It was the scorching, early morning sun that greeted me as I walked from the side door of the hotel into the parking lot. The sticky humidity hanging in the Florida air instantly salted my skin with perspiration. As my eyes adjusted to the daylight, I caught my first glimpse of Chevrolet’s newest pony car – the sixth-generation Camaro. There it was, in various trim levels and colors, all 11 examples that Chevy had brought for the trip.
My driving partner and I had the fortunate luck of drawing keys for a 2SS-trimmed model coated in Summit While and fitted with the six-speed manual transmission. This would be ours for the next 36 hours as we trekked north and then west through the pan handle of the southern most state. New Orleans was our destination, but two day’s worth of driving and nearly 900 miles lie in between.
All this was part of Chevrolet’s “Find New Roads” campaign, a somewhat unorthodox media event that traveled the country giving journalists some unprecedented seat time and free reign to plan routes and stops. Though the Orlando to New Orleans leg is what I traveled, the cars had been traversing states from the west coast to the east coast, traveling through the Midwest. This leg would point them west once more, though on a decidedly more southern latitude. Chevy’s goal: to get the new Camaro to all 48 contiguous states.
Completely redone for 2016, the Camaro underwent a significant diet in switching to the Alpha platform. It also hit the gym for more power with its trio of new engines and took cotillion classes for more refinement, especially within the interior. There’s no harder test on a vehicle’s livability than to road trip it. Chasing the sun for hours on end reveals the tiniest of details that would otherwise go unnoticed. Small annoyances become headaches while well-executed components can make the trip more enjoyable. I found both.
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There are few things in this country more American than a NASCAR race. Sure, apple pie and baseball might outrank it, but neither of those can compete with stock cars thundering around a track at 200 mph while continually riding on the brink of catastrophe as they race just inches away from a concrete wall and other drivers gunning to win. So when the opportunity arose to become deeply immersed in the culture during the recent All-Star race, I jumped at the chance.
It all started a few months ago with an email invite from Toyota. It read something along the lines of, “how about joining us at the NASCAR All-Star race and tours of the Joe Gibbs Racing Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame?” My reply went something like, “Heck yeah, I’ll be there!”
I decided to skip the crowded airports for a 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport and a seven-hour drive through the heart of the eastern seaboard. I viewed this almost like a pilgrimage; setting out on a roadtrip for a destination of racing importance located in the rolling hills of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Once on the road, my choice of chariot was immediately affirmed. Unlike my last Lexus experience, the front seat was perfectly molded, padded, and bolstered. The more I drove, the more the car seemed to shrink around me, making tight maneuvering a thing of ease. The stout 3.5-liter V-6 offered plenty of grunt while the tight steering and sport-tuned suspension made each corner a memorable event.
Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport and about my time spent at Joe Gibbs Racing Center