Monday, November 30, 2015

Lincoln MKZ Concept Debut at Los Angeles Auto Show

Lincoln was the big surprise at the Los Angeles Auto Show...the video explains it all.  I have to give Lincoln a nod for the bold directions they have taken in the last year.  With the Detroit launch of MKX, New York for the Continental Concept and now us with the MKZ they have mapped out a path clearly stating what they are doing.  They call it quiet luxury, I call it a huge step forward to differentiate themselves for the Ford family with which they share a few platforms.  Unlike Caddy that slowly evolved into the powerhouse they are today, Lincoln isn't taking the slow ramp but diving into the production of true luxury vehicles without chasing anyone in particular,  They will be the classic American luxury car with all the tech and what they call "Quiet Luxury" that buyer wants.

The MKZ really is changed in profile from the current model though it shares many of the same parts.  The decklid has a bigger more pronounced spoiler.  The entire front clip is new, slightly higher and with the "new face of Lincoln" introduced on the Continental Concept.  Gone is the split wing design they've toyed with and replacing it is a classic shaped grill inlet with the new cover. A big departure and very elegant.

The really big news is the addition of what they call "Smart All Wheel Drive" that adapts to driving style.  This is coupled with a new and unique to Lincoln 3.0l twin turbo V6 putting out 400 horsepower and 400 ft lbs of torque. This single change elevates the MKZ over its similar flatform mate at Ford and makes it contender in the Mid-sized Luxury segment in my not so humble opinion

Technology abounds in this car as they explain in the video.  Some unique to Lincoln, some common to all of Fords products such as Sync 3 customized for Lincoln.  Too bad the voice will be the anonymous female, if they swapped it to Matthew McConaughey they'd sell tons more...or so says my wife who says she'd buy Lincoln over the other choices if that option existed.

This model will go on sale summer 2016 as a 2017 model according to a Lincoln rep I spoke with at the L.A. Auto Show last week.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

2016 Ford Focus Electric and MyFord App

Its no secret I'm a huge fan of the Focus Electric, its been a while since I sat in one and reviewed it.   Not much has changes since I last reviewed it here.  It's still a silent cruiser, thoroughly enjoying and completely adept at what it needs to do for you.  Certainly better creature comforts and build quality than its immediate competition, I like to think of it as the Tesla of small EV's...but I need to get back on track.

Technical upgrades this year come in the form of the MyFord app available for iPhone and Android users.  As the video explains there is little information you can get from the app.  Charge level, distance to next charging station, time to full recharge you name it its pretty much there.  You can even remote start and set temp to heat or cool too...a huge plus here in the Southwest where its beastly hot 6 months of the year.

The MyFord app is also being launched in the next generation Ford Escape launching next summer as a 2017 model.  Take that CRV.

A quick drive in the car in and around the Los Angeles Convention Center reminded me how much I like this little car.  Quick to blend with traffic, nary a road noise in the cabin, comfy seats with a decidedly upscale feel to everything inside.  Sync with MyFordTouch and navvy,  What's not to like?  Even the 80ish mile range isn't an issue as I rarely drive that much in a week for my basic running.  I'd still have the Milan or Audi for road tripping.

Since I last reviewed the Focus EV one thing big has happened.  Enough that I'd consider it for my second car.  A price drop.  Starting retail is 27,829 over 10K cheaper than when it launched.  Add in the current Friends and family pricing and the 7.5K federal tax credit the car is a respectable 21,204.  Now here's where things get really interesting...add 1.5K State tax credit on the Focus EV and the effective starting price is suddenly a very attractive 19,704...why they're practically paying you to by the car.  Taking it easy on the options page and adding in leather seating the price came to 22,143.  I can almost justify trading my 2013 gasser and paying the 10K upgrade costs to bring power to my garage for the home charger.  Take that and smoke it Rowan and Martin.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Audi E tron Quattro Concept Press Conference

Audi started its press conference different than others, different than others with problems with recalls and associated turmoil.  They hit it head on at the beginning of their press conference.  Rather than ignore the pink elephant in the room the addressed it.  They apologized for violating their customers trust with the clean diesel and what has now been determined to be a deliberate effort to foil emissions testing with programming that senses when a car is in test mode to run its cleanest.  They said they will make their customers whole and resolve the problem.  They promised to win their customers respect and loyalty back.

They discussed the A3 e-tron which was one of the Green Car of the Year nominees.  Its really a nice A3 that just so happens to have been electrified as a plug in hybrid.  Making a total 204hp and 243 ft lbs of torque this compact hybrid tops its competition in terms of power and performance yet returns up to 30 miles in EV mode and EPA tests at 87MPe in EV mode and 39 MPG combined in gas mode.  Certainly not prius numbers, but its not a prius.  Its an Audi and it gives up nothing in terms of performance, luxury or build quality.  Its an Audi dammit and you don't compromise the experience.  Its worth the slightly lower number from a prius for an Audi in my not so humble.

The big news however was the E-tron Quatrro concept and its North American debut.  It promises to be a competitively priced (with what...Tesla Model x?) full sized all electric EV with a range of 300 miles.  Enough for a non-stop Vegas run something no EV today can claim.  Creature comforts and performance of an Audi are promised in the production model when it releases in a couple of years.  Unlike other manufacturers releasing EVs, this won't be a CA release only, it will be national.

To ensure range anxiety will be a thing of the past with this car Audi is partnering with a few others to build a fast charge network across the country.  Making it possible to drive cross country, across multiple states, not just a few established interstate routes that we see now.  These fast charging stations promise to charge the E-tron Quattro for 200 miles in 30 minutes.  Not gas fast, but an improvement in mobility with an EV.

More pics from Press Days at the L.A Auto Show in a flickr album

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Chevrolet Volt Green Car of the Year with a quick drive

Chevy's Volt that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show last January added an award to his impressive tech.  Green Car of the Year was awarded to the Volt at this years Los Angeles Auto Show...barely 11 months after its reveal.

Its quite the car, nearly 50 miles EV range if you don't try to be Speed Racer, more fuel efficient 1.5l gasser to assist when battery alone isn't enough.

The biggest changes are all visual and touch.  Gone are the sharp angles replaced with curvaceous curve and chrome on the new Volt.  Inside is a real delight.  Gone are the hard edges and plastics replaced with decidedly soft touch vinyls and leather.

Starting at 33,170 the car is priced right, add in the 7.5K Federal tax credit and CA's 1.5K makes this an extremely affordable car with an after credit effective base price of 24,170.  More about pricing and building your own at Chevy Volt Web Site.

My drive was limited due to heightened security concerns at the Los Angeles Auto Show this year.  I was the 3rd driver on a short loop around the convention center.  Just getting into the car you know this is different, really different than the last generation.  The door handle feels more solid and form fitting on your hand, you're greeted with soft touch plastic and vinyl through out.  There's even Android carplay available (as well as Apple) which was an interesting and simple to use interface compared to the old MyLink system the car was equipped with.

Driving it was apparent that it was peppier than the outgoing model, seemed lighter on its feet than simply shedding 200 lbs should do to a car.  Keeping it in EV mode the entire time was pretty easy though I did romp it once to move into traffic and was pleased at how refined the engine start and assist was to the old model.  When the gasser wasn't needed it wasn't even noticed that it shut down, not a wimper or thud like the outgoing model did.  I liked it.

Rear seat is still cramped for 2 only.  The hatch is bigger yielding a more usable storage place for road trips which I see as a real possibility with this version of the Volt.  Its much quieter and more fun to drive than what one normally expects from a hybrid.

Easy to see why it was chosen as Green Car of the Year.

Pics from the Los Angeles Auto Show in a flickr album.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Jeep to unveil two Specialty models at L.A Auto Show

Fresh off the press release feed from FCA's Jeep division, there will be two specialty jeeps unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show next week during press days.  They are trim and hardware upgrades over the basic models they are built off of.  They should get the speed freak and off roading folks just a little bit amped.

The press release:
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Nov. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
  • New 2016 Jeep® Grand Cherokee SRT Night boasts stealth-like premium black appearance, with black roof and lightweight performance wheels 
  • New 2016 Wrangler Backcountry delivers enthusiasts a unique Jeep SUV loaded with off-road capability features to tackle the toughest winter months
The Los Angeles Auto Show will mark the debut of two new-for-2016, special-edition Jeep® models:  the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Night and the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night blends ultimate performance with a premium black appearance that includes a unique black roof and lightweight performance wheels. To celebrate the winter season, the Jeep Wrangler Backcountry delivers snow lovers a winter-themed Jeep that will get them wherever they want to go with a host of Wrangler's most capable off-road features.
"Jeep enthusiasts anticipate and truly appreciate special-edition models that deliver a customized Jeep SUV right from the factory," said Mike Manley, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA Global. "The Grand Cherokee SRT Night and Wrangler Backcountry both offer a distinctive appearance, while delivering an array of prominent performance and capability features."
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry arrives in showrooms in late November. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night will be available in the first quarter of 2016.
Jim Frenak-FPI Studios

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night features a stealth-like appearance with the roof, rear spoiler, front grille bezels, B and C pillars and side window surrounds all adorned in Gloss Black. The front applique is Satin Black, as is badging on the hood and rear liftgate.
New lightweight, split five-spoke "5Ten" 20-inch wheels are also finished in Satin Black and are designed to showcase the Grand Cherokee SRT8's standard Brembo brakes. Interior appointments include Black Laguna leather with Silver accent stitching and Light Black Chrome bezels.
Available colors for the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night include Velvet Red, Billet Silver and Granite Crystal. 
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night features a standard 6.4-liter V-8 engine with Fuel Saver Technology that delivers 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque, an adaptive damping suspension and a Selec-Track Traction Control system.
Available features include a dual-pane sunroof, a 19-speaker 825-watt Harman Kardon stereo system, trailer tow package, three-season tires, a full-size spare tire and a dual-screen rear entertainment system.
Performance numbers for the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night include 0-60 mph acceleration in 4.8 seconds, 0-100-0 mph in 16.3 seconds, quarter mile in the mid 13-second range and a top speed of 160 mph.
Jim Frenak-FPI Studios

2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry
The Jeep Wrangler Backcountry boasts a winter capability theme and is based on the Wrangler Sahara model. It features a Backcountry decal on the front fender and rear quarter panel, a unique off-road front and rear powder coated bumper, 17-inch Rubicon wheels painted in Mid-gloss Black and a black fuel fill door. Wrangler Rubicon rock rails are standard on the Wrangler Backcountry, but Sahara side steps are also available at no additional charge. A black hard top is standard, but an optional body color hard top is also available. 
Wrangler Backcountry is available in five colors: Hydro Blue, Black, Bright White, Granite Crystal and Xtreme Purple. Backcountry is the only model in Wrangler's lineup available in Xtreme Purple.
Inside, Wrangler Backcountry features Piano Black vent rings, door handles and grab handles. A vinyl-wrapped console lid and door armrests with Diesel Gray accent stitching, black McKinley leather seat bolsters with black sport mesh inserts, a nine-speaker premium Alpine sound system and all-weather slush mats are featured. The Bluetooth hands-free Connectivity Group is also standard in the Wrangler Backcountry.
About Jeep Brand
Built on more than 70 years of legendary heritage, Jeep is the authentic SUV with class-leading capability, craftsmanship and versatility for people who seek extraordinary journeys. The Jeep brand delivers an open invitation to live life to the fullest by offering a full line of vehicles that continue to provide owners with a sense of security to handle any journey with confidence.
The Jeep vehicle lineup consists of the Cherokee, Compass, Grand Cherokee, Patriot, Renegade, Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. To meet consumer demand around the world, all Jeep models sold outside North America are available in both left and right-hand drive configurations and with gasoline and diesel powertrain options. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Elio P5 to debut at L.A. Auto Show

This is going to be either an engineering marvel that will change how we think about cars like Tesla...or be another hysterical blip on the radar like the Dale and illicit snickers.  We have no idea what the car will look like.  A few tidbits have been dropped, 3 wheels, .9liter 3 cylinder, under 10 second 0-60 and a top speed around 100.  An urban car?  Commuter special?

What we do know is that the 10AM on Thursday November 19 the car will be introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show. I'll be there for the fun and excitement and share my thoughts after I see the car.