2007 Corolla New Car Test Drive
After five years of yeoman service in a segment where Ford hadn't played previously - front- drive luxury cars - and five years of new Japanese competition, the Lincoln Continental has been jettisoned in favor of a new entry: a vehicle with a different worldview.
The 6-cylinder giant economy car that was the Lincoln Continental has been replaced by an entirely new luxury automobile, one with the same moniker but a new transverse DOHC V8 engine, a new transaxle, a much trimmer body design, and a visually exciting and incredibly talented dashboard and instrument panel.
Lincoln-Mercury product planners and marketing executives flatly state that their goal was to create the best front-drive luxury car in the world and, further, that the new Continental measures up to their goals.
This is a pretty ambitious assertion. Even with the front-drive proviso, which limits direct comparisons with the superb Lexus LS 400, the Continental will still be measured against the more powerful Cadillac Seville and Seville STS, as well as the bigger Cadillac DeVille and Concours.
So it's hard for us to endorse Lincoln's best-in-class position. But it's easy to call the new Continental better than the car it replaces. It's smoother, it's far more powerful and it offers a level of electronic sophistication that few luxury vehicles can match.
Our model, with aluminum wheels and a 6-disc CD player located not in the trunk but in the console, had an estimated price of $42,125. Let the European luxury sedans sacrifice comfort for sports-car performance.
And for that matter, let the Japanese wow the world with curvaceous $60,000 works of art that, unfortunately, a typical family must struggle to get into.
The Lincoln Town Car holds itself to a different standard. It's unabashedly big and boxy on the outside; unashamedly cavernous and comfortable on the inside.
It's also a classic American luxury car. It has every luxury feature known to man and a big V8 to turn the rear wheels and make it all go.
That's not to say the Town Car is outdated. True, an extraordinary increase in the popularity of European and Japanese prestige cars - not to mention the Cadillac Seville - has helped redefine what many Americans want in a luxury model. As a result, the Town Car and the Cadillac Fleetwood are just about the only two cars that still adhere to traditional American standards: vast dimensions, parlor-plush interiors and an ultra-soft ride.
But Ford has continued to revise and refine the Town Car, making subtle but important changes inside and out that, in Ford's opinion, make this an even more stately car for 1995.
Three versions are available to suit your pocketbook and style: the Executive Series, Signature Series and Cartier Designer Series. Our Cartier test car offered heated leather seats and traction control, which brought its price close to $42,000.
If your taste has been swayed by the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, you'll find the Town Car a thoroughly modern rendition of what you expect an American luxury car to be. It almost goes without saying that there are a lot of similarities among midsize sedans. With few exceptions, each offers at least two engine choices. Al-so, each has a base model followed at a minimum by an upgraded version. And most are priced, model for model, within striking distance of their major competitors.
The similarities don't end there. Dimensionally, most midsize sedans occupy about the same amount of space, deliver comparable performance and gas mileage, and are, at least superficially, more than slightly similar in their appearance.
So what makes the Mazda 626 special in its class? Why choose it instead of, say, a Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Mitsubishi Galant? We would say that the answer can only come from your own personal acquaintance - in other words, a firsthand test drive of the car.
The Mazda does everything well, whether it's being judged by class norms or by even higher standards. The 626 is finished to near-perfection and is a delight to drive.
On paper, this Mazda stands up to the competition, but that something extra that makes the 626 a little more attractive than some other cars goes well beyond written descriptions. Toyota Corolla is among the best of the compact sedans: reliable and economical yet refined and comfortable.
The best of the lineup, in our opinion, is the top-of-the-line Corolla LE, a luxurious compact when equipped with the optional leather interior and JBL audio system. However, the base Corolla CE offers an excellent value and comes standard with air conditioning, while the mid-level Corolla S is well-equipped with popular features.
The sporty Corolla XRS features a specially tuned suspension and a more powerful, 164-horsepower 1.8-liter engine that propels the car from 0 to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. These upgrades add sports appeal, though we wouldn't classify the XRS as the kind of sport compact that fuels enthusiast magazines.
The seats are comfortable and supportive, whether ordered with cloth or leather. Big heating and air conditioning controls are simple, radio controls are straightforward, the cup holders work well, and cubbies are available for stashing stuff out of the way, making for a tidy, convenient cabin. Getting in and out is easy and the back seat in this four-door sedan is surprisingly roomy and comfortable.
The standard four-cylinder engine revs smoothly and delivers good acceleration performance. Corolla earns an EPA-estimated 32/40 mpg City/Highway when equipped with a manual transmission. Both the manual and the automatic transmissions offer smooth shifting, and the manual is very easy to operate. All models have a smooth, comfortable ride and responsive handling.
Safety is enhanced by ordering optional curtain-style airbags and side-impact airbags designed to provide additional head and torso protection in a side-impact. Optional anti-lock brakes help the driver maintain steering control after slamming on the brakes. Crash testing indicates the Corolla is one of the safest cars in its class.
Toyota Corolla comes in one body style, a four-door sedan (not counting the Matrix). The Corolla CE, S, and LE come with a 126-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The Corolla XRS gets a 164-horsepower engine. (Note that although horsepower numbers appear lower for the 2006 models, it is due to a change in how the SAE calculates net horsepower. Actual performance of the engines remains unchanged from 2005 models.) The 2006 Corolla line carries over with no significant changes.
The Corolla CE is available with a five-speed manual transmission ($14,005) or a four-speed automatic ($14,805). The CE comes standard with air conditioning (with an air filter), AM/FM/CD stereo system, power steering, tilt steering column, tachometer, intermittent wipers, digital clock, outside temperature gauge, trunk lamp, and a dome light with delay.
Corolla S, available with the manual ($15,050) or automatic ($15,850), gets wider 195/65R15 tires and sporty styling cues: smoked headlight lens extenders, integrated fog lamps, and an aerodynamic body package with color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, rocker panel extensions, and rear mud guards. Inside, the S gets a unique cloth interior, a sporty tachometer, chrome accents, and a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The S is also upgraded with power door locks, power mirrors, a vertical seat-height adjustment, and mirror-mounted map lights. Power windows with keyless entry and cruise control are included in the optional Enhanced Power Package ($500).
Corolla LE manual ($15,215) and automatic ($16,015) are upgraded with popular convenience features, including power windows, remote keyless entry, halogen headlamps, and variable intermittent wipers. The LE is distinguished with body-colored door handles; it lacks the sporty body cladding of the S and looks the better for it. Inside, the LE gets wood-like trim and upgraded cloth seating surfaces. An optional leather package ($650) is available for the LE that gives the car a luxurious look and feel and includes cruise control. Aluminum wheels ($390) are available, which improve the appearance of the LE and should improve its handling slightly.
Side-impact airbags and curtain airbags ($655) are optional on most models and we strongly recommend them for the additional protection they can provide to the heads and torsos of you and your passengers if someone rams the side of your car. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution ($300) is an optional and we recommend it; ABS helps the driver maintain steering control in an emergency braking situation, while EBD helps maintain full braking pressure even if the driver makes the common mistake of relaxing pedal pressure. Optional Vehicle Stability Control ($650) helps the driver maintain control in corners by compensating for skids.
Cruise control ($250) and the sunroof ($750) are available as stand-alone options.
The Corolla XRS ($17,780) is powered by a 164-horsepower 1.8-liter mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The XRS features a sport-tuned suspension with revised steering and 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and Michelin performance tires (an upgrade from the standard 15-inch wheels on all other Corolla grades). Special interior and exterior trim distinguishes the XRS. Additional standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes with tire-pressure monitors, front and rear disc brakes, and cruise control.