The Truth About Cars » Lincoln MKS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:26:26 +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 » Lincoln MKS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Crapwagon Outtake: Catching Zzzz’s In The Q-Ship http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/crapwagon-outtake-catching-zzzzs-in-the-q-ship/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/crapwagon-outtake-catching-zzzzs-in-the-q-ship/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 14:52:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846993 $_20

In the last decade, American sedans have managed to capture the hearts and minds of enthusiasts in a way that was previously unthinkable. And for good reason. The Cadillac CTS-V, Chrysler/Dodge SRT-8 twins and the Pontiac G8/Chevrolet SS and all truly world class sport sedans, and I’m not interested in any of them. Carlos Villalobos’ Skoda Octavia vRS review has me thinking of a different kind of sports sedan. Something more discreet, maybe one that can be driven while wearing socks with sandals.

Ok, that is a blatant fib. I would love to own one of those vehicles. But in this exercise, it’s my own money on the line, and that means I am going to follow Steve Lang’s philosophy and look for the “lame duck“, the overlooked but still solid entrant that goes ignored, to the benefit of bargain-hunters like myself.

Take a look at that list and notice how the Blue Oval is woefully underrepresented. Yes, there was the Mercury Marauder. It was a pretty cool car in my mind, but the numbers never held up. Mercury folded at the end of the last decade, but the best Marauder is arguably a Lincoln.

I’m talking about the MKS Ecoboost AWD, which was really just a Taurus SHO with a nicer interior, even more nondescript styling and the sex appeal of control-top hose. It also had a 3.5L twin-turbo V6 making 335 horsepower and 355 lb-ft of torque, channeled through all four wheels. Handling? Not really. Braking? If the Taurus SHO is any indication, don’t expect more than one or two hot laps before you run into problems.

On the other hand, if you like cars that let you rapidly cover long distances in extreme isolation, this is a great choice – and as I mature, I find myself increasingly gravitating towards those cars. For $20,000 CAD (about $18,480), you can get an MKS Ecoboost with 55,000 miles on it. There’s not a ton of daylight between that and the SHO price-wise, but the interior is a little nicer, and you get the THX audio system. On the other hand, the SHO would look nice with police package wheels, especially in this odd silver/toothpaste-green color scheme.

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Lincoln Launches In China, China-Focused MKS Replacement To Follow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/lincoln-launches-in-china-china-focused-mks-replacement-to-follow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/lincoln-launches-in-china-china-focused-mks-replacement-to-follow/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 14:19:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846969 450x300x2015-Lincoln-Navigator-19-450x300.jpg.pagespeed.ic.PCn9LKPe-z

Lincoln is gearing up to launch in China, with a lineup full of CUVs and SUVs – and their only sedan offering won’t even be retrofitted to Chinese tastes.

Carnewschina is reporting that Lincoln’s Chinese lineup will consist of the new Ford Escape-based MKC, the new MKX and the Navigator (already a popular grey import). In a market that is hungry for CUVs and SUVs, this isn’t such a bad strategy.

But Lincoln’s sole offering in the sedan department will be the MKZ, which will be imported (meaning expensive tariffs relative to locally built German and American competition) and will not offer a long-wheelbase version that so many Chinese consumers gravitate towards.

While this may seem like an oversight on Lincoln’s part, there is a missing piece of the puzzle. An all-new large sedan is coming in 2016, set to replace the MKS. And as TTAC exclusively reported, it will be designed with China in mind. Dubbed Project GOBI, the new car will be focused on the “Chinese business customer”, meaning lots of rear legroom and sumptuous interior finishing. The basis for the car will be the same front-drive CD architecture as the MKZ/Fusion, and it will apparently offer the new 2.7L Nano V6 Ecoboost engine as one powertrain choice.

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Here’s Your New Lincoln Continental http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/heres-your-new-lincoln-continental/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/heres-your-new-lincoln-continental/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 14:29:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501451 lincoln-continental-concept

Car and Driver released renderings of the next Lincoln MKS aka Project GOBI aka the Lincoln flagship supposedly inspired by the 2002 Lincoln Continental concept. We spoke with someone well placed, and they provided us with some further insight. Apparently the rendering is not entirely accurate.

For starters, the car will be based on the current CD4 platform the underpins the Fusion, not the Volvo-derived platform underpining the current Taurus and MKS.  The belt line and C-pillar will be more subdued and flat, rather than the Impala-like hump you see here. The rear will have two light bars and the front grille will be integrated into the hood. Certain details are apparently still in flux. Also, the Nano V6 mentioned in the article will be 2.7L rather than 2.9L.

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Lincoln Goes To China With New Flagship http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/lincoln-goes-to-china-with-new-flagship/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/lincoln-goes-to-china-with-new-flagship/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 14:41:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500021 2013_Lincoln_MKS_--_2012_DC

It would appear that Lincoln’s upcoming replacement for the MKS sedan will be aimed squarely at the Chinese market. Rumors of a proper RWD flagship notwithstanding, the die has been cast, and it’s all entry-luxury-derived from here on out.

 

Based on potential insider information we’ve recently received, we can now predict that the next MKS, which will be based on Ford’s global front-drive CD platform, will be twinned with a Chinese-market flagship code-named the GOBI.

Documents represented to us as corporate internal communications claim that that Ford will

Offer a step up product from CD533 [Ford's codename for the Lincoln MKZ. -Ed] that meets the needs of the Gobi business customer, with class leading rear seat package and amenities.

Our source tells us that styling for the cars will draw some cues from the Continental concept of 2002. In keeping with the China-centric theme of the GOBI project, leg room and rear seat amenities are a key part of GOBI to suit its customers, which are frequently chauffeured. What is unclear is whether GOBI will be a separate nameplate or simply a long-wheelbase version of the future MKS.

This past week’s Pebble Beach Concours saw Lincoln bring over prospective Chinese dealers, with some suggesting that their Black Label interior packages were aimed at Chinese consumers as well. Lincoln’s following the lead of Cadillac here, reaching to the East to salvage their reputation and their bottom line. When the day comes that both remaining American luxury brands are primarily concerned with China, what will that say about the American auto business — or about America itself?

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Review: 2014 Acura RLX (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-acura-rlx-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-acura-rlx-with-video/#comments Sat, 17 Aug 2013 02:02:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498841 2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Breaking into the Luxury market isn’t easy. Toyota has arguably had the most success with Lexus, the only full-line luxury marque sold in America that isn’t German. Infiniti gave up on trying to go head-to-head with the S-Class and 7-Series when they ditched the Q, and Cadillac has yet to have a complete and coherent strategy. Meanwhile Acura started off strong with the Legend, created a competent E/5 competitor with the all-wheel-drive RL, and then things started to fall apart. Can the RLX bring the brand back?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Why do I bring up Germans in a review of a front-wheel-drive luxury sedan? Because some folks [not everyone mind you] at Acura and plenty of fan boys would like to think the brand runs with the big dogs. In truth Acura has always been a “near-luxury” brand because they lack a full-size competitor to play in the S-Class/7-Series/A8 pool.

Competition

In order to look at the RLX through the right lens, we need to nail down the competition. Acura would like you to believe the front-wheel-drive RLX should be pitted against the rear-wheel-drive BMW 528/535, Mercedes E350 and Lexus GS350. I think this comparison has a few problems. First, the RLX isn’t as dynamic as a RWD sedan. Second, Acura’s brand position is a problem. What say our readers? Should the brand matter in comparisons? Should this all be priced based? In my mind the RLX’s drivetrain and the brand’s near-luxury image put the Acura in direct competition with the Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKS and Volvo S80. What about the FWD/AWD A6? Perhaps, but Audi’s brand is a solid BMW/Mercedes competitor these days.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior-009

Exterior

Acura’s flagship has always worn elegant and restrained sheetmetal and that continues with the RLX. Up front we get a more muted and better integrated version of Acura’s signature “beak” flanked by multi-beam LED headlamps. The LED high and low beams are standard on every RLX and strike a unique pose as identifiable as BMW’s “angel eyes.”

The RLX’s rump is probably the best looking in Acura’s current product portfolio. I’ve never cared for the jumble of shapes on the TL’s back side, thankfully none of them are along for the ride. In an interesting twist, Acura put the RLX’s quad exhaust tips behind the bumper where you can’t see them instead of integrating them into the bumper cover as in the smaller TL. Looking at the RLX from the side it’s obvious this car has grown. The rear doors give the Acura a more luxurious look than the old RL which had a decidedly Accord-like silhouette. A long front overhang advertises the transverse engine layout in the RLX, but that’s not really a problem with our pre-defined competition since the two Americans and the Swede are all FWD platforms as well.

In my opinion, the RLX’s exterior ranks second behind the 2014 Volvo S80′s clean lines. Yes the Volvo is getting old, but frequent refreshed have helped it age well. I like Caddy’s art-and-science design theme on every Caddy except the XTS where I find the proportions to be awkward. However Awkward trumps the ginormous and bizarre schnoz on the Lincoln MKS.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

The RLX’s interior is one place where I can not only compare the Acura to the Germans, it’s an area where Acura excels. You won’t find a full-on stitched leather dash like the Volvo S80 or the Mercedes E350 with the “designo” package, but you can “option up” a band of stitched leather running across the cabin. Anyway you order your RLX, perfect seams and a tasteful amount of metallic trim are standard. You’ll also find perfect seams and fit and finish quality that would make Lexus blush. What you won’t find is real tree. The choice of fake wood on upper trim levels perplexes me when all the RLX competitors slather the cabin in acres of burl. (Base RLX models get faux-metal trim.) When it comes to interior styling and quality, I rank the RLX above the E350, 528i, S80, MKS, XTS, GS350, and yes, even the A6.

Front seat comfort ranks second in this quartet behind Volvo’s large and supportive thrones. Enlarging the pool only drops the Acura to third place above the BMW 5-series’ standard seats but behind the optional million-way sport buckets. Oddly however, those seats aren’t covered in leather in base RLX models. Want real moo? That’ll be $6,000 more than the RLX’s base $48,450. This may be in line with Lexus’ recent move in the GS, but the RLX’s closest competition comes with real leather standard.

Rear passengers have notably more room than the outgoing RL with legroom and headroom in line with everyone else. While Lincoln and Cadillac cut corners in the back, Acura delivers rich plastics and an attention to detail that places it first in thus class and certainly on par with BMW’s 5.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
If one screen is good, two must be better, right? My short answer is: sometimes. The standard two-screen system first debuted in the new Accord and is tweaked for luxury duty donning the AcuraLink name. The concept as explained to me is: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My beef with the system is: you still need to use the upper screen to navigate your media device as the lower screen simply selects sources and changes tracks somewhat defeating the purpose of splitting the screens. Because of this split personality, and the fact that you have to use the touchscreen, and the knob/dial controller, and the button-bank to navigate the system, AcuraLink comes across as “not fully baked.”

Since my first experience with AcuraLink, the system has grown on me, and in the RLX the dual screens are very well integrated into the dashboard rather than looking like an afterthought as in the Honda. AcuraLink is without question snappier than MyLincoln Touch or Cadillac’s buggy CUE system. I find Volvo’s Sensus interface more intuitive, but you need binoculars to use the microscopic LCD.

Two screens might be standard on the $48,450 base model, but navigation is not. Want maps? That bumps the price to $50,950. For $54,450 Acura will bump the speaker count from 10 to 14, watts from 404 to 588, add sound deadening side glass, rain sense wipers, and folding side mirrors. If you want the Krell audio and all the electronic goodies like radar cruise, lane keep assist, parking sensors, dimming side mirrors, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats that bumps the price of the RLX to an eye watering $60,450. Ouch.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Acura’s only engine for 2014 is a direct-injected 310HP 3.5L V6 that cranks out 272lb-ft of torque. In typical Acura fashion peak power comes at 6,500 RPM, torque comes to a boil at a lofty 4,500 RPM and the six-pot is smooth as butter at every RPM. 310 ponies used to be something to brag about, unfortunately this is 2014 and the RLX’s mill only leads when you compare it to base engines in the competition. The problem is everyone but Acura offers a more powerful engine option. If you think nobody options up, let’s look at the numbers. Lincoln says over 30% of MKS shoppers opt for their twin-turbo V6 which puts down 19% more power and 30% more torque. My local Volvo dealer says the take rate on the twin-scroll turbo S80 with AWD (300 horsepower and 325lb-ft, 20% more twist) is nearly 80% and I’m not in the snow belt. It remains to be seen how many of the fire-breathing twin-turbo 410 horse V6s Cadillac ships in the XTS, but judging by the competition I expect them to shift a few. The Germans? Their twin-turbo V8s are in a different performance ballpark but the 443 horsepower 550i starts just $3,500 more than the top-end RLX.

Power isn’t the only area where the RLX is at a competitive disadvantage, Acura also dropped their Super Handling AWD system from their flagship. Acura’s torque vectoring AWD, capable of continually varying the FWD/RWD bias, set the old RL apart (and ahead) from the pack. Yes, there will be a hybrid AWD RLX soon we are told, but with a maximum of around 60 horsepower at the rear wheels the 370HP RLX hybrid is likely to retain a strong FWD bias. (The system will not have a mechanical connection between the engine and rear wheels. Instead there will be a ~40HP motor/generator between the engine and transaxle and an approximately 28HP motor at each rear wheel.) The less sophisticated AWD systems found in the MKS, XTS and S80 are suddenly the choice for driving enthusiasts.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The lack of AWD has a huge impact in the way the RLX drives compared to its predecessor. The old RL was a hoot and a half on winding mountain roads. In comparison, the RLX is three-quarters of a hoot. The old RL was capable of sending the majority of the engine’s power to the outside rear wheel making it corner with precision and confidence. When pushed to its limits, the front-heavy RL understeered predictably. The RLX on the other hand is probably one of the most capable front drivers on the market, easily more capable than the FWD Lincoln, Cadillac or Volvo but slots behind AWD versions of the same.

Acura’s “Precision All Wheel Steer” system (dubbed P-AWS) is the reason for the RLX’s crisp handling. P-AWS differs from other systems on the market in that it can rotate the rear wheels independently of one another allowing the car to toe both wheels in when braking. That might sound odd, but doing so keeps the RLX’s rear end from feeling “squirely” under hard braking, something usually associated with nose-heavy sedans. P-AWS is tuned to “mimic” oversteer as much as possible in corners leading to a peculiar combination of slight torque steer, [very] mild oversteer and a hint of wheel hop all at the same time. This is a confluence of personalities you will find only in the RLX. Helping out is an always-active stability control system. Unlike the stability control on most cars which only intervene when things go pear-shaped, this system is always playing with the brakes trying to “improve” the handling characteristics of the RLX. Paired with electric power steering these systems make the RLX the best handling, but the most artificial large FWD sedan I have ever driven.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior-010

Our RLX was equipped with Acura’s “Lane Keep Assist” system which uses the electric power steering system to help keep you in your lane. Unlike all the other systems on the market, on a freeway the LKA system is almost always providing some level of steering assistance. Acura likens the aid to a ball riding in a “U” shaped trough, the closer you get to the lane lines, the more the system assists. I don’t know if I have formed an opinion on the system yet, but it did work as advertised and can be turned off completely.

If you’ve been keeping score, I found the RLX to be the second most attractive on the outside, have the best interior, second most comfortable seats, best infotainment system, best handling numbers, a middling engine and questionable behind-the-wheel-feel. One might assume this puts the RLX towards the top of the quartet, and perhaps a viable alternative to the Germans. One would be wrong. The RLX is unquestionably a good car, but it’s $3,200 more than a similarly configured FWD XTS, $8,275 more than the  FWD Volvo S80 and $9,990 more than the FWD MKS. Things get worse when you load up the Lincoln and Volvo with the more powerful S80 T6 AWD still $5,000 cheaper and the 365HP MKS Ecoboost AWD $3,000 less expensive. Only Cadillac’s 410HP XTS VSport is more expensive ranging from $62,000-$72,000. The news is just as grim when pitted against the luxury competition with the RLX being $1,300 more than the Lexus GS350, $1,200 less than the Infiniti M37, and only a $3,000 discount compared to the E350 and BMW 535i. The result is the RLX has no “value” proposition to counter the middling engine numbers, FWD bias, road feel and most importantly: the brand image. Sadly I fear the RLX is about $10,000 away from being a great car and $15,000 away from being a game changer. Until Acura realigns their flagship’s capabilities (or shrinks the price tag) the RLX is destined to be the car everyone likes but nobody buys.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.38 Seconds

0-60: 5.72 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.28 Seconds @ 99 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 23 MPG over 781 miles

 

2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-001 2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-003 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-004 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-005 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-006 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-007 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-008 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-009 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-010 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-011 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-012 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-013 2014 Acura RLX Interior 2014 Acura RLX Interior-001 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-003 2014 Acura RLX Interior-004 2014 Acura RLX Interior-005 2014 Acura RLX Interior-006 2014 Acura RLX Interior-007 2014 Acura RLX Interior-008 2014 Acura RLX Interior-009 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-011 2014 Acura RLX Interior-012 2014 Acura RLX Interior-013 2014 Acura RLX Interior-014 2014 Acura RLX Interior-015 2014 Acura RLX Interior-016 2014 Acura RLX Interior-017 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-019 2014 Acura RLX 2014 Acura RLX-001 ]]>
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Ecoboost Navigator, Small Crossover In The Cards For Lincoln http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/ecoboost-navigator-small-crossover-in-the-cards-for-lincoln/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/ecoboost-navigator-small-crossover-in-the-cards-for-lincoln/#comments Thu, 06 Dec 2012 15:35:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=469297

Jack’s proposal for a new Continental may have won over the hearts and minds of our readership, but Lincoln’s near-term product plans are erring on the side of conventional.

Reporting on the media introduction of the 2013 MKZ, Reuters claims that Lincoln will be introducing a barrage of new product by 2016 – first up will be a “revised” Navigator, that retains its body-on-frame capabilities, but will be powered by the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 that’s found favor among many F-Series buyers.

The new Navigator will bow at the end of 2013, along with an Escape-based crossover dubbed “MKC”. Following that, redesigned versions of the Lincoln MKX and MKS will debut in late 2014 and early 2015 respectively. And finally, a new rear-drive coupe, based on the next Mustang architecture, “could” debut sometime around 2016. ?

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Disappointed By Four Detroit Cars, Consumer Reports Recommends A Japanese http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/disappointed-by-four-detroit-cars-consumer-reports-recommends-a-japanese/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/disappointed-by-four-detroit-cars-consumer-reports-recommends-a-japanese/#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2012 12:21:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467522

Consumer Reports tested the latest offerings of Detroit automakers, did not like the Dodge Dart, was frustrated by the Cadillac XTS, was underwhelmed by the Lincoln MKS,  and put off by the Chevrolet Spark. CR ended up recommending a Japanese Lexus ES instead.

The Dodge Dart, the first all-new model to emerge from the Fiat-Chrysler alliance, “feels underpowered” with its standard 2.0-liter four, says Consumer Report. The optional 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder did not impress either. The magazine grouches that the engine “is raspy and has drivability issues when mated with the optional dual-clutch automated manual transmission.”

Disappointed by the Dart, CR tried to find solace in big American iron, the Cadillac XTS and the Lincoln MKS, but found them lacking. According to CR, “both cars underwhelmed in a class dominated by German, Japanese, and Korean models.” Consumer Reports found the Cadillac to be “wonderfully luxurious,” but was put off by the CUE infotainment system, which CR calls “convoluted and frustrating.”

The Lincoln MKS left a negative impression on CR with its “cramped driving position, ungainly handling, uncomposed ride, and limited visibility.”

Nor could Detroit redeem itself in the discount segment. The Chevrolet Spark scored points with its “excellent fuel economy”, with “a surprisingly useable rear seat,” and “a comprehensive assortment of features.” However, “sluggish acceleration, stiff and jittery ride and very noisy cabin” caused CR’s enthusiasm to evaporate.

None of the Detroit cars were deemed as recommendable by Consumer Reports. Only when CR tested the Lexus ES, smiles returned to the testers’ faces. Consumer Reports likes the “comfy, quiet interior, impressive hybrid and V6 drivetrains, and excellent fuel economy.” CR tut-tutted that the “redesign took a step back in ride and interior refinement” and that the “handling didn’t impress,” but ended up recommending the Lexus and putting it on the list of CR’s higher-rated upscale sedans.

 

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Review: 2012 Acura RL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-acura-rl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-acura-rl/#comments Sun, 13 May 2012 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441436

Despite debuting over seven years ago, extensively refreshed in 2009 and nip/tucked again in 2011, the Acura RL remains a mystery. Flagship products usually sell in small numbers, but the RL is one of the rarest sedans in America. This isn’t exactly been a badge of honor for Acura. Overlooked by shoppers who flock to the cheaper Acura TL and largely forgotten by the automotive press (after all these years, TTAC has never fully reviewed the RL) With a full replacement due next year in the form of the RLX concept, I hit Acura up for an RL for a week to see how a flagship product from a major brand could manage to sell just 56 vehicles in Canada and 1,096 in the USA in 2011. For those who like statistics, the TL outsold the RL by 2,850%. Ouch.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Like Audi, Acura believes in the “same sausage, different lengths” school of design. The RL’s form combines an angular nose with slab sides, a rounded rear and thankfully, (new for 2011) the most demure Acura beak available. While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, I find the RL more attractive than the TL (even with the TL’s beak-reduction.) There is a problem however: the RL is only 1.7 inches longer than the TL and rides on a wheelbase that is only .9 inches longer. These identical proportions are only the beginning of the sibling rivalry. Nearly identical proportions aside, the RL has aged well and still strikes an elegant pose that is decidedly more exciting than the sedate Volvo S80.

Interior

Once you sit inside the RL, you begin to understand why the TL gets all the attention. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the RL, it’s just not as flashy. While the TL borrows from the European play book with an interior that could have been carved out of a single piece of black plastic, the RL goes for a more elegant two-tone approach. The only real feature differentiation between the RL and TL can be found in the optional real-wood trim and radar cruise control neither of which are available in the “smaller”  Acura.

Not all is peachy-keen inside however. Automotive interiors age faster than a powder-blue tux and the RL is no exception. Aside from the lack of stitched-dash-love, the fact that faux-tree is standard when even Lincoln gets their trim from the forest is a problem. Acura’s well-known love affair with buttons results in no less than 65 buttons (not including toggle or the joystick controller) within easy reach of the driver. Is that good or bad? I’m torn. Tell us what you think the comment section.

Infotainment

As a statement of how “ahead of the curve” Acura was in 2005, the RL’s 8-inch infotainment system provides all the features a luxury shopper could ask for, from voice control to full USB, Bluetooth and iPod integration. The problem isn’t the functionality, it’s the aesthetics. It’s like un-boxing a new PC only to discover it has Windows XP. It might be  just as fast as a model with Windows 7, and it will do everything you need - it just won’t look as snazzy while it’s doing it.

On the audio front, the Bose system is absolutely top-notch with a very natural balance, crisp highs and a wide dynamic range. Acura continues to push the rare DVD-Audio format in all Acura models. DVD Audio’s discrete 5.1 channel recordings do sound fantastic on the RL, but unlike some of the other luxury systems you can’t play video DVDs on the system at all. Good luck finding DVD-A discs as well. The RL uses Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology to cut cabin noise, while it wasn’t really possible to disable the system, the RL’s cabin is very quiet.

Drivetrain

Beating “sideways” under the hood of the RL is Acura’s ubiquitous 3.7L V6, good for 300HP and 271lb-ft of twist at a lofty 5,000RPM. 300HP may have been a selling point back in 2005, but in today’s luxury market, 300 is where things start, not end. The 3.7′s 271lb-ft is practically meager when pitted against the 350lb-ft cranked out by Lincoln’s Ecoboost V6, not to mention BMW’s twin turbo V8. Rubbing some salt on the wound, the TL’s optional 3.7L engine cranks out 5 more ponies. Ouch. Still, the MKS Ecoboost and S80 T6 are on the high-end of the competition’s scale which, more realistically, includes the GS350 AWD and the Cadillac XTS.

For 2011 Acura updated the RL with a new 6-speed transmission. The extra cog cut the RL’s dash to 60 by almost a full half second vs the 2010 model (5.9 as tested.) Mercedes may advertise a 7-speed automatic and BMW and Audi tout their ZF 8-speed, but let’s be honest here – the E350, 535xi or A6 3.0T don’t compete head-on with the RL. When you scale back the competition to the more natural competitors of the S80, MKS,  GS350 and XTS, the right number of gears for this crowd is six. The 2012 RL is now rated for 17/24MPG (City/Highway) which is 1MPG better than before. Over our 745 miles with the RL we averaged a middling 19MPG. In comparison, Cadillac’s XTS promises to be the most efficient AWD sedan in this size class at 17/28MPG.

Drive

It’s not the acceleration that makes the RL an interesting companion on the road, it’s the handling. Oddly enough, the nearly 4,100lb RL is a willing companion on the twisties thanks to Acura’s “Super Handling All Wheel Drive” system. The AWD system used by Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz employs a traditional RWD transmission with a transfer case sending power to the front. In the GS350 AWD, the end result is massive understeer, excessive for even a large rear-drive luxury car. The XTS, MKS and S80 use a Haldex system, with an open differential in the front and rear and none in the center. Instead of a center diff, there is a clutch pack that can vary the mechanical connection to the rear. When fully engaged, the input shaft of the front and rear differentials are mechanically tied together. Acura’s SH-AWD system on the other hand is far more complicated. By making the rear wheels spin up to 5.8% faster than the front wheels, SH-AWD can essentially shift 70% of the power to the rear, and direct 100% of that rear-bound power to one wheel. If you want to know more about that, check out our video link.

The system’s ability to “overdrive”  the outside rear wheel in a corner makes the RL feel strangely neutral even when pressed hard. While SH-AWD is as close to a miracle worker as Acura can get, sales indicate that the snazzier AWD system isn’t a good reason to spend $6,000 more over the cost of a comparably equipped TL. What a pity.

The RL is perhaps one of the most forgotten and misunderstood vehicles of our time. Looking at the sales numbers, you’d think there was something horribly wrong with the RL. In 2011 only 1,096 RLs found a home meaning even the unloved Volvo S80 outsold it nearly 5:1 and the MKS bested it by 12:1. However, the problem with the RL isn’t that the Volvo, Lexus and Lincoln competition is more modern. The problem is the new TL with SH-AWD. With a thoroughly modern interior and electronics, the TL might have a less capable AWD system, but with a lower price tag it is no wonder it outsells the RL 31:1. Still, if you’re shopping for a $50,000 luxury sedan, the RL isn’t a bad choice, but the new RL couldn’t come any sooner.

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gasoline for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.31 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.4 Seconds @ 97 MPH

2012 Acura RL, Trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, SH-AWD badge, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Acura badge, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Acura logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, 3.7L 300HP V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, 3.7L 300HP V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, beak, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, headlamps, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment screen, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: Lincoln MKS Ecoboost Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-lincoln-mks-ecoboost-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-lincoln-mks-ecoboost-take-two/#comments Fri, 19 Mar 2010 14:42:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=349620

If Lincoln were a person, it would have been committed to a psych ward years ago. Battered by corporate politics, economic cycles, and a desire to both retain traditional customers and conquest new ones, the brand has lacked a coherent identity for over a quarter-century. There have been times when each of its models was the product of a different strategy and expressed (or failed to express) a different design language. In the early 2000s Lincoln seemed to finally be getting its shit together, with a brilliant Continental Concept and a common design language applied to all of its 2003 models. Then the wheels came off the wagon—again—and a bankruptcy-skirting Ford had no choice but to cancel the ambitious cars in the PAG pipeline and redo Lincoln on the cheap. Did they spend their pennies well? What is a Lincoln in 2010? There’s no better place to find out than the driver’s seat of the current flagship, the MKS EcoBoost.

There’s absolutely no sign of the long, sleek Continental Concept in the MKS. To save money, Lincoln based its latest large sedan on the Five Hundred. To their credit, the designers made the most of the platform’s challenging proportions, scrunching the greenhouse, blacking out the rockers, and detailing the exterior much as Lexus would have. Aside from its chunky proportions, the car isn’t distinctive, but it has presence.

The tested MKS EcoBoost had the $2,995 Appearance Package, which takes the car in the wrong direction. The rockers are not only body color, but they’re extended with side skirts. The last thing this body needs is to appear taller. The package’s 20-inch chromed alloys accentuate the insufficiency of the wheelbase. And the extra-cost Red Candy Metallic paint? Not the right shade for this car.

Inside, vestiges of Lincoln’s earlier aesthetic remain in bits of satin metal trim. But the overall appearance is much less distinctive and, while a couple steps up from the related Taurus, not quite luxury class. High points: the upholstered IP upper, glitzy instruments, and soft brown leather seats. Low point: the black plastic trim panel on the rear face of the center console doesn’t have the metallic sheen of the other trim panels and wouldn’t even look suitable in a Focus.

None of this mattered one bit to my wife. She fell in love with the MKS because it does other aspects of luxury very well. The interior is hushed even at highway speeds. The large seats are heated, cooled, and cushy—no BMW emulation here. There’s less room than in the Five Hundred—function has been traded for form—but still plenty of it. And the car is chock full of gadgetry: automatic auto-dimming steering-linked headlights, automatic wipers, adaptive cruise, active parking, keyless access and ignition, THX audio, voice-activated nav, SYNC, and a rearview monitor that, combined with front and rear obstacle detection, makes the car’s severely restricted rearward visibility a non-issue.

Ford couldn’t afford to develop a new V8. So, through some odd twist of economics, it developed a twin-turbo DOHC V6 instead. The EcoBoost V6 doesn’t make lusty sounds, but at least it sounds more refined in the MKS than in the Flex. There’s no boost lag to speak of and all 355 horses are present and accounted for when you mash the go pedal. Despite the requisite all-wheel-drive, drive this car harder than it’ll typically be driven and there’s an occasional twinge of torque steer. The Eco bit isn’t just marketing hype. I observed 19 MPG in suburban driving, and 24 on the highway, surprisingly good for 355-horsepower, 4,400-pound car.

Know how some cars shrink around you the harder you push them? The MKS is not one of those cars. Mind you, it doesn’t fall all over itself in hard turns. It just prefers a more sedate driving style, and long stretches of highway most of all. You sit crossover high, and never does the MKS feel an inch smaller or a pound lighter than it is. Which is larger and heavier than it looks—the tall bodysides and large wheels trick the eye. How big is it? Compared to an Audi A6, the MKS is 10.6 inches longer, 2.9 inches wider, and 4.1 inches taller. It’s a “whole lotta car.” The Fusion-based Lincoln MKZ I drove the following week felt as sharp and tossable as a Miata in comparison. In Lincoln’s defense, it didn’t aim to create a sport sedan with the MKS, turbos and paddle shifters notwithstanding. Even with EcoBoost the suspension is biased in favor of ride quality (which is nevertheless merely good, not great). The Appearance Package’s side skirts and spoiler would be all wrong even if they looked right.

Not the most refined, but loads of features—sounds like a value play. Is it? Close comparisons aren’t easy to come by—there aren’t many truly large 350-plus-horsepower all-wheel-drive sedans on the market for anything close to the MKS’s price. Similarly load up an Audi A6 4.2 quattro, and the smaller, German luxury sedan lists for about $10,000 more. An Infiniti M45 AWD? About $11,000 more. While the Lincoln’s $54,000 price tag (sans Appearance Package) seems steep, others are significantly steeper. With one notable exception: the Hyundai Genesis 4.6 undercuts the MKS EcoBoost by about $10,000. Adjust for the Lincoln’s additional features, including all-wheel-drive, using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and the Korean sedan retains a $7,000 advantage.

And so, what is Lincoln? Judging from the MKS EcoBoost, it’s size, power, silence, soft leather, and lots of buttons. These are all things Lincoln used to be known for, and all are turn-ons for the typical American luxury sedan buyer with no desire to carve a curve quickly. The MKS is a little rough around the edges, but many of these buyers won’t care or even notice. The relatively low price will help. But will potential buyers notice the MKS in the first place? The main thing missing: styling that is just as unapologetically American as the rest of the car. Something like that aborted Continental.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of auto pricing and reliability data

Lincoln provided the car, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review

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