Lincoln and Audi get “best of year” nods

Lincoln Continental AWD Black Label sedan. (Bud Wells photos)

It’s after catching my breath from a busy 2017 that I offer greetings for the new year.

Nearly 100 new cars, trucks and SUVs were sent my way during the past 12 months. The delivery on Nov. 10 of the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport marked the 2,100th new car or truck I’ve driven and reviewed over the past 40 years.

Two of my favorites for ’17 were the Lincoln Continental and the Audi Q7, and I offer them as my selections for “best of the year.”

Car of the Year – Of the Lincoln Continental AWD Black Label four-door, I said in August, “I’ve  just finished driving the best-looking and most-comfortable new luxury sedan sold in the U.S.” Inside and out, the flagship replacement for the MKS is a standout. Its alpine venetian leather interior is as plush as anything in the luxury field, its seats are inspired by private jets and its twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6 engine (with electronic push-button shifter controls) produces 400 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. Its paddle shifters were effective in a drive toward Allenspark and, particularly, through the twisting narrow lanes of the Raymond community. Sticker price was $74,815.

The Audi Q7 was filled with autonomous safety innovation.

Truck/SUV of the Year – It took Audi 10 years to restyle its seven-passenger Q7 flagship SUV; it took me the better part of an hour and about 50 miles to forget all about that and become actively engaged instead in its high-tech electronic advances, somewhat of a next-generation marvel. Heading into a near-60-degree turn on Colo. 392, I turned loose of the steering wheel and removed my foot from the accelerator. The Audi read the traffic sign and quickly slowed speed to the posted 45 miles per hour, then its active lane assist took control and turned the Q7 inward upon approaching the road-edge stripe and completed the turn before straightening the car’s path down the highway. The refashioned Q7, with a 333-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, was sticker priced at $68,925.

Here, briefly, are other highs and a few lows of the year:

Italian-built Alfa Romeo Giulia is suited to Colorado.

Best drive – Guiding Alfa Romeo’s new Giulia luxury sport sedan up Poudre Canyon, over Cameron Pass, down to Walden for lunch, northward past Cowdrey to Laramie, Wyo., and back through Fort Collins in July. The Guilia is built in Italy, and, with all-wheel drive, is ready for driving the U.S.’s tougher terrains, such as Colorado.

Best new color – The canyon beige metallic (gold) on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic subcompact SUV crossover, just a shade better than the chroma elite copper finish of the 2017 Lincoln Continental AWD Black Label sedan.

Best sound – The Bower & Wilkins $3,200 option in the 2018 Volvo XC60, with 15 high-fidelity loudspeakers and 1,100 watts of amplification. The occupants are entertained as though they’re in the center of the Gothenburg Concert Hall.

Priciest – The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL450, with biturbo power, at $108,385.

Cheapest – The Kia Rio EX sedan, redesigned for 2018, at $19,425.

MPG – Kia’s new Niro Hybrid, with 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and 43-horsepower electric motor and smooth-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch transmission, averaged 50.1 miles per gallon. The 2018 Camry Hybrid averaged 45, as we observed Toyota’s 60th anniversary of car sales in the U.S.

The Subaru Impreza underwent major restyling for 2017.


Low-end – The Ram Power Wagon 4X4, with 410-horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8, averaged 12.4 mpg in offroad testing, and the Toyota Tundra AWD, with 5.7-liter V-8, averaged 15 on drive to Torrington, Wyo., and back to view the Eclipse.

Comeback – Once referred to as “the ugly duckling,” the restyled Impreza is impressive for 2017, and its improved sales reflect the efforts of Subaru designers in the makeover.

Powerful – 707 horsepower from a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat with 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V-8 linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission (0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds).

Most powerful was the Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

10-speeds – The first, mated to an EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6, was in a Ford F-150 driven to the Denver Press Club’s annual Hall of Fame dinner, followed shortly by the test of a 2018 Honda Odyssey minivan equipped with the first 10-speed tranny in a front-wheel-drive vehicle.

Cute – The Toyota C-HR. I have never like “cute” in a car’s description, but this one, yeh, it’s kind of cute. Its quirky style and bright iceberg/radiant green finish drew much attention.

Best e-mail – “Are they crushed?,” asked one reader, wondering what happens to all those 500 new cars following the close of the Denver Auto Show. No, they’re returned to the new-car dealer lots and to the manufacturers from where they came.

Quirky means cute in the new Toyota C-HR.

Cinnamon rolls – Those made by Steve and Becky Childs when we showed up in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Recon at their Glen Haven General Store shortly before the road was closed in early October.

Jan’s favorite – The 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 Inscription, which carried us to DIA in late September for a flight to Phoenix.

Best greeting – Happy New Year!