The Truth About Cars » Ford The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Ford Galhotra Takes The Reins As Lincoln’s New President Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:00:04 +0000 ashwani-kumar-galhotra.img.1375822969106

As one of his first major moves since becoming CEO, Ford’s Mark Fields named vice president of engineering Kumar Galhotra as president of Lincoln, effective September 1.

Automotive News reports Galhotra, who will report directly to the new CEO, will be the premium brand’s first president since Al Giombetti left the post in 2007. The move will also reduce executive vice president of global sales, service and marketing Jim Farley’s role with Lincoln, which will be focused on marketing the brand once Galhotra takes over.

The new president — an engineer and product executive who has worked with Lincoln, Ford and Mazda in the past — will bring his marketing experience to the table as Lincoln prepares to launch in China later in 2014; he headed Ford’s Asia Pacific division from 2009 to 2013, and helped bring about the new Ranger pickup to market.

Speaking of the division, engineering director Jim Holland will move from there to replace Galhotra as Ford’s vice president of engineering, reporting to global product development chief Raj Nair.

]]> 31
Capsule Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta SE 1.0 liter EcoBoost Wed, 09 Jul 2014 12:30:50 +0000 2015 ford fiesta se ecoboost front 34

Enthusiasts, rejoice! Ford has what you have been asking for – a low-priced economical vehicle with a proper manual transmission (it’s the only choice!) and turbo power. Those two important features are in a car that is not completely stripped down, either! Yes, you can stream music from your fancy phone and open the windows by pressing buttons. But does this combination make the 3-cylinder Fiesta a game changer?

2015 ford fiesta se ecoboost engine

For an extra $995 over the regular 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, the Fiesta SE gives you a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost (marketing term for a direct-injection and turbo/intercooler) engine. That engine produces three more horsepower and 13 more torques for a total 123hp and 125 lb-ft. Not surprisingly, the fuel economy increases to 31mpg in the city and 43mpg on the highway. While those are good numbers, they are certainly not changing any games. For comparison 2015 Honda Fit gets 31/41mpg, Toyota Yaris 30/37, Nissan Versa Note 31/40, and the Mitsubishi Mirage 37/44.

Even with the improved fuel economy, it is unlikely that the additional cost of the engine would make sense to most casual buyers. Furthermore, the lack of an available automatic transmission is likely to keep most buyers away, which leaves two kinds of potential buyers: cheapskates and enthusiasts. Cheapskates are out, they’ll just buy the Fiesta S. That leaves you, the enthusiasts who are reading this.

2015 ford fiesta se ecoboost details

This is a slow car, yet the engine begs to be red-lined in every gear. You can drive it like a total hooligan and not get into an ounce of trouble. While this may have an adverse effect on the fuel economy, it is fun and perfect for those who treat the accelerator like an on/off switch. The shifter is smooth and the clutch pedal is light – if you stall out in this car you should just quit saving the manuals.

That said, the Romanian-built cast iron motor in this Mexican-built car is very slow reving, as if someone intentionally bolted up a heavy flywheel to it. Get caught in the wrong gear, especially around slow city turns where downshifts into first gear may be required, and you’ll be inching along with your foot to the floor. On the highway it is surprisingly frisky, but still requiring a lot of shifting.

Common sense would dictate that a vehicle designed with the enthusiast in mind would come with perhaps a sport tuned suspension, but that is not the case here. While the engine is not overpowering the chassis, there is nothing sporty about this car’s handling. Further confusing the potential enthusiast buyer is the fact that this engine cannot be combined with the upscale versions of SYNC (Aux and USB audio inputs are there), aluminum wheels, or an upgraded interior trim which is available on the four-banger SE. This should have you scratching your head.

2015 ford fiesta se ecoboost interior dash

The interior, even without the mentioned features, is surprisingly nice. All materials are pleasing to the eyes and to touch, the seats are well padded and generally very comfortable. There is plenty of room in the front but those over six feet tall will, not surprisingly, complain when seated in the back seat. The rear seats folds down, 60:40 split, but the opening to the trunk is rather small so only flat parcels will fit. There are some typical Ford-esque ergonomic issues with the Euro-flavored dash, specifically the tiny diamond-shaped radio buttons. The center radio display and its controls seem pretty dated, too.

The SE sedan starts at $15,580. This test vehicle had the SE EcoBoost engine for $995, comfort package (heated seats, mirrors, clime control) for $290, special Green Envy paint job at $595, and a destination charge of $825. The total comes to $18,285 but at the time of this writing Ford was offering a $750 incentive which brought the total price to $17,535.

2015 ford fiesta se ecoboost rear 34

After spending a few days with this car, I could not figure out who this car was for. If I was a cheapskate I would buy the entry-level model. If I was someone who just wanted an appliance I would get the four cylinder. A true enthusiast would spend a little more and get the superb Fiesta ST for only three grand more. And that car, my friends, is a game changer.

Kamil Kaluski is the east coast editor for Read his ramblings on eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous car stuff can be found there. 

Ford provided the vehicle for this review.

]]> 110
Bark’s Bites: Two Years with the Boss Tue, 08 Jul 2014 13:00:19 +0000 image_2

My first contribution to TTAC was the purchase story of my 2013 Ford Boss 302 Mustang. To be honest, it could have easily ended up being a Corvette Grand Sport or something else entirely; I wasn’t a “Mustang collector” in the traditional sense. You know: when the Boss was announced by Ford, shouts were heard far and wide across the internet about the collectors who would end up purchasing the cars and that they would “stay in the garages forever” or something like that. Those guys. The ones who still have 2,000-mile Mystichrome Terminators or green ’93 Cobras with plastic on the seats.

I had a different plan. Mine was going to be a daily driver, and not only that, it was going to be a daily driver for a guy who had been averaging about 25K miles a year on his outgoing vehicle. Not only that, but it was going to be daily driven in Lexington, KY, where, despite being considered “the South” by much of the country, there are about 15-20 days of serious snowfall a year. Not only THAT, I also have two young children in car seats who were going to have to be taken to school, soccer, ballet, etc. And, of course, I bought it for sporting purposes, too, hoping to participate in the occasional autocross or track day. Seems like pure folly, no?

Well, thanks to the marvelous app Timehop, I was reminded recently that over two years have now passed since that glorious day when I said goodbye to my Pontiac G8 GT (at what has proven to be a stupid, ridiculously low price—G8s are still fetching more than that on the open market two years later) and drove home my Boss. How has it fared in all the categories in which I needed it to be excellent? Well, there’s no shortage of track reviews for the Boss, most of which contain superfluous superlatives. But as a DD? Let’s judge for ourselves and see if you, too, can daily drive a pony.

Luckily, my day job changed from one where there was a considerable amount of driving to one where there was a considerable amount of flying, which means that the number of miles on the Boss after 25 months of so is just south of 27K. In mixed driving, I average right around 20 MPG, and on long highway trips, I have been able to get over 23 MPG. Of course, the Boss requires 91+ octane, so fuel costs are significantly higher than they were with the G8, which averaged right around 25 MPG on 87 octane. However, it’s not BAD—we’re not talking Range Rover numbers here. If I didn’t enjoy the occasional take off from red lights or hard charges through the hills of Appalachia, I’m sure it would be higher—but that’s not really the point of this car, is it? Bottom line, I drive it the way I like to drive it and it doesn’t murder me at the pumps.


Nor has it been particularly tough on tires. I’m still on my original set of OEM Pirelli P-Zeroes (with the exception of one that was replaced at about 2K miles due to an uncompromising nail), and there’s a few thousand miles of treadwear remaining. I will likely NOT replace them with Pirellis, however—there are better performing BF-Goodrich and/or Hankooks to be had that don’t cost $500-600 each. DO NOT drive the Boss 302 in the snow, or at least not on the OEM tires—apparently stupid summer tire driving choices (All-seasons! — JB) run in the family, as my excursion in the snow one day led to a miraculous save from a ditch that scraped my right rear rim significantly. I’m sure the car would be acceptable on snow tires, but I chose to buy a used Subaru for less than a set of wheels and tires would run.


The trunk has proven to be large enough for just about anything. I can easily fit a 27” suitcase, a duffle carry on, and a tenor saxophone case in it with a little bit of room to spare. A week’s worth of groceries for a family of four presents no challenge to the Boss, as it will easily accommodate the cargo in the trunk. However, a weeklong vacation for the family requires us to take our Flex, as two adults and two children plus luggage is just too much.

As far as the actual daily driving dynamics? Purely delightful. The Boss’ adjustable shocks with five different settings can take the car from harsh and uncompromising on the track to tolerable comfort levels on the street. I’ve never set the shocks to anything other than full soft (street) or full stiff (track/autocross), nor have I felt the need to. The steering rack has three speeds, from Comfort to Sport, and I have found that Comfort is more than enough agility for even spirited street driving, whereas Sport transforms it into an AP1 S2000-like rack. It can get you into trouble pretty quickly, but it can also get you out of it.

The Getrag transmission is the part of the car that probably gets the most flak on the intarwebz, but I’ve never found it to be a problem. If you want a car that’s easy to drive, the Boss just isn’t for you, anyway. I fully admit that I opt not to drive it when there are more mundane tasks to be done—I find my Flex to be a much more mindless drive. The Boss requires engagement of all the senses. If the government really wanted to stop texting and driving, they’d just give everyone a Boss 302—I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you really wouldn’t want to. It doesn’t like being cruised around the neighborhood in first gear. The clutch is still incredibly light and sensitive after two years, and the tires will still easily chirp in third gear. Our noted and prolific commentator, BigTruckSeriesReview, will be either pleased or saddened to know that virtually nothing non-exotic will beat the Boss off the line, especially with Trackey Launch Control— even after 27K miles, 4 seconds flat from 0-60 is a cakewalk. This is a car that demands to be driven, not simply pointed and steered.

The Recaro seats are not the most comfortable things in the world for longer commutes, especially for those who have the misfortune of being in the passenger seat. As the driver, I find them to be tolerable, but all who have endured more than an hour in the passenger’s chair complain of back pain and stiffness. There’s also not really a comfortable position for your passenger to take a nap or relax, as the Recaros are designed for total engagement. But who cares when you’re romping down I-40 from Tennessee into North Carolina, handling curves at breakneck speeds? You and your passenger will be thankful for the lateral support.

The back seats? Quite good for youngsters, and sufficient for short distances for adults. My six-year-old son and three-year-old daughter fit entirely comfortably in their forward-facing child seats, and the seats are surprisingly easy to remove and install, provided that you’re able to climb in and out of the back yourself. Not too hard for me at 5’9”, 175, but for somebody over 6’, it might be a challenge. Also, if either the passenger’s or driver’s seats are being occupied by somebody over 5’9”, then legroom begins to be somewhat compromised. Again, not a problem for me (my most frequent passenger is about 5’5”), but it could be for others.

The interior shows no wear or tear at all—everything still looks brand new when I take the time to vacuum out the cracker crumbs and pick up the toys. Ford put their best people on this one. While it may not have the refinement of a German or Japanese interior, it has been every bit as durable.

On that note—it probably has fewer interior bells and whistles than any $30K car on the market…heck, maybe even any $20K car on the market, but you know that going in. If you want a big navigation screen, leather seats, and a powerful stereo, Ford will happily sell you a Mustang GT for less money (or a Shelby GT500 for much, much more), and you’ll be happier. However, if you want the snarl and handling of the Boss, you’re likely not that interested. Bluetooth and SYNC work perfectly well, although the Bluetooth handsfree phone usage is totally useless once you decide to open up the side exhaust—nobody will be able to understand a word you say. Spotify streams delightfully well through SYNC. Although the stereo won’t inspire any audiophiles, it is more or less sufficient…but who would want to drown out that Coyote engine noise (not that you could)?

Which leads me to this—the Boss is loud, and when you remove the restrictors from the side exhaust and put in the Trackey, it’s LOUD. The rumble under acceleration is heavenly, and the lopey tone at idle is intentionally reminiscent of the original Boss 302. Don’t drive this car unless you like being noticed—everywhere I’ve driven it, whether it’s Chicago, Charlotte, or Charleston, people look at the car (yes, I know—you live in an incredibly wealthy city where nobody would look twice at a Boss 302). I wouldn’t recommend trying to commit any crimes in it. It’s a brash, bold car, both visually and aurally. I suppose that my School Bus Yellow color choice doesn’t help there, either, but none of the Boss colors are particularly bland. Even the Performance White stands out due to the black striping.

Maintenance has been worry-free, with the exception that 5W-50 oil is not easy to find, so you can’t just go to Jiffy Lube or Valvoline for oil changes (not that you’d want to, anyway). Either do it yourself or take it to a dealership, and even they will likely have to run to O’Reilly (as mine does every time). I do have an annoying fan sound coming from the passenger vent, so I’ll likely have to take it in for that when I just can’t tolerate it anymore. Boss 302 forums are totally devoid of “known issues,” and I certainly haven’t experienced anything problematic.

I really want to be “objective” and write some bad things about the car…but I just can’t. It’s been damned near perfect. I have never regretted the decision to buy it once, not even when I write my monthly payment check for it. If you never intend to drive it on the track or autocross, then a GT Premium probably makes more sense, or perhaps a SRT-8 Challenger…but neither of those say BOSS 302 on the side. Used Boss 302s are still commanding near-new money on the used market, but I am guessing that they will start to slide a bit when the new Mustang hits showrooms, and probably further when the GT 350 arrives. Snatch one up, and I guarantee you’ll love yours just as much as I love mine.

]]> 47
2015 Ford Escort Goes Sunbathing Months Before Showroom Debut Mon, 07 Jul 2014 13:00:13 +0000 ford-escort-china-1

The last time the Chinese-market Ford Escort was seen, it had made its world debut during the 2014 Beijing Auto Show. Over the weekend, however, new official photos had surfaced.

CarNewsChina reports the Escort, originally due in showrooms Q4 2014, will instead arrive in January 2015. The new compact will retail between ¥90,000 and ¥120,000 ($14,510 – $19,347 USD), and will come with a 1.5-liter I4 driving 110 horsepower and 81 ft-lb of torque to the front through either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

The Escort is underpinned by the current China-made Focus Classic, which in turn is based upon the second-gen Focus riding on the C1 platform. It will replace the Focus Classic, and slot under the current third-gen Focus.

ford-escort-china-1 ford-escort-china-2 ford-escort-china-3 ]]> 17
Mullaly Sticking Close To Ford Upon Stepping Down Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:00:16 +0000 Alan Mullaly

Outgoing Ford CEO Alan Mullaly may be heading out the door, but he does plan to help his successor when needed.

Bloomberg reports Mullaly will act in an advisory role to upcoming CEO Mark Fields, and plans to remain close to Ford for the foreseeable future. Beyond this, the outgoing CEO has held his post-Ford plans close to the vest, though sources claim Mullaly may be lining up a board director or chair position somewhere.

Since his arrival from Boeing in 2006, Mullaly has been credited for turning around Ford’s fortunes, establishing a collaborative environment from senior management down. After losing $30.1 billion from 2006 through 2008, the Blue Oval gained $42.3 billion between 2009 and 2013. On the sales front, its home market saw an 11 percent boost in 2013, thanks to the F-Series, Fusion and Escape, and trounced Toyota in China.

As for what Mullaly sees Fields’ Ford accomplishing, he sees the company tackling economic development, congestion and pollution:

We’re going to continue to see a very large migration into the larger cities worldwide. Personal mobility and integrated transportations [sic] systems, I think that’s going to continue to be very, very important. And Ford, as a transportation technology company, has such a great opportunity to serve in that way.

]]> 56
Capsule Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST Wed, 25 Jun 2014 12:00:27 +0000 IMG_6826

Cheap. Fast. Reliable. Pick two. This is a conundrum that plagues enthusiasts of vast dreams and scant means. There’s very little out there that fulfills the requirement for an economical performance car that also works when you need it to. A garage-built tuner vehicle fulfills the first two criteria, but you can’t be sure it will start every time. Cheap and reliable will get you to work…and that’s about it. Fast and reliable? Yeah, maybe if you’re one of the lucky few who can afford a fancy sports car, and the associated running costs (insurance, tires and the now-astronomical price of premium gasoline).



Some of you have paid off homes, well-funded retirement accounts and jobs that pay handsomely, and can also afford something fun and exciting. I have precisely none of these, and thus my desire for automotive thrills has to be balanced with having the financial means to assemble the trappings of an adult life. In that light, a Mustang GT, a 370Z and even a new WRX (which loves to imbibe pricey 91 octane) start to look like options that would leave me endorphin-rich but cash poor (and also living at home well into my 30′s).


On the other hand, most entry-level performance cars still leave something to be desired: the Fiat 500 Abarth has but three doors (I’d prefer a second set) and sounds a lot faster than it really is. The all-new Volkswagen GTI is for a more mature crowd. The Honda Civic Si is a shadow of its former self. And the Ford Focus ST has just been made redundant by this car.


Yes, the Fiesta ST is a bit slower than its big brother. It makes 197 horsepower and hits 60 mph in 7 seconds flat. You would swear that those performance figures would be doubled and halved respectively. It might be fun to drive a slow car fast. It’s even more fun to drive a fairly quick, fairly small and fairly light (2,700 lbs) at a breakneck pace.


The boosted 1.6L mill feels heroically powerful in such a tiny package. You would have no idea that this is the same engine that struggles to motivate the Fusion and Escape, while drinking dino juice at a prodigious rate. Previous tests of the 1.6L engine have yielded subpar fuel economy, even on the highway. On our 800 mile drive through the Canadian Rockies on the way to Montana, the Fiesta returned as high as 40 mpg on relatively flat stretches of road. As the elevation climbed, the turns got sharper and the turbo worked harder, fuel consumption dipped into the high 20′s, but it’s hard to fault the car in those conditions.


The ST also has a way of preventing you from keeping your foot out of the throttle on said roads. Turbo lag is slightly perceptible below 1500 rpm, but once the turbo starts spooling up (which you can audibly detect with the windows down), power is delivered in a linear fashion all the way to the 6500 rpm redline. In the lower gears, torque steer is still present, but not nearly as much as the Focus ST – credit to Ford’s chassis engineers for somehow taming the 214 lb-ft worth of torque being delivered through the front wheels. Even so, this isn’t a car that will let you safely pass on a two-lane road by shifting from 6th to 5th, but the tall sixth ratio more than pays for itself given the excellent highway fuel economy.

But focusing on straight-line speed misses the point completely. Handling is the Fiesta’s forte, with Ford handing this car off to SVT to help liven the 5-door chassis for North American tastes (Europe gets a three-door version). The twisty mountain passes near Whitefish, Montana let us sample the full capabilities of the ST, and it soon became evident that this is a special car. Steering is direct and quick, but like most electric systems, it doesn’t provide the purity of feedback that hot hatch fans might expect. Initial turn-in is quick, with tenacious grip and only truly ham-fisted driving seems to invoke any semblance of understeer. The brakes are firm, scrubbing off speed quickly, at the expense of immense amount of brake dust (which you’ll notice even with the optional gunmetal wheels). The one flaw in the driving experience is the shifter, which has somewhat long throws and a bit of a vague feel. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a small price to pay for an otherwise thrilling package.


Inside, the Fiesta ST’s interior looks a lot like a regular Fiesta, save for the portion-controlled nav screen with MyFord Touch. If you’d never seen the full-size version, you wouldn’t think that there was anything wrong with the system, but it’s fairly small, and hitting the right keys on the touchscreen can be a bit challenging. The optional Recaros fit me just fine, but anyone with a stocky build might find them challenging. The thick shells of the seat backs also render the rear seats more suitable for objects than people, and you can forget about putting child seats in a Recaro equipped Fiesta.



Altogether may sound like hyperbolic praise for the smallest Fast Ford, but the team at SVT (and our own Tresmonos) have managed to assemble an astounding package: one that is quick, practical, efficient and affordable. It’s one of the most exciting cars I’ve driven at any price, and even though I have a paid off car, access to the press fleet and no real need for a new car, I’m seriously considering spending my own, hard-earned dollars to make this the next TTAC long-term test car. Who says young people don’t care about cars anymore?

N.B. Yes, the main image is a homage to our own Bigtruckseriesreview@youtube, who without fail, manages to leave the first comment on nearly every single article.

232 233 235 237 246 248 263 264 FiestaSTInterior7 FiestaSTInterior8 FiestaSTDrive4 FiestaSTInterior6 IMG_6921 IMG_6796 IMG_6832 IMG_6920 FiestaSTInterior1 FiestaSTInterior6 FiestaSTInterior7 FiestaSTInterior8 IMG_6826 IMG_6874 IMG_6878 ]]> 113
Ford Super Dutys To Follow F-150 Toward Aluminum Future Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:00:52 +0000 2014 Ford Super Duty

A new aluminum age is about to dawn on Truck Mountain when its ruler, the Ford F-150, adopts the alloy for its new body in 2015. However, the revolution may not stop there if the Blue Oval has anything to say about it.

Automotive News reports KGP Photography spy photographer Brian Williams happened upon an F-350 prototype at an undisclosed testing facility in Colorado, where he applied a magnet upon the truck’s bed to discover a lack of attraction. KGP associate Glenn Paulina adds:

If they’re using aluminum here, in the key punishment-point of a heavy-duty work truck, it stands to reason that aluminum is being used throughout the rest of the Super Duty prototypes — just as they have on the 2015 Ford F-150.

The tactic discovered by Williams was first acknowledged by Ford earlier this year when it did the same to the F-150, providing six prototypes to its best commercial customers for a two-year pilot program where only the automaker knew what was behind the cab.

]]> 27
Ford Australia’s FPV Builds Its Final V8 Interceptor Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:00:50 +0000 gt-f01-1

Though Ford Australia has yet to build its last vehicle, the subsidiary’s Ford Performance Vehicles unit has come to the end of the road with its final V8 interceptor.

Autoblog reports FPV’s swan song is the Falcon GT F 351, a limited edition of 500 for Australia and 50 for New Zealand augmented by a supercharged 5-liter V8 pushing 471 horsepower — or 351 kW, in honor of the 5.8-liter/351 cubic-inch V8 that powered the Falcon GTs of history — and 420 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The GT F comes with the handling package from the Falcon R-Spec, while Brembo brakes help bring the last FPV model to a stop.

On the outside, the limited-sedan Falcon features black racing stripes that run from the bonnet to the boot, along with black accents under the headlamps and throughout the rest of the sedan. Meanwhile, orange is the new black on the inside, finding its way onto seat stitching, instrument faces and the GT F logo.

In addition to the GT F, the unit — which is taking its final bow before the Mustang takes to the stage — is also building 120 Pursuit Utes with the same 5-liter V8, though it delivers 422 horses pulling 402 lb-ft of torque to the bed in the back instead of the sedan’s “fuel-injected suicide machine”-stopping firepower. No prices have been given for either limited-edition model.

gt-f01-1 gt-f65-1 gt-f22-1 gt-f36-1 gt-f67-1 gt-f05-1 gt-f59-1 ford-performance-vehicles-falcon-gt-f-351-007-1 ]]> 50
Capsule Review: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi Tue, 27 May 2014 12:00:02 +0000 2014-ford-fusion-energi-01

Forget the Ford GT. Pay no attention to all the Shelby or Roush branded Mustangs. This car, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi, is the true halo car for Ford. Homages to the 1960s are easy. People are willing to pay extra for an enormous engine, outrageous styling and instrumented-test bragging rights. On the other hand, a midsize sedan propelled by technology with more computing power than all the slide rules in the Apollo program and sold for a price that’s less expensive than a year of tuition at many colleges is extremely hard.

The 2014 Fusion Energi is their moonshot.


The second-generation Fusion was taken incredibly seriously by Ford, and it’s easy to tell. I think the success and critical acclaim of the first-generation Fusion surprised the company, and in developing the follow-up they wanted to grab the brass ring. All Fusions have a solid platform that’s got a bunch of high-strength steel in it. That makes it go down the road more solidly than any other midsizer. The competition feels limp by comparison. Jack covered this quite well on a Volkswagen-sponsored competitive drive.

The Fusion Energi mangles the English language because it sounds more impressive than saying “plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.” That’s what the Fusion Energi is, though, a plug-in hybrid that delivers a few miles of electric-only driving before defaulting to tag-teaming with the on-board 2.0 liter Atkinson Cycle four cylinder. The engine itself puts up 141 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, unimpressive numbers that are the result of the “high-expansion” nature of the Atkinson cycle that trades performance for efficiency.


The electric side gets going with a 117 hp (88kW) motor and 7.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, and its all corralled by a CVT that sucks less than you’d expect (in at least two senses of the word) because of the electric motor’s contribution to torque delivery.  As far as hybrid system integration – the thumps and shudders that happen as two different prime movers hand off propulsion duties, the Fusion Energi is exceptional. Maybe it’s just a trick of the quiet interior, but the Fusion Energi is encroaching on the leadership of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, the long-established hybrid refinement champ, and you don’t have to suffer with a Camry to get it. Even the stop/start function is unobtrusive, a feature that can feel like grabbing hold of a paint mixer even in luxury cars.  With the Fusion Energi, Ford has done its homework and come up with a very well-behaved hybrid powertrain that sits in a jewel of a car.

One particularly nice touch with the Fusion Energi system is that you can select between full EV mode and hybrid mode. This was pretty handy for my commute, which starts off as highway for the first 20 miles and then spends the final 20 miles grinding through stop-and-go. I loved being able to conserve the battery’s charge until the slowdown. Fuel economy, observed at 37 MPG combined, was lower than the 108/92 MPGe EPA estimates would have you believe.


The Fusion Energi takes 7 hours to charge on 120 volts and just a couple when connected to the  additionally-available  240 volt charger that Ford offers. Consider your parking situation to get the most out of this car. There is no garage at the Braithwaite homestead, so I lucked out weather-wise during the car’s stay. Otherwise, if you want to plug it in to charge during a rainstorm, you may be in for a zappy surprise. Without a garage, forget about the 220V charger.

The rigid structure was a big surprise to me. My experience with earlier Fusions had been largely positive – it’s always been a good car to drive – but you could see the seams, the areas of cost-savings. The second-gen Fusion is impressively well-crafted. Ford fussed over everything on this car and it shows. This is an American car that’s more finely burnished than the rest of the class, even the vaunted Honda Accord.


Yes, My Ford Touch is here, but, surprisingly, it didn’t get much in the way. Maybe I’m more used to it now, or maybe Ford’s upgrades have made it less hateful. It’s still complex, but I had more issues with the capacitive touch buttons on the center stack than I did with anything driven by the touchscreen. Not having buttons makes the designers happy, perhaps, but it makes drivers crazy. Buttons that are harder to button make drivers distracted and therefore dangerous. Everything else in the interior is very well put together to the point where it would feel at home competing with the Lexus ES. That’s hyperbole, but careful finishing and high-quality assembly are evident everywhere. I was very impressed with how few corners were cut. Ford clearly invested time and effort in designing this car, and they’re not skimping on it in the build stage, either.

Just the door seals are interesting to examine, and they show attention to detail that’s evident throughout. The leather seats are very comfortable, though like every car writer, I’ll ask for more lateral support. The things you touch are nicely finished with low-gloss plastics and soft-touch surfaces. Design, from the stitching pattern on the seats to the classy sweep of the  dashboard and door panels, is premium in the interior of the Fusion. It feels luxurious.


The carefully-tuned ride and handling feel more like a premium car from Der Vaterland than actual German competitors. Bumps are managed by the suspension to become non-events, underscored by the quiet interior. On the other hand, the suspension isn’t overly mushy at the altar of a smooth ride. Damping is excellent, so the wheels are under superb control. Hit a corner, and even with hybrid tires the Fusion is precise enough to be satisfying to even an enthusiast.

The Fusion Energi I drove was an SE trim, and your other choice is the loaded-to-the-gills Titanium. The Fusion Energi SE starts at $34,700, and mine carried options to drive the price up to $39,500. It’s hard to fathom what else the Titanium trim carries, given that there were features on this SE press car that I never, ever used (I can park very well myself, for example.) That said, the extra five grand went for things like the Driver Assist Package, Reverse Sensing System, Active Park Assist, navigation, rear-view camera and Intelligent Access with push-button starting.


The way the Fusion stands out from the field is different depending on what car you’re comparing it to. A Camry feels aggressively built-to-a-price, the Accord suffers from horrible electronics for infotainment, The Sonata and Optima feel like they could use another round of final tuning and integration, and the Altima is off in its own little world where tinny-feeling cars with underwhelming dynamics are okay. Surprisingly, the Chevrolet Malibu, while not as engaging to drive, has been upgraded for 2014 to be the yin to the Fusion’s swaggering yang. When you’re not talking hybrids or plug-ins, the Fusion has the Mazda 6 to contend with. It’s a great-looking car that didn’t need to lift its styling cues from Aston Martin, and it’s more pleasing to drive without feeling flimsy. But we’re talking about the PHEV Fusion Energi, so there’s really no exact direct competitor.

The long and short of my time with the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi can be summed up thusly:

Costs modestly, looks expensive, feels expensive. The additional hybrid gear doesn’t mar the experience or alter it significantly. The trunk shrinks a little (and the seats don’t fold), so you some practicality. The fuel economy may not equal the confusing window sticker figures, but it’s one of the very few hybrids on the road that’s actually a delight to drive.

The 2014 Ford Fusion Energi is great because it’s a hybrid, not in spite of it. That’s crazy hard to pull off.


2014-ford-fusion-energi-01 2014-ford-fusion-energi-02 2014-ford-fusion-energi-03 2014-ford-fusion-energi-04 2014-ford-fusion-energi-05 2014-ford-fusion-energi-06 2014-ford-fusion-energi-07 2014-ford-fusion-energi-08 2014-ford-fusion-energi-09 2014-ford-fusion-energi-10 2014-ford-fusion-energi-11 2014-ford-fusion-energi-12 2014-ford-fusion-energi-13 2014-ford-fusion-energi-14 2014-ford-fusion-energi-16 2014-ford-fusion-energi-17 2014-ford-fusion-energi-18 ]]> 103
Mullaly Has “No Regrets” Leading Ford During Eight-Year Tenure Fri, 09 May 2014 11:00:31 +0000 Alan Mullaly

Outgoing Ford CEO Alan Mullaly appeared at his final annual investors meeting in Wilmington, Del. to a standing ovation from shareholders, proclaiming he had “no regrets” about his eight-year service at the helm.

Bloomberg reports Mullaly, who will pass the torch to upcoming CEO Mark Fields July 1, said he would “always be very pleased and very proud” of all he accomplished at Ford, confident that Fields and the rest of the leadership team under the One Ford management system — built with help from Fields — would be able to take the Blue Oval to the next level.

During his tenure, Mullaly saw Ford earn $42.3 billion over the past five years after losing $30.1 billion in the two years leading to the 2008 automotive industry crash and the Great Recession. In addition, U.S. sales in 2013 rose 11 percent on the strength of products such as the F-Series, Escape and Fusion, while outselling Toyota in China.

As for Fields, executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. stated that nothing would change beyond who would be sitting in the CEO’s office:

Typically what’s happened is the new CEO always feels like they have to chart a new direction, I’ve seen that many, many times and that’s confusing to an organization. Because Mark has been an architect of the direction that we’re going, there is going to be a continuation and a continuation of the culture.

]]> 43
Ford: Manual-Only Plan For 2015 Focus 1-Liter “Sensible” For US Market Thu, 08 May 2014 13:00:07 +0000 2015-Ford-Focus-06

Despite a majority of U.S. consumers preferring automatic transmissions over manual offerings, Ford’s plan to offer the 1-liter EcoBoost with only a six-speed manual for the 2015 Focus is seen by the automaker as a sensible decision for the home market.

Ward’s Auto reports U.S. Focus customers are more likely to choose a manual over an automatic — the lineup as a whole as a take rate of between 12 percent and 13 percent — if not the desire to learn how to shift, according to Focus marketing manager Seema Bardwaj:

We see younger customers who think it’s cool and think they are better engaged with the vehicle (with a manual). We see that in that customer that you may not see in other vehicle segments.

In addition, Ford believes U.S. consumers may not find the dual-clutch automatic offered with the engine elsewhere to their liking, citing customer reaction toward the technology — and complaints of abrupt shifting that was later fixed through software updates — behind its reasoning. Last year, TTAC reported that the 1.0L/Powershift combo in the Fiesta was axed, due to concerns over NVH. This may have been the case for the Focus as well.

However, the take rate for the pairing under the Focus may be lower than hoped, which may lead to an automatic behind the 1-liter down the line. In the meantime, Ford hopes the engine more than makes up for the lowered expectations, thanks in part due to its fuel economy; under the hood of the Fiesta with the same transmission, the B-segment car delivers a combined 37 mpg.

]]> 81
Detroit Three Forging V6 Future Atop Truck Mountain Mon, 05 May 2014 10:00:10 +0000 ford f-150_r

For five decades, the powerplant of choice for Truck Mountain has been the venerable V8. With powerful V6 engines from Ford, General Motors and Ram being favored for more and more consumers of full-size pickups, however, the V8 could soon find itself occupying a smaller niche along the mountain.

The New York Times reports Ford is leading the way toward a V6 future, with 57 percent of all 2014 F-150s possessing an EcoBoost V6 under the bonnet, 47 percent of which have the 3.5-liter twin-turbo delivering the goods with 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque; the remainder opt for the naturally aspirated 3.7-liter, capable of 302 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. The shift toward the V6 — which began upon increased EcoBoost production last autumn — is in stark contrast to 2013, when over 50 percent of F-150s sold had V8 power.

Further, Ford expects the 2015 all-aluminium F-150 to have a V6 in over 70 percent of trucks sold. To prepare for this sea change, the Blue Oval is dropping the 6.2-liter V8 while adding a 2.7-liter EcoBoost in its stead, leaving only the 5-liter V8 for those who tow heavy loads frequently.

Meanwhile, General Motors and Ram are unleashing their own V6 offerings to customers clamouring for the right balance of fuel economy and power. In particular, Ram’s EcoDiesel 3-liter holds a class-leading 28 mpg on the highway, while the 1500 HFE’s 3.6-liter — once outfitted with stop-start and an eight-speed automatic — holds the top spot for fuel economy in its class with 25 mpg on the highway. As for sales, GM’s new 4.3-liter V6 accounts for 20 percent in 2014, while Ram’s lineup may approach 30 percent by year-end.

In regards to the future, the Detroit Three are forging a path toward the 30-mpg full-size truck through nine- and 10-speed automatic transmissions and four-cylinder engines — such as the 2.5-liter I4 found powering the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon mid-size twins — in addition to the V6 strategy.

]]> 85
The 2015 Mustang Burnout Switch and Forbidden Buttons. Sat, 03 May 2014 15:15:37 +0000 Do_not_press_button

 Years ago, a coworker constructed a sinister device. Inside of a RadioShack project box he attached a capacitor, a battery, and a 120 decibel personal alarm. On the outside he attached a simple on/off switch, and a button he labeled “Do Not Press.”  He would leave this in conspicuous places, and invariably, someone would pick it up, turn on the power, and press the button despite clear instructions to the contrary. The alarm would shriek and the capacitor ensured that once the power was applied, the alarm could not be turned off until you accessed a hidden reset port with a straightened paper clip to interrupt the circuit. As sinister of a prank as this was, it played upon a human trait; people, especially men, enjoy pressing a button that they’re told not to touch.

Nissan came to understand this with the GTR and Ford is showing clear understanding with the line lock feature on the 2015 Mustang GT.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 If you haven’t heard, in order to appeal to their demographic (save your snarky comments, I AM their demographic), the 2015 Ford Mustang will have a line lock switch available that will hold the front brakes and allow the rears to smoke the tires at will. Just typing that makes me giggle a little. The option is engaged through the track apps menu.


Click here to view the embedded video.

 Oh but as you are enjoying that video, take look at the small print that appears immediately at the bottom of the screen; “Professional driver on a closed course. Racing your vehicle will void your warranty.” The discussion in the video is pointing out this is for the Mustang owner who wants to run their car at the local drag strip. I.E, it is an intended feature for the Mustang GT owner who wants to race their car.

 When the E46 M3 debuted with the SMG, the Internet was abuzz with a super-secret code launch control, a series of switches and actions roughly akin to Mario Brothers cheat codes. The engine would rev, the brakes would hold and the clutch would drop. The owner was rewarded with a tire-smoking, neck-snapping, launch as the M3 hurled into the future. The internet spurred rumors of null warranties, technician shenanigans and dealer witch hunts. The conspiracy theory held the belief the computer inside the M3 would track how many times this it happened, and anything more than eight would void the warranty on your German super touring sedan.

 The theories were not without precedent. Mitsubishi dealers were accused of trolling SCCA results and voiding the warranties of Evo customer’s cars, and Subaru was also called out for doing the same with WRX buyers.  A close buddy was told by his service tech to pull the SCCA inspection sticker off his doorjamb before the senior manager saw it.

 Then Nissan introduced Godzilla, complete with what became known as the “void warranty” selection on the center console. A class action lawsuit later, and Nissan came revised to the launch control software and plaintiffs were rewarded with a free oil change.





 And now, Ford has their “burnout button.”

 When engaged locked the front brakes and allows the rear tires to break traction in order to dust them off and heat them up for a optimized drag launch. In the aforementioned fine print, engagement in racing will void your warranty.

From Ford

From Ford

Bait and switch? Shady practices? Hardly. Ford is merely engaging and the latest series of marketing that Nissan learned. The launch control button created mystique, added to the legend and probably moved some cars. Ford understands and it goes all the way back to my friend’s little cruel plastic Joke.

 It is mystery and magic. The “I wonder what will happen” factor. Invariably when the 2015 Mustang GT hits the market, the Internet will swell with stories of service technicians using the burnout button and rendering the warranties of customer’s cars useless. How many of these will actually be the customers blaming it on the service department and how many these will be real events?

 It doesn’t matter. Because all the talk is going to accomplish one primary goal for Ford, sell Mustangs. Heck, it will probably sell Fiesta’s.

 I would expect to see more of this kind of optioning, rather than less. Because running deeper than our love of bloated SUVs, the need for a leather seats, navigation systems and top notch stereos; is a primordial desire to press a button.

 Especially when we’re told not to.



]]> 63
Detroit Three Lead The Charge In Chinese SUV Boom Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:00:50 +0000 2014 Lincoln MKX Concept

Long after the first SUV gold rush in the United States, the Detroit Three are gearing up for a second gold rush, this time in China.

Automotive News reports SUVs and crossovers have snagged 19 percent of the local market in 2013 as the once-dominant luxury sedan market fell from 47 percent in 2000 to 15 percent. General Motors forecasts as many as 7 million SUVs will leave the showroom by 2020, with president Dan Ammann noting that 60 percent of first-time buyers in China bought an SUV last year. Further, Ford credits crossovers for a sales surge of 49 percent in 2013, pushing Toyota out of the No. 5 slot in a local market that views SUVs and crossovers as being, in the words of Chevrolet dealer He Sei, “sportier, more fashionable and more youthful” than other vehicles.

To capitalize upon the upcoming boom, GM brought the Chevrolet Trax to last week’s Beijing Motor Show with plans to add 10 SUVs during the next five years, while Ford introduced concept versions of the body-on-frame Everest and Lincoln MKX crossover, both of which will soon see production. Finally, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will resume Jeep production in China through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Company, with three models due in 2015.

Meanwhile, Lexus, Audi, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Citroen are following the Detroit Three’s lead into the Chinese SUV/crossover market, bringing a number of concepts and production-ready vehicles to Beijing. That said, they will have a hard battle against the three U.S. automakers, as SUVs and crossovers have been their bread and butter since the first rush in the early 1990s through the late 2000s.

]]> 30
Ford C-Max Sales Decline Post-Fuel Economy Revision Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:30:05 +0000 Ford_C-Max

Sales of the Ford C-Max have down as of late, with lowered fuel economy figures cited as the reason.

Autoblog reports sales of the hybrid from January through march 2014 were 42.5 percent from the previous year as 5,566 — 2,295 of which were sold in March alone — have left the lot.

After a number of lawsuits alleged the C-Max couldn’t meet the initial fuel economy numbers in the real world, Ford lowered the numbers to 40 mpg city, 45 mpg highway and 43 mpg combined, down from the 47 mpg throughout the range originally proclaimed.

Ford Americas chief Joe Hinrichs is aware of the decline in sales, and says his company needs to “reinvest in the product because [the C-Max] is a great car,” while Ford itself believed sales would remain strong despite the controversy surrounding the fuel economy figures.

]]> 60
Rental Grinders Of The Road: First Place Sun, 20 Apr 2014 16:55:14 +0000 jgcglass

You’ll search long and hard to find someone else as firmly committed to the removal of the SUV from the American road as your humble author believes himself to be. Although I drove four different Land Rovers during the company’s BMW and Ford periods (a ’97 five-speed Disco, a ’99 Rangie 4.0S that I talked my father into buying, an ’00 Freelander, and an ’03 Discovery 4.6) I had what I felt to be a valid excuse: a BMX and mountain bike hobby that found me on dirt roads and fire trails nearly every weekend. As soon as my knees fired me from those sports, I fired the Rovers and got a Phaeton like decent people do.

The bulk of SUVs foisted on the American public have been irredeemable pieces of garbage, misshapen and deeply offensive embarrassments, gravid with the moist spawn of limitless profit yet crawling with the maggots of brand destruction, long-term customer disappointment, and, occasionally, violent death at the hands of a collapsing roof. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is nothing but another such triumph of cynicism and Barnum-esque contempt for the motoring public, but you would be wrong.

I come to praise the JGC, not to bury it, but there are a few things that must be said before we drive the Ford Edge from the arena. To begin, the rear seat and cargo area in the Jeep aren’t as good as what you find in the Ford. I found riding in the back to be actively painful and so did my passenger. In the interest of fairness, I have to point out that we were both recently struck by a Hyundai Sonata directly in the pelvis; in the interest of accuracy, I have to point that shortly before being passengers in this car we were in a new Viper running hard laps around a California racetrack and were both perfectly comfortable.

Luckily, we were able to distract ourselves with the dual USB power ports and the AC-115 outlet in the rear console. This is such a fantastic idea, and so intimately familiar to Ohio white trash like myself who have Southwest A-List Preferred status and therefore are well-acquainted with the company’s dual-charge airport-lounge seats, that one wonders it wasn’t implemented by someone else years before. Not to worry, it’s here now.

Still, it’s worth noting that the car that a well-respected American autojournalist and club racer called “the American Range Rover” in an email I recently received doesn’t come anywhere near the English Range Rover when it comes to rear-seat accommodations. Even Dad’s ’99 4.0S was far superior to this brand-new Jeep, and the newest Rangies are light-years ahead. In the area of ride, as well, the Indians Brits have the advantage and have long had it. My Discoveries rode better than either the Jeep or the Ford. In this test, however, the Jeep has the clear advantage because the Edge has a weird secondary-ride characteristic that makes every road feel paved with thick gravel. There’s a kind of urrrrrrrrrggggggh that communicates itself along with the copious road noise to all seats in the Edge. It’s tiring and aggravating in equal measure. The Jeep’s no Range Rover but it’s on par with a Camry, ride-wise.

Our Limited didn’t have the boxy LED running lights, by the way. Which means that all the Jeeps you do see with them are Summits or Overlands or the BigTruck-approved JGC SRT-8. Think about that. The roads in the Midwest and East Coast are thick with those LED squares. I wonder what the model mix is for the Grand Cherokee? Betcha it’s heavily biased towards the big-money models.

Which explains why our forty-thousand-dollar Limited tester had the miniature uConnect screen. You need to give the punters a reason to step up to the high-end models, and fitting the Limited with the cheapo screen helps. Incidentally, my father and I went around and around about this when he bought his: he just wanted to spring for the bigger uConnect package, while I thought it was critical that he spring for an Overland or Summit, just so my friends would be impressed when he picked me up from school. It was his money, so he did it his way. Still, when I bought my Accord I briefly considered the JGC and I guarantee you that the Overland was my minimum entry point.

Not that the Limited doesn’t give a solid account of itself in all the touch points. This is where the surprise-and-delight comes in; everything you touch in this car feels pretty first-rate. Even the cheapo uConnect, sitting forlornly and miniscule in its monstrous double-DIN sized cavity like the rebound boyfriend of someone recently dumped by Kobe Bryant, feels reasonably upscale to operate. Even the secret volume-and-channel buttons that arrived in the original uConnect-equipped Chryslers have been upgraded with a smooth finish and a more dignified “click”. Someone’s sweated the details on this car again and again. In this respect, Jeep is more than well-positioned against the rest of the $40,000 brigade. The people who do Cadillac interiors should be locked inside this Jeep and denied food and water until they’ve learned how to make center-stack buttons feel like something other than the power switch on a knockoff Walkman radio.

For the two of us lucky enough to be in the front seat at any given time, then, the Jeep was a brilliant place in which to spend a nine-hour drive. The stereo was better than adequate, although again the rear-seat passengers were victimized, this time by an unpleasant sub-200Hz resonance in the cargo compartment during tracks as diverse as “How Ya Like Me Now” and “Night Passage”. Given that said cargo compartment was stuffed to the roof, one wonders how bad it would have been otherwise.

The HVAC was adequate for all four corners, although neither car could summon a genuine freezing blast of cold air such as what you’d get from a modern S-Class or a classic Fleetwood Brougham. Power, on the other hand, was better than adequate, aided by the 8-speed transmission. No, it’s not GT-R fast, but it’s faster than its V-8 powered predecessors and it returns a reported 25mpg on the freeway. (Incidentally, in response to the “what was your average speed” question in yesterday’s test, the answer is “we had little to no traffic both ways and rarely dipped beneath 75, never exceeding 90.) This powertrain makes the HEMI irrelevant to all but the most acceleration-obsessed and it reinforces my personal conviction that the Pentastar is one of the world’s best engines, initial quality misses be damned.

Unlike the Edge, the Jeep usually required a little correction after rapid lane changes or highway-object avoidance, but who suffers from that? You guessed it — the back-seat passengers, who get head-tossed as a consequence. Starting to see a pattern here?

As fate would have it, your humble author and his companion found themselves in the back of a loaded pre-facelift Lincoln MKX halfway through the show, courtesy of a friend who ordered an Uber ride to get us away from his party before my falling-down-drunk slightly inebriated lady friend harassed poor Travis Okulski any more. (“YOU! YOU’RE TRAVIS! YOU WERE CRYING DURING THAT YOUTUBE VIDEO! YOU’RE GREAT! HEY, EVERYBODY, IT’S TRAVIS!”) Twenty minutes in the back of that MKX, even over miserable roads, reinforced the Edge platform’s potential to serve the back-seat crowd much better than the Jeep can manage.

Oh, well. The era where well-dressed couples double-dated to society balls and country-club parties in deVille coupes or Holiday 98s is long gone, if it ever existed. Most of the time, these suburban warriors will find themselves with one trophy wife in front and one child, approximately the size of a roast turkey, in the back. So as long as you’re driving, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is our undisputed champion, and recommended without reservation.

]]> 61
Rental Grinders Of The Road: Second Place Sat, 19 Apr 2014 20:13:26 +0000 cheroedge

The assignment was simple: Take four people and an oversized amount of luggage from sunny Powell, Ohio to Manhattan for the New York Auto Show, using the 556-mile “high road” path down I-80. (The “low road” is the 555-mile grind on Route 70 and its endless Pennsylvania 55-mph construction zones.) To make things interesting, and to save the parking charges at Kimpton’s delightful but pricey “Muse” hotel, we decided to do it as a pair of one-way rentals.

Fate threw us a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with a fairly comprehensive equipment list, and a stripped-out Ford Edge SEL. The Cherokee had just two thousand miles on the digital odometer, while the Ford was livin’ on the edge of its 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Two nine-hour slogs, two crossovers-of-a-sort with two relatively different philosophies but surprisingly similar execution, one winner. Full disclosure: there aren’t any non-stock photos because everybody involved was a hurry to get to, and get out of, the city. Deal with it.

Second Place: Ford Edge SEL V6

This doesn’t really feel like a fair test, does it? Taking the highly-regarded, do-it-all, no-effort-spared-inside-or-out Grand Cherokee, a trucklet so near and dear to our hearts that my father just bought one, and putting it up against the old-platform Edge, a car that was never a favorite of the critics even when it was new. This is like letting Ivan Drago into the ring with Apollo Creed, right?

The thing is, the public doesn’t share the autojourno opinion. True, our own Tim Cain’s rankings show the mighty JGC at #21 in the US-market March sales chart, moving a strong YTD of 40,838. However, the Edge is #33, with a YTD of 33,238. Furthermore, both vehicles are showing a positive sales trend compared to last year. As far as your neighbor is concerned, the bloom is firmly attached to both of these roses.

Our silver Ford Edge SEL was the best of a fairly bad bunch of available CUVs and SUVs for the return leg from LGA to PWL (okay, I just made that up; Powell certainly doesn’t have an airport, although there’s a place to fly model airplanes near the Splash Park) and although we’d have liked to have had an example with lower mileage on the clock, it didn’t really make much of a difference. The Edge has always counted a remarkably solid-feeling structure among its obvious virtues. When my son’s mother traded her Flex Limited for an Edge Limited three years ago, I was immediately struck at just how much more solid, heavy, and inert the Edge felt compared to its larger and (it must be said) more pedigreed sibling. It’s an illusion; the Flex is bigger and it performs better in a crash. But the Edge just feels milled somehow. Probably because in some ways it’s basically an old Fusion with an extra half-ton of metal bolted on somewhere. Thirty-plus-thousand miles of rental abuse didn’t change that.

My first impression of the Edge, as Bark M. picked us up outside the hotel, was positive: it holds more actual luggage than the Grand Cherokee, by quite a bit. The assemblage of roller bags, Tumi carryalls, and laptop messenger cases that filled the Jeep to the roof didn’t even impede rear vision in the Edge. The same was true for the rear seat, which offered more room for shoulders and feet. On the negative side, the center rear armrest was remarkably crappy and, unlike the Jeep’s, forced you to choose between having cups in the fold-out holders and actually using it as an armrest.

Once on the move, however, it became apparent that road noise was going to be a conversational deterrent. Some vehicles are absolutely brilliant when it comes to having a four-corner talk among occupants; my Phaetons were almost too good at it, because you could hear the whispers between occupants in the other row. The Edge is on the other end of the spectrum; it’s necessary to raise your voice to be heard ahead or behind. The Flex, for what it’s worth, is better. In fact, the Flex is better than the Edge at almost everything. Had we been able to get a Flex to go face-to-face with the Jeep for this test, the finishing order wouldn’t have been nearly as obvious.

As a base SEL, the Edge has basic cloth seats. As we expected, the front seats didn’t measure up to the JGC Limited’s leather-lined chairs in any way — but in back, it was a different story. I’ve had a few ribs and vertebrae broken in the past few months and I found the Edge’s rear seats to be much better than the Grand Cherokee’s, in both short-term comfort and long-term support. The same three-hundred-mile stretch that had my ribs audibly cracking and snapping in the Jeep turned out to be no problem in the Ford, even though I’d been pre-brutalized by the trip out to NYC.

When it came my turn to drive, on the other hand, I immediately wished to be a passenger again. The Edge is so completely outclassed as an on-road proposition by the JGC that it’s hard to believe that the former is the transverse-engined platform sans off-road pretenses. Only in lane-change transitional behavior does the Ford have any edge whatsoever over the Jeep; there’s a secondary wobble-back that just doesn’t happen in the Edge. It’s a slightly more relaxing vehicle to pilot for that reason alone.

Nominally, the 3.5V6 in the Edge is a near equal to the 3.6 Pentastar V6 in the Chrysler product, but in the real world it’s not as good, possibly because of the brilliant ZF automatic you get with the Pentastar. Mileage, too, isn’t quite up to par. I drove both vehicles in a conscious effort to maximize reported economy, never exceeding 85mph and staying in cruise control for long stretches of time, and the Edge claimed 23.6mpg on a segment where the Grand Cherokee claimed 25.1. Brakes are okay on both cars, but neither offers the stepping-on-a-steel-block feel you’d get from, say, the monobloc Brembos on a Cayenne. These cars are built to go (shopping), not stop (global warming).

In most respects, the Edge feels a generation behind the JGC. It isn’t just the little touches, like the USB charging ports for both rear seats in the Jeep. Rather, it’s the entire touch-and-feel interface between you and the car. This is a long-in-the-tooth refresh of a twelve-year-old platform, and it feels like it. Nearly five years ago, I was pretty impressed by a loaded Limited, as you can see in the below LLN video of which I’m not particularly proud:

Okay, you have to admit the pizza thing was kind of funny. Or not. Anyway. This SEL doesn’t have most of the stuff you see in that video, which makes it feel even older than it is. Surely Ford’s amortized this platform to the point where they should be able to throw the full MyFordTouch system in at the $32,395 net price of our base AWD SEL, but they continue to expect that you’ll spend an additional two grand to get it. If you don’t — and National Car Rental certainly didn’t — you get a Fiesta-grade interior screen about the size of what you got with the original Nintendo GameBoy.

The net effect is surprisingly downmarket for a vehicle that costs more than a loaded Camcord. The stereo, in particular, is embarrassingly poor. There’s not a lot of surprise and delight here for the money. Some of the interior trim, like the door cards, just feels deliberately crappy. Other parts are simply plain, and that’s no longer good enough in this segment.

You can argue that the Edge SEL works best as a bait-and-switch to get you into a much better-equipped Limited. That vehicle would have been a better competitor to the Grand Cherokee Limited, which at a net $39,390 is more than twenty percent pricier. In fact for $38,695, you can get an Edge Sport AWD, which has the motor and the equipment to take the fight directly to Jeep. In the final analysis, however, it wasn’t the frosting that caused us to rank the Ford second. It was the cake underneath it, which is stale. Eventually, the sales numbers will reflect that. In the meantime, feel free to avoid adding to them.

]]> 34
Beijing 2014: Production-Ready Ford Escort To Debut Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:30:53 +0000 000-ford-escort-concept-shanghai

After several years of dormancy, Ford revived the Escort name for a concept sedan at last year’s Shanghai Motor Show. That concept is now production-ready, and will make its debut this weekend at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show.

Autoblog reports the Escort will be made locally in China through a joint venture, and may sport either a three- or four-cylinder powerplant driving the front wheels.

As for other global markets, an Escort was spotted in Europe earlier this month undergoing testing, but nothing more has come of it.

002-ford-escort-concept-shanghai 000-ford-escort-concept-shanghai 001-ford-escort-concept-shanghai 003-ford-escort-concept-shanghai 004-ford-escort-concept-shanghai ]]> 63
New York 2014: 2015 Ford Focus Sedan Unveiled Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:34:03 +0000 2015-Ford-Focus-02

In Geneva, we saw the world debut of the 2015 Ford Focus hatchback. At the 2014 New York Auto Show, it’s the 2015 Focus Sedan’s turn to be unveiled.

Like the hatchback, the sedan now boasts the new nose found on the likes of the Fusion and Fiesta, while under the hood will include a 2-liter four-pot or — for the U.S. market — the 1-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder, both of which will be mated to a new six-speed manual. An SE Sport Package will also be available, swaping the manual for an automatic with paddle shifters in addition to tuning upgrades for the suspension and 17-inch wheels.

Safety features on-board include a standard rearview camera paired with a choice of two monitors, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist.

Both the hatchback and sedan will enter U.S. showrooms early in 2015.

2015-Ford-Focus-02 2015-Ford-Focus-01 2015-Ford-Focus-03 2015-Ford-Focus-10 2015-Ford-Focus-04 2015-Ford-Focus-05 2015-Ford-Focus-07 2015-Ford-Focus-09 2015-Ford-Focus-13 2015-Ford-Focus-15 2015-Ford-Focus-16 2015-Ford-Focus-14 ]]> 33
Future Ford Explorers, Expeditions Could Wear All-Aluminium Bodies Thu, 10 Apr 2014 12:36:08 +0000 Explorer Sport rear quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh

As previously reported by TTAC earlier this year, future Ford Explorers and Expeditions could one day wear aluminium bodies.

Edmunds reports the SUVs could easily go aluminium should Ford decided to do so based on the higher base prices of both vehicles being able to sustain the higher cost of the metal. The Explorer and Expedition could see improved fuel economy from the several hundreds of pounds lost as a result.

Alongside aluminium, Ford also aims to improve the engines, transmissions and aerodynamics in their lineup as the automaker seeks to reduce CO2 emissions annually by 4 percent to meet ever-stringent global standards.

The earliest an all-aluminium Explorer or Expedition could come is 2018, as the U.S. metals industry is stepping up aluminium production in anticipation of more Ford products extensively using the lightweight metal.

]]> 28
Ford Cuts 950 Jobs In Russia Due To Weakening Ruble, Demand Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:21:10 +0000 Ford-Sollers-Vsevolozhsk-plant

Two plants in Ford’s joint venture with Russian manufacturer OAO Sollers will experience job cuts as a result of a weakening ruble and decreasing demand by customers in the local market.

Bloomberg says 700 positions in St. Petersburg and 250 temporary positions in the Tartarstan region will be let go by June, while production in the former will lose one shift. The cuts were caused by “the rapid and significant depreciation of the ruble, falling industry sales and a consumer shift away” from small cars toward large SUVs according to Ford, who also reassured that the joint venture would continue to remain committed to the Russian market.

As for the current state of things, sales fell 4 percent in the first two months of 2014, following a 5.5 percent decline in 2013 to 2.78 million vehicles, while the ruble lost 13 percent of its value against the dollar within the last 12 months.

The St. Petersberg plant will also shut down for over four weeks before single-shift production and painting begin June 9. The plant currently builds the Mondeo and Focus.

]]> 16
Ford: Gettelfinger Should Be Credited For Saving Company Fri, 28 Mar 2014 12:45:26 +0000 King + Gettlefinger - Ford + Mullaly

Ford’s executive chairman Bill Ford, Jr. told CNBC this week that former United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger “doesn’t get enough credit for helping save Ford.

Automotive News reports the UAW worked closely with the Blue Oval to avoid the fates that befell Chrysler and General Motors in the run-up to the Great Recession, as Ford Jr. explained in a live interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”:

When our times were darkest in the ’07, ’08, ’09 time frame, the UAW helped our industry get back on its feet, helped Ford get back on its feet. Ron Gettelfinger, the former president of the United Auto Workers, doesn’t get enough credit for helping save Ford.

The chairman went on to say that in the automaker’s darkest hour, he turned to Gettelfinger to “save the Ford Motor Co.” For Ford, this meant concessions by the union, including two-tier wages, overtime pay after 40 hours of work, and giving up vacation time. In turn, the Blue Oval lowered labor cost to $58/hour per employee.

When asked why the UAW was turned away from the South — specifically the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. — Ford, Jr. noted the region’s attitude toward organized labor in general, as well as how the automaker views its workers in comparison:

Surprised? No, because there’s a long history of organizing that didn’t go well in the South. I would say this. We’ve had a great relationship with our workforce. I don’t look at them as union and nonunion but as Ford workers. … We have a lot of second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and even sixth-generation workers at Ford in our company.

]]> 86
Ford Medium-Duty Truck Production Moving To Ohio In 2015 Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:30:23 +0000 2015 Ford F-650

With the Econoline passing the torch to the Transit Connect at the end of this year, Ford is in the process of moving production of the F-650 and F-750 from Mexico to Ohio in time for the medium-duty trucks’ redesign for 2015.

Bloomberg reports the automaker is cutting ties with Navistar International in a joint venture based in Escobedo, Mexico to take full control of the two medium-duty trucks in their transfer to Avon Lake, Ohio, bringing the entire F-Series line — and the profits made up and down the chain — in-house as Ford’s president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs explains:

We’re doing this to bring the 650-750 production in-house so that we have complete design, manufacturing and engineering control over our F-series lineup. It’s so critical to be able to offer our commercial customers everything from an F-150 all the way to an F-750 and to know it’s built by Ford.

The relocation will preserve 1,600 jobs while honoring an agreement made between Ford and the United Auto Workers in 2011, with no added jobs or change in labor costs resulting from the move.

Hinrichs expects it will take less than the 13 weeks needed to transition the two F-150 plants from steel to aluminium-body production, with tooling from the Mexico plant already being put into place:

A lot of equipment has been going in on the fly. It’s not what we would classify as a new body shop, but the investment that’s being made largely is for equipment in the body shop and for tooling associated with building the 650 and 750.

The transition will occur in time for the F-650′s and F-750′s 2015 redesign, though the medium-duty trucks will remain steel-bodied.

]]> 23
2015 Ford Super Duty Best In Class In Torque, Towing Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:10:31 +0000 2015-Ford-F-450-Super-Duty-front-three-quarters

Answering the challenge made by the Ram 3500 in torque and towing capacity, Ford revealed the news that the 2015 F Series Super Duty lineup will include a more powerful diesel engine with enough boulder-tossing torque and space shuttle-towing capacity to maintain dominance over Truck Mountain.

AutoGuide reports the lineup’s new source of power comes from a 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbodiesel pumping out a best-in-class rating of 440 horses and 860 lb-ft of torque through the rear or all four wheels. The compacted graphite iron engine, complete with larger turbo and new injectors maximized for improved response, allows the F-350 to tow up to 26,500 lbs with a gross combined weight of 35,000 lbs, while the F-450 smashes the towing scale thrown down by the Ram with a capacity of 31,200 lbs via gooseneck, 26,500 lbs via fifth wheel; gross combined weight comes to 40,000 lbs.

Under the body, the Super Duty line also received extensive upgrades to the chassis, brakes, suspension, and for the F-450, commercial-grade 19.5-inch wheels and tires.

]]> 94
Booming Van Sales Driven By Small Business Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:25:16 +0000 Florist Vans

In a sign the broader economy is on an upswing, small business owners who use commercial vans in their business are replacing their aging equipment with new vans, fueling a boom not seen since the start of the Great Recession.

USA Today reports as small businesses begin to invest in their companies once more — and with borrowing on the rise with loosened credit now available — commercial van sales rose to over 40 percent since 2010. The winter weather failed to put a dent in sales, rising 9 percent in January as auto sales fell 3 percent in the same period. IHS Automotive, in particular, expects sales to grow 27 percent overall between 2013 and 2015, with over 400,000 units leaving the lot for the wrap shop annually.

Though the commercial van market has been dominated by Ford, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, more automakers are entering the market with offerings of their own, such as Nissan’s NV series and Ram’s minivan-based Cargo Van. As a result, total small van sales — such as the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 — were over 53,000 units in 2013, while 259,000 large vans were sold in the same period.

More vans are expected to enter the market this year, including the Nissan NV200-based Chevrolet City Express and Fiat Doblo-based Ram ProMaster City.

]]> 45