Car Reviews

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring Review: Hello, Old Friend

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

This post is made possible through a partnership with the awesome folks at Mazda, who provided us with a vehicle to test drive for a week. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveMazda.

Before we get into the 2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring, I wanted to start with a couple photos (courtesy of my younger brother, Tyler) of a different car:

2006 Mazda3 S |

2006 Mazda3 S |

That blue beauty right there was my first new car purchase. A 2006 Mazda3 S in Winning Blue Metallic. No co-signers. No help with the down payment. And since it was new, no previous owners!

It’s ridiculous to think now, but buying that car felt like a serious rite of passage into adulthood. A decade later I’m still not not sure if I’m actually an adult, but at that moment I sure did.

Not only was it my first new car purchase, but it was also my first introduction to Mazda and the “zoom zoom” philosophy.

What’s changed since 2006? A lot, but the core heart of Mazda has remained the same. Driving the 2018 Mazda3 was like reconnecting with an old friend. It felt familiar and comfortable, while also exciting to see what had changed over the last twelve years since we were first introduced.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

An Emotional Decision  

After having had a week to enjoy the 2018 Mazda3, I was reminded of just how much a car purchase is an emotional decision.

You can spend hours–days even–researching vehicles. Comparing options, reliability, and scouring reviews, but the only portion of the decision that really matters is how you feel when you sit in the driver’s seat.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

My old Mazda was a stick shift with killer handling, so even though the car only had 160 hp, it was a blast to drive. It felt great.

The 2018 Mazda–my sample equipped with an automatic transmission–was no different. It was peppy. It hugged corners. It made driving fun and helped tug at my emotions.

Yeah, I cried a little, so what?

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of logical reasons to enjoy the Mazda3, but the final choice is ultimately made with the heart.

Continuously Evolving

At the time, my Mazda was part of the first generation of Mazda3s, which were originally introduced in 2003. It was lauded for its performance, refinement, and aesthetics in an otherwise boring car class. For me, it was the perfect vehicle for what I needed. As a college student, I was looking for a reliable four-door car, that was also affordable and fun to drive. None of the other brands came close.

Over the last decade-plus, Mazda has continued to not only create solid vehicles that connect with the driver on an emotional level, but also introduce features and options that are a reflection of innovation in the car industry.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

The first is efficiency in gas mileage. In real world driving, my Mazda averaged about  25 MPG with just 160 horsepower.  The 2018 Mazda–with about 28 more horsepower–averaged roughly 30 MPG during our week of test driving. More power, less gas? I’ll take it!

Next, comes a technology system that is user-friendly, a screen that is easy to see, a a crystal-clear back-up camera.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

And you can’t forget about safety! Radar cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning (and assistance), and blind spot monitoring are just a few features that can help satisfy the fact that the Mazda3 is a logical decision (you’re welcome, brain).

Last, but first to my hands, we must also commend the presence of a heated steering wheel. Cold weather never felt so warm.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

Gratuitous Labradoodle Section

It wouldn’t be a car post without mentioning how much our pup, Cooper, loves hanging out in the back seat of a Mazda.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

Yeah, he approves.

Something to Talk About

Even excluding this post, I’ve always been a vocal proponent of Mazda–and specifically the Mazda3. My brother and I share fond memories of my car since I sold it to him after I grew out of it. It’s easy to share an appreciation for a vehicle that just feels right. Although he had to upgrade to a larger vehicle for his growing family, we still reminisce about changing gears and taking tight corners in the ol’ Mazda.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

Aside from nostalgia, even the new Mazda3 is a great conversation icebreaker. Upon hearing that my buddy, Micah and his wife, Lizzy, recently purchased one, I instantly lit up. They gushed about how much they loved the car and I emphasized my fond memories for Mazda. The rest of the table probably thought we were weirdos, but who cares?

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

It’s worth stopping to point out that this is a compact car. It’s not a sports car or the latest electric car that will eventually transport you to mars.

It shouldn’t be exciting.

But it is.

Because driving matters…

…hmm…where have I heard that before?

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

2018 Mazda3 Specs (As Tested)

MSRP (as tested):  $28,470
MPG Estimate: 27 city – 36 highway
Engine:  2.5L Skyactiv-G, 4 cylinder
Power:  184 hp | 185 lb-ft torque
Transmission:   6-Speed Automatic
Color:  Snowflake White Pearl
Options:  Appearance Package and Premium Equipment Package

For more info, click here to view the 2018 Mazda3 Brochure.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided this vehicle courtesy of Mazda. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions remain our own. 


Relax Yo Self at Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch |

We’ve mentioned Carmel Valley Ranch in a previous post, but it really deserves its own post.

Why? After two visits in two years, clearly we’re trying to throw this ranch resort into our regular vacation rotation.

I firmly believe that every hotel, Airbnb spot, resort, cabin, RV, park bench–whatever–has its own aura. For Carmel Valley Ranch, there’s a strong sense of relaxation energy that hits you when you enter the front gate.

If you need to relax, this is your place. And I realize that’s a pretty cliché thing to say about a hotel. I’m sure every content marketer has used that phrase to help sell more rooms to the masses.

Carmel Valley Ranch’s relaxation value is the sum of many different parts, each one contributing to the ultimate goal of reducing stress.

There are an infinate number of reasons to plan a vacation to The Ranch, but we think you’ll only need these six to help convince you:

1.  Room with a View

Studies show that looking at your phone screen before and/or after bed is horrible for your eyes, brain, mood, and overall mental stability. Carmel Valley Ranch can help with that.

You’ll lose all desire to stare at your phone when you’ve got THIS right out your window:

Carmel Valley Ranch |

It’s a golf course, it’s a vineyard, it’s a valley.

It’s a room with a freaking view.

2.  Coolside Poolside

The view continues at the Ranch’s saltwater pool. One of multiple pools, by the way.

Have you ever taken a nap in a cabana? You should.

If your muscles aren’t relaxed by now, there’s only one thing left to try:  The infinity hot tub.

3.  Ranch to Mouf

The local “farm to fork” food movement is so over-saturated that the phrase has become a caricature of food marketing. Fortunately, no buzz words are necessary at the ranch, because a good portion of the food is grown on site.

Carmel Vally Ranch |

The restaurant at the ranch, Valley Kitchen, transforms those fresh-from-the-garden ingredients into fine dining. But the party doesn’t stop at the restaurant.

Honey, from the bee hives.

Herbs from the garden.

Swing Pinot Noir? From the Ranch’s very own vineyard.

Carmel Valley Ranch |

Even the staff has a garden in which they can plant sections of fruits and vegetables!

4.  Best Smelling Hotel Ever

Staying at Carmel Valley Ranch is like staying in a lavender field. Wait, no, it’s not like staying in a lavender field — IT IS STAYING IN A LAVENDER FIELD!

Carmel Valley Ranch |

I didn’t even know I liked lavender, having always assumed it was a floral potpourri that smells like grandma’s house. However, fresh lavender is possibly the most relaxing smell on earth. Now whenever the scent of lavender hits our noses, we’re instantly taken back to The Ranch.

5.  Creatures and Comfort

Yeah, sure, this is a luxury place.

There’s a golf course. Saltwater pool. Nice restaurant.

Despite all the “fanciness” The Ranch really feels down to earth and thoughtful. Part of the charm is the wildlife that roam the property. Deer and turkeys can be found straight chillin’ on the side of the road.

And there’s something fun about hearing Turkeys gobbling outside your window in the mornings.

FYI – Watch out for hungry birds who try to steal stuff off your deck. Speaking from experience…

6.  Oh and they also have a swing…

Carmel Valley Ranch |


Carmel Valley Ranch


Disclaimer:  We were not hosted or compensated by Carmel Valley Ranch for this post. In fact, they won’t even know about it until we tag them on Twitter. 


We Believe in Nashville

Get in my Mouf | Nashville at Heart Mural, Nashville, TN

Failure as a foodblogger can take many forms. I have come to terms with one of the most egregious failures:

During our first-ever visit to Nashville, I did NOT eat any hot chicken.

Wait–Before you click away, delete your cookies, and forget you’ve ever heard of this blog–I think you’ll still find a few reasons to stick around.

I won’t try and justify the lack of fiery fried chicken with an excuse. Instead, I think the trip was evidence of the fact that Nashville is more than just hot chicken. Way more.

In fact, we’re not even fans of country music. So, removing the country music and hot chicken from the equation, would Nashville still equate into a good time?

Like many other cities, Nashville’s charm goes well beyond crispy, spice-soaked poultry. We left with an appreciation for the city’s bagels, popsicles, craft coffee, Pig Macs, 100-layer donuts, and more.

W H E R E   T O   S T A Y

First, choosing an area to stay in is vital. If you hate where you have to call home, you’ll hate the whole trip! With the guidance of a friend and Nashville local, we were encouraged to stay in the thriving 12 South neighborhood.

12 South is one of the most popular areas of Nashville with tons of restaurants, bars, and shops running along Twelfth Avenue. AND it’s only about 10-15 minutes from downtown. [Sidebar: There isn’t a place that seemed to take more than 20 minutes to travel to from 12 South. It was a nice change-up from the normal DC area traffic.]

Get in my Mouf | I Believe in Nashville Mural, Nashville, TN

The other benefit of 12 south is that the area is filled with spiffy renovated Airbnb homes and guest houses. We loved staying at this one: Heart of 12 South: 1 Bedroom Cottage.

It was short walk away from pretty much every type of food you could want, but far enough away that we didn’t notice anyone stumbling home from any bars late at night. Warning: One of the dangers of staying in 12 South is the proximity to food. You can figuratively reach out of your Airbnb window and grab something to eat.

W H A T   T O   E A T

100-Layer Donuts

Exhibit A: Five Daughters Bakery and their 100-layer donuts. They specialize in cronuts and damn they are indeed special. So special that we visited the bakery three times during out trip.

Hot Chicken: 0
100-Layer Donut: 3

The highlight was a weekend special Peaches & Cream donut that combined sweet and juicy fresh peaches, with a decadent pastry cream sandwiched between buttery croissant-like layers. I nominate thee for Donut of the Year Award.

Get in my Mouf | Five Daughters Bakery, Nashville, TN

Oh, and much love to their other award-worthy pastry, their Orange Quinamin Roll makes the whole Cinnabon franchise look like a fool.


Proper Bagel joins Five Daughters in the “Circular Food Items” hall of fame. Also within walking distance from our 12 South crib, this bagel joint could easily make you think you accidentally got teleported into New York City.

Recommendation:  Ricotta & Egg bagel, which includes a farm egg with fresh ricotta, rosemary, and chives.

Get in my Mouf | Proper Bagel, Nashville, TN

Get in my Mouf | Proper Bagel, Nashville, TN


We attended a wedding shindig at The Old School, which is aptly named since this restaurant/event venue, used to be an old school. An easy 20-minute drive outside of the city,  the space was charming, the family-style food encouraged new friendships, and those grits.


Did we get a picture? No?

Trust us, they were good.

Deliciously Pretentious Coffee

You want a coffee drink made like a fine crafted cocktail? Barista Parlor is your place. I wasn’t sure how the Strawberry Fields espresso concoction would work, but it did. It worked so well. And it worked so hard. It worked a full 9-5 job, then worked overtime. It’s probably still working right now.

Strawberries and coffee ain’t your thing? Cool, try another seasonal flavor, ’cause I’m sure they’re all equally good. We also tried the Vietnamese Iced Coffee, which sounds traditional, but had a healthy dose of Nashville hip (if that’s even a thing). It wasn’t too sweet, as some Vietnamese coffees can be; it also had a nice spice and came with a cool flower.

Get in my Mouf | Barista Parlor, Nashville, TN

Get in my Mouf | Barista Parlor, Nashville, TN

There is some talk of this place being pretentious, but I personally like a little pretense with my coffee shop. It takes a lot of energy for someone to care enough to make a killer coffee. With the drinks we had, they’ve earned every ounce of pretentiousness.

Oh and they don’t have decaf, so don’t ask for it, noob.

W H A T   T O   S E E


I only have three letters to say about the Parthenon in Nashville. WTF? We can’t recommend going there, but we also can’t not recommend checking it out, because it’s just so…weird.

Seriously, this is not a joke. There is literally a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Nashville. They will give you some reason as to why, but it still doesn’t make sense. If you want to get the full WTF experience, don’t just walk around the outside, the inside is where it’s at.

Hatch Show Print

Moving on to a place that we can absolutely recommend: Hatch Show Print. This place is cool. Old school cool (not to be confused with the cool The Old School we just talked about). The tour of the shop will make you appreciate the history of the print shop and its story of how it came to be. It’s hard not to appreciate a trade in which the process has remained the same for nearly a century. Plus you’ll leave with some print-making experience and a freshly inked souvenir.

Get in my Mouf | Hatch Show Print, Nashville, TN

Bachelorette Parties

Fun fact:  Nashville is apparently the #1 place to have a bachelorette party in the universe. Not sure if that’s factually accurate, but anecdotally, it feels right. Our first hours in “Nash Vegas” we saw about six separate groups of matching t-shirt wearing groups of ladies out to celebrate the loss of singlehood. After talking to some locals, it was confirmed that it’s like that ALL THE TIME. Every day, all day, any time of year.

Cool. (In my best John Oliver.)

W e   s h a l l   r e t u r n   s o o n . . . 

Nashville wasn’t necessarily on our radar as a rad city with a killer food game, but it is now. The radar is beeping loudly and a second trip will be forthcoming soon. Obviously, I have unfinished Hot Chicken business, but we also can’t wait to go back and relive everything above (and that doesn’t even include everything we ate (like Cochon Butcher, Frothy Monkey, Las Paletas, and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream).

Get in my Mouf | Night Skyline, Nashville, TN

Car Reviews

Car Q&A: 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 |

This post is made possible through a partnership with the awesome folks at DriveShop and Mitsubishi, who provided us with a vehicle to test drive for a week. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveMitsubishi.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 |


MSRP (as tested):  $17,830
MPG Estimate: 35 city – 42 highway
Engine:  1.2L MIVEC DOHC 12-valve 3-cylinder
Power:  78 hp @ 6,000 rpm  | 74 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission:   Continuous Variable Transmission
Color:  Infrared (exterior) / Black (interior)

For more info, click here to view the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 brochure.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 |

As much as I enjoy test driving SUVs, it’s always fun to have a smaller car to zip around town in. They’re more fuel efficient, easy to park, and if you get stuck underneath it, you can probably find a few strong folks to lift it off of you.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 |

Enter, the Mitsubishi Mirage. It’s kind of an adorable car. You’re tempted to both pinch its cheek and also try and lift it off the ground.  Despite the cheek-pinching, the Mirage was kind enough to answer a few of our questions:

Get in my Mouf (GIMM):  You are not a figment of my imagination, correct?

Mirage:  A Mirage joke. Very Clever. Yes, I am a real.

GIMM:  What’s with the name, then?

Mirage:  I like to think of myself as a thirst quenching pool of water in a dessert of cars.

GIMM:  Dessert or desert?

Mirage:  Dessert.

GIMM:  Dessert?

Mirage:  Yes, the world as a sweet place, filled with candy, ice cream, and pastries.

GIMM:  Like the game, Candyland.

Mirage:  Never heard of it. Look, in this world we live in, I find it’s best to be an optimist. Some might say that my trunk is half full, but I would argue that it’s half-empty.

GIMM:  I think you have that backwards…

Mirage:  No, if it’s half empty, that’s a good thing.  It means, there’s room for more suitcases, more beach towels, more picnic foods.

GIMM:  You seem to subscribe to the ol’ adage of “big things come in small packages” philosophy.

Mirage:  Quite the contrary, that adage is cliché, dated, and it really is offensive to small packages. I’m a small car and I embrace that. For example, I bet you could parallel park two of me in one space.

I’ve seen the way you park; you need all the help you can get.

GIMM:  Fair enough.

Mirage:  But should it be fair enough? Life is naturally not fair. If it were fair for everybody, then would that not actually be unfair to those who would otherwise have an advantage?

GIMM:  You’re quite the philosopher.

Mirage:  Am I, or is it just a figment of your imagination?

GIMM:  …anyway, your gas milage is very efficient.

Mirage:  Miles and gallons are simply man-made constructs in which we subjectively measure what is efficient. I believe efficiency is a measure of pleasure, divided by time.

GIMM: And now we’re doing math…

Mirage:  But either way, by your human definition and my more accurate definition… I am indeed efficient.

GIMM: Last question–or rather, I’ll just make a statement and you can turn it into something deeper and more philosophical. Your warranty coverage is one of the best in the industry: 10-year/100,000-mile Powertrain Limited Warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable New Vehicle Limited Warranty, a 7-year/100,000-mile Anti-Corrosion/Perforation Limited Warranty and 5-year/ Unlimited Miles Roadside Assistance.

Mirage: Yes, I’m pretty well covered.

GIMM:  That’s it?!

Mirage. Yes. Sometimes saying nothing is more powerful than saying something.

GIMM: There it is.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 |

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 |

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 |


Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided this vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Mitsubishi. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions and fake interviews with inanimate objects remain our own.