Archive for December, 2008

In Dave’s Garage: 2009 Lincoln MKS

With Ford no longer owning Jaguar, Range Rover, or Aston Martin, its only luxury brands to concentrate on are Volvo and Lincoln. They still make Lincolns? That’s what I thought, until I had the opportunity to get a few minutes with the 2009 MKS at Ford’s upcoming model event back in August.  I was impressed enough with the car there that I decided to get one into the garage for a full fledged review.

2009 Lincoln MKS

Ford sent over an essentially fully loaded all wheel drive model that had a sticker price around $47,000.  For reference, the AWD model starts at $39,590.  Optional equipment which was about $6,700 sticker price included the following:

  • Technology package
  • Navigation Package
  • 19″ wheels
  • Rain sensitive windshield wipers
  • Dual panel moonroof
  • Adaptive headlamps with auto high beam
  • Forward sensing system
  • Voice activated nav system
  • Intelligent access key with push button start
  • Rear view camera
  • THX-II certified audio system with 5.1 surround sound
  • Ultimate leather seating
  • Adaptive cruise control

The 09 version of the MKS is built on the same platform as the Taurus/Sable/Taurus X and Flex, so you can kind of call it a pimped out Taurus.  Under the hood you’ll find a 3.7-liter V6 that provides a decent 270hp and 256 ft-lbs of torque.  The MKS is a bit of a fatty, weighing in at 4,127lbs, so it wouldn’t hurt to have slightly more power.  With the bigger V6 making all that weight move, I was averaging about 19mpg…one of my only bigger complaints about the car.  Then again, gas prices are down, and if you’re spending almost $50,000 on a luxury vehicle, how much do you care about spending a little more money on gas.  The MKS does allow you to use a lower-grade gas in the car if you don’t mind it not performing optimally.

One big thing to keep in mind is that Lincoln is working on an EcoBoost version of the MKS which will supposedly feature a twin-turbo V6 with some of the hp estimates coming in around 350.  While the car does move, enough to not really complain, it will really move with the additional ponies…and maybe even have better gas mileage.  Even a 4-cylinder EcoBoost motor that makes similar power to the current model, but increases the gas mileage would be a welcome option.

Now that we’ve looked under the hood, lets talk about how the car is dressed.  My personal opinion is that Lincoln did a fantastic job at designing this car.  The split grille, which is the new Lincoln “look” is elegant and along with the nicely shaped headlights, give the Lincoln a very classy yet sporty/aggressive look.  It screams luxury, but with a little muscle.

2009 Lincoln MKS front

What I like best though is the rear of the car.  The new vertical LED taillights and generally shape remind me of the Maserati Quattroporte…but better looking.  While the overall design is not revolutionary, it does stand out as a handsome car in a sea of blandness.

2009 Lincoln MKS rear

Maserati vs Lincoln MKS

The interior of the car is the best part of the MKS hands down.  I was pleasantly surprised how nice all of the materials were, how comfortable the car was, and how ridiculously great the technology was integrated.  One of the greatest steps that Ford has made with their lineup has been the integration of SYNC, a car operating system if you will, developed in conjunction with Microsoft.  The added Sirius satellite radio with Travel Link allows you to do some really cool things like auto re-route your destination based on traffic, find the lowest fuel prices in your area, check sports scores and movie listings, and more.  The voice activation feature to tie it all in works practically flawlessly, and is by far the best system I’ve ever used.

2009 Lincoln MKS interior

2009 Lincoln MKS rear interior

If you read the list of optional items that were included in the car, you need to know that everything other than the adaptive cruise control was part of the $5,715 “ultimate package”…and I wouldn’t buy the car without it.  There is just too much cool, convenient stuff to not shell out for it.  Take for example the 5.1 THX-II certified audio system.  For audio cds that support it, you will be extremely impressed by the quality of the sound.

2009 Lincoln MKS dual moonroof

In regards to handling, I was pleasantly surprised to how well the MKS stuck to the road.  While the car looks smaller than it is, it sits fairly high, especially at the rear.  I’ll be honest, I was expecting a good amount of body roll.  What I did find though was that I could take an exit ramp going 60 with no problems.  I was also a little surprised at how much of the road I could feel, I mean it is a Lincoln right?  I think this mostly had to do with the 19″ wheels that also provided a lower profile tire.  Note that there is also an option for a 20″ wheel.  While I did feel some of the road, the car was almost eerily quiet when driving.  It was so smooth accelerating and shifting through gears.  I had passengers in both the front and rear of the car, all complimenting the MKS on how incredibly smooth and comfortable the car was.

2009 Lincoln MKS side

Speaking of comfortableness, the MKS definitely sticks to what you would imagine a Lincoln would be…notably comfortable.  My rear passengers were pleased and with no complaints, they were happy about their rear heat warmers in the 30 degree rainy weather we were in.

The Lincoln MKS puts itself into a class of heavy competition.  With cars like the BMW 5-Series, Jaguar XF, Cadillac CTS/STS, Acura RL, Lexus GS, etc…it’s tough to come out as number one.  What Lincoln does have going over the competition is the pricepoint.  A fully loaded MKS will come in lower than most of the competition, but I still think it’s priced a little high.  The initial reaction I was getting from most people was surprised when they found out how much it costs.  While it’s a nice car, they really need to undercut the competition.  I’d like to see a fully loaded AWD model come in at the lower $40,000 range if it’s possible.  In reality though, it is a great buy for what it is…which is why it was nominated for car of the year from Motor Trend.

For more pictures, as well as the high resolution versions, see the Flickr set.

I Lost $335…PayPal Needs To Fix This For Future Issues

I want to start this post off by saying that I am wrong, the issue of not having myself protected is my fault.  What I do want to state though is that PayPal should make this issue that I had more apparent to its customers that receive payments for a product valued over $250.

On July 31st ActiveTuning received an order for an RGB2+ for $325 shipped.  This is not a product that we normally stock (we state this on the product page, and also state that it will take about a week before it’s shipped to the customer), so once an order arrives, we place an order with our supplier, who then ships it to us, and we ship it to the customer.  We shipped a few days later, within PayPal’s 7 day terms.

Almost 3 months later, on November 28th, I received a notice that the funds were on hold due to a chargeback.  PayPal asked for the tracking #, in which I gave to them right that day.  The tracking # confirmed delivery of the unit to the customer.  Two weeks later on December 12th, I receive an e-mail from PayPal stating that the funds cannot be returned, the customer won the chargeback settlement, sorry….and I’m responsible for the $10 chargeback fee.  From my perspective as the business I did everything correct.  I received an order and I shipped as soon as possible.  I used USPS Priority Mail, as PayPal heavily promotes and integrates into their service.  This was not fair to me.

I immediately called PayPal, and after looking into it, they directed me to the third bullet of section 11.7 of their twenty five page user agreement.  Under the definiteion of “proof of delivery” it states the following:

Signature Confirmation for transactions that total $ 250 USD or more (see Foreign Currency Equivalents below).

While I did get delivery confirmation on the package, I did not get signature confirmation.  Since I did not get this, I automatically lose the chargeback case.  Yes, this is in the 25 page user agreement, but sorry PayPal, I can’t memorize or read every single thing.  This is a pretty important aspect of seller protection in my opinion, especially on higher priced items (anything over $250).  Would it be that difficult to “promote” this term/clause a little better to protect their own customers (the sellers that generate a huge amount of sales in which they make money through transaction fees and monthly service agreements)?  A simple obvious note when receiving a payment over $250 for a good that says “hey, don’t forget to add signature confirmation so you don’t get fucked when your customer scams on you”.

That is all.

In Person: First Look At The New Nissan 370Z

I had been following the development pictures of the next generation Nissan Z for years, and finally official information was released.  The car looked promising in pictures, but I wasn’t 100% sure…I had to see it in person.  Luckily, Nissan’s Follow The Z Tour came by my neck of the hoods and gave me the opportunity to see the car in person.  Like the new Maxima, when pictures were released I was somewhat weary about how it would look in person.  When I finally saw it, I thought it was drop dead gorgeous, 100 times better than the media circulating around.  I was hoping the new Z would be the same.

Yellow Nissan 370Z

Blue Nissan 370Z

After seeing the new 370Z, I can honestly say that I’m not dissapointed.  I didn’t get the same “oh my god” reaction I got with the Maxima, but it does look much better in person than in pictures.  It gives off a much more aggressive look with it’s edgier lines than previous models, something I really love about it.  The new headlights are to die for, and the car just looks all around cleaner.  The interior has been hugely improved, and there is a lot more cargo space due to no more rear strut bar in the way.

Nissan 370Z headlight

Nissan 370Z rear

There were two models at the event, a blue and yellow.  I obvioulsy was only able to look at the cars, but I’d be dying to drive one around for a bit and see how it has improved (hint hint Nissan :) )

Nissan 370Z wheel

Nissan did a really nice job with the car, it has already grown on me tenfold from first seeing it.  I look forward to getting behind the wheel of one in the near future and giving my opinion of that as well.  Here’s a little video I did from the event, also, to see all the pictures (including in high-res) see the flickr set here.

Profiling My Old Project Nissan 350Z

Once upon a time, two Vipers and Corvette ago, I had a 2004 Nissan 350Z which was my garage queen project car. This car was my pride and joy, I put a lot of time, effort, and money into that car to make it the way I wanted. I thought it’d be interesting to go back and see all of the things I had done to the car to turn it from this:

My old Nissan 350Z

To this:

My old Nissan 350Z

My initial idea was that I wanted to make the car nice overall from all aspects…from performance, to suspension, to audio. Looking back now, the one aspect I didn’t really do enough was suspension, but that would have required dumping in a lot more money. So let’s take a look at what was done:

To start off, I went with some little modifications like a smaller antenna, removing emblems, and intake, etc. The original plan was keep the car naturally aspirated (meaning all-motor with no sort of forced induction like a turbo or a supercharger), which is why I got the intake. That changed over time, but we’ll get to that later.

I also wanted to have a carbon fiber/orange theme, I always thought that the orange matched a gunmetal sort of color really well. To kick that theme off, I installed a JIC front strut tower brace for tighter handling and a nice look under the hood. I also installed 15% tint all-around to give it a more refined orange/black look.

My old Nissan 350Z

Next, I installed RS*R springs. This lowered the car slightly to give it a more aggressive stance, and help improve handling slightly. You can see the height difference in the springs here:

My old Nissan 350Z

In the meantime, I was prepping for a show quality audio system installation by starting to amass parts for that:

My old Nissan 350Z

We can see here I went with Polk/Momo amplifiers, and Inifity Kappa Perfect speakers/subs, along with a Pioneer Elite headunit which isn’t shown.

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In Person Look At The New Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4

Not too long ago Lamborghini updated their Gallardo model with the new LP560-4. Why the name? LP stands for “longitudinal poseriore” because of the rear longitudinal engine position. The 560 part of the name represents the amount of horsepower that the 5.2L V10 pumps out. -4 represents 4 wheel drive. Congratulations, consider yourself a Lamborghini Gallardo naming expert!

I ran over to Lamborghini Washington for a first hand look at the new supercar. They had two in the inventory, one in white, and the other in a semi-dark silver:

Lamborghini Gallardio LP560-4

Lamborghini Gallardio LP560-4

Thinking of picking one up?? The silver one will run you about $265,000:

Lamborghini has a habit of doing this. They design a car that I look at and fall in love with. I can’t even begin to fathom how the design can be improved, but then they redesign, and it looks even better. Most notably to me the major improvements are on the front and rear parts of the car. The frontend has a new, more aggressive looking bumper with larger openings. It looks more like their super duper car, the $1.6 million Reventon. Along with the redesigned headlights, it makes the new rendition much angrier looking.

Lamborghini Gallardo old vs new front

More importantly the rear of the car has been completely redesigned. I would say that the rear of the first Gallardo was the one part of the car that a lot of people didn’t like so much. Obviously Lamborghini heard this too, and redesigned accordingly. The new rear is much cleaner:

Lamborghini Gallardo old vs new rear

The updated lower profile taillights and the quad exhaust tips really do the majority of the improvements for me.

Here’s some more pictures that I took for you to enjoy:

Lamborghini Gallardio LP560-4

Lamborghini Gallardio LP560-4

Lamborghini Gallardio LP560-4

Lamborghini Gallardio LP560-4

Here’s a couple that were hooked up that I saw at SEMA in Las Vegas:

Modified Lamborghini Gallardio LP560-4

Opportunity Knocking. Take Matters In Your Own Hands.

So I login to my gmail account today and I see an e-mail from a girl I used to date:

Hey, just in case you weren’t aware, wanted to give you a heads up, especially if you tend to by gift cards for the holidays. The following are involved in, planning to file Bankruptcy, or closing a significant number of stores:

Circuit City (filed Chapter 11)
Ann Taylor- 117 stores nationwide closing
Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug ,and Catherine’s to close 150 stores nationwide
Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after January
Cache will close all stores
Talbots closing down specialty stores
J. Jill closing all stores (owned by Talbots)
Pacific Sunwear (also owned by Talbots)
GAP closing 85 stores
Footlocker closing 140 stores more to close after January
Wickes Furniture closing down
Levitz closing down remaining stores
Bombay closing remaining stores
Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January
Whitehall closing all stores
Piercing Pagoda closing all stores
Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.
Home Depot closing 15 stores 1 in NJ ( New Brunswick )
Macys to close 9 stores after January
Linens and Things closing all stores
Movie Galley Closing all stores
Pep Boys Closing 33 stores
Sprint/Nextel closing 133 stores
JC Penney closing a number of stores after January
Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.
Wilson Leather closing down all stores
Sharper Image closing down all stores
K B Toys closing 356 stores
Dillard’s to close some stores

I knew about a lot of these stores, but there were many new ones. The economy is really going through some crazy times right now. There is a possibility of the domestic automotive manufacturers filing for bankruptcy. The world is folding as we know it right?? Wrong.

Right now is sort of a the strongest survive scenario. The fact is, we as consumers will still continue to purchase products, we will still wear clothes, we will still buy people presents, and we will still drive cars.

Think about GM as one example. GM owns a ton of auto brands; Chevy, GMC, Cadillac, Hummer, Pointac, Buick, Saturn, and Saab. Just imagine how many vehicles per year are manufactured sold from the conglomerate of all these brands?? I don’t have exact figures, but I’m sure it’s well into the millions. If GM went under, that’s a huge void of vehicles that were at least partially sold…that are now not. While becoming a new car manufacture may not be the easiest thing in the world, somebody is going to take a lot of that business…and that ain’t no chump change. The strong will survive.

Now take a look at any of the other stores above, and I can bet it’s the same scenario. Who knows why some of these stores are folding…some expanded too fast, some didn’t do enough marketing, some expanded in the wrong areas…you get my point. Just because they failed, doesn’t mean you will to. What this new economy teaches us to do is to not be extravagant on how we spend. Run a company lean, and learn from past mistakes.

Now is a great opportunity to get into business…if you can survive the time while things are bleak…for what goes down must come up.

Just my 2 cents.