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. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:00:56 +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/ IIHS: Not All Ford F-150s Are Built Just As Tough http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/iihs-not-ford-f-150s-built-just-tough/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/iihs-not-ford-f-150s-built-just-tough/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129193 Automotive News is reporting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will rate versions of Ford’s F-150 pickup with dramatically different safety ratings after re-testing versions of the pickup, which is a highly unusual move for the safety nonprofit. The SuperCrew cab version of the F-150 earned the highest marks from the IIHS in its small overlap […]

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2015_Ford_F-150_Pickup_Truck

Automotive News is reporting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will rate versions of Ford’s F-150 pickup with dramatically different safety ratings after re-testing versions of the pickup, which is a highly unusual move for the safety nonprofit.

The SuperCrew cab version of the F-150 earned the highest marks from the IIHS in its small overlap crash test, earning a Top Safety Pick rating. The re-tested SuperCab registers only a “marginal” rating in the same crash.

The difference, according to Automotive News, are tubular frames called “wheel blockers” installed on the SuperCrew, but missing from the SuperCab and Regular Cab models.

David Zuby, who is the chief research officer for the IIHS, said that the crash ratings between different cab versions could give buyers the wrong impression.

“(It) shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab,” Zuby told Automotive News.

A Ford spokesman said the company would look into adding additional safety measures into the Regular Cab and SuperCab versions of the F-150 for 2016.

The wheel blockers present on the SuperCrew, but missing on the SuperCab and Regular Cab, significantly varied the trucks’ performances on the small overlap crash test. In the follow-up test conducted on the SuperCab, the “intruding structure seriously compromised the driver’s survival space,” the IIHS told Automotive News.

The notoriously difficult small overlap test has been particularly difficult for automakers to solve. It’s unclear why Ford put the wheel blockers on the SuperCrew, but not the SuperCab and Regular Cab. Zuby offered a possible solution.

“I think automakers are trying to design the vehicles to offer the best protection for their customers,” he told Automotive News. “But occasionally, we do see evidence that maybe they are trying to get a good rating in a test, maybe without looking for a completely holistic solution.”

The IIHS tests only high-volume models. Historically the SuperCab and Regular Cab models only comprised 25 and 5 percent of sales respectively.

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Ford Posts $1.9B Second Quarter Profit, Largest Since 2000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-posts-1-9b-second-quarter-profit-largest-since-2000/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-posts-1-9b-second-quarter-profit-largest-since-2000/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 17:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1126521 Ford announced that it made a $1.9 billion net-adjusted profit in the second quarter of 2015, marking the largest gain for the automaker since 2000, according to Automotive News. The profit represents a 44-percent gain over last year despite dipping global sales and a stronger U.S. dollar hampering exports. Ford said it was selling cars for […]

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2015 Ford F-150

Ford announced that it made a $1.9 billion net-adjusted profit in the second quarter of 2015, marking the largest gain for the automaker since 2000, according to Automotive News.

The profit represents a 44-percent gain over last year despite dipping global sales and a stronger U.S. dollar hampering exports. Ford said it was selling cars for more money and offering fewer incentives, despite recent reports of F-150 incentives topping nearly $11,000 in some places.

Ford said revenues in North America surged 10 percent, which helped the company beat Wall Street’s expectations.

The 10-percent gain in revenue in North America is despite Ford’s slower-than-average sales compared to the overall industry average. Automotive News reported that the automaker achieved a 1.7-percent increase in sales for the second quarter compared to the industry average of 3.3 percent.

A slowdown in production of the F-150 is partially to blame for the sales shortfall. Building the redesigned F-150 at both of Ford’s plants has gone slower than normal, the automaker said, and inventory levels should return to normal in September.

The automaker said it increased its global market share one-tenth of a percent to 7.6 percent. Twelve of its 16 planned global launches have happened already this year, and Ford said the rest were on track. The company said it was still on track for an end-of-year, pre-tax profit of between $8.5 billion and $9.5 billion.

Ford posted a net loss in South American, European, Middle Eastern and African markets, but posted a $33 million gain in the Asia Pacific region, a 20-percent improvement over last year.

Ford Credit posed a $506 million pre-tax profit for the second quarter, a 17-percent gain.

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2015 Ford Edge Ecoboost Review with Video http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-edge-ecoboost-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-edge-ecoboost-review-video/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1116857 The large two-row crossover is a rare breed. With compact crossovers getting less compact and folks defecting to supersized three rows, Toyota and Honda chose to kill the Venza and Accord Crosstour while Ford pressed on with a redesign of the Edge. You can think of the Edge as a “tweener” crossover slotting between the Escape and […]

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2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front-002

The large two-row crossover is a rare breed. With compact crossovers getting less compact and folks defecting to supersized three rows, Toyota and Honda chose to kill the Venza and Accord Crosstour while Ford pressed on with a redesign of the Edge. You can think of the Edge as a “tweener” crossover slotting between the Escape and the Explorer while at the same time being the spiritual successor (in modern form) to the Bronco and two-row Explorers of yesteryear. Although Ford says the Edge is a complete redesign, you could be forgiven for thinking this is more of a refresh, and that’s not a bad thing since the Edge was already one the most appealing options in this phone-booth-sized segment.

Exterior
Although the 2015 Edge looks more like a lightly massaged 2014 than an all-new model, it actually rides on a different platform with two all-new engines under the hood and shares surprisingly little with its predecessor in terms of parts. The last-generation Edge was designed around Ford’s “CD3″ parts bin which was co-designed with Mazda and from those building blocks came the last-generation Fusion, Mazda6, MKZ and even the CX-9. For 2015 Ford pulls from the new CD4 parts bin which serves as the basis for the current Fusion and will underpin the new Taurus and Flex among others. Although weight reduction is all the rage these days, the platform swap sheds less than 100 pounds from the Edge’s curb weight.

This change under the sheetmetal explains the Edge’s growth which is up four inches overall with a one-inch wheelbase stretch. The increase gives the Edge a sleeker and less boxy profile than before while offering more interior room. Meanwhile, Ford tacked on a new grille that strikes me as the merger of Hyundai and Ford’s styling cues. Since the Venza and Crosstour are leaving us this year (production has supposedly already stopped) this means the Edge’s direct competition comes in the form of the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Nissan Murano and certain versions of the Kia Sorento which comes as either a two- or three-row crossover for 2016. If you want to expand the pool, the Grand Cherokee and Lexus RX are also plausible cross-shops, although the Jeep is far more off-road focused and the RX truly competes with the Edge’s ritzy brother: the Lincoln MKX.

2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard

Interior
Having not sat inside an Edge in about a year, I had to hunt one down to figure out what changed. The short answer is: everything. The long answer is: the design is similar enough to the outgoing model that current Edge shoppers will feel right at home, but different enough to give them a reason to lease another. Ford merged the squarish style of the 2014 interior with design cues from the latest Focus and Fusion. Instead of continuing Ford’s button minimalism strategy, 2015 adds buttons to make the infotainment system and climate control easier to use.

Front-seat comfort is excellent, although you’ll find that the new Murano’s seats are a hair softer and the 2016 Sorento (in top end trims) offers a wider range of seat adjustments. Rear-seat comfort is excellent and I found the rear cabin more comfortable than the competition, especially the Jeep which has strangely stiff seat cushions. Seat comfort is, in general, a reason to upgrade from a compact crossover to this midsized category. Much of the increased comfort comes from increased legroom and headroom. For 2015, the Edge gains three inches of combined room vs the outgoing model. The way legroom is measured seems to be a matter of constant debate, highlighted by the similar legroom numbers you get in the Honda CR-V. However, in the real world, the Edge not only feels larger, but it’s larger in practical terms as well. In the Edge I was able to properly install a rear-facing child seat behind a 6’2″ passenger, something I could not do in the CR-V. In the way-back you’ll find 25 to 40 percent more cargo room than most compact crossovers, but less than the average 3-row crossover with the 3rd row folded.

2015 Ford Edge MyFord Touch

Infotainment
Ford’s touchscreen infotainment system is not long for this world. Starting in the 2016 calendar year, we will see the highly-anticipated SYNC3 system start to roll into Ford models. Until the software refresh hits however, the Edge will soldier on with the base 4.2-inch SYNC system or the optional 8-inch MyFord Touch (optional in SEL and standard in Titanium and Sport). Since LCD love is all the rage, SEL models can be equipped with Ford’s ubiquitous partial LCD instrument cluster (standard in Titanium and Sport) where twin 4.2-inch displays flank a large central speedometer. Base models get a 6-speaker unbranded audio system and shoppers can option up a 9-speaker premium option or a 12-speaker Sony audio system as our tester was equipped. The twin-LCD system is starting to look dated compared to the LCD clusters that are optional in high end trims of the Grand Cherokee and Sorento but on par with what’s in the Murano.

MyFord Touch is one of the most maligned infotainment systems on the market, but it is also one of the most fully featured. Even in 2015 there are still mainline brands that don’t offer voice command of your USB-connected music library. At this point Ford has addressed most of the major issues that plagues the MFT system launch, except for the speed. Interacting with the touchscreen requires patience as screen changes are considerably slower than the Kia, Chrysler, GM and Toyota alternatives.

Integrated telematics systems that email you vehicle health reports, allow you to call a concierge, request emergency assistance and know when your airbags have gone off are seeing a renaissance. This generation of Ford’s infotainment system includes SYNC Services which offers OnStar-like telematics without the integrated modem. On the downside, if you’ve forgotten your phone and you get in an accident, the car can’t dial for help.

2015 Ford Edge 2.0L Ecoboost Turbo Engine-001

Drivetrain
Last time we looked at the Edge, Ford made the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder a $995 option over the 3.5-liter V6. In an interesting reversal, the V6 is now a $425 optional engine and the 2.0-liter is standard. Despite the identical displacement, the 2.0-liter is almost a new engine. Ford increased the compression, fiddled with the fuel and oiling systems and tacked on a new twin-scroll turbocharger for improved efficiency and a broader torque curve. Power is up 5 horsepower and 5 lb-ft over last year to 245 and 275 respectively with a beefier power band. That’s 35 fewer ponies than the optional V6, but 25 lb-ft more. Also different from last year, you can finally get the small Ecoboost engine with all-wheel drive.

Making the Edge Sport sportier than before is another new engine: the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 from Ford’s F-150. Inserted sideways under the Edge’s hood, the turbo-six loses a little power but still trumps the outgoing 3.7-liter V6 by 10 ponies and 70 lb-ft (315 hp 350 lb-ft). More impressively, that torque comes to a boil 1,250 RPM sooner. In perhaps the most interesting twist, the Edge Sport doesn’t come with AWD standard. That’s right, all 350 lb-ft of twist are routed to the front wheels only by default. Torque steer? You betcha.

2015 Ford Edge Exterior-001
Drive
Torque steer isn’t just what classifies the 2.7-liter turbo. The 2.0-liter turbo has plenty of that particular demon under the hood as well. (Although I find the act of controlling torque steer amusing, I also willingly bought a new Chrysler LHS at age 18, so take that into consideration.) Put the pedal to the metal and the small turbo engine whirs to life with a hair of lag that’s very similar to BMW’s 2.0-liter turbo. After 7.5 seconds the Edge will hit 60 mph, followed by the 1/4 mile in 15.8 seconds. That’s almost half a second slower than the Murano and V6 Grand Cherokee but only a hair behind the Santa Fe Sport and Sorento with the 2.0-liter turbo. Shoppers should know that a dealer provided 3.5-liter V6 model was just 2/10ths faster to 60 and posted essentially identical 1/4 mile numbers while drinking more fuel. Why is it a $425 option? Because some folks just want six cylinders. (In case you were wondering, a brief test in an AWD Edge Sport (dealer provided) ran to 60 in a scant 5.8 seconds.)

Curb weight ranges from 3,912 pounds in the FWD 2.0-liter Ecoboost base model to a maximum of 4,236 pounds in the FWD Sport model. If you want AWD, it adds around 165 pounds, bringing the AWD Sport to a fairly hefty 4,400 pounds when fully equipped. Despite the weight, the Edge handles surprisingly well. You can thank a few things for that: the wide 64.8 inch track, standard 245-width rubber and a suspension design that’s related to Ford’s global portfolio including the current European Mondeo. Somewhat surprisingly, jumping from the base SE to the Titanium or Sport trims doesn’t buy you wider rubber but the aspect ratio falls from 245/60R18s in the SE to 245/55R19s in the Titanium and 245/50R20s in the Sport. While the aspect ratio and spring rates obviously play a role in lateral grip, the SE and Sport are closer together than you think. (As a late 2015 option Ford will offer an optional 265/40R21 wheel and tire package with summer rubber which we were not able to test.)

2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-004

The hefty curb weight, moderately soft springs and 55-series tires combine to give the Edge a compliant highway ride that wafted over potholed and rough pavement without batting an eye. While not as soft as the new Murano, the Edge has a more pleasing balance because the Nissan often feels too soft on your favorite winding mountain road. Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport actually deserves its name because it feels the most nimble and athletic in the corners. The Hyundai weighs around 500 pounds less which certainly doesn’t hurt, but the suspension is also tuned on the firmer side of this segment. On the other side is the Grand Cherokee which, thanks to its off-road mission, weighs more, is higher off the ground and feels more ponderous. Meanwhile the Sorento straddles the middle of the segment thanks to a light curb weight and moderately firm springs. Steering feel is numb but accurate and I had no problems understanding what the front wheels were up to.

Priced between $28,100 for a FWD SE model and $48,100 for the AWD Sport trim, the Edge starts more expensive and scales higher than the Korean options. However, shoppers need to look beyond the low starting price with the Kia and Hyundai because base Santa Fe and Sorento models come with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is considerably less powerful than the Edge’s base engine and the Koreans have fewer features standard as well. Equip the Hyundai and Kia with a 2.0-liter turbo engine so they compare more directly with the Edge and they ring in at $31,250 and $31,100 respectively, giving Ford the upper hand in MSRP. The value pricing continues against Nissan and Jeep with the Edge undercutting the Murano by around $1,000 across the line and the Jeep by $1,500-2,000 depending on the options.

Nissan’s Murano wins the award for being the best highway cruiser in the bunch. The Jeep is the off-road alternative and the Edge is the value leader. The Kia, however, is my top choice. The Sorento has a fresher look, it’s slightly bigger with a nicer interior and a 0-60 time that’s a bit faster as well. The Sorento handles surprisingly well in its latest generation and top-end trims are better equipped than the Edge. While the Sorento EX is more expensive than a base Edge, you do get more feature content in the Kia and by the time you compare top-end trims the Sorento is less expensive. The only trouble with the Sorento is that Kia attempts to compete with the Edge, Escape and Explorer with one vehicle. Get the base Sorento and it’s Escape priced with 2 rows and a weak 2.4-liter engine. The 2.0-liter turbo Sorento is a 2-row luxury-leaning crossover with optional Nappa leather and HID headlamps. Check the box for the V6 and you get a small third row for your mother-in-law as a smaller alternative to the Explorer. This means that V6 Edge competition gets whittled down to just the Nissan and the Jeep.

After a week with the 2.0-liter Ecoboost Edge I have come to a few conclusions. First up, skip the V6 as it really makes no sense. The fuel economy in the 2.0-liter turbo is better and the performance is nearly identical. Second, get AWD even if you live below the snow belt, unless you really love torque steer. Third, the front-wheel peel in a FWD 2.7-liter twin-turbo Edge Sport made me giggle. If you’re shopping for the best 2.0-liter turbo crossover in this segment, stop by your Kia dealer. However, if you want something this size that will put a smile on your face without braking the bank, the Edge Sport is the CUV you’re looking for. The Edge Sport AWD bridges the gap between the fire-breathing Grand Cherokee SRT and a mainstream crossover like the Sorento and Santa Fe Sport. Think of the Edge Sport as the gravel-road version of the Taurus SHO. I’ll take a red one.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.65

0-60: 7.5

1/4 Mile: 15.80 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average Economy: 24.6 MPG

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Super Duty Buoys Flagging F-150 Sales for Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/buoyed-heavy-duty-ford-still-leading-pickup-sales-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/buoyed-heavy-duty-ford-still-leading-pickup-sales-us/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 18:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123137 The Chevrolet Silverado has outsold the Ford F-150 so far this year, but sales of Ford’s Super Duty trucks have boosted the company’s truck business past its competition, PickupTrucks.com is reporting. All three truck makers are selling more pickups than they were a year ago, but flagging F-150 sales and depleted inventory could be keeping Ford’s […]

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2015 Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevrolet Silverado has outsold the Ford F-150 so far this year, but sales of Ford’s Super Duty trucks have boosted the company’s truck business past its competition, PickupTrucks.com is reporting.

All three truck makers are selling more pickups than they were a year ago, but flagging F-150 sales and depleted inventory could be keeping Ford’s perennial half-ton leader back.

The website, which used data from Cars.com to determine sales by segment, said that Ford’s Super Duty trucks led Ram and General Motor’s heavy-duty offerings by a large margin. Roughly 120,000 three-quarter and full-ton Ford pickups have been purchased this year, compared to around 80,000 and 75,000 heavy-duty trucks for Ram and General Motors, respectively.

Earlier this month, Ford offered a series of incentives totaling $11,000 on its F-150 in specific areas for specific models. A spokesman for Ford said that dealer stocks of the full-size F-150 pickups were unusually low, and that normal inventories would be restored by the end of September.

According to our own Timothy Cain, truck sales represent around 14 percent of overall vehicle sales in the United States, up one percentage point from last year. And the average price paid for a truck is $42,429 so far this year.

So who’s ready for a $100,000 pickup?

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Ford Announces Nearly $60K-to-Start “Limited” F-150 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-announces-nearly-60k-start-limited-f-150/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-announces-nearly-60k-start-limited-f-150/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 19:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1121473 Ford announced Tuesday its new range-topping truck, the F-150 Limited, which will go on sale this winter. The Limited replaces the Platinum as the most you can pay for an F-150, and while the automaker didn’t specify how much the Limited may cost, it’s clear it will be knocking on the door of $60,000 — if not […]

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2016 Ford F-150 Limited

Ford announced Tuesday its new range-topping truck, the F-150 Limited, which will go on sale this winter. The Limited replaces the Platinum as the most you can pay for an F-150, and while the automaker didn’t specify how much the Limited may cost, it’s clear it will be knocking on the door of $60,000 — if not kicking it down.

Limited only in name, not in price, Ford’s newest F-150 is aiming to push average transaction prices higher and further than they’ve ever gone before. According to Reuters, the average price paid for a pickup was $42,429 so far this year.

The Limited model sports 22-inch wheels, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6, 360-degree cameras and massaging seats.

The F-150 Limited will take head-on the Ram 1500 Limited and GMC Sierra 1500 Denali, which cost $51,370 and $51,160 respectively.

In addition to unique exterior and polished aluminum wheels, the F-150 Limited sports four colors: Shadow Black, Magnetic, Blue Jeans (!) and White Platinum Metallic.

The new Limited trim features all of the interior goodies available: Ford’s Sync infotainment system, panoramic sunroof, cross-traffic alerts, remote start and tailgate release, and a laser-engraved production number plate on the center console that shows the position of your truck in the likely five-figure “limited” production run.

2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited 2016 Ford F-150 Limited

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Ford: Our Incentives Are Still Lower than Overall Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-incentives-still-lower-overall-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-incentives-still-lower-overall-segment/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 20:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1118913 A Ford spokesman said Friday that despite the automaker offering nearly $11,000 on particular F-150 models, their incentives are still under the segment average. “It’s not like every F-150 customer walking into a Ford dealer today — whether they’re in L.A. or New York — is going to get $10,000 off of every single model,” Truck […]

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2015 Ford F-150

A Ford spokesman said Friday that despite the automaker offering nearly $11,000 on particular F-150 models, their incentives are still under the segment average.

“It’s not like every F-150 customer walking into a Ford dealer today — whether they’re in L.A. or New York — is going to get $10,000 off of every single model,” Truck Communications Manager Mike Levine said.

“On average, we’re lower than the segment.”

Levine said the $10,819 we reported on yesterday was a specific truck in a specific area. Those numbers, such as $7,050 off, that Ford publicizes on its website aren’t indicative of every incentive available.

F-150 incentives

“That’s a very specific set of incentives that are all stacked together that gets you to $10,000,” he said.

According to Ford, those incentives include: $3,769 average dealer discount; $500 customer cash; $1,000 XLT customer cash; $300 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost bonus cash; $2,000 302A XLT Luxury Chrome or Sport packages.; $2,500 bonus cash; and $750 Ford Credit Bonus Cash, which requires Ford Credit financing.

Levine said the average incentive offered on a F-150 is $3,354, which is $800 lower than the segment average and lower than the automaker had offered one year ago.

Dealer inventories are down, Levine said, and Ford needs to stay competitive.

“For this particular truck, we’re helping customers get into a better truck. It’s something that we do from time-to-time, and it’s in line with what our competitors do,” he said.

Representatives from Ram and General Motors didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Ford Patent Filing Shows Exterior Lighting Trim, Future is Here http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-patent-filing-shows-exterior-lighting-trim-future-is-here/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-patent-filing-shows-exterior-lighting-trim-future-is-here/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 19:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1117985 Future Fords may have decorative exterior molding or body panels with built-in lights, Carscoops.com (via FocusRSClub) has uncovered in patent filings. The filings detail luminescent panels and moldings that would light up to accent portions of some of Ford’s vehicles. Or you know, the stuff aftermarket shops have been offering for years now. According to the […]

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Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 10.59.27 AMFuture Fords may have decorative exterior molding or body panels with built-in lights, Carscoops.com (via FocusRSClub) has uncovered in patent filings.

The filings detail luminescent panels and moldings that would light up to accent portions of some of Ford’s vehicles.

Or you know, the stuff aftermarket shops have been offering for years now.

According to the patent filing, “Illumination arising from the use of photoluminescent structures offers a unique and attractive viewing experience.” So it’s clear we’re going to love these things.

Although the car depicted in the filing’s drawings is a Mustang, it’s likely that the lights could apply to any of Ford’s vehicles.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 11.21.00 AM

Of course, this isn’t the only hubbub we’ve seen from a patent filing this week. Ram’s Ramps hit the United States Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month, and like we learned then, automakers file lots of patents that never see the light of day.

Or the light of a Mustang convertible’s rear deck, in this case.

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Ford Putting Nearly $11,000 on Hoods of Some F-150s http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-putting-nearly-11000-hoods-f-150s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-putting-nearly-11000-hoods-f-150s/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 17:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1117793 Ford is looking to boost sales of its full-size F-150 by offering more than $10,000 in incentives for some higher-trim models in some parts of the United States, Automotive News is reporting. Production issues have plagued the aluminum 2015 F-150 since its launch late last year. According to Ford, only half of the F-150’s normal inventory […]

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Ford F-150 grey, side

Ford is looking to boost sales of its full-size F-150 by offering more than $10,000 in incentives for some higher-trim models in some parts of the United States, Automotive News is reporting.

Production issues have plagued the aluminum 2015 F-150 since its launch late last year. According to Ford, only half of the F-150’s normal inventory has been available since June, which as hampered sales. The automaker says dealer stocks will be full by the end of September.

The company’s website offers nearly $11,000 off of 2015 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew with Chrome or Sport packages in some parts of the country.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.09.07 AMWe found this offer available in the middle of Michigan, near Clare, on Ford’s website. Other parts of the country may receive up to $7,050 off similar models.

“The truck hasn’t sold up to expectations for the most part,” Akshay Anand, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told Automotive News. “This may be a hint that in certain parts of the country, the issue might just be more than supply.”

Truck sales have been up for the first half of this year, but the F-150’s sales pace has been modest. F-Series volumes have dipped in each of the last five months, and second-quarter sales have dropped 6.5 percent.

 

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No, This is Not the Mustang Apollo Astronauts Drove http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-not-mustang-apollo-astronauts-drove/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-not-mustang-apollo-astronauts-drove/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1117641 It is the Mustang that could help students become future astronauts, however. Ford announced Wednesday the one-of-a-kind Apollo Edition Mustang that will be auctioned July 23 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to benefit the Experimental Aviation Association’s Young Eagles program, a youth flying education program. On top of the Saturn V-inspired paint, the 2015 Mustang GT goes like a […]

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It is the Mustang that could help students become future astronauts, however.

Ford announced Wednesday the one-of-a-kind Apollo Edition Mustang that will be auctioned July 23 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to benefit the Experimental Aviation Association’s Young Eagles program, a youth flying education program.

On top of the Saturn V-inspired paint, the 2015 Mustang GT goes like a rocket: 627 horsepower and 540 pound-feet of torque.

Ford engineers bolted on a Ford Performance supercharger screw, side and rear exhausts, six-piston Brembo brakes and custom Forgiato 21-inch performance wheels to the Mustang. The interior has a specialized instrument cluster, custom-embroidered seats, performance gauges and trim panels.

It’s the eighth-consecutive year Ford has developed a special vehicle for the Young Eagles program. Past highlights include a Blue Angels Mustang, a Roush-Shelby collaboration SR-71 Blackbird Mustang and an AV-X10 “Dearborn Doll” Mustang, which netted more than $250,000 for the charity. In total, the special-edition Mustangs have netted nearly $3 million, according to Ford.

Is it as cool as nerds in matching 1969 Corvettes? Maybe not.

Apollo Corvettes

But it is for a good cause, which is totally OK.

(Editor’s Note: In all due fairness, this is not the first car we’ve seen painted up like a Saturn V. All credit to Escape Velocity Racing, which painted up their Dodge Dart something fantastic for 24 Hours of LeMons.)

Escape Velocity Racing

Photo courtesy Escape Velocity Racing

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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible Review – No Respect http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-mustang-ecoboost-convertible-review-no-respect/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-mustang-ecoboost-convertible-review-no-respect/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 14:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1117449 I pull up next to a previous-generation Mustang — its 5-liter V8 rumbling as it sits at a stop light — and look over to the driver. There is no acknowledgement from him that I exist. Not a nod, glance, nor a typical, Mustang-owner two-finger wave. That’s not surprising though — he probably couldn’t hear me. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four is but a whimper […]

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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (1 of 11)

I pull up next to a previous-generation Mustang — its 5-liter V8 rumbling as it sits at a stop light — and look over to the driver. There is no acknowledgement from him that I exist. Not a nod, glance, nor a typical, Mustang-owner two-finger wave.

That’s not surprising though — he probably couldn’t hear me.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four is but a whimper next to the eight cylinders of Detroit aluminum. I give the boosted four banger a slight tip of accelerator. Still nothing from the owner of the “five-point-oh.”


The Tester

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible EcoBoost Premium (Automatic)

Engine: 2.3-liter DOHC I-4, direct injection, twin independent variable camshaft timing (310 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm, 320 lbs-ft @ 2,500-4,500 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 20 city/30 highway/24 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 23.3 mpg, approx. 70 percent highway

Options: 201A Equipment Group (Shaker Pro Audio System, Memory Driver’s Seat and Mirrors, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert), Triple Yellow paint, 50 Years Appearance Package, EcoBoost Performance Package, Enhanced Security Package Active Anti­, Theft System with Perimeter Alarm, HID Headlamps with Signature Lighting, Reverse Sensing System, Spoiler Delete, Wheel Locking Kit, 3.55 Limited-Slip Rear Axle, 19-inch-by-9-inch Gloss Black Premium Painted Aluminum Wheels, Raven Black interior, Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Mitigation and Rain­ Sensing Wipers, SYNC with MyFord Touch, Voice­Activated Navigation System, Premium AM/FM Stereo with HD Radio.

As Tested (U.S.): $45,060 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $52,649 (sheet)


It isn’t until the light turns green that my newfound nemesis in the neighboring lane graces me with a single eyeball. Even with the EcoBoost’s bright yellow paint, a pass is required to command the 5-liter’s driver to look to his right and gaze upon my taillights.

Admittedly, this is a very specific scenario. During normal driving, when other Mustang owners are traveling in the opposite direction, any Mustang — no matter the vintage — is still due its two finger, steering-wheel salute. Unless you’re driving a Mustang II.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (6 of 11)

Exterior
The front fascia of the Mustang is all modern. New headlights. New grille. This is the new look for Ford’s pony car going forward. While I don’t think this is a design Ford will look back on in 2050 and say, “Hey, we should make a retro-modern version of this,” it’s still a much more streamlined than the upright front with its recessed headlights that have graced the faces of Mustangs for the last two generations.

The headlights give the Mustang a purposeful, angry demeanor, while the long hood foretells of engines upwards of eight cylinders, though that hood is a bit of a lie in this case.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (10 of 11)

On our convertible tester, the looks are greatly improved as soon as you drop the top. There is no cover for the folded roof, but it is neatly packed away behind the rear seats — unlike the Beetle Convertible — and doesn’t really require a covering. The belt line is rather high, but it works in this case. The Mustang is a big-bodied pony car and it should have as much sheet metal as is possible.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (3 of 11)

The convertible, I’d argue, has a better silhouette than the new coupe. Instead of the awkward rear-window profile, the convertible offers a flatter and seemingly longer, deck lid. Our tester, with the EcoBoost Performance Package and 50 Years Appearance Package had its rear spoiler deleted, which made for one of the cleanest looking forms of the Mustang money can buy.

My only qualms with the Mustang’s design have to do with the rear. The designers at Ford had an opportunity to go all new with their latest creation, but the rear is still stuck in the past.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (7 of 11)

Interior
Thank you Ford, for real, honest-to-goodness controls. What the Mustang offers up is incredibly user friendly and — save the outgoing version of SYNC with MyFord Touch — amazingly intuitive. The steering wheel controls are not as simple as those in the Dodge Charger I reviewed last week, though there’s definitely nothing wrong with the buttons festooned to the wheel in the Mustang. More options need more buttons.

Below the large MyFord Touch screen and HVAC controls sits a row of toggle switches to change driving mode, steering effort and a few other options. I would prefer these be closer to the driver and out of reach of any underage passengers trying to be clever by flipping between Comfort and Sport steering modes mid-corner.

Another pet peeve: Ford has decided to put the boost gauge right in the middle of the dash, far outside the peripheral vision of the driver. Please, Ford, put this in the instrument panel. At the very least, this could be one of the performance gauges offered up by the digital display between the speedometer and tachometer.

The seats are, well, just fair. I found myself constantly readjusting in order to be comfortable. Also, thanks to the speedometer and tachometer being fairly far apart from each other, the view through the steering wheel to the gauges can be compromised by the steering wheel itself.

The phrase “backseat comfort” in a car like this is an oxymoron, so I’m not even going to mention it.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (8 of 11)Infotainment
As previously mentioned, the Mustang makes do with the outgoing version of SYNC and MyFord Touch. While other reviewers have called out Ford’s system for being a confusing, four-cornered mix mash, I’ve never had any serious usability problems with Ford’s infotainment system. If anything, my experience has been nothing but glowing — though not due to the screen itself.

SYNC’s voice-activation feature is one of the best systems for people like me who have horrible regional accents. Somehow, whether it be the folks at Ford or Microsoft (the company responsible for the software guts of SYNC) the system is able to figure out how to cut through all my weird ‘ar‘ combinations and other oddball dialectical artifacts.

Beyond that, the optional Shaker audio system might sound great in the coupe, but in the Mustang convertible it sounds like a tinny mess. If you can avoid the extra cost, do so.

Drivetrain
And now we get to the crux of this particular Mustang: its engine.

Ford’s new found love for turbocharging, combined with its “One Ford” plan to send Mustangs to Europe, has resulted in a four-cylinder Mustang with a twin-scroll turbocharger hanging off its side. On top of that, this engine is considered to be a premium choice over the 3.7-liter V6 engine.

Sitting them side by side, the EcoBoost four does, in fact, make more horsepower and torque. However, the quality of how it delivers that power and its attack on your senses is not something I would call premium.

For starters, the EcoBoost engine — even with faux exhaust note pumped through the Shaker audio system — sounds like any other four-cylinder engine on the market. Neither the engine nor exhaust notes are pleasing to the ear. Remember back when Hondas and Acuras would activate all the VTEC goodness at the top RPMs? Remember how great that sounded? The exact opposite is happening here.

That’s not to say the EcoBoost mill is a horrible engine. If your plan is to putt around town and stay out of the boost, the little four pot will return some pretty excellent fuel economy, even with the six-speed automatic. But, if you are looking for an experience pleasing to the ear, get a 6- or 8-cylinder engine.

Drive
I drove the Mustang the week following the Charger, and while I called the Dodge a “four-door pony car,” the two cars are definitely not in the same league.

For starters, the Mustang still sports a stiff ride, even with its new-fangled independent rear suspension. Handling might be improved, but the convertible still communicates a fair amount of chassis flex. With the top up, the Mustang isn’t even close to quiet; in truth, it even seemed quieter with the top down. It’s still a Mustang, foibles and all.

If the V6, automatic, convertible Mustang is the Cheerleader Edition of the Ford’s pony car, this EcoBoost-powered version is for the cheerleader that munches on Adderall from a Pez dispenser. It’s high-strung when pushed, but relaxed when it needs to be. The only time it sounds good is when you can’t hear it. And, to top it all off, this car is nearly $50,000. That’s fifty grand for a four cylinder.

Get the six. Save your money. Invest in the improved auditory experience for yourself and others. Turbocharging is not the answer — at least in this case.

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Union Talks Set to Start on Monday, Will Focus on Raises http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/union-talks-set-start-monday-will-focus-raises/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/union-talks-set-start-monday-will-focus-raises/#comments Sat, 11 Jul 2015 15:30:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113441 The newest round of negotiations between the Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers will focus on narrowing the gap between veteran workers and “second-tier” workers hired after 2011, Reuters is reporting. Talks between the UAW, which represents around 138,000 workers, and Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors will begin Monday. The UAW’s contract […]

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UAW Wages

The newest round of negotiations between the Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers will focus on narrowing the gap between veteran workers and “second-tier” workers hired after 2011, Reuters is reporting.

Talks between the UAW, which represents around 138,000 workers, and Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors will begin Monday. The UAW’s contract with GM ends Sept. 14.

Union President Dennis Williams said he wanted to focus on narrowing the gap between veteran workers, who make on average $28 an hour, and workers hired post-recession, who make on average $16 to $19 an hour, according to the story.

The raises would be significant for more than 39,000 workers who were hired after the recession on the “second-tier” system. More than 40 percent of FCA’s union workforce was hired at second-tier rates of $15.78 to $19.28 per hour, compared to 28 and 20 percent for Ford and GM respectively.

Falling labor costs have helped the Big Three stay competitive with other automakers, Sean McAlinden, chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research told Reuters. However, rising profits and sales have prompted Williams to call for the automakers’ to share profits with workers.

In an interview in February, Williams told Reuters that the union’s workers need the automakers to remain competitive in the long-term for his membership.

“We’re … mature organizations that have been through a hell of a lot together to survive,” Williams said. “None of us want to blow it.”

On Thursday, Ford announced it was ending production of the Focus and C-Max at its Wayne, Michigan plant by 2018.

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Ford Will Stop Michigan C-Max, Focus Production in 2018 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-will-stop-michigan-c-max-focus-production-2018/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-will-stop-michigan-c-max-focus-production-2018/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 20:05:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112353 Ford will stop building the C-Max and Focus at its Wayne, Michigan plant in 2018, Automotive News is reporting. Moving the production of the compact cars could signal a coming slowdown in small car sales, or a shift in strategy for the global automaker. UAW officials say they’re confident the C-Max and Focus will be replaced […]

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Ford will stop building the C-Max and Focus at its Wayne, Michigan plant in 2018, Automotive News is reporting.

Moving the production of the compact cars could signal a coming slowdown in small car sales, or a shift in strategy for the global automaker. UAW officials say they’re confident the C-Max and Focus will be replaced with a different product at the plant.

The automaker recently removed a third shift at the Wayne, Michigan plant and said they were cutting about 700 jobs at the plant.

“We actively are pursuing future vehicle alternatives to produce at Michigan Assembly,” Ford said in a statement, “and will discuss this issue with UAW leadership as part of the upcoming negotiations.”

Negotiations with the UAW begin July 23, according to Automotive News.

The Focus and C-Max are due for redesigns within 3 years. Sales for the C-Max have slumped this year.

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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:

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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.

054

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.

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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.

trunk1

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.

Wooten 019 (Custom)

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.

Wooten 020 (Custom)

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.

Wooten 054 (Custom)

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.

Wooten 055 (Custom)

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]

Wooten 057 (Custom)

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.

Wooten 051 (Custom)

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.

Wooten 058 (Custom)

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.

The post Rental Review: 2015 Ford Taurus Limited appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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