The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

A Stink'n Lincoln, And Other Boos, Hisses and Huzzah's In The Auto Channel's Letter From Europe

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Relevant Connection: New Car Buyers Guide

From Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Chgannel

May 2011; I had a fascinating chat recently with Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford II whose company gave me my very first job. In those days, back in the 1960s companies actually sent recruiters to Universities in Britain, a far cry from what’s going on today.

Anyway, Ford’s man, Berry Wilson offered me a job subject only to a degree from Uni. I’ll always be grateful to him. And to Ford Motor Company. So it was very nice indeed to stand up in front of 100 or so people and thank Edsel publicly.

The world of motoring in general and motor racing in particular would be a lot poorer without them. The Mustang, the Cortina, the Fiesta, the Ford sponsored Cosworth engine, the list is long and distinguished. Which is a lot more than I can say about their latest offering, the Lincoln MKT.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

If you look at the 2011 Lincoln MKT from the outside you’ll know immediately why the company have just appointed a designer. Better later than never I suppose.

With extras the price came to 57 and a half thousand dollars, an awful lot of money for a whale. It does of course have some good points as well. The 3.5 liter ecoboost engine is getting better and better, the 4 wheel discs work fine and I have no complaints about the interior which is very tasteful. The voice activated navigation system is an entirely different matter. No less a writer than Maureen Dowd of The New York Times took issue with it and she is absolutely right.

My beef is very simple: if you don’t speak Detroit English you’ve had it. I thought that my English was passable but the plastic voice refused even the simplest commands. Suppose you speak with a strong Spanish or Chinese accent-then what?!

The fuel consumption was a rather disappointing 16-21 mpg and to be honest the MKT is not something I would recommend to my neighbors.

After complaining about 57 and a half thousand it seems like a contradiction For me to like an SUV which costs even more! And yet, the 2011 Infiniti FX 50 AWD is everything the MKT isn’t.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The 2011 Infiniti FX 50 looks good, sounds good and is an absolute pleasure to drive. Even though the fact sheet says 14-20 miles per gallon I did get 23 on my way to Lake Tahoe. They had more snow in the Sierras than ever but the FX made mincemeat of it. Interestingly Nissan, the owners of Infiniti and partners of Renault, have done a deal to badge the Renault engines in the Red Bull Formula One cars “Infiniti” to give the brand more recognition world-wide.
PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The one complaint I had on the FX50 was the tire noise, those huge Bridgestone’s were rumbling more than I would have expected. Infiniti are clearly after the big BMWs and the Mercedes GL class, but getting the message across in their problem, the 2011 Infiniti FX 50 is not an obvious choice at $60 grand plus.

And, even though driving parsimoniously I did get the fuel consumption into the 20s a good diesel, such as the Bluetec in the Mercedes would do wonders. All in all a great product, possibly like all SUVs at the wrong time.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Mind you, if you think the MKT and the FX are big you should see the Cadillac Escalade I’ve been driving of late. Oh my life! It is massive. A huge hit with valets who immediately assume –at least until they see me- that I am either a basketball player or a baddie or a desperate housewife whose husband has more money than sense.

It is also very 20th Century with a key (!), a silly gear lever and a manual mode switch which is truly nonsense. Having said that once you get going-and Heaven help you if you are in a small car park – it does offer panoramic views. After feeling hugely embarrassed about it in Mill Valley, things changed as I approached Santa Rosa where SUVs were much more the norm.

I tried really hard to come up with reasonable fuel consumption figures and cruised for hours at a steady 60-65 miles per hour. The figure came out at a pretty humble 15.1 miles per gallon.

Then I started thinking. Yes, for one person that is pretty outrageous. But if you have four children plus a dog and all the other bits and pieces and you live out in the sticks, say in North Dakota then it makes an awful lot more sense than even a Subaru.

In a snow storm-and we’ve had plenty of those lately -the Cadillac Escalade you would be grateful for that 6.2 liter engine, the 403 horses and the all-wheel drive. If you divide 15 miles per gallon between 6 passengers than it doesn’t sound so bad after all. If on the other hand you use it to just drop little Johnnie off at playschool before proceeding to the nearest tennis club than it is pretty unacceptable these days.

It would be fun to try the hybrid which apparently does 23 miles per gallon-would make a huge difference. The comfort incidentally is exceptional and there are enough toys to keep children quiet for even the longest journey. Elmo all the way!

I’ve mentioned carry-over parts from the 20th Century but I feel certain that what is called “new” GM are in the process of updating them. The Escalade is built in Arlington, Texas. Could not be more appropriate.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The Nissan Rogue, brings us into the “quite nice” territory. It does everything you ask from it but a memorable automobile it isn’t. Finished in in Safeway car park grey, it had a willing if somewhat gutless engine, front wheel drive, comfortable seats, a so-so radio and a small but excellent rearview monitor with reversing, and everything else one can expect for around 25 thousand dollars.

Right now all I can think of is Nissan’ Leaf- World Car of the Year, a fully deserved accolade. I have some great friends at the company, ex Volvo, ex Ford and they all did a superb job. The waiting list currently stands at 20 thousand and I can fully understand it.

Absolutely the way to go.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Last but not least as an antidote to the electric brigade I’ve just said good-bye to a Ferrari red 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. At 25 thousand dollars they are not exactly giving it away but then it is wonderfully and thoughtfully put together.

The 2 liter 140 horsepower 4 cylinder engine is fine, although one clearly has to get used to diesel characteristics. The ABS I can vouch for as someone in front of me came to a very sudden and unexpected stop.

I suppose in these days of fully equipped South Korean cars at 25 thousand dollars you have to have Bluetooth,, a 6 speaker sound system, folding rear seats, a/c, power windows-all things that were in the “extras” category not that many years ago.

The trunk swallowed two sets of golf clubs and all is all good fun was had by all. The navigation system is exceptionally good, makes a lot of more expensive cars look silly in this respect.

The fuel consumption was indeed in excess of 40 miles per gallon so there will be those who will argue that without hybrid technology a good old diesel can do just as well when it comes to getting miles for your buck.

In Europe over 50% of all cars sold are diesel. Having driven the Jetta it is easy to see why. Now if we could only give North American drivers the same choice the Europeans have… life would be grand and we all will be putting it to the oil companies.

Well that’s it for this month’s Letter From Europe.