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.

cross@alldaytech.com

With new wave of 4K TVs coming, Sony’s 850D is a steal — and here’s why

Before we opened the box to unwrap Sony’s 65-inch 850D series TV to test, I’d read a lot about the TV’s lack of really good contrast. The thinking was this: if you were watching  the set in a dark room, or you were watching a really dark scene, the TV would express blacks as dark gray.

We found that to be just a tiny bit true, but we also found this TV to be the best in class for a sub $2,000 65-incher (full disclosure, we have not tested the Vizio P series, which is well thought of as well).

What makes this Sony so good?

Well, it makes everything you throw at it look better. It makes everyday stuff like DirecTV look really good and makes DirecTV 4K look spectacular.  But what really amazed us is how good it can make even an HBO Go feed on “X Men Apocalypse” look.

I had three people compare the 4K DVD version of the film with the streaming, non 4K version, being fed via Apple TV, and while everyone picked the 4K DVD version as clearer and more breathtaking, it took everyone a few input switches to choose. The upscaling engine, the technology that takes non 4K stuff and upconverts it to quasi-4K, is simply amazing in this set.

That’s an important thing to know since most people will be watching non-4K material most of the time.

The other thing that blew us away with the Sony was the accuracy and depth of colors. Using some calibration settings we easily got online, the TV gets out of crazy bright Vivid mode and into color accurate mode pretty quickly. Give your eyes a day or two to adjust and the set delivers a simply impressive picture, as good as you might see at the multiplex from 4K sources using a technology called HDR, which is baked into some physical and streaming movies. In a sense, HDR  makes colors and scenes punchier and more accurate, like when you sit at the doctor and they put that machine over your eyes and ask, “Does this look clearer? Or does that?”

HDR is the latter.

This set is going for as low as $1,300 now as the 2017 sets are beginning to hit the market. For most people, this set is all they’ll need, even if you get in the store and fall in love with those OLED sets that do super-deep and super-rich pictures — but also come with a super-rich price tag.

Trust, this is the next-generation TV set for most of us.

Samsung 2016 4K Midrange TV is a great bargain, if you get a good one

It’s really hard to walk into the TV store nowadays and stare at the row of impossibly then sets and not stop on a Samsung 4K TV. Whether really big or somewhat big or even curved, the Samsung TVs are stunning (especially when set on the brightest mode possible for the store environment, eschewing any need for color accuracy).

We got our hands on a 2016 version 65 inch KS8000 model recently and were very, very impressed. Understand, we’ve been watching a Panasonic 2009 Viera 50-inch plasma that’s been calibrated by a famous Florida calibrator named Louis Carliner. He spent two days, literally, making the set look good.

Back then the plasmas had a hard time doing purple. When Louis was done, our TV did purple. It still does. And it does deep blacks, something these back-lit LCD/LED TVs don’t do as well.

The Samsung, however, delivers a wonderful picture, just so much more sharp than the old HDTVs. If you haven’t seen a 4K TV in your home, you can’t appreciate the clarity. Given a good source, like a 4K DVD, the results are simply amazing. The clarity of the opening sequence in the latest X-Men movie is just stunning. It’s so clear we could make out the obvious CGI we missed when we saw the Tobey McGuire Spider-Man movies in the theaters. Man, it’s so obvious. How did we miss it?

On everyday material — Apple TV, FireStick, DirecTV — the Samsung didn’t do a super great job of upscaling the material — meaning it didn’t make us miss the Panasonic as much — but it looks decent enough and after you play with the color controls enough, you can get a somewhat less color-saturated picture. But we’re nitpicking.

The only problem we had with this TV was a rather big one. The TV doesn’t have many attachments directly into the set itself. You’ll plug what the company calls a “One Connect” cable into the back of the TV and the other end of the four-foot cable contains all of your HDMI connections. It’s a neat idea and, in a sense, could future proof  your purchase somewhat.

But the “One Connect” cable didn’t work for us. Source material would blink incessantly while watching it. The 4K DVD player worked exactly once (remember that X-Men scene?) and that was for five minutes. We got a new “One Connect” box and the problems didn’t go away, which led us to believe it may’ve been the display itself.

So the bottom line is this: the KS8000 is a very good TV, and it’s selling now as low as $1,300. We’ve read about some issues with the “One Connect,” but we don’t believe it’s a big enough deal to avoid the TV. And if you’ve not seen 4K, get this and prepare to have your mind blown.

Ford Fusion Energi is stylish

2017 Ford Fusion

With the number of hybrid options growing yearly, it’s hard to choose the right car. Do you go straight electric, plug in or gas/hybrid combo? Depends on how green you want to go and what your size need are.
I’d like to suggest the Ford Fusion Hybrid Energi. It’s stylish, roomy and gives you a bit of all electric vehicle as well.
The Fusion Energi looks exactly like its gas sibling so you have to look at at the cars badging. It is .2 inches lower than a regular Fusion and has a smaller truck because of the batteries. The fuel tank is two gallons smaller as well. Thee is a door for the plug-in cable.
The Fusion is a striking car, designed alongside an Aston Martin when for owned that company. The interior is one of Ford’s best with seating for five – and that’s comfortable seating for five. The dash is very modern, accommodating a large touch screen for many of the car’s functions. The Titanium version has very firm, but comfortable front seats that fit snuggly. The driver gets a 10 way adjustable power seats with two memory settings. The passenger has to live without the memory settings.
Let’s get to the engine. The Energi gets a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder coupled with an electric motor powered by lithium ion batteries. You can plug the car into a regular 120v outlet (7.0 hours to charge) or a special 220v outlet for faster charging (2.5 hours). The 35 kw engine can power the car for about 20 miles at speeds up to 85 miles per hour.
The four-cylinder isn’t a slouch. Combined with the electric output you get 141 horsepower. That’s not quite enough for a near 4,000 pound car but it gets the job done. It delivers an impressive 41 miles per gallon overall. Nice. The car has no problem obtaining highway speeds, albeit a bit slower than most gas cars but on par with hybrids of its size. Noise is suppressed fairly well but engine noise under hard acceleration can be harsh.
The Fusion Energi delivers a smooth ride over most surfaces. I’’m impressed by the handling because that’s not what I expect from a hybrid. Steering is as good as on any Fusion but you will have to get adjusted to the brakes. Braking can be very abrupt, even when that’s not your attention. That’s about par for the course on any hybrid. It took me a day to get the feel for the right amount of pressure.

Interior has modern flare

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try recharging the electric motor. We don’t have outlets on the outside of the house and extension cords are not recommend. I did drive it in the EV mode and I was impressed with the whisper quiet operation. It’s almost eerie.
The Energi Titanium starts at $32,120. Standard equipment is generous, including auto climate control, push to start, SiriusXM, anti-lock brakes, LED lighting, 10-speaker Sony stereo system and leather seats which are heated.
Options on the Energi included blindspot warning, upgraded stereo with SYNC Connect, voice activated navigation system with traffic and travel link, adaptive cruise and heated steering wheel.
My test car topped out at about $38,000. There is an SE version which starts at more than two grand less but with less equipment of course. You got room to play so you can configure the Energi as you like. You could also opt for the regular Fusion Hybrid if the pug-in option doesn’t move you.
I do think you should give both a look. The Fusion thumbs its nose at gas stations and is hard to empty while looking chic in the process. Ford you’ve done nicely.

cross@alldaytech.com

 

Why AT&T’s DirecTV Now may change how you watch TV tomorrow

It’s been a pretty good week for AT&T.

Over the weekend, the company announced its proposed $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, adding a portfolio of media offerings to its portfolio, like HBO, TNT and Cartoon Network.

Tuesday morning, AT&T announced DirecTV Now, which will stream more than 100 live channels for $35 per month beginning in November.

Now what are you paying for cable/satellite right now? It’s probably more than $35, right?

DirecTV now will be available on all of your mobile devices and if you are an AT&T customer, the data used with the service won’t count against you. The channel lineup wasn’t announced but you can expect all the Time Warner stuff plus NBC/Universal, Fox, Disney and other familiar channels.

And this immediately becomes the best deal in streaming. PlayStation Vue has 100 channels for $54.99 and Sling TV will give you more than 25 channels for $20 (but some associated, um, difficulty with watching them sometimes). Two other competitors, Hulu and YouTube, are also planning streaming services, but have yet to announce pricing.

DirecT’s current streaming service is very good and now its get HBO’s even better streaming service — and streaming know-how — on top of that. Company president Randall Stephenson said AT&T was able to keep the price low because it doesn’t have to negotiate content deals with Time Warner properties and it doesn’t have to worry about hardware costs, like satellites, with the deal.

Even more interesting? Stephenson said AT&T expects this to be the way the majority of its customers get TV within four years, forgoing DirecTV satellite service or traditional cable. And he said AT&T’s upcoming 5G cellular network could one day eliminate the need for cable.

The guess here is that DirecTV Now will hit Google’s Chomecast, Amazon’s FireStick and Apple TV as an app. And let’s say it does and you have Netflix plus this service and you can now kill HBO streaming. You can get a lot of what you need for less than $50.

TV, folks, is about to get a whole lot more interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

cross@alldaytech.com

Why Tiger Woods buying TaylorMade Golf could be a great idea

A new rumor is circulating that one of the greatest golfers who ever lived, Tiger Woods, is in talks to buy one of the world’s best golf companies, TaylorMade.

The story got legs Thursday when Golf Australia magazine editor Brendan James hit Twitter to say that Sir Eldrick will not only play TaylorMade in 2017, he was thinking of buying the company as part of a group of investors.

Then James was seconded by another leading golf voice, Rick Young, a past president of the Golf Journalist Association of Canada and now a writer who follows the equipment industry.

Adidas currently owns TaylorMade but has made no secret it’s looking to get out of the golf equipment business, which isn’t producing the types of profits it once did.

Adidas bought TaylorMade in 1997 when it was part of a French ski and boot manufacturer called Salomon. TaylorMade paid $1.4 billion for Salomon and eight years later, it bought Reebok for $3.8 billion. TaylorMade also bought two other golf brands, Ashworth ($73 million in 2008) and Adams ($70 million in 2012).

Adidas’ golf apparel sales are strong, up 22 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to a year ago. TaylorMade’s golf business was up 6 percent but its overall golf brand, including TaylorMade, Adams and Ashworth, was down 1 percent.

Nike recently announced it was going to stop making golf equipment and continue with its apparel business, which is thriving. Woods is among Nike’s biggest pitchmen, playing swoosh equipment and wearing its gear.

Earlier this week, the world’s currently No. 1 ranked golfer Jason Day signed a seven-figure deal to wear Nike gear.

Nike has already kind of presented Woods’ “TW” line of apparel and shoes in a similar way to Michael Jordan’s Brand Jordan in basketball gear. Jordan’s stuff is Nike, but it has its own logo and branding experience.

Woods having his own official arm of Nike could make a lot of sense, and with his good buddy Day now in the fold, he would have a marketable star as well. And Day already plays TaylorMade clubs and plans to continue.

Woods — whether or not he did it under Nike or on his own — would also add huge star power to TaylorMade, too.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall into full effect; how to get a replacement or a swap out

Earlier this week, Samsung responded to its mounting Galaxy Note 7 problems by announcing a software fix that would limit the sleek new phone from charging past 60 percent.

The software update was issued for people outside the U.S. who ignoring an initial recall notice about the phone, which a small number of users reported was exploding and bursting into flames.

There was an placed on the front page of a large South Korean newspaper, the Seoul Shinmum, which read: “It is a measure to put consumer safety first but we apologize for causing inconvenience.”

The update for South Korean users will start Sept. 20, it said.

 Meanwhile, in the U.S., federal consumer safety regulators formally recalled more than 1 million of the Samsung devices Thursday.
After getting 92 reports of batteries overheating from U.S. consumers, including 55 reports of property damage, Samsung said it would stop selling the Note 7 in the U.S. on Sept. 2.
Some U.S. airlines and transits systems began to ask passengers not to use the Note 7 on rides and flights, due to the potential hazard. And following Thursday’s recall, the FAA said Note 7 users must power down their devices on flights and must protect from having the phone turned on accidentally.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said U.S. consumers can begin swapping their current Note 7 for new ones on Sept. 21. CPSC chairman Elliot Kaye urged all customers to take advantage of the recall.
In its recall notice, the CPSC said “consumers should immediately stop using and power down the recalled Galaxy Note7 devices.”
Customers can get a free replacement from Samsung or their wireless carrier or retail outlet next week. They can also request a different phone.

Want a jet black iPhone 7 or any iPhone 7 Plus? Better order online; Apple Store supplies will be low

According to TechCrunch, Apple has released a statement saying that customers can expect limited quantities of iPhone 7 in Apple Stores when the phones go on sale Friday morning. And the iPhone 7 in the new jet black color is completely sold out, as are all colors of iPhone 7 Plus.

With news that Sprint and T-Mobile have seen records during the pre-sale period, it seems that customers are buying up the multiple improvements in iPhone 7 in droves and are not as concerned as some of us media folks were that Apple did not deliver the complete redesign that many of us wanted.

Incidentally, ordering a standard black iPhone 7 (32 gb Verizon version) on Apple’s website Thursday morning yielded a home delivery between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4. Ordering the same color in the Plus yielded a 2-3 week delivery zone.

Below is Apple’s statement.

 

We couldn’t be happier with the initial response to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and we are looking forward to beginning sales through our retail stores and partners around the world.
Beginning Friday, limited quantities of iPhone 7 in silver, gold, rose gold, and black will be available for walk-in customers at Apple retail stores. During the online pre-order period, initial quantities of iPhone 7 Plus in all finishes and iPhone 7 in jet black sold out and will not be available for walk-in customers. Availability at partner locations for all finishes may vary and we recommend checking directly with them.
Customers can continue to order all models in all colors on apple.com. We sincerely appreciate our customers’ patience as we work hard to get the new iPhone into the hands of everyone who wants one as quickly as possible.

Special effects in Apple’s new iOS 10 not working? Here’s how to fix them

Yesterday, Apple released its much anticipated iOS 10 software for its users. The software will come standard in the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which will hit stores Friday. But users of some older iPhones and iPads can take advantage of a series of software-based improvements that will make their older devices more useful.

Of course, some users had issues with the software causing their hardware to crash Tuesday, though by Tuesday evening Apple seemed to have that under control.

But one other problem some users appear to be having is that they are unable to use the new special effects suite in iMessage that allows users to send flying balloons, use “invisible ink” and other fun little tricks.

Good news? It’s a simple fix.

The problem is the iPhone’s “Reduce Motion” setting is togged on. Because these are, well, motion effects, you need to turn it off to get them work.

How to do that? Go to Settings, then General, then Accessibility and then Reduce Motion. Slide it off and you can send all manner of special effect texts to all of your iMessage friends.

Enjoy.