With luxury brands from Bentley to Maserati building “on-road SUVs” in search of ever-greater profits, Jaguar’s decision to build a traditional station wagon is something of a Connolly leather glove’d slap in the face of the luxury game. That’s right, this isn’t some wobbly, lozenge-shaped crossover, or some garish, blinged-out SUV; it’s just a clean, simple Jag-wagon. Or “XF Sportbrake,” as Auto Motor und Sport insists on calling it. And though it may not be the most practical wagon, with its cargo area apparently styled for slim looks rather than capacity, it will be available with AWD, along with the rest of the XF line. Oh yeah, and a 510 HP XFR wagon should be an option as well… you know, for the journalists. All of which sounds like news to be very thankful for this Thanksgiving. Remember: this could have been a crossover!
Lincoln’s updated look doesn’t seem to have won over too many of the skeptics, but before you make up your mind entirely, do check out these live shots from the LA Auto Show floor. Our man on the ground, Alex Dykes, notes
The interior refinements are welcome, especially as Cadillac has made some improvements to their interiors lately. Lincolns My Touch systems do seem considerably snappier than the previous versions, but we won’t be sure about the reliability until someone at TTAC has one for a week.
It’s no secret that Ferrari has been wrestling with the inevitable conflict between its bellowing V12s and European emission regulations, but that’s not the only challenge facing the Prancing Horse’s powertrain division. Sure, there’s the increasingly-tenuous link between the Scuderia’s Formula One technology and its road cars [sub], but in the short term that actually helps the emissions issue by creating a pretext for bringing KERS to the road (where it otherwise has little role). In fact, the real issue for Ferrari’s powertrain team is not even a “Ferrari issue” at all, but a Maserati issue.
When Infiniti said they were coming out with a new 7-passenger crossover, I, like the rest of the world, was expecting a stretched FX CUV with a V8 option, RWD and optional AWD. While the exterior was first shown off at Pebble Beach, the interior and drivetrain were merely well placed rumors. While Infiniti’s 3.5L V6 was the expected engine choice, the FWD (or optional AWD) CVT transmission was a curveball for sure. While I’ll try to hold my opinions until we can get some behind the wheel time, I am somewhat disapointed by the drivetrain choice. Inside, the JX is far from a disapointment continuing Infiniti’s recent trackrecord of world class cabins. While most of the shapes are familiar to Infiniti owners, many of the controls are new and only the steering wheel seems lifted directly off other Infiniti models. Like most vehicles in this segment, the third row of seats is best left to the small kids of that coworker you really hate.
If you’re ever in the mood to become disenchanted with some of the world’s most desireable automobiles, spend a little time in the Los Angeles area. In fact, Bentley’s Continental GT is a prime example of The City of Angels’ uncanny ability to make expensive, exclusive cars seem downright common. It’s not unlike seeing helmetless motorcyclists when visiting states like Colorado or New Hampshire: at first you’re a little shocked at the ubiquity, and then you quickly stop noticing. So when I first saw the newly-redesigned 2012 Conti GT, I thought “this looks so similar to the old one, it will never sell in LA, where the previous model is as ubiquitous as fake breasts.” But then I realized that ubiquity also breeds a fine appreciation for detail, and that if anyone would notice the difference between the old and new models, it would be the hyper-status-conscious Angeleans. And with US sales up 35% this year through August, the lads from Crewe (and/or Wolfsburg) are clearly doing something right. Besides, a brand-new Continental GTC convertible is always appreciated in Los Angeles…
Jaguar-Land Rover’s only all-new debut at the LA show is the mad XKR-S Convertible, which it says will be its fastest, most rigid convertible ever. And with its five-liter supercharged V8 making 550 HP, that may be an understatement: the XKR-S may be one of the fastest convertibles ever… at least it would be if Chevy weren’t showing its Camaro ZL1 Convertible at the very same show. But for fans of the Indian-owned brand, the XKR-S is just a warm-up for Jag’s first new sportscar ages, as signaled by the CX-16 Concept that debuted at Frankfurt. It’s no F-Type, but the Maserati GT-meets-Nissan Z styling should definitely help give the brand a boost. Finally, JLR is offering another look at its possible future with its Land Rover Defender DC100 Concept, which hints at a new Defender that is apparently in development. And with Jaguar-Landie once again earning profits for its corporate overlord, the future looks promising for these two brands.
What can you even say about Lincoln at this point? The brand talks up its new design studio, and then releases a “spot the changes” facelift. Critics bash the brand’s waterfall grille as “cetacean,” so for the facelift Lincoln goes and makes it look even more like baleen. Lincolns have little identity beyond Fords loaded up with there-for-the-sake-of-it technology, so they give the MKS and MKT (Ecoboost only) “Continuously Controlled Damping”… to polish their carefully-honed performance image? Because consumers were clamoring for a Lincoln, but didn’t buy because “Sport Mode” wasn’t available on its giant crossover? I know these are only holdover models, and that Lincoln will eventually come out with something all-new. I know that picking on these sales weaklings is too easy. I know that there are probably even a few folks out there that find the MKS and MKT to be the subtle-but-cosseting waft-mobiles that they’ve been waiting for… but I just can’t help myself. Especially when Lincoln’s press release on the MKS proclaims that
Refinements Signal Direction for Brand Today, Tomorrow.
Note to Lincoln: the future is not in refinements. If this brand is going to survive, it needs a clean sheet of paper.
Hyundai has been doing a lot of things right lately, but one thing they can’t do is keep a secret. TTAC showed you this car, known as the Grandeur in Korea, a year ago, warning “Buick beware.” Now that it’s arrived stateside, the threat is real and Azera is no longer the red-headed stepchild of the Hyundai family. Hyundai says the new Azera’s design was pursued following the same “fluidic sculpture” theme as Elantra and Sonata, rather than aping the Genesis and Equus’s more formal design language… although to our eyes it almost splits the difference between the two looks. Meanwhile, its 3.3 liter, 293 HP V6 separates it from its V6-free Sonata cousin, while still providing what Hyundai claims is “class leading” efficiency.
Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik says they are transitioning Hyundai from a “Value brand” to a “Valuable brand” (yes, really), and this Azera is intended to help challenge cars like the Acura TL and Lexus ES as well as the Taurus and Avalon. And with no plans for new US production capacity, despite razor-thin inventories, moving the brand upmarket makes sense for Hyundai. And replacing the old dullard of an Azera was a crucial step in that direction.
Throughout its history, Cadillac has fed the press some glorious concept cars dripping with opulence, snazzy features and WTF styling. This works when production cars live up to the concept’s hype, but a history of histrionics is less helpful when you’re launching a car that somehow defies hype altogether [Ed: see AutoWeek's headline: "Cadillac aims its flagship XTS at imports and traditional buyers"]. Don’t get it wrong, the XTS is not intended as a true flagship for the brand (GM’s release calls it “the newest addition to the lineup” and “the most technologically advanced production car in the brand’s history”), but at the launch at the LA Auto Show the XTS’s FWD proportions, slab sides and generally predictable exterior dominated the first impressions. Put simply, the midsized sedan exudes none of the presence that makes the CTS-V coupe exciting, possibly due to the fact that it has what may be Cadillac’s shortest hood ever. No wonder GM CEO Dan Akerson warned us that the XTS “wouldn’t blow the doors off” the competition.
Take Buick’s LaCrosse, load it up with a fancier interior materials, wheels and trim, and what do you get? No, not a Cadillac XTS. The XTS, you see, is a fancier Buick LaCrosse for a different kind of buyer. The XTS is for people who might want a fancier LaCrosse, but with some “red blooded luxury” flair. This LaCrosse “GL” concept is for those who want a fancier LaCrosse which retains Buick’s “inviting luxury” vibe. See the difference? GM’s decision to keep Buick in its brand portfolio has worked out fairly well thus far, bracketing the luxury market with very different brand images and products… thus far. But with Cadillac dipping into Buick territory with its midsized XTS, now does not seem to be the time for Buick to move upwards by showing an ultra-luxury version of its midsized LaCrosse. Luckily this LaCrosse GL is just a concept, but it should remind The General that a two-brand approach to the luxury market has to be especially careful: swallow too much of the “different brands for different buyers” Kool-Aid and overlap becomes unavoidable. Appealing though it may be, this LaCrosse GL sounds a warning…
Have you heard? The New Look Of Lincoln is coming, and everyone’s talking… about how much Lincoln has to prove. And after seeing these teasers, the topic will likely remain how much Lincoln has to prove. We’d probably better bite our tongues until the LA Auto Show, when the 2013 MKS and MKT actually take the stage; “teaser” photos can only convey so much. But given the wider “Lincoln situation,” it’s hard to imagine either of these new cars being able to fundamentally change perceptions of the brand. The Look Of Lincoln needs a clean-sheet reboot that I’m just not seeing here…
Jalopnik says it managed to snag this image of the production Cadillac XTS from the Cadillac website earlier today before anyone at GM’s luxury brand realized it had been inadvertently posted. The funny thing is, this could just as easily be an image of the XTS Platinum Concept, which first introduced us to the idea of a Epsilon II-based DTS/STS replacement… this purported production model looks exactly like the concept. Then again, it also looks exactly like you’d imagine a rebodied-for-Cadillac Buick LaCrosse would look… which is basically what this is. And since we know what the XTS’s interior will look like, this ends a lot of the suspense about the first all-new Caddy since the SRX. Well, except for the “how it drives” and “how it sells” parts…
With today’s chart showing the abject failure of Lexus’s HS250h, we thought we’d dig deeper into Lexus’s 2011 performance by breaking out the brand’s core model sales over the year. And, to be perfectly honest, they don’t look as bad as you might expect. Though the tsunami-related supply shortages cut a huge hole out of Lexus’s sales this year, the overall momentum model-by-model doesn’t seem as bad as I might have thought, given that Lexus is the most-stumbling brand of the year, sales-wise. And, to give a little more context to this focused at Lexus’s portfolio, we’ve included a chart of year-over-year performances through October of all the luxury/premium brands.
Quick, name the Toyota product least affected by Asian floods and tsunamis? How about the Lexus HS250h? While its junior “dedicated hybrid” brand-mate, the CT200h took a nasty lick straight from its launch, which occurred just as the tsunami hit, the HS has been Mr Reliable. Mr Reliably Unpopular that is: the instantly-stodgy, $37k base price sedan has found between 150 and 300 buyers every single month this year. You can’t pin that on any tsunami, the car is simply a sales stinker. And when high-profit luxury vehicles flop this badly, you have to wonder how it will affect the brand’s the reputation. In any case, I don’t have a [sub] to Wards, so I don’t know why they’re reporting that the HS will be dropped… but I’m not in the least surprised. The market has spoken, it’s time to kill it with fire.
The last time Jaguar built an entry-level car based on front-drive architecture, it built the X-Type, a car that was nearly universally panned as “not quite a real Jaguar.” At thee time though, Ford was desperate to make a little money on its Premier Auto Group, and bringing Jaguar downmarket was the only way to do that relatively cheaply. And, all things considered, it could have been a lot worse: at least Ford was working from a good basis in the form of the Mondeo (Contour), which at the time was considered one of the better driving mass-market sedans. But if anything, the fact that the Jaguar brand was being used as Ford’s corporate pawn was a big part of why the X-Type flopped (the company’s overly-earnest insistence that the X-Type was in fact a ‘proper Jag” (see above) didn’t help either). And flop it did: sales topped out at 33k units in the US, and enjoyed only four years of rapidly-declining five-digit sales. While reviewers like Robert Farago used terms like “laughable distraction” to describe the baby Jag.
But those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. Now owned by India’s Tata Motors, Jaguar is once again aiming at the entry-luxury market, and it’s planning… a front-drive sedan. Read More >