2018 Nissan Maxima

Better than I thought possible

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I’ve been exposed to the Maxima since before I could even drive, but it was nothing like the 2018 picture above.  Oddly enough, I returned this gem parked in between a Versa and Rogue in the background.  One of my favorite family cars was a 1985 Maxima wagon, which according to the salesman was the first 1985 model year wagon sold in the state of Kentucky on Halloween 1984.  It employed the same v-6 engine as the 300ZX and was a very enjoyable driving experience.  It had a peppy 150hp engine (peppy for 1985 at least) and achieved about 26mpg on the highway.  Fast forward 33 years and the current Maxima has double the horsepower.   I had a dear friend in Las Vegas that had a 2002 model in the best shade of navy blue I can ever remember on a car.   I can still hear and feel that booming bass from the Bose sound system!

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The “SV” version bathed in Brilliant Silver paint looks great although a little too similar to the much less expensive Altima.  It was one trim level up from the base “S”, but still was plagued with several blank buttons inside the cabin.  The larger wheels and partially black rear pillars are the only things that set it apart from a 2018 Altima.  The revamped 2019 Altima is even more undistinguishable from the current Maxima as it has the same rear pillar color combo and nearly identical tail lights.  I hope Nissan is planning for a major refresh for mid-year 2019 or 2020 to set the Maxima apart from it’s cheaper sibling.

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The 300hp V6 was an absolutely thrill to drive.  The throttle response, steering, and braking meshed together flawlessly and is a refreshing change from the hybrid or lag laden turbos that are taking over this segment now.  The 0-60 time is 3rd only to the Challenger that I drove in September and the Q50 I drove last month.  The Maxima felt much faster than the Q50 due to the instant acceleration.

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I noticed something odd under the hood that was new territory for me.  The antifreeze is the exact shade of blue of windshield washer fluid.  Is this a new trend breaking away from the traditional green and pink antifreeze choices?  That could get expensive if refilling one or the other at a quick glance.

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Another potential glaring flaw was the super soft foam sealant between the top of the firewall and the hood.  I can’t tell if this was to protect leaves, water, and other debris from entering the engine compartment or if it was to keep engine heat off of the glass.  Either way, it was so soft that there’s no way it is going to age well and keep that elasticity.

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The driver’s seat was very comfortable even though it was more fitting for a racing seat than a highway cruiser.  The side bolsters seemed to hug the love handles a little more than I prefer, but I wouldn’t change a thing about the seat bottom or lumbar support.  I found it unusual that the power operated forward leg support moves separate from the bottom base of the seat.

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My short-term passenger for the day also commented that the seats were comfortable, but much different from the other rentals.  Also of note, the passenger seat is only 4-way adjustable.

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The back seat of most cars is forgettable, but the Maxima is memorable in a horrible way.  I sat in a normal seating position with average leg room, but my head was touching the roof.  I’m 6′ tall and I think that’d be totally unacceptable on a trip over a few miles and completely miserable for anyone over 6’3″.

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The trunk was adequate, but the wheel wells seems to intrude into the space more than necessary.  The grocery net was much appreciated and put to good use for my weekly Kroger trip.

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The base engine on the Altima is the 2.5 liter 4-cyl, but the V6 is an option.  We should be getting in some new 2019 models soon and I’m anxious to see how a $6000 less Altima compares.

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The center stack was well laid out, but seemed to be a little more compressed than necessary.  A 2″ bigger screen would’ve done wonders for ease of use.  Standard navigation is unusual in this segment and could save renters the daily fee of renting a portable unit offered at all rental counters.

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I toyed with the center control knob a few times, but didn’t really need it.  I set a few favorite channels on the SiriusXM and had the climate control set and had no practical use to play with this extra feature.  It would be put to good use if the driver frequently switched between SiriusXM, AM/FM, Aux, or CD’s (a pleasant surprise for this old school guy).  I don’t have SiriusXM in my TL, so I just left it alone and stuck with satellite radio.

 

Things of note:
MSRP is $35,000, but dealers are unloading 2018’s for $7,000 off.
V6 engine very eager to hit the redline.
Achieved 26mpg is in-line with the EPA stated 21CITY/30HWY.
Transmission displays 7 gears on the dash, but is actually a much improved CVT.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
I would be a happy man renting a Maxima again for a local trip or 5000 mile road trip.  Reliability is better than average on older Maximas, but still hit or miss in varying aspects of transmissions and electronics.  If I couldn’t find an Acura I loved after my current TL plays out, I’d definitely scope out a well maintained Maxima as a replacement.
Nissan if you’re listening . . .
The sunroof was standard on all Maximas in 1985, why aren’t they standard now?
On a scale from 1-100: (1- a 200K mile Versa is fine  / 100- I don’t need a GT-R)
Buy it now – 50
Buy it later at half the current price – 85
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 80
Oooh and ahhh factor – 65
Recommended – 90

2018 Lincoln Continental

Impressive, but with concerns

I’ve always had a thing for big sedans, whether it be ultra luxurious or stripped down ‘boat’ with cloth seats.  I LOVE a good long road trip and the ‘bigger the better’ mantra is all about me and my desire to drive through multiple time zones.20181102_171139

This is only the 2nd Continental I’ve seen in our fleet and missed the chance to take the first one for a spin other than on the airport property for barely 3 minutes.  I touted these to several customers before with their amazing 32-way power seats, but egg-on-the-face-moment this “Premiere” trim is only a 10-way.  I was instantly comfortable by just moving the seat back a little bit for my long legs, so I wonder what benefit would an extra 22-ways of movement be to anyone.

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The hood isn’t usually something I focus on, but the paint was thin and uneven in spots and not expected of any modern car, especially a Lincoln, in this price range.  The 2nd generation Lincoln in the 1950’s was priced to compete with Rolls-Royce and at the time was the most expensive domestic car for sale.

20181102_171032The interior was beautiful.  The woodgrain inlays in the doors, center console, and dashboard looked amazing with the black leather interior.  A safety concern is the electronic door handle within the chrome surround under the rear power window switches.  In case of a complete battery failure, the red-centered manual release below is the only way to escape the car.  That could be bad news for rear seat passengers.  The driver’s door was already showing signs of needing assistance with a little push to open the door.

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Another concern was the nearly useless side mirrors.  I understand the goal of the smaller blind spot corner mirrors is for safety, but a light notification of a car in the blind spot would definitely be more appropriate.  During a brief daytime heavy rain, I had no idea what was behind me using either mirror.

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Although I’m curious to see how the obviously thinner veneer of the rollaway cupholder cover holds up over time, it does look amazing at a year old.

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As with most cars I’ve driven in our rental fleet, the sound system is the Lincoln was exceptional, although the separation of the high/mid/low frequencies could use some fine tuning.  The bass coming from the rear was so strong it was approaching chair massage levels.  I guess part of me is still a 17 year old kid thumping bazookas in the trunk of a 1984 Cutlass.  The transmission status to the left isn’t just a display, that *IS* the gear selector.  It was so odd reaching onto the dash to change gears that it made the circular knob in the Ford Fusion Hybrid seem normal.  The “S” for sport setting did very little in the way of performance other than making the transmission shift gears at 4000rpm instead of 3000rpm under similar accelerator pressure.

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The rear seats are typical Lincoln as far a comfort and space for anyone over 6′ tall.  The rear facing A/C vents were unusually strong which would definitely be welcomed in the summer surrounded by all that black leather.

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I think another design flaw is the fully exposed tracks for the seats.  A little debris, a few coins, or a dropped cell phone could really cause some frustration for someone needing to move the seat forward.

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The dashboard is completely LED screen with no mechanical needles at all.  As with most upper echelon rental cars, the gauges can be configured many different ways.  I did like the constant numerical distance to empty display above the fuel gauge.

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A big luxury sedan should have a massive trunk and the Continental didn’t disappoint although I found it odd how narrow, but deep.  It appeared that the trunk had a lot of sound insulation which was also key in completely covering the hinges.  This is one of the few new cars that I’m aware of that still have an electronic soft close trunk.

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By the looks of the engine covers, it’s safe to assume this has spent some time in the desert southwest before arriving here!  The 305hp V6 was a fairly good mix of performance and fuel economy while still achieving 60mph in under 6 seconds from a stop.  The 6speed automatic was buttery smooth as expected.  As shown in the picture, the windshield washer reserve cap wasn’t attached very well and was missing when I picked it up.

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The front fascia has some obvious Jaguar influence, but all Lincoln with the much more distinguishable logo in the chrome grille.

Could a 2-door Lincoln Continental with opera windows be in the works?  I hope not, let’s leave that back in the 1970’s.

 

Things of note:
Least expensive MSRP is $45,000.
No performance comparison to the similar sized, but underpowered Lacrosse last week.
Achieved 23mpg is in-line with the EPA stated 17CITY/26HWY.
$80,000 MSRP isn’t impossible for the optioned out Black Label trim.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
I’d never buy a new Lincoln based solely that it has been one of the worst depreciating cars sold today.  They aren’t depreciating by half in 3 years like 10 years ago, but holding value isn’t their strong suit.  I’d rent one tomorrow and drive it 800 miles a day with no worries about comfort or fatigue.  The overly complicated electronic release doors seem like a disaster waiting to happen.
Lincoln if you’re listening . . .
Picture this:  The 2020 80th anniversary commemorative edition Lincoln Continental with 20″ wheels, tweaked 440hp twin turbo, 7-speed manual, and a leather with red stitching could really fire up a new customer base.  Unfortunately, the odd gear selector would make that a not-so-simple conversion.  Limit production to 2020 examples and it could priced under the maxed out Black Label trim.
On a scale from 1-100: (1-wouldn’t pay 10% of retail / 100- pay double retail)
Buy it now – 15
Buy it later at half the current price – 35
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 60
Oooh and ahhh factor – 65
Recommended – 45

Tell me about your first experience with a Lincoln!  Mine, of course, was an aunt in Texas that owned several over the years.  Aunt + Texas = Lincoln.  Simple math, really.

2018 Buick LaCrosse

Your grandpa’s Buick. . . well, kinda.

 

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I learned to drive on a Buick.  I learned on a 1981 Buick Century wagon to be precise and that wagon had very little in common with this Lacrosse.  Fast forward 37 years and it’s obvious that Buick has changed their target demographic considerably in nearly 4 decades.  Many years ago GM’s thought process was that Buick was their precursor to Cadillac ownership (think LaSabre, Electra, Century).  If customers were satisfied with a Buick that graduating to Cadillac ownership would be the next logical step.

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I think the Lacrosse looks great and would hold it’s own in a wide range of vehicles in it’s class on appearance, but . . .

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. . . the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine was no match for it’s 3500lb curb weight.  The 24 hp hybrid battery assist was very little help in merging comfortably into highway traffic.  The engine was so weak, I was a little concerned I could get to 60mph by the time I ran out of on ramp.  The optional V6 adds 110hp+ with a claimed 0-60 time of around 6.5 seconds.  I can personally attest that the 4-cylinder is not even in the same league.

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The trunk was spacious enough, but the space robbing ‘shelf’ next to the rear seats ate up valuable cargo room for the hybrid assist battery pack.  The seat release levers for both right and left have no chance of ageing gracefully being so poorly mounted to the sheet metal as shown in varying stages of droop.

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This is a first I’ve seen in Buick’s clear aim at a better front/rear weight distribution (shout out to BMW maybe?).  I’m curious to know how much labor would be involved getting a new battery in with only 1 visible cover plug.

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The dashboard layout is in the same field as the Malibu and Encore I recently drove.  The tachometer, temp gauge, and fuel gauge are all analog with real time needles, but the center speedometer is a digital projection that can be changed to various readouts.  I pushed the Lacrosse to about 4500rpm in my temporary time with it and was not  pleased with the noise coming from the engine bay.  I can’t imagine how awful that must sound nearer the 7000rpm redline.  The engine Auto-Stop cannot be defeated.

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The inside is typical Buick except the angle of the headlight and fog light switches.  They were at an unusual 45 degree angle and not easily seen in the driving position.  I’ll have to assume that the fog lights were strictly for visibility purposes for other drivers coming from the opposite direction since they had zero effect on lighting in front.

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We’ll call the center stack a teeny tiny upgrade from the much less expensive Malibu.  The heated seats were very welcome late night coming home from a house party plus the HVAC system was quick to warm the cabin also.  The “engine power” screen shown above is at idle and the rear battery only lights up under heavy acceleration.  I wouldn’t change a thing in regards to the climate control knobs and buttons.

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The woodgrain accents of the Lacrosse would be perfect for a vehicle at half the price, but looked horribly cheap in a vehicle of this caliber and price point.  The gear shifter takes a learning curve also.  On several occasions, I’ve had to come out to explain to customers the non-sensical way to get the car in reverse.  There’s a button on the side that you hold in, push the knob up and over to the left.  I’d bet my next paycheck that all Buick salesman have had to do that same tutorial more than once also.  The prominently displayed blank button between the traction control and parking assist defeat buttons houses 3 optional overrides in the higher trimmed Avenir or 1 single override for the Sport model for 2019.

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The interior was excellent for comfort and legroom.  The driver’s seat could be fitted for someone 4’10” or 6’10” with ease.  I’d take this on a long highway ride with 4 friends, but would research other more powerful options for a local multi-stop trip.

I took a few sharp curves at a higher than normal speeds to see how well the stock 18″ wheels and tires handled.  This is a Buick after all so I wasn’t expecting 911 Carerra cornering, but it was better than expected as not much wheel squeal going 35mph on a 90 degree turn.

Things of note:
Asinine sticker price of $39,380, but $8000 off is common since year-end is close.
50 more horsepower would do wonders.
Achieved 30mpg is dead-on with the EPA stated 25CITY/35HWY.
$29,000 base model looks identical to a $50,000+ MSRP V-6 AWD Avenir.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
I’d recommend the Lacrosse to anyone who wants a purchase a smooth ride, likely better than average reliability, and simplistic ergonomics, but only if it can be had for about 25 grand.  I expect to see a lot of these cars on ebay with very low mileage and in excellent condition, much like the bumper crop of 2008 Lacrosse and Lucernes on their now at a tiny fraction of the new price.  I’d much rather rent an equivalent Avalon, XTS, or 300 in this category even sacrificing a few MPG.
Buick if you’re listening . . .
Lay off the ridiculous MSRP’s even though there’s a handful of seniors that don’t know better and would pay full sticker.  The total sales figures for 2017 back me up on this.  A much more capable BMW 4-series is less expensive!
On a scale from 1-100: (1-keep the 1988 LaSabre / 100-trade-in your Grand National)
Buy it now – 30
Buy it later at half the current price – 40
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 30
Oooh and ahhh factor – 40
Recommended – 50

I’m just kidding, NEVER trade-in your Grand National.

2018 Subaru Legacy

Safety 1st

This was another surprise rental as I didn’t know we had any Subaru’s in the fleet at all until this arrived.   I figured I’d better snag it before it vanished on a 1-way rental never to be seen again.

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This is covered in Twilight Blue Metallic paint and a fabric interior.   I feel like I’ve seen this color on other Subies in the past and that’s perfectly ok.  This shade of blue hides dirt very well.  I can attest to that personally since our 2-month old(!) car wash is already having issues and the blow dryers are currently inoperable.  Ferrari Red has been around for decades and why not make this Subaru Blue?

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The front fascia looks great although the 6-starred Subaru logo seems a little oversized for the grille.  Just remember how far the Legacy has come in the past 30 years!

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The taillights remind me of a Toyota Camry / Infiniti Q70 mix.  The bumper looks designed for dual exhaust, but only 1 pipe on this trim level.

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The driver’s cockpit was very well done and the seats were awesome from headrests to thigh support.  I had a passenger for a brief time and she said they were the most comfortable seats yet in a rental.  She test drove an Outback and Forrester before buying her 2nd Lexus RX, but was disappointed in the limited power from the engine.

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The 2.5 liter 4-cylinder was one of the slowest cars I’ve rented, if not THE slowest.  Not a label a carmaker would want after driving the much less expensive Nissan Sentra just a few weeks ago.  The 0-60 time listed is about 9 seconds and it felt every bit of that 9 seconds or more.  For a point of reference, the 1979 Buick Century, 2015 Chevy Trax, 1993 Infiniti J30, and 2009 Nissan Cube all are in the 9.0 to 9.2 second range in the 0-60mph sprint.

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The 7-speed automatic was silky smooth in both upshifting and downshifting.  Pictured below the parking brake is 1 of only 2 blank buttons in the entire car.  That’s rather impressive considering this is one of the lower trimmed Legacy’s available.  The steering wheel paddle shifters were fun only briefly since the underpowered engine couldn’t support any sort of spirited driving.

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I had some friends visiting from Las Vegas and we all immediately noticed how abnormally huge the trunk was for a car of this class.  This space could easily swallow luggage for 4 for a long weekend trip.

20181012_182452The backseat was surprisingly spacious also.  I had the driver’s seat in my usual position (almost all the way back) and it was still roomy for four 6′ tall passengers.  Comfort being more than adequate, I wonder what a hilly terrain road trip would be like for a 3500lb car with 200 lbs of bags, and 800 lbs of passengers for the not-so-capable 175hp engine.

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As with most late model steering wheels, the Legacy is covered with 13 buttons and the up and down volume switch as well as the resume and set cruise control switch.  I always like to view the fuel economy display and it took a minute to figure out the two recessed buttons below the phone connect/disconnect control the center dash display.  Subaru has the right idea about the trip odometer, it’s easy to see in plain sight right below the temperature gauge!

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Volvo could take a lesson from Subaru about the simplistic way to defeat the “Big Brother” safety features with simple buttons on the lower left dash.  (From L to R) The traction control, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, and EyeSight, respectively.  The lane change assist on/off button is on the steering wheel that displays status on the center dash below the distance to empty.  Another first on a car I’ve ever driven is when traffic ahead is moving and you aren’t, the dash lights and alarm let you know.  A subtle hint to put down the phone and pay attention again.20181013_152401

Things of note:
Sticker price new about $24,000 as shown.
Most dealers don’t budge on the sticker price.
30 mpg on my local trip is in line with the EPA stated 25CITY/34HWY.
Starting in 2019, the 7-speed automatic goes away and it’s CVT or nothing.  Bummer.
The rear view camera is the clearest I’ve come across to date.

Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
No way I’d buy the underpowered 4-cyl Legacy that would struggle to go up a mountainous highway when fully loaded with bags and people.  At the same time, if I lived in an area that required driving in all types of weather, the flawless AWD would warrant a serious look if equipped with the optional 256hp 6-cyl, but all of them sticker well over $32,000.  I would rent a Legacy again if I was driving solo, but would look for more horsepower options if I was hauling anything more than myself and a bag or two.  Well maintained Subaru’s are famous for longevity and have unbelievably high resale value.  I’d recommend it to others if they aren’t into acceleration and performance.

Subaru if you’re listening . . .
Every other vehicle in this class would leave a Legacy in the dust by 2 seconds or more.  Even a de-tuned version of the V6 would be better than the standard 4-cylinder.

AND. . .

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picture from Toyota of New Bern.  New Bern, NC

*N*E*V*E*R* go back to this.  The 1979 version looks like a buck-toothed caveman.

On a scale from 1-100: (1-party like it’s 1979 / 100- party like it snows year round )
Buy it now – 15
Buy it later at half the current price – 20
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 50
Oooh and ahhh factor – 55
Recommended – 70

In your opinion, what’s the best looking Subaru?

 

 

 

 

 

October Cars & Coffee – northside

Can’t we all just get along?

The original organizers of the local Cars & Coffee events have had a disagreement(?) on how the monthly events are to be run.  I think it’s pathetic that a metro area of barely a quarter million can’t unite once a month to celebrate the 4-wheeled machine, but I’m on the outside looking in.  I don’t know all the details (a.k.a. drama), but it is still a disappointment.

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Every day is a good day for a RHD Skyline . . . yes, this is legal, it’s over 25 years old.

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This is always been one of my favorite Ferraris.  Is it the hood scoop?  The 3 separate beamed headlights?  I don’t know.  It’s hard to believe the 550 Maranello was introduced over 20 years ago already.

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It’s a good day whenever I see an Aston Martin . . .

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. . . but even better to see two of them side by side!

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Not many of these jewels around.  The front of the SLS is very distinctive.

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Who can we count on to bring back the museum quality hood ornament?

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I have many facebook friends that would give a kidney to have a NSX.  I don’t remember seeing this one around town and I couldn’t see inside enough to see the odometer.  Nothing but love to the owners that can keep them under 50K miles, but much respect to the owners that have 100K+ miles and daily drive them.

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The Porsche club in town obviously were in full support of this show instead of the other one.  There were at least a dozen Porsche’s at this one from the 356 to the latest and greatest 911.
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I’m not sure how I feel about using the rear wing of a 911 as a drink holder.

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Flawless black paint, matching black wheels, & black interior.  Nothing says “I’ve arrived” like a Bentley convertible.

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Always a good mix of Kentucky made Corvettes at nearly any car event around here.

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Amazing Auburn “Boat tail” coupe.  I wish my camera was able to capture this amazing shade of blue.   This is definitely one of my local favorites now.

What is the best car you’ve ever seen at a Cars & Coffee?

 

October Cars & Coffee

Fall weather – cooler temps

**NOT**

Mother nature was not cooperating with the time-of-year appropriate sweatshirts, infinite pumpkin drinks, and changing colors of the trees.  It was already close to 80 degrees and not even a hint of a breeze at 10am.

Hot cars and hotter than normal temps?  We’ll go with that theme for this month.

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This car reminds me of an era my dad talked about back in the day. . . “when in doubt, add more chrome”.  This old Chevy has obviously been restored in the not so distant past and shines like new from bumper to bumper.

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1939 Ford Coupe has not had interior or exterior mods and was for sale for $39,500.

The Pontiac Solstice GXP next to it was a looker too.

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Only recently have I been turned on to early Miatas.  I have a co-worker that races 1 of his 3 Miatas regularly on the SCCA circuit.  I’ve always known they were lightweight and fun to drive, but with minimal modifications, they can be a track superstar on a budget.

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Future classic?  This early 90’s Supra seems to have gone under the radar for the more desirable Mark IV versions that are increasing rapidly in value.  I like the looks of the Mark III better, but to each his own.

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I’ve said since 2013 that the stock Audi S5 is one of the best looking cars out there regardless of price and this one on custom wheels is even more of a head turner.

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A cars & coffee just isn’t complete without a Hellcat.

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I’m not a fan of this shade of green, but Viper’s will be the centerpiece for years to come where ever they go.  The 8.0 liter+ V-10 engine in these monsters is unmistakable at full throttle.

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I’ve always loved the RX-7.  This beauty has a long list of well done mods.  I’m always optimistic that pop-up headlights will come back.

 

The VW Beetle has been customized more than any other ride I can think of.  From stock to extreme, a car show dedicated to the Bug wouldn’t be difficult to find with 100+ entrants.

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I’ve seen this drop-dead gorgeous Jag at various events over the years and it never fails to impress.

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Many critics called the latest version of the GTO (“Holden Monaro” to those across the Pacific) a ‘missed opportunity’ by Pontiac.  The 6.0 liter V8 was a beast, but the styling could have been so much more.  A friend in San Diego had one in Yellow Jacket and the backseat was surprisingly comfortable, but lacked legroom of course.

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When my mom and dad met, my mom had a navy blue Cutlass that had air conditioning.  My dad joked for years that is why he married her.  Any vehicle with A/c in the 1960’s was either top tier ride or an expensive option.  Anyone know of a 2018 model that DOESN’T have standard A/C?

Until next time . . . have a great week!

 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium

Let’s forget all about the Contour

We have a lot of choices in our fleet now, but for this weekend I was looking for something spacious for 3 people and fuel efficient.  My mom, brother, and I were embarking on a 1800+ mile road trip to Florida in 2 1/2 days.

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My brother and I both love buttons, tech, and new gadgets in vehicles and the Fusion didn’t disappoint.

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The main control screen was usually on the ‘audio’ tab for the SiriusXM radio that all three of us enjoyed and the perfect way to avoid the endless political ads on local radio.  But, the ‘settings’ button can transform the interior into a colorful setting to fit any mood.  There are 7 color choices to light the gear shifter, floorboards, and door handles or turn them off completely.  I preferred blue and my brother liked it completely dark even dimming the dashboard lights as dim as possible.  The buttons were all flawlessly well laid out and easily predictable with very little searching required.

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Another new trend that all automakers are turning to is the capless fuel systems.  No more lost gas caps or check engine lights due to the cap not being on tight enough.  But fair warning, there is a 3 to 4 second delay in the electronic, not via cable, opening of the gas cap from the driver’s door.  I’m glad at least one Ford engineer had the foresight to include a manual gas cap release from the trunk.

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Powering this jewel is a 188hp 2.0 liter inline-4.  It felt like half the horsepower on ‘eco’ mode which we left it on nearly the entire trip to save on fuel.  Safe interstate merging required the pedal on the floorboard nearly every time, but even with the cruise control on keeping a steady 70-75mph was effortless.

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The Fusion hybrid seats 5, but the trunk would be suitable only for 5 light travelers.  The hybrid batteries take up a huge chunk of trunk space nearest to the rear seats.  For customers with small children, a stroller, diaper bag and a single suitcase would just about fill up the rear cargo area.  Note the very prominent green fuel filler release cord in the upper left corner.

 

The interior was stunning with the high contrasted black carpet and trim with the white leather seats (black contrasting piping and suede leather inserts would have been incredible), but the back seat is a little tight on legroom if the driver and front passenger are tall.

20180930_120619Immediately after taking the wheel I noticed the perfect cupholders.  I don’t use that word lightly about anything automotive, but Ford nailed it!  The spring loaded tabs kept my metal Yeti knock-off cup snugly in place for the trip duration and also worked great on regular plastic water bottles.  The hill descent button would be great on steep downgrades and would keep the hybrid batteries charged at 100% while saving the brake pads, but it felt like putting a regular car into “L” / low gear.  Ford calls it “Variable Speed Automatic”, but it felt more like a 6speed automatic vs. a whiny CVT . . . and I thank Ford for that!  This was my brothers first experience with an electronic parking brake and he didn’t need any explanation on setting and releasing.

Much like the Dodge Challenger of a few weeks ago and it’s cylinder deactivation, the Fusion Hybrid has a similar fuel saving set up to either run on a combination of gas and/or battery power.  This was something I hadn’t been privilege to study closely and experience while being in the driver’s seat before.  If either car is on a slight decline, the engine either cuts off half the cylinders (Challenger) or the engine shuts off and runs on battery power alone or simultaneously charging the battery pack while coasting.  This hybrid set up more than DOUBLES the city fuel economy of 21mpg of the non-hybrid version and adds about 10mpg to the highway rating.

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The overall appearance of the Fusion Hybrid was light years away from the first rather sterile Fusion that debuted in 2005 as a 2006 model.  The rear spoiler blends in beautifully into the trunk and quarter panels to create a sportier, but simpler appearance than most of the afterthought tacked on spoilers.  I can’t help but wonder what a body shop would think of the styling creases on the doors, gas filler cap and rear bumper.  A parking lot door ding could be unusually expensive.  The 18″ wheels looked great and nearly matched the Ingot Silver Metallic paint.  The standard issue Michelin tires were amazing on dry and wet pavements.

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The “brake coach” was a neat tool that in essence, encouraged coasting to a stop instead of hard braking.  I achieved 100% several times and the lowest ever was 48% after slamming on the brakes at a yellow (too close to red) stop light.

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The dashboard is very basic, but the left and right digital screens can be changed to numerous configurations.  The analog center odometer and gear display never changes.  The little green car symbol with the left and right arrows below made me wonder if that was a sign of the front and rear park assist sensors were active.  After searching the owners manual, we learned that it’s just notification that the car is ‘on’ and ready to drive.  It seems pointless to have this light on even when moving at 75mph.  I reset the trip odometer when I picked the car up as usual and was surprised to see that 425 of those 1878 miles were solely on battery power.  On a long trip, I ‘take advantage’ of the prepaid fuel (like we’re instructed to sell) and see how close to zero I can get upon return.  The goal is always to go 30 miles past 0, but 6 miles to empty is a pretty fair accomplishment since I refueled 260 miles away.

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My mom was amazed at every start up that the gas engine wasn’t even on until there was enough pedal action to activate it.  She was impressed, but not enough to take the plunge into hybrid-land and give up her beloved 2005 Camry.  I took this one last picture showing ‘trip summary’ from the employee parking lot to the rental car return lot without using gasoline at all.  This resets every time when the car comes to a complete stop.

The front and rear styling cues are obvious between the sibling Focus and Fiesta.  The fog lights were very bright at illuminating the sides more than the front of the car.  I’m one of Aston Martin’s biggest fans and I’ve never liked the obvious rip-off of the Aston Martin air intake/grille, but that started during Ford’s ownership of Aston Martin from 1994 to 2007.

Rest In Peace cousin Amanda . . . this wasn’t a good-bye trip for your celebration of life, but see you later.

Things of note:
Sticker price new $35,380 as shown.
Many dealers have brand new identical incentivized 2018s for about $31,000 leading me to believe that on a month end sale, driving one home in the high 20’s is possible.
41.4mpg on our 4-state trip is in line with the EPA stated 43CITY/41HWY.
Under 40mpg would be difficult at legal speeds.
$40,000+ Platinum AWD trim level
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
As with all potentially expensive hybrid battery replacements, I’d be cautious about purchasing anything but a straight gasoline engine, but as time goes on the battery packs will get cheaper.  I’d rent a Fusion Hybrid again for a 50, 500, or 5000 mile trip for the smooth ride and exceptional gas mileage alone.  Thank you 112″ wheelbase!
Ford if you’re listening . . .
Could a 1.5L diesel hybrid get 55-60mpg?  It seems like a class leading MPG champ is possible.
On a scale from 1-100: (1-keep your 1986 Tempo / 100-trade-in your 2018 Tesla )
Buy it now – 60
Buy it later at half the current price – 80
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 60
Oooh and ahhh factor – 40
Recommended – 80