At Consumer Guide Automotive, our editors attend manufacturer-hosted press events around the country to get our first-drive opportunities of soon-to-arrive new vehicles—that’s how we produce most of our First Spin test-drive reviews. However, we also participate in regional press events hosted by the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) for additional new-vehicle drive opportunities. One of the best of these events is the annual MAMA Spring Rally, a journalist-only event held at the excellent Road America race track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
The MAMA Spring Rally typically attracts around 80-90 of the newest vehicles on the market from a broad variety of automakers, so it’s great for quick-take impressions and back-to-back comparison drives. The Road America facility also offers plenty of opportunities for both street and off-road driving, as well as controlled track driving and an autocross course for select vehicles. Rainy weather at this year’s event put a bit of a damper on the proceedings, but our editors still managed to get quality seat time in a lot of new vehicles. Here are a few of our impressions.
2022 MAMA Spring Rally
2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV
Absent from showrooms for the last 8 months or so due to an untimely battery recall, the Bolt EV seemed to disappear at exactly the same time interest in EVs was starting to percolate. Freshened for 2022, Bolt is now back in production boasting a number of trim and content updates, and a new EUV (Electric Utility Vehicle) companion model. Though not meaningfully larger than the Bolt EV, the EUV does offer shoppers plenty of front-row seating space—even for big guys—and more leg and head room in the second row than the EV.
On the road, the Bolt EUV is a delight. The small crossover is quick, fun to drive, and the airy cabin feels open and roomy. A massive price cut for 2023 brings the base EUV down to just $28,195 including destination, not bad for a fun-to-drive EV with an EPA-estimated 247 miles of range.Unfortunately, like the EV, the EUV is offered only with front-wheel drive. – Tom Appel
First Look: 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning
I won’t be the only one to say that this thing is eye-opening in performance. The swiftness and smoothness at which it builds speed will amaze anyone who has driven any F-150 before it. Of course, this all happens in an unprecedented level of quiet. Meanwhile, in terms of passenger room and appointments you’ll find everything that makes a modern F-Series pickup what it is. – John Biel
Much to my delight, the Lightning is everything the gasoline-powered F-150 is, but with much more power and a smoother, quieter drivetrain. I’m most impressed by the handling and ride quality. I had expected the added weight of the batteries to compromise the truck’s dynamic, but that seems not to be the case. I appreciate the simple instrument-panel layout and graphics, too; there’s nothing here that screams “electric,” which is nice. Also, I dig the front end. Sure, the Lighting looks a little different than the conventional F-150, but the styling doesn’t beat the EV drum too hard. – Tom Appel
Consumer Guide Car Stuff Podcast, Episode 91: F-150 Lightning Overview, So Long VW Passat
2023 Genesis GV60
The GV60 is an all-new pure-electric compact crossover from Genesis, the luxury division of Korean automaker Hyundai. It shares its basic EV platform with the new-for-2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, but gets its own provocative exterior styling and a unique full-lux interior. At launch, the GV60 comes standard with all-wheel drive and a 77.4-kWh battery pack that delivers an estimated driving range of 248 miles in the 314-hp Advanced model and 235 miles in the 429-hp Performance model.
I took a short spin in a Performance model wearing Uyuni White paint with a striking interior upholstered in Torrent Blue with lime-green accents. The GV60’s exterior styling is unconventional even for an EV, and I’m not sure I’ve warmed to it yet. However, the interior is fabulous—the bold color combo gives it an attractive “nautical” vibe, and the copious satin-finish metal trim further enhances the ambiance. It’s appropriately stately and posh, yet fresh and original. Among the surprise-and-delight touches is a “Crystal Sphere” decorative orb on the console that flips over to reveal the rotary gear-selector knob when the vehicle is powered on. The glovebox is a clever pull-out drawer instead of the typical bottom-hinged arrangement—a Genesis PR rep explained that the GV60’s pure-EV architecture means that it doesn’t need a conventional firewall for an internal-combustion engine, which frees up enough room for the horizontal-sliding drawer.
Though its 235-mile driving range isn’t game changing, the Performance model supplies push-you-back-in-your-seat acceleration—especially when you activate the Boost mode, which temporarily bumps output to 483 horsepower. You’ll definitely pay a premium over the EV6 and Ioniq 5 models that share the same basic EV platform—the Performance model checks in at around $70K—but I think it’s worth it. Genesis is a luxury brand that’s really on the move. – Damon Bell
2022 Hyundai Elantra N
As the market for passenger cars shrinks so do the available varieties. That’s why a new internal-combustion-engine 4-door sport sedan from a nonpremium brand is a surprise—though the compact class in which the Elantra resides still seems somewhat open to this type of car. Judging by the nonstop play the N got during the autocross portion of our regularly scheduled Wisconsin clambake—at least for as long as its tires held out—Hyundai did a good job of it. Personally, though, the front-wheel-drive N’s great steering response and tuneful 276-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo engine seemed better suited to the expansiveness of the 4-mile Road America racing circuit than it did to the much tighter punch-steer-brake-repeat regimen of the autocross loop (actually RA’s go-kart track). The interior mostly retains Elantra’s fundamental mass-market materials and practical features but with sport-sedan bona fides like the grippy racing-style front seats that up its game. It looks pretty cool from the outside, too. The Elantra N might not be a “safe” choice from a product-planning standpoint in today’s sales environment but kudos to Hyundai for throwing caution to the winds—just like our most aggressive autocrossers did with it. – John Biel
Track Day: 2022 Hyundai Elantra N and Kona N
2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid
A complete redesign for 2023 brings the Kia Sportage its first-ever hybrid and plug-in-hybrid powertrains. I drove a mid-line Hybrid EX model equipped with the EX Premium Package, and was charmed by its pleasant driving demeanor, peppy 226-hp gas/electric powertrain, and generous level of standard equipment. I can’t say I’m completely comfortable with the exterior styling—I’m a little weirded out by front ends in which the headlights are overpowered by the daytime running lights and other design elements—but I think the Sportage’s looks are growing on me.
And, the Sportage’s interior is excellent—in keeping with the unconventional exterior, it’s got funky design touches such as the unusually shaped door pulls and HVAC vents, but I found the control layout to be ergonomically agreeable overall. I also liked the slim strip of touch-sensitive virtual buttons that toggles between audio and climate controls at the touch of a button. Both passenger room and cargo space are impressive for the Sportage’s relatively tidy exterior dimensions—I had better legroom in the Sportage’s rear seats than I did in the Lexus LX 600’s. The “SynTex” faux-leather upholstery had a respectably upscale look and feel, and the ambiance was further enhanced by the standard fully digital gauge cluster, 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated front seats. I’ve driven many mainstream-brand compact SUVs in the past couple years that approached (or even surpassed) the $40K mark, so this Sportage’s bottom-line sticker price of $33,860 struck me as an especially good deal. – Damon Bell
2022 Lexus LX 600
The redesigned-for-2022 Lexus LX replaces the long-serving previous-generation model, which was redesigned way back in 2008. Gone is the Lexus LX 570 and its thirsty 383-hp 5.7-liter V8. The name is now LX 600, and the engine is a twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V6 that makes 409 horsepower and promises to be more economical—it’s rated at 19 mpg in combined city/highway driving, compared to 14 mpg for the 2021 LX 570.
In addition to its stronger, relatively more-efficient engine, the new LX gets serious upgrades in cabin materials and technology features. A dual-touchscreen version of the Lexus Interface infotainment system is standard, along with a 360-degree surround-view monitor, automated parking system, wireless charging pad, and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. We drove the flagship Ultra Luxury model, which is decked out with truly dazzling interior trim but comes only with seating for four passengers (other LXs offer seating for five, or seven via third-row seats). To make up for its lack of a third row, the Ultra Luxury has lavish reclining second-row captain’s chairs with heating, cooling, and massage—all controlled by a touchscreen display on the center console.
The new LX is improved in virtually every way, but also carries over some of its predecessor’s irksome characteristics. Despite the extra-large exterior proportions, cargo capacity and passenger space (at least for my extra-tall frame) aren’t particularly generous or ergonomically ideal, and the handling feels a bit lumbering and top-heavy in an old-school-SUV way. Plus, the Ultra Luxury model we drove had a jaw-dropping bottom line of $128,030. For that kind of money, you’ll want to check out the LX’s European rivals, as well as the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, and high-end versions of the GMC Yukon Denali. – Damon Bell
2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness
Usually the saddest thing to hear on a track day is “Looks like rain all day.” But when it’s also track day for SUVs, well, there’s your silver lining. It provided a chance to see another side of the new Wilderness version of the Forester compact SUV that recently passed through Consumer Guide but never got off pavement. The Wilderness is one of a growing number of models designed to be a little more “outdoorsy” than others in their model line. The off-roading trails set up on the periphery of Road America have plenty of tight turns, grades to climb, and steep drops, and on this particular day the tracks became delightfully mushy. It didn’t seem to matter to the Forester with its 0.5-inch-raised ride height, unique off-road tires on 17-inch wheels, and continuously variable transmission modified for enhanced low-end torque. With the “Mud/Snow” traction mode selected, the Subie climbed nimbly when asked and plowed through the soupiest sections of the path. Only once did it slide off track, at a left-hand/right-hand bend, that required backing off and approaching again. Bring it off the trail and it’s just as comfortable and useful of a daily commuter as any other Forester. – John Biel
2022 MAMA Spring Rally Roundup Gallery
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2022 MAMA Spring Rally
Extra Credit: Consumer Guide Goes to Teen Defensive-Driving School
2022 MAMA Spring Rally
2022 MAMA Spring Rally