Building a 2020 Lincoln Aviator

As the Lincoln brand soars to new design heights, the likes of which haven’t been attained since the launch of the 1998 Navigator, let’s explore the resurrected Aviator nameplate and build the latest edition to the luxury brand’s lineup.

Lincoln Aviator Models

A total of five models are available for the 2020 Lincoln Aviator: Standard, Reserve, Grand Touring, Black Label, and Black Label Grand Touring. The base Standard model come generously equipped and has a starting MSRP of $51,100. Moving up to $56,190 Reserve model brings larger wheels, a leather interior, and added tech features. The Grand Touring model has a hybrid powertrain, but any fuel savings are negated by the very steep $68,800 price point. The Black Label and Black Label Grand Touring bring forth the brand’s unique interior motifs, first pioneered on the 2018 Navigator, however their respective prices of $77,695 and $87,800 are mighty ambitious for a brand that still peddles the ratchet looking MKT and lacks the reputation and prestige of the competitors that are commanding similar prices for high-spec models. However, let’s not cut Lincoln too short. Word on the street is that the reinvigorated, and quite pricey, Navigator has done very well for the brand and the Aviator could well continue that trend.

Since the Standard model has a more realistic price point and comes with most of the expected features for the class, we’ll proceed with that model. Equipped with a standard twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission, selecting AWD for an added $2,500 brings the price to $52,820. For comparison, a comparable V6-equipped Audi Q7 55 TFSI comes in at $59,950.

Lincoln Aviator Exterior Colors

While the exterior color palette is fairly limited, there are a few interesting paint options. Crystal Copper and Burgundy Metallic are both elegant, while Red Carpet is rich and unctuous. However, it’s no-cost Blue Diamond that best fits the Aviator’s soft and subtle styling approach.

Lincoln Aviator Interior Colors

Getting a leather interior requires an upgrade to the Reserve model, so with this build of the Standard model we’ll have to settle with imitation leather. Standstone, a neutral beige, and Ebony are the two colors on offer. Go with Sandstone for an attractive contrast to the Blue Diamond exterior. Select the $1,000 Elements Package for heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated wipers.

Summary

That concludes the build of the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Standard with a final MSRP of $53,840. It’s priced very closely to the 2020 Cadillac XT6 three-row crossover, so it will be especially interesting to see which turns out to be a better seller.

Building a 2019 Acura RDX

The 2019 Acura RDX is one of the best-selling compact luxury SUV’s and the brand’s most popular model. A complete redesign for this year brought with it more daring styling inside and out, plenty of tech features and a turbocharged 4-cylinder in lieu of the naturally aspirated V-6.

The RDX, and Acura brand as a whole, occupies a middle ground in the market somewhere above mainstream and below full-on luxury automakers. Acura occupies the same gray area as Lincoln, Volvo and, to some extent, GMC and Mazda.

As a value leader, items like Acura’s reputation, lackluster dealership experience, interior materials quality and lack of engine options are forgivable when the RDX has a starting MSRP of $37,400, which is significantly less than the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Exterior:

The 2019 RDX was given much more expressive styling with its redesign, so a bold exterior color is fitting to its mission to shake things up and stand out from the crowd. Select Apex Blue Pearl to nicely set off the the bodyside sculpting, flowing roofline and chrome grille surround. This color is a $400 option and is only available with the $3,000 A-Spec Package, which requires the $3,200 Technology Package. So essentially right out the gate the RDX went from $37,500 to $44,000 even.

2019 Acura RDX exterior colors

Interior:

With the A-Spec package comes a selection of black or red interior options. While the black interior looks fine, it’s a tad boring. We’ll proceed with the red interior in keeping with this RDX’s flashy exterior color.

Wheels:

When equipped with the A-Spec package 20-in Shark Gray wheels come standard on the RDX. Hopefully these won’t look too outdated in a few years as shoppers grow tried of the dark wheel trend that has swept the industry.


Powertrain & Drivetrain:

A 272-hp 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine comes standard and is matched up with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, however you’ll want to upgrade to the excellent $2,000 Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system for added handling prowess. That brings the price to $46,000 even.

Packages:

Three packages are available on the 2019 Acura RDX. To start, shoppers can select from the aforementioned Technology and A-Spec packages. The Technology Package brings with it equipment like advanced safety features, an upgraded infotainment system, and upgraded leather seats. The A-Spec package gives the RDX personality. With unique front and rear bumpers, a unique grille design, and darkened headlamps and taillamps, Acura did a solid job of making this package differentiated and compelling. Inside, the A-Spec RDX has upgraded materials, heated and ventilated front seats, and other extras that create a modern ambiance. It should be noted that the A-Spec Package is only available with the Technology Package.

The third and final package is the Advance Package, which requires the Technology Package but is not available with the A-Spec Package. The Advance Package includes features like adaptive dampers, acoustic from glass, wood trim, upgraded front seats, heated rear outbound seats and other luxury features. Overall, the A-Spec package better suits the RDX’s sporty design and costs $1,900 less, so we’ll stick with that.

2019 Acura RDX packages

Summary:

This nicely equipped RDX comes out to $46,995 after destination. That compares favorably against competitive models from Audi, Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Any closer to $50k and the Acura’s sheen would begin to dull as it doesn’t offer an upgraded engine option.

2019 Acura RDX build

Building a 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Positioned as the entry point to the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the all-new A-Class sedan is available in front or all-wheel-drive and is based on the same platform as the CLA, which Mercedes-Benz refers to as a coupe, offering more space and practicality. Exterior styling is conservative and proportions are tidy. Inside, the brand’s latest design language translates well into the A-Class with a more cohesive and upscale look than can be found in the CLA, or GLA for that matter.

Technology and safety features from higher up in the Mercedes-Benz lineup have found their way into the A-Class. A suite of advanced safety features is available as is an extra large touch-screen interface. With a starting price in the low $30’s, the A-Class is the least expensive model in the brand’s lineup and it’s aggressively positioned against the Audi A3, its closest rival. Let’s build one and explore the A-Class in detail.

Models:

Two models are initially available for the A-Class, the front-wheel-drive A 220 and all-wheel-drive A 220 4Matic. Both have identical 0-60 mph performance and are propelled by a 2.0L inline-4 turbocharged engine that produces 188 hp and is matched to a 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission. The A 220 has a starting price of $32,500, with 4Matic costing an extra two grand. We’ll select the front-wheel-drive model to keep the price in check and allow room for options. Let’s proceed to the next stage of the build.

Colors & Wheels:

The color palette for the A 220 is fairly bland, with only bright Jupiter Red standing out. However, in some ways understated colors fit the conservative design of the A-Class. Denim Blue metallic is a pleasing grayish-blue that is more interesting than the several blacks and grays on offer. A charge of $720 is incurred for metallic pain.

In terms of wheels, the standard 17-inch 10-spoke design best fits the proportions of the A-Class, which can be overpowered by the optional larger wheels. Time to move on to the interior.

Interior:

The cabin is nicely executed with a unique design that is visually distinctive from the other sedans in the brand’s lineup. The a section of the dashboard spans from door to door for an airy and modern look. Finely detailed circular HVAC vents and metalwork detailing throughout the cabin impart an upscale feel. The flat-bottomed steering wheel with brightwork adds an a classic appearance.

As you might expect, MB-Tex upholstery comes standard while leather is optional. Since leather comes standard on the Audi A3 and has some superior qualities to MB-Tex, we’ll spring for that on the A 220 at a cost of $1,450. Unfortunately, the lovely Macchiato upholstery which brightens up the cabin and provides a nice contrast against the dark carpeting and dashboard is only available in MB-Tex. Bahia Brown is the nicest leather interior color available and goes nicely with the blue exterior. The optional walnut trim ($325) add a touch of warmth and elegance to the interior, so let’s select that and move on to options and package.

Options & Packages:

Here we have the opportunity to outfit the A 220 with luxury features like heated and ventilated front seats ($1,030), a heated steering wheel ($250), and 64-color ambient interior lighting ($310). All of these options are reasonably priced and well worth the investment. Curiously, multicontour front seats are not available with this upholstery selection.


The Premium Package ($1,550) brings safety and convenience features, while the Mutimedia Package ($1,150) provides advanced navigation features. Additional options that are must-haves include KEYLESS-GO ($550), wireless charging ($200) and an upgraded sound system ($850). This selection nicely outfits the A 220 with a high level of safety and convenience features.

Summary:

That brings our build of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz A 220 to a close with a final price of $40,885 before destination. That places it squarely in line with a well-equipped Audi A3. With fresh styling, a functional interior and smartly priced options and packages, the A-Class is sure to appeal to entry-level shoppers that may have found the CLA too small and the C-Class too expensive.

While the A-Class can be equipped with more sporting details and styling than this build, the performance angle is best left to the CLA, at least until an AMG version of the A-Class is released.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz]

VLF Automotive: Sports Cars with Guts

Michigan-based VLF Automotive produces some of the auto industry’s most stylish and powerful vehicles, delivering visceral thrills, tailored craftsmanship, and incorporating coach-built design that evokes the whimsy of a bygone era. In an age where it seems as though most premium sports car makers are chasing volume and, in some cases, imbuing their lineups with questionable styling, VLF’s trifecta of low production, raw power, and classic proportioning makes for spots cars with guts. We’d expect nothing less from Lutz.

VLF Automotive Bob Lutz, Gibert Villarreal, Henrik Fisker
Car Guys: Giblert Villarreal (left), Bob Lutz (center), Henrik Fisker (right) stand beside a white Destino V8 at VLF Automotive’s headquarters.

Headed by auto industry icon Bob Lutz, industrialist Gilbert Villarreal, and design extraordinaire Henrik Fisker, VLF produces three models that are collectively emblematic of what’s possible when car guys are at the helm with no bean counters in sight to dilute a vehicle’s essence.

As Bob Lutz famously detailed in his book, Car Guys Vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, the heavy hand of finance and accounting teams at automakers have led to vehicles being stripped of character, devoid of performance and lacking in quality, all in the name of making balance sheets look better. A promising concept would inevitably turn into what seemed to be a cheap and half-hearted knockoff by the time it landed on dealer lots. In the end, consumers caught on to the corners being cut and, in the case of General Motors, it had some dire consequences in the 2000’s.

Lutz made a strong argument in his book and throughout his career for delivering excellence to the consumer in terms of design, performance and quality, so it’s no surprise under his stewardship that VLF’s delivers on those fronts in spades.

DESTINO V8

A truly fascinating automotive amalgam that brings together unexpected elements, the Destino V8 is based off of designer Henrick Fisker’s blueprint for the 4-door Fiscker Karama, which was one of the first luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to market. The design has been updated to good effect with a rectangular grille and more conventional styling cues incorporated into the front fascia. The look is sleek, modern and highly appealing, somewhat resembling a more elegant interpretation of the Jaguar F-Type from certain perspectives.

Under the hood, the Karma’s hybrid powertrain has been replaced with a Corvette LS9 V8 engine that is good for 604-hp and capable of propelling the Detino V8 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, thanks in large part to the lightweight aluminum body and aluminum space frame. It’s all quite impressive, especially considering the generous accommodations for four within the beautifully outfitted cabin, replete with carbon fiber trim and supple leather.

FORCE 1 V10

Atop the brand’s lineup is the Force 1 V10, which fuses together lightweight carbon fiber construction with a 8.4 liter V10 engine that produces 745-hp, making it “one of the most powerful naturally aspirated road engines in the world,” according to VLF. Being devoid of superchargers, turbochargers, or hybrid assists allows for good, old-fashioned linear power delivery and a more natural driving experience. The cabin features leather, suede, Alcantarra and, naturally, a champagne holder.

The purposeful exterior design is punctuated by functional elements that assist with performance. Intakes and outlets provide cooling for the mechanics, while spoilers and a rear diffuser provide downforce and assist with improving aerodynamics. Fisker designed Force 1 V10 in the classic American sports car idiom with a long hood, short front overhang, long tail and pushed out wheels. A standout styling element is the side rear windows, which flows with elegance and, well, force into the the C-pillar. From there the eye is drawn to the rear which has a wing-style spoiler atop the glass area that doubles as a wifi antenna. Further down are what VLF says are the world’s thinnest taillamps, cleanly integrated below the decklid. From any angle, the Force 1 V10 is a striking work of art.

ROCKET V8

Developed in collaboration with Galpin Auto Sports, the VLF Rocket V8 begins with the bones of the Ford Mustang and undergoes major updates as the metal body panels are replaced with sculpted carbon fiber ones that allow for a larger grille, functional front splitter, wider fenders, functional skirts and spoilers. Visually, it looks like a Mustang, but in concept car form. Massive 21″ wheels complete the exterior appearance. It’s cohesive, hunkered down and menacing, just as a muscle car should be.

Powered by Ford‘s Coyote 5.0 L V8 enhanced with a supercharger to deliver 725 hp, it sprints to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. The cabin is appointed with stitched leather and carbon fiber trim that properly enhance the Mustang ambiance to rival the craftsmanship found in super cars.

Car Guys for the Win

The VLF Automotive team prove what can be accomplished when car guys are in control.

From the versatile and opulent Destino V8, to the magnificent Force 1 V10 and exhilarating Rocket V8, it’s apparent that VLF has created vehicles that are infused with serious performance, spot-on styling, and executed with a high level of attention to detail. VLF Automotive proves what’s possible when car guys are in the driver’s seat, and the results are extraordinary.

[Images: VLF Automotive]


ThirdAuto.com Offers Automotive Consulting Services for Media, Manufacturers & Dealers 

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Brian Rogers, Founder/Editor

Third Auto offers expert automotive industry consulting services for dealerships, manufacturers and media companies. With a focus on consumer trends, sales analysis and digital marketing tactics, Third Auto can provide insights and information across key areas within the automotive sector, in addition to article creation for website blog sections. ThirdAuto.com also offers exclusive Sponsored Content placement opportunities for advertisers to get in front of engaged auto shoppers and enthusiasts. Learn More.

Let’s Golf! Third Auto Builds a 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is famous for combining performance without sacrificing practicality. By thoughtfully integrating performance upgrades into the efficient and roomy Golf platform, the brand has been able to build a reputation for the GTI has as a fun car with few compromises and a reasonable price. For 2019 Volkswagen made some trim line changes and added more horsepower and more powerful brakes as standard equipment across the line. Let’s build one of these storied GTI’s to find the best balance of features, performance, value and style.

Trim Levels:

Starting with trim levels, shoppers have five to choose from. The base S has all of the essentials and includes the signature Clark Plaid cloth seat coverings that have become emblematic of the GTI among car enthusiasts. Style and convenience features are available on the new Rabbit Edition, which includes LED headlights and keyless access with push-button start. Also included are stylish dark wheels. Unfortunately, only a few exterior colors are available for the Rabbit Edition. However, the vivid Cornflower Blue is quite eye-catching.

Move up to the SE and luxuries like leather seating surfaces, a panoramic moonroof and 8″ touchscreen come standard. Although the SE’s interior is less charming without the plaid, the amenities make for a more comfortable cabin that will make the GTI better suited for the long haul. With a starting price of $31,795, the Golf GTI SE is reasonably priced and very well-equipped, making it the pick of the litter. The top-end Autobahn model costs over four grand more and adds features that aren’t exactly must-haves. We’ll proceed with the SE and continue with the build.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI trims

Colors:

With the Golf GTI in SE trim shoppers have access to a fairly wide range of colors. A standout paint color that was added for the 2018 model year is Great Falls Green Metallic, which is a rich medium green that nicely fits the GTI’s understated and somewhat quirky personality. Let’s go with that and move on to the interior.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Great Falls Green Metallic

Within the cabin shoppers can choose from any color as long as it’s black, Titan Black to be specific. Red stitching contrasts nicely with the black leather and creates a cohesive look by matching with the red trim found throughout the exterior. It would be awfully nice if Volkswagen was able to add at least some plaid trim to the leather interior, perhaps with door inserts.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI interior

As with the base Golf, the Golf GTI’s dashboard is straightforward, highly functional and exudes quality. The classic design may not excite like some trendier interior, however the timeless look will never go out of style. Time to shift over to the transmission as we complete the build.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Titan Black Leather

Transmission:

Here’s where things get controversial. Purists will say go with the standard manual transmission, which has no added cost and provides a more engaging driving experience. Pragmatists will insist that the 7-speed automatic is more efficient and better adaptable to a variety of driving situations. For today’s build we’ll save some cash and go the traditionalist route with the old-school manual transmission. The next and final stop is options.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI manual transmission

Options:

Volkswagen makes things pretty simple when it comes to selecting options for the 2019 Golf GTI SE. There is only one available, the Experience package. Comprised of a Fender Premium Audio System and DCC adaptive chassis control, this is well worth the $860 investment.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Experience Package

Summary:

That brings our build to a close. This 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE with Experience package and a manual transmission retails for
$32,690 before fees. Considering the level of equipment and performance packed into the Golf GTI, this represents a very good value for a vehicle that can handle trips to the superstore just as well as bombing down the interstate at sufficient pace.

Side Note:

Volkswagen would be well served by leveraging the specialty approach perfected in the Golf GTI, of adding distinctive and significant performance updates to core models, by scaling it across their lineup. Outfit the Tiguan with Clark Plaid seats and drop in major engine and brake upgrades and it’ll be everything that the Tiguan R-Line simply isn’t. Call it the Tiguan TGI and capture market share from the Mazda CX-5 and Volvo XC60.

[Images: Volkswagen]

Rx for the Acura RLX

Perched atop Acura’s sedan lineup is the full-size RLX. Far less popular than the mid-size TLX and virtually all of its competitors, the RLX is a rare bird indeed. Last year a total of just 1,931 units were sold in America. That pales in comparison to the volume of Volvo S90’s (6,967 units) and Audi A6’s (10,561 units) sold in America last year. For heaven’s sake, even the often forgotten Infiniti Q80 (née M) had more than double the sales of the RLX last year. So, what’s going on?

Three primary issues are at play that collectively are holding the RLX way back. Fixing one or, ideally, all could make an impact in the marketplace and allow the RLX to resonate with shoppers. Although a price cut for the top-end Sport Hybrid in 2018 did correlate to a year-over-year increase in sales, it clearly had a minimal impact in the big scheme of things. Far more drastic measures are needed to help get the RLX, and the Acura brand in general, on track.

Supersize It

First, being that the RLX is not significantly larger than the TLX, Acura shoppers who want a sedan have little incentive to upgrade to the RLX. Perhaps Acura should follow competitor’s lead and sell an extended wheelbase version of the RLX to create more delineation both visually and in terms of interior volume.

Volvo only sells the extended wheelbase version of the S90 in America and Infiniti offers an extended wheelbase version of the Q70. called the Q70L which has five additional inches of rear legroom. Like Acura, both brands don’t have the strongest reach and positioning within the marketplace, however they’ve found a niche by offering something Tier 1 brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and Audi don’t.

2019 Acura TLX versus 2019 Acura RLX

Bring the Wow Factor

Styling is another factor at play. The RLX’s design is too conservative inside and out, lacking the wow factor of big winners in the $50,000-$60,000 luxury sedan segment. Perhaps by borrowing more styling cues from the NSX, Acura can simultaneously inject the RLX with more personality while also establishing a stronger and more cohesive design philosophy for the brand as a whole.

2019 Acura RLX exterior side
2019 Acura RLX exterior rear
2019 Acura RLX interior

As it stands now, the new Honda Accord arguably has a more interesting exterior and interior design than the RLX. Acura needs no holds barred sensational design to stand out from the crowd and impress shoppers not selecting a car based on price.

Invest in Brand

This is a tricky one that would not be a quick fix like the other two prescriptions. The fact of the matter is the Acura doesn’t spring to mind for most consumers when they think of luxury car brands. While value shoppers in the sub-$50,000 segment can look past badge appeal and a less polished dealership experience if they’re getting more features for less money, above that price point expectations are much higher and that’s where Acura comes up a few cards short. Improving brand awareness and perception would require a massive investment in research & development, design, materials, dealerships, and marketing, but it could pay big dividends by moving Acura from a bit player to a major threat to competitors.

The days of pushing warmed-over Hondas should come to an end and usher in a new era for Acura, and it could all begin with the RLX. While pursuing such an undertaking to transform a underdog into a force to be reckoned with would require courage and grit, that’s just the stuff that Legends are made of.

[Images: Acura]

Building a 2019 BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series sedan has been completely redesigned for the 2019 model year. As we previously covered, the 3 Series has carefully evolved throughout the decades and has traditionally placed an emphasis on sporty driving dynamics, technology and crisp design. Styling has generally been conservative, and the seventh-generation model carries on that theme.

The exterior is handsomely rendered and features luxury styling cues, like chrome window surrounds, combined with aggressive bodyside sculpting and an integrated decklid spoiler. It all makes for an assertive, yet restrained design that’s distinctively European. It strikes a balance between the swishy Mercedes-Benz C-Class and somewhat cartoonish Lexus IS. The 2019 3 Series sedan is lower than its predecessor and that makes for a more grounded appearance while also paving dividends when it comes to handling.

In terms of driving dynamics, initial press coverage reports that BMW has put extra effort in to make this generation 3 Series a more enjoyable drive that its predecessor. Within the auto enthusiast sphere it has been widely suggested that the 3 Series softened over time and lost its razor-sharp performance, so it’s reassuring to learn that BMW may have taken the feedback to heart and righted the ship. Unfortunately, a manual transmission is no longer offered, which is sure to disappoint some loyalists.

Now that we’ve touched on the heritage, design and dynamics of the all-new 2019 BMW 3 Series sedan, lets build one to find the best combination currently available.

Engine:

2019 BMW 330i

We’ll begin under the hood. For the initial launch BMW is only offering the 330i equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine. It’s good for 255-hp and a respectable 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds in rear-wheel-drive form. While, all-wheel-drive is available, we’ll forgo it to save a bit of coin and also stick with the traditional driving wheels for the 3 Series. Before destination the price is $40,250. While it’s easy to go overboard when outfitting a BMW, we’ll be pragmatic with this build so as to combine the best elements for most drivers without an exorbitant final price.

Design:

2019 BMW 3 Series Designs

Shoppers must select one of three design trims on the 2019 BMW 3 Series sedan. The standard Sport Line comes with chrome window surrounds and features black high-gloss trim on the bumpers. It makes for a nicely balanced look between upscale and performance. The glossy black trim is replaced with chrome accouterments in the Luxury trim level, which, although unoffensive, don’t quite fit the character of the car as well and seem tacked on. The top-level trim in terms of price is M Sport, which has gloss black window surrounds, larger wheels and other details, but will set you back a cool five grand. The standard Sport Line does a good job of blending the best elements of both trims together and comes with attractive standard wheels, so we’ll go with that and proceed to the next stage.

Colors & Wheels:

2019 BMW 3 Series colors

Lighter colors nicely set off the deep bodyside and hood sculpting. Alpine White looks excellent on the new 3 Series. However, darker colors contrast with the Sport Design’s chrome trim and nicely set off the chrome grille. Black Sapphire Metallic gives a crisp and classic look to the exterior, slightly edging out the deep and lustrous Mediterranean Blue Metallic for top dark paint color.

2019 BMW 3 Series wheels

We’ll now step inside to admire the modern and clean design. BMW did a nice job of injecting some excitement into the cabin and it has a very upscale look that coveys solidity. From the design of the 14-way power seats to the metal and wood accents that adorn the dashboard and doors, there’s a strong sense and craftsmanship. While all of the interior colors on offer look very nice, it’s high-contrast Oyster leather combined with black carpeting and trim that has the sharpest appearance. Well worth the upgrade, the lovely Oyster color is only available with leather upholstery which costs $1,700 over the standard SensaTec, which is BMW speak for pleather. Next up, let’s have a look at the packages and options.

2019 BMW 3 Series Oyster interior
2019 BMW 3 Series Oyster interior dash

Packages & Options:

Choose the $2,150 Convenience Package for its lumbar support, keyless entry including hands-free trunk opening, SiriusXM Satelite Radio and active blind spot detection. This is a well-rounded package that equips the 3 Series with features that should really be standard.

The Premium Package brings with it niceties such as a heated steering wheel, navigation system and large 12.3″ infotainment display, among other features.

There are several stand-alone options that are worth checking off the list. For optimal sound quality the $875 Harman Kardon surround sound system has 12 speakers, including two central bass speakers located under the front seats. A $500 wireless phone charging tray adds convenience and can be had with a WiFi hotspot.

Summary:

That brings our grand total for this well-equipped 2019 BMW 330i to $49,520 including destination. So here we have it, a 2019 BMW 3 Series with a great color combination and packed with all of the must-have features, all for under fifty grand.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class will set you back just about as much, while the Lexus IS and Audi A4 will come in slightly less expensive once optioned up comparably. With fresh styling and a refocus on performance, the 2019 BMW 3 Series sedan is an appealing choice for shoppers looking for a luxury compact sedan that’s fun to drive and sharply designed.

[Images: BMW]

Building a [Big Money] 2019 BMW X7

For 2019 BMW has introduced the X7, its largest ever SUV, which slots above the mid-size X5 and X6 in the brand’s massive crossover lineup. The full-size X7 is designed to comfortably seat up to seven passengers, with a far more hospitable third-row seat than can be had in the X5. Competing head-to-head with the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lincoln Navigator and Land Rover Range Rover, the X7 carries a starting price of $73,900.

As with most vehicles within the full-size luxury SUV class, the starting price is a mere suggestion of what shoppers will actually end up paying.  BMW is known for bundling must-have features into available packages or as stand-alone options, so when it comes to keeping the sticker price below $80,000, resistance is futile. Let’s build a well-equipped 2019 X7 and see how many Benjamin’s we owe Bayerische Motoren Werke.  

Engine: 

Starting in the engine compartment, BMW offers two choices. The X7 xDrive40i features the brand’s buttery smooth inline six-cylinder engine, good for 335-hp and a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds. For those who frequently tow, the V-8 engine available in the X7 xDrive50i will be appealing, but you’ll pay dearly for the rumble of that powerplant and a slightly faster 0-60 time and 121 additional horsepower, as the 50i carries a massive $18,700 price premium over the xDrive40i. Since the six-cylinder provides commendable performance for most driving situations, let’s proceed with the $73,900 X7 xDrive40i.

2019 BMW X7 Engine Options

Design:

Up next, BMW has shoppers choose between the standard Luxury Design package, which features chrome trim and traditional luxury vehicle styling cues. For an additional $2,900, the M Sport package ditches the shiny bits for a blacked out style and sportier wheels that conveys a “muscular aesthetic”, according to BMW. Overall, the M Sport styling more closely aligns with the brand’s pedigree, and sets the X7 apart from the chromed-out competition, so we’ll proceed with this package, bringing the price up to $76,800. Ca-ching!

2019 BMW X7 M Sport

Colors:

Disappointingly, BMW only offers five colors for the M Sport version of the X7 xDrive40i, none of which are very exciting. However, classic Alpine White sets off the blacked-out M Sport exterior detailing nicely, so we’ll proceed with this.

2019 BMW X7 Alpine White

Wheels: 

While the X7 has a number of available wheel sizes and designs, the standard  21″ Double-spoke bi-color orbit grey wheels that come with the M Sport eschew the fussiness of the other options, so we’ll stick with these and incur $0 in additional expenses. 

2019 BMW X7 Wheels

Upholstery:

To liven up the color palette, Cognac Vernasca Leather gives the X7 some warmth and character and adds $1,450 to the bottom line. Fineline Stripe Brown High-gloss Wood Trim provides a nice accent and is available at no extra cost. Score!

2019 BMW X7 Cognac Vernasca Leather

Packages: 

Be prepared to make it rain with those dollar bills, we’re up to the Packages stage of BMW’s build process. With no less than seven packages available, ranging in price from $700 up to $3,850 each, this is where BMW makes their coin and shopper’s part way with cold hard cash.

The Cold Weather Package comes at a cost of $1,200 and includes heated front and rear seats, a 5-zone automatic climate control system, a heated steering wheel and front armrest. This package is a must-have. 

The Luxury Seating Package brings 20-way power, ventilated and massaging front seats. At a time when mainstream cars costing tens of thousands of dollars less than the X7 come with some of these features, this is a package without which the X7 would feel incomplete. Comfort comes at a cost, this package will set you back $1,600.

While an Off-road Package and Dynamic Handling Package are offered, the X7 will fulfill the majority of its day-to-day duties just fine without them. Let’s skip these and move on.

The Parking Assistance Package allows the X7 to be automatically parallel parked, and also includes the capability to remotely view the X7’s surrounding’s when its parked through the BMW Connected App.

Finally, that brings us to the $3,000 Premium Package, which according to BMW is comprised of “exclusive features that enhance the premium persona of your BMW”. These include heated and cooled cupholders, remote engine start, soft-close doors, a premium sound system and more.

Options:

Ready for some decadence? The 2019 BMW X7 offers stand-alone options that include features that really bring the interior ambiance to the next level. Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof allows a selection of colors to be projected onto the moonroof, bringing a sense of occasion to nighttime driving. Handmade diamond-cut glass fittings ad elegance to the cabin, allowing the X7 to truly sparkle. To accent the glimmering controls, a leather dashboard adds to the luxurious atmosphere. The total cost for these additions comes out to a $2,600 even.

2019 BMW X7 Options

Grand Total:

Whip out your credit card, folks! The grand total for this pimped out 2019 BMW X7 xDrive40i with M Sport Design, a total of four package, and three options comes out to a cool $88,345 after destination and handling. That is a $14,445 increase over the base price and brings with it some of BMW’s most luxurious interior fittings and technologies.

2019 BMW X7 M Sport Alpine White

For comparison, this is about how much a well-equipped Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lincoln Navigator and Land Rover Range Rover will cost. Overall, the BMW X7 is a compelling interpretation of a full-size luxury SUV that offers impressive craftsmanship and a dizzying amount of technology, not to mention bold styling, to set it apart from the crowd.

[Images: BMW]

Shopper’s Guide: 2019 Kia Crossovers

When it comes to crossovers, Kia has the field covered with a wide variety of vehicles. From the economical Soul to the three-row Sorento, there’s vehicles to fit multiple needs and lifestyles. Today we’ll explore the full 2019 Kia crossover lineup and cover pros, cons, competitors, pricing and safety score. Let’s get started!

2019 Kia Soul

2019 Kia Soul

The compact Soul is a front-wheel-drive only crossover and offers a cavernous cabin thanks to its boxy profile. Visibility is excellent and it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the abundant headroom. As with most vehicles in this price range, the ride can lack refinement over uneven surfaces and more road noise  enters the cabin than in larger and more opulent vehicles. Fuel economy is adequate but lags behind competitors, however driving enthusiasts will appreciate the optional 201-hp turbocharged engine. The Soul performed well in crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a Top Safety Pick+ designation. Pricing for the 2019 Kia Soul starts from $16,490 and it competes against vehicles like the Honda Fit and Toyota C-HR.

2019 Kia Niro

2019 Kia Niro

For thrifty shoppers, the 2019 compact Kia Niro is an appealing choice. The Niro is a five-passenger and front-wheel-drive hybrid vehicle with pseudo-SUV styling. Fuel economy is outstanding, achieving up to 50 MPG combined. The Niro’s main drawback is the leisurely acceleration that comes at the expense of efficiency. The Niro performed well in crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a Top Safety Pick+ designation. The ride is fairly compliant and road noise isolation is adequate. Pricing for the 2019 Kia Niro starts from $23,490 and it primarily competes against the Toyota Prius.

2019 Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage

Offering available all-wheel-drive and more traditional crossover styling, the Kia Sportage competes with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. With a sporty focus, the Sportage handles and accelerates well, however the ride is less compliant than some competitors and fuel economy is not class-leading. The Sportage performed well in crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a Top Safety Pick designation.  Pricing for the 2019 Kia Sportage starts from $23,750.

2019 Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento

With available all-wheel-drive and room for up to seven passengers, the 2019 Kia Sorento is a midsize crossover with a starting price of $25,990. Driving dynamics are good and the ride is quiet and comfortable, however the Sorento’s third-row seat is smaller than some competitors. The Sorento performed well in crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a Top Safety Pick+ designation.

[Images: Kia]

 

 

 

 

 

2019 Lexus UX

The 2019 Lexus UX is a brand-new sub-compact crossover that slots below the compact NX in Lexus’s crossover lineup. With a starting price of $32,000, the UX competes with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLA , Cadillac XT4, and BMW X2. The brand’s signature grill dominates the front of the UX while aggressive sculpting adds character to the bodysides, echoing the larger Lexus crossovers. Out back, a horizontal light fixture connects both taillamps and gives the UX a unique and premium appearance. Overall, Lexus’s bold and somewhat controversial styling is perhaps best suited to the proportions of the UX; it’s a handsome vehicle.

2019 Lexus UX exterior rear

Inside, the interior features a harmonious design that has more cohesion than the larger NX. Unlike its competitors, Lexus only offers imitation leather seating surfaces, called NuLuxe, in the UX, which could deter some shoppers. According to Lexus the dashboard design which “flows seamlessly into the hood” was inspired by engawa, a Japanese architectural concept of bringing together the inside with the outside. More Japanese influence can be found with the  available washi interior trim which was designed to mimic the grain of Japanese paper. Following Infiniti‘s lead, it’s nice to see Lexus embracing the rich Asian design influences with recent releases, rather than following the traditionally European design idioms. It seems that Lexus is finally coming into its own in terms of design, and its about time.

2019 Lexus UX interior Birch NuLuxe

The UX is available in front- and all-wheel-drive and is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. An available hybrid that comes standard with all-wheel-drive delivers excellent fuel efficiency, however does not offer much of a performance boost.

Pros: The UX is competitively priced and offers a quiet and comfortable driving experience that eludes most mainstream sub-compact crossovers. It sleek exterior styling is modern and premium, while its interior is thoughtfully crafted and nicely detailed.

Cons: With engines designed more for efficiency than all-out performance, the UX is adequate but slower than some competitors. A lack of available leather trim is a letdown when brands like Honda and Kia offer it on their sub-compact crossovers. As with most vehicles within this class, the UX may be too snug of a fit for some, so taking it for a test drive is essential to ensure a comfortable driving position can be attained.

Looks Best In: Lexus typically offers a conservative color palate for its crossovers, its refreshing then to see some daring shades incorporated into the  UX’s repertoire. Bold colors like Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0 and Cadmium Orange are flashy and fun. Nori Green Pearl, a unique medium-dark green, is perhaps the best color on offer. By virtue of green not being a particularly popular exterior color currently, a UX finished in this captivating color will stand out from the crowd and it better matches the UX’s more leisurely demeanor than more racing color choices. The interior finished Birch, an attractive gray, looks pleasant and airy. However, Glazed Caramel looks rich and decadent and fits the UX’s interior best.

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Competition: The sub-compact luxury crossover category is rapidly expanding with new models. The Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Audi Q3 are priced at or near the UX, however some features that are standard on the UX are available only as options on those models. Volvo offers the XC40, which has an attractive upright design and roomy interior, although fuel mileage doesn’t come close to matching even the non-hybrid UX. Speaking of hybrids, the UX is currently the only vehicle in its class to offer one, and that could be a deciding factor to many shoppers.

Safety Score: As of publication date the 2019 Lexus UX has not yet been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, the Toyota C-HR, with which the Lexus UX shares its platform, received strong ratings from the agency.

2019 Lexus UX exterior rear Cadmium Orange

Summary: The UX is a well-rounded luxury sub-compact crossover. A quiet and compliant ride combined with sophisticated design and a competitive starting price make the Lexus UX a compelling choice within its segment, especially the hybrid model that sets it apart from all competitors. Taller shoppers and those planning on regularly using the back seat may be better served by moving one size up to the Lexus NX.

[Images: Lexus]

Opulent American Luxury of the 90’s

Cadillac and Lincoln delivered classic luxury in droves with their late-nineties full-size sedans. Today we’re exploring the most opulent trim levels of the Lincoln Town Car and Cadillac DeVille. In their day, these vehicles represented the lap of luxury for shoppers seeking a traditional American luxury sedan.

1997 Lincoln Town Car Cartier

1997 Lincoln Town Car Cartier

In the 1990’s the Cartier Edition of the Lincoln Town Car was the crème de la crème for Lincoln’s flagship sedan. Positioned above the base Executive Series and mid-level Signature Series trim levels, the Cartier represented the pinnacle of luxury and opulence for the Blue Oval’s upscale brand. Its interior featured upgraded leather and plush carpeting.

Based on the tried and true full-size Panther platform, the Town Car was a uniquely American interpretation of a luxury car. With a massive V8 engine, front bench seating and dripping with chrome trim, the Town Car was proudly old-school. Its stoic upright styling set it apart from swoopier designs from Japan and Europe. Perhaps its closet competitor in terms of size and styling was the Cadillac DeVille.

In 1997 the Lincoln Town Car Cartier had an MSRP of $43,200, the equivalent of $68,544 in 2018.

1999 Cadillac DeVille d’Elegance

1997 Cadillac DeVille d'Elegance

For 1997 Cadillac introduced the luxurious d’Elegance for its full-size DeVille full-size luxury sedan. The d’Elegance was the mid-level trim for the DeVille, slotting above the base model and below the sporty DeVille Concours. As its name implies, the d’Elegance was focused on luxury and opulence. It featured extra chrome adornments, gold trim, standard leather and heated front seats. Like the Lincoln Town Car, it featured front bench seating.

Based off of a front-wheel-drive platform, the mid-to-late 90’s DeVille retained the traditional styling of it’s rear-drive predecessor. Powering this leather-lined conveyance was a 4.6 liter V8.

In 1999 DeVille d’Elegance had an MSRP of $42,930, the equivalent of $65,959 in 2018.

[Images: Lincoln, Cadillac]

 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

The 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is a mainstream compact SUV with a starting price of $23,595. In size within the brand’s lineup, the Eclipse Cross slots right between the sub-compact Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and the larger compact Outlander.

Pros: A low starting price will appeal to shoppers who might not have the budget to move from sedan and into a crossover with other brands. Styling is trendy and cohesive and there’s a good amount of standard content.

Cons: As a price leader, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross has compromises, not the least of which is the brand’s limited dealer network and low resale value. In terms of sophistication, rivals from brands like Honda and Nissan offer quieter and more compliant rides.

Looks Best In: Two nice shade of silver are on offer, and Pearl White nicely accentuate the curvy lines of the Eclipse Cross. The vibrant Red Diamond, a reference to the brand’s logo, best fits the flashy styling details and sets off the chrome trim nicely. The interior of the Eclipse Cross can be had in any color as long as it’s black; that could turn away some shoppers, however the design is attractive.

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross exterior

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross interior

Competition: The sub-compact and small compact crossover segment is crowded with competition. Two strong sellers are the Nissan Kicks and Nissan Rogue Sport, while Honda offers the HR-V and Toyota the C-HR. From domestic manufacturers there’s the Ford EcoSport and Chevrolet Trax. Most cars in this segment have compromises in terms of comfort compared to full-fledged compact crossovers, however they are easier to park and more affordable. Ultimately, most vehicles within this segment are best suited as urban runabouts as opposed to highway cruisers.

Safety Score: As of publication date the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross has not yet been fully tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Summary: If the unique styling of the Eclipse Cross is appealing, the price is right, and the ride doesn’t seem to harsh for the shopper’s preference, the Eclipse Cross provides the coveted high seating position of a crossover for the price of competitor’s compact sedans. Be sure to test drive other vehicles in the segment, many of which offer more practicality and sophistication, albeit with blander styling.

[Images: Mitsubishi]

 

2019 Audi A6

The Audi A6 is the luxury brand’s mid-size sedan, competing with the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, among others. For 2019 the A6 was completely redesigned and features advanced infotainment and safety tech borrowed from the all-new full-size Audi A8. With a starting price of $58,900, the A6 is available in sedan form and comes with standard all-wheel-drive and a turbocharged six-cylinder engine. A four-cylinder is expected to be offered soon and that model will come with a lower starting price.

Pros: Brimming with the latest tech features, the 2019 Audi A6 interior represents the very latest in advanced automotive interfaces. Conservative styling might not set souls on fire, but it will age well throughout the years. The standard mild hybrid drivetrain boosts cruising efficiency without impacting performance.

Cons: The A6 has a stiffer ride than some competitors and all of its technology could overwhelm a driver’s senses in the short term and overwhelm their bank account in the long term, as the parts begin to wear and require maintenance. This might be a better car to lease than buy.

Looks Best In: With the exception of Tango Red, the exterior choice for the 2019 Audi A6 are rather plain. Firmament Blue is a dark blue that nicely accentuates the chrome ornamentation found through the exterior. Inside, Okapi Brown is a warm earth tone that complements the plentiful walnut wood trim adorning the cabin.

2019 Audi A6 exterior front2019 Audi A6 exterior rear2019 Audi A6 interior

Competition: While the aforementioned BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class are the Audi A6’s primary competitors, there are also a number of other mid-size luxury sedans that it stacks up against. The recently redesigned Volvo S90 and Genesis G80 are both stylish alternatives. The aging Lexus GS doesn’t offer cutting-edge technology, however has a strong reliability record for shoppers looking to keep their vehicle for the long haul.

Safety Score: As of publication date the 2019 version of the Audi A6 has not yet been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Summary: The 2019 Audi A6 is a beautifully rendered luxury sedan. Shoppers interested in the latest advanced safety and infotainment features will revel in all that the A6 has to offer. Be sure the try the cockpit interface out on a test drive and also take the car on a long test drive to ensure the firm ride is to your liking.

[Images: Audi]