Kristin

Kristin
My buddy Kristin, with whom I'll be shooting some BEER2WHISKEY videos, and me at the awads dinner for this year's Texas Truck Rodeo.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Terrorizing Virginia Horse Country in Volkswagens!

I'm not the kind of guy who libels law enforcement at every turn. In fact, my experiences with state, county and city officers of the law since making South Carolina part of my routine has been pretty positive. But, I must admit, one of the reasons Virginia was never on my list of places to which I might relocate is because of its jackbooted enforcement of its speed limits – many of which are downright unbearably low. 


Among my fellow members of the motoring press, stories of being pulled over and some times even ticketed for doing three or four miles over the speed limit are quite common. Such behavior is obviously revenue driven, but come on.

Carmakers sporadically choose Virginia as the host of a media event. Typically these are in northern Virginia, near D.C. Such was the case with the recent Volkswagen 2015 full-line media event that was headquartered in Middleburg, Virginia.

Let me say that, in nearly every other respect, I love Virginia. I spent a lot of time there when working on the “Discover America” TV series. There is no other state – or commonwealth in the case of Virginia – in the country containing the history Virginia legitimately claims. I have always been a Civil War buff, and that alone makes Virginia a Mecca of sorts for me. But there is so much more history there as well from the homes of the presidents it provided to The Crooked Road music trail celebrating the birthplace of country and bluegrass music. Incredible!

I hadn't been to Middleburg since my days editing a couple of car magazines for American Media. We did an SUV comparison that had several of us piloting assorted SUVs through much of Virginia. Among our overnight stops was Middleburg. It's a quaint little town that's been around since 1787. Its Red Fox Inn dates back even further to 1728. 

Main entrance to the Salamander Resort and Spa punctuated with Volkswagens.
Volkswagen, though, chose the somewhat newer Salamander Resort and Spa that opened in 2013 to anchor our visit. Roughly a half-hour's drive from Washington Dulles Airport, it sprawls across 340 acres at the threshold of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Guests staying in one of its 168 rooms not only have access to its full-service spa, but also a state-of-the-art equestrian center. It's a gorgeous property with room rates beginning at $495 a night. My only disappointment was the puny selection of bourbons and tequilas. My local Ruby Tuesday matches it. Apparently Virginia gentry isn't into small-batch bourbons.

One of the seating areas in the resort's lobby.
This Volkswagen event was a quick in and out. We arrived the afternoon of the first day and flew home late afternoon/early evening of the second day. Our driving consisted of various routes through Virginia's stunningly beautiful horse country – the longest requiring more than an hour and the shortest roughly 20 minutes. 

Enjoying sunrise on the terrace....by myself.
I arrived at breakfast the second day – my birthday by the way – around 6:15 a.m. We had a rollicking good time the night before. I hung out long enough to throw back a celebratory birthday shot of Patron at midnight. Others apparently stuck around much later than I. Sitting on the patio I watched the sun come up by myself. I mean not one other soul showed up for the 40 minutes I sat there. If the serving staff hadn't been hovering around, I might have jumped to the conclusion the Rapture had occurred as I slept. Then I remembered we were talking members of the automotive press who were M.I.A.; so, it couldn't be that. It was really strange, though.


2015 Jetta.
The big news at this event was the redesigned Jetta with the availability of its all-new 2.0 TDI clean diesel engine or a 1.8-liter turbocharged four. I've always liked Jetta. Volkswagen's sales have been struggling of late, but it's not because the cars aren't solid. They certainly are. It's difficult not to like the spunky 1.8L turbo with its 170 horsepower. It's a blast to drive. The 2L TDI with its 46 highway mpg and 236 lb-ft of line-busting torque, is a terrific addition to the Jetta engine stable. Jetta pricing really begins with the $17,325 2.0L S. There is an even more affordable Jetta Base, but it must be special ordered and probably won't be in any significant number.

2015 Eos Final Edition.
We had the opportunity to drive Jettas equipped with all three of its engine offerings – there is also a 2-liter four-cylinder – along with every other member of the Volkswagen family. One car that is taking its final lap in 2015 is the Eos. This hardtop convertible is a wonderful little car. Its top raises and lowers in less than 30 seconds. It utilizes a 200-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine for its go. A driver-shiftable, six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard for its $35,795 price tag. I recently spent a week in Greenville with a 2014 version. I loved every second of it. My only caveat is the price. At its price point, there are a lot of options out there. In every other respect, though, I can't think of a car I've driven lately that I've enjoyed more. It's energetic, athletic and nicely appointed. The top operates flawlessly and when raised, keeps the cabin remarkably quiet. It's the ideal, year-around convertible. 


My driving partner and I rotated in and out of several other models over the course of the day. It was a great way to sample all of Volkswagen's wares. If only we could have felt comfortable driving them a little faster.

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