The Truth About Cars » Flex http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Flex http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Bark’s Bites: A Moment of Appreciation for Depreciation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/barks-bites-a-moment-of-appreciation-for-depreciation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/barks-bites-a-moment-of-appreciation-for-depreciation/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 14:18:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=668850 barkflex

Everybody on the internet knows that buying new cars is just plain stupid. New cars, after all, are just “depreciating hunks of metal.” New cars depreciate an average of 20% immediately, and then go down another 15% each year after that, according to sources such as KBB and Edmunds. According to every message board I’ve ever read, buying a new car will probably cause you to lose your house, get divorced, and be sent to the Chateau d’If for thirteen years.

But how true is that? And if it is true, does it matter? Let’s find out.

Like the best scientists (and by the best scientists, I mean Norman Osborn), I made the decision to test this theory myself several years ago, albeit not necessary intentionally. Since 2000, I have bought five cars for myself, all of them new. In order:

2000 Hyundai Tiburon (bought new in March 2000)

2001 Hyundai Santa Fe (bought new in June 2001)

2004 Mazda RX-8 (bought new in May 2005)

2009 Pontiac G8 GT (bought new in October of 2008)

2013 Ford Boss 302 (bought new in June 2012)

Each car was financed over a sixty month term, and only the Tiburon had any sort of cash down payment (you can read about how that happened in my epic tale of short-lived 944 ownership). Each car was traded in on its successor at a franchise dealership. In other words, I did exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do. How did it work out?

The longest I kept any car was nearly four years. The shortest was a little over a year. In each case, I either got out even up (Tiburon, Santa Fe) or I had positive equity on my trade(RX-8, G8). So, essentially, I leased the cars for varying terms from sixteen to forty-six months. How did I manage to do this without taking massive financial losses?

1) Negotiate the hell out of the price on the front end. With the exception of the Boss (which, at that point, was seeing an average of $5K-10K ADM), I paid significantly less than invoice for the car. My best purchase was on the RX-8. For a car that stickered at just over $30k, I paid $22,500, which included a $4K factory rebate and $4K of dealer markdown. I was able to accomplish this due to my patience and willing to buy a car from the previous model year six months into the current model year. It took over two weeks of negotiating to make this happen, including walking away from the deal entirely twice only to have the dealer call me back. Use everything that’s available to you. Maybe your employer is a GM supplier-find out. Get invoice numbers, not only on the base car but on options. Dealers HATE how much information is available to consumers now-more than one dealer has said it’s impossible to make money on the front end of a sale of a new car. Use it all. You’re not there to make friends. Which leads me to…

2) Finance, finance, finance-but only at a good rate. It’s amazing to me how many people will battle like crazy on the price of a car only to give it all back in the Finance and Insurance office. If you have a beacon score of at least 700 (and that’s auto-adjusted, meaning that even if you’ve missed a credit card payment or two over the years but you’ve paid your car on time, you should be fine), there is NO REASON to ever, ever pay more than whatever the best promotional rate available is. If you’re at least a 660, you can still negotiate down to a very good rate-nothing more than 3.9% over sixty months. Anything that’s less than the rate of inflation is essentially free money. I was able to get zero percent for 60 months on the G8, so the payments I was making three years into my schedule were actually worth about six or seven percent less in actual dollars than the payments I was making in my first year. If the dealership is trying to hit you with a rate over five percent, it’s because the F and I guy is getting spiffed on every point above and beyond standard rates he can get you to agree to. Back-end profits are about all a dealer has left nowadays-don’t give it away. Know your score before you go in and, even better, pre-arrange financing with your own financial institution so you have an offer in your pocket.

3) Try to buy interesting, desirable cars. Most modern dealers will have some sort of desirability index that they reference when deciding what value they give your trade. It grades the supply of similar vehicles in the market compared to the market demand for that vehicle. If you have a 2011 Ford Fusion, you are screwed. The supply of these vehicles far outweighs the demand. Get ready to battle. If you have a 2009 Jeep Wrangler with low miles, feel free to sit on your hands and wait for the offers to come in. I was able to leverage this in two cases-my RX-8 and my Tiburon (and if I’d been willing to wait a little bit longer, my G8, too). I got crushed on my Santa Fe. Nobody wanted a Hyundai with nearly 100,000 miles on it. Part of my two-week negotiation with the Mazda dealer on my RX-8 was getting them to just get me out of the Santa Fe even up; they initially offered a value that was four thousand dollars less than my remaining payoff. The cooler and more interesting your car is when you buy it, the cooler and more interesting it will be when you go to trade it in. But even if you have a lame car…

4) Dealers need to take in trades for their business model to work. Auction prices are out of control. Dealers both want and need trades-in fact, they are keeping stuff now that they never, ever would have before. It’s no longer crazy to go in asking for retail price for your car. You might not necessarily get it, but you might not be that far off, especially if the used car manager has a prospective customer for your car. I had a used car manager stalk me on my G8 for weeks, even after I traded it in elsewhere-he asked if I had any other friends with G8s.

5) Buy cars when the OEM/Dealer needs to sell it to you. Dealers have OEM new car targets that they have to hit. In fact, it’s one of the few ways that they can make money on new car sales anymore. And for some marques, the very existence of the franchise can be at stake if they don’t make targets. The whole thing about buying cars at the end of the year/quarter? It’s totally true. I have always bought cars on the last weekend of the month, and always when there is additional cash on the hood (again, with the exception of the Boss 302). Buy from struggling dealers. That guy that advertises that he’s the number one franchise dealer in town? Avoid his store like the plague. Buy from the desperate dealer. It matters.
But let’s say you take all of my advice-you’re still going to lose SOME money. After all, unless you bought a 993, you DID buy a depreciating asset. And even if you buy used, you’re STILL going to lose money.

Here’s my advice. Accept that buying a car, virtually any car, is a money loser. Don’t lose sleep over it. Enjoy it. Remember that if you’re reading TTAC, you’re probably an enthusiast. You’re buying a car because, on some level, you enjoy driving. You enjoy car ownership. Every day that I’ve owned my Boss 302 is a day that I’ve been able to enjoy it. The guy who’s waiting two years for it to depreciate forty percent? I’m enjoying my car for two years longer than he will. Maybe that’s worth forty percent to me. If this sort of thing matters to you, I got it when it was new and hot. He’ll get it when there’s a newer, hotter model of Mustang being sold at Ford stores. Maybe that means I’ll enjoy it more.
When you buy your dream car brand new, and then when you have the incredible nerve to finance it, rest assured; the Internet will call you an idiot. Who cares. You’ve got your dream car. In my experience, there have been few better days than the days I drove my new cars into my driveway for the first time. I sincerely hope you have the chance to share that same experience.

And tell the Internet to go to Hell. After all, it’s your money.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/barks-bites-a-moment-of-appreciation-for-depreciation/feed/ 181
New or Used: Being a Parent…to your Parent http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-being-a-parent-to-your-parent/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-being-a-parent-to-your-parent/#comments Fri, 30 Dec 2011 16:14:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423593

 

TTAC Commentator Jimal writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I have one of those quandaries that most adults will go through sooner or later in life and I figured I would tap into you and the B&B for suggestions. My father passed away recently after a long illness and I’m helping my mother with settling his estate; cleaning up finances, etc. Among the things my father left behind were his 2005 Buick LeSabre, which my mother hates, and her cherished 1996 4-door Chevy Blazer.

They bought the Blazer new and 14 years and 170k miles later it owes my mom nothing. The problem is it is a ticking time bomb. My mother realizes this and realizes that they don’t quite make SUVs like that Blazer anymore. Our (my) plan is to sell the Blazer on the front lawn and either trade in the Buick or put it on the lawn for some down payment money for something.

My first question is what CUV built today would be the best replacement for my mother’s beloved Blazer? Because my father was a GM retiree, my mother is eligible for the GM Family First discount and the Chevy Equinox is high on my list, although depending on how much the bankruptcy screwed my mother (my dad was salaried and not protected during the C11 like the UAW members were) we may or may not want to support the General going forward. I’ve also looked at the Tiguan, the Journey and the Flex. She prefers American nameplates; the VW is my idea. I don’t know that anything Asian will fly, otherwise a CX-7 would be on the short list.

My second question is about the wisdom of leasing in this particular situation. My mother takes care of her vehicles (hello? 170k Blazer) and she’s not going to be driving long distances. To me the advantages of having a new vehicle before the old one is out of warranty outweigh the equity issues. I’m finding the lease to be a hard sell for my mother because my father had a bad experience with it on the Olds Achieva the Blazer replaced.

Steve Answers:

Older folks usually prefer to buy a familiar product. The less they care about the product, the more this usually rings true.

My mom is a prime example. She has owned a Camry for 10 years and now wants a new vehicle. My brother said ‘Let’s have her go see some Volvos.’ Well, she didn’t like any of them.

Then I said, “Well, maybe she would be happier in a Toyota Matrix. The seats a bit higher so that will help her with getting in and out of the vehicle. Plus it’s an easier car to drive.” My mom tried the Matrix and hated it too.

Finally, my mom drives the new Camry. She loves it. Why? Because everything is already familiar to her. Plus it now has a rear camera, navigation, and 10 airbags. She likes all of those things. To be frank though, she would still buy the new Camry even if it was still the exact same vehicle she drives now.

Go buy her an Equinox. Sell the other two vehicles for cash and use the family discount to get her a vehicle she can enjoy for the long haul.

Sajeev Answers:

The short answer is to stick with American or Japanese nameplates for a long term owner like your Mom. Buying a VW for this length of time is not worth it, unless you want to be one of the unwitting souls who tells the world the latest crop German vehicles have finally overcome a decade of being a below average value proposition! I wouldn’t want to be the person holding their breath for that.

German cars are for leasing only…and I don’t see your mother wanting or needing that. Buy, don’t lease. Buy American, it’s important to her. The Equinox, Traverse, Flex and Edge are great. Supposedly the new Journey is good value and a quality design, I haven’t driven it yet to know for sure. You need some quality time with Mom doing the Test Drive thing, make it a fun outing with a nice lunch too.

Like Steve said, this is a GM family and she likes GM products. Nothing wrong with that. Honestly I would put her in a Buick Enclave: the size is a bit much, but the luxury and style might be a great choice. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to something nice in circumstances like these. And how often do we get to say that around here?

Seriously, tell her she’s worth a Buick Enclave. As long as she likes sitting in it, enjoys the road test, etc. make it happen for her.

EDIT: on second thought, why not a new Caddy SRX? It’s smaller than the Enclave (which could be a good thing for her), and it’s a friggin Caddy.  Get her an SRX!

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-being-a-parent-to-your-parent/feed/ 139
What’s Wrong With This Picture: 2013 Flex Hits The Funkmaster Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-2013-flex-hits-the-funkmaster-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-2013-flex-hits-the-funkmaster-edition/#comments Tue, 08 Nov 2011 15:40:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417151 Thought the Flex’s 2013 update would be a subtle tweak? Thought Ford might even tone down its freakiest minivan alternative? Think again, fool. Beaten down by jive turkey crossovers with less personality than a dealer finance rep, the Ford Flex has been hitting the funkmaster hard in hopes of working up a little sales mojo. But will a new, more design-appropriate front-end do the trick? Will this update put the Flex back on shopping lists? Or is the big box CUV still just too freaked-out for the familial mainstream?

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Ya dig? 2013 Ford Flex 2013 Ford Flex 2013 Ford Flex 2013 Ford Flex 2013 Ford Flex 2013 Ford Flex

 

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-2013-flex-hits-the-funkmaster-edition/feed/ 69
Piston Slap: Relationship Advice, Accord vs. Panther Love? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-relationship-advice-accord-vs-panther-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-relationship-advice-accord-vs-panther-love/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2011 14:59:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=412100

Click here to view the embedded video.

Scott writes:

I am a regular TTAC reader and have a question that I hope you can shed some light on. Currently my wife and I own a 2004 Accord with about 100,000 miles and in good shape and a 1993 Grand Marquis with about 90,000 miles which is also in good shape for its age – according to my mechanic we can get at least two more years with basic maintenance. I commute to work in the G. Marquis every day about 50 miles round trip and my wife put 15-20,000 miles per year on the Accord for her job (her Gas is reimbursed at 50 cents / mile).

My wife wants a new car (SUV-we’re thinking FLEX) and I would get the Accord thinking we move up in fleet reliability with more room to tote around a toddler, a large dog, and related items. The Accord has trade in value ($8,500 – $9,500 according to KBB) and the G. Marquis does not ($875-$1,100 according to KBB).

I think it makes more sense to keep the Grand Marquis as long as we can and trade in the Honda considering its value. My wife disagrees. What do you think?

Sajeev Answers:

Your wife probably hates your car. Which obviously breaks my heart.

And takes me down memory lane: years ago I told my girlfriend that I’d love her far more if she bought a new Mercury Grand Marquis (MGM) for the same price as the compacts she wanted. And since she restricted herself to USA-only brands, she wasn’t looking at the fun, refined and cheerful little shitboxes! I forced her to sit in an ice blue MGM, looking ready to knee me in the crotch. Needless to say, Panther Love foretold of a short and painful relationship that time ‘round.

So anyway…your lady needs to wake up and smell the Panther Love. If not for Love, for Money.

Panther’s are not terribly valuable on public perception alone, justified and otherwise. Their resale isn’t great in the dealer trade-in market, either. Craigslist will get you a few more bucks, but the Accord is the one for the money. And who knows, you might be one of the “lucky” folks with a grenaded Honda transaxle, especially if this is a V6 model. Not that an early 90’s MGM is the symbol of mechanical perfection, but worn valve seals (at well over 100k) and any other malady that comes from old age is probably no big thang. That’s mostly because I trust your assessment, and the word of your local wrench.

So if I can trust you, why can’t your wife? Did I just go there?

Because that’s what I would throw back at her, to see if she’s gonna play ball. I just think she wants to keep the Accord over the MGM, dollar saving be damned. Considering your next ride will be very similar to the configuration/layout of the Honda, the MGM is both a better value and a fantastic way to spice up the action in your garage. Provided your wife is more automotively-forgiving than my ex.

If that’s what you really want. Back to you, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-relationship-advice-accord-vs-panther-love/feed/ 59
Is Ford Enjoying Full-Size Success? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/is-ford-enjoying-full-size-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/is-ford-enjoying-full-size-success/#comments Mon, 16 Aug 2010 15:16:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=363046

Today’s Detroit News has an interesting item on Ford’s D3/D4 platform strategy, based on the thesis that

The remade Taurus has emerged as a flagship for the Dearborn automaker, restoring luster to a nameplate that had become synonymous with “rental car,” and helping to revive an automaker that had become dependent on trucks and sport utility vehicles.

As Jack Baruth’s Capsule Review of the Ford Five Hundred shows, the D3 platform offers good space and comfort, and the recent update and return to the Taurus nameplate has been rewarded with steadily-increasing sales. And though the Taurus has fought back to become a Ford-brand flagship (likely at the expense of Mercury), its platform-mates have been consistent underperformers on the showroom floor. Flex has sold in the low 3k monthly range, while MKS and MKT have been thoroughly beaten in YTD sales by the Cadillac DTS and Escalade, themselves hardly the most competitive alternatives to the big Lincolns.

But Ford insists that Taurus makes up the bulk of the volume required to pay off development costs for the D3 platform, and that incremental volume off of luxury versions only fatten the profits. And with the Taurus commanding a $30k average transaction price (thanks to a 20 percent SHO mix), it’s no slouch on the retail market itself. Best of all, Ford isn’t spending much to market the Taurus, and is rehabilitating an important nameplate by moving it upmarket. And with analysts figuring the D3 platform is slowly paying itself off, why call it a failure?

For one thing, using luxury brands to add enough incremental volume to barely make the platform’s minimum volume is not a recipe for long-term brand strength. As long as Loncoln’s flagship can be had for $10k less with a Taurus badge, it will be no surprise to see Taurus transaction prices running high, and volume remaining healthy. Unfortunately, it also leaves the MKS without a unique, competitive flagship. Flex, meanwhile, might bring new buyers into the Ford brand, but it’s also expensive for a Ford, and can be loaded up to the point where an MKT only makes sense for consumers with a flair for the Lovecraftian. And when the 2011 Explorer hits the market in earnest, the Flex’s already-weak volume will only plummet further.

On the other hand, the Explorer looks likely to help bring Ford’s D3/D4 platform back into the serious volume numbers. If Ford can resist the temptation to create a Lincoln rebadge, market it well, and keep Taurus volume up, it will have made a silk purse from the sow’s ear that was the Ford Five Hundred. In the meantime, calling the D3/D4 lineup a success is a bit like calling the auto bailout a success: yes, things have improved, but at a significant cost, and they’re not out of the woods yet.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/is-ford-enjoying-full-size-success/feed/ 59
Review: Ford Flex Ecoboost Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/review-ford-flex-ecoboost-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/review-ford-flex-ecoboost-take-two/#comments Fri, 26 Feb 2010 13:26:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=346787

A few years ago Ford decided that its survival depended on making bold moves. They decided to stop simply doing what they’d always done. Well, at least some of the time. One bold move: replace their minivan with the world’s largest Scion xB. Another: instead of offering a V8, twin-turbocharge and direct inject a V6. Then combine the two to offer a 355-horsepower family hauler that really hauls. Intriguing. But does the Ford Flex EcoBoost make sense?

The EcoBoost looks much like a regular Flex, only with 20-inch alloys and dual exhaust. This isn’t intrinsically a wheel-centric design, so the larger alloys don’t greatly enhance the Flex’s exterior appearance. It’s a look that some people—usually men and including this author—really like, and most others—especially women and including this author’s wife—really dislike. Neither group will mistake it for any other crossover. Perhaps it should have been a Volvo? The Swedes once did an excellent job peddling bricks to housewives.

The interior is unchanged from the un-boosted Flex, except for shift paddles added to the steering wheel. Just as well, since this is perhaps the best interior in any Ford. It’s in harmony with the exterior and the vehicle’s mission. Materials, if not quite luxurious, are good enough to not come across as cheap. There’s plenty of room in the high-mounted first two rows for four adults (five with the bench version). The amount of headroom borders on ridiculous. The big cushy seats provide long-distance comfort, though four-way adjustable lumbar support would be a welcome addition. The outer inch of the seating surfaces in the Flex SEL appears to be vinyl—wear shorts in hot weather and your skin sticks to this inch but not the rest of the surface. In the more expensive Flex Limited, the entire seating surface seems to be genuine cow hide. Unlike in the related Lincoln MKT, there’s also enough room for a pair of adults in the third row—but they’ll have to sit knees up. The “way back’s” main shortcoming: it only seats two, not three as in minivans and GM’s large crossovers. Each outboard seat gets its own reading light—popular with the kids.

The Flex also excels at hauling cargo. Every seat except the driver’s quickly and easily folds to form a flat surface. Even with the third row up we had enough space behind it for all our luggage last summer—the deep well otherwise used for stowing the third-row seat gives the Flex an advantage over most competitors.

Not once during 1,500 miles with my family in a rented Flex last summer did I catch myself thinking, “What this thing really needs is more power.” Instead, I found that 262 horsepower hitched to a 6-speed automatic is sufficient to motivate 5,000 pounds of vehicle, people, and luggage. After all, the Flex is a minivan substitute, not a sports anything. So what’s the point of another 93 horses?

A week with the EcoBoost left me still searching for much of a point. The stopwatch will report zero-to-sixty in about six seconds. But subjectively, 355 horses have rarely felt slower owing to the Flex’s size, shape, quietness, and mass. The sound the engine makes at full tilt doesn’t encourage aggressive throttle applications. Even if the engine had a “come hither” voice, hooning a Flex just doesn’t feel right. At part throttle in the midrange, the Ford EcoBoost V6 sounds downright pedestrian, even a tad cobby. On the plus side of the ledger, nothing about the feel of the engine provides even a hint that it’s turbocharged.

Responses aren’t exactly snappy, but this is due to the transmission more than anything else. One thing I did wish for in the regular Flex was a way to hold the transmission in a specified gear—with six-speed automatics Ford gave up on the old 5-4-3-2-1 gear selector. With the EcoBoost, you get not only the ability to manually shift the transmission, but paddles with which to do it. While I don’t see using these often for aggressive driving, the paddle shifters could come in handy in hilly terrain.

Ah, yes; hilly terrain. There’s none to be explored near where I live. If there had been…or if I’d driven the Flex EcoBoost well above sea level…or if I’d had a trailer hitched to the back, then the EcoBoost no doubt would have earned its keep.

What about the “Eco” part? In the front-wheel-drive Flex I averaged 23 miles per gallon with a mix of 10 percent city, 90 percent highway. Ford claims no penalty for the EcoBoost engine. The trip computer reported 17 MPG in suburban driving and 22 in highway driving, quite good for a 355-horsepower 5,000 pound brick. Based on the EPA ratings, the EcoBoost’s mandatory all-wheel-drive and not the engine itself is responsible this drop.

Still surprisingly good for such a powerful, heavy vehicle.

With all-wheel-drive the Flex chugs through deep snow as if it’s not even there. A few times I drove with one set of tires on the plowed road and the other two on the unplowed shoulder—just because I could. Goodyear Eagle RS-As aren’t known as a spectacular snow tire, but when carrying 5,000 pounds they grip well. Couldn’t feel a thing through the wheel or the seat of my pants. Problem is, you never feel much through the steering wheel on any road surface. Communicative Ford’s EPS system is not. Weighting is pretty good, though; for what the Flex is, it’ll do.

The regular Flex feels a touch floaty. For the EcoBoost the suspension has been lowered 0.4” and firmed up as much as the chassis engineers felt they could get away with. Consequently, the float is gone, body motions feel much more tightly controlled, lean in turns is minimal, and grip is decent until the outside front tire overloads and the vehicle lapses into oh-so-safe understeer. Still not an invitation to hoon—even with a tighter suspension the Flex feels huge and far from agile. Credit not only its size but the distant upright windshield. Think that the Scion xB and Nissan cube feel surprisingly roomy? Well, apply the same configuration to the truly large vehicle, and you’ll feel like you’re navigating more than driving. On top of these factors, I’ve yet to drive a car on Ford’s D3 platform that didn’t feel ponderous. I suspect it’s the suspension geometry. The Mazda CX-9 and even the largest-and-heaviest-in-class GM Lambdas feel more tossable (though this is most certainly relative). For the sake of evaluation I pushed the Flex hard enough around a curvy circuit to sink fuel economy below ten. But would I ever drive a Flex this way otherwise? Probably not; there’s not much fun to be had here. The primary benefit of the tighter suspension is in driver confidence and safety on challenging roads, not in driver enjoyment. The chassis is certainly competent, but not entertaining.

There is a cost to the EcoBoost’s additional body control. The ride never becomes downright harsh, but the EcoBoost feels more jittery over the small stuff and reacts more abruptly to larger bumps. Pairing the stiffer suspension with 19-inch wheels might yield a better compromise, but with the EcoBoost only 20s are offered. In any Flex and in the related Lincoln MKT impacts often reverberate through the less-than-rigid body structure.

I’m a fan of the Flex. The styling keeps growing on me, and the room, comfort, and interior flexibility are indisputable strengths. But does it make sense to spend another $3,800 to EcoBoost it? In the end, this decision becomes a surprisingly practical one. I’m aware that some people are entranced by the combination of a massive vehicle with a powerful engine—a friend had Lingenfelter supercharge his Hummer H2. For me, a pair of turbos and stiffer suspension bits do not transform Ford’s supersized brick into a driving machine. Driven the way such vehicles are typically driven, where they’re typically driven, the extra power simply won’t come into play. And I didn’t much enjoy pushing the Flex EcoBoost harder. But if you need more power and control for mountains, high altitudes, or towing, then the Flex EcoBoost makes more sense than a normally-aspirated V8 would have.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael aresh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online provider of auto pricing and reliability data.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/review-ford-flex-ecoboost-take-two/feed/ 73
Review: Lincoln MKT Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-lincoln-mkt-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-lincoln-mkt-take-two/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2009 16:30:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=336997 Tooney, if not tiny

The Lincoln MKT is a Looney Tunes cartoon: based on previously made creations, packaged into something unique. While the animated series started from the Warner Brother’s impressive music library, the MKT comes from an old Volvo S80 platform, sharing a motor with the Mazda6. So both creations are downright looney. Which explains the MKT’s krill filtering grille: silly in pictures, insane in natural sunlight where it’s obvious that 40% of it’s toothy smile is blocked off by solid plastic paneling. Which probably says more about the current state of Lincoln better than anything else.

While the Lincoln MKT’s design is proportionally derivative and stylistically challenged, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Still, the MKT’s droopy butt sticks out like a sore lincolnmktintthumb in any lighting condition outside of a PR-coordinated photo shoot: even the oversized, italicized “T” on the decklid badging reeks of branding desperation.

Sure, the not-so-subtle beltline kick pays homage to the Continental Mark IV and the taillights are Mark VIII-ish, but the MKT’s boxy fenders with a lack of “Pre-War Continental” flare and cargo killing slant back design take the 1930’s coachbuilt-era’s hallmarks to dangerously bizarre heights. Then again, it happens when you design a CUV around other people’s hard points (so to speak). If there’s one reason to buy a wannabe-xB Ford Flex, here it is.

The interior is a less obvious desecration to the Lincoln brand, as the once favorable opinions on the Lincoln Navigator are history. But Navigator never died, and it’s brilliant combination of masculine haunches and day-spa like ambiance both charm and disarm any occupant.

The MKT’s cabin is awash in the luxury hallmarks of others: Lexus-like soft curves, Acura’s swoopy slabs of wood and an awkward Volvo-homage from the (inelegant) negative area behind the center stack. The flimsy wheel-mounted shift paddles are laughable, but the center console’s armrest sits higher than their door-mounted counterparts: FAIL. The steering wheels’ misaligned wood grain inlay is a sad cost cutting measure (ironically) not found on the earlier, badge engineered, Lincoln MK-Zephyr: a proper hunk of oak on the wheel is mandatory at this price point.

Luckily, someone sweated the other details. The white LED backed, chrome ringed gauges are bright, futuristic and elegant. Most anything touchable is wrapped in a leather-like material with triple stitching. The THX-fettled audio is stellar and the navigation’s GUI might be the most straightforward on the planet. Even the first two rows of seating provide adequate comfort and luxury, for a brand formerly known for being anything but adequate.

Get the MKT moving and you experience the good and bad of Ford’s recent decisions. In the 4500lb, two-wheel drive Lincoln CUV, Ford’s Duratec 3.7L six-pot is a pleasant surprise: paired with a reasonably quick six-speed autobox there’s enough grunt to light up the twenty-inch wheels, launching the MKT through the intersection in a flash of blinking traction control advisories.

lincolnmktrearAnd that’s just first gear. The MKT flies down the highway with sports car authority: nice, until you remember that front-wheel-drive and impressive power don’t mix. Wheel-jerking torque steer makes straight-line duties cumbersome, so turning the MKT with a modicum of throttle authority is entirely out of the question. While flat-ish handling is one the “D3” chassis strong suits, there’s too much power to finesse those front wheels.

Then again, the entire affair is no less artificial than a Lexus RX. Which isn’t damning the MKT with faint praise, considering this platform’s international heritage. And who buys a FWD wannabe-SUV for cornering pleasure?

These vehicles are about a pleasant ride. And the MKT doesn’t disappoint, except when it does. The ride is suitably floaty, without the pavement joint obliterating motions of the Navigator equipped with a similar set of twenty-inch rolling stock. In case you missed the underlying problem, remember that fragile products require air-suspended trucks for Interstate transport. That said, the adaptive cruise control works brilliantly for long distance cruising: too bad this system’s soul mate, the Lincoln Town Car, continues to live (thrive?) in the Stone Age.

But wait, there’s less! The four-passenger MKT carries about the same amount of cargo (third row folded) as a five-passenger Taurus from the Jac Nasser era, netting terrible fuel economy in the process. And think twice before towing (the rated) 4500lbs, even with EcoBoost motivating the car-based transaxle and unitized frame. While the MKT is more palatable than today’s Navigator, that’s not a very sincere compliment.

Unless the D3 platform’s voodoo sales curse magically disappears at the sight of the MKT’s grinning face, this abomination is doomed from the start. But the sooner the MKT dies, the sooner Lincoln will realize their heart and soul is in their core offerings. And, with any luck, they’ll stop neglecting them this time. Which is what we’ve been waiting for…for several decades.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-lincoln-mkt-take-two/feed/ 59