2020 Hyundai Palisade: Family Focused Premium SUV

Experienced by Kimatni D Rawlins

Dubbed after “a line of high straight cliffs, especially near water,” it made perfect sense for Hyundai to invite us to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for the launch of their family focused 2020 Palisade premium SUV. Cascading mountainous terrain, idyllic landscapes and the inviting Lake Coeur d’Alene instantly turned on my adventurer mode. In addition, the town was buzzing with moms, fit fathers and their active kids which is the target market for this newfangled Korean SUV. [Read more…]

2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i: Technology Driven

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

It’s very obvious that Americans love their SUVs no matter the size or mileage. From smaller crossovers with amazing fuel efficiency to full-size, pompous road warriors that can escort seven in comfort, consumer demand for the latest utility continues to increase year after year. BMW is no stranger to the category as they literally offer an X-model for every personality trait and all capabilities starting with the introductory X1. So it wasn’t an afterthought that the technology driven 2019 X7 xDrive50i would be arriving soon to satisfy expectations for a bigger, smarter and more luxurious SUV in the marketplace.

Traditionally, individuals looking for a sizeable, sophisticated, and performance oriented SUV turned their attention towards the attractive Range Rover, Escalade or QX80. Income is typically not an issue as desire takes precedence over financial strategy. Room for friends and family, endless amenities and a powerful V8 are key ingredients to a recipe that showcases the owner’s societal status and core fundamentals. [Read more…]

2020 Kia Telluride: Fun Family Adventures

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

The all-new 2020 Kia Telluride 8-passenger SUV is pretty fly, so fly people are aligning the design language with that of a Range Rover. Ha, I guess it’s never a bad thing when your brand is compared to the styling of British luxury elites. Anyhow, the Telluride, aptly named after a former Colorado mining town in the Rocky Mountains, is perfect for those who enjoy the lifestyle of adventure sports such as the enterprising crew at Fit Fathers. [Read more…]

2018 Volkswagen Atlas: Active, On-The-Go Family Style

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

The Volkswagen Atlas is a big midsize SUV with three full rows of seating for seven passengers to accommodate the typical American family looking for a cavernous cabin and plenty of utility, flexibility, technology and comfort. It represents as VW’s largest production vehicle and joins a small but adventurous family of German SUVs including the Tiguan and Touareg. [Read more…]

2018 Volkswagen Atlas: American Heart and Soul


Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

For the first time ever the Santa Monica Pier allowed an automaker to host a vehicle reveal which took place on a beautiful and exciting evening as Volkswagen introduced the all-new 2018 Atlas to a large group of media and live Internet audience. With three rows of seating for seven passengers the midsize SUV is built in Tennessee and designed for the typical American family looking for a cavernous cockpit with an ample amount of utility, flexibility, technology and comfort. This anomaly translates into Volkswagen’s largest vehicle in the U.S. and brings them out of the shadows of the smaller Golfs and Jettas they manufacture.

The Atlas appears to be quite intuitive and versatile since it features Volkswagen Digital Cockpit instrumentation; Volkswagen Car-Net connected vehicle services with App-Connect for pairing with either Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or MirrorLink; a 12-speaker Fender Premium Audio System; and two powertrains to choose from — a 238-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI 4-cylinder engine and the 280-horsepower 3.6-liter VR6 engine — with both married to an 8-speed transmission. Buyers can opt for either the front-wheel-drive variant or the 4Motion all-wheel-drive Atlas that comes with the VR6 models.

“This is the biggest and boldest Volkswagen we have ever built in the United States, delivering the distinctive design and craftsmanship we’re known for, now with room for seven,” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, CEO of the North America Region, Volkswagen. “The Atlas marks a brand new journey for Volkswagen to enter into the heart of the American market.”

There are quite a few fresh vehicles planned to be released in 2017 where plenty of anticipation leads us to a bevy of new SUVs, sports cars and pickup trucks including the VW Atlas. The technical acumen of the Atlas is presented in an amalgamation of driver assistance systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control; Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist); Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert; Lane Departure Warning (Lane Assist) and Parking Steering Assistant (Park Assist) to name a few. These unequivocal advantages allow VW to attract a wider range of buyers with a vehicle that broadens appeal to active, on-the-go families. Moreover, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System kicks in when the airbag sensors detect an initial impact triggering the vehicle to apply the brakes to reduce the unfortunate opportunity of a secondary impact and further damage or injury.

Some things I noticed right off the bat after the Atlas drove onto the stage were the flush, dual tailpipes, a stylish tailgate spoiler, LED headlights, front and rear skid plates, a hitch, muscular design cuts, strong wheel arches and stylish rims, especially the black wheels on the Mustard hued Atlas. This may be a bit too pompous for some but ideal for many others. At 198.3” long, 77.9” wide and 69.6” tall, VW will offer the Atlas in five trim levels. To get to the third row VW has originated a cool, innovative solution for the folding seat which simultaneously tilts and slides in one piece, and can be done so even when a child safety seat is strapped in. As they claim, the third row is truly suitable for two adults unlike many in this competitive set.

The Los Angeles unveil marked the beginning of a new voyage for VW and concluded at historic Route 66. Indeed it’s designed for America, but will also be exported to other markets. This fresh start also aligns with VW’s electrification strategy for a future that will bring us 30 EVs by 2025. The Atlas arrives the spring of 2017.

2016 Mazda CX-9: Premium Family Focus at Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort

MY16 Mazda CX-9

Experienced by Marvin Bowser

It was a beautiful few days in South Carolina where Mazda structured their Active Lifestyle Drive Program so the press could experience a cadre of their latest products. I first focused on an adventure in the all-new 2016 CX-9 SUV from the beautiful Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort to Sea Pines Resort, in Hilton Head Island, SC. The family and fitness activity of choice for me was the art of kayaking which paired perfectly with the CX-9 and its active and daring traits.

Since I’m a rower I jumped at the kayaking opportunity with euphoric energy on a day commingling hot, sunny weather, clear blue skies and a playful pod of dolphins on their way down the river. The scene was absolutely incredible with the kayaking being timed to ride with the tide in each direction. The trip to the Salty Dog for lunch with a fleet of about 13 boats took a good 45 minutes. However, only three courageous journalists rowed back in roughly 20 minutes. Still a little wet and gritty from the water experience I took the helm of a top-of-the-line CX-9 Signature (available in four trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature) for the drive back to Montage Palmetto Bluff.

Photographs © Tim Zielenbach for Mazda USA Mazda Active Lifestyle driving event. Participants bike and kayak through Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head Island, SC, after test driving from Montage Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, SC.

Specifically speaking, the newfangled Machine Gray hue directed designers to manifest the Japanese SUV as if it appeared to be cut from a single slab of sheet metal. The other paint selections include Soul Red Metallic, Snowflake White Pearl, Sonic Silver Metallic, Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue Mica and Titanium Flash Mica. Moreover, the vehicle’s sleek curves and restrained use of chrome on the exterior helped achieve the design goal. Each hue has the canny ability to enhance the refined expression of the 3-row, 7-passenger midsized utility vehicle.

Inside, the upscale interior featured Auburn Nappa Leather, real aluminum trim on the doors and dash and stunning rosewood trim supplied by first-rate Japanese guitar-maker Fujigen. Mazda also added sound insulation to the list of upgrades to deliver a quality driving experience. The CX-9 can easily handle soccer mom duties as well as date night responsibilities at the Kennedy Center in D.C. (where I reside) parked next to luxury SUVs costing thousands of dollars more.


I found that the new SKYACTIV-G 2.5T engine delivered ample torque and power to merge with highway traffic. The 4-cylinder turbocharged motor puts out 250-horsepower when powered by 93-octane fuel, but can run on regular gas as well. The SUV also sees a 21/27/23 (city/hwy/combined) mpg with i-ACTIV all-wheel drive and the 6-speed automatic transmission and 22 / 28 / 25 (city/hwy/combined) with FWD. The CX-9 manages its size, weight and higher center of gravity well and is fun to drive, particularly in sport mode.

Dinner was at a rustic camp on the banks of a river requiring a 25-minute boat ride from the Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort. Cocktails at the dock, a sunset boat ride, another school of dolphins, delicious Lowcountry cuisine under an open pavilion and lots of Mazda car talk made for a spectacular evening after an exciting day of test driving and outdoors sportsmanship.


After dinner and socializing I returned to my luxurious master room in the newly completed property that included turn down service and chocolates on my pillow. Montage Palmetto Bluff is an amazing vacation setting for couples and families alike and features 200 guest accommodations, six inspired dining locations, the Paintbox Children’s programming, Signature Spa Montage and over 16,000 ft2 of meeting and event spaces. Furthermore, at your disposal is the 18‐hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course as well as tennis, bocce and croquet courts and of course the aforementioned boating. Now you see why the CX-9 fit perfectly into our travel plans while visiting this opulent location. Additionally, the resort features six delightful restaurants, a historic motor yacht, stables, a shooting range, a racquet club, biking, hiking and numerous water sports. Jetsetters or investors can purchase private, leisure residences at Montage Palmetto Bluff starting at 1.4-million dollars.

Photographs © Tim Zielenbach for Mazda USA Mazda Active Lifestyle driving event at Montage Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, SC.

Mazda’s consumer approach makes sense to me. The objective was to deliver a trendy SUV with characteristic design traits, premium technology features, smart engineering and top quality in a line of exciting SUVs at competitive prices. Active and on-the-go families will certainly enjoy a 2016 CX-9 as their primary vehicle of choice. Built with the US market in mind, the second generation CX-9 went on sale back in May to praise and heightened fanfare and starts at $31,520. Yes, driving does matter. 2016_mazda_cx-9_09