Archive for June, 2008

Inside the 2009 Lincoln MKS

Posted in: General, Lincoln
30 Jun 2008

With rising fuel costs and uncertain economic times looming, even luxury buyers are taking a more conservative approach to shopping. With that in mind, Lincoln will roll out a new luxury sedan this summer that combines some high-end features with a surprisingly moderate pricetag.

The 2009 Lincoln MKS, which will hit showrooms this summer, starts at around $38,000. That price tag is meant to help attract first-time luxury buyers, and Lincoln is unveiling some attractive amenities to help first-timers plunge into the luxury experience.

Outwardly, the car boasts the clean, classic lines you’d expect from a Lincoln. The distinctive double-wing grille was inspired by the 1941 Lincoln Contintental, and that’s the starting point for an elegantly designed body that comes in nine colors, from the sedate, executive-feeling Tuxedo Black Metallic to the much more energized, ready-for-the-nightlife Sangria Red Metallic.

Inside, the cabin is a terrific combination of business class and high-tech innovation. The stylish two-tone interior has such luxury touches as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood trim and leather seats with the heated/cooling features we’ve come to expect. They’ve super-sized the glove box and given some thought to cupholder design – there’s even a fold-down console in the back to give rear-seat passengers access to cupholders of their own.

But beyond the design of the interior, it is the high-tech touches that make this car truly stand out. Lincoln has pumped a lot of life into this car, and it shows with such features as SYNC – a voice-activated in-car systm that lets you access your cell phone and digital media player; Adaptive Cruise Control, which not only sets the car’s speed but automatically adjusts to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you; automatic moisture-activated windshield wipers; a rearview camera system and a forward sensing system, which together will pretty much eliminate any parking problem you might run into – except finding an actual parking space.

As a clincher for luxury-minded consumers who are also watching their checkbook, Lincoln has borrowed the powertrain from its MKX, which was named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for 2007. The aluminim block and lightweight four-valve heads ensure smooth operations, even at high RPMs, and it delivers the power of a V8 with the efficiency of a V6.

Lincoln has already reported a huge response to this sedan, with nearly 9,000 pre-order already placed. Find out more about it here.

Study: New Cars Are Losing Their Luster

27 Jun 2008

Is that new car smell losing its thrill? Could be, according to a new survey released by J.D Power and Associates.

The 2008 APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout) Study shows that drivers are less thrilled with their new car purchases than they were a year ago. But it isn’t necessarily the cars themselves that are to blame. Instead, drivers point to prices at the pump, which have gone up 27 percent since last year’s survey.

“The increased cost of filling their vehicles … leads to a greater level of dissatisfaction with fuel economy than in the past,” notes David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Manufacturers that deliver more fuel-efficient vehicles…stand a better chance of delighting their customers.”

And there definitely were some delights to be found. Although Honda fared the best, capturing the highest level of satisfaction in three categories, luxury marque Porsche held its own with top ratings in two categories. It took home the APEAL award for its Cayman in the “Compact Premium Sporty Car” category and for the Cayenne in the “Compact Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV)” division.

Jaguar also fared well, earning a perfect score in “Overall Performance and Design.”

Luxury models that got the thumbs-up from satisfied drivers were the Lexus IS 250/IS 350/IS-F (Entry Premium Car); the BMW 5 Series (Midsize Premium Car) and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (Large Premium Car).

Joining the Porsche Cayenne in the Premium MAV category was Land Rover‘s Range Rover, which topped the list for Large Premium MAVs.

The survey goes hand-in-hand with J.D. Powers and Associates’ Initial Quality Study, which was released about three weeks ago and focuses on problems experienced by new owners during the first 90 days of ownership. To see how your favorite auto manufacturer fared, click here.





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Land Rover’s New Concept a Winner

26 Jun 2008

Land Rover’s latest brainchild hasn’t hit the production line yet – but it’s already a hit.

The South East Automotive Media Organization named Land Rover’s LRX Concept the 2008 North American Concept Truck of the Year on Tuesday, citing its great looks and new technology as major factors. The award is based on design, style, materials, technology, market viability and market responsiveness.

Although it’s still technically an SUV, the sleekly designed Land Rover LRX Concept incorporates some rather innovative options into its design. It’s a turbo diesel hybrid vehicle – the first of its kind – which means it can get over 50 miles to the gallon and can run on bio-diesel. With just three doors, it is smaller and lighter than the Land Rovers on the road tody, and it also has an “ECO” mode to optimize fuel economy.

Inside, the interiors are as luxurious as ever, but it’s designed to not only look good, but to reduce the weight of the LRX as well. Instead of glass in the roof and side windows, designers used polycarbonate – which is 40 percent lighter than glass and blocks virtually all UV light. At the same time, Land Rover used special nanotechnology within the polycarbonate to reduce infra-red transmission, which helps the interior keep its cool.

With an eye toward sustainability, the LRX uses vegetable-tanned leather, aluminum (good both for reducing weight and for recycling) and carpeting made from sustainable sources. The fine suede on the door inserts and headliners is actually made from recycled plastic bottles and fibers. And the creature comforts aim to please, with touches like an iPod docking station, a cool box (no more bulky coolers in the car!) and even a bottle chiller.

So, finally, there’s a Land Rover that is as good for the environment as it is good-looking. In fact, the only problem I could see with this vehicle is that it’s not on the road yet. Here’s hoping that Land Rover will make that happen long before the LRX’s previously anticipated 2011-ish debut…

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Inside the Infiniti FX50

Posted in: General, Infiniti
16 Jun 2008

In just over a week – on June 24 – Infiniti will begin selling its latest incarnation of the FX, its luxury crossover SUV. For everyone who has resisted owning/driving an SUV in order to avoid the stigma of being a minivan mom, it just might be time to rethink that decision.

In an effort to continue putting the “sport” in “sports utility vehicle,” Infiniti has put technology to work both inside and out on this beautifully designed machine. The 2009 lineup includes three models – the FX35 RWD ($40,950), the FX35 AWD ($42,350) and, at the top of the line, the FX50 AWD ($56,700). For the new year, the FX has been given a lower nose and sleeker profile, and for those seeking the perfect marriage of style, substance and performance, the FX50 is an absolute dream to drive.

Nice touches – such as paddle shifters on the steering column – definitely add to the sporty appeal, while an impressive list of safety features and high-tech driving aids make it a smart choice for the safety-minded.

For those who think “safety first,” let’s go there: The new FX is the first vehicle to roll out a new safety technology called Distance Control Assist, or DCA, which is designed to make driving in heavy traffic a little bit easier. DCA intuitively releases the throttle and applies the brakes to keep you a safe distance from the car in front of you. Also new to the industry is the FX’s Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA), which provides automatic emergency braking and a forward collision warning . And just to make sure you keep it between the lines, the car has a Lane Departure Warning and an automated Lane Departure Prevention system.

So, in case you’re wondering – yes, you can buy this car and put a bumper sticker on it that reads, “My car is smarter than your honor student.”

Techno-features aside, the comfort and styling of the Infiniti offer an impressive ride. The dash is an eye-catching combination of wood and leather that serves as the perfect display panel for the interior features. Of those features, one of the most useful is the Around View Monitor, which was a hit for Infiniti on its EX models and now works just as well here. It makes parking a breeze, and the only thing that could make it any easier would be a personal valet.

If you’re picking the kids up from soccer practice, you’ll also appreciate the automatic air recirculation feature, which switches the air source when it detects odors in the car and gives you a fresh supply. (Where was this feature when I was growing up and had to go on long car trips with my brothers?!)

Appointments such as an 11-speaker Bose audio system and great navigational features round out the package. The sporty cockpit is designed to be intuitive, driver-friendly and has the comfort you’d expect from a luxury car .

The beauty of the FX50 is that it has all the attributes you need in an SUV without driving or feeling like one. It has a 390 horsepower 5.0 liter V8 (the FX35s have a 303 horsepower 3.5 liter V6) and a seven-speed automatic transmission. With that kind of action under the hood, this is the SUV that just might make them the next cool car.

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Let Your Lambo Play Dress-Up

Posted in: General, Lamborghini
14 Jun 2008

As we all know, accessorizing is the one thing that separates women from the animals. And from men.

However, there’s no reason to limit your accessorizing to your shoes, handbags and jewelry – there are many great ways to dress up your car as well. And if you happen to have a Lamborghini Gallardo in the garage, you’re in luck.

STRUT, the California-based luxury aftermarket auto accessorizer, has added a new collection of car jewelry to its offering. This time around, they’re offering carbon fiber and stainless steel appointments to let you customize your Lambo. Although they don’t have anything to offer first-year Gallardos, STRUT’s new collection includes two grilles with carbon fiber surrounds and stainless steel diamond-woven mesh bearing the STRUT shield for Gallardos built between 2004 and 2008. They also have matching side, rear hood, rear intake and bumper vents to add to the personal touches.

The result of these additions – besides making it a bit more personal – are a meaner profile and a distinctively different look to your Lambo. (Beats the heck out of a customized antenna ball or a bumper sticker!)

The Lamborghini Gallardo jewelry collection is $25,000 for the carbon fiber/stainless steel set and $35,000 for the limited edition titanium collection.

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What Kind of Car Are You Attracted To?

13 Jun 2008

Hot on the heels of a survey that indicates women find hybrids sexier than hotrods (See What’s Sexier – A Porsche or a Prius? ), has released a new look at what kind of women are attracted to certain cars. Or, more specifically, the men who drive those cars.

Teaming up with dating expert DeAnna Lorraine, they’re released a new look at how women react to the cars men drive.

“A man’s car reveals more about his personality and values, and may determine a woman’s attraction toward him,” Lorraine says. “Women pay attention to more than just a man’s personal looks.”

Based on the five most popular cars being leased by men, Lorraine created the following profiles:

Chevy Suburban : The men at the wheel of this car like travel, adventure and spending time with friends and family. Therefore, they tend to attract women who are family-oriented, down to earth and easygoing.

Mercedes S-Class : These guys are classy, successful and stylish – Lorraine refers to them as “Sugar Daddies.” Consequently, she believes these vehicles attract sophisticated women in their late 30s and 40s who enjoy being taken care of.

Ford F-150 : OK, please step away from the gun rack and don’t shoot the messenger here. Lorraine says that the men driving these trucks tend to be insecure and overcompensate on a tough, macho level. And the little woman on the seat next to them? They’re looking for someone to protect them.

Toyota Camry : These cars attract drivers who Lorraine called “solid, reliable and committed” – and the women they attract tend to be sweet, level-headed, uncomplicated and undemanding.

Last but not least, of course, is the Corvette . Lorraine says these drivers are “conservative but trying to satisfy a mid-life crisis by displaying their wild side through their car.” Lucky for them, they attract “hot, bad girls that are impulsive, wild and rebellious.”

I’d be interested to see her take on the women who drive these cars – and the kind of men they attract. I’m guessing it would go something like this:

Chevy Suburban : Has more kids than she has hands, and consequently spends much of her time transporting them to and from soccer/guitar/baseball practice. Secretly longs for a two-seater with a really good stereo system and a man who’s had a vasectomy.

Mercedes S-Class : This woman is career-driven and enjoys the finer things in life. She is looking for a man who (a) is not threatened by her success and (b) does not consider “moving back home with mother” a viable retirement plan.

Ford F150 : Not afraid of hard work, this little lady loves being in the driver’s seat. She wants a man who knows when it’s time to sit down, shut up, pop open a beer and ride shotgun.

Toyota Camry : Here’s good news for all the accountants out there! This car is piloted by a no-nonsense woman who craves a good value and longevity. The man who wins her heart will be loyal, consistent … and probably about as exciting as a box of hammers.

Corvette : The woman at the wheel of this car thinks that mid-life crises are for sissies, and she doesn’t have the time or patience to listen to her man whine about losing his hair. She wants to get where she’s going fast, and wants to look good getting there. In fact, she would probably rather race most men than date them. And she would probably win.

Serengeti’s Shades of Summer

Posted in: General, Hi-end eyewear
12 Jun 2008

The right car requires the right pair of sunglasses to go with it, and at the moment I’ve grown incredibly fond of the new Maestrale by Serengeti.

Sporty enough to be worn for vigorous summer activities, but stylish enough to look and feel right at home in your favorite automobile, the Maestrale is one pair of shades that encourage you to see the world through rose-colored glasses. The shatter-resistant PolarMax lenses provide full sun protection from top to bottom and from side to side, so you can’t beat them for those afternoons spent cruising in a convertible with the top down.

The tortoise shell frames let you dress them up or dress them down, which is a great thing because once you’ve put them on your face, you’re going to want to keep them there. And if you absolutely have to have everything in basic black, they also come in Satin Black with black lenses. Retail price is only $160, which leaves you several pennies to put more petro in your tank.

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Texas Exhibit Showcases Art of the Auto

11 Jun 2008

Many eyes are on Abilene, Texas this week as Yisrayl Hawkins, leader of the House of Yahweh cult, has declared June 12 as Doomsday.

(Of course, the fact that there are no “End of the World” sales going on at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s immediately makes this information seem questionable.)

End time prophecies aside, there definitely will be something big happening in Abilene tomorrow – but it’s a grand opening, not a big finish.

June 12 marks the opening of a new exhibition from the Automotive Fine Arts Society at The Grace Museum in Abilene. And for anyone who loves cars, this exhibit is definitely worth the drive.

It’s the first time the AFAS has presented a museum exhibit, and the national organization has called on artists from all different mediums to make it a breath-taking experience for those who like to ooh and aah over all things automotive. Zero to 60 includes paintings and sculptures, pen-and-ink drawings, wood carvings and more. (Pictured is “Sex in the City” by Ken Eberts.)

“The paintings and sculptures of the AFAS relate their common love affair with the automobile and its history,” said Grace Museum curator Judy Deaton. She said the cars captured by the artists range from classics to current designs; from street vehicles to race cars.

“The subject may be the same but the results vary from the photorealism to energetic abstractions and everything in between,” Deaton says. “Jags, coups, convertibles, woodies, roadsters, Duesebergs, dragsters and Vettes – the romance of the road is in excellent and very talented hands.”

AFAS regularly exhibits its members talents at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, but this marks the first time that many of these artists have been assembled in a non-automotive setting.

So if you’re headed to Abilene tomorrow to catch the End of the World, make sure you swing by The Grace Museum first. And if you can’t make it tomorrow, you have until September 7. (Well, not according to Yisrayl, but I’m going out on a limb and guessing you’re OK on time.)

The Grace Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and until 8 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, visit their web site or call 325-673-4587.

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Morrissette, Mercedes Get Green

10 Jun 2008

Most of us best recall Alanis Morrissette as the gal who made ex-boyfriends around the world squirm uncomfortably whenever her songs came on the air. But it’s been 13 years since she gave us “You Oughta Know,” and today Alanis is singing a different tune.

No longer the angry young woman, today she is an environmentally minded artist and has gone from being green with envy to simply being green. And for her latest video, she wants to take audiences along for the ride.

To that end, she has partnered with Mercedes-Benz, showcasing their E320 BlueTEC in her latest video, “Underneath.” The first single from her new album, Flavors of Entanglement, the video revolves around Morrissette and her concern for the environment. It shows her wearing a “Save the Earth” T-shirt at a Los Angeles bus stop and then distributing fliers about the environment – presumably on recycled paper.

Mercedes gets in the act when the E320 BlueTEC passes, and she salutes the driver for their environmentally aware choice. So what made the BlueTEC her eco-friendly car of choice?

First off, it uses a state-of-the-art engine and exhaust technology, which produces the cleanest diesels available. That allows the V6 to provide the power of a V8 with the fuel consumption of a four-cylinder compact. Neat trick, huh?

Beyond the immediate benefit of fuel efficiency, the long-term benefit includes significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions. The Benz E320 BlueTEC was impressive enough to be named the 2007 World Green Car by automotive journalists – and clearly that’s good enough for Alanis.

In case the sedan isn’t your style, this fall Mercedes will roll out a trio of SUVs – the ML320 BlueTEC, the larger GL320 BlueTEC and the less-easy-to-define-as-a-SUV R320 BlueTEC. So if you want to help Alanis save the planet, check out these cars. If not, don’t worry – I won’t say anything. We’ve all seen how she can be when she’s mad…

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Building a Better Bentley

Posted in: Bentley, General
09 Jun 2008

Not that anyone was complaining about the luxury of its current and/or previous models, but now Bentley has announced plans for a new and improved car.

The British automaker has announced that, beginning in 2009, the Flying Spur lineup will be joined by its most powerful four-door to date – the Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed. Combining the cabin comforts of the Flying Spur with the driving performance of the highly acclaimed Contintental GT Speed, this latest addition is a 12-cylinder powerhouse with 600 horsepower that will top out at around 200 miles an hour, besting the Flying Spur’s top number of 195. It will also outperform the standard Spur in the 0-60 showdown, hitting the mark in 4.5 seconds, which shaves .4 seconds off the standard Flying Spur’s 0-60 performance. (Good to know if you’re in a hurry.)

Bentley has lowered the ride height, which will help the car hit its full velocity potential on the open road, and the Speed also boasts a reworked chassis that provides tauter handling and better steering response. With so many racing elements incorporated, designers also gave the car improved agility and body control … and then added thicker anti-roll bars to both the front and back of the car. Not that you’ll need them, of course – but it’s good to know they’re there.

As expected, this car isn’t designed just for superior performance, but for ultimate style and elegance as well. It has the familiar Bentley curves and styling cues, but subtle design shifts make the Flying Spur Speed stand out on the road. The dark-tinted radiator and air intake grilles are designed to emphasize the performance offered by this beauty, and it also sports wide exhaust pipes and unique multi-spoke alloy wheels – which are available either in bright silver or darkened tungsten. Bentley has also supersized the 19-inch tires offered on the Spur to 20-inch Pirelli P-Zeroes.

Like the rest of the car, the Speed’s interior also shows a darker side of Bentley, but it works exceptionally well. With expected but well-executed touches such as the gear lever in knurled chrome and hide, it is as beautiful as anything Bentley has ever put on the road. Carrying out its dark side, even the engine cover is black.

Around town, you’ll be getting about 10 miles to the gallon, although on the highway you can expect to squeeze out around 17 mpg.

Bentley’s official word on the Flying Spur Speed, according to Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn from their Board of Engineering, is that it “advances its Bentley performance credentials while delivering outstanding refinement and comfort through our unique application of advanced technology and traditional craftsmanship.”

Translation? This car has the performance power to blow other cars off the road…and the stylng elegance to knock your socks off in the process.

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