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Amici americani della Mille Miglia
ARTICLES BY MARTIN SWIG

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DOWNSHIFTING WITHOUT DOWNGRADING

Automobile Magazine recently compiled a list called the Ex-Wall Streeter’s Guide to Recession Rides – how to curb expenses and still keep up appearances.  Here are some examples:

Instead of a Ferrari 430, consider an Audi R-8.  You get a similar mechanical package, equal style, and equal interior.

Ferrari:
  $191,775
Audi R-8:
$114,200
Save:
$ 77,575

Instead of an Aston Martin DBS, try a Jaguar XK-R.  The Aston’s a V-12, the Jag a supercharged V8.  Equally sexy shape.     

Aston Martin:
$ 269,000
Jaguar: 
$ 88,475
Save:
$ 180,525

Instead of a Porsche 911, a Porsche Cayman.  Even Porsche has trouble explaining why the old 911 design is worth more than the Cayman.

911:
$ 75,600
Cayman: 
$ 50,300
Save:
$ 25,300

Instead of a Maserati, a Jaguar XF.  They are both shapely, non-German looking four-door sedans, with elegant interiors and plenty of V8 power.  In this case, the less costly car may have the superior chassis.

Maserati:
$124,150
Jaguar:
$ 49,974
Save:
$ 74,176

And, the most outlandish for last!  Instead of a Bentley Arnage, a Chrysler 300.  Here is an example that shows how good some cars you’d never even consider can be.  The Chrysler’s Mercedes-developed chassis and Hemi V8 make it a superb road car.  It’s also big & inspiring.

Bentley
$232,085
Chrysler
$  37,585
Save:
$194,500

In every example you will save enough to pay for a basic new car, so you always have a workhorse around the home.

LINCOLN MKS

Of the three traditional American car companies, Ford Motor Company has done the best job of planning for the future.  They decided that Ford, Mercury and Lincoln cars comprise their product range.  They had tried for almost twenty years to make subsidiaries Jaguar and Range Rover turn a profit.  Neither responded in a positive way to Ford’s management.  Finally in 2008, both were sold.  Ford also had bought Volvo, but by the end of 2008, they had seemingly run Volvo into the ground, and, at this writing, were looking for a buyer.

The American auto companies aren’t alone in finding acquisitions hard to digest BMW choked on their Rover (British) purchase and finally gave it away for one pound sterling.  Mercedes-Benz lost a considerable fortune – maybe $30 billion – with their Chrysler purchase and disposal.

Two recent road test cars suggest Ford is on the right path.  The ’09 Lincoln MKS is a large – not barge – four-door sedan in a contemporary inoffensive style.  It may not be a high performance road car like Lincolns of the early 1950’s or a drop-dead style leader like the 1960’s Lincoln.  But it’s OK, and appropriate as an indicator of Lincoln’s future direction.

If you’re a motor head whose needs an Infiniti G-37 or an Audi S-5, don’t waste your time.  But if you’re just a normal person who wants a high quality, well made, four-door sedan you might find this Lincoln meets your needs.

Instead of the cramped back seat of a high-spirited German brand, this car will make your in-laws comfortable.  The price for that capacious back seat is a less sleek exterior silhouette.  But, as the photo shows, the style and decoration of this car is restrained and tasteful.

All-in-all, this car reflects middle-America values at their best.

FORD FLEX

Spun off a similar set of mechanical components, the Ford Flex is a completely different kind of car from the Lincoln.

Style wise, this is the world’s largest Mini-Cooper.  Or a stretched Range-Rover.  It’s a bit large for some tastes, but it happens to be exactly the right size for the jobs it’s intended to do.  The specification sheet confirms that the long-looking Flex is actually three inches shorter than the Lincoln.

Driving the Ford for a few days, I was surprised at the positive reactions it elicited.  A valet parker looked carefully and remarked that this was a handsome car.  A lady in a gas station asked me what kind of car it was and said it looked like a car she might like.  It’s been a long time since any American car attracted notice like this one.

The name may be unfortunate; people asked if it meant flex-fuel, referring to the economic disaster called Ethanol, so heavily promoted by the enviros.  But the car is good enough to survive its name.

What you might not be prepared for in this Ford is the extremely high quality fit and finish.  The test car was very comprehensively equipped, with navigation, all-wheel drive, towing package, leather interior, sunroof, etc., yielding a price over $40,000.  This car will stand comparison with any car in that price range – a nice accomplishment for Ford.

And if you don’t need all that “stuff”, you can buy the less elaborate Flex, built to the same quality standards, for $30,000 – or less!

 
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