The Truth About Cars » Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:00:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/ford/ 2015 Ford F-150 Platinum 4×4 3.5L Ecoboost Review [With Video] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-ford-f-150-platinum-4x4-3-5l-ecoboost-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-ford-f-150-platinum-4x4-3-5l-ecoboost-review-video/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1094033 Ford’s F-150 is an important vehicle for Ford and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say it’s an important vehicle for America. In 2014, the F-150 was not just the most popular truck in America, it was the most popular anything in America, selling more than 740,000 examples. For those that love their […]

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2015 Ford F-151

Ford’s F-150 is an important vehicle for Ford and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say it’s an important vehicle for America. In 2014, the F-150 was not just the most popular truck in America, it was the most popular anything in America, selling more than 740,000 examples. For those that love their numbers, that is more F-150s than everything Hyundai sold in the USA put together.

Redesigning the F-150 isn’t just putting Ford’s profits on the line. Hundreds of suppliers and countless employees are worried about Ford’s aluminum gamble.

First let’s talk aluminum. There seems to be plenty of confusion about the first “all aluminum pickup.” Here’s the deal: the F-150 is aluminum bodied. If you were worried about how an aluminum frame would hold up, fear not, the F-150’s body rides on a high strength steel frame, which is half the reason for the high towing and payload numbers. The other half is the aluminum body. Although, there has been plenty of argument about the supposed 700 pound weight saving, Ford does say that about 450 lbs comes from the aluminum body alone. In a simplistic sense, for every pound you take out of the body, you can put it right back in the form of payload. This is the single largest reason the F-150 has payload figures that are 400-600 lbs higher than comparable GM and RAM models.

The majority of the body is made of 6000-series aluminum, which is about 33% lighter than sheet steel of the same thickness. Ford heat treats most of the F-150’s aluminum panels to improve strength and saves a little bit of money by using less expensive 5000-series aluminum in areas like the cab floor and interior parts. According to an engineer at BAE Systems, aluminum also has better dent, ding and corrosion resistance than steel, which is why it is used in military vehicles where those properties are important. If you’re thinking about how easily an aluminum soda can bends, a steel can of that same thickness would dent easier and, according to the engineers, shatter more easily. This is a huge benefit in the bed of the F-150, where Ford was able to make the panels thicker and still save weight. The bugaboo of course is the cost of repair. Body shops have less experience with aluminum, it’s more expensive to replace and labor costs are higher at the moment.

2015 Ford F-158

Exterior
As you’d expect from a modern American pickup, the F-150 is bigger, bolder and angrier up front than the model it replaces. If you’re willing to pony up the cash, Ford will sell you the segment’s first full-LED headlamps, but I found the headlamp brightness to be somewhat lackinglike all the main players in this segment. Out back we find a new tailgate design that is not only lighter because it’s aluminum but also damped like the Japanese competition so it doesn’t slam down on you. The benefit of an aluminum tailgate is immediately evident as it was much easier to close than the competition even though our model had the integrated tailgate step.

Although I think the RAM is attractive, the growing overbite is a design I’d have left on the cutting room floor, and GM’s square wheel arches have always made me scratch my head. Therefore the pickup aesthetics award goes to Ford since the 2015 model brings just enough “butch” without looking ridiculous.

2015 Ford F-166

Interior
When designing a vehicle that spans from $26,100 to over $62,000 there will invariably be trade offs. If you use the same core interior parts in all models, you have to either be willing to make the base models look and feel more expensive, or be willing to have some hard plastics in the top end trims. Ford, like GM and Chrysler, chose the latter. This means that our nearly fully-equipped Platinum model sported real wood trim and soft leather, but inches away were hard plastic door panels and trim pieces. Note: that’s not a negative, it’s simply a statement of fact. Personally, I don’t have a problem Ford’s use of hard plastics because that’s the norm in the pickup truck segment. It would only be a problem if nobody else was doing it.

While I think the RAM’s interior is better looking, especially in the brown and tan version, the F-150 is the king of the hill in terms of parts quality, especially in the platinum trim where you get acres of aluminum trim and fit and finish beats the competition. While I found the base front seats in the Silverado to be more comfortable than the Ford, the Platinum model gets Ford’s massaging and anti-fatigue system. Basically, it’s the same system we saw in the Lincoln MKS. Ford places several air bags inside the seat bottom and back cushion that are tied to a compressor and computer-controlled valve system. In addition to providing multi-way adjustable lumbar support, the software can inflate and deflate the bags in sequence to “massage” your back and improve leg circulation. At first, it just seemed like the truck was slowly groping my bottom, but after an hour and a half in the seat I was hooked. Most luxury cars with similar systems only run for 15 to 20 minutes, but the Ford system stays on until you turn off the car or the compressor noise gets to you.

 

2015 Ford F-162Infotainment
Ford’s touchscreen infotainment system is slated to be replaced by the highly anticipated SYNC 3 system as soon as next year. Until then, the F-150 soldiers on with the same infotainment systems we’ve seen for some time. Base models get a 4.2-inch color LCD radio with SYNC voice recognition software and 4-speakers. Top end trucks jump to 11 speakers (with a subwoofer) and the screen grows to an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, satellite and HD radio.

Dropping LCDs into the instrument cluster is all the rage, and Ford has three to choose from. Base models get a small 2.3-inch LCD, mainly for trip computer functions; mid-level trucks use a 4.2-inch LCD and top end trims get customizable 8-inch display. Compared to the RAM and Chevy disco dashes, the Ford LCD looks more polished and was more responsive than the system in the Chevy

Drivetrain
The big three have chosen different paths to fuel efficiency nirvana. Chrysler is doubling down on the ZF 8-speed automatic, GM designed a new family of 6 and 8 cylinder engines with aggressive cylinder deactivation and Ford has chosen a two prong strategy with aluminum bodies and small displacement turbo V6 engines.

smart-trailer-moduleThe engine lineup starts with Ford’s familiar 3.5L V6 used in everything from the Explorer to the Taurus. Good for 283 horsepower and 255 lb-ft, the V6 is a little down on power vs the Chrysler 3.6L V6 and certainly less “torquey” than GM’s new pickup-only 4.3L V6. Instead of a V8, the next stop is a 325 horsepower 2.7L V6 with twin turbos. While that sounds down on power vs the GM 5.3L V8, keep in mind the Ford is lighter than the Chevy and the 375 lb-ft of torque comes to the boil sooner and hangs out longer than GM’s V8. Chrysler’s 5.7L HEMI and 8-speed automatic yield better power, torque and 0-60 performance, but fuel economy is drastically lower.

Next up is the only V8 on offer, but it’s not the top-end engine option. Producing 385 horsepower a 387 lb-ft, the 5.0L produces more torque just above idle and over 3,000 RPM, but at certain speeds the 2.7L actually beats the V8. The halo engine is the same 3.5L twin-turbo V6 we have seen for a while. For 2015, it’s tuned to 365 ponies and 420 lb-ft of twist but Ford has implied it will get some significant updates for the upcoming Raptor.

15F150-3.5L-EcoBoost_01_HR

All four engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic and available four-wheel-drive. This puts Ford two speeds behind most RAM models and the 6.2L Chevy which finally gets GM’s heavy-duty 8-speed. The Raptor will receive Ford’s new 10-speed automatic and we should see that filter down to other V6 models, but Ford hasn’t said when. In the mean time, the most efficient F-150 is the RWD 2.7L Ecoboost model at 22 MPG combined while the least efficient, the 5.0L V8 4×4, rings in at 17 MPG combined. Meanwhile the Chevy ranges from 17-20 (despite the cylinder deactivation on the 4.3L V6) and the RAM runs from 15-24 thanks to a thirsty 5.7L V8 and the fuel sipping diesel at the top end.

2015 Ford F-155

Drive
Although the F-150 was put on a diet, the base V6 still feels a bit sluggish compared to the competition. RAM’s heavier 1500 has a hair more torque, a lower first gear and 33% more gears to choose from overall. GM’s 4.3L V6 offers considerably more low-end torque which allows it to feel peppier when towing.

Of course, the naturally-aspirated V6 and V8 engines are arguably less important to the F-150 shopper since a whopping 63% of sales have been twin-turbo equipped. Ford hasn’t broken out sales of the 2.7 and 3.5L Ecoboost engines separately, but I suspect the new 2.7L engine is quiet popular. While our tester was 3.5L equipped, I spent a day in a dealer provided 2.7L model for comparisons.

Although the 3.5L Ecoboost is fun, I think the 2.7 fits my needs better. The turbos largely make up for the slight torque reduction you get compared to the competition’s V8s, and although the 5.7L HEMI and 8-speed auto are faster and nicer to tow with, the 2.7L engine is quite simply the most well-rounded truck engine out there. There’s more than enough torque for towing 7,500 lb trailers with ease, dropping 2,000 lbs into the bed, or piling the kids into your SuperCab. Over 110 miles in the 2.7L RWD tester, I averaged 21 MPG, below the EPA numbers but still above the V8 competition.

2015 Ford F-153

The 3.5L twin-turbo engine allows up to 12,200 lbs of towing in some configurations thanks to the healthy torque figures. 0-60 times came in at 6.45 seconds, among the faster times in this segment, but thanks to GM’s new 8-speed automatic, the 6.2L  Silverado is fastest. Fuel economy in the 3.5L Ecoboost model was lackluster, coming in at 16.4 MPG during our week, nearly 1MPG behind the 2014 6.2L Silverado before GM added the 8-speed to the mix.

Apples to apples comparisons are hard because of the multitude of cab, bed, axle, tire, wheel and drive line choices in all the trucks in this segment, but you can bet if everything were equal, the F-150 would be the handling champ simply because it is lighter. When it comes to the ride, the RAM 1500 wins hands down due to the coil springs in the rear and the available cushy air suspension system.

I hinted about it earlier, but the main benefit to the reduced curb weight of the F-150 is not fuel economy but load capability. It’s most obvious when we compare like model to like model as shown below. All three models are within $1,000 of one another with the F-150 being the most expensive at $43,950 and the RAM the least expensive at $43,010. I chose the 2.7L V6 in the Ford because it is seen as the alternative to an entry-level V8.

F-150 TowingFord advertises a maximum 3,300 lb payload capacity and 12,200 lb towing limit, but like every other truck, most configurations are below the maximum. The take away here is that the payload is consistently higher than the competition. Keeping in mind that the payload is the total of cargo and passengers, it is easy to see how this improves practicality. In the F-150 you and your two 190-pound friends can grab 1,500 lbs of concrete at Home Depot with ease. In the Ram or Chevy you’d have to make two trips. Opt for the 5.0L V8, and the payload jumps to 3,020 pounds and towing increases to 9,200 in the same configuration. If that’s not enough the 3.5L Ecoboost will tow 10,700 in approximately the same configuration. You should note that conventional towing over 10,000 pounds will require a commercial Class-A or non-commercial Class-A license in some states, so depending on where you live, towing over 10,000 may not be material.

If my money were on the line, I suspect I would be torn between the 2.7L F-150 and the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. In that mash-up, the EcoDiesel with the air suspension would be my choice largely because I tow more than I haul and the EcoDiesel not only has a higher tow rating but the way it tows it also superior thanks to the epic torque and the 8-speed automatic. Does that make the RAM the better truck? No, it’s just the one that suits my need better. After a week with the F-150, I have to say the 2.7L engine is a 10-speed automatic away from perfection and the 3.5L Ecoboost would be perfect if the fuel economy was 4 MPG better.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.45 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.12 Seconds @ 92.56 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 16.4 MPG

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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-ford-mustang-ecoboost-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-ford-mustang-ecoboost-review/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 15:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1084361 I’m giddy like a school girl when the Mustang shows up. This is my ride to southern New Jersey for the 24 Hours of Lemons race, and it’s a perfect tool for the job. I think the new Mustang looks much better in person than pictures. This color combination is love at first sight. Upon closer inspection, it has the coveted […]

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2015 ford mustang ecoboost front side

I’m giddy like a school girl when the Mustang shows up. This is my ride to southern New Jersey for the 24 Hours of Lemons race, and it’s a perfect tool for the job.

I think the new Mustang looks much better in person than pictures. This color combination is love at first sight. Upon closer inspection, it has the coveted Performance Package, and a peek inside reveals its optional Recaro seats and, most importantly, a proper six-speed manual transmission! Yes, the car Gods have smiled upon me.

Yet, the biggest surprise is when I start the engine…

2015 ford mustang ecoboost engine

…which sounds like the Ford Escape.

Yup – it’s the new four-cylinder Mustang EcoBoost. That deep V8 tone, pronounced by a sweet rumble at start-up that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, is gone. Instead, I get the sound and fury of a CUV.

I keep an open mind because surely no one at Ford would put this four-banger into a Mustang if it’s anything but great. To be honest, to me, this is the most interesting engine of the three available, if for no other reason than I simply don’t not know what to expect.

Right away, this engine feels different than most sporty turbocharged fours. For one, it feels heavy. It does not rev very freely, as if there is a heavy flywheel attached. Interestingly, I said the exact same thing of the 1.0-liter three-cylinder in the Fiesta. Secondly, the torque curve is very flat and without much lag, both good. Ford says the engine’s peak 320 lb.-ft. is available between 2500 and 4500 rpm. There are 310 horsepower at 5500 rpm and it seems to drop off when approaching the redline.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost rear side

Accompanying that power from 2500 rpm up is the sweet sound of turbo whistle – quite addictive. During street acceleration or highway passing, this engine whistles blissfully while pulling hard, and it almost makes up for the lack of the V8 sound. Almost. But I question the noise: is it organic or is Ford fooling me?

So it’s got torque, but is it fast? That’s depends on your definition of fast. Buff books say the EcoBoost ‘Stang will achieve 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and complete the quarter in 13.9 seconds. That was fast some years ago, but today that’s hardly quick; a V6 Accord is just two tenths slower through the traps. The EcoBoost Mustang requires persuasion to really move fast, whereas a V8 engine would seemingly have all the power, all the time.

Even when driven in anger, I wouldn’t go racing any V8 Mustangs and, trust me, every Mustang driver on the road will want to race you. Just look away. If you’re into modifying, you’ll be happy to know there are EcoBoost Mustangs running around with 400 horsepower at the rear wheels.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost dash

Despite being the smallest of the three American muscle cars, the Mustang isn’t a small sports car, being six inches longer and two and a half inches wider than the BMW 428i coupe. It weighs 3,532 pounds, which is about 100 pounds more than the Bimmer and 170 less than an equivalent Mustang GT.

While it feels heavy, Ford has somehow managed to make this weight work, and it’s damn fun to drive on any road. Despite being at a race track, I did not have permission to do any laps in the ‘Stang, but I am certain it would do quite well with the Pirelli P-Zeros as part of the Performance Package.

What I’m disappointed with is the fact Ford went through all this effort to make the F-150 body out of aluminum but only the hood and fenders on the ‘Stang. Less weight, which one would expect in the change to a four-cylinder engine, would drive the fun factor way up. It would improve the fuel economy, too, which the EPA rates at 22 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined. On my somewhat casual New Jersey Turnpike drive I got about 27 mpg. With the overall trip average, which included the fun Merritt Parkway and crowded Bergen County, I averaged 23 mpg. For comparison, the manual V6 gets 17 mpg city and 28 highway, while the V8 manual is rated for 15 mpg city and 25 highway. Not that fuel economy is a selling point of the Mustang.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost interior details 2

The rest of the car, to be brief, is great. The Recaro seats, despite lacking side bolster adjustments or bottom cushion extension, are very comfortable for the six-foot-two me and drew cheers from the dozen guys who asked me if they could check out the car. While supportive, the seats are not difficult to get in and out of and not at all tiring over my six hour drive. Unlike the conventional seats, the Recaros are not heated or ventilated, and they don’t return to their original position after accessing the rear seat. If I had one wish, it would be for slightly more headroom for the times one is wearing a helmet. The rear seats are best suited for shorter folks.

The shifter is damn near perfect for enthusiastic driving – not too short, with only the sixth gear not always where expected; little to the right. It was as if the car wanted to shift naturally from fifth to fourth, but going into sixth requires more decisiveness, which makes sense. The clutch pedal feels a bit stiff, reminding you this is no econobox, but it is not difficult when stuck in gridlocked traffic on the George Washington Bridge approach.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost exterior details

Once seated, forward visibility is very good and much improved over the previous generation, but the side mirrors are a bit small. The dash is nicely laid out, with all controls within easy access. Some things, such as the toggle switches chrome-like trim or the “ground speed” speedometer, may not be to everyone’s taste, but everything worked very well. It has taken me many years, but I have finally warmed up to the love-it-or-hate-it, soon to be replaced MyFord Touch system, which in this car was complimented by the Shaker audio system. The HID headlights are excellent, too.

What irks me are the selectable drive and steering modes. There are four driving modes (normal, snow-wet, sport, and track) and three steering modes (comfort, normal and sport). With each restart they default to normal. I understand all automakers do this now for various reasons, but I shouldn’t need to tell my Mustang to be sporty each time I get into it. It should have two modes: Go! and LMHBSMA!, let-me-hoon-but-save-my-ass track mode.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost other details

The 2015 Mustang EcoBoost starts at $25,300. This Premium model punches it up to $29,300. The Shaker audio system is $1,795, adaptive cruise control is $1,195, Performance Package (19” wheels with Pirellis, 3.55 LSD, thicker rear sway bar, bracing, larger rotors and 4-piston front calipers, larger radiator, gauge pack) is well worth $1,995, $1,595 for Recaro seats, few other minor options and destination charge bring the price of the reviewed vehicle to $38,585. For comparison, an equally equipped GT model would cost over $5,000 more.

Minor annoyances aside, I really like this ‘Stang. I love how it looks (especially in this color combination, which seemed especially tricky to photograph). I like all the features, the fun-to-drive factor, comfort, refinement, and its surprisingly large trunk – but it does leave me somewhat puzzled. It’s not significantly lighter, cheaper, or economical than a Mustang with the proper V8 engine. It’s also not much faster than the V6. It exists so Ford can sell the Mustang around the world, but anyone who buys one anywhere will be reminded they should have gotten the V8 every time they start the engine.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He and his team were doing really great in the race right until they blew the engine

Ford Motor Company provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. 

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Bark’s Bites: Ford’s ST Octane Academy Should Be Rated at 100 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/barks-bites-fords-st-octane-academy-rated-100/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/barks-bites-fords-st-octane-academy-rated-100/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 16:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1089489 Many car manufacturers will sell you a hot hatch. Only Ford will teach you how to drive one after you’ve bought it. Thanks in part to the success of their Boss Track Attack program (of which your author is a proud graduate), Ford made the decision to offer a one-day track experience to anybody smart enough to […]

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Ford Fiesta ST Octane Academy Race Car

Many car manufacturers will sell you a hot hatch. Only Ford will teach you how to drive one after you’ve bought it.

Thanks in part to the success of their Boss Track Attack program (of which your author is a proud graduate), Ford made the decision to offer a one-day track experience to anybody smart enough to buy either a Focus or Fiesta ST.

Since I had such a great time at the Boss Track Attack two years ago, there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity to head back to Miller Motorsports Park and burn the brakes out of wring out one of their STs at one of the finest motorsports facilities in the world, especially if the track is as doomed as some say it is.

After arriving in Salt Lake City and checking in at the sumptuous Hotel Monaco in the city’s beautiful downtown, I took my rental Toyota Yaris hatchback out to Ken Block’s Hoonigan headquarters in Park City, Utah, where a buffet dinner awaited the ST Octane Academy participants.

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I have a lot of things to say about Ken Block and DC Shoes, none of which are particularly nice, so I will just focus on the fact that I met some super cool guys at dinner. Seated at my table were three young men who worked as engineers for Ford in Livonia, MI, and another young man from NYC who had to take a eighty-five dollar taxi from the airport to Park City because he was only twenty years old and wasn’t allowed to rent a car.

When I visited MMP for Boss Track Attack two years ago, I was the second youngest participant at 35 years old. At 37, I was among the oldest of the nineteen STOA participants. This pleased me immensely to know there are still many, many so-called “millennials” that have a passion for not only owning such great cars, but also for learning how to drive them. That being said, none of the other participants had any track experience, and only a couple had even autocrossed before.

We were strongly advised by the lovely young lady who was in charge that we should save the partying for the next night, because we needed to be at MMP no later than 7:45 a.m. the next day. Also, for anybody who hasn’t spent much time at the altitude levels of Salt Lake City, dehydration is a serious concern. This was confirmed for me when I awakened the next morning at 6:30 to find that my nasal passages had completely dried out and filled with blood overnight, despite the fact that I had consumed two sixteen-ounce bottles of water right before going to bed.

No matter – I was going to get to drive at MMP that day! No blood-covered pillow could dampen my enthusiasm. I hopped out of bed and headed out for a thirty-five minute drive west to Tooele, the home city of Miller Motorsports Park.

DSCN1351

Okay, so maybe I was a bit overexcited. I was the first one to arrive at the classroom by a rather wide margin, so I decided to go speak to the young lady who was working in the souvenir store about the day’s schedule.

“Excuse me, miss, but do you know which course we’ll be running today for ST Octane?” I asked.

Miller Motorsports Park’s road course has several different configurations, including the ability to be split into two separate courses – East and West. I had driven the East course for Boss Track Attack, and I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, West would be used that day. Gotta add to that track count!

“Well, normally they use the East course, but there’s a Porsche Club HPDE today on East, so you guys will be on West,” she replied.

“YES!” I shouted, startling both of us a bit. “I mean – cool. I’ve never driven West before!”

“Well,” she said as she backed away slowly, “you will today!”

One by one, the other participants filed into the classroom. One of the instructors asked everybody to grab a pretty blue firesuit and white open-faced helmet from the racks.

“I brought my own,” I mumbled. Apparently, I was that guy. Here’s the class pic to verify my douchiness:

 

stoa class picture

Who is the douche with the full face helmet and triple-layer racing suit? Oh, wait, that’s me.

Before any track driving could happen, we had to receive a bit of classroom instruction on cornering theory. Our excellent classroom instruction was provided by Ronnie Swyers, a noted driving coach, karting champion and LeMons/ChumpCar driver.

 

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Here, Ronnie shows everybody how I will be overcooking the entry to corners

He explained the Focuses and Fiestas we’d be driving had some mild performance upgrades – improved brake pads, brake fluid, rollcages, handbrakes – but they were otherwise very much like the cars  we had in our respective garages (fortunately, they also had different tires). After our classroom session, we were split into two groups – one group would be doing a handbrake turn exercise that we’d be using on the UrbanCross X course later in the day, as well as a apex exercise, while the other group was sent off to drive the skid car and take a couple of laps on the West course as passengers in a van. I was in the handbrake turn group. Take a look below at my effort at making a 180 handbrake turn in the Focus ST:

Next up was my attempt at driving the skid car. What’s a skid car, you may ask? Well, it’s a car that is suspended on casters that can be raised and lowered on hydraulics to simulate oversteer at very low speeds. I remembered my complete and utter failure at driving it the last time I tried. “Prepare for a humbling experience,” I told my fellow classmates. Sure enough, after giving us a few seconds to become acclimated to the car, instructor Charlie Putnam dialed up the hydraulics and made it nearly impossible to drive the Ford Fusion skid car in a straight line. Each of us got a chance to practice shuffle steering and applying the throttle under oversteer conditions.

Finally, they piled all of us into the van for a ride around the track with Ronnie, who explained the proper entrance and exit of each corner on the West course. The apexes were clearly identified with cones. “We’ve made it point-to-point for you guys,” Ronnie explained. We took two complete laps of the course then headed back to the classroom for lunch. My major complaint about Boss Track Attack was the poor quality of the lunch [You should be an automotive journalist! -Mark]. Luckily, this has been remedied.

After lunch, it was time to take the Focuses (Foci?) and Fiestas out on track. We did two lead/follow sessions – one in the Fiesta and one in the Focus – then we were allowed to pick our own poison for the following instructor ride-along laps. Since I’ve already tracked my Fiesta, I decided to pick the Focus. My instructor, Donny, rode with me for one full lap, advised me to stop using the brakes like an On/Off switch, and to track out more on corner exit. He then hopped out and let me fly solo. Here’s the resulting three-lap session:

Why only three laps, you may ask? Well, I had caught the driver ahead of me and no passing was allowed, so I decided to roll through the pits. When I came back down pit lane, the brakes were, um, on fire. So they didn’t let me go back out. Can’t say I blame them.

After driving both cars on track, I felt incredibly glad that I bought the Fiesta and not the Focus. The Focus felt slow and plodding in comparison to the Fiesta. It understeered nearly everywhere. I felt as though I was constantly battling the car to get the nose pointed the right way. The Fiesta, on the other hand, was nimble and agile on course. Later in the day, the instructors each chose the Fiesta for their Hot Lap student ride-alongs. When I talked to Focus owners who drove the Fiesta, more than a couple of them said the experience made them wish they owned a Fiesta, not a Focus.

Fortunately, the only choice for the UrbanCross X course was the Fiesta. The UrbanCross was essentially a short autocross course that was slightly complicated by a forward 180 turn at the beginning and a 90 degree box turn at the end. If you didn’t get all four wheels inside the box, you got a four second penalty. This was the only timed event of the day, so there was a “fabulous prize” offered up to the winner of the event. We had four practice laps then one final run that would be the only one that counted for all the marbles. I had heard the best time of the first group was around a 53.0, so I was pretty pleased when my first lap was a 51.3. I got down to about a 50 flat, but I crunched a couple of cones. For my final lap, I decided to play it a little safe and stay off of the cones. Here it is:

It ended up a little slower than my best, but still fast enough to win by about three seconds over the second-place finisher. For my efforts, I won the following:

574

As you can see, it’s a baby traffic cone and a disturbingly large sex toy. I think.

We finished up with a round of karting action, which was a fun way to put a bow on an outstanding day. So, to summarize:

Pros:

  • Great instruction
  • Plenty of time behind the wheel
  • World-class facility
  • It’s FREE*

Cons:

  • Not enough track time (Boss Track had two twenty-minute sessions, STOA had one 15-minute session and the UrbanCross)
  • Ummm…I can’t think of anything else

Listen, y’all – as we’ve reported here previously, Miller Motorsports Park is at risk of closing. FOR GOOD. If you have a Focus or Fiesta ST, you simply must find a way to take advantage of this opportunity to receive professional instruction on one of the most exciting (and equally important, safest) tracks you can drive before the end of the program on October 31st.

If you don’t own a Focus or Fiesta ST…well, why the hell not? If anything, this program proves these cars are nearly track-ready right out of the box, particularly the Fiesta. There’s no more fun to be had per dollar.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m making plans to get back out on track with mine.

* Ford Focus ST or Fiesta ST lease or purchase required.

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Long-Term Tester Update: Fiesta ST Plus Track Night in America Equals Hella Fun http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-plus-track-night-america-equals-hella-fun/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-plus-track-night-america-equals-hella-fun/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1084017 I was once told that it’s good to start any piece of writing with a curious introduction – you know, something that makes the reader want to click through and find out more about the story. The more controversial the statement, the better. Well, here goes nothing. You no longer have any excuse to not […]

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NCMCHARLEY 694

I was once told that it’s good to start any piece of writing with a curious introduction – you know, something that makes the reader want to click through and find out more about the story. The more controversial the statement, the better. Well, here goes nothing.

You no longer have any excuse to not track your car. Want to find out more? Of course you do!

The Sports Car Club of America and I have had a rather sordid history as of late. I declined to renew my membership two years ago, citing a vast proliferation of autocross classes and unnecessary rules. I felt that the club was headed entirely in the wrong direction, so I did what any customer would do in that situation: I voted with my dollars. I stopped autocrossing with the club and started spending my motorsports dollars with 24 Hours of Lemons and American Endurance Racing. As a whole, I have felt like this was a good and correct decision, one that I have yet to regret one bit.

But then somebody at the SCCA had a brilliant idea. Why not rent out some great tracks across America, send out some very qualified organizers and instructors to run some open lapping days, and let anybody and everybody show up in whatever they’ve got in the driveway? The best part of the idea: it’s only a hundred and fifty bucks for sixty minutes of track time. That’s a dollar and a half per minute to drive as fast as you possibly can on great circuits like New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt, Willow Springs Raceway, Grattan Raceway, NOLA Motorsports Park, and the brand-new NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, home of the new Corvette C7. Appropriately enough, they decided to call it Track Night in America.

Well, shoot. Looked like the SCCA and I were about to become reacquainted.

I headed out to the Track Night event at NCM Motorsports Park on May 19th, excited to drive my Fiesta ST on track for the first time. You see, I leased the ST because I wanted to track that mofo – I truly don’t understand anybody who buys the performance variant of a vehicle only to watch it collect dust in the garage. Also, I had heard nothing but great things about the track from everybody who had experienced it, including a text from Matt Farah, who had been there the day before driving the new C7 Zo6, that read: “This track is fucking amazing.” I had no doubt NCM would be amazing in a gazillion-horsepower supercar, but how would it be in the Little Sports Car That Could?

I had also encouraged some of the local autocross crowd to show up and test their personal mettle. I love my autocross friends, and I wanted to remove any and all mental barriers they might have had about tracking their autocross cars. Luckily, the SCCA had already pretty much thought of everything.

Tracking your car is too expensive? Nope. It’s $150, about what you already pay for six minutes of seat time at Nationals, and you get three twenty-minute sessions on a world-class circuit.

Never done this before and I’m not sure I’m ready for it? No problem. Come and drive in the free paced laps session. Seriously. It’s free. Ride along in somebody else’s car. IT’S FREE.

Don’t have all the necessary safety equipment? If you have an SA2005 helmet, you’re good. Nothing else is required. Tech your own car and go.

Car isn’t track ready? Again, no problem. You can bring anything you want. Bring your Passat. Bring your Sentra. Drive it as fast as you want. Nobody is timing you.

It’s too dangerous? Nope. They have a Novice group with strict rules about passing and distances between vehicles and wonderful classroom-style instruction. The most dangerous part of driving at a Track Night is likely driving to Track Night.

Which brings me back to my original curious introduction. There’s simply no reason to not go to a Track Night event. They’ve covered everything. They’ve made it as easy as possible for anybody from a total noob to an experienced racer to get on track and have as much fun as possible.

My favorite thing about Track Night is that it isn’t about competition. As Intermediate and Advanced group coordinator Jon Krolewicz told me, “This is all about creating an atmosphere of safety. The only thing they can win tonight is the chance to go home safely in their undamaged cars. I don’t even have a six dollar plaque to give them. If somebody is behind them, and they didn’t just pass them, that means that they’ve been caught and they need to move over. I encourage them to think of the other drivers on course as teammates, not competitors. We’re all trying to ensure a safe environment where people can have fun.”

Tom O'Gorman leads the Novice meeting at Track Night in America

Tom O’Gorman leads the Novice meeting at Track Night in America

Novice coach and driving instructor Tom O’Gorman, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since he was about sixteen years old, echoed these sentiments in his Novice drivers’ meeting. I observed Tom’s meeting with about twenty-five novice drivers, many of whom were driving on a racetrack for the very first time. He provided crystal clear instruction on passing, flagging, and how closely they should follow the car ahead of them. After each session, Tom was available to give coaching to anybody who wanted it, offering opinions on braking zones, corner entry and exit, and just about anything that any of them wanted to know. I found myself wishing that my first track experience had been in such a risk-free, supportive environment.

Drivers were able to self-select into Novice, Intermediate, or Advanced. Although I definitely wanted to experience each of the groups, I felt as though I’d have the lowest chance of on-track incident in the Advanced group (Jon informed me later that I was wrong about this. They’ve only had two incidents so far in the program, and both were in the Advanced group). I grabbed my helmet and gloves and headed out on track in the Fiesta. My advanced group “teammates” were as follows:

  • A Nissan GT-R
  • two fully prepped actual caged racecars on slicks
  • a Cayman
  • some long-haired hick in a C7 Z51 OH WAIT THAT’S JACK
Two extreme ends of the American sporting vehicle spectrum in one picture

Two extreme ends of the American sporting vehicle spectrum in one picture

Needless to say, I let them all go out on track ahead of me – no need to be waving them all by the little ST in the first corner. Speaking of which, let’s look at the track.

NCM course map

We would be driving the West course with the chicane, which meant the Fiesta wouldn’t be at much of a disadvantage – but let’s not kid ourselves here. Also, I had to remember that it wasn’t a competition. Right. There was no way in hell that I was going to let that C7 lap me in a twenty-minute session.

I could give you a turn-by-turn description of the track, but this is the year 2015. LET’S GO TO THE VIDEO!

If you’re at work or something lame like that, let me explain what you didn’t see. The Fiesta is a freaking champ. Yes, it understeers a bit. No, I haven’t quite figured out how to unwind it properly in tight corners when the brake vectoring kicks in. The OEM Bridgestone tires squeal like angry banshees. But what a car. What. A. Car. I drove it in Sport mode, but I never once felt the AdvancTrac kick in. In the back straightaway, I was seeing speeds of between 105 and 108 mph. The suspension handled the curbing magnificently, settling the little hatch back down after every apex.

If you did watch the video, you’ll notice how easy the car is to drive. My hands were relatively calm, as the car just went where I pointed it. Heel-toe shifting is really only possible in legitimate racing shoes, as the brake pedal and accelerator aren’t positioned exactly where you would want them to be for proper heel-toe execution. That being said, once you get it, it’s sublime; notice how the car just hustles from the front straight into the chicane, maintaining great balance and holding the proper racing line. Virtually nothing upsets the ST. It’s definitely a better FWD car than I am a FWD driver at this point. I’m still learning exactly when and how it likes to have the throttle applied in corner exit, as there’s enough available torque to overpower the front wheels at nearly any point on the torque curve.

However, the brakes weren’t really up to sixty minutes of track time. By the time the third session started, the brake fade was noticeable, and halfway through, it was nearly unmanageable. I had just decided the car wasn’t really drivable any more when the checkered flag waved from the final corner station. You can watch me overcook several corner entries due to the brakes in this next video, but, much more importantly, you can watch me catch a Cayman that started nearly a minute before I did. (Disclaimer: SCCA TRACK NIGHT IN AMERICA IS NOT A COMPETITION. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU PASS ANYBODY OR IF THEY PASS YOU!)

So, in summary, let me just say this: Track Night in America is the best and cheapest way for virtually anybody to experience a track in his own car. You could spend your Tuesday nights watching a sitcom or passively observing a sporting event or you could get your ass into your car and be a DRIVER. Even if only for an hour. Even if you never actually race. You’re participating. You’re an active member of your own entertainment. I promise you, you’ll catch the bug.

As for the Fiesta, I’m ordering a set of real, track capable brake pads for it as we speak. I’m happy to thrash the OEM Bridgestones to within an eighth of an inch of their lives, but after that, I’ll be ordering a set of something a little more appropriate for dual duty on the track and the street. The old saying about “driving a slow car fast?” Eff that. The Fiesta is a Fast Car that you can Drive Fast. You, too, can go Porsche hunting for less than twenty-five grand.

So what’s stopping you?

The Sports Car Club of America provided the entry to the Track Night in America event at NCM Motorsports Park. Photo credit goes to the legendary Danger Girl.

NCMCHARLEY 868

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Nair, Pardo Drop Hints of Ford GT LeMans, New Shelby Cobra at Auto Moto Film Fest http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nair-pardo-drop-hints-ford-gt-lemans-new-shelby-cobra-auto-moto-film-fest/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nair-pardo-drop-hints-ford-gt-lemans-new-shelby-cobra-auto-moto-film-fest/#comments Sun, 31 May 2015 15:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1078545 After some success in connection with the Pebble Beach car festivities, the producers of the Auto Moto Film Festival decided to bring the show to Detroit’s Fillmore auditorium for the weekend of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. I hope to have something about the festival and the outstanding movies and personalities therein up […]

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Stereo0042_B

After some success in connection with the Pebble Beach car festivities, the producers of the Auto Moto Film Festival decided to bring the show to Detroit’s Fillmore auditorium for the weekend of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. I hope to have something about the festival and the outstanding movies and personalities therein up on TTAC sometime later, but there was actually some automotive news generated at the event.

Well, sorta.

Ford Motor Company’s head of product development coyly avoided denying company plans to campaign the new Ford GT at the 24 hour LeMans race next year. The designer of the previous Ford GT, an homage to the LeMans conquering Ford GT40, also acknowledged he’s been working on a successor to another iconic 1960s sports car.

 

Ford GT designer Camilo Pardo photographic his personal Ford GT

Ford GT designer Camilo Pardo photographing his personal Ford GT

One of the films in the festival is a short titled Fuel Injected about Ford GT designer Camilo Pardo. Pardo’s studio is just down Woodward from the Fillmore and in front of the theater he had parked his personal ’05 GT he drives regularly around his neighborhood in downtown Detroit. It wasn’t the only cool car there. Magnus Walker of air-cooled Porsche fame, who was the subject of another of the festival’s films, brought one of his very cool race inspired 911s. Though Ford Motor Company was not one of the event’s official sponsors, they brought one of the new GTs to join in the automotive celebration, the same gray example that was on display at the Chicago and New York auto shows.

IMG_0290

Chaperoning the new Ford GT was Raj Nair, head of product development for the Dearborn-based automaker, who joined Pardo in taking some questions after Fuel Injected was screened. Nair, who was involved in the development of the 2005 GT, compared that car to the new one. He opened by saying 1966 was a very important year for Ford, mentioning it was the year Ford swept the podium with the GT40 at LeMans, “Kicking Ferrari’s ass.” His remarks mostly centered on the new GT’s technical direction, specifically mentioning it’s Formula One derived pushrod suspension, the car’s aerodynamically shaped styling, its carbon fiber construction and its race developed (in Daytona Prototype) twin turbo V6 engine. What he said about Ferrari in introducing those features piqued my interest about Ford’s full plans for the new GT.

Stereo0051_B

After the Q&A was over, I privately asked Nair if his remarks about 1966 and LeMans meant that the car would be competing there next year. He replied, “Right now we’re focusing on the production car.” I complimented him on the deflection and he said he’s had some practice with that question. I then pointed out, “Yes, but I noticed that you didn’t say no.” Nair just smiled broadly.

IMG_0316

For his part, Camilo Pardo said before Carroll Shelby died, the two of them were working on a new car. That was in response to the MC asking him about his next car project, which the MC alluded to being some kind of a secret.

Pardo is a bit of a rockstar in the car business and his studio has hosted some of Detroit’s most legendary parties. He may have had something to drink by the time of the Q&A, and he danced around the issue before saying Shelby approached him about doing one more car.

They decided on doing a convertible. Pardo said a major reason was cost, with the greenhouse of a car being one of the more expensive parts to make. Open cars are faster to engineer and besides, convertibles also look good and people like them. They’re “better” in Pardo’s words.

When the MC pressed for more details, Pardo hemmed and hawed a bit before talking about how the original GT40 really wasn’t well known by the general public. Ford only build about 300 GT40s and just a handful of them were built as street cars. I was a kid when they raced and I didn’t see a real GT40 until I was a grandparent. Pardo then said while he was at Ford they did a concept called the GR1, based on GT mechanicals but styled as an homage to Pete Brock’s stunning Shelby Daytona Coupe. Shelby American only built six Daytona Coupes. Hardly anyone outside of car enthusiasts know what they look like. Pardo then said, “But everyone knows the Cobra.”

So, was Carroll Shelby working on a next generation Cobra at the time of his death?

 

2004 Ford Cobra Concept

2004 Ford Cobra Concept

It wasn’t clear if this new car was worked on while Pardo was still employed at Ford, where he worked from 1985 to 2009. Carroll Shelby and Ford had restored their relationship with the production Shelby Mustangs and the ’08 GR1 concept being some of the fruits of that relationship. Another Shelby related Ford concept was something actually called the Cobra, a roadster that was shown in 2004. It’s design was led by Manfred Rumpel, so I doubt that’s what Pardo and the MC were talking about. Pardo’s current relationship with Ford is complicated. When he left Ford it was rumored  he expected to be fired, with higher ups at Ford unhappy about the attention he got over the GT, his ego and his artist’s lifestyle. At the film festival, though, he said Ford graciously invited him to participate in official events concerning the GT and he was cordial with Nair.

Whatever the secret Shelby Pardo car is, I’m sure it will look great if it ever comes to fruition. I think Pardo’s take on the GT40 was an improvement over the original, not an easy thing to do. Doing an homage or retro car well is hard to do. Tom Matano, who styled the original Mazda Miata after the 1960s Lotus Elan, told me how much it constrains a designer.

Another thing that constrains a designer, at least a very successful one, is the need to succeed yet again. Pardo is unquestionably proud of being part of the legacy that started with the GT40 and continues with the latest GT. At the film festival he said designing a car that’s “on that shelf” as the ’05 GT is, obviously makes a career for a car designer. He also said a car designer can be inspired by but can’t dwell on the past. Because of the long lead time for a new design to reach production, Pardo explained, car designers are already living in the future. He joked that sometimes, while he was at Ford when he got off work at 5 p.m., he’d have to remind himself what year it really was.

Photos by Cars In Depth. More pics of the blue Ford GT here, the grey GT here, and more video here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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2015 Ford Explorer Limited Rental Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-ford-explorer-limited-rental-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-ford-explorer-limited-rental-review/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 14:35:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072858 I’ll put the pedal to the flo-ah/of my two-tone Ford Exploh-ah You know how it’s done. – Ice Cube, Down For Whatever The great O’Shea Jackson penned that lyric in 1993, and I know exactly what Ford Explorer he meant. Back in the day, the Explorer Sport was a three-door SUV that could be bought […]

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2015 Ford Explorer Exterior Three Quarter

I’ll put the pedal to the flo-ah/of my two-tone Ford Exploh-ah

You know how it’s done.

– Ice Cube, Down For Whatever

The great O’Shea Jackson penned that lyric in 1993, and I know exactly what Ford Explorer he meant. Back in the day, the Explorer Sport was a three-door SUV that could be bought as either RWD or 4WD. It was based on the Ranger, and it was available in a black-and-silver combo that would have undoubtedly pleased Cube, who was the world’s most famous Raiders fan (somewhat presciently, he also accented the word Fleeeeeeex in that song). Back then, the Explorer was being leased by everyone from wannabe rappers to bored Northern Virginia Housewives because Ford was guaranteeing residual values that were simply otherworldly. It was the first SUV that I can remember being that ubiquitous.

Then the whole Firestone thing happened.

For those that are too young to remember that, here’s a brief history as told by Wikipedia. The tl;dr version is that over 250 deaths and 3,000 serious injuries were linked to Ford Explorers rolling over when their Firestone tires experienced tread separation, earning the popular SUV the nickname “Exploder.” In a 2015 world, it’s hard to believe that neither Ford nor Firestone’s parent company, Bridgestone, were sued into oblivion.

But, remarkably, the Explorer name survived. Today’s Explorer, however, bears little resemblance to Ice Cube’s ride. Let’s all just call it what it is now – a crossover, based on the same D4 platform as its much less popular cousin, the Taurus. Ford refuses to admit this; they still call it an SUV, and they still use truck trim level names like XLT.

When I bought my own Ford Flex nearly three years ago, I cross-shopped the Flex against the Explorer and came away massively disappointed with the latter. Same OEM, same platform, same motor, yet the Flex was a much better driver. So when I selected this blacked out Ford Explorer Limited with about 6,000 miles on the clock from the rental car lot, I was prepared to be disappointed again.

Spoiler alert: I wasn’t. Well, not entirely.

2015 Ford Explorer Dash Interior

The interior on the Limited trim is splendid in its execution. Everything about the ergonomics of the car simply works. Granted, I daily drive not one, not two, but three Fords. The 12-speaker Sony sound system worked well for everything from Iggy Azalea to Iggy Pop. The seating position is perfect for smaller female drivers as well as 5’9″ men. Visibility everywhere is outstanding. The ride is quiet to the point of isolation for highway driving. My only complaint is that it should just feel bigger inside than it actually does. The second row is surprisingly small – I wouldn’t recommend that anybody larger than I sit there for any length of time. The third row is useless for anyone larger than Verne Troyer, but when folded down, it provides adequate storage space for a couple of 27 inch suitcases. I’m not sure that the lack of headroom and legroom matters all that much, considering that the target audience for the Explorer nowadays is thirty-something women who need to take two kids, two lawnchairs, and a crate of juice boxes to the local soccer field. The Explorer’s diminutive cabin might actually feel cozier and less intimidating for such a customer.

2015 Ford Explorer Middle Row Interior

That being said, the floating roof look of the Explorer, especially in black, makes it the most masculine of the choices in this segment. Between the Highlander, Traverse and Explorer, I know which one I’d feel coolest driving (cool is relative term when it comes to car-based crossovers, obviously). When I pulled up to meet a colleague for breakfast, she couldn’t find me in the lot because she knew that I was driving a rental car and, as she put it, “That thing looks like it cost a lot of money.” Which is good, because it does, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

The 3.5L V6 doesn’t hurt, either. While the Limited doesn’t have EcoBoost as an available engine, the 290(!!) horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque means you won’t find yourself on the losing end of too many stoplight races or squeezed out of highway merges. Ford quotes a 0-60 time of somewhere around eight seconds, but it feels much stronger than that on the butt dyno. And, of course, what crossover doesn’t need giant 20-inch rims? I mean, if you ain’t rolling on twenties, you ain’t really rolling.

2015 Ford Explorer Instrument Panel

However, all that power and ballerness comes at a cost, and that cost is fuel economy. While my Flex averages around 21-22 MPG in combined driving, that same engine in the Explorer returned considerably less – around 18 MPG. The ride on the highway is spectacularly smooth, but in-town driving in hip and trendy Downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan was a less pleasant experience. Potholes and cracks in the road were translated much more directly to the driver than I would have liked for a vehicle of this size. I spent all of my time driving in FWD mode, although I wish I had been able to experience Ford’s Terrain Management System, which gives the suburban mom who likes to go mud running on the weekends four different selectable options to “optimize traction electronically.”

In my dream world, I would use this Explorer Limited to tow around a matching black Shelby GT350 to racetracks around the country where I would dominate all, because it’s rated to pull around about 5,000 pounds with ease. Okay, maybe an F-150 makes a little bit more sense as a tow vehicle, but the Explorer is certainly capable.

So why did my disappointment rear its ugly (lack of) head(room)? Because it still isn’t as good as a Flex. The Flex does everything that the Explorer does, and it does it all just a little bit better. And in Limited Trim, optioned exactly the way my rental was, this Explorer is going to sticker out at $43,695 before all incentives. While that’s a relative bargain when compared to a similarly engined and equipped Highlander, it still just feels like a big chunk of money for a CUV – excuse me, SUV – from a non-premium brand.

My recommendation? Definitely grab one from the rental lot if you have the chance. But for your own driveway, go find a Flex SE or SEL.

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Long-Term Tester Update: FiSTing Around at the Autocross http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/long-term-tester-update-fisting-around-autocross/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/long-term-tester-update-fisting-around-autocross/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055833 Ever since I wrote this post about autocross back in November, there’s been something that has really bothered me about the way a lot of people responded to it. People seemed to have read the headline, reacted immediately, and then actively and somewhat irresponsibly made my post into something it wasn’t – I never said autocross was […]

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Bark's Fiesta at autocross

Ever since I wrote this post about autocross back in November, there’s been something that has really bothered me about the way a lot of people responded to it. People seemed to have read the headline, reacted immediately, and then actively and somewhat irresponsibly made my post into something it wasn’t – I never said autocross was easy, or that it wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun, or that I was any good at it. I never said autocross was a bad idea, or a waste of time, or even that wheel-to-wheel racing was better. I just said it wasn’t racing – a statement, by the way, that the SCCA agrees with (they prefer to call it a “driving skill contest”).

Despite this, the responders on various forums (the post was shared over two thousand times) mostly fell into one of the two following categories:

  1. “That guy sucks at autocross and here’s my screenshot of one time that I beat him.” Duh. I specifically said I wasn’t that good at it. I’d like to congratulate you on your excellent reading comprehension. Of course, they cherry-picked results that supported their statements. They never took screenshots of the times I won trophies at both National Tours and ProSolos in highly subscribed classes. There was one guy in particular who was super excited to point out that he beat me by over a second at a local autocross. He also, of course, neglected to point out that I was co-driving a friend’s totally stock car (in a Street Touring class) that was nearly completely undriveable due to a combination of worn tires and stock suspension (my friend, who was a multiple national champion, actually finished behind me that day with all dirty runs). He also neglected to mention that, despite this, I beat his girlfriend by a large margin, but that’s probably because he didn’t want me to point out that I had a significant weight advantage over his girlfriend. That’s fine – if I can make somebody feel better about themselves, I’m happy to do it.
  2. “He’s right, and road racing is way better and manlier.” Come on, man. I didn’t say that. Both autocross and wheel-to-wheel racing have their own merits. I actually really like local autocross. I just feel like the people on the national scene take it a little too seriously at times. I mean, at the end of the day, we’re all still driving around a parking lot at speeds that wouldn’t impress your average teenaged Driver’s Ed student.

That all being said, there have been times in the last three years where I really missed autocrossing. Since I now have my Fiesta ST, which appears to be the car to beat now in SCCA “H Street” Solo, I thought I’d take it out to see how well it performed as a totally stock, out-of-the-box autocrosser. To find out, I headed over to my local region’s website and registered for the next autocross.

I have to admit, I was a tad curious to see how I’d be received by the locals. After all, I hadn’t autocrossed with them in about three years, and I wrote an article that appeared to many to diminish their favorite hobby. However, I needn’t have worried: they’re all much nicer and better people than anybody has to right to expect them to be. Think about it: the average autocross lifer is somebody who’s glad to give up his entire Sunday for the benefit of others. He’s up at 6 a.m., laying out a course with cones that he knows people are going to complain about because it doesn’t suit their car. Or he’s staying late to pack up the trailer, long after everybody has gotten their plastic trophies and gone home. He does this knowing he’ll receive exactly zero pay and likely zero thanks from his fellow competitors. That kind of person likely spends exactly zero time worrying what somebody like me thinks about him.

However, I was surprised to see how much of the club had turned over since my last event. Out of the fifty-seven participants, I probably only recognized a dozen or so. Of that dozen, at least ten of them made a point of saying how happy they were to see me out again. They shook my hand, came over and checked out the Fiesta, and wished me good luck. I replied I would definitely need it. Autocrossing isn’t like riding a bike, after all. It’s a skill that greatly diminishes with time. Besides, I’d never autocrossed a front-wheel drive car before. I was pretty certain I’d be giving a whole new crop of people a result they’d be able to screenshot for the forum of their choice. Oh, well – what the hell. Let’s go check out the course.

Hand-drawn track map

This is an approximate rendering of the course as drawn by the course designer, a local legend simply known as “Bucky” to all. As you can see, Bucky did a great job of including several different elements on a lot that is slightly larger than a Bolivian postage stamp. As I walked the course, I counted at least three corners that really made me think hard about how to enter and exit them, especially in a car about which I had very little knowledge of how it would behave.

My only other H Street competition for the day was a young man who had finished second overall in the previous event in his 2013 Honda Civic Si on BFGoodrich Rivals – in other words, he had real autocross tires. I had OEM Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires on my whip that could best be described as “crap”, but which would actually be considered illegal at a national event because of their 140 treadwear rating. (This opens up another can of worms about the silliness of the SCCA rule book: how can a car be illegal for street class as it sits new on a lot?) I didn’t like my chances.

Okay, so I’m about a thousand or so words into this update and I haven’t mentioned anything about how the car performed. Oops. Let’s do that now.

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For my first run, at approximately 10:30 a.m., there were still wet spots on the ground from the previous night’s rain and it was roughly 45 degrees. The Bridgestones did not care for that combination of conditions AT ALL. After I turned off AdvanceTrac completely for my first run, the tires spun on a 3,000 RPM launch all the way from the start to the first slalom cone, after which they clunked into place when I upshifted into second. The slightest nudge of throttle in the slalom threatened to send the back end around on me, so I settled in nicely at moderate throttle and headed out of the slalom into the first turnaround.

For autocrossing purposes, the Fiesta doesn’t need any more brakes than it has in stock trim. It quickly scrubbed off speed, and I was pleased by the low-end grunt of the EcoBoost in second gear as I came out of the left hander into the only straightaway on course. I came close to the limiter in second gear before getting on the brakes again for the sweeper in front of the trailer, tossing the car sideways and kicking the tail slightly out as I exited the turn. The torque vectoring is somewhat surprising if you’ve never experienced it; my initial reaction was to stop accelerating, but the Fiesta proved up to the task if I kept my foot in it. One can definitely feel the little Ford working to keep the right amount of power heading to the right wheel under slight shock compression, but it always feels sure-footed and steady, even as the Bridgestones gave way and started sliding a bit sideways.

I hit a cone nobody else hit all day; I crushed the entry cone as I came up to the final turn before the exit. Why did I do such a thing? Because the Fiesta goes where you point it. That section of the course was a bit off camber and I was expecting a bit of tail-happiness and slip sliding around the turn. Nope. The ST just stuck and turned. Oops. Plus one. I came in slightly faster than my competitor in the Civic for my first run, and he was also plus a couple of cones. Yay! I didn’t suck as bad as I feared I might.

With each run, I learned a bit more about what the Fiesta could and couldn’t do. I began to seriously curse the Bridgestones, as they simply weren’t up to what I was asking of them in the corners, especially with such little heat in them. Even so, the Fiesta showed it was the real deal. The suspension that can be a bit jarring on the open road is perfectly suited for a lower-grip autocross surface. It handled elevation and camber changes effortlessly. I think somebody could have a shot at a national trophy in one of these sleds with just a set of Bridgestone RE71Rs or BFG Rivals and some lightweight wheels. The car is so well-sorted out of the box it doesn’t need much else. In that sense, it reminded me of the Mazda RX-8 when it first showed up on the scene a little over a decade ago.

The young man in the Civic and I both found a little more time over our six runs for the day, but he found about eight tenths of a second more than I did and claimed the victory. After the first of two heats, he was second overall and I was fifth out of about twenty-seven cars. For a bone stock car with a rusty driver, I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Autocross results

The good news? If you’re just planning to go and have fun at a local autocross a few times a year, you can drive your stock Fiesta ST directly to the lot and have a blast. The car will easily handle the wear and tear of the event with minimal impact. The Bridgestones, while not super fun for autocross, could last through a couple of hundred runs and still have thousands of miles left for the street. You’ll be competitive with just about anybody, and you’ll be able to do it for nothing out of pocket other than your monthly Fiesta ST payment.

The bad news? I’m currently looking at wheel/tire combos online. I’m researching sway bars. I’m contemplating better shocks. I’m considering renewing my SCCA membership. I even put one of my old ProSolo trophy license plates on the front of the car.

You know why? Because the Fiesta ST reminded me of something I had forgotten somewhere on the way to one of those national events somewhere in the middle of nowhere: Autocrossing a good course with a bunch of good people is a pretty decent way to spend thirty-five bucks and a Sunday afternoon.

Curse you, autocross. I guess we haven’t broken up yet, after all.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Renault Re-Invents Itself in Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053257 Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for […]

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Renault Logan

Renault Logan

Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for more, the French company is showing its new plans that will deeply affect their operations in Latin America at large and shake up their manufacturing base in South America, most especially Mercosur (namely Brazil and Argentina).

When their Ayrton Senna factory was opened in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state, their line was in tune to what they produced in Europe. They offered the Clio, Kangoo, Mégane and Scénic. With an emphasis on safety, even the lowly Clio offered dual frontal airbags. At that time, the relative parity between the Brazilian real and American dollar allowed them to import systems such as the aforementioned airbags on the cheap. The minivan Scénic offered space for five, a large trunk, modular seating and became a favorite for families. The Mégane and Kangoo meanwhile suffered at the hands of more established competition and never made a dent in Volkswagen Golf, Fiat Stilo or Ford Focus sales. The Fiat Doblò passenger and commercial versions plus the Uno-based Fiat Fiorino conspired to keep the Kangoo down.

In the Brazilian market, reception was mixed. At the entry level, the Clio had lukewarm success. The majority of compact level car buyers are not exactly flush with money, so buying a new entry into that market was seen as a risky proposition. The Scénic and other minivans slowly, but surely, decimated the station wagons then available on the market. Together with Citroën minivans, Renault owned that market. As it became a favorite, the prices of this type of car rose above the rest of the competition and became expensive to buy.

Undeniably, Renault and other French makes suffered a perception problem. While most think their engines are robust and can take the pressure, suspension systems were and remain under suspicion in the eyes of Brazilian consumers. So, despite placing rather high in consumer satisfaction surveys, Renaults take a hit at re-sale time.

Brazilian Clio

Brazilian Clio

Over the years the American dollar and euro appreciated against the Brazilian real and growing sales plateaued. Renault’s reaction was to cheapen their offerings. Soon, the Clio lost its airbags, losing its appeal to the better off buyers that seemed to favor it over the VW Gol or Fiat Uno. When it was re-designed, it kept the previous car’s internal design. A new Scénic was launched in Europe, but citing cost complications, Renault chose to keep building the old one. Renault also tried to gain market penetration by locally building and selling a Mégane sedan and station wagon. Inevitably, Renault’s line became outmoded and nothing on offer in Europe was sold here.

Of course, errors in reading the market collaborated to their downfall. In the early 2000s, Renault was challenging Ford for fourth place in the Brazilian market. Ford reacted by launching the EcoSport and new Fiesta, new engines, and soon saw the distance between it and Renault grow. Besides the cheapening and non-updating of the line, beginner errors abounded. In Brazil, the Scénic was a solid middle class car, even higher middle class, and not the cheap and cheerful family transportation pod it was in Europe. As such, Brazilian dealers clamored for black and silver Scénics while the French continued offering it in purple, red and other colors the middle class rejected. The Clio, besides keeping the same interiors forever, never changed wheel cover designs or had new versions launched (tricks in which the traditional Brazilian Big Four – Fiat, GM, Volkswagen and Ford – are experts).

In the late 2000s, Renault re-made itself in Brazil. The Scénic was gone. The Kangoo was now only a commercial vehicle. The Clio soldiered on unmolested and seemingly only existed so Renault could keep a foot in the entry-level market. A solution was found though and it was the result of the deepening of the synergies and integration within the scope of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Renault underwent the so-called “Dacia-lization” (Dacia being a Romanian company that Renault uses as its low-cost brand in Europe). The Logan, Sandero and eventually the Duster were launched. In spite of the insipid design, the cars used a Renault-Dacia version of a modern Nissan platform. The Logan family’s claim to fame and a space in the market was that it offered a lot of space for modest prices. Size-wise similar to Focus and Toyota Corolla type cars (sometimes even bigger, trunks tended to be larger), but priced similarly to smaller cars like Gol or Fiat Siena, they appealed to a more rational buyer. After a few years, with the launch of the Duster CUV, Renault was again encroaching on Ford and distancing itself from the Asian brands that were finally “acclimatizing” (by offering compact cars similar to market favorites) to Brazil and had been threatening Renault’s (by then traditional) fifth place in Brazilian sales rankings.

Nov-Ford-Ka-SEL-2015 (3)

As the 2000s became the 2010s, Renault was again under assault. Competition grew. Everybody copied their idea of a larger cars for more modest prices. Fiat launched a bigger Palio and a Grand Siena. Volkswagen do Brasil got into the compact sedan market again with its Voyage. Ford brought the new Fiesta and conjured up the highly competitive new Ka. GM came strong based off of its GM Korea know-how and re-invented themselves in Brazil, becoming the leader of in-car mobile electronics. Toyota got serious in Brazil and the Etios family has been gaining ground, horrible design notwithstanding, based on modern mechanics and a good ride. Hyundai’s HB20 has done the opposite: it has conquered image conscious consumers due to the success of it fluidic design language, in spite of the bad ride. All these companies and cars offered up new technologies and engines, bringing more fuel economy to buyers, extra gadgets and crept up on the Logan family’s cost benefit advantage.

Reacting, Renault has launched a re-designed Logan and Sandero. Though the new designs have been well-accepted and increased sales, this growth has been deemed insufficient. Both Hyundai and Toyota routinely sell more than Renault on a monthly basis and could soon take fifth place in overall sales. As such, Renault studied its South American operations and has cooked up a plan.

Renault Oroch Concept

Renault Oroch Concept

An “un-Dacia-lization” of sorts seems to be in place. Logan and Sandero production is being moved to Argentina. The company is investing heavily in their ancient Santa Isabela factory in that country. Duster production will be kept in Brazil and soon the Oroch pickup (based on the Duster and rumored to be a 1 ton pickup) will be launched. From what the press has been able to piece together, both Duster and Moroch will be produced off of the current platform and updates will be infrequent, following the age-old strategy of competing on price and, also, space. The Duster is larger than EcoSport and the recently launched Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008. The Moroch will dwarf the current Fiat Strada (new, larger version of which has been seen tooling around the factory), VW Saveiro and the old-as-the-hills, barely competitive Chevrolet Montana.

The Moroch however is an indication of the deepening of the CUV event horizon presciently seen by our recently departed Derek Kreindler. Renault is going all-CUV-in. The Renault Captur, a current Clio-based mini CUV is a foregone conclusion. Renault is not even hiding it anymore and it has been seen around the factory in Paraná and on highway tests. This lends credence to the thesis Renault is re-inventing itself. The new Brazilian Clio, the same again as the Euro Clio, should also appear soon, albeit placed in a category above the current Brazilian Clio’s status. Suppliers also say Renault is quoting prices for a sedan version of the Clio (non-existent in Europe) and indicative of the soon to come demise of its midsize sedan offering, the Fluence. Informed journalists in Brazil have stated that the Espace, Renault’s large (and former) minivan, which has turned into a sort of a CUV, is slated to be introduced in Brazil in 2016 as a locally-produced offering.

The current Brazilian Clio is also on its last days. Though reports are conflicting, either a version of Nissan’s own low-cost brand Datsun Go will be built here in Brazil, or a version of the concept recently shown in world Auto Shows by Nissan called the Sway (supposedly an early version of a substitute for the March/Micra line), could gain a Renault badge and come strong in the lower echelons of the Brazilian market.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, besides the heavy modernizing investments at the local plant and the responsibility of building the Logan family, current cars will remain in production. And very interestingly, the new Frontier/Navara pickup that will used by Mercedes Benz to offer its own global midsize pickup (compact PU for Americans) will also gain a Renault badge for sale, initially, all over Latin America. Internally called the Raptur, this will be Renault’s first incursion into the traditional midsize pickup market. It is an important step and will allow Renault to compete in an important market spanning the entirety of Latin America. Coming soon (reports say early 2016) you could soon take your pick and buy your midsize pickup in your preferred flavor – Nissan, Mercedes or Renault – as they will all be built side-by-side at the Argentinian factory.

The next few years will be very important for Renault in Latin America. It will keep and modernize entry-level cars. It will continue offering competitively priced compact cars that offer a bit more and are the bulk of the Brazilian market. It will make new tries, with new product, to gain a presence in upper middle-class garages by “Euro-pizing” its Brazilian production. It will sell CUVs for all pockets. Pickups, small and large will further broaden Renault’s Latin American presence.

If this will be enough to keep Toyota and Hyundai at bay remains to be seen. However, it seems if they will be offering cars, CUVs and trucks, the market wants. Sounds like a plan.

Brazilian Clio Ayrton Senna Factory Hyundai HB20 Nissan Frontier Renault Oroch Concept Santa Isabela Factory Renault Logan Renault Captur European Clio Renault Fluence Renault Kangoo Express Toyota Etios

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Long-term Tester Update: Fiesta ST on the Free-Love Freeway http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-free-love-freeway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-free-love-freeway/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:18:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046394 “Whoa, hold on. A car hauler is actively trying to run me off the road.” Yesterday, I was talking to my older brother via Bluetooth while driving home from Louisville when, for the third time in approximately ninety miles of highway driving, a trucker was moving over on me in a way that clearly indicated […]

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“Whoa, hold on. A car hauler is actively trying to run me off the road.”

Yesterday, I was talking to my older brother via Bluetooth while driving home from Louisville when, for the third time in approximately ninety miles of highway driving, a trucker was moving over on me in a way that clearly indicated that he hadn’t seen me. Not in the passive aggressive way that truckers normally do, when they put on a blinker and start moving slowly in expectation that you’ll just get out of their way—no, this was a straight-up swing out into what he perceived to be an empty lane. I quickly checked my mirrors and accelerated into the adjacent lane.

“You in the FiST?” my brother asked.

“But of course!” I replied.

Such is the danger of driving a B segment car on the highways of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

In the weeks since I last updated you on my leasership of my 2015 Fiesta ST, I’ve had the opportunity to put some serious highway miles on it. After its first month of living with me, when I racked up a whopping 500 miles or so as the snow and ice pummeled the Midwest, I’ve since put an additional 1800 miles on the clock for a total of 2300. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 2300 miles that didn’t go on my Boss 302 (come on, equity building!), but equally important is that I did 2300 miles at a combined 30 MPG as opposed to a combined 18 MPG.

Although the Fiesta ST doesn’t necessarily require premium fuel, it’s much happier drinking 93 octane than 87—I’ve noticed about 33 MPG highway on 87 versus 35 MPG on 93. There is also a noticeable torque difference. In theory, the ECU can tell the difference when you use regular versus premium and adjusts the ignition timing accordingly. In practice, the car feels better on 93. For highway cruising, though, it doesn’t matter much.

As good as the Fiesta is on back roads, for long stretches of highway miles, it can leave a little to be desired. The stiffly sprung suspension does not care for potholes at all, and the long, cold winter of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana seems to have created more than I can remember in years past. There’s no such thing as mindless driving behind the wheel of the ST—one divot in the middle of a lane can ruin your day, or in my case, your alignment. A particularly nasty bump on I-64 in Kentucky seems to have knocked my alignment off ever so slightly, to the point where the steering wheel is listing a bit to the right. I’ll have to get that looked at this week.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Fiesta ST is invisible to truckers. Not only that, it also appears to be invisible to Tahoes and F-250s. I am typically forced into evasive action about once a day if there’s even a bit of traffic around me.

Visibility out of the rear windshield is a bit limited (especially with track decals), and the truck-style side mirrors take a bit of getting used to.

013

 

There are pluses, however. It’s surprisingly quiet on the freeway. Tire and wind noise are minimal, even at speeds approaching triple digits. The Bluetooth works flawlessly, and it’s even suitable for taking a conference call—nobody will know that you’re in the car. I don’t have the Recaro seat option in my car, and I’m actually pretty glad about that when it comes to highway driving. Although I fit in them just fine, one doesn’t always want to be gripped like a glove when driving 250 miles at a time. The standard seats have lumbar support, but I like it best without it.

I’ve had exactly zero issues with MyFordTouch so far. The navigation system is excellent for daily usage—easily the best I’ve used in a car. Mrs. Bark used it to navigate her way out of a closed highway situation last weekend, saving her over an hour. While I have no plans to extend my Sirius trial, I have to admit that it’s useful for traveling longer distances, or for driving through areas where my phone can’t easily stream Spotify.

Okay, so this bit doesn’t have anything to do with freeway driving, but I wanted to include it anyway. There’s this little button on the center console. I pressed it a few times during the day, but nothing seemed to happen.

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But at night, it’s a different story. Observe:

Click here to view the embedded video.

I know, it’s a little dorky, but I dig it.

In the next month, I’ll be taking the ST to its first autocross (where I expect to be stoned by angry jorts-wearers) as well as its first track day. I look forward to sharing those experiences with you, as well.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Rude Remarks? GO!

 

 

 

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Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-2015-ford-fusion-titanium-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-2015-ford-fusion-titanium-awd/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 13:43:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038889 It’s a Detroit midsize sedan that I drove just for the sake of driving. That’s a verdict in and of itself. This heavily optioned 2015 Ford Fusion, a Titanium EcoBoost AWD model loaned to us by Ford Canada for the final week of March, isn’t perfect. • U.S. Market Price As Tested: $38,440 • Horsepower: […]

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2015 ford fusion titaniumIt’s a Detroit midsize sedan that I drove just for the sake of driving. That’s a verdict in and of itself.

This heavily optioned 2015 Ford Fusion, a Titanium EcoBoost AWD model loaned to us by Ford Canada for the final week of March, isn’t perfect.


• U.S. Market Price As Tested: $38,440

• Horsepower: 240 @ 5500 rpm

• Torque: 270 lb-ft @3000 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 19.3 mpg


But from the standpoint of on-road dynamics, the Fusion does what only a couple other intermediate sedans currently on the market can do: encourage their owner to take the long way home.

The Fusion’s imperfections are notable, however, perhaps to a greater degree because the midsize Ford excels at the act of bringing its pilot joy. According to my Grand Caravan-driving brother, also a father of four, the Fusion’s rear seat, “isn’t bad,” but it lacks the expansiveness of the top-selling midsize car, Toyota’s Camry. Although I’ve spent enough time now with MyFordTouch to find it sufficiently sensible, the system continues to be just plain slow. Why am I waiting and waiting and waiting for climate control options to appear after I start the car? Interior material quality is a mix of pleasant (steering wheel and armrests, for example), adequate (dash top and door surfaces) and disappointing (matte black button surround on the centre stack.) On the subject of performance, this top-flight 2.0L turbo is merely decent. In a world in which the three best-selling midsize nameplates continue to buck the no-V6 trend of their slower-selling rivals, this four-cylinder comes up 37 ponies short (on regular fuel) of the Toyota Camry’s 3.5L V6. Moreover, our particular all-wheel-drive Fusion tips the scales with an extra 201 pounds. (Titanium front-wheel-drive Fusions are 155 pounds lighter than our car.)

2015 Ford Fusion AWD rearIn other words, there’s enough boost, but the Fusion never left me with the I-can’t-believe-it’s-this-fast feeling engendered by V6-engined versions of the Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima. In this age, that’s what the most powerful powerplant in a multi-engine lineup should do. 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds, seriously? At least the Fusion’s all-wheel-drive system allows power to be applied to pavement in a hurry, with none of the excessive wheelspin of nearly all its rivals.

So if the Fusion is sufficiently but not substantially boosted, where does it rate on the eco front? Our tester was a drinker, averaging 19.3 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving over the course of a week. It’s rated by the EPA at 22 in the city; 31 on the highway. In our hands, the poor mileage wasn’t an anomaly. The last time we tested a Fusion with the same powertrain, in the spring of 2013, it averaged 18.4 mpg.

2015 Ford Fusion brick red interiorThe interior’s not perfect, the car isn’t that quick, and it consumes more fuel than the Camry V6 we just drove in the dead of winter, yet here I am saying this is the one I’d choose to drive.

True, a Mazda 6 is the more agile car, but it’s missing 30% of the Fusion’s torque. And while the Mazda handles at an expert level when pushed really hard, it’s not nearly as serene as the Fusion, which rides firmly but never allows the outsold world’s rough pavement to be publicized inside the cabin.

2015 Ford Fusion brick red interiorThis Fusion, wearing Goodyear Eagle LS2s (235/45R18s) doesn’t ride as firmly as the most aggressive Accords, either, and I prefer the way its direct steering projects signs of life; the way it progressively builds up its weight. Ford didn’t build an outright sports sedan here – there’s plenty of room for this chassis to morph into an ST and a need for the automatic transmission to gain enthusiasm – but it’s enjoyable to drive in all circumstances, regardless of speed.

That’s a noble achievement in an age of sterilized transportation, an age in which the endless pursuit of refinement shuts out most manifestations of interactivity.

As for the Fusion Titanium’s optional extras, because they did nothing to alter the on-road behaviour, they had little impact on the way I viewed the car’s positive aspects.

2015 Ford Fusion interior detailsIn Ford’s U.S. pricing scheme, the $33,115 Magnetic Metallic Titanium 2.0L EcoBoost AWD was topped off with a $1200 driver assistance package (which includes blind spot assist, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and more), the $895 active park assist (always a wonder), $995 adaptive cruise, $995 sunroof, a $795 red leather appearance package which included cool-in-the-early-’00s 18-inch wheels, a $150 heated steering wheel, $395 for heated and cooled front seats, $190 inflatable rear seat belts, and a $795 navigation system for a $38,440 total.

Don’t judge the Fusion based on such an over-equipped sticker. As of this writing, only 5% of the 2015 Fusions in stock at U.S. dealers are fitted with all-wheel-drive, according to Cars.com. Less than one-quarter of those cars are priced above $35,000. This car, therefore, is not a typical Fusion, but at its core it always displays the best and worst of the Fusion lineup: good looks, a stiff structure, a big trunk, an EcoBoost engine which lacks eco, somewhat poor packaging, and, most importantly, a European appetite for back road frolicking.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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2015 Ford S-Max Can Drive 55 Via Intelligent Speed Limiter http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-s-max-can-drive-55-via-intelligent-speed-limiter/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-s-max-can-drive-55-via-intelligent-speed-limiter/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028945 Can’t drive 55? If you’re behind the wheel of a 2015 Ford S-Max, you’ll have no choice, thanks to its Intelligent Speed Limiter. Ford of Europe says its limiter, being first offered on the seven-seat crossover, can allow drivers to set a maximum speed manually that can be dialed up or down in 5 kph […]

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2015 Ford S-Max Intelligent Speed Limiter - TTAC Zaibatsu Style

Can’t drive 55? If you’re behind the wheel of a 2015 Ford S-Max, you’ll have no choice, thanks to its Intelligent Speed Limiter.

Ford of Europe says its limiter, being first offered on the seven-seat crossover, can allow drivers to set a maximum speed manually that can be dialed up or down in 5 kph (5 mph) increments, as well as doing all the work for the driver.

The latter is accomplished through traffic-sign recognition technology, which provides the driver with speed limit information, cancellation signs and overtaking restrictions via the S-Max’s instrument cluster. Functionality begins at 30 kph (20 mph), and ends at 200 kph (120 mph), and drivers can set a speed tolerance of 5 kph above the limit.

Active safety chief Stefan Knappes says the system is meant to remove “one of the stresses of driving, helping ensure customers remain within the legal speed limit,” explaining that drivers sometimes aren’t aware of their speed until an accident or a fine occurs. The system will hit the road in Europe this summer, when the first S-Max deliveries begin.

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Long-term Tester Update: Fiesta ST vs. The Family of Four http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-vs-family-four/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-vs-family-four/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 14:02:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027521 I’m approximately one month and seven hundred eighty miles into my twenty-four month lease of my 2015 Ford Fiesta ST. I have no desire to make TTAC my own personal blog about my car (I mean, who doesn’t have a blog nowadays?), but I do wish to keep y’all updated on what it’s like to own […]

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I’m approximately one month and seven hundred eighty miles into my twenty-four month lease of my 2015 Ford Fiesta ST. I have no desire to make TTAC my own personal blog about my car (I mean, who doesn’t have a blog nowadays?), but I do wish to keep y’all updated on what it’s like to own or lease one of the hottest cars on the enthusiast landscape today.

Today’s installment focuses on what it’s like to have the Fiesta ST as a family car. For the sake of this discussion, let’s pretend like there isn’t a Ford Flex hiding behind the white garage door in the picture above, and that I have to use the Fiesta for my daily driver for my four-person family. I did my best to simulate those conditions during my first month of leasership, but this happened:

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For the first couple of weeks, the Fiesta ST (or as I like to call him, Zippy) spent a good deal of time in my driveway, underneath big brother Boss’ car cover. In retrospect, I think seeing the Boss in the garage and the Fiesta underneath the car cover may have inspired the SuBaruth (RIP) to commit suicide. Since I have yet to acquire any snow tires or steel wheels for Zippy, he sat like this about two weeks. Next winter, since I won’t have the Lego wagon anymore, I’ll be able to give you a little bit better perspective on how the Fiesta fares in the snow.

But, for now, let’s focus on what it’s been like since all the powder melted away in the grand Commonwealth of Kentucky. Well, let me put it to you this way—the above picture was the only time that the Boss has left the garage since I acquired the Fiesta. I haven’t had any need or desire to drive it, because the ST is simply that good.

However, we’re going to save the driving dynamics for another time. Most importantly, how has it fared as a family truckster?

Well, the suspension is tuned pretty stiffly. The potholes that appeared in the highways as a result of the winter weather are downright deadly for the Fiesta. The kids feel each and every bump when seated in the back. Mrs. Bark remarked that it was remarkably similar to riding in my old RX-8 when it was prepared for SCCA B Stock Autocross on revalved Koni Yellows.

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Despite the bumpy ride, the kids love riding in it. As you can see, there’s plenty of room for a seven-year-old in a booster seat. Even though it lacks the pure volume of the Boss 302’s Coyote-powered roar, the turbo whine that is pumped into the cabin by the sound symposer makes them laugh and command Dad to go faster. Kevin still prefers that I pick him up from school in the Mustang, but he’s a fan of Zippy, as well.

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How about for daily tasks like buying groceries for a family of four? As you can see above, $170 of groceries fits just fine into the cargo area, provided that you move the floor down to its lowest position (yes, we go through a lot of toilet paper). Other items that the Fiesta has swallowed quite comfortably under the hatch include my 27″ suitcase (although the carry-on has to go in the back seat—there’s no additional room), Kevin’s tri-fold posterboard for his science project, and the vast amount of materials required when one adopts a cat.

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Complaints from a family hauler perspective? The rear windshield is small. Like, super small. When two kiddos have their heads elevated by their car seats, it becomes pretty difficult to see out of the back.

The side impact safety rating for the rear seats is two stars—in other words, it’s dismal. It causes Ford to have to place an asterisk on the Monroney sticker, which indicates an “area of concern.” I don’t mind putting the kids back there for 25 MPH trips to school and the grocery store, but I’d feel a bit worried about having them back there at highway speeds for any length of time.

Along those same lines, I’m simply not used to being in such a small car on the highway. Sometimes I have found myself unexpectedly making an emergency evasive maneuver simply because a larger SUV or semi didn’t see me.

The stereo is not so great. While the MyFordTouch has worked flawlessly so far, the tinny sound of the speakers makes listening to the “Frozen” soundtrack even more annoying than usual.

Could you live with a Fiesta ST as your only car with a young family of four? You could, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it, if only because of the safety concerns. It’s the sort of thing that a childless Bark wouldn’t have even thought about ten years ago, but especially after the accident that Jack had last year, in which his son and my nephew (does that clarify things a bit?) was miraculously unharmed, I can’t ignore it.

Next week, we will do a little comparison with another B segment car from an American automaker with a young lady from whom we haven’t heard in quite some time…be prepared, TTAC faithful.

 

 

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Rental Review: 2015 Ford Taurus Limited http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-taurus-limited/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-taurus-limited/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027185 The plan: to drive nine hundred and seventy-two miles between 8PM Friday night and 1AM Sunday morning. The purpose: for me and my music partner Patrick, familiar to my blog readers from our indefensible habit of trying to arrange, learn, and perform new songs in a two-hour window, to spend Saturday afternoon at Wooten Woods, […]

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Wooten 017 (Custom)

The plan: to drive nine hundred and seventy-two miles between 8PM Friday night and 1AM Sunday morning. The purpose: for me and my music partner Patrick, familiar to my blog readers from our indefensible habit of trying to arrange, learn, and perform new songs in a two-hour window, to spend Saturday afternoon at Wooten Woods, a “Bass (pronounced “base”) and Nature Camp” sixty miles west of Nashville, TN, jamming with Victor Wooten. The loadout: two six-foot-two men, five guitars, two bass guitars, a Two-Rock Gain Master 35 amplifier, plus clothing and accessories. The available rental candidates: Chrysler 200, VW Passat, Ford Taurus.

Well, duh.

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I’d have chosen the Taurus on the basis of the trunk alone; even after the 2010-model-year restyling, Ford’s biggest sedan retained a truly impressive amount of trunk space. There are very few cars on the market where you can put guitar cases in as shown above, and that includes my old Lincoln Town Car. But the Taurus has more to offer than a spacious trunk. Nearly six years ago, I attended the press preview for this car and was impressed at how quiet and composed the Taurus was on the freeway. “Ninety-five percent of the Lincoln MKS experience for about sixty percent of the price” was my verdict. As a car with which to burn serious freeway mileage in a short amount of time, the Taurus truly excels.

The problem, if there was going to be one, would be in what has traditionally happened to the Taurus during the mid-cycle refresh. The 1986 Taurus impressed everybody from the buff books to the buyers with its materials and quality — but in 1992, Ford took a hatchet to the thing and cut costs everywhere from the dashboard to the deletion of the center rear armrest. The new-for-1996 model was stylish and expensive-looking, but Ford cut features just eighteen months after its introduction. (Halfway through 1996, Ford introduced the “Taurus G”, a bare-bones, low-price stopgap to get Taurus base prices under nineteen grand. I was a Ford salesman at the time and I suggested to customers that the Taurus G was the “choice of discriminating, or discriminated-against, gangsters.”) The 2000 Taurus was an even more egregiously poverty-spec approach to the 1996 platform, featuring drum brakes and interior fabric that would have shamed an ’82 Escort.

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The possibility was distinct, therefore, that when the teenaged Enterprise “manager” brought my 2015 Taurus Limited around I would find it to be a de-contented shadow of its former self. The fact that Ford has struggled to maintain sales volume for the model ever since 2011 did not reassure me on the subject.

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First impressions were good. The 2013 facelift was both minor and tasteful. As is always the case with Ford D-platform automobiles, I’m never really aware of just how large the Taurus is until it’s parked next to something else. It’s 202 inches long on a 112-inch wheelbase and it’s nearly 61 inches high against a width of 76 inches; closer to an S-Class than an E-class in the overall scheme of things. The odd proportions and high seating position are mostly to blame here. It’s just not shaped the same way that most sedans are.

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In creating this car from the bones of the old Five Hundred, Ford rolled the dice on a fashion-forward interior design that was rendered even more impressive by the mid-cycle refresh. No costs cut in here; to the contrary, everything from the center console to the door-mounted window switches feels distinctly premium and a clear cut above what Honda and Toyota have to offer in this price range. The difficulty is that the Taurus isn’t any more spacious than an Accord. To the contrary, the wide center console and sloping dashboard combine with the low roof to produce the distinct feeling that you, the driver, are being lowered into an extremely long and narrow cockpit. Like it’s an F-104 Starfighter or something. It definitely feels like you’re sitting on top of the Taurus, rather than in it, a feeling that is not helped by the relatively low beltline compared to the high-mounted seats. Very different from everything else in this class; the closest non-CUV analogy that comes to mind is the Rolls-Royce Ghost, which offers a similar ergonomic layout. One minor annoyance, shared with the rest of the Ford D-platform cars, is the Tetris-shaped footwell. I’m sure it’s very good for safety — these are cars that do remarkably well in crash tests — but it can be annoying because there are very few places to just rest one’s foot during long drives.

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As with Lincolns of recent memory, there’s the strange combination of a capacitance-touch center console and the pressure-touch MyFordTouch control screen. The Navigator I tested last year had pressure-switch buttons in place of the old capacitance pads so I’d look for the next Taurus to do the same. Not that there will be a “next Taurus” in the United States, mind you. [Note: We’ve heard that it’s on, then it’s off, then on again. Anyone from the Blue Oval care to chime in? -DK]

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The current generation of MyFordTouch is fast, accurate, and far superior to competing systems in my semi-unbiased opinion. It certainly handles phone integration better than my 2014 Accord does. The re configurable dashboard is nice but without the Track Apps you get in the Mustang it feels very neutered and workaday. The standard-equipment Limited stereo is adequate but not sparkling. There’s an optional Sony system, but if you want stellar sound in this vehicle you’ll need to get the version that says MKS on the trunk.

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The Taurus easily passes the sit-behind-myself test. It’s more spacious for rear-seat passengers than the people up front, because the center console doesn’t intrude. It’s probably very comfortable for criminals; one in six Taurus sales is a Police Interceptor.

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The 288-horsepower 3.5L Duratec is unspectacular but effective in this application and shifts from the 6-speed D-platform automatic are both quiet and unobtrusive. Choosing “S” enables limited and dilatory control of the transmission from a rocker switch on the shifter, but if you need to get ahead of traffic summoning the kickdown will blur the scenery in satisfactory fashion. There’s a two-liter EcoBoost available in the Limited for a little more money but it’s a ridiculous choice unless you’re obsessed with highway fuel economy. Not that you’d buy a Taurus for fuel economy, even with the two-liter. This car weighs over two tons and has the frontal area of an Imperial Star Destroyer. I observed 24.5 average MPG running 80mph through Kentucky and Tennessee and about 22 driving around town. My manual-transmission Accord coupe does better on both counts, as does the Avalon V6.

While handling and braking are both entirely acceptable in the modern Euro-influenced Ford fashion, where this Taurus truly shines is in long-distance driving. I’ve made the Columbus-to-Nashville trip two dozen times in the past four years in machinery ranging from my Porsche 993 to a Chrysler Town&Country, and this Taurus has the whole field beat for comfort and low fatigue. It’s exceptionally quiet, crosswinds don’t bother it, and it tracks exceptionally well on low-quality pavement. It’s easily equal or superior to the mid-luxury Japanese offerings in that respect. It’s much better than my Accord, most notably in the quality and quantity of interior noise.

The Friday night trip from Ohio to Tennessee seemed to fly by. The next day, Patrick and I spent seven hours in a variety of jam sessions. Victor took an interest in me and gave me three important pieces of feedback:

“That’s some good… singing.” (Referring to a song in which I both sang and played guitar.)

“Don’t leave your guitar cases on the table, it’s keeping people from eating their lunch.”

“Do you hear how loud your amp is? I shouldn’t have to tell you to turn down, man. Respect the other musicians.”

He also signed my Fodera YYS, to my immense delight. I think we’re still friends. At one point he nodded approvingly at a Wes-Montgomery-style octave line I played. I think that was because I had my amp turned really low and he wanted to encourage that behavior. I think I’m allowed to come back, although that’s because I negotiated the issue with Victor’s wife and not Victor himself. You have to know where your strengths lie in this world.

Leaving Wooten Woods at 8PM Ohio time, after a day of playing my heart out, didn’t exactly fill me with cheer. Yet the Taurus was a worthy companion on the way back. Few cars are less tiring to operate on long drives. No, it’s not fast and it’s not terribly modern in its packaging but compared to a car that can deserve both of those accolades (like, say, a BMW M4) I’d take this Taurus for a long trip in a heartbeat.

Equipping a 2015 Limited to the standard of our rental car would cost $32,230. For that money you get a reasonably complete equipment package including front seats that are both heated and cooled, but you really want a few options on top of that: the moonroof and the auto-dim driver’s mirror. Another few grand gets you the Sony stereo and laser cruise control but at that point you could also start thinking about a Lincoln MKS. Best to keep the sticker under $35k and shoot for a transaction price of thirty flat. At that price, this is a good car and a good value.

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Autoleaks: 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/autoleaks-2017-ford-f-250-super-duty-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/autoleaks-2017-ford-f-250-super-duty-revealed/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 10:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020897 This is 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty in all of its glory, with the F-350 and F-450 Super Dutys to look like this when they hit the lot, as well. According to Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah, an anonymous source dropped off the photo with no information about the truck, particularly what’s under the hood. Speculation, […]

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2017 Ford F-250 Aluminum Edition

This is 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty in all of its glory, with the F-350 and F-450 Super Dutys to look like this when they hit the lot, as well.

According to Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah, an anonymous source dropped off the photo with no information about the truck, particularly what’s under the hood. Speculation, however, points to a revised 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel and 6.2-liter gas-powered V8 as likely powertrain possibilities.

The only detail set in stone about the heavier-duty pickups thus far is that, like the F-150, aluminum will be used throughout the body.

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Reuss: Low Priority For Ford Raptor Competitor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/reuss-low-priority-ford-raptor-competitor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/reuss-low-priority-ford-raptor-competitor/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 14:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018018 Will there be a Silverado or Sierra ready to battle the Ford Raptor in Baja Valley anytime soon? Not quite, according to General Motors. Edmunds says GM doesn’t have current plans to build a Raptor competitor, despite speculation that Chevrolet and GMC are working on such a beast as of this writing. The brands themselves […]

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Will there be a Silverado or Sierra ready to battle the Ford Raptor in Baja Valley anytime soon? Not quite, according to General Motors.

Edmunds says GM doesn’t have current plans to build a Raptor competitor, despite speculation that Chevrolet and GMC are working on such a beast as of this writing. The brands themselves also won’t confirm if the “Badlands” name filed in February with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is meant for a high-performance full-size off-road pickup.

Per GM global product development boss Mark Reuss, his company has the capital and a lot of priorties on the table, of which a Chevy/GMC Raptor is among the lowest in priority. Reuss added that he would not rule out such a thing, citing the Colorado ZR2 concept from the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as where GM may go if it so chose.

Meanwhile, Buick-GMC vice president Duncan Aldred had this to say about the “Badlands” name:

When you are looking at terms, or names and phrases, the first thing you do, even if it is a speck of an idea, you trademark the name because it can become a legal mine field. If someone says, “I like that,” you generally go for it and work out if you might use it later. We’ve probably got hundreds, if not thousands, of names (we) don’t use.

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2015 Ford F-150 FX4: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-f-150-fx4-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-f-150-fx4-reviewed/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 12:50:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017746 This review begins with a car, a broken car, a miserable broken ungrateful little four-wheeled implement to which I have sunk too much money and too many pulled hairs, both of which I will never recoup. My stupid, silly Mazda Miata has been out of commission since, oh, last May, befallen by a faulty engine […]

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Ford F-150 grey, side

This review begins with a car, a broken car, a miserable broken ungrateful little four-wheeled implement to which I have sunk too much money and too many pulled hairs, both of which I will never recoup.

My stupid, silly Mazda Miata has been out of commission since, oh, last May, befallen by a faulty engine and then, uh, another faulty engine. (The details are sordid: first time was a journal bearing, if anyone’s keeping track, and the second, a failed oil pump. Someday I’ll gather all of my thoughts on this Horrible Misadventure in Transportation Ownership and publish the eight-thousand word screed to any miscreant willing to stomach it.)

The Miata of my obsessions. Sadly.

The Miata of my obsessions. Sadly.

The third engine, as pointed out by snickering colleagues, has got to be the charm. That warm glow of schadenfreude doesn’t feel as good when you’re the poor dumb bastard.

Ford F-150 grey, front

So when an 2015 Ford F-150 FX4 the approximate size, color, horsepower and towing capacity of the USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76 showed up on my driveway with a whomp, I called up Chris Hayes, podcast producer extraordinaire of The Hooniverse Podcast—and we took to the road, heading 60-something miles east to Corona, California, to Keegan Engineering, the somewhat-grandiose self-stylings of one Mike Keegan, to liberate the fruits of my financial mess.

Ford F-150 grey, rear

Make no doubt about it—the F-150 is still huge, and it feels huge. Swearing off any nod to aerodynamics, its front end is as square and brutish as your average Electro-Motive Diesel product. It will eclipse a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab, too—longer by 13 inches, taller by nearly two. And it certainly drives like it: bulky, ponderous, but never bogged down. It might be all that aluminum. It might be the fact that it can hit 60 miles per hour in five point six seconds.

Our EcoBoosted Ford came with the 3.5-liter V6 engine, pumping out 365 horsepower and 420 flubs of torque. It is a hell of a thing. Counting down that red light? Freeway getting crowded? Gotta move over before the on-ramp ends? Get on the gas and watch the nose rise up like a surfacing Red October, followed by the immediate and calamitous shifting of anything in the cargo bed. There’s a hint of turbo lag, but then the truck shoves you back, harder than a V8, I’d reckon, because turbocharger. And if the windows are down, the littlest prod of the accelerator evinces a constant whoosh “like it’s a turbodiesel,” said Hayes.

At one point, I lined up at a stoplight next to a Ferrari F430, equally grey, the ghost of Enzo all yelling “vaffanculo!” from across time and space, and floored it. Then I felt bad. You drive a flashy car like that, everyone’s gonna try to race you in all sorts of inappropriate machinery.

Still, I could’ve had him.

Mike Keegan hoists the new engine into the back of the F-150.

Mike Keegan hoists the new engine into the back of the F-150.

Chris and I recorded an episode of the Hooniverse Podcast on the hour drive to Corona, which you can listen to here, and which we could because the F-150 is dead quiet. Mausoleum-quiet. Which would be a cliché if it weren’t shaped like one.

We pulled into a nondescript neighborhood of two-story homes, washed out in different tans and beiges. A gentle bald bear of a man, Keegan met us in the driveway of his modest suburban home, next to a flat-white Falcon sedan—his wife’s—and in front of a garage that held untold projects and occasional treasures. It was quiet here, he said, and cheaper than Irvine, where he used to run his operations. Hayes and Keegan talked shop, exchanged handshakes, business cards. Trained by Cosworth, experienced through Champ Car, Keegan notably built Edmunds’ money-no-object Miata project as well as the race car motors for 949 Racing, which brought them to victory at Thunderhill, which certainly counts for something. Now, he works on diesels. We asked him if we could get him on the Hoonvierse podcast, and he smiled wistfully and shook his head no. “Too shy,” he said.

Mike Keegan close up

He had wrapped in plastic and strapped it to a pallet. We lifted it with a hoist and pushed it neatly into the bed, nearly filling its width. The F-150, especially with its FX4 off-road package, is so tall that the flip-out tailgate step is the only thing standing between you and your inevitable hamstring hernia. It slides out with a KA-CHUNK, along with corresponding yellow-knobbed pimp cane to climb up, and stepping down from the bed gives even the manliest man the countenance of a prom queen descending a crystal staircase.

The combination probably weighed 330 pounds, according to a snotty Miata.net member. I don’t rely on forums anymore. After spilling my fair share of pathos to bands of the like-minded, I found myself reaffirmed with the inevitable deluge of condescension and bad advice—I was like a vulnerable runaway, looking for support, for sympathy, remembering that I deserved none. From now on, I vowed, I would watch from afar, search and learn. We shook Keegan’s hand, slammed the tailgate shut, and climbed back in for the long drive back to Los Angeles.

The most useful innovation to pickup trucks since the V8 engine.

The most useful innovation to pickup trucks since the V8 engine.

Engine all loaded, we headed for the long journey through traffic.

Progress in the truck world advances so rapidly that an FX4 Off-Road edition is quiet, comfortable and serene. The ride is excellent. Let nobody tell you that leather is the be-all, end-all consumer good of lugg-jury: cloth seats are firm, never too grippy, and certainly easy to clean. Up front: gen-you-wine audio and climate control buttons—glove-friendly, self-explanatory. In back is so much legroom that it could serve as a one-bedroom apartment. The doors, however, slam with a shocking flimsiness, never with the hefty reassurance that justifies the purchase of a big new truck.

Gen-you-wine buttons and knobs!

Gen-you-wine buttons and knobs!

It’s a turbo, so it’s gotta be efficient, right? Well, Chris and I drove from his home in Redondo Beach to downtown LA, to Corona, where winter rains rendered the Chino Hills unto surprising greenery—grabbed the engine, drove up to the San Fernando Valley, another 75 miles, before I finally filled up to the conclusion of 13.2 miles per gallon. After another two days around town and half a tank, the computer readout displayed something like 16 mpg. Ford expects 17 mpg around town, 23 mpg on the freeway, with our engine and the 4×4 drivetrain, for the record.

John from Tripoint Engineering and Chris Hayes unload the engine.

John from Tripoint Engineering and Chris Hayes unload the engine.

And so. A truck is the easiest gadget in the world to justify: you won’t use it every day, but on the days you do, it is as indispensible as your next breath. That’s why Ford sells so many. That’s why so many are headed to the suburbs, where the mulch flows like gold tailings. Few consumer goods in the entirety of human civilization been honed to a knife edge, yet remain steadfastly traditionalist; in a sense, the F-150 makes up for its bold new aluminum experiment by wearing its size boldly, out-hefting its Chevy and Ram brethren. The result is stunning in its effectiveness.

Last year, when my Miata broke for the first time, I hauled it back home along the Central Valley with a Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD. It was my first time towing anything. United with its Ford rival, across time and space and weight classes, by a singular fixed point of broken automobile, I learned that modern-day truck transport has no right to be this comfortable, this smooth, this easy—naw, make them city boys work for it! Make ’em sweat a lil’ bit!

With the new engine firmly in the hands of competent mechanics, allow me say that I enjoyed my time with the F-150—but I hope to never have to drive another truck, into a forgotten corner of California, on another roadster rescue mission.

Easier to hold the engine up and drive away from it.

Easier to hold the engine up and drive away from it.

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Ford Readying Chevrolet Bolt Rival For Los Angeles Reveal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ford-readying-chevrolet-bolt-rival-los-angeles-reveal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ford-readying-chevrolet-bolt-rival-los-angeles-reveal/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015938 Not one to be left in the dust, Ford is preparing a rival low-cost EV to go after the Chevrolet Bolt for a Los Angeles reveal this year. AutoGuide reports the plug-in EV would be a stand-alone model instead of a repurposed product like a Fiesta or Focus. Ford hopes to beat Chevrolet to the […]

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Not one to be left in the dust, Ford is preparing a rival low-cost EV to go after the Chevrolet Bolt for a Los Angeles reveal this year.

AutoGuide reports the plug-in EV would be a stand-alone model instead of a repurposed product like a Fiesta or Focus. Ford hopes to beat Chevrolet to the punch with a production version before the Bolt hits showrooms in 2017, though both vehicles would likely reach customers before Tesla’s low-cost Model 3 sees the light of day.

Though little else has been found on this project, a concept version of Ford’s Bolt is expected to bow at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

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Geneva 2015: US-Bound Ford Focus RS Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-us-bound-ford-focus-rs-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-us-bound-ford-focus-rs-revealed/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 10:16:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1012322 Bound for the U.S. market at last, the Ford Focus RS took the ramp at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show. Under the bonnet, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder sends 315 horsepower to all four corners through a six-speed manual. Seventy percent of its torque can be directed toward the rear axle, 100 percent toward a single […]

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Ford-Focus-RS-1

Bound for the U.S. market at last, the Ford Focus RS took the ramp at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show.

Under the bonnet, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder sends 315 horsepower to all four corners through a six-speed manual. Seventy percent of its torque can be directed toward the rear axle, 100 percent toward a single rear wheel, via two electronic clutch packs.

Stiffer springs and bushings, larger anti-roll bars, optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tires, and Recaro seats are some of the other features onboard the 30th Ford vehicle to wear the RS badge.

Ford-Focus-RS-10 Ford-Focus-RS- Ford-Focus-RS-1 Ford-Focus-RS-9 Ford-Focus-RS-5 Ford-Focus-RS-6 Ford-Focus-RS-7 Ford-Focus-RS-8 Ford-Focus-RS-2 Ford-Focus-RS-4 Ford Focus RS ????????????? Ford Focus RS ?????????????

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Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Mustang V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-ford-mustang-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-ford-mustang-v6/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1009458 This is easy. We can skip the introduction. You know what this is, right? Just in case, let’s be clear. This is a V6-engined, sixth-generation Ford Mustang. Newly released for the 2015 model year, all Mustangs have fled their truck-like ways in favour of an independent rear suspension. That’s just one of a number of […]

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2015 Ford Mustang V6 white snowThis is easy. We can skip the introduction. You know what this is, right?

Just in case, let’s be clear. This is a V6-engined, sixth-generation Ford Mustang. Newly released for the 2015 model year, all Mustangs have fled their truck-like ways in favour of an independent rear suspension. That’s just one of a number of factors that cause the new Mustang to feel more like a sports car than a traditional American muscle car, even in this basic form.


• USD Price As-Tested: $27,505

• Horsepower: 300 @ 6500 rpm

• Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 19 mpg


Much of the discussion surrounding the arrival of a new Mustang related to the availability of a mid-level four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, a turbocharged 2.3L with 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque which, when attached to a 6-speed automatic and drinking premium fuel, travels 21 miles per gallon in the city; 32 on the highway. This is not that car.

This 3.7L V6-powered car makes 10 fewer horsepower and generates 40 fewer lb-ft of torque. On regular fuel, it travels 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. In the U.S., upgrading from this engine to the EcoBoost costs $1500. The automatic transmission is an $1195 option.

2015 Ford Mustang V6 side viewBesides the 6-speed auto shifter, this car, loaned to us for a week by Ford Canada, was fitted with a couple grand in options: 18-inch wheels, a power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, a block heater, a security package, and backup sensors. At USD $27,505  as tested, it’s $5620 less than the least costly V8-engined Mustang GT.

In other words, a big monetary leap is required to earn the coveted 5.0 badge, enough of an increase in the initial outlay alone to think that the two ends of the Mustang spectrum – at least until special editions and Shelby models arrive – are scarcely geared toward the same buyer.

2015 Ford Mustang front viewTherefore, resign yourself, as I did, to the fact that the car which showed up to replace a $50,000 minivan and $65,000 Audi in my driveway wasn’t a $40,000 Mustang but rather a $30,000 Mustang.

Was I better off as a result? I won’t go nearly that far, but the basic Mustang has a certain charm, a real-world affability, that rarely left me wanting more. Aside from, you know, a 5.0 badge, the accompanying 135 extra horsepower, and a 6-speed manual transmission.

But only on occasion. When did 300 horsepower become inadequate? A decade ago, one of my first reviews for my local paper’s Wheels section concerned a 4.6L, V8-powered Mustang with, you guessed it, 300 horsepower. Both this V6 and the decade-old V8 accelerate to 60 mph in slightly more than 5 seconds. The new V6 Mustang is less than 50 pounds heavier than that early fifth-gen car, puts its power down more effectively, and makes a fairly decent noise of its own.

2015 Ford Mustang V6 rear viewEverything else about the latest Mustang? Also better. And there’s a part of me that wonders whether much of what makes the new Mustang so outstanding to drive is enhanced in this V6 car. It weighs nearly 200 pounds less than the V8, with much of that weight loss occurring at the front end. Would steering this delicious be so sweet when saddled with extra heft up front? I doubt it.

Keep in mind, the Mustang permits three different steering modes. The lightest Comfort setting is not in keeping with the car’s twisty road capability and the weightiest Sport setting seemed slightly unnatural to me.

Normal mode, on the other hand, is anything but normal: most other modern cars simply don’t offer up this level of connectivity, and while often precise and quick, they rarely allow your hands to comprehend just how precise and how quick their racks really are.

2015 Ford Mustang V6 interiorSo the V6 is likely sufficient and the steering sets the Mustang apart, but does the car live up to its sporty billing? Undeniably. The Mustang V6 may even be aided by its dearth of performance add-ons – the performance packages available for the EcoBoost and GT aren’t even on the options sheet here. The potential degradation of ride quality caused by track-oriented equipment never crops up. Oh, it’s firm, but it’s not busy or crashy or beholden to its unsprung weight. Moreover, the soft 235/50R18 Michelin X-Ice tires are of an aspect ratio too pillowy to cause any harm to the Mustang V6’s ride.

Tied to a stiff structure, this is a suspension that copes with all that a road throws its way while also being tuned to accept inconsistent and even ham-fisted inputs from the driver. This basic Mustang isn’t a track bruiser, but driven in a semi-aggressive style on a great road, it’s engaging and capable enough to encourage further advancement toward its limits.

Dynamically, it’s a positively European-feeling car; not unlike Ford’s Fusion, Focus, and Fiesta in that respect. But there are undertones of American muscle that link this car to its predecessors and its most direct rival from Chevrolet. I give it credit on both accounts.

The 2015 Mustang isn’t perfect. Although the rear seat is decent for a car of this type (we threw in a front-facing Diono Radian RXT child seat with little difficulty) and the driver’s seat sits pleasantly low and is well-bolstered, front seat passengers couldn’t get comfortable because of the bolstering (their arms aren’t extended to a steering wheel but rather squeezed in the wrong places) and the small footwell. This basic Mustang’s SYNC system, while relatively straightforward, doesn’t use a touchscreen and isn’t a paragon of modernity. The screen for the backup camera is tiny. The overall interior design that earned so much initial applause is less whelming in this lesser guise.

2015 Ford Mustang V6 shift paddleWorst of all, the downshift paddle was literally coming apart at the seams. I was the first auto writer this Mustang visited on its press tour and I hardly used the paddles. After all, they only serve to control a 6-speed automatic transmission that doesn’t shift with the swiftness a sporty car deserves. Nevertheless, there it is, splitting in two. The upshift paddle remained in one piece but isn’t made of high quality plastic. I can’t imagine it will last.

Yet by a measure of many miles, I’d prefer to spend time in this Mustang than in a better-built Chevrolet Camaro, if in fact Camaros are more solidly constructed. The Mustang doesn’t have visibility issues; visibility is the Camaro’s achilles heel. The Mustang feels like it totes around 500 fewer pounds; it’s closer to a 200-pound differential. The Camaro handles with grip and sheer force as though handling is work, like a 9-to-5 job. The Mustang handles with the kind of effervescence we typically encounter in lightweight cars with two-thirds the power, as though handling is Friday night fun.

With added refinement and improved dynamics, it’s hard to imagine many ways in which the Mustang’s appeal could be broadened. I suppose they could add all-wheel-drive availability – gasp – but after spending much of my time with the 2015 Mustang V6 on snow-covered roads, I sincerely hope that the Mustang owner base takes advantage of every opportunity for on-demand tail-out action. Eschew traction. Embrace oversteer.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Ford Cuts $900 From Fusion Hybrid, Energi Price Tags http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/ford-cuts-900-fusion-hybrid-energi-price-tags/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/ford-cuts-900-fusion-hybrid-energi-price-tags/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004482 Shopping for a Ford hybrid or PHEV? The 2016 Fusion Hybrid and Energi models won’t be as thirsty for your wallet as before. CarsDirect reports both models will see a price drop of $900 across all trim levels, from $26,575 to $25,675 for the Fusion Hybrid S, to $33,900 (from $34,800) for the Fusion Energi […]

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2015 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium

Shopping for a Ford hybrid or PHEV? The 2016 Fusion Hybrid and Energi models won’t be as thirsty for your wallet as before.

CarsDirect reports both models will see a price drop of $900 across all trim levels, from $26,575 to $25,675 for the Fusion Hybrid S, to $33,900 (from $34,800) for the Fusion Energi Luxury SE.

Despite the cuts, no decontenting will occur among the Fusions; the Hybrid, in fact, will have a new driving mode called EcoSelect, which offers more regenerative braking while delivering a softer launch from the light and less intense heating and cooling.

The price drop follows a similar action last year, when Ford chopped up to $1,200 off the price of C-Max Hybrid and Energi models, and is meant to draw interest away from the upcoming redesigned Toyota Prius, set to begin production later in 2015. Both 2016 Fusion models are due in showrooms at around the same time.

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Capsule Review: Ford SVT Raptor – United States Border Patrol Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-ford-svt-raptor-united-states-border-patrol-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-ford-svt-raptor-united-states-border-patrol-edition/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:50:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1001114 I’m driving down a narrow dirt track somewhere in a South Texas at a hurried but not unreasonable pace. As I round a bend, the ground arches up into a tall “whoop” just a few meters in front of me. I can’t go around it, and hitting the brakes will only send me skidding into […]

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Raptor 6

I’m driving down a narrow dirt track somewhere in a South Texas at a hurried but not unreasonable pace. As I round a bend, the ground arches up into a tall “whoop” just a few meters in front of me. I can’t go around it, and hitting the brakes will only send me skidding into it at nearly the same speed.

Until now, I’ve mostly driven the Ford Super Duty, in F250 or F350 guise, while on patrol. They can be surprisingly capable out here in the desert, but they don’t like to be driven fast on rough terrain. Hitting one of these “Border Patrol speedbumps” at anything above a cautious crawl transforms the cabin into a world of violence as the industrial suspension crashes to the stops and your head crashes into the ceiling. I brace for the inevitable.

Moments later, I’m past it and all is well. My ass never left the seat cushion, and as far as I can tell, my tires never left the ground. Hell, even my water bottle is still resting serenely in the cupholder where I left it. There’s a reason for that. Today I’m not in a Super Duty. Today, I’m in a Raptor.

 

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I wonder if a couple engineers sat down in Dearborn one day and said, “How bout we design the perfect truck for the U.S. Border Patrol?” It wouldn’t be an enviable job. Our trucks are operated in the some of the roughest conditions faced outside of pure military duty, and they have to withstand those conditions every day. They are piloted over steep, rocky mountain roads; across expanses of deep, soft sand that will trap you in place if you apply just a bit too much or too little throttle; through patches of dense, wet clay that wraps itself around your tires in thick, slick layers. They are driven by adrenaline junkies who are not financially liable for their repair or maintenance, and whose supervisors don’t particularly care how much unnecessary abuse is hurled at the chassis so long as you don’t dent the bodywork. We ask a lot, often way too much, of our fleet.

Drowned

Our mildly modified Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Super Duty vehicles can do almost all the things the Ford SVT Raptor is capable of doing. The difference is the ease (and speed) with which the Raptor does them. Where a Tahoe scrabbles up a steep slope, struggling to find purchase in loose rock, the Raptor simply ascends. Where an F350 churns through soft sand, fighting to keep its massive bulk afloat, the Raptor seems to glide over the surface. Our other trucks can be made to work in this environment, but the Raptor is to the manor born.

Raptor 1

Every component on the Raptor is intended to be used this way, under these conditions. Anecdotally at least, this means fewer repairs due to parts being pushed beyond their limits. Even if an agent is not willfully abusive towards his mount, conditions in the desert sometimes require that one drive less than lovingly. Getting across a flooded ditch or a patch of large rocks often requires a bit of momentum going in. I’ve seen this technique result in shattered suspension components, dislodged coolant and/or turbo plumbing, busted oil pans, and dented rims.

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Not with the Raptor. I’ve yet to see a single one sidelined for damage caused by routine overuse. That’s not to say we haven’t “deadlined” a few; if you want to find a product’s limits, give it to a Border Patrol Agent. The Patrol has determined that the Raptor will not float across a running arroyo during monsoon season. Also, if you have too much fun playing with the included inclinometer display, it will roll sideways down a mountain. Yet to my knowledge, not even our wildest/dumbest agents have managed to bend the frame on one.

Raptor 4

We have other trucks that can give the Raptor a run for its money in some circumstances, but none of them do it without significant compromise. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon’s short wheelbase is a delight when crawling through narrow canyons and up tight switchbacks, but it gets skittish when you have to dial in a bit more speed. The old HMMWV/Hummer H1 can bash its way across any landscape, but it is deeply unpleasant in every other regard and driving them makes me feel sad. Also, every fluid in that venerable military vehicle will boil if it’s hot or hilly, which can be a problem in the Southwest. The Raptor may be outclassed by a particular competitor in that competitor’s one-percent scenario, but you’ll be glad to have the big Ford when you realize 99% of the drive is still ahead of you.

When duty takes us back onto pavement, this off-road savant behaves with polite road manners as well. Pin the throttle coming off a soft shoulder, and the forgiving traction control allows the rear end to kick out a bit as the exhaust plays a thunderous siren song. Disappointingly, the government doesn’t trust us enough to remove the 98 MPH electronic limiter, but the Raptor will get to that limiter in a big damn hurry for such a big damn truck.

Fortunately, the typical smuggler’s vehicle is a circa 1997 Ford Expedition or Chevrolet Suburban loaded well beyond the manufacturer’s recommended GVWR, so 98 is usually fast enough. On an open road, the Raptor will only begrudgingly do anything under 90, the quiet cabin and stable handling cutting your perceived speed about in half. On the rare occasion that the Southwestern hardtop gets twisty, Ford’s desert racer inspires more confidence than most vehicles in the 3-ton+ class. The suspension resists leaning too far into its twelve inches of travel as the 315mm BFGoodrich All-Terrains brace against the pavement and the lateral momentum shifts smoothly from one side to the other. Your average driver will have found his way off the road, through a fence, and into a tree long before a pursuing Raptor hits its limits.

F250

Beyond the apparent savings in repair costs, purchase costs look pretty favorable as well. An F-250 built to standard Border Patrol spec, with the PowerStroke turbodiesel engine and an extended cab, goes for $44,710 according to Ford’s configurator. A base 4×4 Chevy Tahoe stickers over $50,000 nowadays. A 2014 Raptor starts at $44,995, and it requires no additional options for our purposes. Frankly, I’m not sure why the Patrol has purchased anything else since the Raptor arrived in 2010. SVT is taking a hiatus from the OEM off-roader game for the 2015 and 2016 model years, but they’ve already announced the Raptor will return with a lighter, aluminum-clad successor as a MY 2017. The 6.2L V8 will be retired in favor of a tuned 3.5L EcoBoost V6 producing more power and torque than its naturally aspirated ancestor. I can only expect that the price will rise proportionately, I just hope it remains within reach of the U.S. federal government and its humble civil servants like me. Does Uncle Sam qualify for 90 month financing?

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Chicago 2015: Ford GT Presents Its Canadian Passport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-ford-gt-presents-canadian-passport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-ford-gt-presents-canadian-passport/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 23:21:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999058 The Blue Oval has no use for 50 shades of gray, not when two will suffice for the 2015 Chicago Auto Show debut of the Ford GT. Per our friends over at AutoGuide, the big news this time around for the 3.5-liter turbo-six exotic is that it will be assembled in Canada. Multimatic Motorsports in […]

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Ford-GT-2

The Blue Oval has no use for 50 shades of gray, not when two will suffice for the 2015 Chicago Auto Show debut of the Ford GT.

Per our friends over at AutoGuide, the big news this time around for the 3.5-liter turbo-six exotic is that it will be assembled in Canada. Multimatic Motorsports in Markham, Ontario — just north of TTAC Zaibatsu HQ in Toronto — will be in charge of putting together the GT, lending further credibility to the rumor that Ford wants to throwdown at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans. The group campaigns a pair of Mustang Boss 302Rs in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

As for other details about production and pricing since its jaw-dropping world debut in Detroit, analysts believe a few hundred units will leave Multimatic annually, each with a price tag of around $200,000. Ford remains silent about either figure, however.

Ford-GT-10 Ford-GT-1 Ford-GT-2 Ford-GT-3 Ford-GT-4 Ford-GT-5 Ford-GT-6

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Rental Review: 2014 Ford Fusion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/rental-review-2014-ford-fusion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/rental-review-2014-ford-fusion/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994586 Yes, I know. You’re reading yet another article on TTAC about the Ford Fusion. You’ll have to read yet another sentence about the Aston Martin-style front grille, a paragraph about the EcoBoost engine, a passage about what the interior space is like, another sentence about the Aston martin-style front grille, and a remark on how […]

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Yes, I know. You’re reading yet another article on TTAC about the Ford Fusion. You’ll have to read yet another sentence about the Aston Martin-style front grille, a paragraph about the EcoBoost engine, a passage about what the interior space is like, another sentence about the Aston martin-style front grille, and a remark on how the good SYNC voice activation is. But this review isn’t going to be the usual road test you read in your local newspaper, auto magazines, and the usual automotive blogs.

It’s about another kind of Ford Fusion. It’s not going to be about the Hybrid version, or the Energi, or one with the powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. It doesn’t have the wheels that thieves will steal from the car in your own driveway. It’s about your run-of-the-mill 1.6-liter EcoBoost Ford Fusion SE. Which has over 45,000 miles and is still serving as a rental car, meaning this truly is another kind of Ford Fusion.

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Let’s start with the interior, as most reviewers tend to begin with the outside. The interior is a pleasant place (even after the tremendous amount of use), with black leather seats and some wood and silver-painted trim. All the touch points still felt fine. The power-adjustable driver’s seat had front and back lumbar support; though you couldn’t move the lumbar support up and down. Additionally, sitting in the back was comfortable and there was more than enough legroom, a welcome surprise coming from a Focus. As for the infotainment system, I don’t like the small LCD screen in the dashboard. It must be small to remind me my car doesn’t have the navigation option, but I’d rather have had the extra buttons and the digital screen. Even though I didn’t like the appearance of the infotainment system, the system was very intuitive and it was easy to tune the radio or change the audio settings.

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Storage space wasn’t an issue. It’s a good car for four people going on a weekend road trip. There was plenty of space underneath the front armrest and to put things in the center console. The trunk could fit three full-size suitcases with room for a backpack. As for the spare tire beneath, it’s a space-saver wheel, so be prepared to drive in the right lane slowly in the event of a flat tire.

The powertrain was the now-discontinued 1.6-liter EcoBoost that makes 182 horsepower. (Now it’s the 1.5-liter Ecoboost.) While I had the car, the check engine light was illuminated and the transmission seemed to lazily drop a gear whenever I pressed harder on the accelerator. If the transmission wasn’t shifted into S, I would describe the cars highway performance “lazy.” The handling and steering feel was very good for a front-drive car of the size and weight of the Fusion, even with the smaller 17-inch alloy wheels. This car also had a normal 6-speed automatic, so you don’t hear the sound of clutches attempting to engage like you would in an “automatic” Focus.

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Furthermore, the rental company activated the MyKey system, presumably to prevent me from driving 100 mph without my seatbelt fastened and with the radio turned to full-blast. However, unfortunately for those who wish to know the top speed my rental company set, I have no idea, since my driving was mainly local and there was traffic on the highway. That and I wanted to avoid a potentially awkward conversation at the rental counter if did found out I really did drive 100 mph without my seatbelt on with the radio turned to 11.

I have to include a paragraph about fuel economy, since it happens to be a major selling point of the car. It didn’t help that while I was watching an episode of New Girl on Netflix (on which Ford has an official product placement deal), one of the characters spent a good minute discussing how he cared about furl economy in his new Ford Fusion. The car computer told me it had received a little bit over 27 mpg overall over the life of the car. However, Ford advertised the fuel economy numbers as 23 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, which I found disappointing, but not surprising considering the acceleration habits of rental car drivers, which likely contributed to that low figure.

On the highway, this car was fairly comfortable and it absorbed some fairly nasty bumps, no doubt thanks to those 17-inch wheels. However, mine had a large problem with wind noise (it felt like one of the windows was slightly open, though everything was closed), and I couldn’t isolate where the wind noise was coming from. To ensure I wouldn’t hear that wind noise, I turned up the stereo louder than usual, which would’ve been fine if the speaker system was good, but it wasn’t. Visibility was very good, though it wish it would’ve been possible to sit up higher.

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My rental car company put the Fusion in the “full-size” class, which I thought was for cars like the Taurus and Impala, and I was really looking forward to either of those two. However, when I was getting the rental, I had a choice between the Fusion and the Kia Optima. I chose the Fusion since I wanted to see how one held up to abuse and hit the jackpot when the odometer showed at least 46,000 miles. As I’ve noted before, numerous publications have tested new Ford Fusions, but it’s nice to know how they hold up over time.

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It wouldn’t be a complete review of the Fusion without a discussion about the styling and a mention of the Aston Martin-style grille. I didn’t want to like it, but somehow, after looking at the photos, I don’t think the styling’s become dated, like what happened to the 2010 Hyundai Sonata after one model year. Despite the lower-end 17-inch wheels, I think it manages to look good. In ten years’ time, I think the Fusion’s looks still will be considered relatively modern.

Unlike the Focus, when I ran the VIN of this particular rental car, I didn’t come across any juicy tidbits of information, and the representative checking out the car to me didn’t volunteer anything either. So this car will probably come to rest on the lot of my local rental car company dealership in at least 5,000 miles’ time. The only somewhat intriguing thing I managed to come across was a document which indicated the Fusion might have been part of a “rent-to-own” program for rental cars. Meanwhile, I’m sure running the Carfax or Autocheck wouldn’t have turned up much, similar to my Focus experience.

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Ultimately, this is a great family car and I like it. I can’t envision the design of the Fusion going out of style very soon, and the steering feel is very good. The performance is fine, as long as you stick to the posted speed limit, but put your foot down any further and the fuel economy doesn’t get anywhere near the number you envisioned. After 45,000 miles as a rental car, this Fusion held up better and was more comfortable than expected, though you should still get an inspection if acquiring a Fusion with 45,000 miles, as the EcoBoost engine might not be cheap to fix if it hasn’t been properly maintained.

And please, if you do purchase a Fusion, please don’t say the name of that British automaker that the grille reminds you of. We’ve all heard enough.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end, once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He’s now scared of what the Ford MyKey system will reveal about his driving habits.

 

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Capsule Review: 2015 Ford F150 XLT SuperCrew http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-ford-f150-xlt-supercrew/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-ford-f150-xlt-supercrew/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985258 The stupid beer can analogies are already tired. Yes, the body of the 2015 Ford F150 is aluminum, but it’s not that important. If they didn’t make a big deal about it, you’d never know. It also fails to make the F150 the lightweight Jesus of pickups.   Ford has been crowing about the weight […]

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red 2015 ford f150 supercrew 4x4 fx4

The stupid beer can analogies are already tired. Yes, the body of the 2015 Ford F150 is aluminum, but it’s not that important. If they didn’t make a big deal about it, you’d never know. It also fails to make the F150 the lightweight Jesus of pickups.

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Ford has been crowing about the weight savings that come from using an aluminum body, but that alone won’t keep the F150 on top. While it’s highly likely the F150 will crack 40 years as the best-selling single model, its competitors have sharpened their daggers lately.

The F150 remains as the F150 has always been – a good truck, sold aggressively, with some weak spots. The areas most in need of improvement have been attended to. That means a better interior, noticeably careful assembly quality, and thoroughly re-imagined powertrain lineup.

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The base engine for is the 3.5 liter V6. It’s just as solidly unremarkable here as it was in the Lincoln MKZ. With 282 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque, the 3.5 is completely overshadowed by a pair of optional EcoBoost V6 choices. The 2.7 liter EcoBoost is the short-money option, costing you $795 to bump up to 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. Spend $1,995 and you’ll get the 3.5 liter EcoBoost. Its 365 hp is just 20 hp shy of the 5.0 liter V8’s 385 hp, but its 420 lb-ft of fat turbo torque will be noticeably stronger and more flexible than the V8’s 387 lb-ft.  Ford prices the V8 right in between the turbo sixes, at $1,595. Either EcoBoost is a hell of an engine, and if you crack a window, you’ll hear the turbos spool.

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With the window up, you won’t hear much at all. It’s quiet inside, but the interior of the F150 is still plagued by the same kind of nonsense that’s afflicted the Mustang for a decade. Rock-hard door panels, tons of greasy-looking, cheap-feeling plastic, and bunch of buttons vomited on the panel. Compared to the MyFordTouch system, though, the HVAC buttons are a paragon of usability. With MFT, there’s a touchscreen with icons that are too tiny, so skip it and be safer on the road. SYNC3 can’t arrive soon enough.

Button-aggro aside, the new F150 is very comfortable to drive. The quiet environment is a pleasant start, the seats are supportive, with enough adjustments to dial in some personalization, and this thing is solid. Even though it’s a pickup, the steering is a tick slow off-center and numb. The EcoBoost 3.5 is ballsy. Very ballsy. Light the tires up like a sports car ballsy. If the underwhelming interior is Bad Mustang, the Truck Nutz are Good Mustang.

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It’s an open secret that pickups look more useful than they often turn out to be. That’s especially true with the 5 1/2 foot bed my F150 had. It’s fine for a weekend warrior, and it keeps the total length down so you’re not trying to turn the Nimitz around in the convenience store parking lot, but it’s a compromise. The SuperCrew is standard with a 6 1/2 foot bed, so you save $315 with the shorter bed. It’s best to think of the SuperCrew F150s as an Expedition with a bed in place of the 3rd row, versus a super-utilitarian pickup. The bed does have LED, the new BoxLink system with adjustable locking tie-downs, and handy D-rings. If you’re going to torture your F150 with real work, get a stripped-down XL, not this $50,000 SuperCrew. The pickup truck arms race leads to some absurdity. There’s a staircase built into the tailgate, which is ridiculous and kind of cumbersome to use. There’s cool stuff, too, like the optional ramps and remote tailgate release.

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The F150 is the truck that does just about everything well. Rams have better interiors and the GM twins are quiet and refined with somewhat better ergonomics – not to mention the small-block V8. The T’s – Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra – remain non-players, though I’m eager to get my hands on the new Titan. Even with the huge investment to go aluminum for the body, the F150 isn’t a featherweight, but it does wind up strong in every category. The engineering has obviously been obsessed over. The driving experience is tidy and disciplined, and while it doesn’t lead the class in interior quality, there’s been energy put into making it better. Bottom line: The F150 is solid, it has show-stand looks and is comfortable to drive. The interior is a disappointment, and the price can jump into “holy crap!” territory really quickly. The F150 feels light on its feet and is a lot more refined than it used to be. It’s also the most forward-thinking pickup you can buy right now.

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Ford Elevating 55 To First-Tier Pay After Hitting Second-Tier Cap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/ford-elevating-55-first-tier-pay-hitting-second-tier-cap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/ford-elevating-55-first-tier-pay-hitting-second-tier-cap/#comments Mon, 02 Feb 2015 15:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=992474 Fifty-five Ford employees will be elevated to first-tier pay status after the automaker exceeded its cap on second-tier hires. Automotive News reports the employees were hired between February and June of 2010, and work at the automaker’s facilities in Kansas City, Chicago and Louisville, Ky., per the announcement by the United Auto Workers. The union […]

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Ford Louisville Assembly Plant + Ford Escape

Fifty-five Ford employees will be elevated to first-tier pay status after the automaker exceeded its cap on second-tier hires.

Automotive News reports the employees were hired between February and June of 2010, and work at the automaker’s facilities in Kansas City, Chicago and Louisville, Ky., per the announcement by the United Auto Workers. The union praised the move, considering it a milestone as it presses forward toward the goal of eliminating the two-tier system in its contract with Ford. The contract requires that second-tier employees be promoted to first-tier in order of hiring when the cap on the former is exceeded.

As a result, those 55 employees will see their pay rise from $19/hr. to $28/hr., though benefits will still fall short of those received by employees hired in 2007 and earlier. Currently, 14,200 of the automaker’s 50,400 U.S. employees are on second-tier pay status, and that it was 69 employees away from hitting the cap of 28 percent of all employees for that level of pay. Ford is the only one of the Detroit Three to have a cap in place; General Motors and FCA US had caps of 20 to 25 percent of all employees, which were lifted in 2009 under bankruptcy protection.

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