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.

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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Jaguar’s XJ is world class luxury sedan

2013 Jaguar XJ sedan

You’ve probably heard that owing certain cars puts you in the lap of luxury. I believe you can successfully make the argument that the Jaguar XJ is luxury’s lap itself.

It’s not a hard argument. Jaguar has always known how to make exquisite cars and this is one of the world’s best. Seriously. The design, execution and presentation of this comely beast is near perfect.

The exterior is really something. It scores a 9.8 on the gawk meter. Everywhere I stopped (and a few times in bumper to bumper traffic) I got asked “is that the new Jag?” Yes, it certainly is, I replied as I grinned ear to ear.

The sleek exterior is athletic, muscular and downright sexy.The most prominent feature is the chrome, mess grille. Jaguar has gotten rid of the leaping cat from the hood, which I miss, but it may not fit in with this new look. As a finishing touch, power vents have been added to each fender and they are nearly works of art. Each displays your car’s trim level if you have a supercharged, supersport or ultimate model.

Leather adorns dash, seats and doors

The XJ’s interior is simply stunning. Leather, wood and bits and pieces of metal adorn the cabin. Leather is applied to the dash as well as the seats, door panels and steering wheel (which is heated). The dash houses virtual gauges which are on a Thin Film Transistor display. It’s full color and exceptionally sharp. The readout can be switched to several different options which include kilometers and fuel economy.

The leather is ridiculously soft and is available in softgrain, semi-aniline and semi-aniline tipped. The interiors are available in 24 different themes, 12 leather colors and 10 different veneers. My car had walnut and a creme colored leather which was soothing as well as handsome. The seats were oooooh so comfortable but supportive. I believe they could be adjusted in 20 different ways and offered messages. At night, phosphorus blue halo lighting gives you the feeling you are sitting in your living room watching a movie. Yes, the Meridian stereo includes DVD playback and exceptionally spatial stereo sound.

This thing could look good all day but if the driving dynamics are worth a darn then what do you have? Not to worry. This Jaguar has it. If you want this to be a luxury cruiser then yes, it can be that – not like an old Buick – but a finely crafted automobile that kinda wafts over bumps and lumps with composure and control.

For more oomph, the eight-speed transmission has a dynamic setting which changes the shift points. Set the traction control to Trac and it allows the wheels to spin more freely. The virtual gauges turn red to remind you of the sport mode.

With all those buttons pushed and switches flip, push the start/stop button, select drive on the gear selector which has rises from the console and you off on a spirited ride. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel add more fun to the party. This ZF transmission can shift very quickly. It takes 5.7 seconds for the 3.0-liter naturally aspirated engine to yank this car to 60 miles per hour. Not bad for what is essentially a family sedan.

In sport mode this car is quite delicious. The rear shocks continuously adjust to your type of driving. It digs into corners and sweeps around curves with attitude. If you want more sport there is a new XJR coming this fall or you can drop down a size to the XF (which will be in another post shortly).

The car’s amenities are a laundry list of what every luxury car should have: killer stereo by Meridian, sumptuous leather seats, full-roof moon roof, smart key, dual, or quad zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, burled walnut inlays, 12-inch color touch screen, rear camera, heated steering wheel, satellite radio, elegant analog clock, navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.2013_jaguar_xj_sedan_supercharged_rbdg_oem_1_500

The intro price to he XJ is $73,200. There are several packages and options that can take this car past $100,000. I’d say my test car was near the mid $80’s. Worth it? If I could stand at the top of Mt. Everest and yell yes I would. Since I can’t, I’ll simply type it – yes.

This is certainly one of the best affordable (very relative term) cars to buy. It’s handsome, built to perfection and drives like a dream. Now, where is that $100,000 bill?



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New Land Rover evokes a driver’s passion


Say Land Rover and most automatically think of the Range Rover, arguably the world’s most plush (and toughest) sport utility vehicle.

Would you think compact SUV? There is the LR3, but it’s kind of old-think and not very stylish.

Can’t say that about the new Evoque. It’s all new, in idea and execution.

Stylish? Very. Ever heard of Posh Spice? That’s Beckham’s wife Victoria. She was asked to lend a hand in the vehicle’s makeup. Not sure what she did, but The Evoque is certainly on the sexy side.

For those who cower at the fact a Land Rover would be more style than substance, don’t worry. The four-door and two-door models have virtually the same off-road system from its big sister Range Rover. That means there is very little terrain that this baby can’t handle. Yes, this is a Land Rover, no matter how stylish.

Let’s get back to the style. There’s nothing else on the road that looks like this. OK, there is some resemblance to the current Ford Explorer. Ford owned The Rover group at the time when the Evoque and the Explorer were created. The grilles are similar and there are some other styling cues, but the Evoque’s roofline dramatically slopes to the  rear, which gives it a youthful appearance.

Select your gear by turning a knob that rises from the console

Under the Evoque’s stylish bonnet is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 240 horsepower with 250 pounds-feet of torque. That engine is coupled to a six-speed transmission that works nearly flawlessly. The Evoque can get to 60 miles per hour in about 7.4 seconds which is somewhat of a handicap when competing with Mercedes, Audi and BMW vehicles in the same class. However, that engine and transmission help the Evoque achieve great gas mileage. Expect 18 mpg in the city and  28 on the highway. Not bad at all.

The interior is what you would expect from a luxury marque. The materials are exceptional and the styling has the British flair that screams aristocratic. There is a large touch screen to select most of the vehicle functions. Gears are selected by a rotary knob with pops up once the vehicle is started, like Jaguar.

The front seats are oh, so comfortable. The perforated leather seats are heated and cooled and feel more sports car oriented than SUV. I briefly sat in the rear. The two door Evoque isn’t as inviting as the four door version but two small people will fit, The storage area is small but I was told by a friend that does photography it was big enough for all of his equipment.

I suspect most will want to test drive the Evoque simply on looks and style. Once that test drive is complete the reason to buy will be very, very different. Those 240 horses give the Evoque and surprising kick on takeoff. Tap the accelerator and the Evoque springs to life. The exhaust note is wonderfully sporty as is the engine’s gurgle.

The Evoque’s road manners are polished. The ride is comfortable yet sporty. This thing is quite agile for an SUV. Moving through traffic is a breeze.

Not true. I got stopped a lot. Most had never seen an Evoque or wanted to know what it was. It scored a perfect 10 on the gawk meter. The lime green color drew the most attention.

The Evoque, like all Land Rovers, isn’t cheep. The $44,000 base price gives you everything you will need: abs, panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition, dual zone climate control, touch screen and 11-speaker stereo system.

If you want everything else, go for the Dynamic package which gives you $7,900 worth of options that include a 825 watt stereo upgrade, navigation system, surround camera system and blind spot monitoring.

The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque coupe appeals more to the senses than makes sense. No, it’s not suited for a small family, but that person looking for a lot of style as well as substance, certainly, go for this.

2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque










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Genesis R-Spec Sedan Is Special Indeed

Genesis R-Spec at Charleston Place hotel

Charleston, SC — My, how the fallen have become mighty. Hyundai’s also-ran status from the ‘90s has quickly turned into try to keep up with us in this century.

The company has turned out one success after another and isn’t slowing down. Even with new product in the pipeline it has had time to revise and refine offerings that are barely in mid-life status.

Yep, the Genesis — a luxury sedan that competes with cars far more expensive — has been tweaked. It’s also added a new model, the R-Spec, which adds revs and speed to a classy sedan.

There are now three Genesis Sedan models. There’s the base 3.8-liter V6 model that has three trim levels. There are two V8s: A 4.6 liter which is a carry-over from last year. The 5.0-liter has 429 horses and a revised suspension for a sportier feel.

All Genesis sedans get a slight facelift. The front grill and bumper are revised and the bumper gets new chrome treatment. The headlamps are more squinty with daytime running lights and LED accents. The outside mirrors are more elegant and have a motorized fold feature.

The rear is more square and elegant, looking very BMWish. The taillights are combination units and the rear bumper is stubbier with integrated dual exhaust tips.d Both 17-inch and 19-inch wheels are new as well.

It’s the R-Spec that got my attention. Hyundai has crafted a 5.0-liter engine that’s smooth and responsive, yet can return 16 city and 25 miles p

er gallon on the highway. Impressive for a 429 horsepower engine with 376 pounds-feet of torque. Hyundai achieves this in par

Spacious and luxurious interior is inviting

t by direct injection which it uses in all it’s engines. This beauty can scoot to 60 in 5.1 seconds, according to Hyundai.

I don’t doubt that claim. Riding around Charleston over hill and dale (and lots and lots of bridges) was exhilarating. A light tap of the gas and the car whisks off without much drama. The transmission slices through its eight (8) gears with precision and authority. The Shiftronic feature allows you pick your own gears. Kick downs seemed drama free and the cabin was absent of all noise.

Handling of the R-Spec is far much more aggressive than the 4.6 I also drove. It gets a lightweight 19 mm hollow-type rear stabilizer bar and higher front and rear spring rates. The shocks have been upgraded to Sachs ASDs that give a 25-30 percentage higher damping rate. This reduces body roll, increases stability, improves front and rear balance and allows faster turn-ins.

Does all that make this a sports car? Depends on who’s sport’s car you compare it with. I don’t think it’s quite an Audi or a BMW, but it’s more aggressive than the aging Lexus GS and ES sedans and maybe the Infiniti M sedan. It is certainly sporty on challenging roads. Steering, braking and handling never seem to come undone.

What this car has all over those is that it’s close enough in performance but nowhere near the price. The R-Spec cost $47,350. That includes destination and everything else. There’s no optional equipment. If the company has left out something major I didn’t notice.

People who buy the Genesis may first go after it for the bargain that it is but will quickly realize that Hyundai has got it right. It’s not just the price, it’s the performance. The Genesis sedan deserves its own second channel much like Acura and Lexus but the cost would be a lot for the company and would probably erase the price advantage it has over the competition.

That said, get one of these before the company realizes it can raise the price by thousands and still sell many them.


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Kia Optima Turbo Offers Value, Style

If Hyundai had its sights on Lexus and Mercedes for the nifty Sonata sedan, surely Kia was looking at Jaguar’s XF for the stunning Optima.

Yes, that Optima, a boring but competent sedan that was as affordable as it was serviceable.

Kia has injected a great deal of style into this reworked Optima. It is a looker. There is much Jaguar in the car. That gives it a far more elegant look than any other car in its price class. Even the interior has a more upscale look than its Hyundai sister. While not Audi, it has a taste of that brand (the guy who did the interior worked for Audi once). The center stack is angled toward the driver, much like a Saab. It’s wrapped in a leather-like material. The steering wheel, which houses duplicate controls for audio and telematics, is wrapped in real leather, as is the gear selector. The gauge cluster is simple and neatly executed.

The Optima is classified as a mid-sized car by the EPA and it does have great room for a family of five. If the three rear passengers are tall, there can be some problems. The car’s profile is that of a coupe so headroom is a bit under average. Hip and leg room is fine.

Under the hood of the SX is a 2.0-liter turbo charged engine. This jewel provides 274 horsepower with 264 pounds-feet of torque. That torque is available as low as 1700 rpm which gives you one heck of a rush when you press the accelerator. Zero to 60 times have been clocked as low as 6.6 seconds. That’s fast for a family sedan. What’s better is that this turbo will return 34 miles per gallon on the highway and 24 in the city. That’s as good as some smaller economy cars.

The Hyundai and Kia share a basic platform but Kia decided to make its version more sporty. My SX test car was endowed with some very athletic moves. It’s the sportiest of the Optima models (LX, EX and SX). That doesn’t make it handle like, say, a Jaguar or even a Mazda 6, but it will hold it’s own with other cars in its class. The ride is comfortable, but firm. You can approach sweeping curves aggressively, just don’t get cocky. The steering is a tad numb, but the four-wheel independent suspension does communicate some feel. I wish the suspension was tighter so the engine could really give the car a workout. As is, I’d say it is more than OK.

All Optimas come with much useful standard equipment but the SX gets stuff the others don’t – a firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels, Xeon headlights, LED taillights, leather and woven seats, high performance dampers, electric power steering, metal pedals and door sill plates and dual zone climate controls with rear air vents. Extra goodies include a technology package (backup camera, navigation system and upgraded stereo system) and a premium touring package that includes panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled front seats and driver seat memory.

That raised the $25,995 base price to $30,840.

Yes, a $30,000 Kia. The company has come a long way from its humble beginnings in this county. There are those who scoff at this price, but put away your knives and daggers. You still are getting a lot for this price. You can scale back and buy one of the lesser models for far less. If you choose this version you get the look and feel of something that could cost more. The lengthy warranty will keep you covered nearly the life of the car. That’s great because you may want to keep this car a long, long time.

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