Lincoln’s Black Label fits new Continental very, very nicely

2017 Lincoln Continental

I was almost afraid to write my review on Ford Motor Company’s new Lincoln Continental. Will my readers believe me when I say I like this car as much as I liked the 5-Series BMW I drove a few weeks ago? That’s not possible, is it?
Think about that. A Lincoln, which was known for riding like a cruise ship instead of handling like a cruise missile, is now as good as luxury sedans that have nearly always been praised. Is that real?
Yes, sir, it is. Ford bet the farm on its latest luxury car and it is going to be rewarded handsomely. The new Continental, especially in Black Label trim, can run shoulder to shoulder with the best in luxury market.

New-Think From Ford

I recently spent a week with the new Continental and was throughly impressed. Forget all that you think you know about this car company. There is a new feeling and thought at Ford’s luxury division that I think the public is going to like.
First, this car has an understated elegance that I hope trickles down to the rest of the line. I see hints of Jaguar but not as curvy. There’s a little bit of Bentley at the rear but not a direct copy. From the mesh grille to the stately rump, this car screams luxury, but not in a panicked way. I love the sculptured door pulls which are an added touch of elegance.
The interior is something to marvel. There is wood, leather, metal and suede used with such meticulous craftsmanship, such precision that you have to force yourself to remember this is an American made car. Everything feels expensive and works as if its in a luxury car.

There are three themes for Black Label – Chalet, Thoroughbred and Rhapsody. Each theme dictates the car’s exterior and interior colors. My Thoroughbred was chroma Caviar Gray metallic with Venetian black leather seats, a very handsome combination.
The rear seats may be the best seats in the house. The car doesn’t seem overly long, but there is enough room for six-footers to cross their legs. The sections are heated and power controlled. The outward seats will message you if you request such. My frat brother’s 13-year-old son loved it. He thought it was the best thing before going to basketball practice. There are also controls for climate.
Maybe I’m wrong. The fronts seats have the advantage. This Black Label version had these pillow-top seats that simply cushioned you into nirvana. Each is power operated as well, minus the message option. Each feels more like a recliner but a form-fitted recliner that grips you if you want to do spirited driving.

An Engine That Purrs 

Speaking of such, this 3.0-liter turbo V6 is the answer. It quietly makes 400 horsepower with 400 pounds-feet of torque. Coupled to a six-speed transmission and all-wheel drive, this engine purrs while navigating city streets and roars when you hit open road. Not that you hear it. The cabin is so well isolated that most engine noise is kept outside of the car. Fine, because that does not deter the cars performance. Put your foot in this engine and the Continental becomes a domesticated beast, hurtling past all those on the road if you wish to do so. Power is available at a touch and it doesn’t seem to run out of steam.
Continentals of yore felt floaty, riding like the suspension was built out of clouds. That’s something else to forget. While those older buyers that wish for a smooth ride will love this car, those who crave to carve up some highway will be pleased as well. The Continental’s suspension is well sorted, allowing the driver to press the car when needed. The steering gives you great feedback from the road and keeps the car tracking straight. There are paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel which tells you how serious Lincoln is about this car. You can shift or the silky six-speed automatic will do the trick.
Choosing the all wheel drive version gives you Audi like, or should I say Audi-lite handling, which isn’t a bad thing. The car felt unflappable even during heavy downpours. It’s not an Audi but I like it nearly as much — high praise, indeed.

There are at least six different models to choose from before you get to the Black Label models. There are also four different engines, but not all are available throughout the range. The Black Label is Lincoln’s highest expression of opulence so it’s not cheep. The car’s base price started in the low $60’s which is well equipped. The paint job, rear-seat package, 3.0-liter engine and destination brought the car’s asking price to $78,000 and some change.
You can buy the car for far less, just don’t drive the Black Label first. I don’t think I would want this car any other way. Is it worth the money? I’ll say yes, but with everything else, this is going to be a matter of preference. Lincoln has done its job offering a wonderful sedan. It’s all on you.

QX50 crossover keeps Infiniti in the game, begs for update

2016 Infiniti QX50
2016 Infiniti QX50

Infiniti has tried hard to get its mojo back.
Introduced the same year as Lexus, the company bolted on the scene with the Q45, a stunning piece that gave Jaguar a serious challenge. It hasn’t had a big sedan that adventurous since, probably because it’s more concerned with trucks and crossovers.
That’s not a big problem since the company’s crossovers and trucks are pretty good.
The QX50 is one of those crossovers. It started as the FX35 back in 2008 and looks pretty much the same. As a 2016 it has gained more backseat room – a generous 4.3 inches – and a few cosmetic changes.
What is carried over is the glorious V6. The engine’s 325 horsepower makes this handsome crossover feel like a sport’s car. Put your foot in the accelerator and you get rewarded with an adrenaline rush. the QX50 scoots. The rear wheel driven vehicle pushes itself around corners with authority. Push a little harder and the QX starts eating up pavement with a quickness. The brakes scrub off speed quickly and the steering is spot on. Infiniti’s knack for building something interesting to drive is in tact.
The ride is surprisingly comfortable considering the vehicle’s sporting prowess. It’s taught, but not jittery. Really rough pavement may upset things, but it never seemed out matched.
The QX50’s star begins to dim once you park. The interior could use a complete redo. The look is still luxury, just not as up to date. Everything feels expensive, but a little dated. The stitching on the leather hood shrouding the gauges is a nice touch.

Understated luxury yet still functional dash
Understated luxury yet still functional dash

The Qx’s best feature isn the engine, which is also its worst. It is powerful, but thirsty. Twenty miles per gallon overall is the best you will get. Even Infiniti says you will spend $3,500 more in fuel over five years than if you bought something similar from another company. Also, the 118 cubic foot trunk doesn’t hold much.
At $34,450, the QX50 isn’t too expensive, if you like the base model. Infiniti offers a bunch of packages to boost your equipment, but that’s not cheap. My test vehicle had technology, premium, premium plus and deluxe touring packages. it also had illuminated kick plates.
All those packages gave the vehicle everything except all-wheel-drive and rear-seat entertainment.
The price jumped as well. With destination, the as-tested price was $43,535. To be fair, that included premium equipment that included navigation, Bose stereo, smart cruise control, 19-inch wheels, wood accents, leather seating surfaces, lane departure warning, adaptive front lighting and Sirius/XM.
There are Acuras, BMWs and Lexi for that price, more or less, and several domestics. The BMW will out drive it and the Acura can haul more stuff. Still, he Infiniti offers a strong engine, good looks and quality craftsmanship. it deserves a very hard look.

CTS-V Kicks Caddy In Gear

Cadillac is an amazing company. It has transformed itself from a stodgy, luxury-leaning brand into something fresh and wonderful.
This 2016 Cadillac CTS-V sedan is something special – and I mean really special. It looks good, it drives well and it has very few things that wrong.
Let me start with the good stuff. Look at this beast. The architectural lines that dominate the body are enough to make your drool. I love rounded, swooshy cars but when you get the straight line thing right, well, you get something as handsome as this car. I love the aggressive big grille that state simply, yes, I’m a badass.

CTS interior is well done.
CTS interior is well done.

The interior is almost as yummy. A lot of angles and straight lines dominate, especially on the center stack. It gets a little busy but Caddy stopped just when it should have. The leather seats are certainly comfortable, offering a lot of support which comes in handy when you are aggressively driving this thing. I’m not a fan of the color blue but teamed with the sparkling white exterior paint it looks as if Nautica came up this color choice. I like.
There are loads of things to occupy your time while sitting in the CTS-V. The Bose stereo system is astonishing with a CD, streaming or listening to Sirius/XM. You can hang out on the internet with the built-in WiFi or just flick switches and push buttons all day.
You could if you were not interested in driving. if that’s the case buy a lesser CTS. Nope, you’ve selected the twin-turbo V6 V, which means you want to drive.
Let’s drive. It’s had to put into words how much I love this engine and transmission. A proper six-speed stick would make me delirious but the automatic with paddle shifters does nicely. This car wants to be driven hard, really hard. The 420 horsepower V6 is willing, so willing you can hit 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds. Let’’s say the 430 pounds-feet of torque have a lot to do with that number.
Can you fling it around a corner? Check. Can you negotiate twisty roads with the agility of race car? Check. Can you stab the brakes to bail out a tricky situation and come away unscathed? Check. Steering handling and braking – this car is blessed if you are into that kind of aggressive driving.
Ok, OK, but can you live with it on the highway while taking a long trip? Yes. the cabin is tomb quite and you can you adjust the suspension for smooth cruising. Am I describing the perfect car? Hmmmmmmm. Perhaps.
Did I find stuff I didn’t like. Well, the back seat is a tad tight for the segment and truck space is good but not great. I’m thinking hard now. Ummm, well, yep, that’s all I didn’t like.
The CTS-V comes with a lot of stuff. There’s also lots of packages to choose from. My test car had upgraded suspension and brakes, lane mitigation, crash mitigation, smart cruise, head up display, adjustable suspension, upgrade stereo and premium leather seating with sport package. Curiously, when you can’t get a sunroof with a twin-turbo V6.
That put the as-tested price in the upper $60,000 range.
Oh, my.
Yet, the Cadillac CTS-V is a marvelous blend of brawn and beauty, of finesse and power. If this is not what you are looking for there are several other versions of CTSs available. There’s also a lot from BMW, Audi, Mercedes and so on and so forth. Yet, Caddy is being mentioned in those rarified circles. Good for you Cadillac. Good for you.

Audi’s e-tron hot hatch hybrid

2016 Audi A3 sportback e-tron
2016 Audi A3 sportback e-tron

Despite cheeper gas prices car companies are still trying to build models that will squeeze every drop possible out a gallon of fuel. We all no gas will not be cheep forever so that is a good thing.
Audi enters the fray with the e-tron, a plug in hybrid that uses the A3 hatchback as it’s host.
It’s the only A3 hatchback available in this country. You can get a sedan but not a hybrid sedan.
Anyway, the e-tron is a nicely put together car. It is stylish, comfortable and gives you the best of both worlds, but not necessarily a lot of both of those worlds.

Well finsihed interior is a plus
Well finsihed interior is a plus

If you go EV only you will get 17 miles before running out of juice. Doesn’t seem like a lot but there are lots of trips made a day that are less than a couple of miles. Pulling off in EV mode feels quite brisk. The 1.4-liter turbo-charged engine makes about 150 horsepower with 184 foot pounds of torque. The electric engine is powered by an 8.8 kWH lithium ion battery that puts out an additional 104 horsepower and 234 lbs.-ft. of torque. Combined the output is 202 horses with 254 lbs.-feet of torque. When in EV mode the car is whisper silent. I had to keep checking the gauges to see if the car was on. I didn’t go far because the car was nearly out of juice. It takes five hours to charge if you use a regular 120 volt outlet. Find something that puts out 240 volts and you are fully charged in two hours. You can also charge the battery in hybrid mode while highway driving.
To charge the car, twist a lever hidden in the rings on the front grille. That exposes the socket. The portable charger is in the trunk. Once finished, unplug the charger and slide the rings back in place. There are now thousands of spots across the country to charge an EV. Charlotte, NC, has lots, included designated spots in certain airport parking decks.
Most of my time was spent using the electric motor which was fine with me. I’ve met few Audi’s that I dislike and this wasn’t one of them. The e-tron posses the kind of handling you expect from an Audi. That is to say it handles crisply, with sharp turning and accurate steering. The e-tron can get to 60 miles per hour in 7.6 seconds, which is pretty good for a hybrid. (You’ll also be glad to hear that in EV mode it can get up to 80 miles per hour.)
I found the ride to be comfortable. The anti-lock brakes are wonderful. My test car was a Premium Plus, equipped with 17-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlamps and auto dimming mirrors. Extra equipment included all season tires, heated front seats, navigation, audi connect and high-gloss aluminum widow trim.
The interior is very comfortable and displays a great deal of style. The black leather trim was classy and all surfaces felt expensive. The back seat was smallish and there isn’t a lot of room for storage under the hatch.
The base price for the e-tron is $37,900. With options and destination my as-tested price was $46,100.
Well, now, that sounds a bit high but not when you compare it to other plugin EVs. You will get 39 miles per galloon combined as a hybrid. In EV mode it’s a staggering 86 MPGe.
If and when Audi figures out how to extend the EV range on the e-tron, that will be a wonderful thing. For now, the e-tron is still wonderful. You can’t get quattro (Audi’s all-wheel-drive system) yet, but it may be coming. So far, this is my favorite EV. Good job, Audi.

Land Rover LR4 handles any terrain

2016 Land Rover LR4

I am fond of Land Rovers. The British really know how to build a luxury SUV.
But why would I buy a $100,000 vehicle to take it bashing through the woods? A dent in something this good looking would be a pity.
Yeah, I know, you can say the same about almost any other SUV of today. Heck, even pickup trucks cost a lot and look good as well.
OK, so do not buy the Range Rover. You can always step down to the Land Rover LR4. It’s more truck looking and it doesn’t cost a hundred grand.
Nope, the LR4 starts at a more modest $50,400 base.
Ummm, yeah, right.
Still, It’s a fine truck that is designed to go where only angels dare to walk. It’s also designed to take you through this treacherous territory in style.
I’ve always liked the look of the LR4 (which is called Discovery in the rest of the world). It’s tall, which gives it tremendous headroom. It also looks like something that can handle the outback with no problem.
The interior isn’t as spectacular as the Range Rover. It doesn’t have nearly the switchgear as its big sister, but I don’t think you will be left wanting. The materials feel good and solid – as should be so in a vehicle in this price range. Your gear selector is a round knob that rises from a flat position when you start the car. I think all Jags and Land Rovers have this feature.

The view is panoramic and the interior has been tweaked.
The view is panoramic and the interior has been tweaked.

There is plenty of room for seven adults. Yes, the third seat is comfy. Fold it and you have 42 cubic feet of storage. There is also a roof rack for more stuff.
The 2016 LR4 comes with a very potent supercharged V6 which replaces an even more potent V8. That engine was heavy and dated so the lighter V6 saved some weight and added some fuel efficiency. Not a whole lot of economy is gained, however. The LR4 still weighs about 3 tons. Once you pack on all that four-wheel drive stuff it’s hard to get the weight off. The V6 makes 340 horsepower with 322 pounds-feet of torque. It will move the LR4 sufficiently quick, but a weight loss would probably give this thing some sweet moves.
The transmission is an eight-speed unit that works well with the engine. It never lagged and it shifted crisply.
On the highway I don’t find fault in the LR4’s ride. Yeah, you can tell it’s more of a truck but a well sorted out truck. Its standard air suspension helps absorb bumps as well as offering adjustable ground clearance. This is a tall vehicle but I never noticed a lot of swaying about.
If I wanted, I could have taken the LR4 rock climbing. The adjustable suspension has a crawl setting that can take you just about anywhere. If you want that kind of ability, it’s available in the heavy duty package with includes a two-speed transfer case, locking rear differential and a full-size spare tire on an alloy wheel.
My test vehicle was an HSE LUX version. That alone adds $10,200 to the bottom line. It also adds a plethora of equipment that includes climate control system, navigation system, adaptive cruise control, 360 degree backup camera, blind-spot detection system, 17-speaker system and upgraded leather seats. A Black Design package includes 20-inch black wheel, grille, door handles, mirrors and other trim.A suite of Apps and a two package round out the options.
The as-tested price of my HSE LUV was $68,270 which included destination.
Yes, I like this vehicle a lot. If I owned it I might even take it through some rough terrain. Maybe. That Fuji White paint job looks awfully good.

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Murano gets bolder styling, better ride and handling

2015 Nissan Murano
2015 Nissan Murano

Nissan continues to make its SUV and crossover lineup interesting. It isn’t afraid to push the styling envelope which is seen on the restyled 2015 Murano. A little bigger, bolder and more fuel efficient than the model it replaces, this new Murano may be all the SUV you need.
I say SUV but I think the proper term is crossover since this is more car than truck. Oh, it will handle the truck stuff you throw at it, but the comfort and creature features this thing comes with tells you it does double duty.
The 260 horsepower V6 and continuously variable transmission are virtually unchanged from last year. Yet, this vehicle gets better gas milage than the old one. It’s also a tad bigger for people and cargo.

Stylish, spacious interior
Stylish, spacious interior

What’s new is the look of the Murano. The lines are bolder and the grille is far more aggressive. The roofline drops off dramatically in the back, but doesn’t effect the rear passenger headroom much. There are sharp, crisp lines near the waist and bulges around the fenders. It is mean but not menacing, powerful, but still pretty.
The interior of the Murano is striking. The materials feel high quality and look the part. Front and rear outboard passengers get the company’s Zero Gravity seats. They are quite comfortable and offer support on long trips. The driver and passenger sets are power operated. Leather covers all seats. The rear bench is a 60/40 split design in case you need to carry a little more cargo than people. There is plenty of room for five people and a lot of their stuff.
There is a lot of standard equipment. Kudos to Nissan for keeping the CD player despite the vehicle’s ability to steam music through apps and Bluetooth. We old-timers still enjoy still enjoy a good CD every now and then. The Bose unit has two subwoofers but does not sacrifice the highs. I’m liking HD radio the more I listen. There is also Sirius/XM.
Nissan also includes cruise control, heated front seats, voice recognition for hands-free operation of navigation and radio, ABS, blindspot detection, lane departure, traction control and dual zone climate controls. This SL model has about all you need.
Optional equipment includes a technology package with a huge sunroof, intelligent cruise control and predictive forward collision warning.
You could forget to drive this thing because of all the gadgets to play with. You would miss a treat. The Murano handles very well under a variety of circumstances. It’s not as sporty as it was but you won’t pine for last year’s model. If you want to get a little aggressive you can and the vehicle will not loose composure. Steering feels nicely weighted and braking is good for the class.
Without question it is comfortable. The ride is smooth and quiet. If your purpose is to carry your passengers in a very pleasing and relaxing manner, you’ve found the vehicle you need. The Murano doesn’t pitch around or float. It’s a firm but comfortable ride that will please nearly everyone that rides.
The base price of the Murano SL is $36,950. With options and destination the as-tested price was $40,095.
You can keep going if you want the platinum edition and all-wheel drive, but the SL will be enough for most – even without the tech package. There’s stiff competition from the big three and all the other Asian brands, but the Murano will hold its own. This needs a serious look.

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2016 Chevy Camaro SS is job well done

2016 Camaro SS
2016 Camaro SS

Chevy and Ford would like you to think there is a war going on between the Camaro and Mustang. I say there isn’t.
I say that because people who like Mustangs like Mustangs. The same with Camaro fans. Yes, one may outsell the other for a while but then the other takes over and, well, you know the rest.
I’m sure Chevy will experience a big sales surge with this 2016 Camaro. This car is good to look at, a blast to drive and built better than any other Camaro ever.
Let’s look at it’s looks, shall we? The 2016 SS has been hammered, chiseled, shortened and to a point crushed a bit. It has a lower profile and is wider and meaner looking. There’s a tad bit of Corvette in the grille but I see more Lexus spindle than anything. Not a bad thing for me, but a bunch of auto journalist don’t like that look. This is actually smaller than the 2015 because they wanted something lighter and more nimble.
Chevy, mission accomplished.
Does that mean you have less interior space? Yes, but who buy’s a sport’s car for space? It’s tight for dumpy builds like mine and not forgiving for someone six foot four like my friend who complained but his head didn’t touch the headliner. It was close, however. Let’s call the interior cozy. It’s also nicely finished. Chevy has used high quality materials and an ergonomic design to make the interior inviting. The large touch screen is good and one of the options is Apple’s Car Play. It essentially turns the screen into your iPhone. It worked well, but it’s a bit intrusive at times. Apple likes being the center of attention and it shuts off bluetooth and a few other things while engaged. More on Car Play in a separate article to follow.

Interior is nicely finished
Interior is nicely finished

The backseat is for children or cargo. The trunk holds enough stuff but if its non essential stuff you can throw it in the back seat. At the back of the center armrest console is a wireless phone charger which is optional.
My test vehicle was a 2SS model. That comes with ambient LED lighting to set a mood or just look cool – whichever you desire. A lot of cars are doing this now because it’s cool and LED lighting is inexpensive to use.
There is also a premium Bose stereo with satellite radio. If you like, you can turn your Camaro into a rolling hotspot for the plethora of devices we can’t live without. Actually, you can only connect seven but that’s plenty considering you can’t get seven people in this vehicle.
OK, so it looks good and seems to be built well but how does this thing drive?
Glad you asked. If speed is your thing you will be satisfied, amazed, wowed, pleased and every other positive adjective I can think of. The SS comes with a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 455 horsepower and 455 pounds-feet of torque. With the standard short throw six-speed you can hit 60 miles per hour in 4.0 seconds. You may ask why a Corvette, then? Answer: have you seen a Corvette lately? That car is a sexy beast.
When you hit the Camaro’s accelerator, it will press you deep into the seats. A fury of energy is released and that dual exhaust sings a mighty tune. The handling is superb. Throw it around a cure with force and ti digs in and stays planted. You can adjust the suspension to a track setting and you really get to know just how capable a car you have. This Camaro simple devours pavement without sweating. Steering, braking and handling were top priority in development and I’d say Chevy got it right.
I do quibble about the gear box, though. It has that 1-4 shift thing. Sometimes it forces you to engage fourth gear immediately after first. It can be annoying if you really don’t need to be in that gear and you have to downshift. However, the more time I spent with the car the less that happened.
Any other gripes? Well, the greenhouse is kinda squinty. I can’t say the car is hard to see out of, but it can feel a tad

claustrophobic. Just a tad. There is that gas mileage thing. I’m glad fuel is cheap because this thing likes premium fuel a good deal. Highway driving isn’t so bad. You may get close to 30. I averaged about 16 miles per gallon in the city, which isn’t terrible for the monster of an engine you get, but be warned.
Anything else? No. I found the 2016 Camaro SS to be very enjoyable. You could always move up to the Corvette if this isn’t enough power or style, but I think you may have to open up your wallet a lot wider if you make that choice.
How much is this beast? I didn’t get a window sticker. I went to Chevy’s website to build one and came up with $43,840. I don’t know if I added all the options or if there were packages so that’s a rough estimate.
If there is a real war between the Mustang and Camaro Chevy just loaded up some heavy artillery to take into battle. I’m a Mustang guy but I’s consider this Camaro SS. It’s got a lot going for itself for the money, if you want to spend that kind of money. Bravo, Chevy, bravo.

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Ford’s Expedition still good option for SUV buyers

Shopping for an SUV can be a problem. Do you get a crossover that will give you car-like ride and handling or do you get a real truck that can haul a lot of people and a bunch of stuff?2015_ford_expedition_4dr-suv_el-xlt_dps_evox_1_300
That depends on the amount of people and the amount of stuff. It also depends on what you want to pay, fuel economy, yada yada yada. I said it could be a problem.
Remember the Ford Expedition? Yeah, I know, a big blast from the past. It’s actually still around and has been upgraded for 2015. It’s a true truck that can haul a lot of people and a lot of stuff.
The Expedition is a traditional body on frame truck that comes in two flavors, standard and extended EL. The EL is 15 inches longer than the regular vehicle. Considering the standard wheelbase is a beast, the EL is an absolute monster that can be configured to hold nine people. That means you lose the captain’s chairs and even get a bench seat up front. Otherwise, go for the captains chairs and easy fold third row seats.
Need storage? There’s 18 cubic feet with the seats up. Lower the middle and rear seats and you have 108.3 cubic feet of space.
The 2015 upgrades include a much nicer interior and a nip and tuck done to the exterior. Some may find the greatest change the most troubling. Ford has dropped the V8 engine and replaced it with a turbo charged V6.
There is no need to worry, however. The V6 makes 365 horsepower and 420 pounds-feet of torque. Those are better numbers than the outgoing V8. It can achieve 22 miles per gallon on the highway and 16 mpg in the city. There are smaller V8 vehicles that can’t do that.
Here’s a fun fact: the Ford Expedition with a turbo V6 can sprint to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds making it one of the quickest big trucks on he market. That’s outstanding for a vehicle that can tow 9,200 pounds. The transmission is a slick, six-speed automatic that works very well.
Nearly as outstanding is this big beast’s ride quality. You would expect a couple of tons vehicle to be smooth and comfortable. The Expedition lives up to those expectations. This Platinum model was equipped with an adjustable suspension that had comfort, normal and sport modes. The four-wheel independent suspension makes great use of those modes.
Does this truck have a downside? Yep, its sheer size. Yes, its agile for its size, but its size is pushing the limits. This is a very large vehicle that has a lot of blind spots. Thankfully, the Platinum edition is equipped with blindspot detection and a backup camera. Once you get adjusted to the size, you should be fine.
The Platinum designation means this thing is loaded to the gills. Let me say what it didn’t have, first: a kitchen sink, fridge and a microwave. At the moment none of those items are options. Not yet, anyway.
You do get Ford’s improved Sync system that allows you to do nearly everything by voice command. I favorite is being able to ask for a specific song or artist on my iPhone and it starts to play. Sometimes the simplest things are your greatest pleasures. You also get automatic climate control, power seats, massive sunroof, three rows of seats, lane departure warning, abs, traction and stability control, enhanced towing, satellite radio, leather seats and keyless entry.
Throw in delivery charges and the as-tested price was well north of $68,000. Some of you are thinking luxury brands but most would be smaller. There are Yukons, Escalades and even Land Cruisers to be considered but think higher price. The Expedition is still a viable option.

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Toyota Yaris does duty as really reliable small car

Toyota has made some of the finest small cars in automotive history. People bought them in huge numbers because these cars were dependable, well built and would last for decades if need be.
The Japanese giant still makes great cars but has been under massive pressure lately because of recalls, missteps and increasing competition from Kia and Hyundai. Even Chevy and Ford have stepped up their compact game.

Sparse, yet appealing interior.
Sparse, yet appealing interior.

For 2015, Toyota’s compact entry is the Yaris, an interesting little hatch that has a lot to offer but also has a great deal of competition to fend off.
The Yaris can be had in either three or five door hatchback configuration. My bright red SE was a five door with distinctive styling. It has a variation of Toyota’s corporate face that’s pleasing to the eye. I’m not a fan of red but at least I never lost it in the parking lot.
The interior is nicely done with the ubiquitous touch screen as the center of the dash. It controls the entertainment system that includes HD radio, CD player and Toyota Entune apps that work with your smartphone. There was no navigation (it is optional) or SirirusXM (optional as well).
The Yaris SE also comes with ABS, air conditioning, power door locks, cruise control, body colored power mirrors, 16-inch machine tooled wheels and LED running lights.
The interior materials felt good to the touch. The shift knob is leather wrapped but the steering wheel did not tilt. The seats are comfortable and despite the car’s small footprint there is a generous amount of room for four adults. You can push it to five but that guy in the middle is not going to want to be that guy.
The Yaris is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 105 horsepower with 103 pounds-feet of torque. Doesn’t sound like much on paper but I found it to be adequate in the real world. Passing attempts must be planned well in advanced. It takes this car a little over 10 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour from a standstill. Even while moving the car can be a bit lethargic. The culprit is the old school four-speed automatic. Toyota can do better and has better but to keep cost down this is what you have to deal with if you go for the five-door SE hatch. There is a five-speed manual standard on the three-door.
Gas milage for the four-speed is good at 32 miles per gallon overall. City milage is 30 while highway is 36. Gives this thing a five speed automatic and I’m sure those figures would improve greatly.
By checking the SE box on your wish list you get a sports tuned independent front suspension as well as sports tuned electronic steering, both of which work very well. Put the little Yaris in a corner and you will not be screaming for help. It sticks there and feels stable coming out and on its way down the road. Sporty might be a stretch but I’d say the Yaris has solid handling. The ride comfort was surprising as well.
Does the Yaris have any other draw backs? Yes. The level of competition is high and the field is crowded with good, tiny cars. Ford’s Fiesta is a blast to drive and comes in some tasty trim levels. The Kia Rio looks a lot like this car but I think it’s less expensive with more equipment. The Nissan Versa is, well, the cheapest new car you can buy. The Hyundai Accent comes in both hatch and sedan.
There may be a few others but you get the idea. None of that is a deal breaker, however. Toyota still has a great track record for little cars. The Yaris is one of those cars. At $18,445 some might find it expensive but I found it to be moderately priced. I’ve seen many of these on the road so Toyota is doing something right.

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Kia K900 wants to be top dog in large luxury sedans

When Hyundai introduced the Equus a few years back there was a collective side eye given by the automotive press thinking the company had overstepped its boundaries.
Not so.Turns out Korean luxury is as good as Japanese, German and American.
Now that Hyundai’s sister company Kia has jumped into the big luxury car fray, we’re not surprised. The question isn’t is it any good but how good will it be?
I can’t compare the Equus to the K900 because I haven’t driven the Equus. My church’s pastor has an Equus and he said it’s the best car for the money he’s ever owned, that includes Lincolns, Bimmers, Mercs and the like.2015_kia_k900_sedan_v8_fq_oem_4_717
I’ve never owned any of those but I’ve driven something built by each company. Kia got it right. This car is certainly well equipped to take on big sedans built by any company. There’s a lot here for the money and what’s here may give the other companies cause for pause.
The K900 is a big comfortable sedan. The styling is a bit generic but I firmly believe generic sells the best. If not, why have so many people flocked to Accords and Camrys for their daily drives all these years? Yes, each is well built, but neither attracts much attention.
Anyway, the K900’s styling is a bit bland, but handsome. I do like the Jaguar-like grille. From the A pillars back the car looks a bit like a Lexus GS. Not a bad combination, just not something that makes you scream I want one.
The interior is much more yummy. Leather, wood, metal and padded surfaces abound. The Nappa leather is really soft and hugs the ventilated seats snugly. If I wanted carpet in a home, I’d ask for this stuff.
The instrument cluster is virtual. It disappears once the car is switched off. Animated icons are used to bring attention to certain conditions. The massive 9.2 touch screen controls climate, audio and other functions. The gear selector and infotainment dial looks very German. As much as I like this look I think there may be a few more switches and buttons needed. There’s lots to raise, lower, cancel, toggle and what not.
Rear seat passengers get controls for climate, rear sunshade, climate controlled outboard seats that recline. There are copious amounts of room for head, legs and hips for two passengers. The middle person has to deal with the transmission hump.
The five-liter V8 produces 420 horses and 376 pounds-feet of torque. Coupled with an eight-speed automatic, the engine makes the car jump to 60 miles per hour in a little more than 7 seconds.That’s not bad for most would consider to be a luxoboat. I will say I think the K900 needs a bit more oomph. Passing was ok, acceleration good, but it didn’t have the snap some of its rivals have.
The ride is very comfortable. Very large bumps will upset the car’s steering a bit, but you may not hear if you hit a bump. The cabin is quite. There is a hint of wind noise but nothing troublesome.
Handling Is good, but not crisp. Curves and straightaways are approached, not attacked.That’s not a bad thing, however. Most who purchase this car will be cruising, not racing to get to their destination.
The K900 comes standard with a lot of equipment, more than its rivals. At $65,000, there should be a lot of standard stuff. The list is lengthy, but ABS, leather, panoramic moon roof, power closing trunk, traction and stability control.
My test car was equipped with the VIP Package with white interior. This $6,000 option included smart cruise control, reclining rear seats, power door latches, 12.3 inch LCD instrument cluster, head up display, driver’s seat cushion extension and surround view backup camera.
As tested, my K900 priced out at $66,400. I hear the gasps and exclamations “for a Kia” being ejected as you read this. Yes, for a Kia.
Would I pay this for a Kia? Yes, but that would depend more on would I pay more for the other car’s in its class. Again, yes.
I think the Kia K900 is worthy to be mentioned with Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus, Cadillac, Audi, BMW and a few others. It offers more for the money and, as most any car will do, takes you from point a to b.
How well you feel while getting from point a to b is a different story. The pricer under cuts its rivals by as much as $20,000. Does that make it a better car? No. Does that make it as good a car? That depends. I don’t know that any of the other cars are actually worth $20,000 more. I can say I think many of them are better cars.
Better is a relative term, you know. If I had this kind of money I could see my self saving enough to buy, well, a lot of stuff for $20,000. Any day of the week that decision could be called smart by lots of folks.
NBA player LaBron James drives one of these and has tweeted such. James is also helping Kia with a King James Version of the K900.

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