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Expert Reviews

Professional reviews of newest vehicle models

Bonus Wheels

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Bonus Wheels


2016 Lincoln MKX: Flaunting Looks and Power

Freshly redesigned, the 2016 Lincoln MKX flaunts a new look, a more spacious passenger compartment, higher quality interior upholstery and trim, and a new turbocharged engine. With these changes, Lincoln's midsize crossover SUV is now equipped to stand up against direct comparisons with the industry's best, even when outfitted in its most basic trim level.

Further, its sleek new styling looks just as good in front of an upscale restaurant as it does parked among family ferries at soccer practice. The standard 18-inch alloy wheels nicely enhance the muscular profile, but it looks even better with the 20-inch wheels fitted to our tester. While some will decry the Lincoln MKX as being too closely related to its Ford Edge cousin, we'll patiently remind them Ford offers some of the most tech-laden models available today.

Thus, it comes as little surprise to find such niceties as voice controls, active noise cancellation, and an 8-inch touchscreen hosting Ford's outstanding Sync 3 infotainment interface included among the roster of standard features. Start listing options and you'll find amenities such as automated parking, a hands-free power liftgate (with a foot sensor under the rear bumper), smart headlights, intelligent cruise control, a reconfigurable virtual instrument panel, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and rear cross traffic alert.

Go full-boat and spring for the Black Label MKX, and you'll get such high-end touches as a simulated suede headliner, upgraded leather upholstery, LED headlights, and a 19-speaker surround-sound audio system. The people behind the four-pointed star have made a concerted effort to ensure the 2016 Lincoln MKX is wholly competitive within its segment.

For the record, we are huge fans of the optional 22-way power-adjustable front seats. Heated, cooled, and outfitted with a massage function, even the squirmiest passengers readily find comfort within their embrace. To make configuring the seats easy, all of their controls are presented on the 8-inch touchscreen in the center stack. Rear-seat legroom is acceptable for the class and three adults can ride back there quite comfortably. The cargo compartment is good for 37.2 cubic feet of capacity with the rear seats deployed, and 68.8 cubic feet with them folded.

Pricing starts at $38,260 for the front-wheel-drive MKX powered by the 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Our all-wheel-drive test MKX Premiere model was powered by the optional twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 EcoBoost with 335 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The first time we nailed the throttle to execute a passing maneuver, we were very pleasantly surprised to discover the 2.7-liter engine's ready ability to consign other traffic to the MKX's rearview mirror. Happily, even with all its sophistication, the new MKX is also a true "Hot Rod Lincoln."

The MKX acquits itself commendably when changes of direction are required too. Yes, a BMW X3 will out-corner the MKX, but the Lincoln maintains its dignity on serpentine lanes. Further, in normal day-to-day driving, the MKX is exceptionally quiet (remember the active noise cancellation feature we mentioned earlier?). And, in addition to committed roadholding, the adaptive suspension system delivers a smoothly luxurious ride.
Not only is it delightful under those driving situations, but given smart cruise control, lane keep assist, and the quiet interior we just spoke of, the MKX also becomes a near-insatiable devourer of miles on the highway. As good as it is at everything else, long-distance travel is the 2016 Lincoln MKX's killer app.

-- Lyndon Conrad Bell, Motor Matters

Manufacturer Photo: Engine choices for the 2016 Lincoln MKX include the optional 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged Ti-VCT EcoBoost V6, which is rated at 335 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 380 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm on premium fuel. The standard 3.7-liter V-6 is rated at 303 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 278 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Both engines are mated to a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with push-button shift.


Get Off the Road

Ford-Escape-Review.jpg Read Article

Get Off the Road


Ford Escape: Significant Updates for 2017

Compact crossovers make a good choice for many drivers. Their size hits the sweet spot -- big enough to hold people and cargo, small enough to be easy to drive. And, if you live in a Snowbelt state, available All-Wheel Drive makes winter travel far less stressful. Escape is Ford's entry in this space, and also its best-selling SUV.

Three trim levels are offered for the 2017 Escape: S, SE, and Titanium, with prices starting at $23,600. Three options brought our Titanium tester sticker price to $33,380.

Last year, Escape became the first Ford product to roll out the new SYNC 3 infotainment system. This year, Escape is the first of its line mates to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration with the optional SYNC 3 system, as well as a vehicle interaction app. The latter allows owners to locate, lock, unlock, and start their vehicle via their smartphone. The biggest knock on the former infotainment interface (MyFord Touch) was that it was more complicated than need be: SYNC 3 is an improvement. The level of connected content is high and it's easier to do what you want. But, like many similar systems, it often takes longer to do it than it would with conventional controls.

Articulating headrests and a tilt/telescoping steering column make it easy to get comfortable inside, and Ford has upped the number of inboard stowage spots for 2017. With 6 footers in front, same-size folks will fit (snugly) behind them. Escape's rear-seat legroom measures 37.3 inches; that's an inch less than the current Honda CR-V, and a skosh more than the Toyota's RAV4 -- two perennial rivals in this class. The rear seatbacks fold flat to expand Escape's cargo capacity from 34 cubic feet to 68 cubic feet, which is about average for this class, trailing CR-V and RAV4.

Liftover height in back is low. And, if you're approaching the tailgate with arms full, you can open the tailgate with the sweep of a foot -- provided that you've checked that option on your Titanium trim Escape.

The roster of available driver assist technologies expands this year to include lane departure warning and intervention. It's included in the Titanium Technology package ($1,995), along with an enhanced self-parking system, xenon headlights, auto high-beam control, rain sensing wipers, and a heated steering wheel. Standalone options include the navigation system ($795), a panoramic sunroof ($1,495), and adaptive cruise control ($595).
A six-speed automatic transmission links to one of three engines. Standard on Escape S models is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. It makes 168 horsepower, 170 lb.-ft. of torque and is only available with front wheel drive. EPA estimates for fuel economy are 22 mpg city, and 31 highway.
A new, 1.5-liter four-cylinder replaces the former, 1.6-liter four under the hood of Escape SE and Titanium models. The EcoBoost (turbocharged, direct injection) four checks in with 179 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. Gas mileage is predicted to be 23/30 (FWD), 22/28 (AWD). Also available on both SE and Titanium level Escapes is another, larger EcoBoost mill. The twin-scroll 2.0-liter four is rated at 245 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque, and is expected to return 22 mpg city/29 highway (FWD); 20/27 (AWD).

Performance in the 1.6-liter four is about average for the segment, but adequate for all normal driving duties. Fuel economy is slightly behind last year's version. SE and Titanium buyers seeking more giddy-up may want to consider the upgrade to the 2.0-liter EcoBoost ($1,295). Given the increase in horsepower (+66) and torque (+98), the 2.0-liter four is, unsurprisingly, much quicker, transforming Escape into a lively performer.
If you plan on pulling a trailer, the trio of powerplants has noticeably different ratings. The base engine has a maximum towing capacity of 1,500 pounds, which is identical to the rating in both RAV4 and CR-V. Ford's 1.6-liter EcoBoost raises the ante to 2,000 pounds. Finally, the EcoBoost 2.0-liter can be equipped to pull up to 3,500 pounds -- impressive, given the engine's displacement, and more than the 3.0-liter V-6 that was available on the last-generation Escape.

Overall, Escape is one of the more engaging drivers in the segment. It handles confidently and rides comfortably. Ford's on-demand AWD system apportions torque to the front and rear wheels as needed, to maximize traction. Software and sensors process data from 25 external sources, assessing road conditions and driver input. The system corrects for both oversteer and understeer, and it works in wet or dry road conditions. Available Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control improve handling and stability on winding roads.

-- Dan Lyons, Motor Matters

Manufacturer Photo: The Ford Escape is significantly updated for model year 2017 with more of what Escape customers said they wanted -- the latest driver-assist technologies, connectivity and two new fun-to-drive and efficient EcoBoost engines. The 2017 Escape features available SYNC Connect mobile access and driver-assist technologies such as adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, a lane-keeping system, and Enhanced Active Park Assist -- all packed in a vehicle that's been redesigned from the inside out.


New on Wheels

Kia-Cadenza-Review Read Article

Get Off the Road


2017 Kia Cadenza: A Full-Size Contender

In the old days big sedans ruled the road. If you were rich you drove a Fleetwood Cadillac. Upper middle class? Your car was a Buick Roadmaster.

Back then, customers seeking a family vehicle bought a big Ford, Chevrolet or Plymouth sedan -- or perhaps the station wagon version. Now crossover sport utility vehicles have taken over. But manufacturers have not forsaken large cars. The 2017 Kia Cadenza fits the modern definition of a full-size car. The Cadenza and others like it today offer power, fuel economy, comfort and safety that could only be imagined decades ago.

Though the description has changed, large cars still offer amenities that attract a loyal cadre of buyers. They like the heft, feel, passenger and trunk space, as well as the perceived safety of size, though smaller cars now do as well in government and private crash tests as their bigger brethren.

Modern full-size cars come with front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, with state-of-the art safety equipment, handling, power and fuel economy. The new 2017 Kia Cadenza competes against other front-drivers like the best-selling Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus and Hyundai Azera.
To qualify as full-size under the U.S. government's standards, a car must have more than 120 cubic feet of interior room. That includes passenger and trunk space. The new Cadenza checks in with a total of almost 124 cubic feet.

That gives it ample comfort for five passengers, especially in the front bucket seats and outboard back seats. Even the fifth passenger in back is not cramped, though her or she must tolerate a small floor hump and a lumpy seat cushion.

According to Kia, while the Cadenza has the same overall length as the outgoing model, it's slightly wider and lower in height. The wheelbase has been stretched slightly, contributing to nearly a half-inch of increased legroom for rear passengers. And, the interior cockpit is designed to provide a more harmonious human-machine interface with ergonomically intelligent design, intuitive controls, and a suite of enhanced convenience features.

The new 2017 Cadenza comes in three trim levels: Premium, which starts at around $32,890; Technology, $39,890, and the tested Limited, $44,890.
Under the hood lurks a 3.3-liter V-6 engine with direct gasoline injection that delivers 290 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels through a Kia developed eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

The combination gives the Cadenza more than ample acceleration and freeway passing power. Plentiful insulation delivers silent running. There's a hefty feel to the steering. Though not as crisp as with a midsize sport sedan, handling is secure and competent.

The 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited has some luxury credentials, fully equipped with such state-of-the-art equipment as lane departure warning and assist, rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, surround view monitor with backup camera, blind spot warning, head up display and rear parking assist.

Comfort and convenience items include Nappa leather upholstery, dual zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, navigation and infotainment systems with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless smartphone charger, panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, rear and side window sunshades, and memory driver's seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel.

Given the chance, your father would dump his old Oldsmobile in a heartbeat for the new Cadenza.

-- Frank A. Aukofer, Motor Matters

Manufacturer Photo: The all-new 2017 Kia Cadenza boasts precisely crafted cabin, cutting edge technology for connectivity and driver assistance, a stronger body structure, and powertrain enhancements for a more premium experience behind the wheel. A revised version of Kia's 3.3-liter V6 engine has been retuned for improved fuel economy. With an estimated 290 horsepower on tap, the engine sends power to the front wheels via Kia's first FWD-based eight-speed automatic transmission.


Automotive Specialty

Articles covering vehicles outside of the light-duty and passenger markets

2-Wheeling Today

Honda-CBR-Review.jpg Read Article

2-Wheeling Today


Honda CBR300R: Yep, It's Sport Bike Enough

I don't easily use the term "entry level" when describing small-displacement motorcycles: That phrase carries too much uncomplimentary baggage, particularly in America, where "bigger is always better." But not every rider wants or needs a liter-class race-replica.

Their mechanical complexity with larger initial purchase prices, premium tires, high insurance rates, and expensive maintenance costs can be real eye-openers. Some require regular service whether the bike is ridden or not.

Maybe we simply don't need to buy more bike than we need. The fit and finish of the Honda CBR300R sport motorcycle impressively proves that point, considering the reasonable price point of $4,399.

The single-cylinder 286cc displacement motor is counter-balanced, water-cooled, and quite smooth even close to the rev limit of 10,500 rpm. The double overhead cams are chain driven, roller rockers actuate the four valves, and fuel injection is spot on, monitored continuously by Honda's Programmed Fuel Injection for weather and current riding conditions.

The six-speed gearbox offers a comfortable spread of cogs that easily keep the motor in the prime fun-zone between 6,000 and 9,000 rpm where the torque is most prominent. It will rev over 9,000 rpm to the redline if sufficiently goaded but on my test-drive I didn't notice much to be gained. It will cruise the freeway at 75 mph, an important note if you are a commuter.

The tachometer is prominently placed in the instrument cluster and the analog scale puts the easily seen red needle straight up at 7,000 rpm. If the revs drop below 5,000, the fun can drop off; the motor needs to spin up when riding hard in the hilly, backcountry. While hitting a hill in a high gear, the motor occasionally bogged and required multiple downshifts to get back on the boil. Not a problem once I anticipated it, but riding enjoyment both lives and dies on torque.

The brakes are up to the task, considering the light weight of 357 pounds, fueled up, wet and ready. Front brake is a single 297mm disc with an axially mounted two-piston caliper. Rear is a 220mm, single-piston setup.

My tester was complete with upgraded ABS. Don't fight the feeling on ABS; it's only an additional five Benjamins and never intrudes until activated. Remember, ABS is not a substitute for proper brake-training or regular panic-stop practice, but on sandy, wet, or dirty pavement, it's a confidence builder, particularly for a beginning rider. Personally, I wouldn't consider a new bike without it. It's cheap protection in the right circumstances.

Front forks are 37mm tubes with 4.6 inches of travel with no adjustments; the rear suspension is a Honda Pro-Link monoshock with 4 inches of travel, adjustment is five pre-load settings only. Obvious money was saved on the suspension and it was most apparent on some bumpy corners where the rear suspension can sometimes became easily confused. Keep it in its design envelope and the suspension handles well.

Honda specs claim 71 mpg. I never saw that, but EPA estimates are computed to cover all types of riding styles and I rode the bike enthusiastically on fast roads for the full time I had it. I got mileage realistically in the low 60-mpg range. The tank holds 3.4 gallons; so figure 200 miles between pump stops. A careful commuter will get higher figures.

Stock seat height is low at 30.7 inches; though a lower seat is available. Flat foot placement is important for new rider confidence at stops and for slow-speed maneuvers. The low seat and light weight of the 300R just feels right.

The CBR series headlights are twin lamps, like the CBR600, and give the nose a more aggressive look than a single-lamp design. The fairing is Honda perfect; it provides the racer look that gives the machine a more attractive appearance. I wasn't crazy about the yellow paint scheme on mine; I would have opted for the Matte Black finish. Overall, the bike assumes a larger displacement silhouette.

What determines the purchase decision for a motorcycle? Often we buy what our friends ride. Maybe the ad hype of ultimate performance too easily sways us. We all feel that urge too, but will the average road rider ever run a sub-10-second quarter mile? Will that rider ever knee-drag in the high-rev neighborhood often enough to gain competence? Surely, you can doddle around town using 10 percent of the available performance of a race-replica but you're still paying for the unused 90 percent. Why buy more bike than you can use?

Honda pitches this CBR300R at an entry rider, betting that the good experiences will breed loyalty and they've done their homework well. It's economical as a commuter, it has enough beans to ride the canyons, and the user costs are low.

-- Joe Michaud, Motor Matters

Manufacturer Photo: The Honda CBR300R single-cylinder 286cc displacement motor is counter-balanced, water-cooled, and quite smooth even close to the rev limit of 10,500 rpm. It will cruise the freeway at 75 mph. The tachometer is prominently placed in the instrument cluster.


Rolling Homes

UTV-Loaded-Into-Camper Read Article

Rolling Homes


Cool Autumn Air Beckons RVing, Hunters, and Anglers

As summer fades into autumn, chilly mornings are ideal for hunting, fishing, or walking in the woods. Whatever your outdoor passion, a good quality Recreation Vehicle makes any adventure more comfortable at the end of a long day exploring.
For lifelong angler and hunter Jimmy Smith of southern Oregon, getting "up close and personal with the great outdoors," is a top priority.

For lifelong angler and hunter Jimmy Smith of southern Oregon, getting "up close and personal with the great outdoors," is a top priority.
"Many times I have followed a gravel road that meandered onto a track that soon resembled a foot path. My truck and camper can easily handle narrow forest service roads and access rough areas for remote camping," says the longtime RVer.

Smith chose a rugged four-season, lightweight fiberglass 10.2-foot Classic Northern Lite (northern-lite.com) slide-in camper for his 2001 F-350 Ford four-wheel-drive truck, saying "It gets me to where I want to camp -- far into the woods, away from the sounds of civilization."

Avid outdoor enthusiasts have long been fans of slide-in campers because they can go anywhere a truck can and, at the same time, leave the bumper free to tow a boat, ATV, or horse trailer. Once at a base camp, the camper can be easily off loaded to use the truck independently.

The Northern Lite's two-piece, molded clamshell construction is similar to a boat and makes for a sturdy and weather-tight setup. By eliminating the multiple seams along with the wood and aluminum framing found on conventional truck campers, it is 15- to 20-percent lighter. It can easily carry everything one needs for comfortable camping including a full kitchen, bathroom with shower, and over-cab north-south queen bed. Smith's camper's dry weight is 2,360 pounds.

According to GoRVing.com (a recreation vehicle industry marketing group), sizes of slide-in campers range from 8 to 20 feet, with selling prices for new units averaging between $6,000 and $55,000; some models even have the capacity to sleep up to six friendly people.
-- Towable trailers

For cool-weather camping, RVers Ron and Sharon Vail of Powell Butte, Ore., opted for a 2014 Lance travel trailer 1985 that they tow with a 2015 Dodge Ram 2500 4WD diesel.

The Lance has "everything we were looking for in size, convenience, and features," says Ron, an upland bird hunter, "yet it is still small enough to take into the back country."

The overall hitch length of a Lance 1985 is 23 feet, 3 inches with an interior floor length of 18 feet, 9 inches. The dry weight is 3,925 pounds, with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 5,700 pounds.

"Storage was important to me," says Sharon, "as well as a good kitchen and a comfortable bed. I also like the full-width bathroom and shower. With a super-slide dinette, it has plenty of room for both of us. The bed folds up so there is a lot of floor space during the day."

During hunting season the Vails travel to the mountains for grouse, to low agricultural land for pheasant, and to straight up and down terrain for chukar partridge. "We like to camp next to a river or lake for fishing," adds Sharon.
Ron describes his favorite hunting scenario, saying, "I've been in the field all day with Paige, my Brittany hunting dog, and I've got a few birds. I'm cold, wet, and tired, but I had a blast. I come back to camp and the trailer is warm, I smell dinner cooking when I open the door, and Sharon has a martini waiting for me. That's a good day."

According to GoRVing.com, conventional travel trailers vary in size from 12 to 35 feet, range in cost from $8,000 to $95,000, and can offer sleeping arrangements for up to ten.
-- Smaller rugged pull-behind

Interest is growing in smaller, rugged pull-behind teardrop trailers by urban anglers who want to get away to a secluded lake, cast a fishing line, and catch a memory.
"You don't have to own a huge truck to pull a TerraDrop. It is perfectly happy behind a small SUV, or Jeep," says Jon Christianson of Oregon Trail'R (oregontrailer.net). "The 8-foot TerraDrop is designed and built to allow you to go places you would otherwise have no access to with a less-capable camper. It makes off-grid camping really doable. TerraDrop allows you to explore the outdoors un-tethered by the limitations of traditional RVs and trailers."

According to Christianson, "One of the main things driving the resurgence of teardrop trailers is that people want to reconnect with the outdoors and have a 'real' camping experience. Teardrops are great because you still spend the majority of your time outside, and you fully experience all the things in the area you've come to visit. At the same time, you're afforded a very comfortable and secure place to sleep, as well as a convenient place to cook your meals."
With options including a high-capacity water tank, a high-performance absorbent glass mat battery, solar integration, and a built-in propane system, "TerraDrop can be configured for long trips without need of hookups and dump stations," said Christianson.

Depending on options, the tough TerraDrop can range between 1,150 to 1,600 pounds, making it easy to tow with almost any vehicle.
-- Sport utility RVs (towable and motorized)

Those who want to haul motorcycles, dirt bikes, or ATVs to their hunting or fishing camp will appreciate the Sport Utility RV (SURV).

"Available in both motorhomes or towable units, the rear end of a SURV drops down, forming a ramp for access into a 'garage' area for safe storage and transport of motorized toys. The living quarters and garage are frequently separated by a wall," according to GoRVing.com. Toy haulers range in length from 19 to 39 feet. New units range from $10,000 to $170,000 and sleep up to eight.
Many Recreation Vehicle manufacturers carry SURVs in their product line including the Aluminum Trailer Company (aluminumtrailer.com). The ATC Toy Hauler's floor and ceiling are welded to the side walls, creating a fully integrated, lightweight aluminum frame that is half-ton towable.

Base weight of the 7-by-20-foot ATC toy hauler is an estimated 3,730 pounds with a GVWR of 7,700 pounds. The 8.5x28-foot model with front bedroom, an optional tip out bed, and other standard features lists a base dry weight around 5,445 pounds with a GVWR of 11,440 pounds. Interior height is 7 feet.
-- Finding campgrounds near hunting and fishing

Recreation.gov is one-stop site for trip planning, information sharing, and reservations on 12 federal agencies. The Army Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Archives offer advance reservations at 2,500 federal areas for more than 60,000 facilities and activities. Reservation fees may apply.

ReserveAmerica.com is an amazing resource for researching and reserving campsites in state and local public and private campgrounds across North America. A non-refundable fee applies to each reservation.

GoCampingAmerica.com is one of the largest privately owned campground databases online. Hundreds of private parks across the country offer hunting and fishing opportunities, either onsite or nearby. Fees may apply.

-- Julianne G. Crane, Motor Matters


Photo 1: Cool autumn weather is a perfect time to camp along a gently moving stream and catch a memory (Photo Courtesy of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association).

Photo 2: The rugged TerraDrop trailer by Oregon Trail'R is perfectly happy behind a small SUV making off-grid autumn camping really doable (Photo Courtesy of Oregon Trail'R).


Classic Classics

Classic-Buick.jpg Read Article

Classic Classics


1957 Buick Riviera: A Junkyard Rescue

Steve Gehring found his 1957 Buick Century Riviera hardtop coupe at an auto wrecking yard. At the time, Gehring was a high school student on New York's Staten Island and had accompanied his father to the junkyard in search of car parts.

The old Buick looked great and both father and son were smitten. The variable-pitch Dynaflow transmission didn't work and the 364-cubic-inch, 300-horsepower V-8 engine had a knock that could be heard in the heartland, so the previous owner had thrown in the towel and called the junkyard to tow the Buick out of his life.

This didn't faze Gehring or his father. They purchased the well-worn Buick and had it towed home. The Gehrings had to find room for its 17-foot 4-inch length. The ailing engine was replaced by an engine of the same displacement from a 1957 Buick Special, which was rated at only 250 horsepower.

The automatic transmission was rebuilt to original specifications and performance, although Gehring said, "It took two shots to do it."

Only 17,029 such model Buicks were manufactured in 1957, and each carried a base price of $3,270. Gehring's Buick was outfitted with extra-cost optional equipment, including power brakes, backup lights, no-glare mirror, Sonomatic radio, signal indicators, heater/defroster, white sidewall tires, brake warning light, and speedminder speedometer.

The options are known because Gehring found the original factory build sheet under the car seat. Power windows were not on the list, a point for which Gehring is thankful, since he enjoys hand-cranking the windows up and down.

Following high school, Gehring left home for training at General Motors in Flint, Mich., leaving the 4,081-pound Buick in his father's care. His dad kept improving the car with frequent trips back to the old auto salvage yard for parts. Occasionally, he would roam as far afield as a New Jersey junkyard for rubber gaskets to seal around the doors or for a genuine underdash Buick tissue dispenser.

Within a couple of years, Gehring was tired of life without his Buick. On a visit home he had the Buick repainted Biscay Blue and Dover White and had necessary trim parts replated. Then he was ready for the return trip to Michigan.

Gehring's father went along for the ride, not having as much confidence in the 1957 coupe as did his son. First, the radiator overheated in rural Pennsylvania. After that problem was remedied, the rear bushings in the generator burned out in an even more rural area along the way back to Michigan. That problem was followed by the demise of a worn-out voltage regulator. Just all around bad news.

The good news was that the four-barrel carburetor, under an oil-bath air cleaner, kept feeding fuel from the 20-gallon gas tank to the healthy V-8. Additionally, the new-for-1957 ball-joint suspension on the 122-inch wheelbase performed flawlessly.

Once Gehring finally had his Buick in Flint, he was able to suitably impress a fellow student; despite the Buick and its idiosyncrasies, she saw fit to marry him. Perhaps it was the 101 teeth in the grille smiling at her each time he came calling.

Looking back, Gehring says he's amazed that a car that was sent to the junkyard years ago still survives in good health. "How wacky is that?" he asks.

-- Vern Parker, Motor Matters


Consumer Interest Trends

Articles covering current industry and consumers trends

Green Wheeling

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Green Wheeling


Car Factories Go Green to Save Green

It just makes sense: car companies that want to be known for producing eco-friendly cars build them at eco-friendly factories.

Kia has planted five million trees and initiated other green initiatives at its manufacturing plants around the world. Trees soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and the five million trees Kia has planted promise to soak up the equivalent of 107.5 million tons of CO2 a year.
The greening of Kia factories includes its U.S. facility in West Point, Ga., where the Sorento SUV and Optima sedan are produced. The interior of the Kia Soul EV is 10 percent biodegradable plastic, bio-foam, and bio-fabric. Unlike plastics based from oils, bio-based materials are derived from eco-friendly materials.

Recycling reduces waste, along with energy consumption. Since 2009, Ford has mandated 25 percent recycled content for all its models, and uses more than 30 fabrics to meet that requirement; the company uses about one million yards of recycled fabric each year. Fabric in the Ford Focus EV is made from recycled water bottles.
Ford also uses soy-based bio-foam in seat cushions, head restraints, and headliners. Soy foam costs less to produce than traditional petroleum-based materials, uses less petroleum to produce, and produces about 15 percent less carbon dioxide emissions. All good.

Jeep uses soy-based acoustic foam in Cherokee models. The foam is lighter and less expensive than oil-based foam, which benefits both production cost and fuel economy.

Ford also has switched to what's called a 3-Wet paint process, which gets its name from applying primer, base coat, and clear coat while each layer is still wet. That process saves close to 25 percent of time it takes to paint a vehicle, reducing assembly line costs. Equally important, the process results in significant reductions of CO2, along with reductions in volatile organic compounds, known as VOC.

Nissan works with the City of Detroit to plant trees in parks, schoolyards, and along neighborhood streets and roadways. Since 2012, in association with the non-profit group "Greening of Detroit," the program has planted more than 70,000 new trees. Nissan also donated a Titan truck to help with the project.

Earlier this year Nissan switched to solar power for its factory in Sunderland, UK. The Nissan solar farm is made up of 19,000 photovoltaic panels, installed alongside 10 wind turbines. Nissan makes its Leaf EV and its batteries in the U.S., making this a green car produced by green energy. Nissan also has a wind farm at its factory in Mexico.

Volkswagen also uses solar power for its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the Passat is produced. It covers 33 acres with nearly 34,000 solar modules and produces more than 13 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power a year, enough to power 1,200 homes. General Motors uses solar energy to power EV charging stations for employees and visitors to its facilities, including at the GM Shanghai headquarters complex. And a bike-sharing program allows more than 19,000 employees to commute to, and get around inside, the sprawling 330-acre Warren Technical Center in Michigan. GM also has a program to work with suppliers to design parts with less scrap waste, and ship them in containers with less cardboard waste.

Going green is more than a fad. It's helping sustain the bottom line along with the environment. That's a win-win for all of us.

-- Evelyn Kanter, Motor Matters

Manufacturer Photo: Nissan makes its Leaf EV and its batteries in the U.S., making this a green car produced by green energy.

Volkswagen also uses solar power for its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the Passat is produced. It covers 33 acres with nearly 34,000 solar modules and produces more than 13 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power a year, enough to power 1,200 homes.


Down the Road

Jag-Photoshoot.jpg Read Article

Down the Road


Savvy Car Selling Via Social Media Sharing

How would you like to be the star of your own one-minute action-packed video car chase? That's just one of the new ways automakers are luring you into the showroom to check out their new models, or at least make you more aware of their brand.

Jaguar doesn't have the production volume or the advertising budget of the big guys from Detroit, Germany, Korea, and Japan, so it's geared up social media and virtual reality to spread the message of the brand's revitalization. It must be working. Bloomberg calls Jaguar "the hottest car company in the U.S." right now, for its hot new models including the new XE compact sport sedan and F-Pace SUV.

The action video was a feature of a recent Art of Performance multi-city tour, which also gave attendees the chance to test drive the all-new XE compact sport sedan. Video clips of participants "virtually" driving a Jaguar are interspersed with a "canned" adrenalin car chase, including dramatic rollovers and fiery crashes.

Jaguar Land Rover marketing VP Kim McCullough says approximately 10,000 people participated, and more than half shared their action videos with friends and family, garnering more than a million views. That's far more "reach" than a traditional TV commercial or print ad could get, and for far less money.

McCullough says more than 90 percent of XE and F-Pace SUV buyers are new to Jaguar, and that they're younger buyers than in the past. "We're changing the perception from great heritage, but our best days are behind us, to relevant with cutting-edge models for a new generation of buyers," she says.

An admitted "car nut," she drove the legendary Mille Miglia vintage car rally in Italy earlier this year in her own personal model which dates back from the days when Jaguar ruled the racecourse, a 1954 Jaguar XK120.
McCullough also is marketing the quality of the new models, with a new program that allows owners to write reviews and personal experiences on the Jaguar website. People are "two-and-a-half times more likely to buy when they see a positive review," she says. Just ask the restaurants reviewed on Yelp and hotels and attractions reviewed on TripAdvisor.

McCullough was one of the panelists at a recent marketing seminar sponsored by Automotive News in New York City. Another was Bodil Eriksson, VP of marketing and communication for Volvo, another small brand re-inventing itself with new products and a new focus on leveraging social media to get its message across.

Eriksson's game plan is to piggyback on what manufacturers with bigger budgets are doing. Buying one 30-second commercial on the Super Bowl "would be one-quarter of our annual ad budget." Her tactic was to launch what she described as an interception, a Twitter campaign during the game, asking people to name somebody worthy of getting a free Volvo. It generated 55,000 Tweets, and five lucky winners, whose stories are now being marketed, too.

"We want to spark a conversation. We are looking for stories to tell," she says, "beyond the storied Volvo safety features." What's next? Expect more traditional and new media campaigns about the story of Scandinavian design, along with stories of our love of the open road, whether that's driving a Volvo in Sweden or in the U.S.
You'll also be hearing more about Volvo's first-ever U.S. factory, now being built in South Carolina, with a planned opening in the second half of 2018.

Personally, I so hope Volvo will be sharing time-lapse photography, virtual tours, etc. If she hasn't already thought of it, I also hope Eriksson will launch another virtually free Twitter campaign to give away the first vehicle off the new assembly line, or raffle it for charity. It's all about capturing the attention of a media-savvy audience in creative new ways.

-- Evelyn Kanter, Motor Matters

Manufacturer Photo: At the Art of Performance video clips of participants "virtually" driving a Jaguar are interspersed with a "canned" adrenalin car chase, including dramatic rollovers and fiery crashes. Participants shared their action videos with friends and family on social media, garnering more than a million views. Attendees also test drioe the XE compact sport sedan.


Women Auto Know

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Women Auto Know


Volvo Car of the Year for Women

The 2016 Volvo XC90 has been selected as "Women's World Car of the Year." The organization of 20 women motoring journalists are from 18 different countries.
When a group of women automotive writers (myself included) traveled to Sweden to present the award to Volvo, the President and CEO of Volvo, Hakan Samuelsson, noted, "We are here today to acknowledge a very important segment of our customer base."

While it was the first time Volvo has hosted a press event just for women, Samuelsson suggested it would not be the last, "Our design concepts are just one aspect of where we are headed."

Besides having a legacy of safety, Volvo has a history of considering women in the design of their vehicles.
The Volvo YCC ("Your Concept Car"), shown at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show, was developed by a female team and built specifically for women.

In developing YCC, Volvo surveyed female drivers and found that they found caps annoying. As a result, YCC's windshield washer tank and gas tank were covered by a capless ball valve. The car also featured run-flat tires (like those of wheeled armored vehicles) so that women could avoid changing a tire on the side of the road and drive safely to a garage.

The fashion statement came in with the textile parts (such as seat pads or the door sides) that could be easily removed to change interior colors and textures. And what seemed to garner the most press was the fact that the headrests had indentations for ponytails!

While the 2016 XC90 does not have removable seat pads or headrests with ponytail cutouts, it does include a lot of female intuitive features. And the fact is, that while the judges at WWCOTY are from very different cultures, we all agreed on the XC90 as Car of the Year.

For example, Ylle Rajasaar from Estonia, said, "Volvo XC90 has made a great leap, compared to its predecessor, In addition to top-notch safety, the car's infotainment system is elegant and intuitive."

Odiel Mennink of the Netherlands noted the XC90 was one of the biggest cars available to drive in Holland. And that's apparently a good thing. She said, "It is the ideal family and business car -- it's comfortable, stylish, fashionable, and has great value."

Size rated as a big plus. Geraldine Herbert, from Ireland, offered, "The seven-seat cabin is MPV-like in its versatility. Space in the front two rows is plentiful and unlike rivals, space in the third row is just as good."

Another noteworthy point among voters was design, price, and clever technology. Sevil Okumus from Turkey noted, "It's young and modern, and it doesn't have an attitude."
Sue Baker from the UK agreed. She felt the XC90 was a standout. She explained, "It has select design and a dynamic drive. It's a capable car with clever ideas incorporated."

California-based Lou Ann Hammond, chief editor at drivingthenation.com, offered, "The XC90 embodies safety, technology, and infotainment that the consumer of today wants to purchase."

She added, "Next year a plug-in hybrid will be offered in the United States that will make the XC90 an even more compelling acquisition."

I chose the Volvo XC90 for Women's World Car of the Year for not only everything mentioned above, but also because I'm impressed by how Volvo is evolving: They are creating technology that is intuitive and designing cars that are sexier, all while keeping a clear focus on the future of the industry.

-- Holly Reich, Motor Matters

Manufacturer Photo: Volvo's award-winning XC60 offers a full spectrum of luxury, convenience, and cutting-edge technology features while continuing its leadership of safety.

The removal of the front passenger seat allows for full forward vision creating a uniquely spacious environment. The XC90 can be equipped with an integrated booster cushion for a child on the center position in the rear seat.


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