s capabilities, offering a comprehensive degree of exterior and interior features and thrilling dynamics in an exciting sports car,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president, product, corporate and digital planning, Hyundai. “The Veloster N represents Hyundai’s highest performance vehicle ever for the U.S. market. We were thrilled to share our fun-to-drive Veloster N at the Midwest Automotive Media Association's Spring Rally.”
The Veloster N begins at $26,900; the available Performance Package bumps the starting price to $29,000.
Volkswagen kicked off the second day of the 2019 MAMA Spring Rally with a presentation and overview of the Jetta GLI, which was also available for evaluations on the street, the track, and the autocross.
New for the 2019 model year, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI is a sedan with the heart and soul of the Golf GTI. Now featuring a 228-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a sophisticated limited-slip differential, and front brakes from the Golf R, the GLI is all new and presents a great value in the sport-sedan segment, according to VW.
“I’m really pleased that we had the chance to present the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI to our friends at MAMA,” said Mark Gillies, senior manager, product and technology communications, Volkswagen of America. “The Spring Rally is a highlight of the media association year and I’m delighted that MAMA members were able to experience the vehicle at Road America, one of my favorite tracks on the planet.”
The 2019 Jetta GLI begins at $25,995 – $1,000 more for the 35th anniversary edition – and is currently on sale.
Following an action-packed morning of off-road, autocross, and street driving, Mopar, the service, parts, and customer-care brand of FCA, hosted the final event and presentation of the MAMA Spring Rally. Kim Mathers, head of accessories and performance parts, Mopar, walked attendees through the brand’s evolution over 80-plus years in serving customers throughout the ownership experience.
Photo Credit: Cars.com
Mathers highlighted the brand’s emphasis on offering a large menu of accessories right at launch for new vehicles, such as the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator and 2019 Ram 1500.
“The MAMA event is a great opportunity to share the Mopar brand’s mission with a large group of key journalists and media outlets,” said Mathers. “We were able to put journalists behind the wheel and let them experience a Ram 1500 Big Horn loaded with Mopar accessories and also share with them a behind-the-scenes video of a Mopar Custom Shop to demonstrate how we can accessorize vehicles even before they reach the dealership. The event was a great opportunity to interact with media and build relationships.”
Finalists for MAMA’s annual Family Vehicle of the Year (FVOTY) and Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year (LFVOTY) Awards were also announced. During the event, journalists had the opportunity to evaluate 13 MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year contenders and six MAMA Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year contenders. Out of these vehicles, 70 MAMA journalists cast their votes and selected the following finalists.
- 2020 Jeep Gladiator
- 2020 Kia Telluride
- 2019 Honda Passport
- 2019 Mazda3
- 2019 BMW X7
- 2019 Lincoln Nautilus
- 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS 53 Coupe
To qualify for the awards, the vehicle must have four doors and be new or significantly updated within a year of the Spring Rally. These vehicles will join another round of finalists that will be selected during the 2019 MAMA Fall Rally this October. A final round of online voting will then take place to determine the overall winner in each category, both of which will be announced during the MAMA breakfast that opens the 2020 Chicago Auto Show Media Preview in February.
“MAMA developed the Family Vehicle and Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year Awards to help car-shopping families make a wise decision when they’re ready for a new vehicle, and who better to evaluate these vehicles than the high-caliber group of automotive journalists who attend our rallies?” said Damon Bell, MAMA president. “We look forward to sharing the final results during the 2020 Chicago Auto Show.”
The MAMA Spring Rally also served as a venue for the presentation of the 2019 Chicago Auto Show’s Best of Show Awards. In voting conducted over the 10-day public run of the Chicago Auto Show, consumer voters selected their favorites in five categories. Mark Bilek, senior director of communications and technology for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, which produces the Chicago Auto Show, was on hand to distribute the awards to attending automakers. Jordan Wasylyk of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles accepted Jeep’s awards for Best Exhibit and for the 2020 Gladiator, which was voted Best All-New Production Vehicle. Bob Gleich of Lexus accepted the Best Concept Vehicle award for the Lexus LC Convertible. The 2019 Audi e-tron was also voted Best Green Vehicle and the 2019 Bugatti Chiron was selected the “Vehicle I’d mist like to have in my driveway.”
For more information on the Midwest Automotive Media Association, please visit www.mamaonline.org.
About the Midwest Automotive Media Association
Founded in 1991 and now in its 28th year, the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) comprises more than 250 automotive journalists and industry professionals from approximately 23 states and the District of Columbia. Though based in the Chicago area, MAMA welcomes members from all parts of the country. The organization’s primary purpose is to provide a forum for newsworthy people, current issues and new products in the auto industry.