Welcome to the final entry (for now) in my COAL series. This series of posts, begun over six months ago, now totals almost 35,000 words. By comparison, Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest play, comes in at 30,066 words. In fact, this series has winded and wended on for so long that I added another vehicle (and therefore another entry) since I started. In February of this year, I replaced the 2014 MKZ (that I liked greatly) with its platform-mate, a 2017 Ford Fusion Platinum that I like even more. Regular readers may recall that I already used the Fusion as a foil for an earlier piece I wrote, titled The End of Luxury.
Obviously there is something about the Ford CD4 platform that appeals to me since, for the first time in my life, I’ve essentially purchased the same vehicle twice. As far as I am concerned, Ford hit a home run with the CD4. Perfect size, good ride/handling compromise, and very attractive styling (in both MKZ and Fusion guise). The availability of AWD (which most other mid-size sedans don’t offer) is a huge plus in the snowy part of the country. And of course the gadgets. Lots and lots of gadgets, as we shall soon see.
The question that I keep getting asked repeatedly is “Why didn’t you get another Lincoln, since you like them so much?” For starters, I don’t like the insinuation that kinship with my 1970 Lincoln Mark III must somehow translate into blind loyalty for products from the same company a half-century later. While automotive heritage is important, cars should ultimately be judged on the merits of the here and now, not what they made decades ago. So let’s dispense with the loaded second part of the question, and focus on “Why didn’t you get another Lincoln?” To answer this question requires one final journey of self-discovery.
The screenshot above tells me pretty much everything you need to know about me. My house is fully immersed in the Nest ecosystem of digital thermostats, smoke detectors, and security cameras, with a total of 13 devices. You know that friend you call up when you’re trying to set up your home theater or you can’t get your WiFi to connect? That friend is me.
Everyone has different automotive priorities, obviously. Otherwise we’d all be driving the same car. Some people value performance, others carrying capacity. Me, I value technology. Until recently, the best automotive gadgets were limited to luxury brands. However, as I pointed out in my End of Luxury post, you no longer need to get a luxury car to get most of the bells and whistles. So literally, all the MKZ offers over the Fusion is the (dubious) value of the Lincoln name.
So let’s dive right into the gadgets, shall we:
Adaptive Cruise Control. This is one that I use every single day. While my 2014 MKZ also had adaptive cruise control, that system only worked down to about 35 MPH. Below that speed, it would disengage. The setup in the 2017 Fusion (and 2017 MKZ) does it one better by being fully functional at all speed, all the way down to a complete stop. This effectively allows it to completely control the throttle and brakes in stop and go traffic, and takes us one step closer to our self-driving future.
Like all adaptive cruise systems, the Ford system keeps a generous following distance, even when set to its shortest gap setting (enough to allow aggressive drivers to slip in). As a recovering tailgater, I like the fact that it helps me maintain a safe following distance.
Lane Departure Assist System. This is definitely a love it or leave it system. My wife Kristen hates the way it “grabs” the wheel, and refuses to use it in her MKC. I, on the other hand, don’t mind it. If anything, I think the system is a little too milquetoast on its inputs. The system is strong enough to resist lane changes if you don’t use the turn signal first, but if you start drifting out of your lane, the nudges aren’t always strong enough to bring the car back into its lane.
It also allows too much “play” within the lane before kicking in: The car will be almost over the paint stripe before it does anything. Once it does, it will frequently overcorrect, sending the car towards the opposite side of the lane. Sometimes for grins (on a suitably empty road), I’ll try to let car the “drive” itself, but what inevitably happens is that the car will weave back and forth within its lane, before the system gives up, lets the car leave the lane and I have to take over.
To be clear, in no way does Ford represent lane departure assist to be any kind of self-driving technology, nor do I suggest attempting to use it as such. Once it detects any kind of shenanigans of the kind I described above, the system admonishes the driver to put their hands back on the wheel. But it is tantalizingly glimpse of our inevitable self-driving future.
Apple CarPlay. Your car’s infotainment system sucks. It’s not your fault: They all do. After all, automakers are in the car business, not the consumer electronics business. Some systems are borderline OK (Chrysler Uconnect and Ford SYNC), but most are awful (Mercedes COMMAND, and anything without a touch screen).
Luckily car manufacturers are well aware of their shortcomings, and most now allow anyone with a smartphone to replace their crappy UI with that of their phone (Google has the similar Android Auto for owners of their devices). Toyota/Lexus seem to be the last major holdouts against Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which, in case they are reading, instantly removes them from my automotive shopping list.
At first I thought it was just a gimmick, but Apple CarPlay has quickly become my go-to automotive interface. CarPlay is simpler and more intuitive than the SYNC 3 setup, and it works just like my iPhone, so I don’t have to learn any new menus or commands. I only dip back to Sync 3 on rare occasions when I need to use a vehicle control for which there is no hard button (heated steering wheel, for example).
The Apple Maps app has a smooth, fluid 3D UI that far exceeds what could be done with the limited processing and graphics capabilities of the head unit. I can use Siri to voice control just about everything, as well as to dictate text messages.
There are a large number of third-party apps available for CarPlay, most of which are audio apps. While I like being able to control and peruse my Audible audiobook collection through CarPlay, Waze is notable by its absence. Apple has also not opened CarPlay to third-party messaging apps, so no Slack or Skype.
FordPass Smartphone App. The Fusion contains an onboard 4G modem for vehicle telematics. This allows me to remotely start, lock, and unlock my car from the FordPass app on my phone. This is particularly helpful during extreme weather, allowing me to preheat/precool my car before I get in. Where I work, my car is parked far from my desk, well beyond the range of traditional key fob remote starters, so the app is a big plus. I can also remotely view the fuel level and odometer reading, but curiously not the tire pressures (something that the Lincoln app does allow).
Some people have complained that the onboard modem is strictly for telematics, and not available to use as a WiFi hotspot. I for one have never understood the appeal of in-vehicle hotspots. Almost everyone already owns a device that can be turned into a WiFi hotspot on demand (their phone). Why pay $20/month to do what you are already paying the device in your pocket to do?
Air-conditioned seats. As the author of the Cold Comfort series on automotive air conditioning, I can honestly say that this is the best invention ever. I’ve covered ventilated vs. cooled seats before, but just to reiterate: Ventilated seats are not the same as actively cooled seats. There is no substitute.
This is usually the part of the article where I tick off all the negatives, but honestly, I can think of anything. Could it be faster, more comfortable? Of course, but considering what it cost that would just be greedy. As far as I’m concerned, this car meets all my needs.
So here we are, at the end of my last Cars of a Lifetime post. When I began writing this series, I had no idea the journey of self-discovery I would be undertaking. There were several arcs in my life (like my Quixotic quest for automotive perfection) that I wasn’t even aware until I started pounding the keys for this series.
But before I conclude my COAL series, a few thank yous are in order:
First, thank you Paul Niedermeyer for running what I think is the best auto enthusiast site on the web (of course I may be biased). I don’t know how you continue to pound out hundreds of original posts, year after year, while I’ve barely written 75 in the past 6 months.
After being a long-time reader, I decided to take up the (virtual) pen and give back to the site that has given me so much, and I’m glad I did. While I originally signed up to contribute some COAL articles, I enjoyed it so much that I quickly became a regular contributor to the site. Even though my COAL series is concluded, I will continue to contribute articles here as long as I can find interesting things to write about.
Second, a heartfelt thank you to all commenters and readers. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The quality of discourse from the Curbivores is second to none. I’ve seen comments here that would be great articles on their own merits. Comments are like tips to contributor here at CC: Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve written, if I have moved you to post a comment then I’ve done my job.
If anyone is on the fence about contributing here, I highly recommend taking the leap. The Cars of a Lifetime series is a great way to get your feet wet, and offers two significant advantages for the first time contributor. The topic is one that is guaranteed not to have been covered here before, and one that you should be an expert in: Yourself.
Lastly, I want to thank Kristen, my lovely wife of 17 years. I’d be lying if I said that she fully embraces (or even understands) my family’s car obsession (now being passed on to my oldest son), but she does support it. Thank you for enduring countless U-turns and unplanned stops to grab photos of yet another old car! Truly a Woman of a Lifetime!