Tag Archives: road trip

Mazda3 Grand Touring Front

Road Trip: Mazda3 Grand Touring

Based on my last piece, I want to make the most out of my time in the USA and there is no better way of doing that than road trips. Road tripping is a broad term and usually means spending long periods of time, usually days or weeks, in a car exploring a country or area. But I am re-defining the road trip with short day trips consisting of a couple of hundred miles. What is my latest travel companion? The 2017 Mazda3.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Front

Model Tested: Mazda3 Saloon/Sedan Grand Touring.
Engine: 2.5 Petrol – 184hp and 251Nm.
Transmission: 6-Speed manual, front wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the Mazda3 range start at $17,845. Price as tested – $26,880. Irish prices start at €23,295.
Economy: Average; 31.1mpg or 7.6l/100km.

Recently I was given the keys to a unique car, by USA standards anyway; a Mazda3 4-door with a manual ‘box. A high percentage of cars here in the US are automatic with the exception of the older/vintage vehicles. So to say I was relieved that I had a manual to drive for the week would be an understatement.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Rear

The Mazda3 replaced the Mazda 323 in 2003 and is available in two variants; the Mazda3 Hatchback and Mazda3 Saloon. Although for the US market, they are the Mazda3 4-door and Mazda3 5-door.  The Mazda3 has just gone through a minor makeover giving the face a fresh look. One thing I love about cars in America is that in most states it is not obligatory to wear a front registration plate. In my case, the Californian regged Mazda3 did not have a front plate meaning the face could be fully appreciated. Mazda’s KODO design is right on par at the moment, in my opinion. Even the Mazda2, its baby model, has a strong, mature look to it.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Front

The Mazda3 I had was painted in Eternal Blue Mica with Parchment cream leather interior. Once stepping inside, it is all familiar with the exception of the steering wheel being on the “wrong side”.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Interior


Thankfully, I have driven left-hand drive cars before so it did not take me long to adjust to having to shift gears with my right hand. So much so that I dread the day I get back in Archie and have to re-adjust to my normal driving style. Although, what was not as easy to get used to were the road rules. The one thing I still am unsure of is being able to turn right on a red light. What makes it even more confusing is, you are allowed to turn right but at the same time pedestrians also have a green light to cross. So you must give them the right of way, which I do. But, I have had the misfortune of almost being mowed down by a Jeep Grand Cherokee who dis-obeyed this.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Manual

In light of this, I decided I needed to get out of the hustle and bustle of Chicago. I jumped back onto the I-94 and headed towards a national park called Silver Springs State Park. How did I find it? Zoomed out on Google Maps and pointed to a random part of the map; the only way to explore! After roughly 45 minutes on the Interstate; my exit was coming up. But of course I had Bastille cranked up at full volume on the Bose sound system and was wailing out-of-tune to Weight of Living as I noticed my exit pass. I figured I could just take the next exit, no problems. Thankfully the Sat Nav re-routed me to the next exit off the Interstate; which was another 20 miles away and had added an extra hour onto my journey. Not being able to do anything about this, I went back to my out of tune singing.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Bose

Eventually I came upon my exit. Seeing as I was already a good 40 miles away from my desired destination, I figured I would get myself completely lost on purpose. The Sat Nav tells me to turn left; I turned right. Shortly after riding down some dusty, gravely so-called roads, I stumbled upon a small sleepy town called Newark. What caught my eye in Newark were several cars rusting away on an old mechanics forecourt. Said cars were a Jaguar XJ6, a Fox-Body Ford Mustang, Plymouth Valiant and another  un-identifiable, to me, Jaguar peeking from under a large piece of tarp. Newark is your typical little back-arse-of-no-where town; retirees knocking around in golf carts and a corner diner/pub creating the sense of buzz.

Jaguar XJ6 and Plymouth Valiant


After leaving Newark, I went in search of Silver Springs again. I found myself venturing down gravel roads, passing by corn fields and even vineyards. This is what I left the city for. The Mazda3 could not have been a better companion. The 2.5 4-cylinder performed well on the back roads and the 6-speed manual added an ounce of excitement to the adventure. Eventually I arrived at Silver Springs. I took a quick look around the river and got straight back in the car. I came to drive, really. I couldn’t get enough of the freedom. I couldn’t get enough of being free of Chicago’s busyness.

Mazda3 Grand Touring SkyActiv

The Mazda3 Grand Touring Manual – The perfect exploration companion.

chrysler 300c road trip

A Road Trip in a Chrysler 300C

What happens when you get given the keys to a Chrysler 300C for a couple of days? You embrace the oversized American car lifestyle. But, what happens when you get given the keys to a Chrysler 300C for a couple of days while in the States? ROAD TRIP!

chrysler 300c road trip

I went in search of windy and twisting roads up in Wisconsin, 100 miles North of Chicago, Illinois. But once I let the 5.7 HEMI V8 burst into life, I knew that was a lost cause for this big, burly American land yacht. Still, that didn’t stop me from blasting up the I-94 (the Interstate). With it being 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius); I set the A/C to maximum, set the cruise control to 55mph and let Spotify serenade me through the Beats sound system.

chrysler 300c interior road trip

An hour and half later, my time on the Interstate comes to an end and the couch on wheels that is the 300C is back to being the muscle car that it is. I come to a set of lights and can’t help but give the throttle a little blip. The 5.7 HEMI roars back at me, I can feel the whole car sway as I rev. Green; 400hp and 527Nm come into play as I burst away from a stand-still. I refrain from losing my licence quickly. I look at the John Varvatos analogue clock positioned above the Uconnect touch screen infotainment system; it’s 11.45am. I am meeting a group of car people who have an obverse taste in cars at 12pm.

Triumph TR6 TR4 Road Trip

I roll into Silver Lake, Wisconsin, following a Morgan Plus Four. I know I’m in the right place. I arrive at a small industrial unit and outside are an array of Triumph TR4s, TR5s and TR6s, none of which I have seen since I left Dublin three weeks prior. I am meeting with the Illinois Sports Owners Association; the equivalent of the Triumph Classic Owners Club back at home.

Triumph TR6 Road Trip

As I park on the opposite side of the car park, not wanting to offend the British Glory, the 300C John Varvatos Collection’s Phantom Black Pearl paint glistens in the Wisconsin 32 degree sun. I learn that the Signal Red TR6 is a one owner car from new and is very much not standard. The whole car has had work on it over the years with the owner knowing every little detail about the car. He tells me that the front driver-side wing has been painted after someone reversed into him within two weeks of ownership. Both of the doors were re-painted at the dealership before he took delivery of the car. He assumes it was due to damage while the car was being delivered to America. Due to regulations in America, USA-bound Triumphs never got petrol injection. Instead they had dual carburetors putting out roughly 105hp. This is down 20-45hp on the European cars.

Triumph TR4 Road Trip

After we natter about cars and I drool over some of the customer’s cars in the workshop, we head off to Lake Geneva; 16 miles East of Silver Lake. Both Silver Lake and Lake Geneva are where well-off Chicagoans retire for the Summer months and this is apparent in the housing and cars that pass by. Although, the six British sports cars still cause a stir as they rumble through the 20mph zones of these well-to-do neighbourhoods. Not far behind is the Chrysler 300C bellowing through with the V8 happily singing away. Although, it fits in amongst the other American natives.

Triumph TR4 Road Trip

Once I feed on a typical American meal (a chicken salad…), I say farewell to the Brits and go in search of scenic, small country lanes to put this boat to the test. I am recommended that Snake Road is one that fits the bill but is only about a mile long. I reach Snake Road and take off in a giddy fashion only to be slapped right back into reality after the second corner. The 300C is not meant for this, it is not a classic British sports car that loves to be driven to every inch of it’s life in the high rev range. It doesn’t soak up every hair pin corner gracefully. No; it is a loud, mean-looking muscle car that’s purpose is to cause a scene and cruise along a flat, straight surface with the V8 sound track keeping you company.

Triumph TR4 Road Trip

That is the reason why the road out of Lake Geneva was most special to me. It was said straight and flat surface with scenery that made it all worthwhile. Sure, I do love a nimble and quick hot hatch or sports car but it’s good to stray away from the norm every-so-often.

The Chrysler 300C John Varvatos Collection; my choice of V8 HEMI pleasure.

chrysler 300c road trip