2014 Test Drives and Memories Around Them

This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to drive a lot of vehicles. How many for certain, it’s hard to say, but my best count says that I drove more than 60 vehicles this year for at least three days each and my average mileage on those vehicles was 280. If you’ve been reading Car News Cafe this year, you’ve read reviews for most of these vehicles as well.

Sometimes, though, my review doesn’t include fun little highlights that may have happened while I was testing the car. Often these are family anecdotes or funny coincidences that the car either happened to be involved in or may have itself actually caused. We have two little girls, aged 3 and 4, in our house plus this year we added a puppy to go along with the old dog we already have. Plus cats and often kittens and fostered rescue animals. To say things get hectic and that random hilarity happens around here is an understatement. Living in small town, rural America, has a lot of perks that go with all of that and my home is often a stopping point for folks around here to come see what the latest car might be.

So without further explanation, here are some of the best memories in vehicles I’ve had this year along with some stories and anecdotes that accompany them.

2014 BMW i8

BMWi8-7This car has several memories for me and though I only had it for four days, they were some of the most exciting of my career. This was the first bonafide “supercar” I’ve had as a press loan and also was only the second Bimmer I’ve ever been loaned as a journalist. My memories of this beautiful car will not fade anytime soon. No matter where I took it, this car attracted a crowd. The best part is, I would have never known this car was available to me had the driver for Automotive Media Solutions, a great guy named Dick, not mentioned it when dropping off the first BMW, a 228i. Dick was also responsible for getting me the Corvette Stingray that was another highlight of the year for performance and crowd-gathering.

The i8 only seats two, but in 4 days and 400 miles of driving, I managed to give a ride to just about everyone in our small town. I got requests from people like the local NAPA store to bring it over so they could check it out, had a girl literally say “see ya!” without explanation to her boyfriend and jump in this car to go for a drive, and more. Even the town cop had to check this one out. Amazingly awesome car. Read our review of the i8 here.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

2015 Corvette Stingray - park 1 - AOA1200pxI wasn’t going to include this, since it’s a 2015 model, but made an exception because of how cool the car is. The Corvette is one of those American icons that draws people in no matter their particular affiliation with automotive brands. Even those who are not generally “car people” are viscerally drawn to the ‘Vette. During the week I spent with this lovely beauty of Detroit engineering, people came out of the woodwork to see it. A 1967 Stingray showed up one day, owned by an acquaintance and friend-of-a-friend. A man who, up to that point, hadn’t said more than a dozen words to me in years. Suddenly, this gruff, grumpy old man opened up and we became friends as I poured over his beautiful ‘67 ‘Vette and showed him what had changed through to 2015.

Check out my review of the Corvette here and of it meeting its new friend from 1967 here.

2014 Chevrolet Sonic

2014 Chevrolet Sonic 5DR LT leftside daycare 4 AOA800pxIt seems odd, I know, but this little shoebox on wheels was a blast to drive. I had it in the late fall and had a great time speeding around town in this tiny little surprise of a car. At one point, as I was taking photos in front of the daycare here in town, a friend pulled up and asked me about the “Matchbox car” I was photographing. This friend drives a Ford minivan. I told him that the little Sonic would roast his van easily. He laughed.  We raced. He had no chance. The little turbocharged engine in the Sonic is a surprise and adding in the six-speed manual transmission was just icing. Read the Sonic review here.

2014 Chrysler 300C

2014 Chrysler 300C AWD - at park - AOA1200pxThe week I had this impressive and stately car, we had a huge snowstorm that dropped about two feet of the white stuff overnight and continued to bring snow for two days straight. At the same time, our Mazda5 had problems that required it be towed to a shop for repair (done under warranty), so the 300 was our only vehicle for a couple of days. During this blizzard, we had to go to Cheyenne (45 miles each way) and couldn’t avoid it. The Chrysler 300 drove better than most crossovers through the snow and ice. A great car in my book. Read our review here.

2014, 2015 Kia Sorento

2014 Kia Sorento - under tree leftside AOA800pxI had both the 2014 and 2015 model year Sorento this year, both in the fall and about a year apart. There is little difference between the two model years and the only difference in my observation was in a couple of interior amenities and the colors. In the 2014 Sorento, I had a friend help me with some filming as, at the time, I was trying to see how difficult making a YouTube review channel might be. It turned out that getting footage of a vehicle is a time-consuming process and after a 6-7 hour day of filming, we had only about six minutes of usable footage plus photography. This convinced me that unless I did the usual “stand in front of the car and give a verbal review” thing most others do, I was not going to be making a YouTube presence. Read the review for the 2014 Sorento here and the 2015 Sorento here.

2014 Lexus ES 300h

2014 Lexus ES300h - park 5 - AOA1200pxI have driven just about every Lexus model there is and more than a few luxury models besides. In my experience, the 300h is the most refined overall vehicle you can find. It accelerates smoothly, has a very balanced road feel, and gets great fuel economy for its size. The interior is well-fitted and the optional bamboo is beautiful. It’s a great car in every way. So I had to mention it. Read the review of the 300h here.

2014 Lexus LS460

The appeal for this car is almost entirely in the rear seats. At one point, I was driving with friends, two of them being lovely ladies sitting in the back seats. They had a great time playing with the adjustments and getting a massage from the built-in massagers as we cruised the town.

2014 Mazda 3

2014 Mazda3 - sky - AOA1200pxI thoroughly loved this little car. It’s fun, fast, exciting, and visually appealing. During the week I drove this car, my work load was particularly heavy, so I didn’t put as many miles on it as I had hoped. To make up for this, on the last day with the car, I made a mini road trip and drove solo for nearly 200 miles in a big loop around Eastern Wyoming. I stopped for photos and sodas, but otherwise stayed in the car and drove continuously. It was a blast. I often do this in loan vehicles now, taking an afternoon and just cruising for a while. You can learn a lot about a car in just 200 miles of driving it. Read the Mazda3 review here.

2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata - Trails 10 - AOA1200pxI looked forward to this car with excitement. I’d driven the manual transmission version at an automotive event earlier in the year and loved it. I’ve always liked the Miata for what it is: a small, fun, and exciting-to-drive little car. When I got it for a week, I was disappointed it was with an automatic transmission, but happy to have it regardless and had a great time taking everyone around town for rides. Everyone loves a convertible in the summer. At one point, I had to go into Cheyenne and did so with this car. As luck would have it, it rained that day, so my entire drive was with the top up. Had that little fluke not happened, I may have never gotten around to seeing how the car was without the convertible top in the down position. I now make it a point to spend at least one day with every convertible, driving with the top up. Put on some sunblock and read the review here.

2014 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X

2013NissanFrontierPro4X-leftrear-offinthedistance-AOA800pxI wasn’t sure what to do with this little pickup truck since I’d had the nearly identical 2013 model earlier. Writing two reviews about essentially the same car is not exactly fun. So I decided to do something different and packed one of my daughters into the back seat (the other was sick at the time) and went for a 100-mile trip which saw no pavement for the entire ride. Yep, offroading for 100 miles in one go. It was epic. Read about it here.

2014 Nissan Rogue

This was all about the drive to my mother’s house, which we coined the Rogue to Grandma’s trip. Read about that here.


Wrapping Up

There were a ton of other cool cars this year. I had a great time in the 2014 Ram 1500 ProMaster, helping our friend Tim Esterdahl move. I also had fun in the 2014 Scion FR-S, a fun little sports car. Hoping to see the 2015 Subaru BRZ later this year. The beautiful 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 should be mentioned as one of the nicest trucks on the road, for which I received a lot of compliments from truck owners around here.

The 2014 model year cars I drove this past year were all great vehicles. Most cars, when you boil it to brass tacks, are good vehicles and a perfect fit for someone, somewhere. Here’s looking forward to a great 2015 of test drives!

Aaron Turpen
An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.