2018 Kia Optima

Forgettable, in [almost] every way


Not exactly a duet you’d want to hear the late Natalie Cole do with her dad, but that’s the first impression the Optima left on me.  When I first sat down in the driver’s seat on a dreary Friday afternoon, I thought, “Wow, no way this thing costs over $25,000”.  After a little research I learned this was the bare bones “FE” model (iron Optima for the Chemists on here?).  It had no power seats, no sunroof, nor new tech stuff other than lane change assist (LCA) notifying the driver of approaching cars on either side.

The first impression wasn’t good to say the least, but after a “spirited” quick downhill entrance to the interstate, it grew on me a little.  It’s road manners were very similar to the 2018 Camry from a few months ago, but with a little less maneuverability on the corners.

The 185hp 4-cyl was surprisingly adequate for it’s 3200lb curb weight and I wouldn’t change a thing about the 6-speed automatic.  There’s an optional 7-speed DSG transmission, but that is only for the LX 1.6 liter turbo versions.  Oddly enough, the ‘upgraded’ 1.6 liter engine has 7 fewer horsepower and base price is $1800 more, but fuel economy improves by 4mpg city and 3mpg highway.


The light color interior of this example has seen better days in it’s 25,000 miles, but thankfully light colored interiors are soon to be a thing of the past in our fleets worldwide.  Make way for the black leather seats in most vehicles in the next model year.  The seats were only ok for comfort since there’s only 6-way manual adjustment options and a 2-way power lumbar.


It’s hard to believe unless you see it for yourself!  The big lever on top moves the seat up and down, the smaller one behind it reclines the seat up and down, and the little button below and in between is the power lumbar.  That’s right, to move the seats back and forth it’s necessary to lift up the metal bar below your knees and do a sit-down version of the Boot Scootin’ Boogie to move the seat forward, but the lumbar is power operated.  That’ll just be one of those “why on earth” questions for a Kia engineer.


The trunk was a good size at 15.9 cubic feet, but easily more if the collapsible rear seats were utilized.  There was a very dim trunk light and the 40% left and 60% right side seat releases.  The recent Impala and Maxima really spoiled me on sound deadening in the trunk as rear tire and road noise was noticeably louder in this Kia.


The back seats were very basic with no extra lighting or even rear facing A/C vents, but I thought the contrasting light and dark colors looked pretty good.


Below the a/c vent was only 1 of 2 blank buttons in the car, which is a small miracle since this is the base model.  As I was driving to return the Kia, the LCA system was beeping incessantly because I had my left turn signal on, but I was slowly approaching a stoplight.  There was another car approaching in the turn lane to the left of me setting off the warning.  That’s not the worst thing in the world, but could get annoying if you do a lot of downtown big city commuting.  If it gets to be too much, there’s a clearly label defeat button above the fuel release.


The center stack was well labeled and pretty basic.  I was surprised how sensitive the sensor were in the passenger seat.  I had maybe 4 lbs. of  yoga clothes and towels and the chimes wanted me to buckle up, so I did.  I know my readers will rest easy tonight knowing my sweaty wet clothes and towels were safely buckled in.  At engine start up, the default screen changed from the SiriusXM favorites to the above screen.  That didn’t seem practical as I don’t think many people want to set up options or add a phone every time they got in the car.  I really liked the options of the A/c controls with the clear labeled face only / face and feet / feet only / defrost buttons vs. the ‘mode’ button that seems to becoming more commonplace.


I have the worst luck EVER when it comes to getting good windshield wiper blades.  That’s why I instantly noticed the Optima had the best windshield wipers EVER!  The blades were flawless (must have been nearly new) and the motor was even super quiet.  I could write a separate blog about wiper blades with all the brands I’ve tried.


The center console area was generic as it was just hard plastics, but the opening to the right of the gear shifter was perfect for a phone.  The cubby above the gear shifter was perfectly labeled for the USB, aux, and 12V outlets.  Why do so many manufacturers think it’s needed to keep these hidden and unlabeled?  The drive mode defaulted to standard at engine start up and could be changed to ‘sport’ or ‘eco’.  I used eco just once since it seemed like I was pulling a 5th wheel when activated.


As if we needed more proof that steering wheel buttons are the wave of the future, the Optima FE has 8 buttons and 4 up & down switches on the wheel.  The 4 analog gauges and center digital screen were very easy to read in all light, but the trip computer and fuel economy took some trial and error to display.  The windshield wiper stalk was brilliant.  The delay wiper setting was displayed on the front as far as short or long delay, but was adjustable in the front or the back of the switch.  That made it much easier to grasp with my thumb and forefinger to set it right the first time.

This is a tough class to compete in and every carmaker has to put their best foot forward to even get noticed, much less excel.  The Optima was competent, but except for the unique ignition off/exit music, I won’t remember much about it next month.  BUT . . .


. . . after typing 1200+ words about the Optima, I’m reminded how far it has come in barely over a decade!

Things of note:
MSRP can go as high as $37K for the plug-in hybrid.  This sits at a tad over $22,500.
Achieved a typical 29 mpg within the EPA stated 25CITY/35HWY.

Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
The Optima could be the perfect incognito vehicle.  This base model doesn’t do anything particularly well, it doesn’t have polarizing style at any angle (but at least it has SOME styling compared to the sterile 2005 model), but that doesn’t matter to most Kia buyers.  I hope I can meet an Optima owner and ask them, “why did you choose it?”  That conversation would likely end instantly with “price”, but I’m curious to know if it’s more than that.  I’m fully aware I’m in the 1% of the population that is car obsessed and the vast majority of car buyers and renters only care about the name plate, 4 wheels, and a good heater & air conditioner.  The Optima is a fine choice for those that can’t tell the difference between a Camry, Malibu, Accord, Fusion, Sonata, [Mazda]6, and Legacy.  If the pricing is right, get a smokin’ hot deal on a demonstrator model and you’d probably be satisfied for 100K miles.  I wouldn’t rent the Optima again unless a 245hp SX model was available.
Kia if you’re listening . . .
The Sportswagon sold overseas looks great and wouldn’t be a huge seller here, but that could be a cult-like vehicle with a K900 engine and 19″ wheels.  What Kia from the past has been a ‘must have’?
On a scale from 1-100: (1- never again / 100- every time)
Buy it now – 25
Buy it later at half the current price – 85
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 30
Oooh and ahhh factor – 25
Recommended to rent – 55



2018 Chevrolet Impala

More 1996 Lincoln Town Car than 1996 Chevy Impala

This weeks ride was initially a let down, but I’m happy to report I liked it more than I thought I would.  I headed down to Georgia for a quick holiday visit with mom and my brother and my first choice of chariots was a Toyota Avalon.  Mom is still debating (5 years and counting) on replacing her ’05 Camry.  No Avalons were in sight at pickup time, so a co-worker graciously retrieved this beauty from another lot where it was on hold as a ‘stand-by’ for one of our satellite locations.


This is the “Premiere” trim level and it’s maxed out as far as options go for any Impala in 2018.  The front leather seats were top tier and adjustable to fit anyone of any height or weight. 20181125_142608

I really liked the mocha colored piping and stitching that was an extremely well done accent color in an otherwise complete black interior.  It was easily spacious enough for 5 adults.


The front seats could have used a few more lumbar positions, but were fine during my longest stretch of 300 mile non-stop driving.  The floormats felt super cheap and thin.  No doubt they were the rental car fleet specials.


The center console was a big hit with mom and the blazing fast heated seats.  A carmaker would be golden if they could figure out how to heat the cabin as fast as these seats warmed up!  I really liked the dark gray/black wood trimmed inlays in the console and door area leading me to believe this color scheme could be ready for ‘black car’ sedan service in a fleet of limos.  I didn’t try the manual transmission setting.  The hidden compartment above the gear shifter features wireless charging.  My old LG phone isn’t compatible, but I think that will be standard issue in nearly all cars in a few years.


The 18.8 cu ft trunk could easily swallow bags for 5 adult passengers, but a full-size baby stroller would be snug.  The trunk lining/insulation was a little loose so the trunk light on was visible through the crack pictured above.  I noticed the light was mounted and wired onto the top of the lining.  I hope that light never gets too hot!


The V6 engine and 6-speed automatic were a good match for the Impala.   The blend of power and fuel economy worked well for a car of this size and weight.  I tried for the first time ever E85 gasoline.  I was curious on how proportional the price per gallon savings would be to miles per gallon and if it had an effect on performance.  On my first tank of regular gas (at the start of rental) I achieved 30.6 MPG and on the way back home the trip computer said I was less than 30 miles to empty.  At that point I filled up with E85 and I got 27.8 MPG.  Roughly 10% less efficiency and exactly 10% less cost.  It wasn’t long ago that the cost of E85 was a full 30% less here locally, so the need for alternative fuel is lost on me at this point.   Unless the price of E85 nosedives again, I’d honestly rather just use regular gas and have fewer pit stops.


The dashboard is unmistakably Chevy.  According to Chevy’s website, peak power comes at 6800RPM, but doesn’t indicate what is redline.  I thought it was odd that the Pacifica of last week didn’t have a redline on the RPM gauge either.  It’s probably never a question with the Pacifica or Impala target audience, but I’m always curious about how far a vehicle can be pushed.  I thought I had a ‘me-only’ gripe about the Impala’s odd steering wheel, but after talking with a competing rental agent, he had the same complaint also.  When I’m highway cruising, my right hand is in the 4 o’clock position while resting on the armrest.  But after only about 100 miles, my hand was getting cramped and I was having to change driving positions frequently with both hands.  It looks like a normal steering wheel, so all I can figure is that the spoke spacing or steering wheel thickness just doesn’t work well with my hands


The center stack shared of lot of cues from the much lesser Malibu, but with a few appearance upgrades.  Mom (and I for that matter) were very impressed by the LED trim around the dash and the doors when the headlights were on.  She was also impressed with the separate climate controls for the driver and passenger.  I got a kick out of that because that’s standard issue in many cars of several classes, but compared to her 13 year old Camry, that’s notable!  I know die-hard audiophiles aren’t typically fans of Bose products, but the standard stereo in the Premiere trim was excellent at all volumes for music and talk radio.


LED daytime running lamps are on each side of the bottom grille, which appear to be able to house fog lights.  LED’s are an upgrade from regular incandescent bulbs on the lower trims.


The “Premiere” and “V6” logos on the trunk are the only things that differentiate this from the less optioned Impalas at this angle.  Again, a lot of Malibu styling influence from this view.

The ride was excellent and the suspension hid road flaws like a boss, but handling was not as I expected and ‘floaty’ like an old Lincoln Town Car.  The Maxima from 2 weeks ago set the bar really high in cornering for this class in our fleet.  But high performance cornering isn’t an issue if the primary mode of travel is cruising down the interstate at 85 MP . . . I mean 70MPH.

Things of note:
MSRP sits at a tad over $38,500.
Odd at this price point not to have memory seats as standard.
Achieved an impressive 28.9 mpg.  The EPA states 19CITY/28HWY.
305 hp was enjoyable, the 198hp in the lesser trims would probably be unpleasant and the fuel economy difference is negligible.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
If I had a job that required an American company car, this would be definitely be in the running.  If said job required a lot of highway driving with passengers, the Impala would be on near the top of the list.  I’m curious what the 2.5 liter 4-cyl Impalas are like, but 107 fewer horsepower would be a huge letdown after driving the V6.  I imagine it’d be a similar experience to the disappointing LaCrosse of a few weeks ago. I’d rent an Impala again for a multi-state trip, but would opt for the similarly classed Maxima for city driving.  Bose has come through with a stellar sound system.
Chevy if you’re listening . . .
Just this week everyone learned of the Impala getting the ax next year.  Since the similar Taurus is getting chopped at Ford also, what will fill the void for those buyers who don’t like SUVs?  Good call on dumping the overpriced Lacrosse, but I think sending the Impala to the grave is a mistake.
On a scale from 1-100: (1- overdue to die Mrs. Barra / 100- big mistake Mrs. Barra)
Buy it now – 35
Buy it later at half the current price – 65
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 30
Oooh and ahhh factor – 40
Recommended to rent – 75

2018 Chrysler Pacifica

set the cruise control and go

. . . and go and go and go.


I think I mentioned in a previous post that at one time the 3 vehicles that occupied my family’s driveway was a 1981 Buick Century wagon, 1985 Nissan Maxima wagon, and a 1988 Plymouth Grand Voyager.  From that moment on, many people said I was destined to have a lot of children since I really liked driving all three!  The Pacifica was no exception in my love of driving big haulers, but compared to the last few rentals, it took some get accustomed to the handling or actually lack of handling.  Notice the unusual placement of the blog magnets because the body panels behind the front fenders were all aluminum saving a lot of weight for the already heavily worked V6.  Without the use of aluminum in the body, the Pacifica would easily become the heaviest minivan on the market.


I know I’m in the minority when I say the Pacifica is a pretty sharp looking vehicle for a van or anything of the 4-wheeled variety, especially since the hideous Nissan Quest is in the same class.


But let’s not forget where Chrysler started 34 years ago when the company was all about function over form.  Thankfully, wired hubcaps on whitewall tires, faux woodgrain sides, and tacked on luggage racks are a thing of the not-so-attractive past.

20181116_140112The front end is obviously a lot of styled sharing with the 200 and if you’ve seen road test reviews of the 200 in the past few years, that’s not a flattering comparison.


All the Pacificas feature a 3.6 liter V6 engine with a 9-speed transmission pumping out 287hp.  That’s more than double the gears of our 1988 version and almost double the horsepower also.  The transmission had a few odd shifting hiccups during the day, so hopefully that’s not a sign of bad things to come.    I’ve read about some problems in the same 9-speed transmissions that Jeep uses in the Cherokee line up, but hopefully for Pacifica owners that’s a Jeep problem only.  The 0-60 run was an impressive 7.3 seconds. Not necessarily an impressive time, but that it was so quiet and effortless that it seemed much faster even at nearly 6000RPM.


I was planning on taking 4 people to dinner on my night with Chrysler’s Town & Country replacement, but turned out to be only two.  Both passengers mentioned how comfortable the seats were and one said that this was the most comfortable [front] seat yet.  Full disclosure:  she has a SUV and is more accustomed to the high seating position of a van or SUV than in any of my previous sedan rentals.  The middle row seats are easy to stow away for cargo use as soon as the user discovers that the seat back going down first and then the seat bottom folds forward to the front is the only option.  Customers who rent vans are likely to drive 1000+ miles in a week, so it makes sense to want the most comfortable cabin possible.


The 3-across bench seat in the rear lacks the 4 arm rests of the middle row, but the seats themselves are nearly identical.



The rear seats are much easier to collapse into the floorboard with well numbered rip cords.  These seats are power operated in the top trimmed Limited.


I didn’t look closely at this button as I was looking around the cargo area for extra gadgets.  I thought maybe it’d collapse the seats, so I just press it and 3 beeps later, the tailgate is closing on me.  This is the first vehicle I’ve seen that has the rear hatch open/close button inside instead of on the hatch itself.  I think that might be a bad idea with curious little hands sitting in the rear most seats.  I’d have to assume this button wouldn’t work at all unless the van is in park.  Otherwise, this would be a worse safety issue than the electronic door switches on the Continental of 2 weeks ago.


From the “I never want to have to use this department” is the very unsettling spare tire directly below the internal power gate switch.  The tire itself was an incredibly narrow donut with zero air pressure in it.  If the center mounted inflator doesn’t work, using the DC plug in directly across, you are helpless.  I know automakers are desperate to save weight and space, but this seems extreme by any account.  At least Chrysler hasn’t taken the extreme measures that Kia has as they do not have donuts at all in their cars, just a Fix-a-Flat like sealant.  Notice the white gas funnel at the top of the donut – that’s for a gas can if you run out before you get to an actual gas pump.  The Ford Fusion hybrid from several weeks ago among others now have capless fuel filler systems, but to make it work the secondary internal cap has to be pushed in.  Most gas can spouts aren’t strong enough or angled correctly to do that.


I really liked the royal blue light theme in the Pacifica on the dash and center stack.  Maybe that’s Chrysler’s subtle way of saying the Pacifica is cool?  Nah, that’s a little stretch.  My only gripes were the heated seats and heated steering wheel had to be activated via the touch screen instead of a much easier dash mounted button.  I was glad that the auto stop/start could be deactivated (next to the radio volume button), but it had to be done at every engine start-up.


The dashboard is simple with only a few display changes possible.   Two separate trip odometers, MPH display, radio station display, and a compass.  I’m sure there’s a lot of other display options with the loaded Limited, but most notable is the detailed fuel and temperature gauges.  On the version I had, the marks were in tenths and the Limited trim had a full on detailed digital display.   The fog lights had very little benefit.


Things of note:
MSRP is $27K to $42K and this example sits at a tad over $32,500
V6 engine very eager to hit the mysterious unmarked redline.
Achieved a meager 22mpg within the EPA stated 19CITY/28HWY.
4300lbs empty means fully loaded the V6 will have a lot of work to do, yet still the lightest minivan on the market.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
Unless I could get one of our maxed out loaded Limited series, I wouldn’t rush to rent the Pacifica again until I can scope out a similar Sienna first.  But it’d be very capable hauling 6 or 7 people in comfort.  I’d be nervous about buying a Pacifica due to many reported transmission and electronic gremlins plaguing some of the current models.  I’m curious to see what percentage of Pacificas need or have already had major transmission work at 100K miles.  Our 1988 Grand Voyager was nearly worthless with 97K miles and 2 replace power steering pumps and a bad A/C compressor.  In my automotive realm, that’s completely unacceptable for a well maintained and nearly pampered vehicle.
Chrysler if you’re listening . . .
Thank you for not putting in the sport shifting paddles on the steering wheel!  It was also refreshing not to see a cabin full of blank buttons.
On a scale from 1-100: (1- long live the ’88 Voyager! / 100- air mattress and live in it)
Buy it now – 30
Buy it later at half the current price – 45
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 35
Oooh and ahhh factor – 20
Recommended to rent – 85

2018 Nissan Maxima

Better than I thought possible


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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″.


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.



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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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 . . .


. . . 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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!



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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. . .

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?