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REVIEW | 2022 Lincoln Navigator enters the tech era



The buzz around enormous body-on-frame luxury SUVs has reached a fever pitch.

As lavish and accommodating as ever, these massive driving implements continue to advance in high-tech usefulness, with new and updated entries from Jeep and Lexus bolstering the segment’s ranks.

Someone at General Motors even had the idea to give the V treatment to the Cadillac Escalade, supercharged V-8 and all.

To that lot we’ll add the 2022 Lincoln Navigator, which has been polished with thoughtful touches and new hands-free driving capability as part of a mid-cycle refresh.

The ability to transport people and stuff with glitzy curb appeal makes full-size luxury utes outsize status symbols unto themselves.

Jeep doesn’t even badge its Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer as Jeeps, lest they be tainted by the mud-plugging reputation of its lesser models.

Not so with the latest Navigator, which has LINCOLN plastered across its stern and the brand’s crosshair emblem set as a nearly foot-tall protrusion within its gently redrawn grille.

Flanking that grille are thinner LED headlights, while the rear dons a slimmer full-width LED taillight bar that now emits horizontal animation sequences when you approach and exit the vehicle.

Michael Knight’s K.I.T.T. would approve.

It takes a careful eye to spot the new Gator on the road, but glance inside and its 13.2-inch centre touchscreen is an easy giveaway.

Compared to the 10.1-inch display that it replaces, the updated setup is a better fit in this seven- or eight-passenger Lincoln’s cavernous interior, which remains one of the more fetching environments in automobiledom.

As a gateway to the new Sync 4 infotainment system’s bounty of features — including an optional 28-speaker Revel audio system that does its best to shake the windows out of the truck — the touchscreen also is crisply rendered and smartly laid out.

Additional animations, such as swaths of faint twinkling stars that follow the needles around the digital speedometer and tachometer, grace a more data-focused 12.0-inch instrument cluster display.

The Navigator’s plethora of pixels extends to its rear quarters, with second-row passengers gaining both an optional 5.8-inch infotainment touchscreen and a pair of 10.1-inch, Amazon Fire TV – equipped monitors affixed to the front seatbacks.

While a three-across second-row bench remains available, stick with the standard captain’s chairs and you’ll unlock the newly added massage function for those heated and ventilated middle seats.

Put a butt in every seat of the 131.6-inch-wheelbase L model, and there’s still plenty of luggage space for all occupants — 34 cubic feet behind the third row versus 19 cubes in the regular 122.5-inch-wheelbase version.

From the optional 30-way power-adjustable front seats to the lovely open-pore wood trim laser-etched with a map of the pathways in New York’s Central Park — the latter included in one of two new design packages for Black Label models — the Navigator is a warm and inviting place to be.

Classic luxury vibes aside, this Lincoln’s greatest draw probably will be the new ActiveGlide driver assistant, which debuts as standard equipment on the upper Reserve and Black Label trims as the brand’s version of Ford’s BlueCruise.

Much like GM’s Super Cruise, ActiveGlide employs lane centering, adaptive cruise control and driver monitoring to provide hands-free motoring on roughly 130 000 miles of divided highways.

Virtual steering-wheel icons and overviews of the vehicle on the road combine in the gauge cluster to indicate when the system is active.

An available head-up display (standard on the Black Label), plus a phalanx of standard active-safety gear, provides additional convenience and security.
Though our exposure was brief, ActiveGlide works as advertised, and the steering column-mounted camera and infrared light emitters saw through our attempts to trick their vision by wearing a mask, sunglasses and hat.

If it does detect your attention has strayed from the road, the system beeps with increasing intensity, the steering wheel vibrates and the vehicle will eventually tap the brakes before the system shuts off.

It will not stop the vehicle if you fail to heed its warnings, as some other systems do.

Ford is upfront that this initial version of BlueCruise/ActiveGlide has been programmed rather conservatively and that improved capability, among other features, will come via over-the-air updates.

This is a good thing, as ActiveGlide currently is not as capable as it probably can be and, from our experience, not as stoic in operation as GM’s Super Cruise.

We observed some wandering between lane lines, the system is quick to disengage around tighter bends, and occasionally it refused to recognise that we were paying attention, even after we wiggled the steering wheel.

But as a tool for reducing some of the strain from gridlock and boring highway treks, it is a welcome addition.

Fortunately, the Navigator is now better to drive when a human is in full control, thanks in part to a retuned suspension that includes a stiffer rear anti-roll bar and a new camera-based system that scans the road ahead and primes the adaptive dampers for upcoming bumps.

This is still a large and heavy vehicle imbued with minimal athleticism — despite what its Excite drive mode suggests — but its slow, numb steering is well suited to its preferred casual pace, and body motions feel calmer and more collected than we remember.

The newly added electronic brake booster is tuned to provide a reassuringly firm and progressive brake pedal, making smooth stops a cinch.

And all versions can now be had with new 22-inch wheel designs (20s remain standard on base models), which returned good ride quality on the smooth pavement around Phoenix.

But we’ll hold off on a final verdict until we drive one on our familiar Midwestern goat paths, as the big rollers did clomp uncomfortably over the few sharper impacts we encountered.

Little has changed under the Navigator’s hood since this generation debuted for 2018.

The twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 still develops 510 pound-feet of torque and is backed by an unhurried 10-speed automatic transmission.

Also familiar are an 8700-pound maximum towing capacity and standard rear-wheel drive – all-wheel drive is a $2 695-$3 000 option, except on the Black Label, where it’s included.

However, minor tuning changes have dropped the engine’s horsepower count from 450 to 440, which apparently the EPA notices more than we did.

The Navigator’s combined fuel-economy estimate has increased by 1 mpg to 18 or 19 mpg, depending on the model.

But we don’t expect much deviation from the 5.2-second run to 60 mph that we recorded in our test of a 2021 model.

That’s satisfyingly quick for a big SUV that costs $78 405 to start and can top $120 000 in loaded L form.

Just as noteworthy is the V-6’s revised exhaust note, which thrums more deeply than before and lends this big Lincoln an appropriately throaty voice that could (almost) be mistaken for a burbling V-8’s.

A comparison test ultimately will determine how the new Navigator fares against its also-fresh peers, including its arch-rival, the Escalade.

We could argue that Lincoln fumbled the finishing touch by not commandeering the blown V-8 from the GT500 Mustang as a riposte to the Escalade V.

But as a mainstay of the segment that it pioneered back in 1998, the Gator’s latest revisions help keep it in step with the times. – Car and Driver



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Isuzu: the Chuck Norris of bakkies



By Sabelo Skiti


One of the consequences of a stagnant or, worse, shrinking economy is that consumers become more conscious of how they spend their rands. Value for money and practicality, whether one is working class or filthy rich, takes over, denying us the frivolous or nice to haves.

In the car world, harsh lessons are being learned, with the example being the Mercedes Benz X-class, which has already been discontinued 24 months after its launch in the country.

There could be other reasons as well, but far too many people apparently felt that paying up to R1-million for a pimped-out Nissan Navara bakkie is too much, no matter how exciting the drivetrain and suspension. Apparently only about 500 South Africans felt it was worth their while last year, and that’s a really poor number in a bakkie-obsessed country like South Africa.

In contrast, about 16000 vehicles in Isuzu KB Series — now referred to as D-Max, in line with the rest of the world territories where it is sold — were sold last year, coming in third place to Toyota’s Hilux (more than 40000 sold) and Ford’s Ranger (about 25000 sold). The D-Max actually comes in fourth if you include the Nissan NP200 in the list, although it’s a half tonner.

For Isuzu it was just over 4.2% growth in a sector that declined by 4.8%, Dominic Rimmer, the vice-president for technical operations, said at the launch of the auto box in the Cape winelands recently.

The introduction of the 250 auto, which follows a similar introduction of an automatic transmission in the 3.0 two years ago, is one more step further into the luxury and leisure markets. Depending on which angle you look at it, Isuzu is either cautiously moving into this segment or they are taking their sweet time about it.

Similar to the Hilux, this bakkie has always been associated with hardiness, dependability, durability and a go anywhere, carry anything ability. It’s kind of like playing the Chuck Norris role in farming or industry.

As a result it still feels a couple of years behind its main competitors when it comes to ride comfort, responsiveness of the engine and even the interior. Granted, it too now has sports stylish rims (painted black in the case of the X-Rider), a touch screen infotainment system, soft leather seats, as well as more cup holders and charging ports than one will ever need in a bakkie.

It still felt more comfortable handling the back gravel roads that meander through winelands than speeding on the freeway, giving one the idea that it’s perhaps more cosmetic than really geared towards the leisure market.

The touchscreen radio is a perfect example of this. While competitors have even incorporated phone apps on their systems, the touchscreen in the X-Rider we tested only offered radio functions and precious little else.

So, maybe it’s sticking to the old Isuzu DNA and not trying to be everything to everyone — or perhaps it’s realising the times we’re in and

trying to offer a bit more of a fun package without blowing the budget.

In the end, it works for a guy like me who is price sensitive and works in Johannesburg, but makes the pilgrimage to rural Eastern Cape at least twice a year.

Prices for the new 2.5 litre D-Max range from R403 200 for the extended cab to R474 700 for the premium double cab X-Rider. The double cab has three other variants, starting with the entry level Hi-Ride that retails for R435 300. — Mail & Guardian

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REVIEW | The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A200 sedan is a mixed bag



Inclement weather exposes plenty about a car. For example, slipperiness underfoot provides a true test for the efficacy of electronic stability aids – and whether the inherent mechanical grip is strong enough to negate their intervention anyway.

Those drops from above will reveal how good those slivers of rubber on the windscreen are at doing their jobs. Seals and channels on the bodywork get put on the front line; proving their worth at expelling water or letting the stuff filter through like a colander.

Luckily, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan we sampled during the recent, unrelenting rain in Gauteng seemed to hold up well. It offered a cocoon-like sense of snugness, sheltering driver and occupants from all manner of potential peril. Heated seats on, intermittent wipers activated and xenon headlamps illuminating through the fog … One felt safe.

Trundling slowly through the cityscape on my daily commute gave me time to ponder about the chronicles of the baby Benz. Of course, the A-Class is not the original “baby”, according to the modern history of the firm. That credit goes to the W201 (the 190 series); a precursor to the C-Class.

Power delivery on the A200 sedan is anything but smooth and linear.

Power delivery on the A200 sedan is anything but smooth and linear.
Image: Supplied

As you know, chasms are created in every product portfolio when long-standing models increase in size with each evolution. Which is perhaps why the people at Mercedes-Benz decided to tack a boot onto its compact car, pandering to shoppers whose budgets might not be able to extend towards the larger sedans in the stable. Or as an option for customers wanting to downsize without leaving the three-pointed star fold.

Hang on … Wasn’t the CLA-Class meant to serve such a purpose in the first place? Maybe so – but you must concede to the obvious space compromises that come with that sloping roofline. This A-Class saloon offers just a bit more airspace for occupants, great if you are partial to elaborate headgear.

Aesthetically, a more substantial presence has been secured by that extra length. It is an attractive car, but I think the Audi A3 sedan (seasoned though it may be) trumps it for overall perfection in its proportions. Where the A3 cannot compete, is in the area of technology. The voice command element of the MBUX digital interface is simply fantastic.

You would have seen the commercials by now and how, “Hey Mercedes”, awakens an artificially intelligent soul living inside the dashboard. Tell her to open the windows, sunroof, adjust temperature, switch radio stations, navigate to a selected destination and she complies.

The interior is ultra modern and one of the more interesting in its class.

The interior is ultra modern and one of the more interesting in its class.
Image: Supplied

Good thing the system works so well, because the touchpad on the centre console is a nuisance to operate. It’s as though one of the designers had a new Lexus for a weekend and thought, “Wow, why haven’t we given this computer-mouse-like set-up a try in our cars?” No. Just no, Mercedes-Benz. Please fix this.

Another thing they need to fix is the 1332cc, turbocharged four-cylinder in the A200. Its dour character totally spoils the experience. Driving in stop-go traffic and turning right at intersections are especially frustrating. There are several inches of pedal depression where nothing happens. Then it stumbles from its daze and spits all 120kW and 250Nm out, causing the front wheels to scrabble for purchase.

It’s like that person who fell asleep in the Dis-Chem queue and woke up the third time the automated voice announced that teller three to the left was open.

So, rather go for the A200d, A250 or that Mercedes-AMG A35 MATIC. Expectedly, putting one in your garage is not going to be cheap. Pricing starts at R575 626. But judging from our well-optioned specimen, a customer could easily spend into the mid R600,000 region to make their car look like the unit the salesperson hooked them on in the brochure …

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