While we're still not among their ranks as an owner, there is no other automotive brand on the road that my wife and I tend to like across-the-board more than Kia. There's certainly some specific models that I love from other makers, but when we're talking about consistency from top to bottom, over the past few years, Kia has positioned themselves to have their entire family of vehicles feel like the truly belong together - from the entry-level Rio to the K900 Luxury Sedan. Toward the middle of the pack are the crossovers, and in that "compact SUV" scale lies the 2017 Kia Sportage - recently named a 2017 "Best Buy Award Winner" by my friends at Kelley Blue Book, and a "Rock Father Pick" among them. If you're in the market for a solid crossover that wins on many levels, it's time to give the Sportage a look.
A great road trip is one of the most exciting activities to enjoy with family, and a getaway during fall is one of the best times to do it. I say that, of course, with the American Midwest in-mind, but any locale that boasts the true seasonality of autumn, complete with falling leaves and a robust color palette will make for a beautiful drive. When it comes to hauling family, there's only been a few occasions where I've actually driven more than our immediate crew, fully complete at four. Sure, I've driven plenty of larger vehicles with third-row seating and plenty of people-moving power, but seldom have I actually had a full load. This trip was an exception, one in which I could use the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (on-loan from Toyota USA) to it's potential, heading straight out of Illinois and heading north to our relatives' lake house.
Over the past few years, I've spent a fair amount of time testing new cars and sharing my experiences here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine. The qualities that make a good car great can be a subjective thing, but I have some specific points that I'm always looking at any time I get behind the wheel of a new ride - a mix of style, function, performance and price: four key points. My friends at Kelley Blue Book also have four key points that they look for on new cars (occasionally a fifth, "Special Circumstances" i.e. payload on a pickup), but under each - Driving It, Living in It, Living With It and Owning It - they dig even deeper, with five sub-points to keep things consistent across the board, their team doing detailed reviews on over 300+ vehicles each and every year, the most of any site out there. That experience and detail makes Kelley Blue Book the trusted resource for new (and used) car buyers to make the best possible buying decisions, and this month I went hands-on at the KBB headquarters in Irvine, California for a look behind-the-scenes at how it all comes together. I joined the first-ever crew of #KBBDads to hit the road in the five vehicles that KBB has chosen as their Top Picks for Dads this year - each hand-picked from KBB's list of the 16 Best Family Cars of 2016, putting the KBB picks against The Rock Father method to see how they all stack-up.
It was a sunny day at the end of late spring when the crew from DriveShop delivered a 2016 Toyota Avalon Touring Edition to Rock Father HQ for testing. Straight-away, the Avalon is a familiar ride, one with nearly a million-and-a-half siblings sold in the U.S. since 1994 - a car that even my own father owns. In "Sizzling Crimson Mica," the Avalon stands apart from the crowd wearing a color that's hard to describe with its purple/red hue. Making this particular subject even more dramatic is the choice of dark grey (nearly blacked-out) 18" alloy wheels. On the interior, it's Almond Leather and brown accents provide a color scheme that doesn't immediately seem to match the exterior (to me), but it works. So how does the 2016 Toyota Avalon hold up as a family car? More importantly, what do The Rock Daughters™ think of it?
Brand unity is something that the folks at Kia Motors USA have really nailed over the past few years. Whether you're driving an entry-level model, or a fully-loaded luxury vehicle, the experience is distinctly Kia, and there's a comfort level in that feeling that's hard to surpass - no matter if you're in a car, crossover or minivan. When I last found myself behind the wheel of their best-selling nameplate, the Kia Optima, it was the 2014 Hybrid model. While we enjoyed that car, the 2016 Optima has been redesigned, and I recently had the opportunity to do a little roadtripping in Florida at the helm of the SX Turbo Edition - the perfect family ride for rockin' the road.
With the 2016 Chicago Auto Show rolling into McCormick Place this week, I figured it would be a good time to roll out some "Rides Revisited" features on a few vehicles that I'd driven before, but have since taken out to rock the road with my family. In this installment, it's the 2016 Kia Sorento crossover vs. the 2016 Kia Sedonamulti-purpose vehicle minivan. I had the opportunity to drive pre-release versions of both of these vehicles back in 2014, hopping behind the wheel of the Sedona out near Dana Point, California, while I had a chance to drive a pair of Sorentos through multiple climates between Lake Tahoe, California and Reno, Nevada. While I certainly had formed an opinion of both vehicles (I liked the Sedona, but loved the Sorento), sometimes having the vehicle here at Rock Father HQ for some time with the family helps re-shape things. In the case of these, that's just what we did late last year...