By Kevin Gordon
In today’s automotive landscape midsize SUVs/crossovers have become commonplace. Almost every manufacturer makes one or more, and their variety in size, power, amenities, and capabilities is only matched by the variety of personalities owning the vehicles. You can have yours bare-bones with cloth interiors and simple drive trains, or, fully-loaded with leather, voice activated navigation, power operated lift gates, and full time all-wheel drive. Lincoln defines the 2009 MKX as falling into the luxury crossover segment, meaning it slots into the latter of that equation. Over the past week I had the opportunity to spend a week with this luxury crossover and I was sad to see my time with it end.
The Lincoln MKX shares the same platform as the Ford Edge and Mazda CX-9 and is based off of the underpinnings of the Ford Fusion/Mazda 6. The MKX was introduced in 2007 as a replacement to the Explorer based Aviator. The car-based architecture changed the ride characteristics from a frame and ladder truck-type ride to a much more sedan-like experience. This change has paid dividends as the MKX rides very nicely. There is some weight (4600+ lbs) to the ride, but it is well controlled. This tester was fitted with beautiful 20” chrome wheels (18” are standard) and I was surprised by how well the large wheels with lower profile tires smoothed rough roads and expansion joints in concrete. It made me wonder if the MKX with the 18s would have too much float and roll. Potholes were met with a well-muted thud with limited shudder through the structure of the SUV. Handling, while not sports car crisp, was confident with moderate body roll, some dive while braking and limited squat under hard acceleration.
By Chris Haak
This week, BMW is displaying its X5 M and X6 M hot-rod sport-utility vehicles at the 2009 New York International Auto Show; while this is the first time that M-spec SUVs have come from BMW’s M division’s hallowed halls, the pair are certainly not the first high-performance SUVs on the market. The M duo – with their 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8s that produce a healthy 555 horsepower and 501 lb-ft of torque (and a torque peak that occurrs between 1,500 and 5,650 RPMs) – will surely be excellent performers in a straight line, and quite possibly in the curves as well, with huge brakes, upgraded suspension, and meaty tires. But really, what’s the point of these things?
BMW’s M(otorsports) division isn’t known for fuel-thirsty all-wheel-drive, wagon-shaped, 2 1/2 ton SUVs. At least it hadn’t been until this week. I’ve never owned an M, much less a BMW, but I’ve always admired M from a distance as a team of dedicated performance enthusiasts that (to borrow from Spinal Tap) turn the performance dial to 11 through revised suspension, increased power, decreased weight, better brakes, and styling enhancements that announce to the world that you have the ultimate performance version of the Ultimate Driving Machine. Prior to these two recent additions to the family, there were three other current M models: the M3, M5, and M6. All three are rear wheel drive cars that are at home on a track, on a winding road, or taking clients to dinner. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine an X5 or X6, in spite of the upgraded hardware, impressing many people on a track or winding road without the added qualifier of, “for a 2 1/2 ton truck.” (You know, as in, “it handles really well for a 2 1/2 ton truck,” or “Zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds is really impressive for a 2 1/2 ton truck.“)
Some interesting news came out of Saab’s court proceedings in Vanersborg, Sweden this morning.
First, the Swedish court gave Saab an extension for restructuring until May 20, since no creditors of Saab had entered reservations against Saab’s restructuring plan. Saab plans to write off 75% of its non-prioritized debt, and if any of the approximately 1300 creditors that showed up for today’s hearing had objected, Saab would have been pushed into bankruptcy very quickly.
Second, a court-appointed trustee told the court that around 20 companies are interested in bidding for Saab at this point. The chatter in the industry is that at least two of the larger Chinese automakers are interested, as well as several Swedish industrial concerns, and, of course, several other unidentified companies.
All of this activity was initiated by a staggering GM recently stating that they would cut Saab loose by January 1, 2010. This, after 20 years of partnering/ownership – a period which many fans of the Swedish marque feel was disastrous for Saab.
Third, Saab is taking steps now to make their break-even point only 130,000 vehicles produced annually and then subsequently sold worldwide. Saab feels it can be quite profitable at 150,000 units, forecast to happen in 2011.
Saab reckons they need around one billion dollars (USD) of capital financing to stay afloat while they’re losing money and developing new models. They believe they can get $400 million from its former parent, GM, also its biggest creditor, in the form of debt write-offs and production assets it will give to Saab at no cost. The balance of $600 million will come from the European Investment Bank.
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By Chris Haak
Find Techshake on Twitter
Since April 1, we’ve quietly been tweeting away with 140-or-less-character posts and updates on Twitter. You can find us at . Now that I’m getting more up to speed with the whole thing and getting used to writing 160 characters rather than (generally) 600+ words, I invite you to follow along as I form up-to-the-minute random thoughts and opinions about cars and the car business.
If you’re not familiar with Twitter, it’s a way to share your thoughts or what you’re doing quickly in very short posts. It’s an interesting challenge for someone as verbose as me. If you don’t feel like clicking the link above, two recent items on as of right now are “Just looked at high-res photos of the GMC Terrain vs. the Chevy Equinox. Definitely not a rebadge, but I’m not sure about Terrain’s looks,” and “Wow, the front air intakes are seriously obnoxious in the new BMW X5 M. I bet the thing goes like stink, though!” It’s sometimes a fairly large time commitment to research, write, and edit a full editorial or news item for Techshake, so we might be able to tweet our way to more news coverage. I’m not going to pretend that we’re re-inventing microblogging or anything like that, but I see it as a new, fun way to interact with readers.
By Kevin Miller
In preparation for the production version of the new S60 Concept which debuted in Detroit in January, Volvo ended production this week of the first-generation S60 at their assembly plant in Ghent, Belgium. It was about time. The outgoing S60 hit the market nine long years ago in 2000, and since then the factory in Ghent has produced 578,292 of the mid-sized sedans, with just evolutionary upgrades in the nine-year model run.
The final S60 to roll off of the production line was a Sapphire Black five-cylinder destined for a customer in Taiwan, which was finished at 4.15am on Tuesday morning March 31. The factory in Ghent produces other Volvo models including XC60, S40, V50, and C30.
By Chris Haak
March 2009’s US sales results were pretty much as bad as they have been for the past several months. Overall, industry sales were down by 36.8% in March 2009 relative to March 2008, but as bad as that is, it’s still better than results were in February 2009 (when industry-wide sales were down 41.3%). This might mean that the economy is improving ever so slightly, or it might be a dead cat bounce or just an anomaly in an unfortunate trend. It’s never a good thing when you read these manufacturers’ news releases and they’re comparing March results to February’s results rather than to the previous March’s, and stressing retail market share gains and not overall results. Not only was February 2009 an historically bad month, but February is always slower than March. But hey, I guess you latch onto whatever good news you can find when most of the news out there is bad.
As with other recent months, the pain has not been limited to GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Although among the six largest manufacturers, GM and Ford had the largest drops, nearly all brands saw their sales fall dramatically. GM was down 44.7% and Ford was down 42.1%. GM’s carnage was widespread as expected, with dead-on-arrival Hummer down 75.9%, Cadillac down 53.0%, Saab down 57.3%, Saturn down 59.6%, and GMC down 50.3%. The now-core brands of Buick and Chevrolet were “only” down 40.2% and 42.5%, respectively, while Pontiac led GM with a decline of 30.8%. A few models of note: Pontiac sold just 141 units of the G3 (a lousy re-badged Aveo); is a handful of units worth further damaging the already-damaged Pontiac brand? The Chevrolet Silverado was down 44.8%, but the Avalanche was down 74.4%. GM lost market share in the full-size pickup race with the oldest (yet still fairly current) trucks on the market, except for the Nissan Titan. GM’s full-size SUVs managed to hold up their sales better than Ford’s or Chrysler’s did.
By Brendan Moore
This dropped into my email box yesterday – thought I would share it with you.
Hyundai is unveiling their NuVis Concept next week at the New York Auto Show, and has sent out a very dark, stylized teaser photo of same.
According to Hyundai, “The world will peer into Hyundai’s future when the Nuvis concept makes its world debut at the 2009 New York Auto Show. The Nuvis is the eleventh signature concept car to be designed at the company’s California Design Center in Irvine, Calif. In addition to showcasing the brand’s cutting-edge capabilities, Nuvis also hints at a possible design direction for a future-generation crossover, blending attributes of a tall urban car and a premium utility vehicle.”
Well, we’ll see what it looks like in the metal next week at the show.
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By Andy Bannister
That’s the slightly jokey-sounding claim being made for the Trident Iceni, a new 175mph British sports car said to be close to production.
There’s a long tradition of low-volume Brit sports and luxury cars powered by big American V8s – AC, Bristol, Jensen and so on.
This is the first time, however, a diesel unit has been used. It’s the 6.6-litre Isuzu-developed unit which powers the likes of the lumbering Chevrolet and GMC heavy-duty pickup trucks.