Fiat 500 Lounge – Winner, Winner, Spaghetti Dinner

 2018 Fiat 500 “Cinquecento” Lounge

– The perfect city runabout with a turbo

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel Video on the Cinquecento

2018 Fiat 500 Lounge Turbo HatchbackFCA offered us a week of Italian car time, sending the 2018 Fiat 500 Lounge, or to be proper in Italian, Cinquecento.

72 Fiat 850 Spider in Yellow courtesy of Hemmings Motor News
72 Fiat 850 Spider courtesy of Hemmings Motor News

This brought back lots of memories of a college-era yellow 1972 Fiat850 Spider. While today’s modern 4-seat two-door hatchback was not a drop top like that classic spider, it did have a retractable glass roof. More important it had a lot more of pick up and go and provided similar fuel economy in the upper 30’s miles per gallon on premium fuel. (Editor’s note: the ’72 got 42 mpg on premium fuel, 9-gallon fuel tank, out of a very tiny less than a 1-liter engine, and the convertible top leaked when it rained, but it was a really cute car.)

 

Fiat 500 Lounge Ivory Seat OptionThis 500 was dressed in Oliva Green Pearl paint with an Avorio or ivory white seats and matching interior that stood out quite well in contrast. At first, there were some feelings of reluctance to like the 500, but as the week went by and the more we drove it, the more we came to like its quirkiness, and how spunky it was. Going downtown on a busy Saturday proved its worth, as the smallness of the Fiat meant no problem parking in a spot that other cars could not have slipped into. Win ONE for the Fiat.

 

Floor It Again Tony

Fiat 500 Turbo 1.4 liter engineThe turbo powered 1.4 inline 4-cylinder multiport fuel injected engine connected to the six-speed automatic transmission (a $995 option, yes, a manual is available,) produced plenty of power for this little runabout for city driving. And while it does not sound noisy on the outside when parked, there seems to be plenty of exhaust noise on the inside, this may be to make you think it is a powerful, sporty European car. While we did not take it out on the highway, there is no doubt this engine would work hard to keep up at top highway speeds.

At city speeds from 0 to 40, we found it had plenty of power and then we became used to the sporty exhaust noise. Fuel economy was in the mid to upper 30’s for us buzzing around town. Win TWO for the Fiat.

 

Cuteness Overload

1960's Fiat 500 Cute Little Car
1960’s Fiat 500 photo courtsey of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While the design is hardly flashy it is quite reminiscent of that from the 1960s zipping about European cities with movie stars driving them. You must admit clunky can be cute, and the 500 can be customized to make it even more adorable. When they first came out there was even a Gucci designer edition. We found that mature women swooned over this little car.   Win Two and a half for the Fiat.

 

Interior

Fiat 500 Lounge InteriorWe found the interior to be functional and attractive, using the exterior body color as a splash across the dash in a plastic insert that gives the interior an eye-attracting splash of color. And it does take your eye away from the hard plastics that make up the rest of the interior, which is normal on cars in this price range.  Button placement on the mid and upper center of the dash, are large and easy to engage, as well as know what they are doing.  This is a major WIN for the Fiat.

Fiat 500 Front SeatsSeats are comfortable though not easily adjustable, the front seat back adjustment lever is on the inside, which took some searching for and the front and rear adjustment is in the front and once released is very quick to move, so don’t do it as you accelerate, which we did, finding ourselves at the back of the track very quickly.  Rear seats are not just a covered foam board like in other much higher priced vehicles. Right and left rear seatbacks to fold Fiat 500 Lounge Rear Seat Entrydown individually so you can get someone in the back and carry longer items as well. Don’t expect a lot of leg room, but you would not with a car this small anyway, the good news is there is some leg room, and getting in and out will not turn the rear seat passenger into a pretzel, but if you practice yoga, you will find it easier get in and out of the back of a Fiat 500.

Fiat 500 Lounge Rear Hatchback with seat folded down

Cargo area is big enough to carry groceries or other items, surprising for such a small car. You actually have a space to put things even if you have four people riding in the car, which is helpful as everyone carries stuff with them.

 

Fiat 500 has USB Power and other outletsFiat 500 Lounge USB Power in glove boxPower plugs are a must these days and the 500 had three if you include what at one time was a cigarette lighter. Two USB ports, one tied to the Uconnect Audio system in the center console, and one in the glove box that only provides power. A simple audio jack is also undercover in the center console. These three all are vertical, so something could fall into them and cause issues, which is why they have cover doors over them. Like most cars today you have to add a $30 smokers’ package, which is an insert into a cup holder for an ashtray and a cigarette lighter to go in the leftmost power outlet, to accommodate smokers. We thought all Italians smoked.

 

On-Board Technology

Fiat 500 Lounge Tech Screen BeatsAudio SiriusXM RadioAt this price point, tech is often very low. Though Fiat does give you some trendy pop brand options like TomTom for GPS and Beats audio, and of course Sirius XM Satellite radio. The Uconnect in the Fiat is very basic, we never did connect our Samsung phone to it, as it kept not recognizing the Bluetooth signal. The $595 Fiat 500 TomTom GPS

TomTom GPS is very simple with grainy imagery and clunky operation. The $695 premium Beats audio did not stand out as we thought it might.  This is a loss for the Fiat.

 

What’s not to like

While it is a short list, and the pros are more than the cons, there are some things that we found bothersome about the 500.

Fiat 500 Sunshade and visorThe seating position never quite gives a comfortable driving position for your legs. If you put the seat back to stretch out, the steering wheel was too far away, up close, your legs were uncomfortably bent. So this would not be a good long-distance driving comfort.  The sunroof’s interior sunshade is an open weave screen fabric letting in the bright sunshine even while closed. And the sun visors are tiny, because the front window is small, and do not extend when you move them over to the side covering less than half of the door’s window. And we never did find the door electric lock/unlock button, to unlock the doors you will have to open the door from inside handle. Price is a con, as it is high compared to other automobiles on the market today.  More loss than a win, so be it.

 

What is to love

Fiat 500 Gage ClusterAt first the cuteness of the size of the 500, easily slips into a small parking spot. The rear camera gave a great view of where the bumper was in relation to the car behind and the curb as well. And if you have the wipers on, the rear wiper will activate as well, helping you see.  Visibility was very good for this car, plenty of glass to be able to see out and very little obstructions. Fun to drive in town, we found it zippy and energetic. WIN for the Fiat

 

Fit and Finish

Fiat 500 Fit and FinishFor a small inexpensive car (though the price may not reflect that) that has the carried the Fix It Again Tony line since the brand started, fit and finish is very good both inside and out. And at this price point no one expects premium materials on the inside, nor do you get them, but the design is good for what is in your main line of vision. Exterior parts are well put together and the doors and hatch feel and sound solid.

 

Price

Fiat 500 StickerWhile four models of the 500 are available, Base Pop starting at $16,495, 1957 Retro Edition, $19,745, Lounge (what we drove) $19745, and the awe-inspiring Abarth, $20,495. All of these come in your choice of a hatchback or Cabrio, which is more a canvas sunroof. Our hatchback came with the $795 power glass sunroof.

The Cinquecento that we were loaned by FCA priced out at $24,815 which included the $250 Ivory seats, $995 automatic transmission, $795 power sunroof, $595 Tom Tom Navigation, $695 Premium Beats Audio System and the $445 16-inch bright aluminum wheels, with a $1295 destination charge.

At the time of writing there was a $1250 cash incentive on the Fiat 500. Even with that, it is pricy for this segment of car.  With just about the same amount being a destination charge, larger vehicles have smaller numbers on that line. No doubt you are paying for the brand names of the audio and navigation systems.  Our take on this is to dicker on the price, one and two-year-old models are going for $17K at the big lot used car centers.                                                                      This is a loss for the Fiat

 

Overall

Fiat 500 Turbo Sliding Glass SunroofWhile this would not be a car that we would seek out for ourselves and our lifestyle. It is a fun little city car that is filled with cuteness overload. While it is pricy for the segment, it would be a great car if you needed something for around town driving and short commutes. Fuel economy is not amazing, especially using premium fuel. It does have a four-star government safety rating, though reliability has not been stellar. The 500 does come with a 4-year 50,000-mile warranty. If this is a car you want, and plenty of people do, then get the best price you can, and have some fun.  We recommend the glass sunroof option, and if you like a manual transmission, that is standard.  – Ciao Bambino

 

Word and images (except where noted) by William West Hopper.

FCA, Fiat USA and Motus1 provided us with the use of the 2018 Fiat 500 Lounge Turbo for a week, no other compensation or payment was given to us to review this vehicle.
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Motorcycle Riding in the middle of the DC Winter – Perceptions Altered

Allstate Booth had bikes and prizes as well as rootbeer floatsThis past weekend the Progressive International Motorcycle Show held at Washington DC’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  As a non-rider or even much of a two-wheeled enthusiast, what I experienced changed my mind so much that I even, as they say, “I threw a leg over” and rode a bike at their Discover the Ride experience, where you suit up and with a little practice and a quick lesson and get you on an electric powered bike and cycle.

The perceived demographic of the motorcyclist is that of being older and male. What I expected to see was a grisly and bearded group, what was there was hardly a bunch of grey haired old dudes. While yes indeed there were plenty of men of a certain age, there were also teens, twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, women in their 40’s younger and older. Kids, yes toddlers to tweens, and products from all the major brands on display for all age. Allstate Insurance presented a Kids Zone featuring a closed course of battery-assisted balance bikes for children to experience riding for the first time. And the kids were slaying it. Yes, some took a tumble, but they got right back on and rode.

Products

Parents showing their kids that bikes are AOKMotorcycles from all the major manufacturers, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson, four-wheelers for going out on trails and larger small truck-like utility vehicles that would be great for farms, hunting or just getting out into the wilderness. There was a sign for the Segway products and plenty of accessories and helmets. We found the Confederate Motorcycles an interesting contrast, here are high end, American made limited production objects of desire, that were works of art and with prices that reflected that.

 

Technology

Harley Davidson had a ride experience that anyone could do.Bikers in my mind are thought to be rough as the open road and not looking for the creature comforts. Though it seems they too want heated seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on their ride, and those items are offered as options on some of the upper bikes. Engine technology is advancing, not unlike what is happening in the automotive world. More fuel-efficient engines being controlled by computers were quite common.

 

Walk-In – Ride Out

Discover The Ride Gives new riders a chance to try out riding motorcyclesWe took advantage of the New Rider Course in the Discover the Ride Program, where we first rode electric assisted bicycles and then took out Zero electric motorcycles around a carpeted track at the far end of the show floor. While this was for riders 16 years of age and older, the Kids Zone puts the tykes on small electric bicycles. Seeing these youngsters who may have just learned to walk, all helmeted up and riding around in packs, reminded me of how dedicated and fearless they can be, not unlike kids learning to downhill ski, or pretty much anything, as they have not learned fear, as we do as we age.

 

Yes you could get a tattoo at the show.Or maybe you are just tired of walking around, there are plenty of places to sit down, be it at the Progressive Café where you can get your beard braided or a henna tattoo and have a cold brew. Or at the Allstate booth where after answering an online survey, you get a root beer float or one of the several “parks” set up throughout the event with benches.  One place has massage chairs and there is even a 360-degree Virtual reality opportunity providing the visual experience of riding in Colorado, Arizona, and California.

 

Riding the Zero Motorcycle Electrics was easy on the indoor track.While we may not be ready to go out and buy a bike, there is no question it is now more attractive to do and we may look into taking some riding lessons. And the Motorcycle Industry Council provides courses throughout the year around the country.  Who knows it may make us younger.

 

Words and Images by William West Hopper

Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 All Muscles and Mustang for 2020

Watch our YouTube Video – 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500 Walk around with Melvin Betancourt Chief Designer with Ford  https://youtu.be/THPLarS74QQ

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2020 Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500 with Jim Owens from Ford Motor Company’s Performance Division.

 

 

 

Carroll Shelby is as iconic as the Ford Mustang itself, and his legend lives on with the ford mustang cobra front end2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. For 2020 the engineers and performance fanatics at Ford Motor Company have put more power, performance, and agility into the factory-built Shelby GT500. Making it the most advanced high-performance Mustang GT500 ever in the history of this very limited production vehicle from Ford Motor Company.

ford mustang desgner betancourt and marketing manager owensWe got a very VIP preview of this supercharged 5.2-liter V8 producing more than 700 horsepower pony car from both Melvin Betancourt, the Cobra’s designer and Jim Owens, Marketing Manager for Ford Performance.  And learned that the Shelby Cobra GT500 is capable of a mid-three-second 0-60mpg and sub-11-second quarter mile scores. While the Ford team could not confirm things like horsepower, they were still improving on that, production numbers or selling price. They could share with us that this Mustang will have some amazing road track times because of improved handling and cornering, very quick stopping times, with the largest Brembo Brakes ever on a Mustang. Zero to 60 numbers that are less than 3 seconds a quarter mile in less than eleven seconds.

Yes, a Mustang Cobra that will be even faster off the line, on the drag strip, a twisty road course, or the interstate than ever before.  All this power is brought to you by the same team at Ford, that has brought us the Ford GT and Mustang GT4 racing programs.

 

Exterior Design

ford mustang cobra 67 and 20While you will know it is a Mustang from the classic body at first glance, when you get up close you will see that it has slight differences, more muscular in the haunches, brawnier custom Brembo Brakes, the largest ever grill and hood vent, special Michelin tires, and a choice of spoilers.  Betancourt told us how his team worked with the lines to increase the downforce and maximize thermal management, engine, exhaust, and brake cooling all the while working with a performance race-tuned active chassis. New colors for 2020 include Red Hot, Twister Orange, and Iconic Silver. The Shelby GT500 has an optional black painted roof and painted stripes are available.

melvin betancourt with ford mustang cobraMelvin Betancourt, Ford design manager, shared with us that the front grille opening and massive hood vent provide more cooling airflow “Every millimeter of Shelby GT500’s fastback design is aimed at improving performance,” “Like 007, he looks good in his tux, but he can kick your butt.”

 

5.2 Liter Supercharged Engine

engine_c3Ford has put the most powerful street-legal V8 engine to date into the GT500 with a hand-built supercharged 5.2-liter aluminum alloy engine. To keep the intake air cooler and deliver a lower center of gravity, the team inverted a 2.65-liter roots-type Eaton supercharger with air-to-liquid intercooler tucked neatly in the V8 engine valley. Weight-saving wire-arc cylinder liners and high-flow aluminum cylinder heads, plus larger forged connecting rods, improved lubrication, and cooling passages. Beneath that, a structural oil pan adds strength, reduces vibration, and features a patented active baffle system to keep oil where it’s needed. To channel power and torque to the transmission Ford uses a unique carbon fiber driveshaft.

 

Transmission – Dual Clutch Automatic

20190110_104626A Mustang without the option of a manual transmission may seem like sacrilege to some, Ford Performance leveraged learnings from the tuning of its Ford GT supercar’s dual-clutch transmission with this TREMEC® 7-speed capable of shifts in under 100 milliseconds – markedly faster than any manual gearbox. Designed for a number of drive modes, including normal, weather, sport, drag and track, and activates features like line-lock and launch control through selectable Track Apps.

 

 

Suspension, Wheels, Brakes, and Tires – all dialed in by Ford Performance

2020 Shelby GT500 Carbon Fiber Wheel Brembo Brake Michelin Tire
2020 Shelby GT500 Carbon Fiber Wheel Brembo Brake Michelin Tire

Shelby GT500 takes advantage of revised suspension geometry, a new electronic power steering unit and lighter-weight coil springs front and rear. Next-generation active MagneRideTM suspension along with the latest in advanced drive mode technologies from Ford Performance. provides the highest-ever lateral acceleration from a Mustang for greater track performance and driver control.

Getting power to the asphalt means that Ford has brought cutting-edge active chassis technology to the forefront with custom Ford Performance-spec Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires and more aggressive Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires feature unique compounds and tread. Brembo® brakes with six-piston calipers and massive custom 16-5-inch (420-millimeter) two-piece rotors – the largest of any domestic sports coupe provide track-ready stopping power. With more than 30 percent additional thermal mass in the front corners.

 

Handling Packages

Shelby GT500 offers an available handling package with adjustable strut top mounts and spoiler with Gurney flap. Racetrack rats will appreciate the available Carbon Fiber Track Package features exposed 20-inch carbon fiber wheels with 0.5-inch-wider rear wheels (11.5-inch), custom Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, adjustable exposed carbon fiber GT4 track wing and splitter wickers with integrated dive plane.

 

Inside More craftsmanship, technology and driver comfort

steering wheel for the 2020 ford mustang cobraShelby GT500’s purpose-built cockpit boasts race-inspired premium materials and unique finishes. Premium touchpoints include an available exposed carbon fiber instrument panel appliqué and new door panel inserts in Dark Slate Miko® suede with accent stitching. Available Recaro racing seats with firm side bolstering and pass-throughs for safety harnesses offer the highest level of performance. For those looking for even greater comfort, power-adjustable seating with Miko suede inserts is offered. A rear seat is deleted to reduce weight for those who are truly looking at competition driving.

The all-new Shelby GT500 picks up a 12-inch full-color LCD instrument cluster, while a high-performance custom-tuned 12-speaker B&O® Play premium audio system is available. All of this is controlled via an 8-inch SYNC® 3 touch screen featuring SiriusXM and FordPass ConnectTM.

the 2020 Shelby GT500 has functional track-hero looks to match its performance. New colors for 2020 include Red Hot, Twister Orange, and Iconic Silver. Painted stripes are available for the all-new Shelby GT500 too.  A functional, menacing design tuned with Ford Performance know-how thanks to a cross-functional team of designers, Ford Performance engineers, and motorsports collaborators,

The Shelby GT500 will be in dealers late in the summer and a GT350 will be arriving Fall of 2019.

 

Words and Images by William West Hopper
Ford Motor Company kindly provided us with travel, meals, and lodging to Detroit to see both the new Shelby GT500 and the new 2020 Ford Explorer, we thank them for this courtesy.

A Chicken in Every Pot, and an SUV in Every Driveway – The All New 2020 Ford Explorer

20190109_204700Check out the Queer4Cars YouTube Video on the January 2019 All New 2020 Ford Explorer Press Revel Event in Detroit Michigan  

Ford Motor Company the American car company that put a car in every driveway, also brought to market the first mass appeal SUV, the Ford Explorer. From 1990 until today the demand for SUVs has grown to be the most desired market segment for vehicles.  Drivers want the room of a wagon and the utility of a truck, and Ford has completed the equation with adding luxury, safety, and technology.

When Ford brought Explorer to market in 1990 it was an all of that and more, a comfortable, spacious vehicle with luxurious options and able to haul and tow like a truck, with seating for the whole family.

21 six generations of explorerNow after six generations, 2020 Ford has redesigned from the ground up an all-new Ford Explorer. Explorer’s all-new rear-wheel-drive platform provides improved capability both on and off-road. Adding an additional six-hundred pounds maximum towing capacity when properly equipped, all at just a few hundred dollars more than the outgoing model.

 

Two improved EcoBoost®  Engines

Ford has improved the engines over the previous Explorer models. The all-new 2020 Explorer features the most powerful 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost® V6 in the Platinum model, with a projected 365 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque using 93-octane gas. Not to be outdone, Ford has reinvigorated the 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost® I- 4, projected to produce 300 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. With an all-new 10-speed transmission that is standard on base, XLT, and Limited models.

Rear Wheel Drive with Optional All-Wheel Drive

The Explorer’s new rear-wheel-drive platform provides a sportier and more athletic feel. The main role for RWD is to improve on- and off-road capability and added towing capability, a key ingredient that Explorer drivers want.

Available Intelligent four-wheel drive has improved Explorer’s off-road capability. Now with a Terrain Management System™ featuring seven easy-to-engage drive modes for various road and weather conditions.  Controllable through a center console-mounted dial and if equipped come with a special 3D animated graphics in the available new 12.3-inch digital cluster.

Rear-wheel drive Explorers host; normal, sport, trail, slippery, tow/haul and eco mode. All-wheel drive Explorers add deep snow and sand mode.

Towing

Ford’s design team knows that Explorer drivers are hauling boats and towing trailers. Thus rear-wheel drive enables more towing capability when properly equipped, regardless of engine. Explorer’s equipped with a 3.0-liter EcoBoost can tow up to 5,600 pounds, a 12 percent increase over previous generations. New Explorer’s outfitted with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost and Class III Trailer Tow Package can tow up to 5,300 pounds, versus a similarly equipped previous version’s 3K pounds.

20 explorer st

Cabin Refinements

Ford has refined Explorer’s cabin to be quieter with more space and updated technology. Three rows of seating and a focus on the little details like 123-cubic liters of storage space throughout the cabin accommodating personal items such as everyday drink bottles and cell phones, even a place for drink boxes for the kids.

18 explorer stImprovements like second-row seats that feature a new mechanism allowing for easier one-hand access to and from the third row. Great when you are carrying items or holding onto kids. Available retractable sunshades for the second-row windows make it easier to ensure privacy. Redesigned ISOFIX anchor points allow child seat installation anywhere in the second and third rows.

19 explorer stAvailable PowerFold® third-row seats and new E-Z entry second-row seats provide a flat-floor cargo area that stretches out to offer 87.8 cubic feet of cargo space – wide enough to fit standard 4-foot building materials, depending on seating configuration.

 

Technology

16 ford explorer platinum

The all-new Explorer provides Driver-Assistance with an available 10.1-inch portrait-mounted touch screen with full-screen maps shares information with the available 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster. 3-D graphics provide information on the seven drive modes using the available Terrain Management System.

For music lovers, Explorer offers an available 980-watt, 14-speaker B&O premium audio system. Access to SiriusXM™ satellite radio is standard and comes with new touch screen graphics and functionality – including a display of the day’s sports scores.

A wireless charging pad is available, and up to four USB ports, including new type-C outlets, with up to three 12-volt outlets and a 110-volt outlet, are also available.

The all-new Explorer introduces available Active Park Assist 2.0. The class-exclusive feature – standard on Explorer Platinum – allows the driver to park in a parallel or perpendicular spot with a touch of a button without having to work the steering wheel, gear shifter, gas pedal or brake pedal. Available reverse brake assist, also standard on Platinum, uses radar and ultrasonic sensors to detect an object in Explorer’s path and can apply the brakes automatically to avoid an imminent collision when the vehicle is backing up at a low speed – such as when exiting a driveway.

Safety – Traffic-sensing Ford Co-Pilot360

Explorer for 2020 comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot360™, a suite of driver-assist technologies innovations and features that can help reduce stress such as available Reverse Brake Assist and Active Park Assist 2.0, which handles all steering, shifting, brake and accelerator controls during a parking maneuver with a touch of a button.

Ford Co-Pilot360 includes:

  • Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, which includes Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support
  • Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Lane-Keeping System
  • Rearview camera with built-in lens cleaner
  • Auto headlamps with auto high-beams

Other available Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies include Evasive Steering Assist, which provides steering support to help avoid a collision; and Post-Impact Braking provides braking after a collision to lessen injury and damage caused by a secondary crash event

Ford’s all-new Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Speed Sign Recognition is now available on the all-new Explorer. In addition to automatically slowing when traffic ahead slows and helping keep the vehicle centered in its lane, the system uses cameras to read speed signs and, combined with the available navigation system, adjusts cruise control settings accordingly.

Exterior Design

Ford has retained design elements that have helped define Explorer’s heritage. Explorer’s blacked-out A-pillars and D-pillars and body-color C-pillars – are retained. Changes to the overall profile include a more sloping roofline and shorter front overhang, giving the vehicle a stylish and sporty appearance

All New Explorer Model Line Up

explorerfamily_hrExplorer comes with standard features including a power liftgate, 8-inch digital touch screen with SYNC® 3, FordPass Connect™ Wi-Fi service, as well as Ford Co-Pilot360™, a suite of driver-assist technologies. Explorer comes standard with 18-inch painted aluminum wheels, drivers can opt for one of seven wheel designs

Each trim level has additional add-ons like HD Radio™ being standard on Limited and Platinum models. Platinum models also feature a standard twin-panel moonroof, special leather seats, plus leather-wrapped steering wheel, dashboard, door rollovers, and door and front console armrests. Other Platinum differentiators include door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, available 21-inch aluminum wheels, roof-rack side rails and a unique grille with satin aluminum finish.

Pricing

While exact pricing has not been announced, the all-new Explorer comes packed with more than a dozen new standard features for what we are told is only $400 more over the previous model. The all-new Explorer is manufactured at the Chicago Assembly Plant. New vehicles are due in showrooms this summer.

Ford has meticulously recrafted America’s favorite SUV with capability, comfort, safety, and overall design in mind, improving handling, safety, appearance and passenger accommodations. Check out the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer at an upcoming auto show near you.

Words by William West Hopper, images from Ford Communications and William West Hopper. Ford provided us with our airfare, lodging, and meals during a special trip to Detroit to see the revel for the all-new Ford Explorer.

The elegance of the 1960s in a Limited Edition of 80 – The Lincoln Continental with Coach Doors

Check out our YouTube Preview of the Lincoln Continental Coach Door Edition

The Coach Door Edition of the Black Label Lincoln Continental at the NYC unveiling.

The Coach Door Edition of the Black Label Lincoln Continental at the NYC unveiling.

Lincoln, verified itself as the epitome of modern elegance in the early 1960s when it introduced the low-slung Continental. The era of Madison Avenue marketing the latest in cool, showing people what they could aspire too. Men dressed in sharp suits, elegant women’s fashions, jet-age travel, martinis and more were at a new and daring peak as the world was about to change forever. Then there were many large four-door luxury sedans, though only one was long, sleek, with what would be an icon for luxury, with center opening doors, the Lincoln Continental. And that engineering feat (remember those doors weighed as much as some cars do today,) and would not be replicated, until now, suicide doors, and only Lincoln offered them on the Continental.

Why Just 80?

2019 Lincoln Continental with center opening doors
Center Opening Doors are purely Lincoln Continental

Limited production of 80 will make this a very collectible automotive icon. Eighty will be made for 2019 and also again in 2020, a total of 160 in all. Eighty vehicles each year, each with a special individual door sill plate featuring its identifying number. No doubt this exclusivity will bring this Continental into collector’s garages for those looking for something that few others have.

Exterior Design

Lincoln Continental Special edition of 80.
Long and flowing lines with larger rear doors that open in the center, is what this special edition Lincoln Continental is all about.

While smaller than the 1960’s model it evokes, Lincoln has taken the straight lines and rounded them to produce a modern luxury sedan. While a drop-top version would be the ultimate return to the Eisenhower era, we do feel that the four-door stretch design gives rear passenger comfort a huge step up, and expect market demand for the 6-inch longer version with or without the center opening doors will bring a longer Continental to market for the limousine and black car buyer.

The Rear Coach Doors on the Limited Edition 80th Anniversary Lincoln Continental
The Rear Coach Doors on the Limited Edition 80th Anniversary Lincoln Continental

At first glance you may not notice the difference between the Coach Door version and a standard Continental, upon closer inspection, you will see its proportions are more elegant with an added six inches of wheelbase.

The engineering of the rear-hinged doors supported by the rear quarter of the vehicle means an added structure for rigidity. Otherwise, the door is pretty much the same. just opening for a more gracious entrance and exit.

Interior Design

Rear Console of the 2019 Lincoln Continental Coach Door Edition.
Everything is at your fingertips in the rear of the 80th Anniversary Lincoln Continental.

The Coach Edition of the Continental is much the same as that of the Black Label edition of the four-door luxury sedan currently in dealer showrooms. Where this model excels is the rear passenger comfort with the length to the car’s wheelbase allowing for the placement of the larger rear doors. Six inches has provided Continental the best-in-class second-row legroom. Rear seating for two, each in a roomy and sumptuous bucket seat separated by an elegantly crafted rear-seat pass-through console with stowable tray table and tablet holder. The console provides a single phone induction charging bay, two USB outlets, audio and HVAC controls, and though you will not find space crystal champagne flutes like in a Maybach or Rolls. But there is a three-prong 110v outlet inside the console.

 

Driver Experience

The cockpit for the Lincoln Continental.
The cockpit for the Lincoln Continental.

The Lincoln Continental 80th Anniversary Coach Door, like the rest of Lincoln’s lineup, is meticulously crafted inside and out, integrating technologies that both assist and entertain. Providing refinements and advanced features like; Perfect Position seats that adjust 30 ways, plus Active Noise Control for a quiet interior. A Revel® Ultima Audio experience allows drivers to select one of three listening modes, including stereo, audience and on-stage.

The Lincoln Logo at the NYC revel of the ContinentalActivated by the key fob or a smartphone assigned to the vehicle, this Continental will sense a driver’s approach and lights up with Lincoln’s trademark sequential welcoming embrace. Lincoln’s award-winning Head-Up display contributes to a custom driving experience by letting drivers choose what information is projected onto the windshield display. The feature is so innovative that it is visible even with ambient lighting and when the driver is wearing polarized sunglasses.

 

Continental’s Power Train

Lincoln’s exclusive 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine provides a smooth, powerful drive delivering the power and performance today’s driver expects with an impressive 400 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. Three Drive Modes, including Normal, Sport and Comfort, allow clients to personalize their driving experience.

Lincoln’s Exclusive Black Label

Lincoln Black LabelOnly Lincoln Black Label authorized dealers will have the opportunity to sell the 2019 80th Anniversary Coach Door Edition Continental. Lincoln Black Label not only provides the highest quality of materials in customized designer themes, it also offers a host of membership privileges. These include annual vehicle detailing, anytime carwashes, and access to a selection of restaurants where noted chefs will provide a curated dining experience.

Rear Seats in the Lincoln Continental Coach Door Edition
Rear Seats in the Lincoln Continental Coach Door Edition

Continental buyers will have their choice of Lincoln Black Label themes, the brand’s most personalized level of luxury, including Chalet and Thoroughbred.

This limited-edition Lincoln Continental 80th Anniversary Coach Door model is available to order now through Lincoln Black Label dealers, with 2019 model year vehicles set to arrive next summer

Words and Images by William West Hopper

No compensation was provided by Lincoln Motor Company for this posting. We attended an industry preview in NYC, where we paid for our transportation,  lodging, and expenses.

The Enviable Proper British Bloke – The Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Td6

Land Rover Classic
Classic Land Rover Prototype, Photo by Land Rover

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Video on the Land Rover Discovery HSE Td6

How does today’s refined Land Rover Discovery live up to the reputation of the great British trekker brand? One known for rugged adventure over all terrain in exotic places? The Land Rover brand has become synonymous with sophisticated luxury and has become an aspirational luxury car for many suburbanites, and it can tow and explore like the Royal leader it is.

Mom Envy

Land Rover Discovery parked in a suburban setting
Land Rover Discovery parked in a suburban setting

The first thing that I heard as I got into the 2018 Land Rover Discovery parked on my suburban Washington DC Street, was how envious the local Moms will be as this is the SUV to aspire too. Moms are one tough demographic to make happy, so the Disco has a tough job on its hands. I asked a local Mom who owns one to go for a spin with me. The first question was: “What model is this?”  My response was, “You drive one of these, and I hear this is the car that all the Mom’s in the ‘hood want.” “No, this one is much nicer than mine, Mine is very basic.” Indeed, they turned out to be very similar, just a year and a trim line apart.

A local Dad, the owner of a five-year-old Ford Explorer, commented on the similarities of touch feel and operation of this model to the upline classic American SUV. Finding out that much of the drive controls were similar showed me that though Ford’s ownership was a number of years past, the influence is still strong today, and in many ways timeless. Which is good for a brand that had the reputation of being in the shop more than it was on the road.

Land Rover Diesel Cap
Running the bad-boy diesel engine returned great fuel mileage.

Driving the Discovery around town as well as taking it on an extended highway trip shows this is one comfortable cruiser, even for its large size. Did I mention that this test model was powered by a turbo diesel engine?

 

 

Diesel Driver Envy

Land Rover Discovery at an Exxon Diesel Synergy Pump
Discovery returned 30 plus miles per gallon on diesel.

Almost as soon as I pulled into a country fueling station, and the first thing I heard when I got out to pump, “Is that a diesel?” from a bearded, big pickup driving local. “That is the quietest diesel I have ever heard.” Which generated a long discussion of what diesels he had owned. “I used to have that,” he said proudly, though with a sense of sadness in his voice as a Ford Power Stroke® pulled in behind us, loudly clattering away. I shared with him that the Land Rover was at one time owned by Ford. That made him smile, as he jumped back into his mud covered burly pickup.

Td6 Land Rover Diesel engine
The Td6 Land Rover Diesel engine

While here in the USA, diesel engines are thought to be for trucks and the oddball who wants one in a luxury car has only a few options. Land Rover has put this bad-boy of automotive engines to work in its line up including the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. The diesel-powered Discovery Td6 achieves 21 mpg city 26 highway with a combined 22.5 combined fuel economy for the powerful 254HP 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine.  And this diesel is tow-ready with the Rover® Tow Package, 7,716 lbs maximum permissible towing capacity.  class two hitch and all the connections

Pristine and Refined

Left Rear Side of Land Rover Discovery
The slab rear flanks of the Land Rover Discovery looked right for the size vehicle it is.

No doubt Land Rovers have seen their share of muck boots, Wellies, and fine leather, as this is the brand of choice for the equestrian crowd. And with the towing capacity of this diesel-powered Landy, it could easily have been towing a horse trailer to field trails, fox hunts, and horse shows. Though back at the stable any number of farm pickups would be keeping the barn’s field operation in motion.

 

 

What we liked

Land Rover Discovery Digital Dash
The digital dash of the Discovery was very informative, though the in-depth review was not easy while driving.

What is not to like about the elegance of Land Rover’s line of vehicles?  A British Icon that was granted a Royal Warrant in 1951 and has been providing rugged off-road capable vehicles since. Today the brand is part of Jaguar Land Rover with that added luxury, an air of elegance, on top of the proven Land Rover toughness, Rovers attract owners of an income level who are less concerned about the cost of ownership and more about the sense of luxurious style the brand offers.

Classic Landy’s as they are called from the original British Leyland era are quite collectible and still on the road due to their aluminum bodies and determined mechanics who keep them running. You even see models from the years they were thought to be mechanical nightmares because Land Rover owners love them so much, and do not want to part with one.

Overall Fit and Finish

Land Rover Discover Center Console
Lots of controllability with the Discovery, from ride height to all-wheel drive.

We were quite impressed with this vehicle. The fit and finish, as well as the quality of materials, are top notch. While we heard from other auto journalists that the slab rear loins of the vehicle were a bit chunky, it did not appear out of proportion to our eye, considering that it covered a large well-appointed interior that had a very good use of space.

We liked the design of both the exterior and interior and especially the feel of the dash material. And impressed with the thought that went into the storage areas and power outlets throughout the vehicle. Heated and cooled seats are available in the front, middle and the third row. Up front, seats with a massage function and 16-way adjustment are also available. Since this is a family vehicle, a total of four ISOFIX mounting points make it possible to fit child safety seats in the rearmost row.  And for those who do not require the added versatility of folding third-row seats, Discovery comes standard in a five-seat, 2-row configuration.

land rover discovery 3rd row seats up
With the 3rd row seats in place, there is not much cargo space in the discovery.

With three rows of seats, the second row slides forward and backward allowing access to the Discovery’s distinctive high roof and trademark stadium seating in the third row. This allows for even for 74.8” tall passengers to sit comfortably with visibility as well as leg and shoulder room.

 

Driveability of the vehicle

land rover 21 inch goodyear tire
The discovery rides on 21-inch good year tires

While this vehicle is roomy on the inside and large on the outside, 195.7 in. long, 87.4 in. wide (mirrors out) and 72.7 in. tall. The Discovery rides capably on large 21-inch tires. We found driveability and highway handling excellent, tracking well and holding the road, and very maneuverable with a tight 40.4-foot turning radius. Visibility is very good on the vehicle in tight spaces or out on the open road, with plenty of glass space, and the added modern safety feature of cameras and sensors.

A taut suspension is quite comfortable even on rough roads, and the Four-Corner Air Suspension adjustable advanced integral-link rear suspension system suspension makes it easy to get in and out of and provides adjustable ride height for on and off-road conditions.

land rover discovery cargo control panel
Control the 3rd-row seats as well as the rear air suspension with this controller in the Discovery.

Air suspension is designed to improve on-road ride quality and greater capability when off-roading. The automatic system is able to vary between two ride heights of +1.57 in. and +2.95 in. At speeds below 31mph the +2.95 in. the setting is available; for faster speeds on rutted dirt roads, between 31- 50mph the vehicle will operate at +1.57 in. A new Speed Lowering function cuts drag and enhanced fuel economy by automatically reducing the ride height at cruising speeds above 65mph. Other functions include enhanced tuning to prevent the suspension from lowering in deep wading conditions, as well as preventing belly-out situations where the center of the vehicle rests on the ground.

Permanent four-wheel drive with standard locking center differential and Terrain Response™, optional locking rear differential provided traction no matter the weather or terrain.

Comfort

land rover discovery 3rd row seat view
Discovery’s 3rd-row seat sits higher than the first and second row.

Front seats were extremely comfortable, while the 2nd and 3rd were hard and plank-like.  The third row is not easy to crawl into, though with its raised stadium style seating once back there you have a commanding view of the cabin, being higher, over the rear axle than the 2nd or 1st row. This is the reason for the trademark Land Rover stepped up Roofline, giving 3rd-row passengers headroom. Both rear seating rows had access to power and to HVAC controls, as well as plenty of storage, and heated seats. Nice Touch!

What we found odd and irritating

land rover discovery display screen
The Landy’s very detailed and in-depth screens were sometimes hard to drill down to get the info you needed quickly.

The unintuitive controls, and very in-depth on-screen menus.  This is not a vehicle that you want to try and figure out what the different controls do while driving, as they can distracting as they are long and involved.  The start-stop button is large, just that it is hidden behind the right side of the steering wheel, and a smaller button that opens a cubby button behind the center dash is visible, we found ourselves opening that cubby when thinking it was the start-stop button.

 

land rover discovery sales sticker and key
We got great fuel mileage from the Discovery, better than the sticker stated.

The unpredictability of turning the engine off after putting the vehicle into park, sometimes, it would just decide on its owns to shut the engine off beyond just pushing the ignition start-stop button, and do it without rhyme or reason. Maybe it was because we had done something else that told the vehicle to shut down, never quite figured that out. Speaking of random, recognition of the key fob was intermittent. Sometimes the key would be behind a phone in a pocket, and by pulling would be enough for the car to recognize it. It could have needed a new fob battery.

Warranty

Land Rover logo in the Velar
Land Rover is known the world over

Land Rover Dealers have been focused on the brand through thick and thin, and through a number of corporate owners. Now Land Rover/Range Rover is owned by Tata along with Jaguar, a very focused group who are making the brand better with each vehicle they produce.

 

 

 

Let us not forget the Royal Land Rover

70 years of Land Rover
First designed in 1948 Land Rovers have been trekking the world for 70-years.

launched in 1948 and simply called Land Rover, the design for the original vehicle was started in 1947 by Maurice Wilks with early choices limited to various shades of light green colour as dictated by supplies of military surplus aircraft cockpit paint. Land Rover was granted a Royal Warrant by King George VI. Since then you often see the brand being used by Royalty the world over.

 

 

 

Overall

cargo space in the land rover discovery
With the 3-row down, there is plenty of room for cargo in the Land Rover Discovery.

The essence of the brand, you have to like what you drive, and driving a Land Rover has some cache to it, a brand that has contoured and explored the world. We found ourselves at home in the 2018 Land Rover Discovery. For $68K, you get a powerful and attractive vehicle that has a timeless design, and with the diesel powerplant, a great tow vehicle. Take it to the stable, off road, the concert hall, or to the school carpool line, sign us up, we will be glad to drive this one again.

Words and Images(except where noted) by William West Hopper.

Land Rover USA provided us the opportunity to test drive this vehicle for a week-long evaluation to produce this report. We were not compensated for this article.

 

 

Today and Tomorrow: Mini’s Future Is Passionate Owners and a Strong Racing Heritage

Mini Electric Concept
Mini Electric Concept – photo from Mini PR

Mini, the brand that has been an icon of everything that is quintessentially and vibrantly British and youthful, is poised to celebrate 60 in 2019. And doing so by being plugged in to their passionate customers who love driving and winning races.

Mini quickly became the car of choice for rock stars, film personalities as well as royals an common folk alike when it was first introduced in 1959. The little cars caught they eye of racing legend John Cooper whose name has become synonymous with the brand. Who then took the brand on to win many races in the 1960’s. Today not much has changed,

What Makes a Mini?

MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri speaks to auto journalists in NYC in November of 2018, prior to the LA Auto Show.
MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri speaks to auto journalists in NYC in November of 2018, prior to the LA Auto Show.

At a recent meeting of automotive journalists in New York City, MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri shared the five essential elements of what makes a Mini.

Emotional: Mini is not a rational purchase, you buy a Mini for the fun of it.

Excitable: The mini makes people excited and has since it was first introduced as an answer to expensive fuel prices.

Fun to drive: Known for go kart-like handling, Khatri stated that the Countryman is no-doubt the best driving SUV on the market.

Personable: 70% of owners name their Mini and make them an important part of the family.

Customization: Even the banner on the outside of the UK factory says 1 in 800K. Mini has always offered customers a high level of customization for their cars.

Customer Loyalty

Mini Line upMini takes its owners and enthusiasts very seriously, involving them in events like Mini Takes The States, a two-week long driving adventure in the USA each year. This is a chance for members of the Mini Corporate Staff, parts of the racing team, and everyday owners of the vehicles get a chance to enjoy time driving the cars together, as well as getting feedback on new and experimental products.

Racing is Heritage

Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport talks about winning races with stock Minis.
Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport talks about winning races with stock Minis.

Mini has taken racing seriously since 1960 when John Cooper first raced one of their cars. Mini has both a Professional race team in the USA, LAP Motorsports as well as supporting owners of its cars  by sponsoring them to take it to the track at SCCA and other ametur events that often lead drivers into a full-time racing career. As Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport found out after taking delivery right off the dealership floor of a couple of JCWorks cars his team would drive to win. He stated “Mini’s street cars are race cars.”

Perocarpi shared that the best kept secret in the automotive sector is how good the JCWorks factory cars are. That in the short preparation time his race shop had to prepare a couple of Mini’s to get out on the track, he found out they needed little tuning, just roll cages.  Though on their first race, how officials made them remove the stock Brembo brakes from their JCWorks Mini and replace them with brakes from a Mini SE, and they still won the race. Not unlike the middle 1960’s when John Cooper’s Motorsports Team’s Mini was disqualified for having double filament light bulbs.

What’s Next?

Mini made up a prototype of a classic powered by all electric
Mini made up a prototype of a classic powered by all electric. (photo by Mini PR)

Electrification, while the rest of the industry was busy looking at hybrids back in the late 2000’s, Mini in 2009 leased an exclusive Mini-E edition of 500 Mini-E cars to the USA and 40 to the UK. Using that experience, Mini’s owner group, BMW, took this real-world experience and developed the 2012 BMW 1-Series Active-e and the I3 as well as BMW’s I8 super car.

Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager with Mini shared that the Mini Countryman PHEV and BMW’s I8 shared similar powertrain components, just inverted, Mini’s PHEV Countryman has the 3-cyl in the front and the

Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager spoke of the heritage of Mini and the passion of the owners.
Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager spoke of the heritage of Mini and the passion of the owners.

electric motors in the back, with the I8 has the ICE (internal combustion engine) in the back and electric motors in the front, both with AWD when needed.

Expect to see a third generation Mini SE EV, built on BMW’s electric architecture, in production and on sale in 2020.  And yes there already is a John Cooper Works GP Concept out there so expect to see the JCW Performance being powered by electricity as well.

 

 

Special Editions

 

Mini is about to release the JCWorks Black Knight Edition at the LA Auto Show in November 2018.
Mini is about to release the JCWorks Black Knight Edition at the LA Auto Show in November 2018. (photo from Mini PR)

Mini developed to be an urban brand does not take its heritage nor future technology for granted. You will find  that they will continue to build fun to drive vehicles after 60 years and plan to do so in the future. Plus Mini is still offering a manual transmission on their internal combustion powered products, a rarity in today’s automatic world.Mini has found special edition limited production vehicles to be part of its success. The latest, a Black Knight Edition, will be debuting at the 2018 LA Auto Show. A JCW 3-door hard top with- custom trim, handles and black color combination of which 150 examples will make it to the USA, arriving in first quarter 2019. An International Orange and Starlight Edition will join the Black Knight.

And they will never take their customers for granted, continuing with a successful enthusiast programs along with racecar driver training.

 

Words and Images (except where noted) by William West Hopper

 

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