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What's not to love about the Prius?

And no, I don't like the Lincoln

Jeff Rundles //October 5, 2016//

What's not to love about the Prius?

And no, I don't like the Lincoln

Jeff Rundles //October 5, 2016//

Prius Two Eco

Normally I wouldn’t group these two vehicles together in one review, but for a variety of reasons they both only deserve a brief review: The Prius because, well, not much is new, and the Lincoln MKX because, as my grandmother used to say, if you haven’t got anything nice to say better to say nothing at all. Sorry, Grandma ― I’m going to say something about the MKX, most of it not nice, so I’ll keep it short.

The 2016 Prius is now in its 4th generation since the groundbreaking hybrid vehicle debuted in the U.S. in 2000, and it has grown from a compact sedan to a mid-sized. But the truth is, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.

It still looks like a Prius has always looked, it still drives like a Prius has always driven, and all of the equipment – the unique gear shifting lever, the gauges for following the energy use and the charging of the electric storage, and that annoying wing spoiler on the rear window that obstructs the rear view – is all pretty much as it was at the beginning.

What has changed noticeably is the gas mileage rating: It used to be like a combined 48 mpg, and this new one is rated at 58 mpg city/53 mpg highway, for a combined fuel economy rating of 56 mpg. That’s impressive, no doubt, but I stress the word “rating” because many factors can negatively impact the actual mpg, things like running the heating or the air conditioner.

I have an eco-friend who drove a Prius for several years and as a constant measurer of gas mileage, he always reported that it hit peak efficiency, the “rating,” only on calm days when the heat and/or A/C wasn’t in use. He liked what he was getting – something like 44 mpg – but you get the idea.

So perhaps this new one will achieve 50 mpg on a regular basis, unless you are a fervid “green-miler” who drives as economically as possible, but for us regular folks 50 mpg is pretty darn good.

And it’s especially darn good given that this gas/electric hybrid vehicle is no performance slouch. Its 1.8-liter gas engine, a four cylinder, coupled with the electric motor is rated at a combined 95 horsepower, but because the electric motor is torque-filled, this car is zippy, even speedy.

 I know they make a joke in television ads about bank robbers outrunning the cops in a Prius, but you might actually be able to do that. Heck, I read that a Ukrainian police department contracted with Toyota to have all of its police cruisers be Prii (the supposed plural of Prius). The Ukrainians couldn’t outrun the Russians in the Crimea, but the other criminals in the country apparently fear the Prius.      

I don’t know why so many people make fun of the Prius. It’s a nice-sized car – a very comfortable and roomy back seat – it drives very well (it is actually fun to drive), and it gets great gas mileage. It’s even nice on the highway for a long drive. The Prius just may be the best car on the market for the commuter who is economical, who wants a car that is easy to park, and who occasionally takes a road trip.

The thing I don’t get is the models available. They‘ve had the Prius V, an extended hatchback, the Prius C, a subcompact hatchback, a plug-in hybrid that apparently is going to become the Prius Prime in its second generation later this year.

 But what they have now listed on the Toyota website is the Two, Two Eco (which I drove), the Three, the Three Touring, the Four, and the Four Touring – ranging in base price from $24,200 to $30,000. I clicked on them all and couldn’t discern any differences – they all look the same, and have the same engine and gas mileage, so perhaps it’s just a matter of add-ons as standard.

I found the Two Eco to be very quiet, comfy, and easy, easy, easy to operate and drive. It offers different driving modes – “Normal,” “Power,” “Eco,” and “EV” – but to be honest I couldn’t tell the difference; the gearing felt the same.  

The Prius is a very impressive car, and I would love to own one.

For the record, the base price here on the Two Eco is $24,700, and all they added was dealer handling for a bottom line of $25,536 on the sticker. It has all the safety tech – brake assist and Smart Stop Tech – and all of the requisite gadgets: Bluetooth, apps, hookups, etc.

A great car.


Lincoln MKX Black Label L6 AWD

I so much wanted to like the MKX, a mid-sized SUV, because I pull for the American name-plates, hoping they can and will compete with the foreigners and keep the auto industry in the U.S. stable and thriving, with plenty of good jobs. But this one falls short.

You know how many cars have a distinctive “face” when you look at the front? This one looks sad, as if it knows how poorly it stacks up against the competition. This is a key point, because I very recently drove the Lexus RX 450h, and not only was it a better vehicle in all respects, it was priced lower than the Lincoln. Do the Ford/Lincoln people actually scout the competition?

My dislike started with the little things in this luxury vehicle. Like – as it is in most cars these days – you’re supposed to be able to unlock and lock the door by simply touching the door handle at a designated spot; I have used this technology on countless vehicles.

Only here, when I touched to lock the MKX many, many times, it only worked about 10 percent of the time. I tried all my fingers and my thumb, and most of the time it simply didn’t work and I had to go to the key fob and press “lock.” I never had it not work on the Lexus, or any Toyota for that matter. Annoying.

Then there’s the transmission. It’s a 6-speed SelectShift® automatic transmission with paddle activation, but to put it in gear is a push-button system rather than a gear shifter that I just couldn’t get used to. I have a friend who drives another Lincoln model and while he likes it, he says that after two years he still doesn’t care for the push-button gear shifting. So there you go. It’s one thing to be innovative, and another to be just plain different for no reason.

Okay, so it’s a luxury vehicle and all of the requisite stuff is in there – all the modern technology, all of the safety equipment, leather, heated and cooled seats; everything.

Here’s what I liked: When you approach the vehicle at night (on both sides) a light comes on illuminating the ground and door which features the Lincoln logo in silhouette; very classy. It had a huge, panoramic sunroof that lets in plenty of light; very cool. Rear view, front view and side view cameras that also combine to give a 360-degree birdseye view that is great for parking; very handy. When the vehicle does actually lock the side mirrors fold in; very protective. And, the Lincoln MKX is a wonderful drive.

What I didn’t like, aside from the things already mentioned: the gas mileage rating of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/19 mpg combined; a hard-to-access cubby below the console that features power and USB, accessory hookups which is very cumbersome; the opener for the glove box is not on the glove box but rather a button on the console/dash; why?

This vehicle featured a 2.7-Liter EcoBoost V6 engine putting out some 335 horsepower, and I should note it requires 93-octane fuel.  

You get everything, of course, but at a price. You can buy a version of this vehicle starting at $38,260, according to the Lincoln website, but this Black Label edition carries a base price of just over $53,000 (there are four special editions, all priced the same – The Black Modern Heritage, Muse, Indulgence, and Thoroughbred). When you add in the extras the bottom line here is $65,270.

The Lexus RX 450h (a hybrid) was more powerful, a better vehicle and much more economical, was loaded for just over $63,000. Am I missing something? Why would I buy this luxury vehicle if I test-drove the competition?

Can’t think of any reason.