Lincoln MKS: Leave the Parking to Us

Posted in: General, Lincoln

What’s the next best thing to valet parking? (Okay, limousine service is the correct answer, but it’s a trick question…)

lincoln-mks.JPGWhen you absolutely, positively have to do it yourself, at least now there is a better way to park. The 2010 Lincoln MKS sedan, which will become available in mid 2009, is one of two new Ford models that will be equipped with Active Park Assist. (For the record, it is way better than having someone in the passenger’s seat simply point out that you’re too close to the curb/car behind you/car in front of you.) The system uses ultrasonic sensors and Electric Power Assisted Steering to ease your car into a parallel parking spot – which means that you don’t even need to touch the wheel while it does its thing.

The MKS sedan and the new Lincoln MKT seven-passenger luxury crossover are the first two vehicles in Ford’s fleet to be equipped with such technology, although the company expects to fit nearly 90 percent of its vehicles with such a feature by 2012. (More on the MKT after it is unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.)

The driver-friendly parking technology, known as Electric Power Assisted Steering, or EPAS, sounds almost too good to be true: Press a button, and the ultrasonic sensors identify and measure the parking space. Once the system gives the thumbs-up, the driver can accept system assistance, at which point the steering system takes over and maneuvers the car into the space – hands-free. (The driver is still responsible for shifting the transmission and operating the gas and brakes.)

Allegedly, this cool new system does more than remove the stress of parallel parking – it also claims to improve fuel economy by up to 5 percent. But of course, what we’re most impressed with is the idea that we don’t have to wrestle our cars into those parallel spaces any more.

If only they could make doing laundry this easy!

Mercedes SLR Goes on Auction Thursday

slr.jpgIt’s no secret that I carry a torch for the Mercedes McLaren SLR Roadster – one look at the photo at the top of this blog is really all it takes to uncover that piece of information.  While it makes absolutely no sense as a daily driver, it is a stunning piece of workmanship that offers the performance of a race car in the body of a gorgeous sports car.

If you’re torn between buying this car and using your money to do good for others, you’re in luck: As part of its holiday offerings, Saks Fifth Avenue is putting a special edition of the Mercedes SLR up for auction on Thursday. Profits from the auction will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Thanks and Giving Campaign.

This particular model is absolutely one of a kind. The carbon fiber body is finished out in Sienna Pearl metallic paint, and it sports a gorgeous light brown leather interior. Under the hood, you’ll find exactly what you expect of the SLR Roadster – a hand-built supercharged V8 with 617 horsepower for a top speed of 206 mph.

This is one of the last SLR Roadsters that Mercedes will produce, so if you’re in the market for one, you might as well make sure the money is going to a good cause. Starting bid is $529,500 and every penny raised beyond that amount goes directly to St. Jude. Ready to sign up? Go to www.mbusa.com/SLRauction to place your bid. And don’t forget your credit card!

2009 Range Rover Retools Luxury

Posted in: General, Land Rover, SUVs

2009-rangerover.JPGWith its 2009 Range Rover, Land Rover continues blurring the line between “sport” and “luxury.” While Land Rover has announced new options and appointments for all of its sport utility vehicles, the flagship Range Rover remains particularly attractive, thanks to its sleek blend of form and function.

For ’09, Land Rover will roll out its Autobiography Package, which is available only in new “Supercharged” editions of the Range Rover. Adding more touches of leather – on everything from the console side surfaces to the door casings to the instrument panel – the Autobiography Package is a beautiful and luxurious complement to the upgraded leather trim already coming standard in all 2009 Range Rovers.

range-rover-interior.JPGAlso unique to the Autobiography Package are soft, semi-aniline leather seats, wood trim and a four-zone automatic climate control system. If that’s not enough to sell you – check out the rear-seat entertainment system, which will keep the kids busy for hours on those road trips!

If you’re thinking environmentally, of course, the only way to make your Range Rover green is to select one in that color; even though Land Rover has lowered emissions on all of its vehicles for 2009, the Range Rover is only going to get you 11 mpg in the city and 17 on the highway.

Initial pricing shows the standard ’09 Range Rover at an MSRP of $77,675, and the Supercharged edition rings up at just over $93,325.

Dodge EV Should Get Your Motor Runnin’

Posted in: Electric Cars, General

dodge-ev.JPGAlthough I have loved the premise of the electric car since Day One, the prototypes we’ve seen unveiled haven’t exactly been something that gets the pulse racing. With the exception of Tesla’s Roadster, the proposed EVs so far have clearly indicated that we’ll have to leave our love of design at the door if we want to jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon.

Who knew that Dodge would be the one to break the mold?

jeep-ev.JPGLast week, Chrysler unveiled one new electric model each for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. While Chrysler is getting the Town & Country EV mini-van (yawn), Jeep is adding an electric version of the four-door Wrangler to its fold – which means guilt-free off-roading (as long as you don’t take out any trees while you’re out there.) That’s right – you can leave a smaller footprint but still leave tread marks on the side of the hill.

But it was the prototype EV from Dodge that came as a biggest surprise. Borrowing some design cues from its gorgeous beast of a sports car, the Viper, and throwing in elements of the Lotus Europa, Dodge unveiled one of the most exciting EVs we’ve seen to date.

dodge-ev-console.JPGThe two-passenger rear-wheel-drive sports car has the sleek design and high performance we want from a car, but also gives off zero tailpipe emissions.  It actually looks fun to drive – something that’s been noticeably lacking in too many EV designs – and the 200 kW electric motor is the equivalent of 268 horsepower. That gives drivers better performance than we’ve dared to hope for in an EV, reaching 60 mph in less than five seconds and taunting us with a top speed of 120+ mph.

Thanks to its advanced lithium-ion battery technology, the Dodge EV has a continuous driving range of 150-200 miles, and it can be recharged in eight hours from a standard 110-volt household outlet. (Using a 220-volt appliance power outlet will cut charging time in half.)

The possible cloud surrounding this silver lining is that we’ll have to wait for it; the earliest we’ll see this coming off the production line is 2010.

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Bentley Unveils Final Arnage

Posted in: Bentley, General

arnage_final_series_3_21.JPGAll good things must come to an end, and unfortunately that saying holds true for Bentley.

Bentley has unveiled its final version of the elegant Arnage, which has set the standard for this marque for the past decade. In return for its years of service, the automaker is giving the luxury liner a proper send-off, creating a limited edition run of just 150 cars. The 2009 Bentley Arnage Final Series will be the closest thing to a hybrid you may ever see coming from them – it combines the performance of the “T” with the refined elegance of the “R” to create the perfect marriage of luxury and power.

The 500 horsepower V8 will have a price tag of $224,990 and feature many upgrades to the customary Bentley bells and whistles. In addition to adding polished stainless steel “Final Series” treadplates to the front doors, interior extras include a rear cocktail cabinet with a “Final Series” stainless steel flask and shot glasses, an iPod interface, rear remote control for the infotainment system and a pair of picnic tables offered in your choice of premium unbleached veneers.

arnage_final_series-interior.JPGTo make this last Arnage completely personal, it’s being offered in any of Bentley’s 42 available exterior colors, with 25 interior hide color choices.  As the only auto manufacturer in the world who can boast of offering a cabin trimmed entirely with leather hides – including the headlining – Bentley uses nearly 400 pieces of leather for the interior. (The hand-crafted steering wheel along takes up to 16 hours of double stitching.)

Every detail of the elegant Arnage is going to reflect the refined luxury that Bentley has delivered faithfully and flawlessly through the years. This final edition is the best send-off that such a car could hope for, and as a reward for those years of service, these appointments certainly beat a gold watch!

Chrysler’s On a Roll with Electric Peapod

Posted in: Electric Cars, General

peapod.JPGEarlier this week, Chrysler LLC announced its intention to have three electric vehicles in production in 2010. The electric-drive technology will arrive in each of its three brands – Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler – and will boast range-extended technology that, much like Chevrolet’s forthcoming Volt, employs a small gasoline engine to provide additional power for longer trips.

We’ll look at Chrysler’s three proposed EVs next week, but in the meantime, let’s look at their newly redesigned “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle” – the totally electric Peapod.

The backstory on the Peapod is that Chrysler’s “electric community vehicles” have been around for a decade, but there hasn’t been much of a market for a plug-in with a range of 30 miles. Our new, greener consciousness opened the door for Chrysler to retool this four-passenger street-legal cart and tempt eco-friendly passengers with a new look, a new name and some updated features.

The Peapod brings with it all the usual jeers and complaints of short-range EVs: It feels like a glorified golf cart, and its top speed is a laughable 25 mph. But if you can get past its anti-Speed Racer persona, you’ll find that it brings some nice attributes to the mix.

peapod-dash.JPGAdmittedly, this car is not built with luxury in mind, but it isn’t as spartan as one might think, either. The dashboard console doubles as a docking station for your iPod and also allows for hands-free operation of your iPhone. In fact, the dash kind of looks like an altar for your iPod. (And it has a cupholder … didn’t a recent study prove that cupholders were important to female consumers?)

The ergonomically crafted seats are made of recycled and recyclable materials, and the open-air mesh design of the seats lends itself to better air circulation.

For what it is designed to do, the Peapod shows a lot of potential. No, you’re not going to load it up and trek cross-country; but it’s cute and cool enough that you shouldn’t have trouble getting the kids to climb in and let your cruise through the carpool lane. Even though it remains, in many ways, a souped-up golf cart, at least it has some sleek lines and kind of looks like a smiley face on wheels. Which, frankly, is something we can all use these days.

At the time this post was published, we were unable to find the price point of the Peapod. So if any of you readers find it please be sure to let us know!

Need A Bigger Ego? Get The $19,800 Ego For Bentley laptop!

Posted in: Bentley, General

ego_computer_image_hotspur_11.JPGWhat’s the perfect accessory to go with your Bentley? How about a powerful Ego?

No, we don’t mean that in a bad way!

Bentley Motors has partnered with the luxury electronics retailer, Ego Lifestyle, to create a sleek and unique notebook computer. The Ego for Bentley, which will retail for about $19,800, is a luxury laptop that has many of the same features that makes the Bentley such a delight: It boasts a refined design and is hand-built to ensure perfection in both detail and craftsmanship.

To complete the Bentley tie-in, the interior color options of the lacquered notebook match the car’s most popular exterior colors, while, on the outside, the panels are trimmed with Bentley leather and then finished with Bentley’s cross-over hand-stitching. Even the iconic Bently knurling, found on the interior accents of its cars, is replicated here, with etching on the handle.

Each notebook is designed to the owner’s requests and requirements, which means you get your choice of colors and finishes. Touches such as sliding doors to cover access ports add to the elegant feel of this ergonomically designed notebook. The design doesn’t look like your run-of-the-mill notebook; the clamshell-styled case looks more like an elegant accessory. And, since each notebook is a work of art, it just makes sense that each of these limited edition notebooks are engraved with their own number.

Under the hood, you’ll find a 160 GB hard drive, a 64-bit processor and Microsoft Vista Ultimate software. A dozen dedicated direct access keys make Wi-fi, Bluetooth, a web cam and a handful of other operations quick and easy.

Bentley says the notebook is due to hit the shelves “this fall,” which, accordingly to my calendar, starts today. So better get in line fast – only 250 of these limited edition laptops will be made.

GM Unveils its Car of the Future

Posted in: General

volt.JPGThe future is here and ladies, it sort of looks like a Hyundai.

At least that’s the initial impression delivered with the unveiling of the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s equivalent of a hail-Mary pass. The folks that brought us the environment-crushing Hummer have now revealed the prototype of the Volt, their all-electric auto that’s slated to hit showroom floors in late 2010. As their first electric vehicle since the  ill-fated EV-1 was introduced in 1996, the Volt has a lot of ground to cover to make up for the automaker’s slumping sales.

Although early prototypes of the car showed a sexier profile, it appears that Chevrolet has gone for a Hyundai-meets-Ford look with the five-door Volt, giving it more of a family car feeling than hinted at with the prototype shown last year at the Detroit Auto Show. Still, it has a lot of interior touches that could win us over – things like a liquid crystal instrument display, multiple touch screen interfaces and Bluetooth capabilities.

Of course, until it actually rolls out in the flesh -er, metal – it’s hard to pass judgement. So until that happens, here’s what we do know:

– The Volt is expected to appear late in 2010 and will be priced at between $35,000 and $40,000.

– Top speed is 100 mph, and it has the equivalent of a 150-horsepower engine.

– It is designed to go 40 miles without a charge, and can be plugged into a standard 120v household plug for recharging.

– After exhausting its initial charge, the Volt switches over to an onboard gas-burning generator that can go for several hundred miles.

Stay tuned. Speculation over whether Americans are willing to pay $40K for this model is already beginning, especially considering that a 2009 Toyota Prius runs just over$20,000.

Another unknown? What cars from newcomers like Fisker and Tesla, as well as from established GM competitors, will be hitting the market about the same time to steal the Volt’s thunder.

Obviously, it’s going to be awhile before we know enough about this car to see how it’s going to fit into the changing automotive landscape.

What Do Women (Drivers) Want? A Car Like Brad Pitt

Posted in: General

brad-pitt.bmpThese days, women pretty much demand the same qualities in their cars as they want from their home: Flexibility, good tech connections, and more storage space. At least, that’s what the results of a new study from Johnson Controls found.

After focusing its fact-finding mission on the evolving needs of women, the study confirmed what we’ve known for years: Women want more from their cars, and we’d like them to suit our style as well as our needs.

According to the study, here’s what’s women would like to see in a car:

– More flexibility. In the course of a single day, a woman’s car might be a kids’ taxi service, a mobile office, a transport vehicle for soccer equipment and even a party wagon for a gaggle of girlfriends. We need cars that can adapt to the ever-changing needs of our days just as well as we do!

– More connections. Women tend to use technology differently than men. We don’t see them as entertainment gadgets so much as we see them as security devices. We want ways to be able to stay charged and connected, from our GPS/OnStar systems to our cell phones and iPods.

– More space! As we’ve already established, women use their cars for a lot of different reasons. In fact, it seems that any car driven by a woman should automatically earn the MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) description. With that in mind, we’d like more space to stow our stuff, please!

–  More style. Just because we have to drop off the kids and the dry cleaning, that shouldn’t mean we have to look like we’re driving a boxy commercial vehicle! High on the list was the demand for “fun, non-mom” vehicles.

– More environmental friendliness. Leave the gas guzzlers on the lot; today’s women drivers want cars that are basically like Brad Pitt, if Brad Pitt were a car. In other words, they want something that looks good, is environmentally friendly and can fit in whatever role is demanded.

Finally, the study found that women find a lot of safety and security inside their automobiles. Because we tend to keep a lot of personal items in our cars, they become an extension of our homes and we find it easy to relax and unwind behind the wheel.

Until, of course, just like at home, the phone starts ringing and the kids start fighting…

Ford Goes Wild With Mustang Makeover

Posted in: General

2010mustangbadge1.JPGFor its 2010 Mustangs, Ford is getting ready to show us its wild side. Sort of.

The automaker announced last week that its iconic Mustang badge is getting a makeover for the ’10 lineup. In unveiling the new steed, Ford is showing off a racier-looking pony that is more muscular than its sleek, fluid predecessor. The new emblem is a glimpse of the more rugged look that’s expected for the redesigned 2010 Mustang, which will be revealed later this year.

Although tinkering with an icon is always tricky, Ford got this one right. Thanks to sharper angles and subtle tinting, this pony looks much faster and wilder than the one that first rode on the Mustang grille when the car was introduced back in 1964. The pony was replaced by the “Ford” emblem from 1978 until 1993, but was welcomed back with the ’94 models. The pony badge was most recently tweaked in 2005, but the new emblem shows a much more significant makeover.

According to Douglas Gaffka, chief designer for the 2010 Mustang, the retooling of the emblem was the first step in reinventing one of America’s best-loved cars.

“We lifted the head to make the pony more proud, tipped the neck into the wind to give it a feeling of greater speed and better balance,” he explains. “It’s more chiseled and more defined and looks more like a wild horse.”

He says the design team actually studied photos of wild Mustangs in their natural habitat to find a more natural look.

In addition to the duo-tone tinted emblem that will appear on the V6 and GT versions of the 2010 Mustang, Ford will offer a black chrome version for the GT. Here’s hoping the redesigned car is just as eye-catching as its new badge.