(Last) Weekly Roundup: A Linc To The Past Edition

They did it when I wasn’t looking, when my back was either turned in entirely feigned disinterest or bent to the work of surviving in the so-called gig economy: they changed what it meant to be rich. I don’t mean the numbers, although it is sobering to think that any one of the modern Illuminati can, and often do, spend in a day what a surgeon or senior attorney could make in a lifetime. I’m talking about the actual existence of the rich, the way they live.

My grandfather, the first John Baruth, was rich. Not by today’s standards, mind you. His home in Clearwater was modestly sized and I am certain he went to his grave without ever having flown private. Rather, he was rich in the way that a small-town surgeon or mid-city attorney used to be rich. He retired in his fifties, played tennis, wore and ate whatever suited him. They knew his name at his club and at his church. He was treated with universal respect. Having worked hard for much of his life, he was generous, serene, and cheerful in wealth.

Today’s rich people exhibit little of that serenity or cheerfulness. They sullenly eschew the sartorial and behavorial trappings of traditional American wealth, such as the fine dresses and elegant disposition, for an aesthetic best described as “about to go running in mildly bad weather.” The goal is to mimic the appearance of perpetual exercise, all the better to accompany the Bezos-esque bobblehead-and-pencil-neck marathoner’s build that one apparently cannot avoid picking up somewhere between open-plan-office and C-suite. The primary social message is: I am successful enough to spend my entire life in some sort of aerobic activity. They snipe at the “uniform” of three-piece Brooks Brothers suit even as they all don completely identical light-blue psuedo-exercise vests and fleeces. I suspect, but cannot confirm, that they view the replacement of American tradecraft clothing with sweatshop polyester garbage as a feature, not a bug.

And then, of course, we have their cars.

The investor class drives hyper-aggressive SUVs and crossovers; they are badged with performance-car names but those inauthentic badges are part of the in-joke, like the hamster-wheel fitness places that call themselves “9 Rounds” or “Barry’s Bootcamp” as if they prepare you for a prizefight or your next deployment in those perpetual conflicts that our neo-Nazi war-mongering President tried to end but which our freedom-loving Senate voted to continue until the end of time. These vehicles are frequently miserable to drive and one cannot help but wonder if this, too, is done deliberately. There’s an odd sort of eat-your-vegetables aspect to modern wealth; in exchange for having access to more money than any Rockefeller or Getty ever envisioned, you have to endure the artificial discomfort of Barry’s Bootcamp or the twenty-two-inch factory-fit SUV wheel.

I think about the upper-middle-class dads of my childhood, impeccably suited if more than a little pot-bellied and whiskey-soused behind the wheel of saurian Ninety-Eight Regencies and Lincoln Town Cars. Then I look at my contemporaries, receiving corporate orders through their AirPods as they run listlessly and miserably around L.A. Fitness before returning to their RX350-shaped, LCD-screen-bedecked, thyroid-condition, two-and-a-half-ton, harsh-riding, monotone-interior, fake-engine-sound-braying, faux-Germans from Southern assembly plants or the eerie factories located where Eli Roth filmed the first Hostel film. How is this an improvement?

Last week I paid off my Accord. I thought about trading it in, but I like the car and unlike my old health plan I do, in fact, have the option to keep it if I like it. It is now officially what we Ohio folk call a “beater”. Then I bought a 2018 Lincoln MKT Reserve with the 3.5-liter Ecoboost and just four options: Diamond Blue paint, Elite Package, Class III trailer tow, and all-season floormats. I have liked the MKT for a very long time, which is fair because it is a very old platform, and that does not bother me. It has outstanding passive crash-test safety in all respects. It is library-quiet inside. It is more than fast enough for me, old man that I am. The THX-branded stereo is very close to the first-rate systems designed by Harmon/Revel for the MKZ and Continental.

Speaking of. Given my choice, I’d have a Continental instead of this. However, the MKT does a better job of hauling my son’s BMX and mountain-bike apparatus around. It was also considerably cheaper as a low-mileage 2018 than the equivalent Continental Reserve or Black Label would have been. I’d like to think that I will get the Continental next time.

There is no prestige associated with the MKT, which is nice. My son and I travel mostly unnoticed, in quiet comfort. I assume we are the least likely vehicle in America to be carjacked, unless UberXL raises the rates enough to get MS-13 on board as gig-economy drivers. Over the space of eight days I’ve put over a thousand miles on the car and they have all been good miles. It’s so well-insulated that not even my Blizzak snow tires can keep me from hearing my son’s near-inaudible questions and comments from the back seat.

Having driven virtually all of the hyper-SUVs out there, I can attest that the MKT is nontrivially better as relaxing transportation than any of them could dream of being. It’s a good thing that the rich have abandoned Lincoln in their quest for polyester-Patagonia street cred. Prices are down, in the used market if not the new-car showroom. My grandfather, I think, would have liked this car. He would have seen it as a modern Seville, right down to the front-drive-biased powertrain and the bustleback. This morning I drove it to work while wearing a very nice Richard Anderson coat and I thought about that scene from “Remains Of The Day” where the butler visits a small town and is mistaken for a member of the gentry. I know that my American luxury and British clothing mark me as a servant of the rich, not a member. It’s fine with me. If loving Broughams, even modern ones, is wrong — well, I don’t want to be right.

* * *

This week, for Hagerty, I wrote about when you shouldn’t buy a Miata and when you should buy a ticket for a Miata.

83 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: A Linc To The Past Edition”

  1. Avatararbuckle

    I know this isn’t really your style, but just for the sake of science you should do a drag race between the MKT, Silverado, and (non racecar) Accord.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Not a bad idea. My guess…

      From the dig: MKT
      At the eighth: Silverado
      At the quarter and from then on: Accord

      Reply
  2. Avatarsightline

    …Because at some point we replaced the societal expectations of being rich with virtue-signaling, so instead of volunteering in the community (whether in the Rotary, or KoC, etc), one simply needs to have the right opinions and appear to be slightly embarrassed about the whole thing, and you get a “get out of responsibility card”. There’s a code that differentiates one from the Morlocks: having enough time to work out and vacation but not enough time to actually relax; wearing the same type of clothing, but Patagonia instead of North Face*; and conspicuously consuming travel and Michelin stars.

    It’s the same reason a stainless steel Daytona is worth, to a first order of approximation, about the same on the secondary market as a gold one, or why golf is seen as excessive and a bit vulgar while riding up Arastadero on an Oltre XR4 is somehow real. It’s the Ivy-iztion of wealth. At the elite schools, you’re not supposed to be seen trying; don’t care about grades but still maintain the 4.0. Is it any surprise that that generation grew up to want to blend in with everyone else while simultaneously yanking the ladder up behind them? It absolutely helps people sleep at night, you’re a good person, despite your wealth and complete disinterest in using it in any way to better your immediate society, you truly WANT everyone to be equal so much that you won’t dress differently from the people that you aren’t helping.

    *Or Moncler

    Reply
    • AvatarPaulyG

      “Because at some point we replaced the societal expectations of being rich with virtue-signaling, so instead of volunteering in the community (whether in the Rotary, or KoC, etc), one simply needs to have the right opinions and appear to be slightly embarrassed about the whole thing, and you get a “get out of responsibility card”.”

      Wow, you hit it right on the head. Living on the Gold Coast of Connecticut, I see this every day. We used to call it “limousine liberal” years ago in Smalltown USA where I grew up. Everybody here is for all the fashionable causes, as long as the deplorables that do the physical work in town get out by sundown and head back to Bridgeport and Waterbury. It is why every volunteer organization in town is dying, except for the ones where there is a fancy event for people to show off.

      Reply
  3. AvatarCliffG

    You have missed the most fun part of our uber rich these days, the fascination with an assortment of left wing causes along side a fierce determination to hide all of their wealth via foundations. I did read a rather clever, yet accurate, comment on Harvard as being a large investment fund that runs a college on the side. Carnegie gave us 2,500 libraries, Bill Gates saddled us with “Common Core”, an experiment on our nations’ youth that Bill now admits was a catastrophic failure. Thanks bub.

    Reply
    • AvatarJustPassinThru

      The very nature of “the rich” is different today.

      It’s rooted in how they GOT rich, and from whence they sprung. Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford…all came from humble roots. They WORKED their way up. And they did it by offering VALUE in the marketplace. Each offered a purchase proposition: Buy the product and, over the price, your life will be improved. Carnegie was selling industrial goods, not consumer goods, but nonetheless, the value of better steel for early railroads could be represented in the lives of individuals. Train travel, always faster than coach or horse, suddenly became as safe or more so.

      Of these men, only Carnegie relied on any sort of crony-connections – and in his case it was knowledge of railroad workings and their need for steel. Not rent-seeking at the public troughs.

      Today’s uber-rich tend to have grown up in elevated classes – the right parents, the right schools and universities, the right neighborhoods. Access to those with essentially unlimited resources – yes, the Government Class. Out of that they construct elaborate rent-seeking or otherwise protected markets or products – Tesla and Solyndra, with quasi-public seed money. GE, with no-bid crony connections. Military contractors.

      The worst offenders today are the money-changiers, the Financiers. Glass-Steagall, with its proscription against banks purchasing stocks and securities for their own accounts in open markets…has been gone 20 years now. Out of that and out of the New Finance school, we have ZIRP-QE, a series of programs that have the Federal Reserve engage in covert money-printing. This New Money is made available to banksters, through Zero Interest and no-restrictions on proprietary stock accounts.

      It’s a nice racket. Banksters get this money for free, NO interest; pour it into the Dow-indexed stocks without thought…pay themselves fat commissions out of the House Account…and because of all this buying demand, the price of these investments RISES! With constant revolving, the shares are sold, higher; the proceeds from “rising” prices is paid to the bank, more commissions to the 20something Account Executives; and they pay back the ZIRP money, borrow it again. Lather, rinse, repeat…and no one notices that this money is printed-up money, and that the reason the stock indices are rising is because of monetary inflation, the debased new money poured into the stock market.

      Of COURSE such connected, such superior, such class-conscious Crony Financiers would have contempt for their lessers. Meaning, of course, us.

      Reply
      • AvatarEric H

        While I shar your disdain for the bankster class, to think that Edison and Ford didn’t employ rent-seeking is plainly wrong.
        Both used patents to generate rents and to exclude others from competition.

        Reply
        • AvatarJustPassinThru

          Strictly speaking, yes. (For everyone who does not know the original meaning: “Rent” originally meant, not money to the landlord, but money generated other than by working.)

          Except that Edison and Ford DID work for that money. Ford had a couple of good ideas (the Model T, mostly) and adopted many more good ideas. The money he got from his business was money he put into it, in building it up.

          Edison got his royalties on devices he invented, as well as proceeds from the commercial sale of electricity (The Edison Companies were the original electric utilities). Again, that’s not money just demanded or requested/granted; that’s money entitled in a series of transactions.

          The “rent-seeking” of today is through no-bid overpriced contracts, through subsidies, through other circuitous dodges I won’t get into.

          Reply
          • AvatarEric H

            Except that Edison didn’t actually invent that much, he claimed the inventions of his employees as his own and screwed them over. He was a horrible human being.
            Do you know why Edison worked his people so hard to find a workable solution for the light bulb? He did it because he thought that with artificial lighting people could be made work longer hours, especially poor people.

            Your new definition of rent-seeking is totally bogus. I’ve never heard anyone else use that term in that way.

          • AvatarJustPassinThru

            For Eric H:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking

            In public choice theory and in economics, rent-seeking involves seeking to increase one’s share of existing wealth without creating new wealth. Rent-seeking results in reduced economic efficiency through poor allocation of resources, reduced actual wealth-creation, lost government revenue, increased income inequality,[1] and (potentially) national decline.

            Attempts at capture of regulatory agencies to gain a coercive monopoly can result in advantages for the rent seeker in a market while imposing disadvantages on (incorrupt) competitors. This constitutes one of many possible forms of rent-seeking behavior.

            Which of Edison’s employees invented the incandescent light?

            Which of them developed the phonograph?

          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            Except that Edison didn’t actually invent that much, he claimed the inventions of his employees as his own and screwed them over. He was a horrible human being.

            Thomas Edison could be said to have invented the modern research and development laboratory. His employees were paid to develop inventions so the question of credit is moot. They were working for him.

            Very few inventions are the products of single minds. Can I claim to have designed the Harmonicaster electric harmonica that I make? After all, I only directed the digital design work, which was actually done by talented folks who know how to use CAD software. Did they implement some things in ways I hadn’t considered? Yes. Would they have done so without my overall direction? Not likely.

          • Avatarrambo furum

            I must state that Mr. Schrieber is correct. This notion that Edison, who essentially invented R&D, was a bad guy is a trope of the Nikola Tesla virgin cult that falsely believe themselves to be unappreciated geniuses. Corporate employees voluntarily surrender patents to their employers per contract every day. You can’t expect to profit off the fruits of labor for which you’ve already been paid. Well except for Zuckerberg.

  4. AvatarEric L.

    I… had no idea they still made the MKT. You don’t see them in San Diego–and why would you?

    Congrats on buying a car painted with a real color. It’s no Twilight Blue Pearl Infiniti G35, but that’s not a bad shade of blue, at all. I hope you never have to write anything interesting about it, unlike your last Town Car.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      2019 is the last year for civilian MKT sales… the Aviator, which is lovely, will be taking its place.

      Reply
      • Avatartrollson

        Although buying the last model year is usually a pretty safe bet, I’m still concerned about ford reliability (or lack thereof). Especially with a turbo under the hood. Yikes.

        Reply
          • Avatargtem

            The waterpump has been a source of some serious issues on the 3.5L as early as 60-80k miles, it’s buried in the motor (12 hour book time), and if it springs a leak will weep into the engine oil, which in turn can wipe the bearings out in short order. But the failure rate is not catastrophic.

          • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

            I’ve heard about the V6 water pump issues too. Curious to see how your car behaves, eventually I might be looking at a CPO MKS or MKZ when I finally retire the Cartier.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I’m going to do the 150k Ford ESP and I’ll probably also swap the water pump at 90k miles.

          • Avatartrollson

            The turbos? In taxis? I’m skeptical.

            You don’t have to run it forever for poor reliability to have an impact. Usually resale value will tell you all you need to know.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            It just wasn’t expensive enough for me to worry, honestly. I cannot imagine it will be worth anything as a used car, either. I’m comparing it to buying a new Suburban Premier Plus and running it for the same 60k miles or so… if I had to replace the engine twice I would only be on level ground at that point.

          • Avatarrpn453

            Keep an eye on the weep hole. It’s a good habit to check it every oil change on any vehicle.

            If the coolant seal leaks it will eventually take out the bearings, which will eventually damage the oil seal. There will be traces of coolant in the weep hole before any of those things can happen.

          • Avatargtem

            Agreed with rpn. I’d just keep an eye on the weephole, maybe spring for a used oil analysis if you really want to make certain as you get up in miles. It’s a pricey and involved job to commit to just for the sake of preventative maintenance IMO, especially when the failure rate is by no means 100%.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I’m a big one for preventive maintenance, I am going to do a bunch of stuff on my Accord at 90k that probably doesn’t require doing.

            I’m more worried about the transfer case / PTU. There was a bad run of those that theoretically ended in 2013 but I expect to do something with it.

        • Avatartrollson

          Personally I prefer to buy products that are made right. Even though I can afford to buy disposable cars, I’d rather keep a well-made car in good shape than keep buying poorly-made new ones. Diff’rent strokes I guess.

          Reply
          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Well thanks for taking a moment to educate your moral inferiors here, anyway. My brother’s Flex has run 160k miles over seven years without a single unscheduled service. I guess in theory there are cars which do better than that. Maybe they actually fix other cars when you’re not looking.

      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        I think the Aviator, Nautilus, and new Navigator are about the best looking SUV/CUVs available today (except for the stunning Jaguar iPace, which is really a station wagon).

        At the NAIAS I saw Ford’s styling chief David Woodhouse getting a publicity photo taken sitting behind the wheel of a Navigator and when he got out of the car I asked him, “Is it hard to make an SUV elegant?”

        He smiled broadly and nodded. “But then Bentley set a very low bar with the Bentayga, I suppose,” I said.

        “And Rolls-Royce too,” he replied.

        Reply
        • AvatarNoID

          I absolutely despise the styling of the Bentayga. The Cullinan is a little bit better, but both are poor efforts at pasting modern Bentley/Rolls styling onto SUV proportions.

          Land Rover / Range Rover does it much better IMO. I wouldn’t call them elegant, but they’re easy on the eyes.

          Reply
  5. AvatarChris Tonn

    Some of the shift in fashion may be a subconscious desire, shared among many 20th and 21st-century generations, to NOT die like our parents did. They see their parents dying of what could be termed “diseases of leisure” – obesity-related causes such as diabetes or heart disease, or alcohol-related causes. They may still look dapper while they relax at the club with a scotch, but their kids see parents who didn’t take care of their bodies.

    Reply
  6. AvatarBrian

    Excellent pick, Jack! Did you consider the Flex at all? I personally like the looks of the MKT better (love that rear end), but my uncle has a Flex and I know they are pretty nice inside as well.

    Reply
    • AvatarNoId

      I disagree completely, I’ve always thought the Em-Kay-Italicized-Tee was ugly as sin, with odd proportions and a face that looked like a Camry had a baby with a hungry blue whale. That said, I’ll never dispute how nice of a vehicle it is otherwise, and ditto the Flex (which is a much better styling exercise in my opinion).

      I also had no idea they still built the MKT.

      Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      There was no Flex Titanium last year otherwise I’d have absolutely looked at it. I bought a Flex Limited in 2009, cinnamon with white top like all the rest!

      Reply
  7. Avatargtem

    The modern wealthy have a weird moralizing duality to them, one that Charles Murray calls out in his excellent book “Coming Apart” about growing social inequality/isolation in America. On the one hand, they hold “rednecks” and everything they stand for and where they live in absolute contempt. On the flip side, they refuse to criticize growing rates of single motherhood and various social ills that started in the black ghetto and are increasing occurring in small town America, while themselves maintaining high rates of marriage (85%+) and low rates of children born out of wedlock. There is no longer a concept of setting an example and chastising those who stray from polite social norms when it comes to healthy families, only chastising for not accepting the latest LGBTQ abomination.

    Reply
  8. AvatarHarry

    I look forward to future updates on this vehicle. I have identified it as a possible replacement for my 2011 XC70 (same plateform?), as I don’t like the new XC90. I am interested in how it performs for the sort of getting to the trail light “off roading” that causes small cars to park at the alternate further trailhead.

    Reply
    • AvatarNoID

      If you’re moving from the XC70, why not move into the comparable VC60 or VC90 Cross Country? Or if you want to buy Germerican, the Buick Regal TourX?

      Reply
    • Avatarrpn453

      Look great but ride worse. Might as well go with the 22 inch wheels.

      I think it would both look and ride best with as much rubber – mostly sidewall, possibly some width – as will fit within those fenders. Here, luxury is not having to worry about destroying your wheels on pot-holes during wet spring drives after dark.

      Reply
  9. AvatarHarry

    It is one of my favorite topics to rant about. I will look at the VC60. The VC90 is out because they ruined it for my purposes. Green house is much smaller, they slopped the trunk so my very large dog cannot both stand and look out the back, and they went from a 40/20/40 split bench to a 60/40. If that is incorrect and there is an option for 40/20/40 split my local Jag/Rover/Volvo dealer was unaware of it. Also worst dealer ever, my lost Volvo I drove an extra hour and a half to purchase elsewhere. The sensor pod behind the rearview mirror takes up a huge amount of real estate. All in all it feels too coffin-like, as did the old Dodge Magnum.

    The XC90 greenhouse is similar in dimension to the XC70, but the high roof makes it difficult to lift bikes on top. Also, if I am looking at an SUV instead of a wagon that puts all SUVs on the table, not just Volvo. I can’t confirm this on the canned 2.5 test loop on skating rink smooth roads that my local dealer limits you too, but my friends who have replaced old Volvos with new has nothing good to say about the ride quality on rough roads compared to their old ones. To my knowledge, none of them bought the air suspension so that might be better.

    Others echo what Jack says about the quiet comfort of the MKT, and I like that. My ideal is always a wagon and a roadster in the garage. MKT might be wagon enough for me.

    Reply
    • AvatarNoID

      All good points. I too am sick of over-burdened rear view mirrors, I once drove a rental Impala LTZ and on uphill right-hand clover on-ramps I dang near couldn’t see in front of me because of the massive mirror.

      If you’ve looking at SUVs with wagon-like feel, you really can’t do better than the Flex or MKT in my humble opinion. If you can accept traditional SUV proportions and ride height, and want something that screams “My Employer Made Me Cut Off My Mullet” get yourself a Durango R/T or SRT. I’ve driven both and they’re a treat, both in civilized and uncivilized driving. If you want to maintain the appearance of respectability, get the Citadel with 5.7L option.

      Reply
      • AvatarHarry

        I like the Durango as well. I have had good rental experiences with them. I appreciate the availability of features such as a heated steering wheel at relatively low trim levels also.

        Reply
    • AvatarSamIam

      Harry, are you from Indianapolis area? Your comment about the VolvoRoverJag dealer being the worst dealer ever strikes home.

      Reply
  10. AvatarNoID

    I can’t blame you for driving what you want or what makes sense, instead of playing Keeping Up With The Jonnalagaddas.

    I gross over $100k a year working for an American OEM in the mid-west, but I’m still driving a foreign car that’s old enough to drink and has driven around the world nearly eleven times simply because it’s still reliably getting me from A to B to A 5 days a week. With a flock of kids and some remaining student loan and other debt from harder times I’d rather not saddle myself with an unnecessary financial outlay simply to keep up appearances, even though on paper I could afford it. Why should I?

    Besides, should I come face to face with my neighbor and be forced to justify my rags, I can at least point out that my ride is a special edition of the top trim level available for that year. Stick that in your chillum and smoke it!

    Reply
    • Avatardejal

      Unless your neighbor is paying your bills, screw ’em. But only be adversarial if they’re the ones having a problem with your ride.

      I remember something like this from years ago.
      Mr. Smith buys a new Lincoln coupe almost every year in the late 70s.
      Then he buys a loaded T-Bird.
      The neighbors say to themselves, “Looks like Smith lost his job.”

      Reply
    • Avatargtem

      NoID sounds like we have more than a few things in common. I finally threw in the beater towel a month ago and bought a lightly used Town&Country Touring-L for a very palatable price (cash). I still have my old 1996 4Runner (Limited with optional rear diff lock!), which at 150k miles in all likelihood will ultimately outlive the 3 year old Chrysler. We live in a neighborhood that’s yuppie but eclectic, even my old Ford Rangers never stood out as being old or eye sores.

      Reply
  11. Avatarhank chinaski

    The wagon mafia likes. Nice color, and you still have the truck for truly dirty work. Our fleet is smaller, so the wagon is more pedestrian. I’d be loathe to throw (dirty accoutrements of outdoor activity of choice) into a 40-60K Volvo or E-class wagon, even used.

    Damn shame to toss the color matched Brembos off the 30AE at the get go. Perhaps Verus ducts and two piece rotors and real pads would do the trick.
    I don’t recall that the 25AE’s retained any special cache. The NA BRG’s, Sunburst Yellows and Mariner Blue ‘Smurfs’ do have their fans, though as do the few True Red NCs.

    Reply
  12. AvatarJohn C.

    I can see why you picked the MKT, especially in slightly used and heavily discounted form. The long highway commute to Michigan requires something good on the highway and your requirement for utility leaves out mid size cars. I chose a Volvo V90 facing similar needs but to me the added utility is such a trade off. The long interior floor adds to the road noise and the added glass over the sedan adds wind noise. Even on the wagon, the tires are ridiculously oversized at 255/45 R19s. Donks on anything vintage and cancelling out any ride advantage of the modern multilink suspensions. The world needs a full size car with a big interior and trunk and a well isolated separate frame, a high torque low reving engine. Cylinder deactivation and relaxed gearing could still give great highway mileage and the relaxed tuning means regular fuel. Styled on Brougham street, finally a car could treat the owner as special and dignified in his own right.

    Reply
  13. AvatarSpud Boy

    I’ve observed that, when asked, men are incredibly good at justifying:

    1. Their choice of house.
    2. Their choice of wife.
    3. Their choice of car.

    Reply
  14. AvatarMartin

    I love modern Lincolns, but I never came around to the MKT. Back in 2009 when I bought my second Flex, I looked at the MKT as well. Nicer interior, and some nice comfort features not present in the Flex. But there was something ungainly about it, and if I recall the price delta was about $8k. Too rich for my wallet at that time.

    The new Aviator will almost certainly replace my wife’s terrible QX60. As for the Continental, my only hope is that they resurrect it with a new, enormous sedan based on the Aviator/Explorer platform.

    Reply
  15. AvatarSalubrious

    Congratulations on the new ride! The Flex and MKT are on the short list for my family’s next vehicle. We’re probably looking at the normally aspirated models though. We tend to drive our vehicles to over 300k miles, and I’m concerned about the longevity of the Ecoboost drivetrains vs. the NA V6s. I was a GM guy for many years, but serious reliability problems with GM engines like the 3.6 V6 and vehicles like the Lambda crossovers have me looking elsewhere. The four Ford and Lincoln vehicles I have now have a total of over a million miles on them.

    Reply
  16. AvatarTony LaHood

    You’ve done some fine writing, Jack, but this is a masterful. I grew up around the kind of people who drove relatively older Buicks or Chryslers, wore slightly worn but comfortable clothing, and seemed to be gracious, polite, and friendly to everyone. It was not until my early teens that I learned how extremely wealthy they actually were. Perhaps it was noblesse oblige; perhaps it was the instillation of good values from childhood. Whatever the case, I miss the days when how much money one had was nobody’s damn business and wealth was simply a circumstance and not an obsession.

    Reply
    • AvatarJustPassinThru

      What you are seeing, is the difference between the Aspirational Rich and the Old-Money Rich or Established Rich.

      The Aspirational Rich, the Noveau Riche, not only have some money – they feel compelled to FLAUNT their money, and frequently are mortgaged to the hilt. In terms of behavior, they’re not unlike Lotto winners. And they often end up the same way.

      The established rich, simply live in ways that are comfortable. An expensive new luxury car offers few real benefits, so they don’t own one. They are comfortable about who they are.

      Likewise, clothing. Quality over perceived status. If you’re going to the grocery, jeans and a quiet tee shirt do fine.

      Where they differ, is that their money works for them – and the money they save on cars, clothes, boats, ski lodges, they can actually spend on vacations that expand their horizons, on enjoyable activities, including hobby-businesses; on a lifestyle that gives real quality.

      Again, it often comes down to how the money was made. Philosophically, a young man of crony connections, who suddenly has huge amounts of money from having found a way to the Public Trough…is no different from a laborer who bought the winning Mega Millions ticket. Someone who built a business, grew it through excellent product and wise choices…he knows his value and knows his status symbols don’t change his values.

      Reply
      • Avatareverybodyhatesscott

        The Aspirational Rich, the Noveau Riche, not only have some money – they feel compelled to FLAUNT their money, and frequently are mortgaged to the hilt. In terms of behavior, they’re not unlike Lotto winners. And they often end up the same way.

        You see these people talking about leasing lambos and such. If you have to lease it, you’re not rich.

        Where they differ, is that their money works for them – and the money they save on cars, clothes, boats, ski lodges, they can actually spend on vacations that expand their horizons, on enjoyable activities, including hobby-businesses; on a lifestyle that gives real quality.

        Travel is so overrated. “I expanded my horizons by getting drunk in another country” Not that I don’t enjoy travel but I don’t consider it any less frivolous than owning 20 guitars.

        Reply
        • AvatarJustPassinThru

          And that’s to everyone’s taste. I find golf to be, a good walk spoiled. On the other hand, in my dotage, I’m finding the life of a Snowbird – south for the winter – to be quite appealing.

          Point I’m making is, Established Rich don’t spend money to be seen spending money. They don’t buy mortgaged boats they can’t afford to spend time on. They don’t buy horses they resent for the work.

          They live as they like, not with the trappings of wealth but with the freedom of wealth-without-debt.

          Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          We perceive travel as the alpha luxury now because our overlords are often packed into tiny boxes on the island of Manhattan or elsewhere. So they spend money on getting away from the box. That’s also why Marie Kondo is so popular. she makes a virtue of having no storage space.

          Reply
          • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

            To me, fun travel is NOT flying. I’ll drive from home base at the crack of dawn to drive to Des Moines or Chicago or Milwaukee to go to a car show, have a blast, stop at a local supper club, have a steak, gin and tonic and football-sized baked potato, and get back home at 10-11 PM to sleep in my own bed. That’s living well in my opinion, I don’t need to go to some obscure country to hike; that would be more like a punishment to me. I yam what I yam. 🙂

  17. AvatarSamIam

    Hey Jack, totally understand the MKT love. Owned a couple of MB R350s during my daughter’s travel soccer years. Never a better vehicle for long road trips, lake weekends, etc. Polarizing looks but it was a fabulous highway vehicle. Usable 3rd row, really comfortable 2nd row captains seats. I wish I had hung onto it simply to haul big dogs around now. In fact, recently made a run on an AMG version, R63, just because. Always liked the MKT and Flex also. Much more functional than the standard SUV these days.

    Reply
  18. AvatarDrew

    Now THAT is an excellent article. I drive a minivan; a rusty old Town and Country. I’m a single divorcee and I love the vehicle. I am a total automotive geek.

    Reply
    • AvatarJustPassinThru

      And you could do far worse. I had had, over the years, four samples of various-generations ChryCo minivans. The first generation was…meh. The teardrop 1995-2007 varieties, were both useful and reasonably passible as a driver’s car.

      I’d never own one today, but only for the genetic cancer they contain in their Ultradrive transmissions. Otherwise I found them fully acceptable, in ergonomics, road manners, utility and even style.

      It’s a wise choice, especially if it liberates you from time payments.

      Reply
      • AvatarDrew

        Thanks. I’ve owned a bunch of these things…starting with an ’89 Grand Caravan LE with the dreaded first-year Ultradrive. I must have lucked out; it never grenaded over the 90,000 miles I drove it. We had a fleet of 1995 Grand Voyagers where I work; one of which had an Ultradrive that DID grenade while I was driving it through rush hour traffic. Barely made it over to the shoulder.

        Reply
  19. Avatarrwb

    Here’s an opinion sure to be unpopular around these parts: The big-body GM sedans at higher trim levels, the Town Car, and any equivalents were every bit as cynically conceived as modern “performance” SUVs, only intended when new for a different era’s archetype of medium-rich guy who couldn’t tell shit from apple butter.

    Stiff and fragile has replaced underdamped, plodding, and indifferently built; little has been lost. As far as I’ve been able to tell, the paradigm of American luxury cars for the past thirty years has been to simply lie about the quality of the materials used, because as long as everything is glossy, oversized, and/or soft, the buyers won’t notice or mind. At least the bones used to be durable.

    Similar situation today: Nebulous perceived prestige negates obvious compromises and deficits, though now it gets you real horsepower for the duration of the lease.

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      Where were the flawless apple butter cars of your dreams made? Think if you look closer at those you think got it right, you might find a place here or there were their butter was really shit.

      Reply
      • Avatarrwb

        This has little to do with locality, American luxury cars were actually excellent another 30 years back from where we’re looking, and what they became for a while were superficial modifications, dishonestly branded.

        If Jack’s point was that driving a Cayenne Turbo and being rich in a fleece in 2019 is somehow notably less authentic and virtuous than driving a new Bill Blass Town Car and being rich in a suit in 1980, my point was that this is ridiculous.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Authenticity and virtue aside, I’m simply pointing out that the nature of being rich has CHANGED. Is it better or worse now? Not for me to say, but I certainly have less interest in the way things are done now.

          Reply
  20. Avatar-Nate

    ” Rich” : means not caring what others think of your possessions, manner of dress etc. .

    Rich people spend like they’re poor, poor people spend like they’re rich .

    -Nate

    Reply
  21. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    “Ben Zoma said…
    Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion, as it is written (Psalm 128:2) “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.” “You shall be happy” refers to this world; and “it shall be well with you” refers to the world to come.” Pirke Avot [Ethics of the Fathers] 4:1

    Reply
    • AvatarNoID

      Absolutely. I remind myself (and my children) regularly that I live like a king. I have a steady professional job, three vehicles, a four bedroom house on 4+ acres, running water, a/c and heat, a stocked pantry and fridge, a reasonable sense of domestic security and political stability, and defensive armaments if either is threatened.

      We aren’t high on the hog, and if you fail to consider what I take out of my salary for savings/investments my budget is pretty tight. But historically speaking, I’m living like the landed gentry. I’m a damn monarch, and I’m very grateful for that.

      Reply
  22. Avatardal20402

    Congrats on the MKT. Great choice for your new commute. Funny that it was you, not I, that ended up buying one.

    I got sick of most of the discussions on TTAC so stopped participating, but continue to drive around in my incorrectly badged Land Cruiser on those occasions when I’m not on a bicycle or a bus.

    Reply
  23. AvatarDeven

    I just came out of a Flex Ecoboost lease (blue with black roof) which was 2 vehicles after an MKT with the Ecoboost. Now into an F150 with the 2.7EB. Flex makes better use of the cargo area and 3rd row seating than the MKT due to the squared-off rear end. However, the materials are much better in every way in the MKT and together with the THX sound system is worth the price difference. As a bonus, the dealer experience is better, too. 2nd row legroom in both are best in the industry. My wife hated the exterior styling of the MKT but liked the Flex well enough. I was pretty ambivalent about both, but liked the MKT better in general (see above for materials and THX). Though, I always felt that they were about 500 lbs heavier than they needed to be. After the Flex I was hesitant to go to the F150, but am enjoying it so much that I don’t think I can downsize on my next lease, however the Continental with the suicide doors calls to me!

    Reply
  24. AvatarDirty Dingus McGee

    To me, most new vehicles are an appliance. Some better than others, some overpriced based on the name attached. Is that $4,000 Subzero refrigerator, $3,000 better than the GE one at the big box home improvement store? Over the past 5 years, I have rented probably 125-150 different vehicles. Some for a day, some for a month. Each one I have thought; “would I like to own this?”. In just about every case, no I wouldn’t. The reasons always vary; infotainment system to complicated, lousy visibility, stupid gear selector knob located between the volume for the radio and the fan speed knob, general “cheap” feel of the entire vehicle. etc. The few that I would have an interest in, ZL1 Camaro, Hellcat, would certainly cause serious damage to my license. However, I don’t NEED either of those. I drive a company vehicle, currently a 2018 Ram 2500 Megacab, Cummins, I own a 2006 Dodge 2500 crew cab that I tow a 32′ car trailer with, everything else I own is 1986 or older. It’s not that I can’t afford a new vehicle, it’s just there are nearly none that I like.And I’ll be damned if I’ll buy something, just to impress someone I couldn’t give two shits what they think.

    Reply
  25. AvatarWheeTwelve

    Rules change for every generation. We grow up learning to walk, to speak, to read, and picking up all sorts of cultural queues in the process. The walking doesn’t change, the speaking doesn’t change, the reading doesn’t change. So we don’t expect the culture to change, either. But it does. Every time. And I don’t think we’re well prepared to deal with it.

    I mean, I’m not far away from you in age Jack, and I cannot imagine either one of us in skinny pants with moussed up hair-do that makes us look like another species altogether. Dang, I just about vomited simply trying to visualize this.

    We try to explain away the cultural changes by saying that the new generation wants to separate itself from their parents. That may be a small part of it. But kids rarely come up with such things on their own. My jaded self thinks that the fashion/entertainment/what-have-you industry is always looking for another way to make a buck. And most kids simply don’t know any better. Those of us that are cursed (blessed?) with middle age today can easily recognize the silliness of the always-exercising fleece, or the moussed-up, skinny pants “fashion statement.” Kids simply don’t know any better, be they rich or not.

    So the outfits change, car preferences change (I won’t go into that one), the music changes, and so on. By the time most of us realize that the rules have changed, we are too old to change with them. That’s ok, I’m almost enjoying being a well-dressed grumpy old man driving an eight-year-old M3 coupe, while listening to my “old” music.

    Reply
  26. Avatargtem

    I just had a Flex Limited as a rental for a day slog up to Chicago and back through some nasty slushy conditions (mine was FWD). Mine had 34k miles on it and generally speaking seems to have held up well to rental abuse. It was easy to find a comfortable driving position, and it was quiet and comfortable for both 3hr legs to and from Chicago. I will say it would not catch ANY radio stations on auto-scan near Lafayette Indiana, which was weird, maybe I was doing something wrong? Also with a cross-wind there was a bizarre noise emanating from the cowl that can best be described as radio static, utterly strange. The car handled really well and the lower roofline compared to my T&C was appreciated in the crosswinds. Ride around town was flintier than expected, I think some smaller lighter wheels with a bit more sidewall would transform ride quality. Interior quality was a bit of a mixed bag: dash is very handsome and as soft as they come, I like the dark wood insert. But by the shifter there is very cheap hollow matte black plastic, the door cards have nice soft inserts but the main card material is very aggressively grained (and cheap looking/feeling) hard plastic. Leather quality is notably better than the super cheap stuff in my T&C. I really don’t care for the center stack’s shiny non-buttons and needing to navigate a touch screen to operate heated seats. Rear seat room looked epic. I got an average of 24.6mpg driving 70-75mph most of the way back, which I think was perfectly good. I find the Ford 3.5L Duratec to feel stronger down low than the Pentastar 3.6L and the transmission is more responsive. But I also think the Pentastar revs smoother, and in comparable applications seems to get better mpg. So overall I liked it, but my favorite mid-tier upgrade from Avis remains the Ford Edge Titanium 2.0T.

    Reply

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