Saturday, January 21, 2017


SOUTH FLORIDA LOSES A SPORTS ICON,

BUT IT ISN’T AN ATHLETE


Edwin Pope passed away at his home in Okeechobee Thursday evening.

If you are a recent newcomer to South Florida, the name may not be familiar. But sports fans who grew up here or ever picked up a copy of the Miami Herald and turned to the sports page while on a visit here, as I did for many years, you know who he was.

For nearly a half-century after his arrival in 1956, Edwin Pope was a fixture in the sports section with four or five columns a week, even continuing to write on occasion after his “retirement” in 2003 until health issues finally stopped him.

You can read all the details of his life in sportswriter Barry Jackson’s well-written piece on the Herald’s website (www.miamiherald.com) so I won’t go deeper into them here.

I’ll just add that I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was working at newspapers in Jackson, Mississippi, and Little Rock, Arkansas. It brightened my day when someone I had followed since reading him on my visits to Miami back in the early 1970s would call me by name when I saw him at a big event.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to interview him at his home, then in Key Biscayne, for a piece to run in Miami Monthly magazine. Here is the story that came out of the interview:

After more than 60 years, the games and contests tend to blur a bit in memory. Even Super Bowls fail to stand out.

But for Edwin Pope, the first Orange Bowl he ever “covered” will have a special place.

The story is not what you think it might be, however.

The game was played on Jan. 1, 1940, and Edwin Pope was 11 years old, growing up in Athens, Georgia. His father had just bought him a used typewriter – even at that age Pope knew how to type – and Georgia Tech was playing Missouri in the Orange Bowl.

Pope turned on the radio, sat down, and began feeding sheets of paper into the typewriter. As legendary sports broadcaster Ted Husing described the action on the field, Pope began transcribing every word, “even the commercials,” he says with a chuckle today. His copy ran six single-spaced pages.

“The next morning I got on my bicycle and rode it into downtown Athens for the first time, the first time I’d ever ridden all the way downtown,” Pope continues his story. “I went in and demanded to see the editor. What did I know? Finally, they actually showed me in to the editor.

“He said, ‘What can I do for you?’ I said, ‘Do you need a running story for the Orange Bowl game yesterday?’ ”

Running stories – that is, complete play-by-play accounts of major games –
were common back then before sports events became major television fare.

Not surprisingly, the editor really didn’t need that full an account of Georgia Tech’s 21-7 victory, but Pope thrust his papers into the editor’s hands any way.

“He saw right away it really wasn’t a running story but what I had thought one was – typing out the play-by-play as Husing called it,” Pope says. “He said, ‘I want to talk to you,’ and so they wrote a story about me taking this thing in. And that’s how I got my first job.”

Pope still has that clipping today, framed and under a plain sheet of paper with the words “My Sports Writing” printed in pencil.

“Edwin is a born reporter with a leaning to sports,” the editor wrote, and no truer words were ever uttered.

From his start in Athens covering sports activities at the local YMCA, Pope has gone on to become a South Florida icon as a columnist and sports editor for the Miami Herald, where he arrived in 1956 after stints with United Press and the Atlanta Constitution. He is recognized as well as one of the most respected sports journalists in the country.

Noted author James A. Michener in the foreword of a collection of Pope’s columns published in 1988 wrote that after moving to the area he became addicted to Pope’s column, which he said helped clarify his thinking of the position sports should occupy in American society.

“Consistently, Pope struck a consistent note,” Michener wrote. “He loved sports but recognized their weakness; he defended athletes but appreciated the temptations they faced; and he well understood the importance of professional teams in the life of a great city. … He was, I concluded in those days when I had only read him and not yet met him, in the great tradition of Grantland Rice, John Kieran, Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon and Shirley Povich.”

Pope officially retired from the Herald six years ago, but he continues to write 50 to 60 columns a year, mostly in the fall and winter seasons, though last spring he headed off to Augusta, Georgia, where he was among 14 journalists recognized for their service in covering at least 40 Masters golf tournaments. Pope now has covered 51. He also is one of only four writers who have covered all XLI Super Bowls – that’s 41 in real numbers.

He confesses to covering “about 40” of baseball’s World Series, 20 or so Wimbledon-British Open doubles (that is, picking up both of England’s premier events on one trip), and 25 Kentucky Derbies starting with Secretariat’s victory in 1973. He also had a visit to the Indianapolis 500 (“I went, said what I had to say, and that was all I was interested in.”) and the Daytona 500 – once. (“I found that nobody had known I was even there.”)

“The Derby was fun,” Pope says. “And I covered a lot of championship fights, too, back when there was interest in them.”

Somewhere in his home in Key Biscayne, where he lives with his wife Eileen, is a picture of Pope with the great heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis taken of them at the airport.

“We used to have a lot of title fights here on the Beach so it was a very active time with a lot of people interested,” says Pope, who started at the Herald as an assistant sports editor, a job that encompassed writing a column and doing whatever it took to get the paper out that night. “Now nobody cares at all. Now there’s probably 50 times as many people watching poker on television than boxing. Did you ever think that poker would be on television? Does that strain your credulity?”

The fading interest in boxing and horse racing and the arrival of professional sports – pro football’s Dolphins, basketball’s Heat, baseball’s Marlins, and hockey’s Panthers – are the most significant changes in South Florida sports under Pope’s watch.

“When I came here, there were two huge things: college football and horse racing, and, to a degree, golf,” Pope says. “Then other stuff started rolling in here until horse racing was pushed right out of the picture. College football has become marginalized. It’s just changed completely.”

But if the scene has changed, Pope hasn’t. Oh, sure. He isn’t writing as often now. He once wrote five columns a week, writing and rewriting until he had the exact phrase he wanted. He was still writing three or four columns a week when he “retired” in 2001. Now he enjoys the luxury of picking his spots.


“The luckiest thing that ever happened to me was my daddy getting me that typewriter and sitting down and typing out that Orange Bowl game,” he says, looking back over the years. “The next luckiest by far was coming to the Miami Herald. Just sheer, absolute luck.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


INFINITI QX80 LIVES UP TO LABEL

OF BEING A TRUE LAND YACHT


From the mid-1980s through the 1990s, I had a full-size conversion van that, looking back, was about as close to a “luxury” vehicle of any car I have ever owned.

It was a Ford Econoline 150 with the conversion by Mark III of Ocala, Florida, including second-row captain’s chairs that swiveled so that you could put the removable tray table in place and play cards with the people sitting on the back bench seat.

Seat covers were a velvet-like material, the floor was fully carpeted, and there was a spot in the back to place a small TV that ran off the vehicle’s electrical system and featured a built-in antenna. Luggage fit under the third row, and behind that row was a place to hang up you clothes. The side windows featured adjustable venetian blinds.

It was the perfect vehicle for road trips by the sports staff of my newspaper as we covered football games around the South, and one of the guys immediately christened it the “land yacht.” It was just a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much by the standards of the day.

I bring it up now not as some sort of nostalgia trip but because the term “land yacht” could very well apply to the vehicle that I have been driving for the past week, the Infiniti QX80.



Those of you who are familiar with the alpha-numeric system Infiniti adopted for its vehicles a couple of years ago know that “QX” labels this as an SUV and the “80” marks it as the largest of such in the company portfolio. (As a reminder, sedans, coupes, and convertibles get a “Q” designation from the Japanese automaker, and the bigger the number that goes with it the bigger the car.) In its previous life, the QX80 was called the QX56.

By any label, it is big, of “land yacht” apportions, really. But it is also more than that. A neighbor took a peek inside the one in my driveway and was wowed by the luxurious features like the abundant leather and wood inlays. Quality of interior materials is A-plus.

“Must be $100,000,” he ventured.



Close. The MSRP for the QX80 he was looking at was the Limited trim with all-wheel drive and checked in at $90,445, including $995 for destination and delivery. (Rear-wheel drive is available in the base trim for $64,845, and the base trim with AWD carries an MSRP of $67,945.)

For that price tag, the Limited offers a long list of standard features like a 10-way power adjustable driver’s and 8-way adjustable front passenger seat each with two-way lumbar support, dual climate control, headlight washers, rain-sensing wipers, power rear liftgate, Bose premium sound system, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, navigation with an 8-inch touchscreen, rearview and surround-view camera monitor, keyless and remote start, and a bunch of safety features, including a trailer sway control system. (The QX80 is a workhorse in offering an 8,500-pound towing capacity.)



Power comes from a 5.8-liter, V8 engine that is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection capability along with snow mode, tow mode, and hill start assist. The transmission can be set in high or low mode, the latter for more serious off-roading adventures, or put in automatic to let the vehicle decide how to distribute the power via a dial on the console.

Pertinent numbers for the powertrain that is common to both Base and Limited trim are 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. Fuel figures are 13 miles-per-gallon city, 19 highway, and 15 combined for the AWD models like the Limited but a slightly higher for RWD versions. After a week of driving mostly on city streets, the computer showed the QX80 I had to be averaging slightly over 14 mpg.



The engine has enough power for comfortable cruising and passing as well as navigating traffic. The main drawback in doing routine chores is running into parking lots with spaces seemingly designed for compact cars only. You might find yourself having to take up two spaces and just living with the glares you get from other motorists.


What I liked about the 2017 Infiniti QX80: Though a big vehicle, running boards and handles on each of the A pillars making getting in and out much less of a chore than expected. In fact, it’s not really a chore at all. The second-row seats flip up to allow easy access to the third row. Infotainment systems are fairly intuitive to operate, though there is an extra step involved in responses to some voice commands (to change a radio station from an FM or AM channel to Sirius/XM via voice command you first change mode, then give the command to the specific channel or frequency) that seems unnecessary.


What I didn’t like about the 2017 Infiniti QX80: The third row is a bit on the cramped side for the three adults it is supposed to accommodate, and I would imagine you would hear plenty of complaints on a longer drive. But it’s what behind, or what isn’t, that third row that strikes me as a disadvantage. There is only 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space with all rows in place, which sounds like a lot but the way it is shaped is going to restrict how much is really usable. In other words, the QX80 may accommodate seven people, but it doesn’t have much room for much of the stuff they may bring with them, unless you want to put it on the roof.

Would I buy the 2017 QX80: Doubtful, since I really don’t like to put up with driving such a large vehicle in city environs. But if that doesn’t bother you, this “land yacht” offers clear sailing in all other regards.





Thursday, January 12, 2017


CHRYSLER TAKES BIG STEP UP IN BRINGING BACK PACIFICA FOR 2017


In case you missed it, the North American International Auto Show, more commonly called the Detroit auto show, this week announced its selections for vehicles of the year.

The new Chevy Bolt EV received Car of the Year honors. Not surprising, considering the media's infatuation with electric vehicles.

Truck of the Year went to the Honda Ridgeline. Last September some visiting journalists scoffed when our media group, the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA), chose the Ridgeline as the Truck of the Show at the Miami International Auto Show. Wonder what they think now? Some people apparently can’t get over a Ford or Chevy not winning. Autoblog called the selection a “surprise winner.”

And Utility Vehicle of the Year, a new category for Detroit, went to the Chrysler Pacifica. 

Frankly, I kind of had my doubts about that one, not because the Pacifica isn’t a fine vehicle but more because a minivan isn’t what comes to my mind when I hear the term “utility vehicle.” I think more of SUVs or Crossovers. Maybe I need to think out of the box more.

The Pacifica fits as a “utility vehicle” just fine, though. It certainly is utile. It beat out a pair of SUVs, the Jaguar F-Pace and Mazda CX-9, which presumably would have been put in Truck of the Year categories in the past since Volvo’s XC90 SUV won NAIAS Truck of the Year honors in 2016.


But unlike in its previous incarnation, the 2017 Pacifica is most definitely a minivan. In its first go-around from 2004-07, the Pacifica had a bit of the appearance of one of the new crossovers that were beginning to come into vogue around that time.

One of the questions my boss asked me after I had driven it on a trip from South Florida to St. Louis was whether I thought it handled like a minivan or an SUV.

“A minivan,” I replied.


That Pacifica may have resembled an SUV/Crossover, but that’s not the case with the new one. With its power sliding rear doors (on both sides) and open floor instead of a full center console between the front seats, there’s no doubt about the Pacifica’s character now. It’s definitely a minivan. In fact, the Pacifica effectively replaces the successful and trend-setting Town & Country minivan in the Chrysler lineup.


When it comes to a vehicle for family transportation, especially families of two-plus children, the minivan is hard to beat. Chrysler has provided the Pacifica with a generous room for storage behind the third row, 32.3 cubic feet, and those third-row seats fold at the push of a button to boost that capacity to 87.5 cubic feet. It comfortably seats seven in what Chrysler touts as the largest interior in the segment with passenger volume of 165 cubic feet.


It comes in five trims with even the base or LX trim coming with features like Stow-’N-Go seating, an 8-way power adjust driver’s seat, rearview camera, Bluetooth, a voice-command system, and active noise cancellation for a quieter ride as standard.

My top-of-the-line Limited model also had as standard leather seating, hands-free rear liftgate and sliding side doors, a panoramic sunroof, blind spot and cross traffic detection, rear park assist, keyless and remote start, UConnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch screen for navigation, HID headlights, and 18-inch wheels.

All that was included in the $42,495 MSRP. Options, including a safety package that included a 360-degree surround view camera and adaptive cruise control and a theater package that featured seat-back screens for videos, plus the $995 destination and delivery charge ran the total price tag to $48,475. That’s almost $20,000 over the MSRP for the base LX model.

All trims come with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that puts out 287 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 262 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Mated with a 9-speed automatic transmission, fuel economy is rated at 18 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway, and 22 combined, about average for the segment.


There is also a hybrid version that can be recharged via a plug-in that Chrysler says will go up to 30 miles on electric power while offering an 80 MPGe rating overall.

Throttle response is pretty good for the class, and despite its capacity for hauling passengers and cargo, it doesn’t have the feel of being an overly large vehicle like you get with some full-size SUVs. There’s even a certain amount of agility about it, though I wouldn’t approach it like a performance car when in traffic. Or not in traffic, for that matter.


The interior has an upscale feel about it. Despite a wealth of technological features, the dash has an uncluttered look even with a few knobs to duplicate some of the basic functions (radio, climate control) that can be operated off the touchscreen. Response to voice commands was quick as well with no unnecessary delay from a repeat of the command from the system.

About the only negative I could find probably was peculiar to this particular vehicle, not common throughout the production run. The front passenger door must have been sprung by some previous user and the bottom half would not line up flush with the sliding rear door when closed. That’s not likely to be the case on other Pacificas.

What I liked about the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica: Operating the many infotainment features on the UConnect system is a breeze, especially when compared to how many makers of more expensive cars complicate them up. No need to delve into the operating manual to learn how to change a radio station or adjust the map for the navigation scale! And you can lower the windows for the second-row seats.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica: There’s little not to like about it, unless you just don’t like minivans.

Would I buy the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica: Not at this stage of my life, no. But if I were younger (OK, much younger) and faced traveling with a bevy of energy-packed kids, I definitely would give it a look.


Saturday, January 7, 2017


For our Christmas trip, our two oldest grandchildren, daughter and her two sons (plus their new pup), and youngest son all were together at her home in Edwardsville, Illinois.

WHEN IT COMES TO HOUSEHOLD PROJECTS, 

I SAY PUT A CAULK IN IT


I’m not much of what you would call a “handyman” when it comes to household tasks. Anything beyond changing a light bulb can be a major challenge for me, and even that can be a pain if the bulb I’m changing happens to be the one outside by my garage door. That one involves getting out a short ladder and taking off a cover. Oh, the humanity!

But after getting back home from a trip north for Christmas (I’m thawed out now, thank you very much), I decided to take on the chore of re-caulking the shower/tubs in our two upstairs bathrooms.

I vaguely remember doing this on the tub for the master bath, but not sure about the one in the other. But if it was done by the builder, he sure did a sloppy job of it. So maybe it was me.

Anyway, with my basketball coverage at a lull this past week and no car review to write until next week, I figured this was as good as time as any to take on the task.

I figured one day, maybe three total, for each.

I’ll pause until you stop laughing.

...3, 2, 1.

OK. All done?

First, I made a run to Home Depot for caulking and anything else I might need. Long ago I used to have a caulking gun, but I have no idea what became of it. Probably rusted away.

Fortunately, caulking is available in tubes now similar to toothpaste, except you have to cut the ends off at a 45-degree angle. I wasn’t sure how many to get, so I picked up three. They’re not expensive.

Upon returning home, I gathered up the necessary tools. Luckily, save for an extra razor blade that would have come in handy, I had pretty much what I needed.

Upon hitting the guest bathroom first (I figured that would serve as a tuneup before getting to the master bath), I started removing the old caulking. I wasn’t more than five or ten minutes into that before a thought it me: This is going to take a while.

To make sure there wasn’t some easy way of accomplishing this that I was overlooking, I went to my laptop and searched Youtube for a video on removing old caulking. Alas, there was no secret way, but I did run across something called caulk remover.

The cost of such miracle material varied from cheap to $100 a bottle (I’m serious). I gambled that Home Depot would have something cheaper and made my second trip to see what they had. Yes, Home Depot had it in a spray bottle, like 409 cleaner. And it wasn’t $100 but less than $10. (Can’t find the receipt.)

An aside here: This second trip turned out to be my last. I’m quite proud that I could gather everything I needed in just two trips to the Home Depot! Take that, Russ!

The caulk remover did seem to help, but I still spent the rest of the afternoon chipping away at the old caulking. At one point I happened to go downstairs and my wife asked if I was finished yet. Been married going on 49 years and I didn’t realize she could be so sarcastic.

I could see that my estimate of one day for each of the bathrooms was going to be seriously off. Of course, it might have helped if I had gotten an earlier start, but I’m not a morning person. Afternoon and late nights seem to be when I do most of my writing, and apparently it’s the same with other chores with me.

One complicating factor in the guest bathroom was a hole in the wallboard between along one of the edges of the tub. It would take more than caulking to fill that, so I was working with Dap wallboard compound to fill it, which was kind of messy.

So much for the first day. I had to leave the Dap to dry, of course, so it wasn’t until the next afternoon (Friday) that I got around to actually putting in the new caulking around the other tub edges. That went surprisingly well.

The Youtube video had mentioned wetting a finger to smooth out the caulking, and one of the viewers had mentioned that it wasn’t a good idea to use a bare finger because it would leave bacteria or something that eventually would work its way through the caulking.

So I used examination gloves to do that. I just wish I would have put one on my left hand as well as my right. I didn’t because I didn’t think I would be getting any excess caulking on my left. Wrong again!

There was one other spot at the tap end where the separating between tub and tile was such that more Dap was needed to fill in, so I couldn’t caulk that area until Saturday. Which I did earlier today. Success!

So the project actually extended over a three-day span. It looks pretty good, too, at least my standards. Just don’t look too close. But I still have the master bath to do. When I get the energy.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

NEW JAGUAR XE SEDAN TAKES ON TOUGH ENTRY-LEVEL LUXURY SEGMENT



With an out-of-town trip coming up, my last ride of the year was one of the newest cars on the market. I’d say there’s a kind of symmetry about that, a rarity in my usually disorganized life.

The car was the 2017 Jaguar XE sports sedan, which the company calls a “true driver’s car” in adding it to its lineup last spring. The company expects big things from it in a very competitive segment that long has been dominated by German manufacturers Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi. In other words, a tough market.

Early sales results put the XE right in the middle of the company lineup behind its new F-Pace SUV and its XF midsize sedan and ahead of the F-Type sports car and XJ full-size luxury sedan. But it still trails the Teutonic bunch. (All the numbers are available at http://bit.ly/2i1eWMH if you’re interested.)


The new XE comes with a choice of three engines with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder serving as the base. It is rated at 240 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. If that is too meek for you, there’s also a 3.0-liter, supercharged V6 that increases those numbers to 340 and 332, respectively, trimming zero-to-60 mph time to 5.1 seconds from the 6.5 in the base.

I was provided the 20d trim, which is a diesel power-plant. The 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel provides lots of torque (318 lb.-ft.) and provides top-of-the-line fuel mileage of 32 miles-per-gallon city, 42 highway and 36 combined, according to EPA testers. The gasoline versions are 21/30/24 with rear-wheel drive and a mile per gallon less with all-wheel drive. (Frankly, I’m not sure how the government came up with the same numbers for the 2.0L and 3.0L engines, but the mysteries of how the feds work (?) is a topic above my grade.)

Each of the models (20d, 25t, and 35t) is available in XE, XE Premium, XE Prestige, and XE R-Sport trim levels that carry respective MSRPs running the gamut from $34,900 to $51,700.


The 20d Prestige model I had for the week was listed at $46,395 including the $995 destination and delivery charge. Included in that were some no-charge options — satellite radio, white metallic exterior finish, and a “Vision” package that included Xenon headlights with LED signature lighting, high beam assist,  front and rear parking aids, and blind spot monitor system.

The standard equipment included 10-way power adjustable front seats (4-way lumbar) with leather surfaces and driver memory settings, keyless entry with push-button start, moonroof, rearview camera, navigation, InControl infotainment system, and a premium sound system.

The 8-speed automatic transmission is operated via a dial that rises up from the center console when the engine is started and features a Sport mode as well as paddle shifters for manual gear selection. The JaguarDrive Control system offers the option of various settings to enhance performance with the dynamic setting providing sportier performance.


And yes, there is also a start-stop mode to reduce fuel consumption when idling, though you can turn it off by pushing the button on the console. But you have to do that each time you restart the engine.

All in all, the bold, distinctive exterior and the classy, eye-pleasing interior makes the 2017 Jaguar XE a must for anyone shopping in the segment, especially those who want to stand out from the crowd.

What I liked about the 2017 Jaguar XE: It has a distinctive look and character about it. Putting in destination information for the navigation system was easy enough, though some of the other functions are a bit more fussy to operate.


What I didn’t like about the 2017 Jaguar XE: The road noise seemed a bit excessive at typical expressway speeds. (But there was no wind noise at all.) The voice commands on the navigation system were a bit on the excessive side. Do you really need to be told that in 3.2 miles you should “continue straight” on the route you are on?


Would I buy the 2017 Jaguar XE?: Probably, but I would like to drive one of the gasoline versions. The diesel engine had kind of a low, bass sound that made it seem like it was laboring at times, which, with all that torque, certainly wasn’t the case. But it was the feel I got with it.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

2017 MERCEDES-BENZ E300 GOES

TO THE HEAD OF THE CLASS


After a full-scale redesign, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan moves into its 10th generation with the 2017 model, offering a new engine, numerous technological features that include the ability to drive itself for short stints, and the kind of classy interior you typically expect from the German automaker.

Little wonder that U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 1 among 17 offerings in its analysis of the midsize luxury segment.

I happened to drive the 2017 E300 sedan after a couple of week-long stints in Jaguar models and was pleasantly surprised by its agility and handling. No, it didn’t match the power of the Jaguar F-Type R or F-Type SVR when it came to driving performance, but it was a quite a bit livelier that one might expect for the class.

It is, after all, a sedan meant for hauling passengers and their stuff in relative comfort, but especially when set in Sport or Sport-Plus mode, the E300 delivers strong throttle responses even though the only engine offering for the E300 is a turbocharged 4-cylinder. It is mated with a nine-speed transmission and is rated at 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.


Company clockers say the zero-to-60 mph time is 6.2 seconds in rear-wheel-drive configuration and a tick slower, 6.3, for the all-wheel-drive 4MATIC. Other engine options for the sedan and updates for E-Class coupes and convertibles, which are unchanged for 2017, will come later.

I mentioned Sport and Sport-Plus mode settings. There are two others, Eco and Comfort, plus a third, Individual, that allows you to pick and choose the way you want your E-Class to perform. You can set the transmission and steering, say, to Eco or Sport, while setting the suspension to Comfort for a smoother, less firm ride than either Sport or Sport-Plus provides that is usually expected by buyers in the segment.

The Individual setting also allows you to permanently turn off the automatic shutoff feature that kicks in when you come to a complete stop at an intersection or in stop-and-go traffic. If you don’t do that, you have to manually turn the function off by pressing a button each time you stop and restart the car. Frankly, I find the feature somewhat annoying, and turning if off -- when I can -- is something I do, dare I say, automatically.


Apparently, though, the automatic start/stop system does save fuel, up to 3-5 percent according to a New York Times piece that ran last spring. Though the same story quoted one driver as saying he estimated his savings at about a mile-per-gallon.  According to the federal government, mileage figures for the E300 turbo-4 are 22 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway, and 25 combined using premium fuel, of course.

Among standard features on the E300 are navigation, 18-inch wheels, keyless entry with push-button start, a sunroof, LED headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, wood interior trim, and the company’s COMAND system for operation infotainment systems. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, HD Radio, two USB ports, Apple CarPlan and Android Auto also are included.


Voice-operated systems respond fairly accurately to most commands, but with the delays in responses, you’re really can accomplish most changes faster by using the controller on the center console, though that involves getting the display screen in the correct mode (i.e., switching from audio to navigation, for example).

Things like a rearview and surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control, automated parallel parking system, front seats with massage systems, front-collision warning system, premium audio and more are offered in option packages.

Of course, the E300’s interior has a classy appearance with lots of high-quality materials in evidence. It is a Mercedes-Benz, after all. 


One really nice thing designers managed to do, however, is incorporate the large, 12.3-inch display screen into the flow of the dashboard rather than leaving it sticking out above the center stack as the case is with some of the models from their competitors. Instead of looking like an afterthought, it’s like they gave some attention on how to do this. A slight overhang over the screen also helps alleviate the glare problem on sunny days.

Pricing for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 starts around $52,000. Can’t give you the exact cost of the model that served for my test drive because it was so new the Monroney sticker wasn't available. I’m guessing it was quite a bit more with all the features that were included.

What I liked about the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300: The big touchscreen provides a clear, detailed map for the navigation screen, which, as I noted earlier, is nicely incorporated into the flow of the dash. The seats are comfortable, the cabin quiet, and the exterior more striking in appearance than its predecessor.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300: It took a while to link my cell phone up, and some extra steps are required to complete some of the infotainment functions. But engineers seem to be dumbing down the systems so even the technologically challenged (ahem!) can manage. The trunk capacity (13.1 cubic feet) isn’t up to some of its competitors.

Would I buy the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300: Yes. Don’t let the 4-cylinder engine lull you into thinking it’s going to be underpowered. It is definitely not that.


Friday, December 9, 2016


JAGUAR F-TYPE R CONVERTIBLE OFFERS PERFORMANCE, LUXURY — AND LOTS OF FUN




If you follow this blog on even a casual basis (and, of course, you do!), you no doubt are aware of my fondness for convertibles and also that my favorite car of the moment is the Jaguar F-Type.

For more details on that, you can read my recent review of the F-Type Coupe posted just a couple of weeks ago.

So you can imagine how I feel about the convertible version.

Yes, I like it.

A lot.

Just a week after driving the 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Coupe, I was given the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible. (Not that it means anything, but this is the opposite way the F-Type was introduced with the convertible hitting the market as a 2014 model and the coupe following for 2015.)

Yes, this is a tough job, but somebody has to do it.


The R is one of two F-Type trims (the new SVR being the other) that get a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine instead of the supercharged V6 found in the base, Premium and F-Type S models. It delivers 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque, which is a good bit more than even the V6 in the F-Type S, which checks in at 380 hp and 339 lb.-ft. of torque, but not quite what the SVR version delivers. The SVR tops out at 575 hp and 516 lb.-ft.

I’m thinking that 550/502 is going to be adequate for most tastes. Edmunds.com clocked the F-Type R’s zero-to-60 time at 3.5 seconds. Do you really need to go quicker?


The V8 is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode and paddle shifters for manual gear selection and comes in all-wheel-drive configuration only. EPA numbers are 15 miles-per-gallon city, 23 highway, and 18 combined using premium fuel, which are not endearing figures to Sierra Club types.

I’m not going to get into too much into the nitty-gritty of the F-Type R Convertible because much of what I wrote in November about the F-Type SVR Coupe applies to the droptop as well. Infotainment systems all work the same, and standard and optional equipment lists are pretty much identical.


There are two major differences, one being the fabric top on the convertible that lowers and raises with a tug of a switch on the center console. The raising and lowering operation, including raising or lowering the windows, is accomplished in a matter of seconds, giving you enough time to pull off the expressway and get the top back up if you happen to get caught in an unexpected shower.

The other obvious difference is in the luggage space. The coupe offers only 11.0 cubic feet, which is on the tight side but seems generous when compared to the convertible’s 7.0 cubic feet. Not only is that stingy, the way it is configured to accommodate the rear wheel wells cuts down on your packing ability as well.


With room for only two and the small trunk, this is not a car built for a family or for long trips with lots of suitcases.

This is a car meant for fun, and we’re not necessarily talking about a skirt-the-edge-of-traffic-laws experience. In addition to the acceleration, the F-Type R delivers much in the way of cornering and sure-footedness, and the notes from the dual-quad exhausts are, well, the word “awesome” comes to mind, especially when Dynamic mode is activated. In addition to the full-throated roar when the gas pedal is pushed, you get rapid-fire crackles the car gears down when you lift your foot from the pedal.


Oh. There is one other big difference.

The F-Type SVR Coupe I had in late November came with an MSRP of $126,945, including the $995 destination and delivery charge, and the SVR Convertible lists for a bit more at $129,775. The F-Type R Convertible, which has many of the same attributes as the SVR, lists at $109,245. Maybe that doesn’t mean much to those who are accustomed to doing their car shopping in the six-figure range, but it seems like a pretty good jump to me.


What I liked about the 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible: Performance is a joy for all senses, even touch and hearing, and luxury features like 14-way power adjustable leather seats add to the overall driving experience. I preferred the leather-wrapped steering wheel in the convertible over the suede cover on the coupe’s wheel. The blind-spot monitor is a must what with the restricted view to the rear in the convertible.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible: The trunk is very small and oddly shaped, but at least you don’t lose any space when the top is lowered. There’s not a whole lot to lose! The infotainment system can be fussy to operate.

Would I buy the 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible: Yes. I would go with the R over the new, top-of-the-line SVR model because I don’t think there is a $20,000 difference between the two.