Best Straight Ally
“I am grateful to receive this honor again,” Phil Hicks says, noting that he happily won this award last year. Hicks, who lives in Northern Virginia, is a vice president of Metro D.C. Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
“The things I’m most thankful for though are my two sons, who by chance, happen to be gay,” Hicks says. “My kids are the finest young men I know and I can’t imagine being anything but supportive of them or the LGBT community that has befriended us and given my wife Jo and I such joy.”
By day, Hicks works as a branch manager with SunTrust Bank and is active on its Diversity Council, working with an LGBT Team. This allows him to work with many other organizations, including the Northern Virginia Aids Ministry and Capital Pride.
“I will always be proud to be a PFLAG Dad and will remain an advocate for equal rights until my last breath,” Hicks says.
To learn more about PFLAG or Hicks, visit pflagdc.org. (DP)
Best Gay Politician
“I am honored to receive this award,” Marc Morgan says. “I especially want to thank the LBGT community and their support they have shown me over the years.”
Morgan is gay Republican who lives in a predominately Democratic area. Morgan moved to the area in 2002 to help with the fundraising efforts of the Maryland Republican Party. After the election of former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Morgan started working in state government with Maryland Environmental Services to help raise money to support Chesapeake Bay restoration.
Since working for Ehrlich, Morgan has remained active in politics. Last year he threw his hat into the political ring with an unsuccessful run for the District of Columbia Ward 1 Council seat.
Morgan is active in grassroots outreach, including lobbying and fundraising for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, Human Rights issues and environmental policies.
“I have been successful within the past few years and, again, I cannot thank the LBGT community enough for all their support by helping me along the way.” (DP)
Best Actor (tie)
Jeffrey Johnson and Neil Patrick Harris
Blade readers have singled out Jeffrey Johnson as best actor before, but what’s different this year is he’s sharing the honor with none other than Broadway and television star Neil Patrick Harris. While the gay actor who first found fame as “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” in the early ‘90s, isn’t a D.C. presence, Johnson’s not complaining. “After all,” he says, “it never hurts to be in good company.”
For Johnson, this year has been about change. And perhaps the most major was the shuttering of Ganymede Arts (originally A.T.W.), the LGBT-centric theater company that he shepherded as artistic director for nine years. Since its closing Johnson hasn’t staged or acted in any full-length plays or musicals, but he has performed twice as his pink-haired chanteuse persona Galactica, and most recently performed a cover song concert with fellow Blade reader favorite Tom Goss (Best Musician). In early December, Johnson will be slipping back into an outré red getup and reviving his production of “Edie Beale Live at Reno Sweeney” (a well-received cabaret-style piece in which he recreates an evening with Jackie Onasis’ fabulously eccentric cousin) at Black Fox Lounge in Dupont Circle.
About this most recent recognition, Johnson says, “I really appreciate that [Blade readers] are looking at what I’m currently putting out there and understanding that it is theater. It makes me very proud that the D.C. community can understand that a guy in a dress does not always equal drag show. Drag is great. It’s just not what I do.” (PF)
“Really? Are you kidding?” was the reaction of Fernando Garcia, when told he was the recipient of a Blade award. “It means a lot to be voted the Best Realtor. It means people are noticing my hard work.”
A resident of Washington since 1997, Fernando Garcia is this year’s Best Realtor winner and a newcomer to the Blade awards.
The New Mexico native was a financial adviser before he entered real estate. Having worked as a Senior Financial Specialist at First Union National Bank, Garcia left to pursue his career in real estate and his passion for people.
Garcia has now been happily married for 10 years. His success comes from the connection he has with his clients and their referrals. “You become friends, then they become a referral source,” Garcia says.
Garcia also manages metronando.com, a resource site. (JB)
Liz Warner-Osborne of Cobalt
Originally from Montgomery County in Maryland, Liz Warner-Osborne studied theater and literature at George Washington University. Although she’s only been a bartender at Cobalt for a little over a year and a half, Osborne has already claimed the title “Best Bartender.” She also tied for a win in the trainer category.
Before starting at Cobalt in June 2010, Osborne was a frequent patron of the bar and volunteered her time at one of Cobalt’s events last year. “I’ve never worked in a gay bar, I’ve been going there for years. I worked the parties and became part of the family,” says Osborne.
Osborne’s energetic personality has been one of the many reasons customers return. “I think it’s so much about your personality and your approach with people. Being a part of someone’s day and getting to know someone you normally wouldn’t is amazing,” Osborne says.
Cobalt has not just become a part of her social life but her home. “It feels incredible. Being part of the Cobalt family, it makes me feel good that I’m making an impact.” (JB)
Best Rehoboth Bartender
This is a new category with lots of competition, but Jamie Romano is our inaugural winner for Best Rehoboth Bartender.
Maybe it’s his attentive, friendly style — always swooping in with a fresh drink just as you’re empty. Or maybe our voters were blinded by his abs. Either way, Jamie never disappoints. Whether he’s outside at the Parrot Biergarten in summer or inside behind the bar at the gay-owned Purple Parrot in winter, Jamie welcomes all with the same enthusiasm and boundless energy.
Jamie may be straight, but he’s known to hit the Biergarten dance floor and even commandeer the DJ booth for a song or two.
Just don’t order his beer-wine-shot combination.
134 Rehoboth Ave.
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
Best LGBT Hill Staffer
Chris Crowe (posthumous)
Chris Crowe, a gay Hill staffer who died earlier this year at age 29, is still remembered by his friends for his dedication and energy.
Crowe, who most recently served as legislative assistant to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), was president of the LGBT Congressional Staffers Association. He lived in Washington for nearly six years, and spent five year of those on Capitol Hill. The Kentucky native died in March from a staph infection that damaged his heart after he contracted meningitis last year.
Kyle Murphy, who was Crowe’s best friend, said the late Hill staffer had “a huge impact on everyone he met, and that carried over to his professional life.”
“He was proud of who he was and fought hard for LGBT inclusion and equality, but he was also extremely dedicated to the congresswoman, her constituents and the Hill community at large,” Murphy said. “He loved what he did and who he worked with and it’s wonderful to know the extent to which that love was reciprocated.” (CJ)
Best Television Personality
“Television is the defining medium for the way people consume their news and make decisions,” progressive strategist Karl Frisch says about being able to share his vision with millions through his television appearances. “[Television] gives me the opportunity to show what a serious gay man has to say about politics.”
Frisch says since he left Media Matters last year to form Bullfight Strategies with former Media Matters president Eric Burns, he’s been tapped by shows like “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” “The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann” on RT America and several CNN and MSNBC shows to not only discuss LGBT issues, but all progressive values.
“People embrace the fact it’s important to have LGBT people appearing in news programs,” says Frisch, a Los Angeles native and now D.C.-based syndicated columnist and radio/TV guest. “I hope people see the need for having more LGBT voices in the news.” (PR)
Tom Goss took the long route to becoming gay D.C.’s favorite local musician.
The Wisconsin native originally came to Washington eight years ago to study to become a Catholic priest, but fell in love with his now-husband, Michael, and decided to become a singer-songwriter in 2006. He now has three full albums, two EPs and DVDs, and his fifth music video was released last week.
“I feel honored,” says Goss, who cites his influences as acoustic pop stars like Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews and Ben Harper. “I don’t know how to be any other person than the person I am.”
Goss, who spends half his year on the road, says the most inspiring part of his life is meeting fans in Middle America.
“[Gay fans] tell me how much my songs mean to them because it gives them hope and a sense of normalcy,” Goss says. “I feel like I could be the voice for people who feel like they don’t have one.” (PR)
Jeanie Adkins is the development manager at Mautner Project and has been working there for three years after helping with various events, including the organization’s annual gala.
Adkins handles many of the organization’s fundraising events, including its gala, and she’s also responsible for newsletters and e-mail marketing.
“I try to get out there and raise awareness about lesbian health and help … with community outreach events,” Adkins says. “That’s what I do in my full-time job.”
Adkins, who is also a classically trained singer, has worked as a volunteer with several other organizations, including SYMAL, HRC, Team D.C. and more. She’s currently on the committee for Capital Queer Prom and the diversity committee within the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
“I do all this volunteering because I’m passionate about it. I don’t expect any recognition for anything,” Adkins says. “I’m very surprised and honored and touched to get this.” (JE)
Best Personal Trainer (tie)
Ryan Stitt and Liz Warner-Osborne
Personal trainer Liz Warner-Osborne has always been active. She was a dancer for 11 years, doing ballet, ballroom and a little bit of modern dance.
She found a love for weightlifting in high school, which only grew in college. She started teaching a weight training class with the help of some books, fitness magazines and “some very inspirational people.”
The class made her more dedicated and pushed her to pursue fitness as a career, teaching classes on and off for about six years and doing personal training for about two before joining the team at Vida Fitness on U Street.
“My philosophy is everyone can do more than they think they can. we all have so much in us, and sometimes need that extra push That’s where I come in,” Warner-Osborne says. “I’m very happy and proud to know I’m able to reach people in a personal way that can truly change their lives.”
Ryan Stitt also works at Vida’s U Street location. He gave up years of corporate drudgery to pursue a fitness career which is his first love. The 33-year-old gay trainer sees between 10-15 clients per week and says his win tells him “it’s a good test to what you can achieve when you follow what you really love.”
He guesses Vida’s clients are about 50-50 gay vs. straight. Sessions come in packets of 12, 24 or 50 and run anywhere from $65 to $85 per hour.
Hist best abs tip? “Concentrate on core exercises that work your lower back and other parts of your core, not just your six pack,” he says. (JE) (JD)
DJ Staylo, Phase 1
DJ Staylo, Phase 1’s resident DJ for the past three years, has always played music. She was playing the drums by the time she was 8.
She had been interested in getting into DJ work for a while when one night she says she hit on the DJ and talked to her about learning how to spin.
Staylo plays a little bit of everything when she’s spinning, saying it’s all about getting the crowd moving.
“I’m really surprised,” Staylo says of winning with there being so many great DJs in the area that she looks up to and that have created a community in the D.C. area. (JE)
Mark Rutstein’s win in this category reflects his professional evolution. The Cobalt manager, who still dabbles in real estate, won the Best Realtor award last year. Now focusing his energies at Cobalt, readers have chosen to honor his work there.
Cobalt, celebrating its 10th anniversary, has increased its cachet the last couple years since Rutstein took the helm. Its success is obvious — in addition to Rustein’s win, the club also won in three other categories adding to its previous five “Best Of” awards. (JD)
Best Drag Show/Best Drag Queen
Ladies of Town and Ba’Naka
With Washington’s rich drag community, these are typically the Blade’s two most competitive Best Of categories. Ba’Naka won the individual prize last year but Ziegfeld’s got the show award. Ba’Naka (aka Dustin Michael Schaad) was a little bummed about that last year but has vindication now.
“It feels great,” she says. “I really love our drag show. I honestly think we have a little something for everyone. Old school drag, new young drag — it all contributes to us winning.”
The cast includes hostess Lena Lett and performers Shi-Queeta-Lee (a former winner of this award), Jessica Spaulding and Tatiana, a season two vet of RuPaul’s Drag Race. They perform every Friday and Saturday night at Town Danceboutique.
Ba’Naka says the show has increased in popularity this year.
“We have everybody from wonderful bridal parties to our regulars to tourists,” she says. “I’m really blessed. I’ve worked a lot of shows in my years and you can really see all the energy coming from the crowd here. It’s wonderful.”
So what’s new with Ba’Naka and how did she manage another win here?
“Besides 15 pounds, some bigger hair and some new chest sizes, I guess I’ve been doing more stuff from the new Britney album and also the new Ke$ha,” she says.
So what sets her apart?
“I don’t just do a gig and go home. I stay and hang out with the audience, do a couple shots. I’m perhaps a bit more accessible than the other queens in the city and I think that’s the big difference. I like to entertain and I think of myself as more of a hostess than just a drag performer. From the time the doors open until they close, I like to make sure everyone’s having a good time.”
With its best club win in tow, these two awards give Town its 13th and 14th awards overall. (JD)
2009 8th St., N.W.
Best Party Promoter/Best Drag King
In a new category this year, Ebone Bell’s B.O.I. Marketing took Best Party Promoter. And her drag alter ego, E-Cleff, won the Drag King prize in a repeat win from last year (he also won in 2007).
A few years back, E-Cleff performed in clubs and bars three-to-four times per month. Now he only comes out for Pride events and benefits but boasts more elaborate production numbers.
“We did Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ at Capital Pride this year and that was really big,” E-Cleff says. “I also did the George Mason Pride show, which really has a huge stage and attracts tons of LGBT students and allies. … I really pride myself on taking a couple months to showcase something special, something that is really worth putting on stage.”
And B.O.I. continues to thrive and is Bell’s full-time work. Its sixth annual Capital Queer Prom is set for March 24 as a benefit for Transgender Health Empowerment. Another Gaylarious event is set for the Riot Act Comedy Club on Nov. 2 and a drag bingo at Nellie’s will help raise money to stage the Prom.
“Transgender Health Empowerment is our new beneficiary,” Bell says. “We’ve seen how much the trans community has been bullied and in some cases even had their lives taken. And there’s really not a lot of support for them in the area. We’re trying to bring awareness to the great work that Transgender Health Empowerment does.”
Visit capitalqueerprom.com for more information or search for the group on Facebook for other B.O.I. events. (JD)
Best Transgender Advocate
The Blade Best Of categories always morph and evolve a bit from year to year. This year we decided to bring back one that hasn’t been given since 2003, this trans-specific activist award.
Readers voted the highly deserving Dana Beyer, a ubiquitous presence on the local LGBT social scene who volunteers her time as director of the new group Gender Rights Maryland, the winner.
“It’s always a pleasure to be recognized,” Beyer says. “As long as the quest for recognition is not allowed to drive the passion for advocacy. Being surprised is therefore ideal.”
She says Gender Rights Maryland is “moving forward.”
“We’re working to line up our sponsors for the coming session and get feedback from them on how they see us most easily getting to success.”
The group hopes to get a comprehensive gender identity anti-discrimination bill passed in the state by the end of the 2012 legislative session.
Visit genderrightsmaryland.org for more information. (JD)
Most Committed Activist
Martin Espinoza was lucky to have strong gay mentors early in his career.
Upon moving to Phoenix from his native Yuma, Ariz., in 2001 at age 18, he met Neil Giuliano, the former Tempe, Ariz., mayor and GLAAD director who’s now with an AIDS group in San Francisco. And Steve May, a former member of the Arizona House for whom Espinoza worked for several years.
He also met Chuck Wolfe from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which led, eventually, to Espinoza moving to Washington in 2008 to join the Victory Fund staff where he works as director of events. Espinoza is also the co-founder of Stonewall Kickball, a non-profit gay kickball league of 12 teams that plays spring and fall seasons on Sunday afternoons behind JR.’s. The group’s 300 players are about 85 percent LGBT and everyone’s welcome (stonewallkickball.com).
Espinoza says he’s excited about the award and support.
“I feel so honored by this,” he says. “This just made my day. I’ve just been busy with Victory Fund events around the country and, of course, Stonewall Kickball.” (JD)
3-way tie: Christian, Jesse Lee and Matthew King (Secrets)
Last year’s winner, Christian, retained his popularity in this category but was joined by two of his Secrets co-workers this year in a three-way tie and yes, they really all did get exactly the same number of votes.
Gaithersburg-based Jesse Lee, 27, has been at Secrets since November in his second stint with the company. He’s also danced at Omega. He uses a stage name and says he’s flattered by the votes he received.
“It makes me feel good, you know, that, well, I’m glad people find me attractive and I also like the fact that I can help brighten up their day and make their nights for them,” Lee says.
Other than socks and shoes, the dancing is completely nude. Lee says it took a little getting used to.
“Once I’d done it once, I was like, ‘Well, I’ve done this before so I might as well enjoy it.’ It’s really more the attitude you bring to it whether you have fun or not.”
Mathew King, 26, won a Secrets amateur night contest 11 months ago and has been there ever since. He commuted from West Virginia since there are no dancing opportunities there but last week moved to Waldorf, Md., to be closer.
“It’s an honor,” he says. “Obviously my goal was just to make money but I’m fortunate enough to make a lot of really nice friends there and it’s because of them that I continue … but it’s nice that people think I’m one of the better dancers. I appreciate the ones who treat us respectfully.”
King says he’s 100 percent gay. Lee is “mostly gay” but occasionally finds himself attracted to women. Lee is single but King, his real name, has a boyfriend.
King says he was “extremely uncomfortable” being naked at first but after a few months the nervousness went away and now “it’s like second nature.” (JD)
Frank Kameny (posthumous)
Blade readers voted the late Frank Kameny “local hero” before he died Oct. 11 at age 86. Kameny also won this award in 2001 and 2003.
The legendary gay activist, universally considered one of the pre-Stonewall gay rights pioneers, is famous for turning his 1957 firing from the Army Map Service into a lifetime of work on behalf of LGBT rights. Kameny coined the phrase “gay is good,” a summation of his conviction that gay life could be just as enriching as a straight existence. Kameny, a staple at local gay rights events and galas until the week before he died, was a lifelong activist and continued in local groups such as Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, until a few weeks ago. (JD)
The evolution of the open house
The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished
In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.
The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population.
According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.
Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool.
Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day.
Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.
The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well.
Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.
Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.
The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.
Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements.
One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves.
Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.
Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.
But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties.
I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned.
On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.
After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.
D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market
Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory
With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.
Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.
Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.
Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”
D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.
We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.
Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.
Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.
Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.
Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms
Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.
DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds
For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.
The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.
Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.
LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds
For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.
Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.
Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.
Helpful tips for homebuyers in seller’s market
Jane Jane brings throwback joy to busy 14th Street
One lean, mean green machine
‘Hadestown’ comes to the Kennedy Center
Book details fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
AU student expelled over arrest in attack on gay Asian man, parents
LGBTQ Venezuelan migrants in Colombia struggle to survive
LGBTQ people are being hunted down in Afghanistan
Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack
Proposed zoning code changes will harm Rehoboth
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National5 days ago
Colorado first state to require transgender care as essential health benefit
Local5 days ago
AU student expelled over arrest in attack on gay Asian man, parents
Local7 days ago
Baltimore shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth vandalized
World4 days ago
LGBTQ Venezuelan migrants in Colombia struggle to survive
Local5 days ago
Two remaining defendants in D.C. trans murder case accept plea bargain
World7 days ago
Samantha Power meets with Dominican LGBTQ activists
Arts & Entertainment7 days ago
Netflix defends Dave Chappelle and suspends trans employee
Commentary3 days ago
LGBTQ people are being hunted down in Afghanistan