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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aetna to offer Apple Watch free to employees, discounted to customers and launch new health-oriented apps

Insurance provider Aetna is planning to use the Apple Watch as part of a major health push later this year.

Beginning later this fall, Aetna will provide free Apple Watches to select large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season and plans to subsidize what it calls a “significant” portion of the cost and offering monthly payroll deductions to help cover the remaining costs.

It did not announce how much of the cost of the watch it would cover. The Apple Watch starts at $269 and runs to well over $1,000 for standard models.

The company will also offer free watches to its 50,000 employees who participate in a wellness program.

“We are incredibly excited to use iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to create simple, intuitive and personalized technology solutions that will transform the health and wellness experience for our members,” said Mark Bertolini, Aetna Chairman and CEO. “This is only the beginning – we look forward to using these tools to improve health outcomes and help more people achieve more healthy days.”

To go along with its hardware push, Aetna plans to introduce several new health initiatives that will be exclusive to Apple’s iOS software for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. The software should debut in early 2017 and will include:

 

  • Care management and wellness, to help guide consumers through health events like a new diagnosis or prescription medication with user-driven support from nurses and people with similar conditions.
  • Medication adherence, to help consumers remember to take their medications, easily order refills and connect with their doctor if they need a different treatment through their Apple Watch or iPhone.
  • Integration with Apple Wallet, allowing consumers to check their deductible and pay a bill.
  • Personalized health plan on-boarding, information, messaging and decision support to help Aetna members understand and make the most of their benefits.

“We are thrilled that Aetna will be helping their members and employees take greater control of their health using Apple Watch,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Aetna’s new initiatives will be a powerful force toward creating better customer experiences in health care, and we look forward to working with Aetna to make them successful.”

 

 

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

Samsung 4K player delivers the goods to high-def TVs

After spending a few months with a Samsung 4K disc player I have come to the conclusion that blu-ray is no longer enough.
There, I said it. Yes, folks, watching 4K movies is a much more immersive experience than watching my favorite films on Blu-ray. No there isn’t a lot of content, but what’s out there is enough to say it’s time for an upgrade.
The player is the Samsung UBD-K85009, the first to be offered in the United States. It’s debatable whether it’s actually the first 4K player, however. Panasonic sold a unit in Japan last year which was far more expensive but wasn’t available anywhere else. The Samsung unit has been selling throughout the world since late March or early April.

 

The UBD-K8500 comes with a remote, batteries for the remote and an instruction booklet. I have to say I liked the way it was packed in the box. I kept the box just in case I move. The set up is fairly easy. It has Samsung’s Smart Hub so it must connected to an wi-fi network in order to use those functions.

Samsung 4K Blu-ray player
Samsung 4K Blu-ray player

The unit does not have analog connections so you have to supply your own HDMI and toslink cord. As well as the new 4K discs, the unit plays Blue-ray, 3-d Blu-ray, DVD, CD and CD-R. It decodes stereo, Dolby DTS, TrueHD, Master DTS sound formats. It will also play Dolby ATMOS encoded discs if you have a receiver that can be switched to bitstream and has that program.
The best feature of the unit is HDR, or High Dynamic Range. All those new pixels on your 4K TV screen (3840 x 2860) are great, but it’s what can be done with them that is more interesting. HDR allows those pixels to expand the color range. Reds pop, blues sooth and the detail and varying range of color is astonishing. New life is breathed into the depth and spectrum of how color can be displayed.
Let me make this point. All 4K TVs, especially those in the early stages of 4K (also known as Ultra High Definition) were made with HDR. These units can upscale things to near 4K quality but can’t display the complete color range without HDR. Sometimes they are referred to as “super high def.” Check for HDR on the brand you have.
My Samsung UHD40-6700 TV doesn’t have HDR, but it was built with some of the hardware so the UBD-K8500 will upscale it to just short of true 4K. The TV also upscales as well. I didn’t think I would be able to tell the difference between Blu-ray and 4K, but, boy, was I was I wrong. I watched the Ultra High Def version of “Star Trek: Into The Darkness” and was blown away. The opening scenes with Captain Kirk and Bones running through a red forest with stark white aliens dressed in yellow running after them was simply amazing. The difference between the 4K and Blu-ray (included with the 4K disc) was jaw-dropping. There is a later scene where Bones and a scientist are on a planet trying to disarm a torpedo that will simply make you shake your head. It’s that lifelike.
The rest of the movie benefited from deeper blacks and crisper images. I wanted to see how the player did on something that wasn’t action oriented so I watched Will Smith’s “Concussion.” The picture was crisp and life-like, which I think enhanced Smith’s Oscar-worthy performance. Great movie.
“Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” also benefited. The 4K ultimate version wasn’t nearly as dark and grainy as it appeared in theaters. Wonder Woman’s costume looked brighter and Superman’s under roo was more vivid. (The added extra 30 minutes answered nearly every question there was about this film which was also good).
There is not a plethora of material to watch or buy, but what is out there is growing by the month. Don’t look for Marvel or other Disney titles because parent company Disney isn’t releasing anything on 4K yet. That’s a dumb move considering just about every movie is shot in 4K and HDR. Paramount, Warner Bros. and Sony has, as well as other studios.
The Samsung player is a good investment if you are spending a lot on your TV. Yes, you can stream 4K from Netflix, YouTube and a few other places (which this unit also does), but that is a compressed signal. A 4K disc doesn’t have internet constraints so you’re getting the Full Monty.
The Samsung UBD-K8500 was originally priced at $499.99, but hit stores at $399.99. You can now find it as little as $319.99.
Samsung isn’t along anymore. Panasonic is releasing a $700 player that will also play high-res music files. Philips will also have a 4K player in the $400 range. Microsoft’s X-Box update will play 4K and so will Sony’s Playstation 4.5. Curiously, that will be the first Sony anything that will play 4K-Blu-ray.
You can wait to see how the 4K things shake out. There are competing versions of HDR (I think the Samsung plays both) but I don’t see a loser. One version may become more popular but the end results are the same. Why wait. If you have splurged on a big-panel 4K TV you need to push it’s limits. I don’t see 4K discs going the way of 3-D. You don’t need special glasses, just a pair of eyes that can’t wait to be thrilled. I think the UBD-K8500 is the perfect place to start.
cross@alldaytech.com.

 

More online shopping consumers using smartphones than personal computers study shows

Captain America: Civil War proves Marvel really, really knows how to make a big comic book movie

By their nature, comic book movies are not supposed to be candidates to be epic, memorable films. They are meant to be in the toy and candy aisle of the movie theater supermarket, instantly filling or instantly fun, but ultimately something you put down when it’s time to get serious about nourishing your mind or serious about nourishing your body.

capOnly “Captain America: Civil War,” the year’s first satisfying “big” super hero film, succeeds as a melodrama; succeeds as major, big, over-the-top action movie; succeeds in setting up Marvel’s next wave of films in ways DC could only have hoped for — and,
ultimately, succeeds as the best superhero movie ever made, and maybe just maybe, one of the top 10 films of the year.

It’s really that good.

Marvel has finally found the right mix of action, acting, drama and combined them with a more believable plot this time. It’s not the megalomaniac trying to take over the world (a la Ultron) or trying to invade it (a la Loki in Avengers I). It does give fans a taste of the hero v. hero action they seem to long for, in ways that Batman Vs. Superman failed to deliver.

Marvel also makes certain to show the consequences of our heroes actions and show their remorse for them, and in as realistic terms as possible for “enhanced humans,” set up real life consequences and ultimately rules.

The world’s governments feel the Avengers are abusing their power and hurting innocents. They want to control when and who the Avengers fight. A group led by Iron Man decides to capitulate. A group led by Captain America does not.

Ultimately, the teams face off in an abandoned airplane hanger in the movie’s longest and best action sequence. Seeing Ant Man turn into Giant Man is, well, awesome.

Throughout the film, the action sequences are phenomenal and even though I felt like I was watching more of an Iron Man movie that a Cap movie at times — Robert Downey Jr is just that good — this film just shines. The plot builds, the tension grows and then Chadwick Boseman comes crashing through every scene as Black Panther with a presence and panache that is just begging for a Black Panther movie. But then, so does the new teen-age Peter Parker.

Spider Man’s scenes with Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark are among the best of the movie and provide, in a very serious toned film, a bit of levity among the action. Spider Man’s familiar rambling-while-fighting is also welcome and his boy-like ambivalence and surprise at his co-horts abilities was fun to watch.

And did I say the acting was very believable? At least for a movie about a bunch of people who can fly, phase through solid objects, manipulate living energy and wear 500-pound iron suits that fit like tights and can levitate and project energy blasts.

But, by now you want to know the plot. I really don’t want to give too much away, but suffice to say it’s built around a brilliantly schemed plan to divide the Avengers and get them to fight one another, brought about from events from past films, and it also involves Captain America’s long lost buddy, Bucky Brooks, a la Winter Soldier, and Cap’s seemingly never-ending battle to save his 100-year-old bud (if you don’t get the reference, just see the film).

The film does leave us with some questions, especially around Captain America’s clean-cut future, and yes, it does include not one, but two post-credit scenes, so be sure to stick around.

To not spoil them, I’ll say this: if you don’t get the point that Marvel is pointing to its future with Civil War, these will drive that point home.

And if this is Marvel’s future, we won’t be missing Cap and Iron Man and Thor too much when, and if, they’re gone.

The bullpen is stacked. And waiting.

 

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.

cross@alldayteh.com