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  • July 24, 2014

Test Drive: Family Sedans - Ladue News: Special Features

Test Drive: Family Sedans

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Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 12:00 pm

Contrary to popular belief, having a family does not mean you have to drive an SUV or minivan. For many families, a smooth-riding, comfortable sedan can safely transport the fam, with the added benefit of having a lower center of gravity and thus much better handling.

For example, the Lincoln MKZ is a dynamite-looking sedan with all the latest technology, plus the benefit of a no-extra-cost hybrid option.

The discussion of the MKZ has to start with its shockingly good looks. Frankly, it’s been decades since Lincoln has built a car that has caught my attention, but the MKZ really is a good-looking sedan, particularly the futuristic horizontal front grill, the sharply raked rear window and the LED taillights that run the entire length of the rear end. To top it off, a panoramic sunroof covers almost the entire roof, letting in lots of sunshine. Best of all, the whole roof slides backward, partially over the rear window, to provide open-air motoring heretofore reserved for convertibles and sports cars with removable roof panels.

The next notable thing about the MKZ is all the technology crammed inside it. So long as you have the key fob in your pocket or purse, all you have to do is touch the door to unlock it. You then push a button to start the engine, and yet another one to select the gear. A large touch-screen in the center console displays ventilation, navigation, audio and other controls, including those for heated and cooled seats, and even a heated steering wheel. It doubles as a display screen for the back-up camera. A flat panel below the screen has ventilation and audio controls on which you just swipe your finger over the marker and it reacts, kind of like on a smartphone. Technology is used for safety, as well, in the blind-spot information system, parking sensors and cross-traffic alert. If you’re really lazy, it even has a system that will automatically parallel park the car for you. The power opening and closing trunk is large, but two-tiered due to the hybrid batteries stored therein. The rear seats fold 60/40 to expand cargo room. Rear seat room is decent, and those in the cheap seats get their own air vents and heated seats.

The MKZ is available with 3 different engines: a 2.0-liter turbo ecoboost with 240 horsepower good for 22 mpg city, 33 highway; a 3.7-liter V-6 that pumps out 300 horsepower and gets 19 city, 28 highway; and a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder with an AC synchronous electric motor good for a combined 188 horsepower that returns an impressive 38 city, 38 highway. The hybrid has a continuously variable transmission; the other two have 6-speed automatics. If you’re willing to forgo the hybrid, all-wheel-drive is an option. The hybrid shuts off the engine at stops, and the restart is noticeable but not as obtrusive as it is on some other hybrids. The hybrid has plenty of power and it handles decently for a luxury car.

Clayton mom of two Lisa Avery recently bought an MKZ. “I like that it’s a really good-looking hybrid, so I can drive ‘green’ without having to drive a car that looks like a hybrid. It drives very smoothly and quietly.”

Tom Brinkley, sales manager at Dave Sinclair Lincoln, concurs. “The technology in the MKZ is easy to use and it offers a luxury ride, good space and a panoramic sunroof. The fact that you can get a hybrid for no extra charge is extraordinary.”

Prices for the MKZ start at about $36,000 for the 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbo or the 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle, 4-cylinder hybrid with 88 kW electric motor. Pile on the options and the price can climb to approximately $50,000.

Another appealing family car is the newly redesigned Acura RLX. Draped in a conservatively handsome package, the RLX is a luxury car with a sporty side. The ‘face’ of the RLX is distinguished by its ‘jewel eye’ LED headlights, which look cool and provide brighter illumination.

With the key fob in your pocket, you can unlock and open the doors and trunk, and start the engine with a start/stop button without having to insert a key into a lock or ignition switch. Active sound control keeps the cabin remarkably quiet. Nicely bolstered heated leather seats and three-zone automatic climate controls keep it comfortable. Rich leather envelops the cockpit with wood accents, adding a touch of warmth. A large video screen at the top of the dash displays the optional navigation system, and the view from the back-up camera—and a slightly smaller one below it—displays audio controls and other functions and settings. The rear seat is amazingly roomy with tons of leg room and air vents, which can be controlled by the back-seat passengers. The trunk also is generously sized.

A 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 310 horsepower moves the RLX with alacrity, and the solid brakes do a good job of bringing it to a halt. The 6-speed automatic transmission can be shifted manually with paddle shifters and a sport mode enhances throttle response, steering feel and acceleration. Fuel economy is 20 city, 31 highway. An upcoming hybrid engine will increase horsepower to 370, while raising gas mileage to 28 city, 30 highway. The suspension has a sporty feel to it, for good handling on twisty roads, yet is comfortable in highway cruising, as well. A thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel transmits road feel nicely and offers nice tight steering. All-wheel steering aids stability during high-speed maneuvers, and adaptive cruise control allows you to stay a set distance behind the car in front of you. There’s a collision mitigation braking system to help you avoid hitting a car in front of you if you approach it too quickly, as well as a blind-spot monitoring system. Overall, the RLX is a comfortable, luxurious sedan with plenty of room and all the modern bells and whistles that’s also fun to drive.

Blake Mercurio of Frank Leta Acura brags of the RLX, “It’s the ultimate in size, performance and technology. It’s a lot of car for the price, and has a ton of space in the back seat. It’s 'smart luxury.'”

Base price for the RLX with the technology package is about $55,000.

Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) also is an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.

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