2021 Lexus ES 350 F SPORT Black Line Special Edition: Sensory Stimulation

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Launched in the US in 1989, Lexus continues to attract a diverse and extremely loyal consumer base while staying ahead of the curve in the fields of technology and innovation. With its newfangled Black Line Special Edition, Japanese opulence presents itself in every aspect, from the design evolution to distinctive interior materials aimed towards sensory stimulation. My 2021 Lexus ES 350 F SPORT Black Line Special Edition test car arrived in an Obsidian outer hue with an exquisite two-tone white and black offset interior with gray stitching. The Lexus experience was perfect for seven days.

My wife and I were owners of a 6th generation ES (also in black) and loved that sporty sedan. Hence, it is gratifying witnessing the brand’s evolution right before our very eyes. For the ES, Lexus product planners utilized lessons from their flagship LS. They applied some of those techniques, such as utilizing premium materials and attention to detail with the distinctive one-piece spindle grille design. A few critical elements of change between the old and the new include a lowered roofline, a longer wheelbase, an overall longer, lower, wider body, and triple-beam LED headlamps. [Read more…]

2021 GMC Yukon 4WD AT4: Stronger, Bolder, and Smarter

Experienced by Kimatni Rawlins

It was tough deciding between the Onyx Black 4WD Denali and Summit White 4WD AT4 for the at-home launch and test drive of the 2021 GMC Yukon, yet ultimately, Automotive Rhythms went with the adventurous AT4 model. The American SUV’s interior excels with exquisite woods, fine leather, and technology advancements such as a third-row that automatically folds and unfolds from an overhead switch. Additionally, the second and third-row seats can be actuated from the cargo area.

As stated, I went with the very first AT4 model, which is focused on off-roading and venturing into the unknown. Red tow hooks should hint at the model of your premium American SUV. As well, AT4 receives the rugged Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires with economical tread design and all-weather traction to accommodate the stylish 20” aluminum rims outlined by Carbon Grey Metallic accents. You will also recognize the skid plate and hardcore Tonka Truck styled front fascia of the AT4 compared to the Yukon Denali’s blinged out silver grille. Both feature jeweled headlights with impressive shine abilities. AT4 also runs with the Traction Select System with off-road mode and Hill Descent Control.

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2020 Trail Trek Tour: Tundra TRD Pro Off-Road Family Fun

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Let’s get ready to rumble was an understatement this past weekend in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest. I drove down with the family from Silver Spring, MD, in the 2020 Tundra “Nomadic Mission” TRD Pro warrior truck by Fit Fathers for a day of mud sliding, light rock climbing, and slope running. The socially distanced 2020 Trail Trek Tour featured the group’s first Off-Road Family Fun Run and included nine vehicles, 29 participants, and one happy-to-be-in-the-woods dog.

My Tundra TRD Pro was joined by the Army Green Team, consisting of the new Tacoma TRD Pro and 4Runner TRD Pro, which both held their own through deep waters and uphill battles. But of course, big brother Tundra is the family’s king of the mountain and calls the shots. We tackled two trail rides in the National Forest, including Taskers Gap and Peters Mill Run that comprise 36 miles of motorized OHV trails. Though, I was a bit jealous of the dirt bikes and ATVs ripping the trails like the surefooted mountain goat. Experienced host Philip Van der Vossen led our procession of trucks. We took a surgical approach for some good dirty fun with my Fit Fathers crew, daughters, and father Randi Payton who started African American On Wheels magazine over thirty years ago. The collaboration also included buccaneer Leon Brittain of Throttle Life and Auto Sense’s Brian Armstead.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250: Baby Baller

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

The new GLA 250 crossover is quite the showoff in a family full of self-reliant, intelligent, and performance-oriented SUVs. The baby baller is the entry point to Mercedes-Benz’s (M-B) roster of utilities and seemingly fulfills almost every sensory touchpoint required by today’s youthful and digitized customers. It’s positioned for people who live adventurously and utilize their rides as sidekicks for exploits. Whether you’re navigating through or around inner-city obstacles to make appointments or cruising the outer banks, the GLA 250 will undoubtedly make an ideal companion.

GLA is short, compact, and dynamic. However, the heavily contented cabin is spacious and pretty cozy since the proportions are taller, more comprehensive, and longer than the prior model. The Neva Grey and Black MB-Tex with contrasting AMG Line carbon structure trim excited my wife and kids. They are also always fascinated by the 64-color interior ambient lighting in M-Bs, which allows you to select energetic glows such as Glacier Blue and Jungle Green. A Sporty flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters is familiar territory to other family members. It leaves the impression that the GLA is even more capable than its stats suggest. Metal pedals, rear seats with 7-Stage Inclination and forward/backward mobility, and the $1,500 panorama sunroof add more amenities. And the enticing Mountain Grey Magno matte paint fits the GLA motif well. Though the five circular vents for the dual-zone automatic climate control collectively dominate the smaller instrument panel’s fascia, they look and feel better on the interiors of the larger M-Bs such as the E and S-Classes. [Read more…]

2021 Kia K5 EX and GT-Line: The Choice is Yours

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

It was an interesting 24-hour period as Kia dropped off both a meditative Sapphire Blue 2021 K5 EX and a mystic 2021 Passion Red K5 GT-Line for me to evaluate side by side. Of course, classic rap group Black Sheep and their timeless hit, The Choice is Yours, came to mind as I kept going back and forth on the color scheme. “You can get with this, or you can get with that. I think you’ll get with this, for this is where it’s at.” So, I jumped into the “Matrix” with both the red and blue pill to put equal time behind the wheel of each.

With a starting price of $27,990 for the EX and $25,390 for the GT-Line ($965 destination fee), think of the mid-sized sedan as the little dude in the crew. It’s like a Kia Stinger before the agility and strength training program kicked off. I even see a mix of Hyundai’s new Sonata in the front. But the Shark skin-inspired mesh grille needs more pompousness to pair with the rest of the athletic body and chin spoiler. I think it’s too thin and narrow and the pattern is strange. Kia says the K5’s roster position is above the Forte and below the Cadenza. [Read more…]

2021 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD High Country: Two For One

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Wow, the latest generation Suburban is the truth, as is its stablemate, familiarly known as the Tahoe. Both have held their own in the extra-large SUV category with toughness, spaciousness, and ruggedness. But unlike its legendary predecessor, this all-new fleet is endowed with remarkable technology, innovative safety advancements, and satiating comfort features. Essentially, you now receive 2-for-1 in the 2021 Suburban.

Thinking back, I must know at least 20 people — along with cousin Yukon – that own one or the other. Since day one, GM’s SUV collection has been a hot item ticket, so imagine the pursuit of the 2021 models once the economy stabilizes.  I was fortunate enough to have had the 2021 Suburban 4WD High Country dropped off for three days of enjoyment and evaluations. My team hauler rolled up in a Graywood Metallic exterior enhanced by a unique High Country signature grille and quad circular exhaust tips. The Jet Black interior featured bronze accents and contrast stitching outlining the premium leather. The High Country is the most elite package out of six Suburban trims, which comprises the Premier, Z71, RST, LT, and the entry-level LS that kicks off at $51,700. [Read more…]

2020 MAZDA CX-9 Signature AWD: Celestial Summertime

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Summers are specialized for the Rawlins Family. We use this celestial time to explore unique destinations, rekindle favorite pastimes, and venture to various health, food, and fitness festivals focused on developmental skills. Of course, that has been slowed down by the pandemic, but we still found time to enjoy the great outdoors with the 2020 MAZDA CX-9 Signature AWD in Machine Gray Metallic. It’s that natural energy of July and August that keep us energized like nomads always looking for the next adventure, which consisted of hiking and biking.

The CX-9 is a beauty to look at and stands out from other similar-looking mid-size crossovers which it competes. The elongated front fascia is the most defining style feature and the attractive 20” alloy rims outlined by embedded body cladding around the wheel wells add flavor. LED lights, aluminum roof rails, and the body-colored rear tailgate spoiler advance the styling presentation. The CX-9 has been a significant focus for Mazda. Over the last year, the small Japanese manufacturer has made several product enhancements, including captain’s chairs, a hands-free power liftgate, and the 9” full-color touchscreen display. These new additions have helped the family vehicle maintain steady growth in sales. [Read more…]

2020 Hyundai Sonata HEV Limited: Food for Thought in a Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

I love it! The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) has a range of 560 miles and 47 combined mpg based on my driving style. It breaks down to 51 highway mpg and 45 city mpg.  I bet you can increase the range with extended economical habits. The Sonata HEV is so fuel-efficient and looks so good that it precipitates impromptu human behavior such as long drives hours away.

When the 8th-generation Sonata (Hyundai’s longest-standing and most successful model) arrived in a Shimmering Silver hue and spindle 17” alloy rims wrapped in Michelin tires, I knew that we would be putting out high mileage during Fit Fathers weekly test drive. To pay it forward, my wife and I decided to exercise for three hours to burn off 1000+ calories and then hit the road from Silver Spring, MD to Philadelphia, PA, to score some vegan cheesesteaks from the all-vegan Blackbird Pizzeria. I put work in on my new Specialized Sirrus 4.0 hybrid bike for two hours and boxed while Misa ran and jumped on the spin bike. [Read more…]

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road: Urban Outfitted and Enhanced

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Not to take away from Toyota’s standard family of vehicles, but if I had to choose, then I’m rolling with the TRD variant of any of those models. Representing Toyota Racing Design, the TRD label enhances your vehicle with a rugged appearance package, gritty wheels, and more aggressive accessories. Such is the case with the 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road, which is dominant over its base stablemate.

Our crossover arrived in a Lunar Rock hue with a contrasting white roof, black roof rails, black mirrors, black body cladding, and matte black TRD alloy rims wrapped in knobby Falken WildPeak A/T tires (225/60R18). The RAV4 TRD Off-Road is primed for adventure whenever you seek it. All I endeavored to do was take my bikes for epics rides knowing that the RAV4 TRD Off-Road had no visible limitations. It sits high for proper ground clearance and features Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with Multi-Terrain Select, and a TRD-tuned suspension when hitting muddy, snowy, sandy, or rocky trails. Quad pipes are a nice touch as well. Like an animal in the wild, the TRD Off-Road is always ready for action.

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2020 Ford Expedition Limited: Big and Bold


Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

So you decided on an XXX-sized family SUV for the household’s comprehensive needs and activities. The main choices were the GMC Yukon Denali, Chevy Tahoe and Yukon, and the 2020 Ford Expedition Limited, which I just recently tested. The Yukon Denali is the best looking out of the bunch, but you were interested in the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine that packs quite a punch for a vehicle of this proportion. The mpg at 22 highway and 17 city were not bad at all, you thought, considering the weight and room for eight!

The 2020 Expedition is clean and not as clumsy in style as years prior. All of my guests were impressed with its commanding presence and confident demeanor. Everything about the SUV is big and bold down to the size of the cupholders. The cabin is comfortable and relaxing as my girls were lamping in the back like they were on vacation. The middle row seats split in three ways, so as the two outer positions replicate captain chairs. Fold both rows flat, and you will have enough storage to bring home a patio deck full of boxed furniture and supplies. Just in time for summer grilling was the plan. The 3rd row folds electronically, similar to the Lincoln SUVs. Ford officially dubs them Second-row 40/20/40 Power Folding Tip and Slide seats and PowerFold and Power Recline 60/40 third-row seat.

Running boards and grab handle on each front door helps you up into the vehicle, and a rotary shifter with various drive modes gets you going. My SUV featured Intelligent 4WD for roughing it through harsh weather or terrain, while the EcoBoost is paired to a smooth 10-speed SelectShift Automatic Transmission. I was impressed at its acceleration, even when the vehicle was weighted down. It’s hard to believe there is a V6 with 375-horsepower and 470 lb.-ft of torque under the lid. The steering adjustments are powered as well. The multimedia system comes in the form of SYNC 3 (not my favorite) with Enhanced Voice Recognition Communications, a wireless charging pad to keep the kids updated with juice, and an enjoyable 12-speaker B&O Sound System by Bang & Olufsen. My ride was also upgraded with the 360-Degree Camera with Split View. The Expedition’s leather seats were snug, but the black interior cabin was rather bland and uninspiring. Yet, you are going for convenience here like the Panoramic Vista Roof. Ford offers a choice of a King Ranch MAX if you want to drive in the high life.

My 2020 Ford Expedition Limited in Iconic Silver Metallic was blessed with the $2,035 FX4 Off-Road Package, so it felt assured when I loaded up the mountain bike to hit the trails. FX4 comes with the previously mentioned cameras for viewing your surroundings; 18” Magnetic-painted aluminum rims with massive Michelin Primacy A/T 275/65/R18 tires;  a 3.73 electronic limited-slip differentia; skid plates; the chrome-plated running boards; and a few more add-ons. For the price, this is a very generous offering!

MSRP for this model is $66,470 and totaled $72,455. The Expedition is perfect for adventurous families who love exploring with one another along with their nomadic gear. Camping anyone?