Rusnak Auto Group’s Driver’s Challenge ‘wowed’ VIP guests with its dazzling array of luxury vehicles on a magnificent sun-splashed Southern California day.
By Rick Weinberg, Editor, California Business Journal
Email: Rick@CalBizJournal.com / Mobile: 949-648-3815
Photos by Leah Palmer
AS CANDICE HUCKEBA STEPPED OUT OF THE RADIANT SILVER JAGUAR F-TYPE V8S, she quickly glanced over at her boyfriend, Hollywood actor Erik Valdez, and said, “Sold. This is my next car.”
Huckeba was among more than 300 VIPs who were invited to the exclusive Rusnak Driver’s Challenge at the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia on Saturday November 7. The event enabled auto enthusiasts from around Southern California – and beyond — to drive a marquee selection of exquisite luxury vehicles from the Rusnak Auto Group, one of the nation’s most renowned automotive organizations, on a test track featuring a number of challenging twists and turns.
The dazzling array of stunning vehicles included Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, Maserati, Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo. Lines of car aficionados lined the perimeter of the track, their eyes bulging, their jaws dropping at the sight, sound and smells of the elegant sports cars, sport sedans and sport utility vehicles.
“We have an amazing portfolio and lineup of vehicles and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to extend an invitation to our customers to drive our cars and experience first-hand the thrill they provide,’” says Victoria Rusnak, CEO and President. “Not many dealerships offer this opportunity in the luxury segment.”
Most people never drive their vehicles even close to the limits of their cars performance envelope – most drive their vehicles simply as commuter cars.
“That’s what makes an event like this so special,” says Vadim Fedorovsky of Jaguar Land Rover Anaheim Hills. “For many people, this is their only chance to experience the full capabilities of high-line cars like this.”
Star of the Day
The crowd was simply blown away by the performance and style of the vehicles on this glorious sun-splashed California day — and the ultimate star of the show was easily the Jaguar F-Type V8S.
“I’m speechless,” Huckeba first said after she drove the vehicle. Then, the on-air Disney Radio host couldn’t contain herself, talking incessantly about the sleekness and uniqueness of the car.
“I loved it the second it started up,” she says. “The sound of the engine was intoxicating. I feel like I’m speechless but I can’t stop thinking or talking about it,” she adds with a laugh. “It’s an incredible mix of luxury and performance – and I mean performance. Wow. I was blown away. And the luxury of it – forget about it,” she adds, mimicking the famous New York-style phrase.
“I absolutely loved everything about it. It’s my next car without a doubt. The second I got into it, started it up and drove it for a few seconds, I was sold.”
Her 2013 Mercedes Benz 250 SLK will soon be on a Rusnak pre-owned car lot, replaced by the F-Type … which is certainly alright with her boyfriend.
“I love the car,” says Valdez, who has appeared in Graceland, New Girl, General Hospital, CSI: Miami and Numb3rs, to name a few. “I love what Jaguar has done with it. It’s dynamic. To me, it’s the first modern Jaguar that truly captures the essence of the old Jaguars. There’s really nothing you can compare to it.”
Even Valdez’s close buddy, fellow actor Coby McLaughlin, was “blown away” by the Jag’s performance and style. “Amazing – absolutely amazing,” says McLaughlin, who stars on Parenthood and Graceland. “There’s nothing not to love about it.”
‘Most Fun’ Car
Andrew Pappas of Jaguar Land Rover Anaheim Hills was on site to answer any questions about the F-Type as well as the Jaguar XF and XJ sedans. He was quite busy most of the day, being peppered left and right from enthusiastic and inquisitive event attendees.
“This is the ‘most fun’ car that’s here today,” Pappas tells a guest. “It’s the ‘most balanced’ car here. In other words, it has the most predictable precision handling void of nasty habits that challenge your driving skills.”
The pulse-quickening F-Type V8S has off-the-chart levels of dynamic capability and control. With its 5.0 liter supercharged V8 engine, it produces 495 horsepower, accelerating from 0-60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. It is a pure sports car in the full sense of the term. It combines effortless and exhilarating performance, quick response and precise, agile handling with everyday refinement and usability.
Lonnie Limon, an advertising executive from Dallas who was in L.A. to produce a commercial with Sprint, couldn’t stop talking about his experience in the Jaguar.
“It exceeded all my expectations,” says Limon, the head of Inspire, a Texas-based ad agency. “I was hesitant at first … then I heard the roar of the engine. And when I stepped on the accelerator, my head snapped back. It was like a plane taking off. That’s the car I want to drive. I felt like ‘a million’ driving that thing.”
While Pappas handled queries about Jaguars, Fedorovsky took on car enthusiasts for the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Evoque, which dominated the SUV class of vehicles on this magnificent California day.
“It’s the best experience I’ve ever had in a SUV,” says Erin Shields, an environmental scientist from Whittier, Calif. who test drove the Evoque. “It’s not SUV or truck-like at all. It drives almost like a sports car. The handling reminds me of Porsche – it has a solid, planted feel. I never expected a SUV to handle this well.”
Fedorovsky smiles and nods as Shields describes her Land Rover experience. He’s not surprised. Few people know Land Rover better than Fedorovsky.
“There’s nothing else on the road like the Evoque,” he says. “It’s totally unlike a small SUV.”
The distinctive Range Rover Evoque features a powerful and responsive 240-hp turbocharged lightweight aluminum alloy 2.0-liter engine coupled with a state of the art nine-speed transmission that delivers improved fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emission. Intelligent start/stop technology automatically shuts down the engine at rest and restarts as soon as your foot is lifted from the brake.
“It’s like a rolling spa treatment,” LA’s Andrea Pullman says with a laugh.
“It’s amazingly cozy for a SUV and it drives much more like a car,” adds Erik Huley of Beverly Hills. “It feels like it’s a car that’s been lifted. And it’s easily the best looking SUV out here.”
The Range Rover Sport is equally as amazing as the Evoque. It was transformed in 2014 with an all-aluminum unitized body, shedding 800 pounds of mass while gaining a 340 hp six-cylinder supercharged engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission, independent air suspension, massive ventilated four-wheel disc brakes, and electrically assisted rack-and-pinion power steering. The result: Even more responsive handling, unparalleled ride quality, and much improved fuel economy compared to the previous generation of Range Rover Sports.
Like the Evoque, the Sport got people’s adrenalin flowing.
“Awesome,” says Jeff Pierce, owner of Thirst, a LA talent agency. “Smooth, powerful, stylish, superior. I can definitely see myself driving it – today.”
Huley agrees, but the Jag, he adds, “can’t be beat today. It’s easily the best car out here.”
“Totally,” adds Tim Sargeant of Walnut, Calif. “The Jaguar is the [bleep]. “Easily the best ride of the day. The sound of it is intoxicating. The steering is incredible. Jaguar has done an amazing job rebranding itself. It has not only caught up to all the brands in its class. To me, Jaguar has surpassed them.”
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