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Honda CR-V Nabs SUV of the Year Honor

Motor Trend picks small SUV over Macan, X4 and others.

by on Oct.15, 2014

Honda's CR-V captured its second award of the year: Motor Trend's SUV of the Year. It was also named Compact Crossover of the Year by Texas autowriters.

As the leaves on the trees change color it means the new season is upon us: automotive vehicle award season, that is, and Motor Trend kicked it off by declaring the 2015 Honda CR-V is SUV of the Year.

The choice is somewhat surprising given the competition included: the Porsche Macan, Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, Lincoln MKC, Nissan Rogue, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Volvo XC60 Subaru Outback and BMW X4 and X5.

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“Some years, a vehicle wins our calipers almost unanimously,” wrote Frank Markus, Motor Trend’s technical editor, in the story about the winning CR-V. “This year our jury entered the final discussion split almost down the middle.” (more…)

Mercedes Hopes GLA Will Tap into Booming Compact Crossover Market

German maker with find plenty of competition in segment.

by on Sep.29, 2014

Mercedes expects the new GLA to duplicate the success of its CLA sedan, which is a hot seller.

Barely a year after launching its new CLA coupe-like sedan, Mercedes-Benz has sold more than 30,000 to U.S. buyers and, the maker claims, probably would be doing twice that volume if it could get more from its new factory in Hungary.

No wonder the maker’s senior executives are positively jumping for joy as the even newer Mercedes-Benz GLA heads for U.S. showrooms. “The segment is potentially three times as large,” suggested communications chief Rob Moran, during a media drive of the new crossover-utility vehicle in Vermont.

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Crossovers are already beginning to outsell conventional sedans in the U.S. market, and most analysts anticipate the same thing is about to happen in the compact luxury segment. That’s spurring a flood of new offerings, the GLA just one of the latest to join such alternatives as the BMW X1. (more…)

First Drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA

Compact crossover among best in crowded segment.

by on Sep.29, 2014

The new GLA is the fifth - and smallest - crossover/ute in the Mercedes family.

What a difference one little letter can make. In many ways, the new Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA models are a lot alike, starting out with the German maker’s basic small car platform. But there are also a surprising number of ways the two models diverge.

The CLA is the compact, coupe-like sedan that Mercedes launched last year, quickly becoming one of the maker’s most successful products ever, demand so far well exceeding supply. The new Mercedes-Benz GLA adopts a more hatchback-style crossover body style that targets an even larger segment of the luxury market.

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But the differences are even more substantial, as we learned during several days of driving the new GLA through northern Vermont just as the leaves began to turn their autumn colors. The year-long delay in bringing the crossover to market appears to have given Mercedes engineers the time they needed to address earlier complaints about the coupe-like CLA’s ride and handling. (more…)

Buttons, Dials and Paddles – This Isn’t Your Father’s Old Transmission

New tech improves performance, mileage, user operation.

by on Aug.11, 2014

The new Lincoln MKC opts for a pushbutton transmission rather than a conventional shift lever.

Button, button, who’s got the button?

Slip inside Lincoln’s new MKC and you may be in for a surprise when you fire it up and reach to put the 2015 crossover into gear. That’s because the traditional shift lever is gone, replaced by a set of buttons on the instrument panel.

The new Chrysler 200 sedan, as well as the maker’s big Ram 1500 pickup, adopts a rotary dial to shift gears. Jaguar uses a similar system on its XF sedan, though here the knob rises out of the center console when the driver presses the start button while an indicator light pulses like a heartbeat.

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A growing number of new models, from the new Mini Hardtop to the Porsche Panamera Turbo, have adopted paddle shifters akin to what you’ll find in a Formula One race car, meanwhile. Mercedes-Benz and BMW, meanwhile, have downsized the steering wheel-mounted shift levers, while Maserati and Alfa Romeo’s center console shifters are little bigger than the joysticks you’ll find on videogame controllers.

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First Drive: 2015 Lincoln MKC

A new look and feel from an old brand.

by on Jun.11, 2014

The 2015 Lincoln MKC is more than just a new compact crossover, it shows that Lincoln actually can challenge key competitors like Acura and Audi.

There was a time when change in the luxury market came at an almost glacial pace. No longer. Old models are being refreshed at an ever-quicker pace, while all-new products are coming to market so quickly it’s difficult to keep up – and they’re filling “white spaces” you might never have even considered before..

Consider Mercedes-Benz, which recently revealed plans to roll out 30 new or completely updated products by decade’s end, about one per quarter. BMW and Audi aren’t far behind. Now, compare that to Lincoln which has promised to add just four products to its line-up between the end of 2012 and 2016 – five, if you count the minimal revisions coming to the big Navigator SUV.

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No wonder many observers – and upscale buyers – have written off Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brand. Once rivaling Cadillac for dominance, it is today given barely an afterthought. But Lincoln fans shouldn’t abandon all hope, not just yet. After spending a day logging several hundred miles behind the wheel of the new 2015 Lincoln MKC we have to pause and reconsider. If this compact crossover is any indication, there just might be some life left in this long-struggling Detroit brand.

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High Hopes and Global Ambitions for New Lincoln MKC

New crossover could soon become brand's best-seller.

by on Jun.06, 2014

The 2015 Lincoln MKC is one of the lowest-priced models in its rapidly expanding segment.

No, the “C” doesn’t stand for “China,” but it might as well.

Lincoln has a lot riding on the upcoming launch of its new MKC crossover, the latest in a series of all-new models intended to help revive the long-struggling luxury brand. With sales of compact CUVs booming, in fact, the new MKC could soon become Lincoln’s top seller, company officials noted during a media drive in Santa Barbara, California.

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But preliminary orders for the compact crossover are already exceeding initial expectations in China, a market that could be the make-it-or-break-it for Lincoln’s long-term turnaround.

“The (compact CUV) segment remains on fire here, as well as globally,” said Matt Vandyke, the director of Lincoln’s worldwide expansion plans.

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Ford Projects Earnings Decline in 2014

Tough comparison after an extremely good 2013.

by on Dec.19, 2013

While the new Mustang could help Ford in the long-term, its launch next year will be costly.

Ford Motor Co. is warning its profits will likely fall next year even as it moves forward with ambitious plans to grow its business in the U.S., South America and Asia.

Ford’s shares fell 6.3% to $15.65 at the closing for the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday after the company’s chief financial officer presented the new guidance for 2014 during a meeting in New York. It marked the steepest one-day decline of Ford shares in more than two years. The value of Ford common shares had increased by 21% this year – though that trailed the 27% gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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Ford estimated in the disclosure statement it will earn $7 billion to $8 billion in 2014 after an estimated $8.5 billion pretax profit for 2013. Ford executives said  last week the company will  introduce 23 new vehicles globally in 2014, more than double this year’s total, adding costs for equipment and marketing.

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Lincoln Hopes to Undercut Competition with $34,000 MKC

Ford luxury brand makes foray into fast-growing compact CUV segment.

by on Dec.17, 2013

The 2015 Lincoln MKC is expected to become the lowest-priced model in its rapidly expanding segment.

Lincoln hopes to undercut its competition in the increasingly crowded compact luxury crossover segment – but whether a price tag starting below $34,000 will help it gain traction against offerings from makers like BMW, Acura and Audi remains to be seen.

The Lincoln MKC is the second of four all-new models the Ford Motor Co. luxury brand has announced – with still more products under development – as part of its attempted revival. It follows the debut of the MKZ luxury sedan. But the 2015 MKC provides a significant opportunity for Lincoln to position itself in what many industry observers expect to become one of the market’s fastest-growing segments over the rest of the decade.

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“As the newest entrant in small premium utility, which is the fastest-growing luxury segment, we have to offer our clients a fresh and compelling proposition,” said Matt VanDyke, director of Global Lincoln. “The Lincoln MKC offers the lowest base entry price in the segment as well as a host of first-to-segment features.”

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Compact Crossovers Commanding Big Car Prices

Pushing $110,000 with the new Porsche Macan.

by on Nov.25, 2013

Porsche reveals the new Macan at the LA Auto Show.

American motorists have long lived by the mantra, “bigger is better.” And that’s been fine for automakers, as well, as they’ve traditionally tied prices – and profit margins – to the size of the vehicles they’ve sold.

But with the steady run-up in fuel prices, Americans are downsizing at a pace not seen since the twin oil shocks of the 1970s.  Indeed, compact crossovers have become the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. market – echoing trends in other key markets around the world.  And while you can still get a reasonably good bargain on some of these smaller, mainstream CUVs, the industry has been fracturing the traditional equation that measures price by the pound and inch.

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That’s especially true in the luxury end of the spectrum where manufacturers are charging into the compact crossover segment.  Just last week, Lincoln and Porsche entered the fray at the L.A. Auto Show.

Porsche has had a history of challenging conventional wisdom.  It proved naysayers wrong when it launched its first crossover-utility vehicle for the 2004 model-year, then did it again with the four-door Panamera – today, the brand’s best-selling models.  Now, it’s hoping to score again with what’s been called the “baby Cayenne,” the compact Macan.

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Lincoln Unveiling MKC Crossover in NYC

Maker gets a jump on auto show season.

by on Nov.13, 2013

Lincoln enters one of the market's fastest-growing segments with the 2015 MKC compact crossover.

Two of the year’s most important auto shows are coming up next week in Los Angeles and Tokyo – but Lincoln is getting a jump on them both with a special preview of its own in New York City later today.

There’s good reason for it to be anxious.  Ford Motor Co. is struggling to rebuild its luxury division and doesn’t want to get lost in the auto show shuffle – especially when it comes to debuting the new 2015 Lincoln MKC which will be entering one of the high-line market’s fastest-growing product segments.

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Annual sales of compact luxury crossovers have grown by 200% since 2009, according to industry figures – demand rising 25% so far this year.

The production version of the MKC may strike a note of déjà vu for showgoers who got a first look at a concept version that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show last January. The production model will be toned down a bit, particularly when it comes to the over-the-top interior of the earlier show car, but it is nonetheless an aggressive design meant to press forward with the new Lincoln look first brought to market for 2013 in the form of the redesigned MKZ sedan.

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