One of the best things about the annual Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally at Road America racetrack is the smorgasbord of vehicles available to drive. And they’re usually all-new or significantly refreshed.
This year we looked at track vehicles, took street drives and got a little muddy on an off-road course, and there are four new vehicles we think you should be aware of.
Like Goldilocks trying to find the right bed, we have petite, functional and extra-large vehicles we loved at this year’s rally.
Hyundai Veloster N
- Base price: $26,900
- As tested: $29,885
- Engine: 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbo GDI
- MPG (city/hwy): 22/28
- Horsepower: 250
- Torque: 260 lb.-ft.
Hyundai launched the idea of a performance-based N-line series at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and we’ve been eagerly anticipating a test ever since. This did not disappoint. We took it for a spin on the track, and in addition to loving the baby blue paint with matching blue interior accents, the performance was outstanding.
Equipped with 6-speed manual transmission, the test vehicle was a passel of fun for under $30K. The short-throw shifter was easy to maneuver, the clutch wasn’t too stiff, and it handled one of the best road course tracks with ease.
I could easily see this as a fun, every day driver with functional trunk space, comfortable seating position and space for a couple passengers in the back seat.
Of course, you do have to get over the quirk of the three-door access. But we find that quaint rather than odd.
2020 Kia Soul GT-Line
- Base price: $27,490
- As tested: $28,710
- Engine: 1.6-liter turbo
- MPG (city/hwy): 27/32
- Horsepower: 201
- Torque: 195 lb-ft
There are so many selling points for the Kia Soul, I don’t even know where to begin.
It has a slightly higher driving position than a lot of sedans, easy egress and ingress for all passengers and a nice upright storage area in the boot for luggage, cargo or a trip to Home Depot for summer flowers.
The Soul is all-new for 2020 and sports a lot of cool technology, comfortable seats and a surprisingly quite interior. Fit and finish is on par with a more expensive vehicle, and it has a plethora of safety features such as automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, which are standard at the S trim.
While $28K might seem a bit steep for what people might perceive as an entry-level utility vehicle, keep in mind the base price for the Soul is $17,490, and this is an up-level version with a higher-performance engine. The S trim with all the safety goodies starts at $20,290.
BMW X7 xDrive50i
- Base price: $92, 600
- As tested: $112,245
- Engine: 4.4-liter twin-power turbo V-8
- MPG (city/hwy): 15/21
- Horsepower: 456
- Torque: 479 lb-ft
We didn’t want to walk away liking this incredibly bulky all-new BMW SUV. We thought it would be lumbering, sluggish and hard to maneuver.
It was the opposite: fast, fun and nimble. In fact, if we didn’t look in the rear-view mirror, we could have sworn we were driving a sports sedan rather than a sport utility vehicle.
The power of the twin-turbo V-8 was immediate and as we wended through the narrow twisting roads surrounding Road America, the X7 hugged every curve.
From comfort to driving pleasure, this large SUV delivers everything you could possibly want in a 3-row SUV – including a lot of legroom and comfortable seats in the third row.
The $100K price tag is certainly hard to swallow, but if you can afford it, our advice is: Buy! Buy! Buy!
Like the looks but want something a little less expensive? It is worth noting that there is a base xDrive40i with a 3.0-liter twin turbo inline 6-cylidner engine that starts at $73,900.
Ram 2500 PowerWagon
- Base price: $52,900
- As tested: $67,355
- Engine: 6.4-liter, Hemi V-8
- MPG: N/A
- Horsepower: 410
- Torque: 429 lb-ft
The Ram PowerWagon is the biggest, baddest boy in the bunch. And, wow, is it a ton of fun in off-road driving. Which is surprising considering its wide body and long wheelbase.
But, as long as you “thread the needle” appropriately, you can tackle a lot of tight turns in the PowerWagon. And if you’re traversing moguls -- or potholes for that matter – they barely register due to the Bilstein performance-tuned shocks, Ram Articulink suspension and large all-terrain tires.
Lest you think this is only a “rough and tumble” vehicle, take note of all the available lux-level amenities included, such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, premium Harmon Kardon audio, heated front and second-row seats, leather seating surfaces, and the iconic Ram 12-inch touch-screen display on the center stack.
From fabulous power to incredible luxury, pickup truck buyers won’t find much that tops this beautiful beast.
The Bottom Line:
All of these impressions come from 20 minutes or less behind the wheel, but it was enough time for us to realize we were driving something special. While we look forward to week-long tests in each of these vehicles, initial impressions are incredibly favorable.
So, if you were thinking about putting any of these vehicles on a test list for a future purchase, we’d like to verify that it’ll be worth your time.