Wednesday, December 25, 2019


In a trend that we would very much like to see continue, Lincoln apparently is abandoning its “alphabet soup” approach to automotive nomenclature with only two such models, the MKZ and MKZ Hybrid, remaining in its present day lineup.

With the 2019 Nautilus taking over as the company’s entrant in the midsize segment, each of Lincoln’s crossovers/SUVs now has a full name and not a three-letter combination starting with “MK.” Its former incarnation as the MKX is no longer.

That isn’t to say that the Nautilus is “completely new,” however, at least not in the strictest sense. It is built on the same platform as its predecessor, but there is more to it than simply a new name.

Styling has been upgraded starting with a distinctive different front fascia and its “star mesh” grille. A number of driver-assist systems that were once available as stand-alone options such as blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, auto high beams, a lane-keeping system, and a rearview camera are now incorporated into one standard package Lincoln dubs Co-Pilot360.

A new turbocharged 4-cylinder is now the base engine with a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that bumps up power and torque to 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque from the 4-banger’s 250/280, respectively, is also available.

An 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters for manual gear selection is the sole transmission offered. Both engines include an auto stop/start function that can be disabled by the push of a button at the top right of the center stack.

You may adjust the Nautilus to one of three driving modes (Normal, Comfort, Sport), and front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive available. You’ll find it a capable enough cruiser on the highway and with enough punch to get you into the flow of city traffic. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional, though I wouldn’t be taking it out on the trail if I were you.

Fuel economy numbers are 21 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, and 23 combined for the 4-cylinder engine and 18/27,21 for the V6.

For 2019, the Nautilus comes in four trims starting with the base starting at $41,335 including the $995 destination and delivery charge. The Select trim ($45,540) has been discontinued for 2020 models.

At the top of the line are the Reserve ($49,870) and the Black Label ($59,390) trims. This review is based on the Black Label edition that included options that ran the total to $67,630.

The Black Label upgrades are really felt in interior enhancements like Venetian leather seats, a tech package that includes a 360-degree camera, and an Alcantara headliner. The Sync3 infotainment system includes a voice-activated navigation system, though the screen itself at 8 inches is somewhat on the small side.

Frankly, though, I would sacrifice screen size for simplification of operation.

The Black Label edition also offers you a choice of one of three design themes — Gala (featuring deeper colors), Chalet (with Silverwood appliques), and Thoroughbred (Chilean Maple wood, Alcantara accents, and jet black trim) — to highlight the Nautilus’ overall ambiance.

Interestingly, Black Label buyers also get a 12-month, complimentary CLEAR membership to help you speed through security a participating airports and major arenas nationwide. That’s twice the time that buyers of other trims get.

What I liked about the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus Black Label: The Nautilus has a sophisticated interior with infotainment features that are easy to operate. The ride is quiet and comfortable as well. The V6 has enough oomph to get you around in a sprightly manner.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus Black Label: The display screen at the top of the center stack is on the small side from what many competitors are offering in their luxury products. Looking over the hood you get the feel it is a much larger vehicle, which is not a comfortable feeling when looking for a spot in a crowded parking lot.

Would I buy the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus Black Label? It most definitely deserves a look if you are shopping in the midsize luxury SUV market.

Thursday, December 12, 2019


At one time, and not all that long ago, the notion of spending $60,000 on a Kia may have been taken as a joke. Three or four Kias, yes, but one?

Well, last month, according to figures announced by the South Korean company, 32 people apparently paid at or near that much for the company’s flagship sedan, the K900, which was 10 more than the previous November and 17 more than October.

A sale a day is minuscule figure by pretty much any automotive measure, of course, but say this about those buyers: They got their money’s worth.

Redesigned and moving into its second generation, the 2019 K900 full-size luxury sedan is very much worth a look for open-minded shoppers who care more about the entire vehicle rather than just what mascot might adorn its hood.

Launched in late 2013 as a 2014 model in conjunction with its 20th anniversary in the U.S. market, the K900 was never seen to be a big seller but instead as a symbol about what Kia could do once it put its mind to it.

It was the company’s first rear-wheel drive sedan and came complete with a long list of standard equipment and features that put it apart from other Kia products.

“It demonstrates what Kia is capable of and will help redefine what the Kia brand stands for,” Michael Sprague, executive vice president, marketing & communications for Kia North America, said in a release at the time.

Redesigned and moving into its second generation, the 2019 K900 is sold in only one trim dubbed “Luxury” — which to me seems a bit overkill in terminology — with only one engine option.

With a V8 option no longer available, a 3.3-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 becomes the only power choice. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and with 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, it has enough punch to handle most driving situations without pressing.

You can adjust driving mode from Comfort to Eco, Sport, and Smart (which adjusts to your driving style) or configure your on mode for the Custom setting. Paddle shifters are standard for manual gear selection.

Timers for clocked the 2019 K900 at 5.1 seconds from zero to 60 mph, which is isn’t the quickest in its class but respectable for a vehicle of its size (201.6 inches long with a curb weight of 4,662 pounds.

The power is delivered smoothly to all corners with standard all-wheel drive. Fuel mileage (premium fuel recommended) is 18 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, and 21 combined.

Though only one trim is offered, it comes with a long list of standard equipment for the base MSRP of $60,895 (including $995 destination and delivery) that includes a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a navigation system with a wide, 12.3-inch screen, a cool analog clock, genuine wood interior accents, Nappa leather seating surfaces with a 20-way power adjustable seat for the driver and 16-way power adjustable for the front passenger with 4-way lumbar support for each.

LED headlights, a surround-view camera, Smart key with push-button start, adaptable cruise control, forward collision alert, and lane-keeping assist also are included.

A blind-spot view monitor that pops up when turn signals are activated gives you a look at what may be coming up beside you via an image projected from either side mirror to the either the tach or speedometer gauges.

To further upgrade the K900, a single option package is offered for an extra $4,000 and focuses more on the comfort of the rear-seat riders. It includes tri-zone climate control, power adjustable rear seats, ventilated rear outboard seats, a premium headliner, and a wireless charging pad for the rear seats. 

Those in the back already get 38 inches of legroom, so unless they are often riding along and art particularly demanding, you can probably get along with those extras.

What I liked about the 2019 Kia K900: There are plenty of infotainment features that are very user friendly. The map on the large display screen easily can be zoomed in or out, and it is easy to  see at a glance. A plethora of safety features are included as standard, including the blind-spot review monitor gives you a clear indication of what traffic may be coming up at you in the direction you are about to turn.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Kia K900: Not a whole lot to mention here. The trunk could be bigger considering its class, but at 15.4 cubic feet it’s not exactly what you would call small either. The lane-keeping system is a bit overly aggressive.

Would I buy the 2019 Kia K900? Yes. Like its “cousin” the Genesis, the K900 offers all the luxury features you want in an attractive package that lets you save several thousand dollars off the cost of a traditional luxury car.

Friday, December 6, 2019


Shopping for a family SUV with champagne tastes but burdened by a beer budget?

You might want to start by checking out a Hyundai showroom for the Santa Fe. You also might finish there anyway.

Fully redesigned for 2019 with the tag “Sport” removed for five-passenger models (the former three-row Santa Fe now goes by Santa Fe XL), the 2020 Santa Fe comes with about all the amenities you might want in a luxury model except the name cachet of a traditional luxury import brand from Europe or Japan.

The South Korean manufacturer has had the knack of incorporating most-wanted features in a high-quality product for quite some time now, at least since the turn of the century when it apparently decided to get serious in the United States market instead of existing by putting out cheap knockoffs.

In addition to cutting out the third row, Hyundai made the Santa Fe roomier by making it a bit longer and wider than the outgoing two-row model the Santa Fe Sport as well as improving its ride.

For 2020 it added some safety features and packages like a new blind spot monitor on Limited models and making the rear-seat occupant alert standard on SE and SEL models as well. Wireless device charging also is standard on SEL w/Convenience package and Limited models.

A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard in all trims, and a 2.0-liter turbo 4-banger is available on SEL models with Convenience and Premium packages as well as the top-of-the-line Limited. All engines are mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage is an efficient 20 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway, and 22 combined for the turbo.

This review is based on the 2020 Santa Fe Limited with the 2.0-turbo engine. That engine boosts  power to 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque from the 2.4-liter’s 185/178 numbers, respectively, and it is well-worth the extra cost.

The all-wheel-drive Limited with the 2.4-liter engine starts at $38,445 (including destination and delivery and going with the 2.0 turbo revs that up to $40,295. Front-wheel-drive Limited  models knock $1,700 off the MSRP for the AWD models.

Standard equipment on the Limited includes safety features like forward collision avoidance, blind-spot warning, high-beam assist, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control, reverse parking alert, and rear-seat occupant alert.

A panoramic sunroof, 19-inch wheels, a hands-free rear lift gate, and LED headlights, fog lights, and taillights also are standard.

Comfort and convenience features covered by the base MSRP include leather seats that are heated front and back and ventilated in the front, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, dual automatic climate control, a proximity key with push-button start, navigation system with an 8-inch display screen, wireless device charging, Quantum surround sound audio, Bluetooth hands-free communications, and Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Services.

In other words, all that you might want in an SUV that tops out in price where luxury SUVs begin.

The only extra to destination and delivery for my test vehicle was $135 for carpeted floor mats.

What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited: The short answer: a lot. It looks great inside and out, the interior is classy and roomy, and the driving experience is efficient and   up to standards for daily chores. Storage room behind the third row is listed at 35.9 cubic feet. Technology is plentiful and easy to operate. The enhanced blind spot warning system flashes an image of what is on your left or right when you activate the turn signal in the middle of the instrument panel, giving you a view of what may be coming up alongside you.

What I didn't like about the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited: I would like to see the display monitor more incorporated into the flow of the dash and not sticking up in the middle at the top of the center stack.

Would I buy the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited? Yes, most definitely. Fuel efficiency is among the best in its segment, and the interior has quality of a luxury SUV. The Santa Fe certainly has come a long way since the jaunty, smaller SUV it started out as.