Monday, December 10, 2018

2020 Lincoln Aviator: When Luxury Vehicles & Cheese Graters Collide

  • The 2020 Lincoln Aviator is all about luxury, safety technology, and performance. 
  • Lincoln Driver Modes, Phone As A Key, and Co-Pilot360 Plus are among the top features.
  • We’re not sold on the styling but the 2020 Lincoln Aviator has lots of redeeming qualities.  

Wow, where to start with the 2020 Lincoln Aviator? Well, first off, it looks like a cross between a bank vault and a cheese grater, and a very angry cheese grater at that. It has the on-road presence of a Panzer tank, and all the creature comforts of a 12,000 square foot McMansion. In short, it’s just what a certain segment of the American car buying public wants.

Lincoln will probably sell them by the boatload.

Suburban Mainstays

Maybe it’s just where I live, but I’ve been seeing a lot of Lincolns around for a while now. The same could be said when I was interned in Arizona. Sure, down there, there’s tons of retirees, and that demographic loves its big American cars. But Lincoln, a company on its deathbed as long as its namesake, seems to be entering some sort of resurgence these days. So like I said, you’ll probably be seeing more of these large, stately, borderline-ugly things tooling around shopping malls and burbclaves and such in a couple of years.

The 2020 Lincoln Aviator hit the stage at this year’s LA Auto Show, with Lincoln noting that their “three-row midsize (ha!) premium SUV” is aimed at the highest volume segment in the United States: the midsize luxury market. They also, rightly, point out how this is also the “third-highest volume segment in China.”

Hmmm? Export plans much?


It looks like a cross between a bank vault and a cheese grater.
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2020 Lincoln Aviator. Photo: Lincoln Motor Company.

Power & Performance: A Healthy Dose

You’d expect the Aviator to be powered by a big ‘Murican V8, but no, the powertrain choices are actually rather sensible and efficient. The standard engine is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, hooked up to a 10-speed SelectShift automatic. As such you get a notable 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft. of torque. Impressive for only three-liters. The optional powertrain is that same twin-turbocharged engine connected to a hybrid drive system. Lincoln says it gets you 450 horsepower and a colossal 600 lb-ft. of torque. Yes please!

There’s no word on MPG figures for either engine, but with 600 lb-ft. of torque, I’m willing to wait, then completely forget.

The drivetrain is controlled via this scheme referred to as “Lincoln Drive Modes.” There are five “signature” settings: Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery, and Deep Conditions; then for 2020, two new modes: Pure EV and Preserve EV. As the names imply, these two new modes allow drivers to choose how and when to best use their electric energy from the hybrid system.

Related: Big and loaded with luxury: our full review of the 2018 Lincoln Navigator.

The 2020 Lincoln Aviator can recognize road signs with the standard Co-Pilot360 Plus system. Photo: Lincoln Motor Company.

Convenience & Safety: Digital Keys & Driver Assist Systems

Naturally, the tech doesn’t stop there. The suspension system automatically lowers the vehicle to “greet” the driver and turns on the signature welcome lighting. Lincoln’s “Phone As A Key” means you can lock and unlock, open the liftgate, adjust seat, mirror and steering positions, and, ta-DAH, start and drive the vehicle without a traditional key. And, if you’re gullible enough to loan out your Aviator, the technology allows up to four “keys” for each vehicle.

The 2020 Lincoln Aviator has a gizmo that lets it “see” potholes or uneven pavement, adjusting the suspension as it does. Lincoln calls it Adaptive Suspension with Road Preview.

The Co-Pilot360 feature includes multiple assist systems as standard equipment. Traffic Jam Assist, for example, contains adaptive cruise control for stop-and-go traffic, lane centering, and traffic sign recognition. Evasive Steer Assist helps avoid collisions with a slower or stopped vehicle; Reverse Brake Assist will stop the Aviator from backing into something, and Active Park Assist Plus guides you into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces.

Photo: Lincoln Motor Company.

Comfort & Connectivity: Luxury Car Levels of Both

Other comfort and convenience features abound inside the 2020 Lincoln Aviator. The Revel Ultima 3D Audio System contains 28 speakers, while the steering wheel recognizes subtle thumb movements for accessing numerous functions and commands. The seats offer 30-way adjustability, massage, and additional lumbar support for drivers and passengers. The second-row seats recline, adjust fore and aft, and slide forward for access to the third row.

Other such features include wireless phone charging in the center armrest, a handy media bin, multiple power outlets throughout, and a standard Wi-Fi hotspot.

Pricing & Availability

In many ways, you can think of the 2020 Lincoln Aviator as your home away from the retirement home; the perfect vehicle to get you from your gated community in Scottsdale or Boca Raton, down to the golf and racket club. And back in butter smooth comfort, quietly and safely.

Expect the new Aviator next summer with pricing information due closer to that time.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Gallery

Photos & Source: Lincoln Motor Company.



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Sunday, December 9, 2018

2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO: Affalterbach’s Hurricane

  • The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO emerges as the latest in the AMG GT line. 
  • The two-door AMG GT Coupes and Roadsters come with a unique driving control system.
  • Mercedes-AMG says everything about the new GT R PRO was modified for track performance. 

I’m starting to think Mercedes is just messing with us now, especially when it comes to anything with the AMG badge glued to it. The German’s engineering prowess and cultural depth of knowledge is so profound, it’s like trying to argue with Wotan. “Oh, is that what you think,” comes the stentorian voice, booming from the clouds, “Then behold mortal! Witness the AMG GT!”

And now, witness the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO.

Delivering The Goods

Yes, Mercedes-Benz is kind of stodgy and conservative in a engineering sense. They lack the design finesse and penchant for experimentality of Ferrari; have nowhere near the impudent glee of Porsche, or the British refinement and reserve of Aston Martin, but Land O’Goshen can they deliver the goods. The goods, in this case, being grip and braking and power; lots and lots and lots of power.

Driving anything hot off the line from AMG means you know what G├╝nther Rall must have felt rolling in on a stream of B-17s over Frankfurt.

Expanding The Family

In an odd way, Mercedes-Benz seems intent on making the GT a sub-brand within the AMG sub-brand itself, sort of a sub-sub-brand. There are, in point of fact, three Mercedes AMG GTs: The Mercedes-AMG GT, the Mercedes-AMG GTC (which is a four door “coupe”), and the Mercedes-AMG GT R/Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO. The latter are twin track terrors with the luxo stuff taken out and speed stuff added.

The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO was even inspired by the AMG GT3 and AMG GT4 race cars.

“No other current production Mercedes- AMG is as close to motor racing as the new AMG GT R PRO,” said Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Management Board of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “A lot of experience from our current GT3 and GT4 motorsport activities entered into its development.”

Where we are at in 2020 with these GTs is a place of refinement, of constant honing of this, sharpening of that, trimming of this bit einfach so, of that bit nur ein bisschen mehr.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO Photo: MBUSA.

Dynamic Controls: A Testament To Refinement

A good example is the AMG Dynamics portion of the AMG Dynamic Select drivetrain/chassis control system. Along with the standard modes (Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, Race, and Individual), AMG Dynamics also broadens the functions of the electronic stability control.

AMG Dynamics has four modes: Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master. No laughing mortal! Displease Wotan and suffer the consequences! Basic works with the Slippery and Comfort drive programs for stable handling and higher yaw damping. Advanced is coupled with the Sport program for more neutral balance and lower yaw damping. With a reduction in the “steering angle requirements,” the Advanced mode is perfect for winding country roads.

Pro is part of the Sport+ program and provides even more assistance than the Advanced mode does for those spirited driving sessions.

Master, which is only available for GT C and GT R, connects to the Race drive program. Master mode is aimed at those of us driving around on race tracks. This gives the GT an extreme neutral balance and an even lower steering angle. Master ensures the utmost agility and fully exploits the GT’s dynamic potential.

Photo: MBUSA.

Suspension Tech: All About Wear Resistance

Of course the coil-over suspension got tweaked. Drivers can set the spring preload length mechanically, but the compression and rebound of the shocks is variable. This is done without tools via a click system with an integrated adjustment dial on the damper. You can even set the compression rate separately for high-speed or low-speed driving. The front axle now has a carbon fiber torsion bar while the rear is made of steel. Both are adjustable, natch.

The lower wishbones of the rear axle have Uniball spherical rod-end bearings. They are considerably more wear-resistant than conventional bearings and their design has no play, so toe-in and camber do not change even under high loads. Nasty!

“The agile responses to all driver commands and the overall performance now deliver even more of that incomparable feeling that our racing drivers experience on the track,” Moers said.

The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO has a top speed of 198 mph. Photo: MBUSA.

Carbon Fiber & Aerodynamic Treatments

There’s a carbon fiber shear panel in the underbody to help cut weight and increase overall precision. AMG even retuned the electronically-controlled engine and transmission mounts, a move they say increases agility and response. Along with the carbon-fiber components, the standard ceramic composite braking system also cuts weight.

Aerodynamics are enhanced with a re-designed front apron and two flics at the sides, clear-coated carbon fiber, of course. Air slots in the front fenders are for more than looks, venting the wheel arches and lowering front-axle lift.

Out back, there’s a clear-coated carbon-fiber aero bit at the wheel arch. The rear spoiler now has a lip for increased downforce as well.

Photo: MBUSA.

Power & Performance: The Numbers Speak!

And there’s even more, all of which Mercedes-AMG goes into great detail on, but the only details that really matter are these: zero to 60 in the mid-3s and top speeds nudging the double ton. The next greatest detail is this: 7.04.632 minutes around the N├╝rburgring. AMG brand ambassador and AMG GT3 racing driver Maro Engel recorded the time.

The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO puts out 577 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. of torque!

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO Gallery

Photos & Source: MBUSA.



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Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Nissan LEAF NISMO RC: Mama Mia!

  • All-wheel drive, zero-emission racer features Nissan’s latest electric vehicle technology.
  • Nissan plans to build six LEAF NISMO RC vehicles to deploy around the world for fans to see.

Now that’s what I’m talkin about! Being kind to Mother Earth is all well and good, but you want to sell electric vehicles? Make them fun! The best way to make a car fun is to go out and race it, and this, the LEAF NISMO RC from Nissan, looks as much fun as a big electric go kart.

Sign. Us. Up!

First Of Its Kind – Kinda

The new electric racer from Nissan has more than double the max power and torque than its predecessor had. Wait, there was a predecessor? How come I didn’t know about this? How come we didn’t get one in at One Automoblog Towers for testing? Ha, alas, but this new one? Mama mia!

Power & Performance: Two Is Better Than One

The Nissan LEAF NISMO RC is powered by two electric motors, one at each end of the chassis. Combined, the motors produce 240 kilowatts and send an astounding 472 lb-ft. of torque to the wheels. And yes, since this is an EV, all that torque starts at zero RPM. Curiously, the drivetrain tech comes from the new Nissan Leaf, including the high-capacity lithium-ion battery and the power inverters.

The all-wheel drive system gives the LEAF NISMO RC the cornering ability to match all that torque. The power is managed independently to each axle, providing torque to whichever tire has the most grip. The battery pack sits amidships, and the electric motors and inverters are ideally placed over the front and rear tires.

This is a race car, so of course, Nissan has lightened things wherever they could. A full carbon-fiber racing monocoque structure means it tips the scales at just 2,700 lbs. Impressive, given how heavy batteries can be. This breaks down to a zero to 60 time of just 3.4 seconds. Think of how much guilt-free fun that could be!

The Nissan LEAF NISMO RC on display during its unveiling in November in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Styling & Design: Looking The Part

Since this is not just a race car, but a Japanese race car, the whole thing looks like something Brian O’Conner would drive to a Neon Evangelion cosplay convention in the Ginza. Nissan talks about the “more aggressive exterior,” and I ain’t gonna argue. The hood is long, the grille is that ugly signature V-motion deal, and the front end has been totally restyled. It’s all silver and black with NISMO red accents, aping the look of the company’s Formula E car.

The front and rear sections of the three-piece bodywork are removable but the windows are fixed in place. LED headlights and tail lights adorn both ends and there’s an adjustable rear wing. The whole thing is as ugly, and no doubt as effective as a Sten Gun.

Careful where you point it.

Photo: Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

In Person

Nissan will be showing off the LEAF NISMO RC at Formula E races and major auto shows. A smart marketing move considering the growing popularity of Formula E. Nissan plans to build six LEAF NISMO RC vehicles to deploy around the world for fans to see.

All this sounds good, but what’s really missing here Nissan is a street version of the LEAF NISMO RC. Yes, yes, I know. Marketing plans, blah-blah-blah, corporate image, yadda-yadda-yadda – I don’t care: Sell me one. With license plates. Please?

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.

Photos & Source: Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.



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Seven Female Drivers Set For Formula E Test In Saudi Arabia

  • The 2018 Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix takes place on December 15th. 
  • The additional test session was encouraged by the local promoter. 
  • Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on women drivers last June.

Formula E is interesting. It’s a good way to advance electric vehicle tech and it keeps us entertained with lots of racing action. Sure, it’s still working out some of the technical kinks, but racing series are always in that position. And now, Formula E has gone and done something very interesting by having seven female racers competing in an open test session in one of the most unlikely of venues: Saudi Arabia.

According to Reuters, at least seven female drivers will take part in the Formula E test on December 16th, the day after the season-opening race on the streets of Ad Diriyah, near Riyadh.

A Different Culture

Saudi Arabia is about as progressive concerning women’s equality as rural Portugal in 1409. We would have said screw these guys ages ago if they weren’t sitting on top of an ocean of our oil, but they are. So we generally turn a blind eye to these fundamentalist creeps literally flogging you, by law, for spending time with the opposite sex, being gay, bringing liqueur chocolates into the country, and driving if you’re a woman.

Wait, scratch that last one. As of a little while ago, women can finally get a driver’s license in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Still, here we are; in a country dependent on the internal combustion engine for its wealth and power that looks at 51 percent of its population as little more than sentient property, now having an electric vehicle race with a whole bunch of women drivers.

The Real Deal

And no, in case you’re feeling contrarian, this is not just some kind of a stunt. And no, these are not some also-ran paid hacks sitting in the cockpit. So in there with the likes of Gary Paffett and Sebastien Buemi and Felipe Massa we see names like, oh, Dutch racer Beitske Visser, IndyCar racer and Formula Atlantic triple winner Katherine Legge and another Indy racer, Simona de Silvestro.

The women confirmed for the Saudi Arabia test include Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an official test driver for the Sauber Formula One team. She will be running for the DS Techeetah team. Visser will be with BMWi Andretti Motorsport, wtih Legge and Jamie Chadwick testing for the Mahindra and NIO teams respectively. Swiss racer de Silvestro will test for Venturi and Spaniard Carmen Jorda for the Nissan e.dams team.

I was in Long Beach when Legge won in Atlantics there. It was her first race ever in the series, and she won right out of the gate. I just happened to be in the paddock with her boss, garrulous Australian Kevin Kalkhoven, when she crossed the line. I thought the guy was going to die from the sheer joy of it all. It’s also worth noting that Legge handles adversity with a disarming level of cool.

Katherine Legge.

Legge Walks Away

In 2006, the rear wing failed on her car going through the kink at Road America at an ungodly velocity. She slammed into the wall and reduced the car down to the bare tub in a fraction of a second, tumbling end over end. She came to rest upside down. When the safety crew righted the tub, she popped out, took off her helmet, shook out her hair, waved to the crowed, and beamed her huge smile.

Then my phone rang.

“Did you see that?”

It was my dad. “Did you see that,” he repeated.

“You watching the IndyCar race,” I asked, rhetorically.

“Yeah, but did you see that?”

“You mean Katherine Legge’s accident just now?”

“Yeah, that! My god, I’ve never seen anything like that! And that was a gal driving – a gal!” [My dad was a touch on the chauvinistic side.] “I thought he-er she was dead! I mean dead. I’ve never seen anything like that! And it was a gal!”

2018 Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix track map.

Fast & Furious

Speaking of fast, Simona de Silvestro. When she first raced Indy cars, she seemed to have two modes: Running up front or (literally) on fire. She’s fast, but used to have a tendency toward recklessness of the flaming variety. Seriously, the first three accidents I saw her in ended up with the car on fire. She’d just shrug and walk away, more pissed than anything.

Curiously, there’s also “locals” like Amna Al Qubaisi (from the UAE) running in this Saudi test session on the streets of Ad Diriyah (all FormE races are on street circuits). She was the first Arab woman to qualify for the Formula 4 Championship. “How did you get started in racing?” would be my first question to Mz. Amna Al Qubaisi.

Talk about playing on a tilted field.

New Times Ahead?

This racing business is stacked against women to a sickening extent, even though that is slowly changing. Chauvinistic doesn’t begin to describe it – shoot, women weren’t even allowed to set foot into Gasoline Alley at Indy until 1971! I, for one, am ready to see more women get involved in this sport at all levels. And if it gets a bunch of easily threated whiny little boys all upset, then too bad.

And if it has to start in places as unenlightened as Saudi Arabia, then I’m fine with that too.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.



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Thursday, December 6, 2018

2020 Hyundai Palisade: If The B-52 Were An SUV

  • The 2020 Hyundai Palisade makes its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. 
  • With seating for eight, it will likely be a top choice for larger and/or growing families. 
  • But it ain’t super pretty to look at. Yes, it has a lot of on-board technology. But that front end!

Okay, SUVs are The Thing, I get that. Everybody has to make SUVs, I get that too. And everybody has to make a range of SUVs, up to and including big giant ones. I get that also. However, those are reasons, not an excuse. But this, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade?

There’s no excuse for this.

Sure, it’s as functional as a hammer, but boy, this thing is ugly.

Left Swipe

In the Air Force, people refer to the B-52 as the BUFF, Big Ugly Fat Fellow (change that “Fellow” out for another word that begins with “F” and isn’t polite to say on a family website such as Automoblog). And that, sadly, describes most of the 2020 Hyundai Palisade. Sure, it’s not ugly from every angle, but it is Big and Fat from every angle.

And that front end? Egads! It’s like someone from Lexus said, “Beat that!” and the design team from Hyundai said, “Hold My Beer.” I swear to Mireuk, the Palisade’s front end would look better after you ran it into a bridge abutment. I will say I really like the name Palisade though. It’s kinda classy and reminds me of that Freddy Cannon song written by Gong Show creator and alleged CIA hit man, Chuck Barris.

That’s the bad news, overall, but what’s the good news? First off, you know this thing is going to work. Hyundai calls it a mid-sized SUV, but taping in at over 16 feet, I’ll defer to my own eyes in this case. It looks immense and bulky and ungainly, which mean there’s lots of room inside.

Related: The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is functional and much better looking.

2020 Hyundai Palisade front end. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Interior Treatments: Convenience & Accessibility

The interior aims to combine a sense of “relaxation and comfort” in a “serene environment” for eight (count em) eight passengers. Premium quilted Nappa leather is on offer and the instrument panel is layered in smooth wood grain. The second row seats move forward and out of the way via a button for access to the third row. The third row itself has power-folding/unfolding and reclining seats.

Second-row captain’s chairs are also available for the 2020 Hyundai Palisade, if you want to go that way.

There’s a conversation mirror for the driver to clearly see passengers in the rear. This is a nice way of saying, you can keep the little nippers occupied and monitored using standard equipment.

Interior Treatments: Tech-Focused

There’s a Blind View Monitor as part of the standard Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist system. It gives you a nice side view whenever you hit the turn signal. The multimedia stuff is, as one would expect, comprehensive. There’s a 10.25-inch touchscreen and a 12.3-inch fully-digital TFT center cluster with various view modes.

Hyundai put in their latest navigation system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a Qi wireless charging pad. Two Bluetooth devices can be connected simultaneously while every Palisade has a total of seven USB outlets. And, of utmost importance: 16 cup holders!


It reminds me of that Freddy Cannon song written by Gong Show creator and alleged CIA hit man, Chuck Barris.
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Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Power & Performance: Snow Mode Included

All this heft is powered by a not-small and not-all-that-bad of an engine. An Atkinson-cycle 3.8-liter V6 (dual CVVT/ direct-injection) putting out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft. of torque. The power is delivered to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic with both two-wheel and HTRAC four-wheel drive options.

Gear selection is a shift-by-wire affair, meaning it automatically puts the vehicle into park when the engine is off and the driver opens the door.

The HTRAC system also has a Snow Mode, with an electronic, variable-torque-split clutch and active torque control between the front and rear. In other words, Snow Mode regulates front and rear torque distribution, left and right wheel slip, engine torque, and shift patterns according to available traction levels.

Normal, Sport, and Smart modes are in addition to Snow Mode.

Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Pricing & Availability

Pricing was not announced, but that should be coming down the pike pretty soon. The 2020 Hyundai Palisade could be a good, solid, if ugly choice for your (family) hauling needs. Expect it at dealers next summer.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.

2020 Hyundai Palisade Gallery

Photos & Source: Hyundai Motor America.



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