Lincoln Navigator:

Reflections from the Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows

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Has the 2014 Auto Show Season been a bust so far? Well, with the exception of the all new Ford F-150, there has not been much to justify all the fabricated hoopla at either the North American International Auto Show in Detroit or the Chicago Auto Show. You can almost count the significant new news on one hand. In order of importance to the United States market and their manufacturers here are the most significant: Ford F-150, Chrysler 200, Honda Fit, Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes C-Class in Detroit and the Subaru Legacy in Chicago. OK, that is six significant entries. Others that might have made the list are the GMC Canyon mid-size pickup and the Lexus RC-F coupe. The Detroit Show ended up focusing on performance models or concepts like the production-ready Subaru WRX STI, Toyota FT-1 super car, Chevrolet Corvette ZO6 variant, BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupe, Cadillac ATS coupe. The only other vehicles of note at the Chicago Show were the 2015 Lincoln Navigator with new front and rear styling and the Mercedes GLA compact crossover SUV.


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2009 Lincoln Navigator Wins AutoPacific 2009 Ideal Vehicle Award

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09Navi_L_7-8Frnt_HR_IVA.jpg“Lincoln started the Luxury Sport Utility category in 1997 with the launch of the first-generation Navigator. The current Navigator’s 2009 AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award win shows that Lincoln has continued to learn what their buyers want and are delivering it,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, Inc. “In a product segment where buyers value size, glitz and function, Navigator excels.” Areas in which the Navigator scored particularly well include:
* Ease of entry/egress
* Handling
* Exterior styling


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2009 Lexus LX570 – Luxurious Anonymity

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The reigning king of the Luxury SUV hill is probably the Range Rover. High priced at $77,175. Features most couldn’t conceive of in an off-road environment. Extremely competent off road. The top of the Land Rover line has established a tremendous reputation and following as THE aspirational Luxury SUV. Range Rover is not the best selling Luxury SUV, but it casts a wide shadow. And has since the early 1970s. VehicleVoice was on hand at The Grand Del Mar Hotel for the media preview of the Lexus LX570. Priced at $73,800, LX570 undercuts the Rangie, but is no less competent.

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LX570 – 3rd Generation Lexus LX
Lexus entered the upper end of the Luxury SUV market in 1996 with a facelifted and upgraded Toyota Land Cruiser – the Lexus LX450. The 1st Gen LX was replaced in 1999 by the LX470 which was freshened in 2002 and 2005. So, after a ten year run, it is time for Lexus to bring its latest LX to the market – the LX570.
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The first two LX generations did not set the world on fire from a sales standpoint. They were functional-looking SUVs loaded with features. Not head-turners. Not something to make your blood rush. They did, however, bring a very interesting clientele to Lexus. Younger, highly affluent, not wanting to make a strong statement with their vehicle. Confident, not having to show off their wealth. The 3rd Gen LX follows the same formula and hopes to attract the same type of buyer for slightly under 10,000 units per year or 3.5 LX570s per month for each of Lexus’ 223 dealers.


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Lincoln Navigator Wins AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Luxury Sport Utility

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Lincoln Navigator Wins AutoPacific 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Luxury Sport Utility:
“The Lincoln Navigator received a major styling update for 2007 where it competes with the Cadillac Escalade to be the ‘King of Bling’. The changes to the Navigator, or maybe the addition of tons of chrome, were enough to yield the highest satisfaction ratings in the Luxury SUV class,” says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “Overall winner in the 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, once again the Navigator is an AutoPacific VSA award winner. There is some tough competition in this segment, but the Navigator was favorably rated for several attributes, including Quietness, and Wheel and Tire Size and Appearance.”


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2008 Lexus LX 570: New York Auto Show

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Lexus Brings a New Engine and a New Look to Its Flagship SUV
Lexus’ next LX, renamed LX 570 for its 381HP 5.7L V8 engine, was revealed at the 2007 New York auto show. The increased power, which also bumps towing capacity to 8500 pounds (up 2000 pounds), will be delivered with the help of a new six-speed automatic transmission. The new look brings the LX into the brand’s latest design family and generally updates its look significantly inside and out; having last had a major redesign for the 1998 model year, the SUV was looking dated. The new LX manages to bring its looks into this century without losing its basic style. You’re not likely to confuse the LX 570 for a Mercedes-Benz GL, or Audi Q7, or Land Rover Range Rover, or even Cadillac Escalade.

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The new chassis and suspension underneath the new look is updated to today’s level of tricks. Lexus had already offered active height control and an adaptive variable suspension, but improved these elements with the 2008MY. The new system gives a greater range of motion and is cross-linked, allowing wheels to react to the action of opposing wheels as well as to driving surfaces. The system employs a valve at each corner as well as a center or master valve to detect extension or deflection of each wheel. The system, Lexus says, reduces body roll by more than thirty percent and changes ride height quickly. The chassis lowers by about two inches for ingress/egress and returns to normal height under acceleration. On the highway, the system will lower the front about an inch and the rear about a half inch.
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The LX 570 improves off-road and off-pavement performance with several sets of electronic aids. The same active height system that adjusts vehicle height for freeway travel and that makes it easier to get in and out also maximizes ground clearance by raising the SUV by about three inches when the low range is selected. Further easing off-road performance, which most LXs likely see precious little of, is a Crawl Control feature. Selectable in low range, Crawl Control increases throttle control to help keep the vehicle at the appropriate low speeds, allowing the driver to focus on steering through the path or over obstacles. Crawl Control uses a set of virtual locking differentials to minimize tire slip and maximize chassis behavior. Without canceling the Crawl Control mode, the driver can use the brakes for slowing vehicle speed and increase or decrease speed by adjusting a speed selector switch. There’s also multi-terrain ABS technology, for reduced stopping distances on slippery surfaces.


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Highlights and Lowlights – Orange County Auto Show

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After disseminating Motorist’s Choice Awards (an AutoPacific and IntelliChoice award recognizing the most satisfying and highest value vehicles) to MCA winners it was time to preview vehicles showcased at the 2007-Model Orange County Auto Show.

There were some vehicles you’d want to take home, a few you’d keep covered in the garage and others you’d never let onto your driveway.
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Subaru WRX STI
Starting at Subaru, the WRX STI is still a favorite among enthusiasts. For those turbocharged, intercooled, Rally Car junkies who need more than an over-the-counter Impreza, the 300 horsepower, 300 lb. Ft. of torque, WRX STI comes as more of a prescription or antidote to the common car.
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Remember the Trans Am Mustangs? Parnelli Jones and George Follmer vs. Mark Donohue
Winding our way through the course we came across the new Mustangs; including the GT500 and Boss 302. I kept looking around for a dark blue Sunoco Camaro and Mark Donohue out in front of the Mustard Yellow Boss 302, reminiscent of the TransAm Series in the late 60’s and early 70’s, but to no avail (maybe 2009?). Of course, then we’d need Parnelli Jones and George Follmer to compete.
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Those retro Ford Mustangs may be galloping along through open pastures at the moment but it won’t be too long before we see the Mustang archrivals of yesteryear saddling up for another canter through the meadow. Built off of the Chrysler 300M platform and coated in ‘HEMI’ Orange paint (now called Orange Pearl-Thanks Daimler) the ‘muscle car’ that may beat the Chevrolet Camaro to showrooms is the Dodge Challenger. Fitted with a 6.1 Liter HEMI engine, pumping out 425 horses, the American Muscle Car era will be back in full swing. That is, until fuel prices neuter the craze once again.
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Lincoln MKX – Em Kay Ex
For those seeking a little bit more estrogen, front wheel or all-wheel-drive, and a lot more utility, Lincoln was showing off their all-new MKX. The MKX is an upscale Ford Edge with fascia that has been likened to an integral bug catcher. It utilizes the Ford CD3 car platform, shared with the Zephyr (MKZ), Milan and Fusion. Before its introduction and after some entanglements with Honda, regarding the Acura MDX, it was called a “Mark-Ex”, but now we’re back to “Em-Kay-Ex”. This spawned Lincoln’s current promotional campaign where new owners receive a can of alphabet soup and a Speak & Spell with every new vehicle.
Lincoln will probably sell quite a few MKX’s but it seems like they’re just catching up to the competition. It’s an SUV built off of a car platform. This type of crossover SUV, like the Lexus RX (built off of the Camry) was being produced almost a decade ago. Does it take a disappointment like the Lincoln Aviator and nearly ten years for action to be taken?
The 2007 Lincoln Navigator was also on display. It carried a front grill fashioned in a similar style, but what was even more interesting was the 1970’s Ford Country Squire instrument cluster they’ve wired up into the new Navigator’s dash.
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Other Fresh New Entries at The OC Auto Show
After playing the name game over at Lincoln it was off to visit other new arrivals like the GMC Acadia (pictured above), Audi Q7, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Toyota Tundra. The GMC Acadia is a Crossover SUV offering built off of the Lambda platform. It will share much of it’s sheet metal with the Saturn Outlook but will flaunt some more professional grade features like exterior rear view mirrors with integrated turn signals and an interior that flaunts brushed aluminum rather than wood. But both the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia have the ‘Smart Slide Feature’ where the second row seats can move fore and aft or collapsed with one hand. This makes getting into the third row seat really easy, not to mention that a full-size human can fit into the third row with decent headroom.
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Audi Q7
Even though Audi recently decided to increase production of the Q7 from 200 to 300 units a day they just anounced that it will be cutting back on Q7 shipments to the US (from 50% to 30%). Built in Bratislava, Slovakia they are selling much better in Europe than the U.S., which I found surprising given their size. However, with the importation issue, rising fuel costs and the weak dollar the future of the Q7 remains uncertain.
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Mitsubishi Outlander
The all-new Outlander is said to be superior to the first generation. Larger and more powerful, it is to both ride and handle better as it sits on the next-generation Lancer platform.
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Toyota Tundra
After backing Ford, GM, and Dodge into a perverbial corner (read: Full-size truck market) Toyota is going in for the knock-out. The full-size truck market seemed to be a safe haven for Ford, GM, and Dodge, with loyal, even patriotic buyers, and very little competition. The Nissan Titan took a stab at it, but it might just be the Toyota Tundra that’s grown up, built the muscle, and secured the towing capacity (over 10,000 lbs.) to really take on the competition. However, the full-size truck market is fickle and the dynamic in this segment is different than any other. It will be interesting to find out how the new Tundra sits with full-size truck owners. It will really be those consumers who decide the Tundra’s fate.


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Lincoln Commits Suicide – Brand R.I.P.

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Ford has all but guaranteed the demise of its luxury Lincoln brand through a series of strategy, marketing and product blunders not recently seen in the American car industry. In effect, Ford has forced Lincoln’s suicide. While we would like to write the epitaph now, Lincoln’s death seems like a long, slow, painful trauma that will provide fodder for the business press for the next decade. VehicleVoice counts the various ways Lincoln has been killing itself over the past couple of years.
Working backward:

Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Stomach by Cancelling V8 engine on 2009 Lincoln MKS (pronounced Em Kay Ess, not Mark S):
This guarantees Lincoln will no longer be a luxury brand but a premium brand like Acura or Buick. Maybe the MKS will be an OK car, but with AWD and only a 260-plus horsepower V6 it can, at best, be an “almost-Acura-RL” which is off-concept at best. Even rumors of a range topping Twin-Turbo V6 with well over 300 horsepower will not offset the lack of the needed V8.
Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Shoulder by Cancelling the Lincoln Town Car: The Lincoln Town Car has not pretended to be at the top of the luxury car heap for decades, but with few improvements over the years, Town Car devolved into the Executive Car loved by livery buyers. Few Town Car sales were for personal use. So Ford allowed the Town Car to deteriorate from any Luxury Car pretenses it may have had, and become a luxurious black taxi driven by cabbies with ties. Just think what Ford could have achieved if they had implemented a major major change on the rear wheel drive Panther platform. New Town Car, New Grand Marquis, New Crown Vic… all built in Canada. Now, put in the 300HP 4.6L V8 and you could have a something to talk about


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Volvo XC90 Gets Updated Look for 2007

New York Show is Backdrop for Reveal
Volvo‘s current XC90 was introduced for the 2003 model year, and is due for a bit of a refresh. As the U.S. accounts for about 50 percent of all XC90s sold, it is no surprise that the minor change for 2007 model year was introduced at the 2006 New York auto show. Brought to you by AutoPacific and VehicleVoice, below is a first review of the changes, complete with before and after photos.

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Among the most significant aspects of the update, which include some new safety features as well, is an all-new 232HP 3.2L in-line six-cylinder engine to slot between the 208HP 2.5L turbocharged I5 and the 315HP V8. The new six launches in the S80, though quickly followed by installation in the XC90, and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The new engine will figure prominently in Volvo’s range over the next several years.
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Lincoln Navigator – An Avoidable Abomination

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When the wraps came off the heavily facelifted Lincoln Navigator at the Chicago Auto Show I cringed in terror. The elegant, instantly identifiable front end of the Lincoln Navigator was gone replaced by a grille that was kindly described by one journalist as a “teenager with bad braces”. Above the grille on the leading edge of the hood is a heavy chromed applique that had AutoPacific staffers wondering if it was an integral bug guard.
Even having Magic Johnson at Chicago to reveal the Navigator could not hide the travesty that was on the stage. Journalists surveyed after the Navigator reveal seemed destined to rate it as “Worst of Show”.
The other seven-eighths of the Navigator are OK, even well done. Sure there were criticisms of the chrome moldings on the doors that seem to have no purpose except to add more bling to the SUV. The interior is spectacular with Navigator finally getting rid of the flip up door over the audio system controls.
So, Lincoln provided Chicago show-goers with a trifecta of follies. Number one is the abominable grille on the Navigator, number two is the renaming of the almost all-new Lincoln Zephyr as the MKZ, number three is the overall alphanumeric naming strategy of Lincoln’s cars. They have abandoned Continental. They have abandoned Zephyr. They have abandoned who they are.


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Lincoln Naming – Cat Food By Any Other Name Would Still Smell As Sweet

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The Madness at Lincoln Continues.
Over that last two and a half months, Ford Motor Company has been misrepresenting its new naming strategy for future Lincolns. At an early reveal of the Lincoln MKS, Ford’s North American Supremo Peter Horbury called the car the “Mark Ess.” Yet at the Detroit autoshow a couple of weeks later, the model was verbally referred to as the “Em-kay-ess” by Ford management and P.R. types. Concurrently the Aviator replacing crossover utility was called the “Em-kay-ecks.” That’s MKX in badgespeak.
At the Chicago show this week, Lincoln unveiled a lightly restyled and reengineered Zephyr that will be called the MKZ. In the press release materials for the successor to the Zephyr, the car is identified as the “Mark Zee.” C’mon guys, make up you minds.


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