So, I gave in. And, off to Wheaton, Oakbrook Terrace, and Naperville we went…
This was ultimately George’s idea…
We wrangled with the idea of heading to Chicago’s West Burbs for two media opportunities sponsored by the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Chicago Auto Trade Association. The former was an abbreviated version of the media association’s Fall Rally, whereas the other is focused on electric vehicles for area consumers.
I was unsure whether it was worth heading down to Chicago for either media opportunity. Then, George reviewed one of the e-mails to see that they had a few vehicles he was interested in checking out.
So, I gave in. And, off to Wheaton, Oakbrook Terrace, and Naperville we went…
To explain, MAMA held their Fall Favorites media event for non-electric vehicles as part of the voting for a slew of awards the media association will be handing off at the 2024 Chicago Auto Show. This was held at an event center in Wheaton where we had two sessions to drive a selection of automobiles that will be eligible for those awards. MAMA members were split between the two sessions.
The next day, CATA welcomed us to their headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace for their Chicago Drives Electric preview event. After the preview event, the producers of the Chicago Auto Show will open this event up to the public so they can experience a selection of electrified vehicles. MAMA members were welcome to participate in the preview event.
Incidentally, the latter was part of National Drive Electric Week.
As members of MAMA, we felt that we should check these events out. If not to create content, but to get ideas for future stories. As with a lot of these media association events, we usually get these vehicles in for a week’s workflow.
We made our base camp in Naperville. Not far from either venue. It gives us a space to get through our work and plan some outside activities around both events.
The first event, the MAMA Fall Favorites Festival, is a way to return to the Fall Rally of years past. The venue, Danada House in Wheaton, was a quiet, mellow setting for what turned out to be a very mellow drive event. Danada House is part of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, marked by acres of horses and lovely greenery.
The challenge of doing this event is distance and calculation between distance for a disabled person like me. However, we bridge the distance quite well. George promptly went to work on the vehicles presented to us – 25 in total. They were mostly non-electrified vehicles – some of which had loads pf power with an exhaust note to boot.
George took on the 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse – another level above the V8-powered GT. This 500-horsepower machine looks mean, but not exactly a perfect sports coupe. The shifter felt notchy and some of the details weren’t of high quality. Granted, it is a Mustang…right?
I tried to match George’s high horse machinery with a 2023 Chrysler 300C. This is the last of the LX2 platform powered by SRT’s 485-horsepower 6.4-liter V8. With only a few thousand built, this serves as a perfect farewell for a luxury performance icon. It certainly felt like one. One final ride in an icon is all I needed.
George and I did combine efforts on a couple of vehicles. For one, the revised 2024 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 drive a lot better than previous JKs and JLs I’ve worked with. The 470 horsepower from the 6.4-liter V8 serves up an undeniable exhaust sound coupled with its quick-off-the-mark acceleration. Not to mention the absence of front axle “buck” when doing tight maneuvers with the Wrangler in the 4-Auto setting. Pretty happy to feel that.
On the other side of the spectrum is the 2024 Chevrolet Trax. The newest non-electrified SUV from the Bowtie brand is actually quite roomy both front and back. It also offers a high level of technology, including a fully digital instrument cluster. Powered by a 137-horsepower 1.2-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, the Trax is only offered in front-drive with a six-speed automatic transmission. It does a decent job getting us around. Although, you find that some interior bits were offered to match the price point.
In addition to all of the above, George went on to drive the 2023 Honda Civic Type R and 2024 Acura Integra Type S. While both had about the same horsepower, he can to the same conclusion as the rets of our colleagues. The Civic Type R is more visceral and hardcore with firmer driving dynamics and power curve. Whereas the Integra Type R is more refined in its approach to satisfy the enthusiast.
From a mellow day in Wheaton, the next day offered a very busy day at the Chicago Auto Trade Association in Oakbrook Terrace for Chicago Drives Electric’s media preview. The event began with a panel discussing issues with Electric Vehicle ownership and the charging infrastructure. While the discussion is Chicago-area centric, there are some common issues that we all share.
According to Dave Thomas of CDK Global, 87% of EV owners will most likely charge their vehicles at home. Understanding this, it basically tells us that a homeowner will be a better prospect for an EV – ignoring those who either cannot afford to install a Level 2 charger in their garage or live in multiple resident dwellings. These are arguments that have been oft repeated on this website.
There are many things we could’ve brought up. However, the subject matter was very specific to a certain region. We should reserve any further discussion until we speak with more local authorities on this subject. That would include both urban and rural authorities.
After that discussion, we got into our drives. George started us off with the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq. The one thing that came to me is how modern this Cadillac has become. There are a few things that continue the throughline of its legacy, but no one can mistake the Lyriq’s reboot of the Cadillac brand. The Ultium electric drive architecture has found a good home in this stylish and luxurious Crossover/SUV.
Afterwards, we got into the new 2024 Audi Q8 e-Tron. This is another model reboot, as it was once was called simply e-Tron. By giving it the Q8 nomenclature, this electric SUV tries to live up to its top billing. It does so by providing space for passengers and their cargo and simply going about its business.
We went our separate ways, but we both drove the 2023 Volkswagen ID.4 PRO S. The rear-drive version was the first we drove that was produced in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These models offer modifications made for American drivers, such as an improved center console. While the infotainment system lacked intuitive controls below the screen, the rest of the ID.4 was fine. We understand that there will be more improvements coming in the next couple of model years.
I got my hands on a 2023 Nissan Leaf SV+ – the larger battery version of the company’s original EV. The second-generation model underwent some updates for the model year to align it with the Nissan Next strategy. It is still a fun-to-drive small EV that remains relevant in today’s marketplace. It is also the only full battery-electric vehicle that has a CHAdeMO plug for DC Fast Charging.
In turn, George took his turn in Audi’s RS e-Tron GT. While spewing 637 horsepower from its battery-fed drive system, the RS e-Tron GT is all about style and desirability. You cannot ignore it, but that is how Audi wants you to react to it.
Both events we attended served two different vibes. The MAMA Fall Favorites serve as a reboot of their second-most popular yearly event at a venue that is top notch. On the other hand, the media preview of Chicago Drives Electric served as a dress rehearsal for the public days to the benefit of the Chicago area media. In-between them was a way to chock it all up for the experience of two Twin Cities-based automotive journalists/media content creators to gain ideas for future programming for you.
This is why we did this "double dip" of media opportunities for you.
DISCLAIMER: All travel was by Victory & Reseda. All logistics were provided by the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the Chicago Automotive Trade Association and their sponsors
All photos by Victory & Reseda: Randy Stern and George Torline