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Every year, Phoenix hosts an annual media drive that brings all the local automotive journalist, bloggers, YouTubers, and social media influencers together to learn, as well as drive some of the latest offerings from manufacturers. In years past, this event was catered to a specific genre of demographic as we would judge these vehicles based on its active lifestyle impact. Progressing into a new era – the idea of judging is soooo last decade and we have begun to focus our attentions more into the vehicles and its targeted demographic without criticism.


Model year 2020 has us quite pumped as there are several new cars coming down the pipeline. From sub-compacts sedans, crossovers, and into the trucks – there is something a little new for everyone. This year our media drive opened up to all sorts of demographics as some of the hot topics included the all-new 2020 Nissan Versa, Ford Explorer, and Jeep Gladiator. Moving forward into 2020, some cars like the Toyota Camry, Fiat 500X and Chevrolet Traverse received upgrade tech, enhanced performance and invigorated capabilities to keep prospected consumers intrigued.




All-new for 2020, the Nissan Versa has been the icon of the sub-compact sedan world offering immense interior volume and aggressively competitive low pricing. Starting under $15,000, the new Versa is offered in three trim levels with the S, SV and SR. Changing the way we look at sub-compacts, there is more to this little sedan than meets the eye. With a sharp stance and stylish curvature, there is more charisma to be had. As technology becomes more and more standard in vehicles, we see these cars evolving with smarter applications as it comes standard with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and automatic high beam assist. The middle level SV and top trimmed SR come standard with even more equipment as we see adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic detection, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto Connectivity. Without sacrificing what is important to the Versa and the Versa clientele, Nissan manage to extract impressive interior proportions as it sustains a comfortable back seat for large passengers and the ability to store an 8-foot ladder.



Ford’s latest offering in there crossover line up is bringing excitement back into their Explorer. Completely redesigned and re-engineered for 2020, the all-new Explorer finds new altitudes with more performance, more capability, and more tech. Available in four offerings, the Explorer starts at a family friendly modest price under $37,000 for the XLT with the latest Ford Co-Pilot360 safety features and new to the Explorer 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbocharged engine. Higher trims such as the the performing variant ST and Platinum models receive the new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6. However, while the Platinum executes 365-horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, the ST kicks it up a nickel with 400-horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque.



As we discovered earlier this year with the Jeep Gladiator, the mid-size truck segment sees huge competition as the all-new Gladiator is not only incredibly capable off-road, but on-road as well. Using chassis components from the RAM 1500, there is a level of sophistication to its engineering that makes it’s a heartfelt companion for the daily routine and a rugged warrior for the weekend adventurer. Using the same 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 in the Wrangler, there is no shortage of performance. Arriving soon in early 2020, the new 3.0-liter diesel will be making its appearance in the Gladiator.


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Toyota is making heads turn as their Camry, after being completely redesigned in 2018 has a new mid-level TRD trim. Using the most powerful V-6 in their line-up, the Camry TRD uses the 301-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 along with TRD performance upgrades such as 19-inch TRD Matt-Black wheels, TRD front splitter, side aero skirts, and rear diffuser, TRD Cat-Back dual exhaust, TRD-Tuned suspension, and larger 12.9-inch front brakes. Who knew this family sedan can rock the cool dad’s club. Because the Camry TRD is nestled in the middle of its lineup, price starts just a hair over $30,000 and features all the standard features on any Camry with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, LED headlights as well as suede and leather combo seats.



Rewriting safety, Chevrolet has something a bit different going on with their Teen Driver safety features. As kids grow into their teens and get their licenses, it is enviable that they do things that we used to do when we were growing up. We have to remember, driving is a privilege – and when we do things wrong, we pay the price. With the Teen Driver safety feature in the Chevrolet Traverse, Chevrolet is helping you, the parent not only keep track on how your teenager drives, but also help them be better drivers. With features like Buckle to Park – for the first 60-seconds after the car has started, you cannot move the gear lever out of park until your seat belt is buckled in. The Traverse also features a report card via the smartphone app where you can review driving stats such as how many times they’ve tailgated, hard braking, active braking was alerted, and active braking was activated and so on. You can also set speed alerts and restricted driving zones.



Other brands like Kia has always been a big contributed to our media drive with this year showcasing the new Kia Telluride and Kia Soul. Both vehicles we took a deep dive into in the earlier part of 2019 as we saw how the Kia steps up its game in the three-row crossover segments and keeping its compact hamster wheel alive with intuitive engineering. The new 2020 Kia Soul featured was in X-Line form, same as the one we took on a 1600-mile road trip – with a newly re-engineered 2.0-liter engine makes for a sustainable city life vehicle with ample of interior room and quirky lovable design cues. All-new to Kia, the Telluride makes a second attempt at the three-row crossover segment after Kia’s short lived Borrego in 2009. 10-years later and the art of mastering its new 7-passenger crossover has paid off with dividends as the Telluride features first-class sophistication, poise style and premium dexterity.

2019 RAM 1500 LIMITED


Last year, the all-new RAM 1500 won our 2018 Southwest Media Lifestyle award, back when we used to judge. And when we got a closer look late last year, the new RAM is more than just an average all-American pick-up truck – it sets new boundaries for what trucks should be. Utilizing a new mild-hybrid engine, the RAM 1500 takes performance levels to a new form of engineering maximizing responsiveness in acceleration, transmission mapping and fuel economy. Not to mention its incredible long list of premium, luxury features including a magnetic hydraulic ride control that will literally curtsy at the push of a button for easier access.

2019 FIAT 500X


Fiat, usually known for its quirky compact two door cars does produce an SUV – though not talked about often, its 500X, based on the Jeep Renegade platform has been updated for 2019. The 500X has an all new 1.3-liter turbocharged engine that now produces 177-horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque while providing over 30 miles to the gallon. Keeping its Italian cues, LED headlights and taillights are now standard as well as an advanced all-wheel drive system. With safety being top priority more than ever, the 500X features of 70 standard safety features including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rain-sensing wipers.



Every year FCA always brings something fun along for us to enjoy – last year they brought a Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye, the year before that it was the Durango SRT and now this year, they brought something even more exotic with the 505-horsepower Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Suited more for our entertainment, not much has been mustered up on the change list as the Stevlio rolls into the next year. Outside a few trim package changes, addition of heated rear seat options and a dark miron V scudetto grill on the Quadrifolgio – much stays the same. Equipped with an all-aluminum 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 in partnership with Ferrari, the Stevlio’s 505-horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque produces 0-60 in 3.6-seconds and  top speed of 176-MPH through an advance Q4 all-wheel drive system.



A lot has changed for Subaru over the last year with the introduction of a completely new Forester and Crosstrek. Now, it’s the Legacy and Outback’s turn. Both the Outback and Legacy have been redesigned from the ground up offering cultured panache and improvement performance. Both vehicles include two engine options with entry level trims equipped with a 2.5-liter BOXER four-cylinder with 182-horsepower while the higher trimmed XT models sees an all-new 260-horsepower turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine replacing the old 3.6-liter straight-six. Both come standard with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system on their all-new global platform. Safety and technology is boosted as Subaru’s Eye Sight Driver Assist system is now standard. Subaru increases its style and functionality with an available 11.6-inch touch screen multimedia system that provides a tablet like application.


  1. We have some friends who I’d love to put behind the wheel of the Traverse, in teen mode, just to see what their driving report cards look like. I’m pretty sure one or two of them would flunk the class. LOL

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