Like many auto journalists, the editors of Consumer Guide Automotive attend manufacturer-hosted press events to get our first look at the newest vehicles hitting the market—that’s how we produce most of our First Spin test-drive reviews. However, we also attend “smorgasbord-style” press events that allow us brief access to a broad variety of new vehicles from a host of manufacturers, for quick-take impressions and helpful back-to-back comparison drives.
One such event is the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s Fall Rally, which is held annually at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois—a private auto-racing track that also hosts various private and public events. The MAMA Fall Rally is a journalist-only event that typically features 50 to 60 examples of the auto industry’s freshest new products. It offers plenty of opportunities for both street and off-road driving, as well as controlled track driving on the north section of the Autobahn’s race course. Here are a few of our impressions from this year’s event.
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2020 Cadillac XT6
Damon Bell: I was prepared to be disappointed by the Cadillac XT6—on paper, it doesn’t seem like a very ambitious effort compared to the Lincoln Aviator (which I also drove at this event). However, from behind the wheel, the XT6 is more satisfying than its architecture and specs would suggest, and it might turn out to be just the ticket for traditional American buyers who aren’t well served by the more aggressively styled competition from Europe and Japan. And even though the official specs don’t show it, the XT6’s second-row seating area feels notably more spacious than the Aviator’s.
2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 with Duramax Diesel
Rick Cotta: While the turbodiesel power war has long been raging in the heavy-duty pickup segment, it’s now being waged among light-duty pickups as well.
Newest to join the fray is Chevrolet’s 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel offered in half-ton 1500s. Unusually, it’s an inline six vs. the 3.0-liter V6s offered by Ford and Ram, and based on our drives at the 2019 MAMA Fall Rally, it may well be the quietest of the bunch.
The 3.0 Duramax is rated at 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. While both figures top the Ford F-150’s 250/440, Ram’s revived 3.0-liter EcoDiesel out-torques it with 480 lb-ft. However, back-to-back drives (the ability to do so being a real benefit of the Rally) revealed that Chevy’s six was quieter than Ram’s under acceleration – emitting little of the traditional “diesel clatter” – though both engines cruised surprisingly quietly. If we didn’t know from the “Duramax” hood badge that the Silverado had a diesel engine, we probably wouldn’t have noticed.
2020 Ford Escape Hybrid SE Sport
Damon: Even more so than the redesigned-for-2020 Ford Explorer, the all-new 2020 Escape represents the new face of Ford. In many ways, the new Escape is taking the place of the discontinued Focus and the soon-to-be-discontinued Fusion in Ford’s lineup, so it’s not too surprising that this is the most car-like Escape yet. In both overall height and driving position, the Escape sits noticeably lower than the average compact SUV, which might make it a bit more palatable to Ford car buyers who will be left hanging by the company’s decision to phase out almost all of its traditional passenger cars. I found the Escape’s hybrid powertrain to be relatively smooth and responsive during my short drive, and the 12.3-inch all-digital configurable gauge cluster is a nifty, useful bit of technology as well.
2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package
Damon: The words “four-cylinder Ford Mustang” might cause many performance-car enthusiasts to automatically tune out, but hear me out… this car is a riot. The overachieving turbo 2.3-liter four (lifted from the recently departed Ford Focus RS) puts out 330 horsepower here, and can be paired with a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission. Plus, it’s significantly lighter than the Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter V8, which makes for sharper handling—especially when you spring for the $1995 Handling Package, which adds goodies like Magneride adaptive suspension, a limited-slip differential, and Pirelli summer tires. The EcoBoost HPP might be the most Euro-centric Mustang since the SVO model of the mid-Eighties—it’s an international mash-up that works amazingly well.
2020 Lincoln Aviator
Rick: Essentially replacing the 3-row MKT, Aviator joins Lincoln’s fleet as a midsize 3-row crossover that slots between the midsize 2-row Nautilus (formerly MKX) and the full-size 3-row Navigator.
Aviator is offered with a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 rated at 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, or as a Hybrid with that same engine coupled with an electric motor to produce a combined 494 horsepower and a whopping 630 lb-ft of torque. Both accelerate swiftly, but the Hybrid flat out hauls. This, combined with impressive ride quality and quietness, made the Aviator’s driving dynamics stand out.
Furthermore, the cabin is roomy and nicely trimmed, and the Hybrid we drove was decked out with some neat engine-turned-aluminum accents. Also noticed were a row of shift buttons that saved console space over the traditional shift lever.
The Aviator is on sale now – with prices starting in the low $50,000 range – with the Hybrid expected to be available around the end of November.
2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
Rick: Ram revives the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 for 2020, now rated at 260 horsepower and a class-leading 480 lb-ft of torque. But perhaps more impressive was the truck it was in.
We drove a Ram 1500 with that engine and a number of neat features. First was the 1500’s new 60/40 split tailgate (it was actually introduced late in the 2019 model year), which opens like a double-door refrigerator or like a conventional one-piece tailgate. The advantage of the former is that you can stand right next to the bed to lift or slide out loads rather than having to stand behind a horizontal tailgate.
As the truck also included Ram Boxes (bins built into the sidewall of the bed) and an adjustable “fence” to partition off the bed, it all struck us as a really handy combination.
2020 Toyota Supra
Damon: My time in the reborn Supra was limited to three lead/follow laps around the Autobahn’s north course, but that was enough to form a few impressions. I’m guessing there are Toyota purists who are doubtless upset that the new Supra shares a LOT with the BMW Z4 (including its delightful turbo inline six), but here’s one reason I celebrate the Japan-Germany partnership: BMW two-seat sports cars have traditionally offered a bit more interior room than many rivals, and that holds true with the new Z4/Supra platform. I’m 6’6”, and I fit in the Supra better than I was expecting. Getting in and out is a bit of a challenge—and tops of the side windows are barely above my eyeline—but I have decent legroom, and the “double-bubble” roof means headroom is OK too. The Supra’s engine is rated at 335 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like a lot in a world of 490-hp base Corvettes and 760-hp Shelby GT500 Mustangs, but for actual, usable power on the street and the track, the Supra more than satisfies… and the snarky, snap-crackle-pop noises it makes are the icing on the cake.
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