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. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:30:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/ford/ Ford C-Max Sales Decline Post-Fuel Economy Revision http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ford-c-max-sales-decline-post-fuel-economy-revision/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ford-c-max-sales-decline-post-fuel-economy-revision/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:30:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808546 Ford_C-Max

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

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

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

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

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Rental Grinders Of The Road: First Place http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-first-place/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-first-place/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 16:55:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=805434 jgcglass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rental Grinders Of The Road: Second Place http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-second-place/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-second-place/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 20:13:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804954 cheroedge

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

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

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

Second Place: Ford Edge SEL V6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beijing 2014: Production-Ready Ford Escort To Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-production-ready-ford-escort-to-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-production-ready-ford-escort-to-debut/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:30:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804042 000-ford-escort-concept-shanghai

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

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

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

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New York 2014: 2015 Ford Focus Sedan Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-ford-focus-sedan-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-ford-focus-sedan-unveiled/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:34:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800058 2015-Ford-Focus-02

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

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

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

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

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Future Ford Explorers, Expeditions Could Wear All-Aluminium Bodies http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/future-ford-explorers-expeditions-could-wear-all-aluminium-bodies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/future-ford-explorers-expeditions-could-wear-all-aluminium-bodies/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 12:36:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793281 Explorer Sport rear quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh

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

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

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

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

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Ford Cuts 950 Jobs In Russia Due To Weakening Ruble, Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ford-cuts-950-jobs-in-russia-due-to-weakening-ruble-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ford-cuts-950-jobs-in-russia-due-to-weakening-ruble-demand/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:21:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=786689 Ford-Sollers-Vsevolozhsk-plant

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

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

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

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

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Ford: Gettelfinger Should Be Credited For Saving Company http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-gettelfinger-should-be-credited-for-saving-company/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-gettelfinger-should-be-credited-for-saving-company/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 12:45:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782865 King + Gettlefinger - Ford + Mullaly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ford Medium-Duty Truck Production Moving To Ohio In 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-medium-duty-truck-production-moving-to-ohio-in-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-medium-duty-truck-production-moving-to-ohio-in-2015/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:30:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=768738 2015 Ford F-650

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Ford Super Duty Best In Class In Torque, Towing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-ford-super-duty-best-in-class-in-torque-towing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-ford-super-duty-best-in-class-in-torque-towing/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:10:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766265 2015-Ford-F-450-Super-Duty-front-three-quarters

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

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

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

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Booming Van Sales Driven By Small Business http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/booming-van-sales-driven-by-small-business/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/booming-van-sales-driven-by-small-business/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:25:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=757265 Florist Vans

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

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

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

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

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Ford Seeks $12 Billion Credit Line Expansion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-seeks-12-billion-credit-line-expansion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-seeks-12-billion-credit-line-expansion/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756281 Ford Glass House

In anticipation of heavy spending this year and beyond, Ford is seeking a line of credit expansion totaling $12 billion.

Bloomberg reports the line of credit will consist of a $9 billion revolving loan for a term of five years — which can be borrowed again once repaid — augmented by a $3 billion financing pact set to expire within three years of issuance. The Blue Oval may pay 1.5 percentage points for the line expansion, which is more than the three-month LIBOR rate on both items meant to replace a $10.7 billion credit line expiring in 2017.

Funding for the line is being led by JPMorgan Chase, helping to drive the heavy spending Ford anticipates this year as more new models — such as the new Mustang and F-150 — roll off the assembly line.

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Ford Unveils 2015 Focus, 1-Liter 3-Pot Manual-Only For U.S. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-unveils-2015-focus-1-liter-3-pot-manual-only-for-u-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-unveils-2015-focus-1-liter-3-pot-manual-only-for-u-s/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752497 focus-leak24-1

Ahead of its world debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain prior to making the rounds at the Geneva and New York auto shows next month, Ford has unveiled its redesigned 2015 Focus.

The Detroit Free Press reports the updated Focus, set to enter showrooms in Europe and the United States this fall with assembly in South America and Asia following soon after, takes its looks from its Fusion stablemate with a new grill, while a higher hood line, lower stance, new lighting elements and a restyled trunk lid for the sedan complete the package.

Underneath the hood, the 1.0L EcoBoost three-cylinder from the Fiesta will find a home in the Focus. Like the Fiesta, the engine will only be paired with a six-speed manual for the U.S. market; other markets will receive an automatic option, as well as the station wagon above. Though Ford hasn’t released mileage figures, the pairing is expected to deliver above the 40 mpg highway rating held by the current model.

Inside, the driver will have greater access to their car’s electronic communications with the Blue Oval’s SYNC AppLink system, allowing iOS and Android users to download and use more than 60 related apps to access everything from real-time vehicle data to hands-free notifications when a phone is connected. In addition, lane-keeping and blind-spot warning systems will be standard.

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Ford Leaves Microsoft For BlackBerry In Future SYNC Updates http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-leaves-microsoft-for-blackberry-in-future-sync-updates/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-leaves-microsoft-for-blackberry-in-future-sync-updates/#comments Sun, 23 Feb 2014 07:24:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752273

As automakers seek out technology partners for their on-board electronic devices, Ford is leaving Microsoft by the side of the road for a variant of BlackBerry’s QNX-based operating system in future updates to the Blue Oval’s long-suffering SYNC/MyFord Touch infotainment systems.

Road & Track and The Detroit News report the move would bring them in-line with Hyundai, Kia, BMW and Audi, all of whom already use the real-time embedded OS in a wide range of systems beyond infotainment, including driver assistance and active noise control. Chrysler’s UConnect System also uses QNX on its 8.4″ system, and is widely praised for its excellent user experience.

Though BlackBerry, QNX and Ford remain mum on the subject, Ford spokeswoman Susannah Wesley said the automaker would continue to work with Microsoft in spite of the impending move:

Ford works with a variety of partners and suppliers to develop and continuously improve our in-car connectivity systems for customers. We do not discuss details of our work with others for competitive reasons. We are absolutely committed to leading and innovating the smart technologies and in-vehicle connectivity that our customers want and value.

The Blue Oval’s infotainment systems have experienced the lash from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates as of late due to poor user experience, which also prompted the automaker to replace more of the systems’ touchscreen controls with physical in-car controls.

No word on when the QNX-powered systems will make their debut, though Ford made no mention of Microsoft or QNX during introductions of the 2015 F-150 and Mustang, nor was Microsoft brought up during the automaker’s 2014 CES appearances.

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Farley: Ford’s Global Growth Driven By Crossovers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/farley-fords-global-growth-driven-by-crossovers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/farley-fords-global-growth-driven-by-crossovers/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 12:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=741409 2015-ford-edge-concept-live-08

Though the F-150 rules over Truck Mountain and North America with an aluminium fist, Ford marketing boss Jim Farley told reporters in a meeting that crossovers are driving his employer’s sales growth all over the globe.

Automotive News reports Ford’s shifting focus to crossovers is thanks in part to the popularity among the automaker’s global audience for the particular body style, as Farley notes:

“Most people think the F series drove our top line unit growth. The No. 1 vehicle was the Escape/Kuga. No. 2 was EcoSport. Together they had about half-million-unit growth for us. The F series was a distant third.”

Farley expects global crossover sales to reach 20 million units by 2018, with 90 percent of the sales — led by the massive hit EcoSport — to be gained outside of the North American market. The aforementioned EcoSport was developed for Brazil, only to see sales jump 220 percent in 2013 upon launch in Europe, India and China.

Speaking of China, the nation is the biggest driver of the global growth now being experienced by Ford, where not only are subcompact crossovers are doing well as are exported North American mainstays Edge and Explorer. The Blue Oval aims to continue the trend when Lincoln’s MKC luxury compact crossover takes the global stage in June against the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Land Rover Evoque.

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New F-150 Prompts Aluminium Run By Competitors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/new-f-150-prompts-aluminium-run-by-competitors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/new-f-150-prompts-aluminium-run-by-competitors/#comments Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=740865 ford f-150_r

As Ford’s newest F-150 dons an aluminium crown in place of steel, the usurpers waiting to take the throne of Truck Mountain are running to secure their own supplies of the lightweight metal.

The Detroit News reports that every automaker not named Ford has looked at the Blue Oval’s plans for aluminium use in order to meet CAFE standards with as little effort as possible, prompting a run to any supplier to help them with their ambitions.

One such manufacturer, Novelis Inc., has seen an increase of business as a result of the F-150′s battle plan, with head Tom Boney telling the newspaper how the run is affecting his business and that of his customers:

“There’s isn’t an automotive manufacturer that makes vehicles in North America that we’re not talking to. Our customers will be making announcements fairly regularly over the next six years that will transform the automobile industry.”

In the near term, Ford has most of the automotive-grade metal locked up for their new truck, which should give both automakers and suppliers enough time to see how Ford’s strategy plays out while also working on their own plans, tooling and production capacity.

Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery added that aluminium is the No. 2 material in automobile production, with North American producers aiming to double their use of the metal by 2025 at the same time CAFE standards hit a new peak of 54.5 mpg; Novelis expects usage to climb from 6 percent today to 25 percent by 2020.

Though Boney remained mum on specific vehicle programs waiting to use aluminium, he noted that more trucks will likely follow the F-150′s lead, as well as SUVs. Already, both GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles use the metal in the hoods and chassis components for their respective trucks, while Jaguar and Range Rover already sell aluminium-bodied vehicles.

Ultimately, though, he says that customers will come out on top of this new arms race among manufacturers:

“The automobile industry in Detroit is at its best when innovation is occurring at a rapid pace. That’s the period Ford has thrust us into in a big way”

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Ford Repair Shops to Undergo Mandatory Certification For Aluminium F-150s http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/ford-repair-shops-to-undergo-mandatory-certification-for-aluminium-f-150s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/ford-repair-shops-to-undergo-mandatory-certification-for-aluminium-f-150s/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 17:15:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725842 2015-ford-f-150

Own a Ford dealership with a repair shop? Should your mechanics and body repair crew desire to the ability to repair the new aluminium F-150, then prepare to seek certification with a substantial price tag.

At a National Automobile Dealers Association meeting this weekend, the Blue Oval announced a certification program for Ford dealers with repair shops in order to be able to work on the new F-150s. The program — which includes tooling upgrades alongside training — will range between $30,000 and $50,000, though Ford will pitch in with $10,000 for each dealership’s shop upgrade and certification.

The move goes against an earlier statement made by the automaker, which did not require dealer-owned repair facilities to be certified to work on the aluminum-bodied truck. However, the certification is in line with requirements from German automakers whose lineups include vehicles heavily utilizing the metal.

Dealers who opt for certification claim that by doing so, they would have exclusivity — and more business — around F-150 repairs such as the ones that might be required by the new F-150. Ford also hopes the strategy pays off for their dealer network’s shops, as 80 percent of repair work performed on their offerings are done by independent repair shops.

Ford also outlined its strategy for making the vehicle easier to repair, with the trucks being built in a modular fashion that allows for a cheaper, easier method of replacing damaged components. Aside from ease of repair, Ford also aimed at keeping insurance premiums in line with the current truck, so as not to ward off buyers who feared excessive insurance costs.

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Review: 2014 Ford Focus ST (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-focus-st-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-focus-st-with-video/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691530 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior

Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result is the polar opposite of a pony car.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

For 2014, the American hot hatch shopper is spoiled for choice. There are a whopping two options: the 2014 Ford Focus ST and the 2014 Volkswagen GTI. If you’re patient enough, VW plans on releasing a new GTI for the 2015 model year and the Mazda rumor mill is rife with 2015 Mazdaspeed3 assumptions. I must therefore rule the Focus ST the most attractive hot hatch in America and put the comparatively boring GTI in last place, or second. However you want to look at it. For performance duty Ford takes the already handsome Focus, lowers it by nearly half an inch and swaps in some new wheels, a front bumper, tweaked spoiler, rear valance and exhaust tips. If you haven’t noticed by now, there is no sedan variant of the Focus ST. Sorry America.

Although the parts list is short, I found the transformation impressive. I haven’t warmed to the Euro nose that the current generation Focus wears while the ST’s more conventional single grille look manages to be both more grown up and more aggressive when compared to the donor car. (Don’t worry, you can get your Focus in colors other than “Tangerine Scream”.) The ST shares hoods with the lesser Focuses (Foci?) there is an oddly large gap between the hood and front bumper that is so uniform (and is on every ST model I have seen) that it must be intentional, however distracting. The reason is that the regular model’s hood doesn’t mate directly with anything as it is styled to be the upper part of the front grille. I have a feeling that if and when the Mazdaspeed3 lands, it will take the crown as I find the Mazda3 the most attractive entry in the compact hatchback segment.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-005

Interior

Like the Volkswagen GTI, the first thing you will notice about the Focus when you hop inside will be the very European color palate. In other words, black. The soft injection moulded dashboard combines with the black headliner, black carpets and predominantly black upholstery to create a very Germanic interior. All Focus models sport a double-bump style dashboard with the infotainment positioned in a prominent position and the ST trim tops off the binnacle with standard gauges for oil temperature, oil pressure and turbo boost.  This is the same cabin that European shoppers get with one exception: the Recaro seats aren’t standard on our side of the pond. Neither is that 8-inch touchscreen.

Although the ST starts at $23,625 my realistic base price jumps to $25,845 by adding the “ST2″ package which I consider essential. This package adds the 8-inch screen, automatic climate control and the Recaro seats that you see in all the photos and reviews of the Focus ST. The base seats lack the aggressive bolstering or the exceptional comfort of the half-leather Recaro thrones. ST2 shoppers can opt for two-tone seats (as seen in our tester) in blue, yellow or black-on-black. Checking the ST3 box brings the ST up to $28,000 and adds completely leather faced seats (black only), seat heaters, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and standard navigation software.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-004

During my week with the ST I put over 1,100 miles on the Tangerine Scream including a 650 mile road trip. The Recaro thrones proved to be supportive, comfortable and superior to the GTI’s seats for long road trips. Unfortunately the rear passengers weren’t as happy since the Focus has a fairly cramped rear seat. Adding the Recaro seats to the Focus seems to drop the rear seat room by a hair as well making the Focus a great deal tighter than the GTI despite the Focus being the longer car by six inches. Where do those inches go? Some of them are consumed by the Ford’s longer nose, but plenty can be found in the ST’s 50% larger cargo hold.

Since I mentioned the Mustang earlier, that tight rear seat is one of the main reasons you’d select a Focus ST over a V6 ‘Stang. Despite being smaller than a GTI, the ST offers two extra doors, three more inches of leg room and a 5th seat belt. In addition to the added passenger room the Focus also boasts 10 more cubic feet of widget storage in the back.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-002

Infotainment

Base ST shoppers get basic entertainment to go with their basic seating. All STs come standard with a 6-speaker audio system sporting a 4.2-inch color LCD, SYNC voice commands and a sea of buttons. The unit is housed in the same binnacle as the 8-inch system so there’s plenty of blank space to remind you that you didn’t pony up for the MyFord Touch system. The ST3 package that is my realistic base for the ST solves this by removing the button bank and inserting the screen you see above. Bundled with the resistive touchscreen is an upgraded 10-speaker Sony speaker system with a subwoofer and a center channel. Sound quality in the 6-speaker system was disappointing while the Sony system impressed. One thing to know if that the Sony system tends to have exaggerated treble and bass tuning by default but it is adjustable.

This is about the time when I usually comment on MyFord Touch being somewhat sluggish and suggest that the competition has an acceptable alternative. The alternative however is Volkswagen’s ancient infotainment lineup. All GTIs share the same 8-speaker sound system that slots between Ford’s base and up-level system in both speaker count and sound quality but everything else pales in comparison. The GTI has no SYNC-like voice command system in any model and the base GTI doesn’t even get a color LCD in the cabin. The Driver’s Edition GTI gets VW’s low-cost navigation unit which, when compared to MyFord Touch, is like taking a Palm Pilot to an iPad fight. Hopefully VW will up their game for 2015, but more than likely Ford’s only real infotainment competition will come from Mazda’s slick MazdaConnect system.

2014 Ford Focus ST Engine-002

Drivetrain

The last Focus ST was powered by Volvo, a logical choice since Volvo’s S40 and Ford’s Focus were cousins to begin with. This generation Focus is 100% Ford. Instead of the oddly-alluring 2.5L five-cylinder, we get a 252 horsepower tune of Ford’s 2.0L EcoBoost engine cranking out 270 lb-ft of torque. (There is a bit of confusion on the HP numbers, in the video I mention Ford’s initial numbers of 247 HP and 266 lb-ft which was later updated to 252/270. Apparently running 87 octane gasoline in your ST will yield 247 while 93 will get you 252.) This is the same four-cylinder turbo used in the Ford Edge and Taurus except that the boost has been cranked up and it is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. (As far as we can tell this is no longer the Volvo M66 transmission manufactured by Getrag.)

Drive

Compared to the VW, the Focus is 52 ponies more powerful and serves up 63 more lb-ft while the Mustang V6 beats the Focus by 48 horsepower and 10 lb-ft. As you would assume with numbers like that, the Mustang is faster t0 60, but thanks to the turbocharger on the Focus the difference in our testing was just 1/10th of a second and is more down to driver skill and traction than vehicle output. The VW on the other hand can’t makeup for the power deficit by being 100lbs lighter and was 3/10ths slower.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-006

The big difference between a Mustang and a hot hatch is of course which wheels are getting the power. Because the ST funnels all its power through the front wheels, torque steer is a genuine concern. Rather than limit engine power in 1st and 2nd like Mazda did with the old Mazdaspeed3, or use a limited slip differential like Honda uses on occasion, Ford decided to program the electric power steering to compensate. Coupled with the EPAS system is a stability control system programmed to torque vector power across the front using the car’s large front brakes. The system works passably well but not as well as the Ford’s “Revo Kunckle” which they use on their larger cars. Due mostly to the greater output, torque steer in the ST is more pronounced than in the GTI, but much less noticeable than in the old Mazda. I’ve always found mild torque steer in a fast front-driver an entertaining phenomenon so it never bothered me.

Helping the steering tendencies is a variable ratio steering rack that uses a quick 1.8 turns lock to lock vs 2.1 in the GTI, 2.8 in the standard Focus and 3.1 in the V6 ‘Stang. Thanks to the ratio the ST feels very nimble and eager to change direction. Unless you need to U-turn of course which is when you will discover that this tiny hatch has a nearly 40-foot turning radius.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-009

Thanks to a light 3,200 pound curb weight (100lbs heavier than the VW but 300lbs lighter than a V6 Mustang), 235-width Eagle F1 Asymmetric tires and a well tuned suspension, the Focus ST sticks to the road like glue. TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad to confirm or deny the Mustang trouncing Gs the plucky hatch can pull, but after a week making passengers sick on winging mountain roads I’m a believer. What makes the Focus more impressive is how neutral the car feels despite being a front-heavy front-driver. It’s more lively, less civilized but more rewarding to drive than the GTI. The V6 ‘Stang does give you rear-wheel- drive dynamics and more shove in a straight line, but I’d be willing to bet I’d be faster around a track in the Focus ST.

What surprised me about the Focus the most however was how livable it is. The suspension is firm but never harsh and my spine didn’t revolt on a 5 hour drive to Los Angeles. Cabin noise was high at 76 dB but that’s not far from the last Golf I measured and average for the economy car segment. Thanks to an active noise generator that opens a valve to pipe sound into the cabin from when at full throttle, normal driving happens without the incessant droning of a Fiat Abarth. While the Tangerine Scream paint job and yellow trimmed seats scream “boy racer”, the truth is the Focus is quite the grown up. With a starting price some $1,300 less than a GTI the Focus delivers a solid value proposition. Fully loaded the difference narrows to less than a grand in cash but more than $3,000 when you factor in the Ford’s greater feature content. While I’m sure that 2015 will bring a VW GTI with more refinement and an improved interior, VW has confirmed the ST will still be the horsepower champion and likely the value leader as well. Compared to that RWD Ford on the lot, the pony car is less expensive but less practical as well. For the cost difference between the Mustang and the ST, you could buy all manner of performance mods for your pony to compete with the ST, but I have a feeling I’d still buy the Focus. For 2014 Ford’s hot hatch is without a doubt the hottest hatch on sale in America, but with Volkswagen planning on sending their 290HP Golf R to the USA and Ford’s own high-power Focus RS rumored, things are just starting to warm up.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3

0-60: 5.95

1/4 Mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 98.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 25.7 MPG over 1210 Miles

Sound Level at 50 MPH: 76.4 dB

 

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New Face of 2015 Ford Focus Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-face-of-2015-ford-focus-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-face-of-2015-ford-focus-revealed/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 15:07:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=693449 2015 Ford Focus

Three years ago, Ford unveiled the third-generation Focus to the excitement of American enthusiasts who thought the second-generation model lacked “zazz,” to say the least. Come 2015, the Focus will have a new face, and that’s only the beginning.

Debuting at the Geneva Auto Show in March, the 2015 Focus not only has a new, more Aston-Martinesque mouth — bringing it in line with the Fiesta and Fusion — but also a reshaped hood, front spoiler, and rear bumper. Inside, the “mobile phone”-inspired morass of buttons on the current model will soon be replaced by a more sensible, conventional layout featuring updated climate controls.

For the big gun of the collection, the Focus ST is expected to have more aggressive bodywork than the rest of the Focus lineup, along with improvements to the suspension and steering for sharper handling.

Under the hood, however, engine options will be carried-over into the 2015 model year, ranging from the 1-liter EcoBoost pumping out a minimum of 98 horsepower at the low-end, to the 247-horsepower 2-liter monster under the ST. Russian, Chinese and Brazilian markets will see 1.5-liter gasoline and diesel compliance engines as part of their engine choices.

Green enthusiasts will be pleased to know that plug-in variant (in the vein of the C-Max Energi) is in the offing; thus, expect a similar total output of 192 horsepower from its combined electric/gasoline power with 20 miles of electric-only travel. The all-electric Focus will still be available, as well.

The price of admission should more or less hold for 2015, so expect to pay anywhere from around $17,000 to $35,000 depending on model of choice

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Rental Review: 2013 Ford Escape SE Ecoboost FWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/rental-review-2013-ford-escape-se-ecoboost-fwd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/rental-review-2013-ford-escape-se-ecoboost-fwd/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=689986 intercoastal

Jewish custom dictates that at 13 years of age, males are called to read from the torah scroll as part of a Bar Mitzvah, a rite of passage signifying the transition to manhood. Having served at TTAC for nearly three years, under thee different EICs, I’d yet to partake in the TTAC equivalent of a Bar Mitzvah, which involves reviewing a rental car. This past October marked my 25th birthday, which in the rental car world signifies the transition into responsible adulthood in the eyes of their insurance underwriter, and the transition into an off-the-reservation degenerate in the eyes of PR people and fleet manager. With no press cars available during a last minute trip to Florida, Jack decided that it was time for me to be called to TTAC’s torah. I would be reading from the Book of Ecoboost, Chapter 1.6.

siderear

While both Jack and Bark M provided discount codes for other major rental companies, the best deal came via Avis, which had a promotion with Air Canada’s Aeroplan frequent flyer program. While Avis was about 25 percent less on average, the “Small SUV” class was inexplicably the cheapest, at about $18 per day. For the two-week duration of my trip, the total cost was $254, excluding taxes and various confiscatory fees. A “subcompact” like a Nissan Versa or Hyundai Accent was $80 more for the same duration, and with my mother, father and brother traveling with me, the SUV was a no-brainer.

At the rental counter, I was offered a choice of a Chevrolet Captiva, a Kia Sportage, a Traverse for an extra $17 dollars per day, or an Equinox for another $7 per day. I felt like asking the attendant if she could “try harder” to find something else, and lo and behold, a new Escape materialized. I took it, hoping that I’d get a real stripped out 2.5L powered S trim level, the kind that would never be put into the press fleet.

Imagine my surprise when I was assigned an SE model, sans MyFord Touch or a sunroof, with a 1.6L Ecoboost. Even more shocking was the strong presence of a number of SEL and 2.0L Titanium models. With nearly 24,000 miles on it, this Escape appeared to have held up well, though it looked like it hadn’t been washed or cleaned since it was delivered to Avis. A number of early Escapes were sent to fleets after being damaged in a hailstorm (and repaired) but the build date on this car is too new to be from that batch. Ford seems to be keeping the poverty-spec cars for security guard patrol vehicles and other fleets. Not that this car was what we’d call “premium”. This SE lacked things like a power liftgate, MyFord Touch, rear parking sensors, which come in the Convenience Package, which costs an extra $1,395, and is the kind of option package that you’d find on most Escapes at your local Ford lot.

TTAC is fond of ripping on MyFord Touch as being the devil’s own spawn, but I found the basic SYNC system and the tiny LCD screen to be absolutely infuriating after a mere 24 hours. Neither my iPhone 4s (that I use when traveling) nor my iPhone5s would successfully pair, and the music integration was slower and more cumbersome than any MFT system I’ve ever encountered. By the end, I had given up, and resored to using a 3.5mm auxiliary cable with my brother operating the music.

trunkfull

SYNC aside, the rather pedestrian trim level did little to deter my enthusiasm for the Escape – or that of the rest of my family, who normally drive a fully loaded Volvo XC60 T6. Our flight originated out of Buffalo, New York, and the XC60 struggled to hold our four large suitcases. The Escape had no trouble swallowing them up, with room for our backpacks and computer bags as well (these tend to go on the rear middle seat in the Volvo). My parents and brother remarked that they had much more room in the back of the Escape, but that the rear seats themselves were much flatter and harder. Pitting them against the Volvo’s rear bench is a tough comparison, but the Escape’s rear seats are especially upright and stiff, like some kind of orthopedic back brace.

Whoever occupies the front seat is in for a treat. On the Cherokee launch, I was very impressed with the driving dynamics of the Escape 2.0T Titanium, calling it a “jacked-up Focus ST”. The 1.6 SE didn’t have the same forward thrust, but the heavy, accurate steering, quick turn-in and nimble chassis were still there. The 1.6L Ecoboost felt like it was just the right amount of power, and there were even hints of torque steering in the lower gears. In Sport mode, the transmission is eager to shift, compared to the sluggish, fuel-economy centric programming when left in Drive. But even that didn’t stop the Escape from returning some truly poor mileage.

mpg1

During the portion of my trip where I put the drivetrain through its paces, the Escape delivered an astonishing 11 mpg. The best figure I ever got was 34 mpg on a trip back from Kendall towards Miami, with highway driving staying consistently around 30 mpg. In town driving, with the throttle gingerly applied, stayed in the high teens, with 21 mpg returning as the average observed fuel economy figure at the end of my trip. Figures like that make “Ecoboost” seem like a misnomer – though the Fiesta ST, with the same basic mill, returned 26 mpg overall, under extreme duress via an overactive right foot. The “boost” part of the equation is there with the new Ford F/I mills, but the “Eco” needs work.

mpg

Having driven pretty much everything in the small crossover segment, the Escape is still tops in my books, even over the vaunted Mazda CX-5. What is sacrifices in outright driving fun (and really, it’s not that much), it makes up for in refinement. On my Avis Preferred profile, I’ve set my default vehicle choice to the Escape (though I’ll be sure to try other selections in future rental reviews). In terms of cargo and passenger space, it held as much as a full-size sedan while keeping me suitably entertained behind the wheel. But that’s not to say I’d recommend one to someone who needed a crossover as a family car or commuting appliance.

I’m willing to sacrifice poor gas mileage (Escape EB) or a bit of wind noise (CX-5) in exchange for better driving dynamics.  The kind of person who needs to ask for car advice is not interested in that kind of trade-off – and would be better served by a CR-V. It may be “boring” or “beige” to us, but that’s exactly what a mass market car should be – devoid of interesting idiosyncrasies, able to do its job competently every single time without making the user aware of its operation. Good luck finding one at a rental counter though.

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Ford Goes Solar For 2014 CES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/ford-goes-solar-for-2014-ces/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/ford-goes-solar-for-2014-ces/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 22:32:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=692258 C-MAXSolarEnergi_01_HR

Potential owners of plug-in hybrids seeking for a way to recharge their green machine without the need for an outlet may soon rely upon the sun for power, all thanks to Ford’s debut of their C-Max Solar Energi Concept at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday.

The C-Max Solar Energi Concept can be plugged into a power source when convenient, but for times when outlets aren’t readily available, an off-vehicle concentrator utilizing a Fresnel lens (usually found in lighthouses) aids in drawing in and magnifying the power of the sun upon the concept’s roof-mounted solar panels. According to Ford, the power collected could be enough to cover 75 percent of any trips the owner may take, each day providing the equivalent of four hours’ worth of charging.

As far as performance is concerned, the Solar Energi is on par with the C-Max Energi currently in showrooms, which pulls in the equivalent of 108 MPGe in the city/92 MPGe on the highway. Fully charged, the concept is expected to share its sister’s range of 620 miles, 21 miles electric-only.

The project is a collaboration between the Blue Oval, San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, all three of whom will begin real-world testing to determine production feasibility after the annual electronics show.

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Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=683986 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior

For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a claustrophobic rattle-trap competing with “Geo Metro” for the title of Worst American Small Car. Personally, the only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, and it had more to do with tequila than cars. But that was four years ago and 214,000 Fiestas ago. Since then the Fiesta has proved that an American car company is capable of creating a desirable compact car. Is the party over, or is the car’s first refresh a sign that the party has just begun? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

After being on the market for just four years I hadn’t expected much for 2014 which makes me all the more impressed with the Fiesta’s transformation. Ford’s new “Astonesque” grille which debuted on the new Fusion turned the plain-Jane family hauler into one of the sexiest cars Ford has ever made, and Ford indicated the look was going to trickle down the lineup. I was worried. You see, when a new nose is penned for a new cars, and the existing line-up is modified to accept the new schnozz, you end up with something like the questionable looking Lexus GX 460. Fear not , Ford didn’t just paint on a their trapezoidal grille, they poked and prodded the hood and lamps as well until things looked right, and right they do. The launch photos looked impressive but the final product was even better in person.

It’s hard to avoid Aston Martin Cygnet references so I’ll just say it now: add some hood louvres and a leather dash and Ford’s compact would be more Aston than the iQ based Cygnet. Paired with the new nose, is a tweaked rear end featuring new tail lamps. The only downside in my mind is that the minor nip/tuck to the rear fails to bring the Fiesta’s rump up to the same level as the front. Park the Fiesta nose first in your driveway, and nobody will notice. But back it in, and passers-by are likely to be impressed. As before there is a considerable difference in dimensions between the sedan and the hatchback with the sedan being a whopping 13-inches longer. Thanks to that length, the sedan looks less like a caricature than it would otherwise.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006

Interior

Four years ago I praised the Fiesta’s interior as class leading in terms of materials choices and fit/finish. That largely remains true despite the Fiesta undercutting the Kia Rio in price. That’s not to say the Fiesta is a revolution, but compared to the hard plastics in the competition, the Fiesta looks and feels more premium. The injection molded dashboard, refreshed steering wheel and seats would not be out of place in the slightly larger compact car category. I found our tester’s black-on-black interior somewhat cold while the lighter interiors available on my local Ford lot were warmer, more attractive and showed off the optional ambient lighting better. (The upper half of dashboard is black on all models.) Helping the Fiesta’s new “premium compact” theme is ability to add real leather seats as opposed to the “leatherette” you find in all but the Kia Rio. Dominating the dashboard in our tester was Ford’s downsized MyFord Touch infotainment system, lower trim levels get a revised SYNC display nestled in a similar binnacle. As you’d expect with any car starting at $14,100, base “S” trim cars suffer severe de-contenting with manual windows, no dome lights, no ambient lighting, only one 12V outlet and no cruise control. This is an important distinction as the majority of the competition feel like upper trim levels are base models with do-dads added.

The front seats don’t offer much thigh or back support unless you opt for the sporty Fiesta ST with its Recaro thrones. Even the Titanium model lacks the range of motion, or support, you’ll find in most mid-sized sedans and power seats are not an option at any price. Even so, the Fiesta’s seats are among the more comfortable in the class. Finding an ideal driving position is easy thanks to a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Rear seat passengers encounter the same firm padding in the sedan or hatchback, and essentially the same amount of headroom with the sedan form factor taking only a 1/10th of an inch toll and ranking near top of the class. Sadly however, the Euro origins are clear when it comes to rear legroom. The Fiesta trails here, and not by a small amount. The Sonic and Rio offer three 3-inches more while the Versa Note is a whopping 7.1-inches more spacious. Likewise, cargo hauling ability of 12.8 cubes in the sedan and 15.4 in the hatchback are on the smaller end of the spectrum.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004

Infotainment

My major gripe about the 2011 Fiesta was a lack of infotainment love. The SYNC-only 2011-2013 models used a small red display in the center of the dashboard while Kia and Nissan were offering touchscreen navigation units. To address, Ford shrunk their 8-inch MyFord Touch system down to 6.5 inches and dropped the system in a new binnacle on the dash for SE and Titanium Fiestas. Because Ford reduced the system’s dimensions, not the resolution, the system’s graphics have a crisper and high-quality look to them when compared to the 8-inch system in the Focus. There are a few ergonomic downsides however. The screen’s high position on the dash means it’s quite far from the driver requiring a decent reach for most functions and it makes the screen look smaller than it actually is. Also, because the “buttons” have shrunk, it’s easier to stab the wrong one. Thankfully most system operations can be controlled via voice commands negating the need to touch the screen for the most part. Ford’s latest software update (3.6.2 in August 2013) seems to have finally fixed the crashing and random re-boots that plagued earlier versions of the software.

Some buyers won’t care about the 6.5-inch woes as the snazzy system is standard on the Titanium, a $995 option on the SE and not available on the base model. Those shoppers will be happy to know that the Fiesta delivers one of the better audio system values. S and SE models come with six standard speakers, two more than you usually find in a stripper sub-compact, while Titanium models swap in an 8-speaker Sony branded audio system. The base speaker package is notably more crisp and accurate than the four-speaker fare in the competition while the Sony audio system sounded almost too bright at times. Both the S and SE models share the same AM/FM/CD/USB/iDevice head unit with SYNC voice commands and smartphone streaming integration.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002

Drivetrain

The big news under the hood for 2014 is the arrival of a 3-cylinder turbo option. Sadly one was not available for testing, so keep your eyes peeled for that review later in 2014. All trims get a standard 1.6L four-cylinder engine producing the same 120 HP and 112 lb-ft as last year, meaning that three-banger is optional, yes optional, for 2014. Aside from the novelty of paying $995 to have one cylinder removed, the 1.0L Ecoboost engine promises 32 MPG in the city, 45 on the highway and 37 combined which is a 7 MPG bump on the highway and 5 in the combined cycle. If the fuel economy wasn’t enough to pique your interest, the 1.0L engine cranks out 123 HP and 125 lb-ft across a flat torque curve, with a 15 second overboost good for 145 lb-ft. Ford mates the boosted engine exclusively to a 5-speed manual while the 1.6 can be mated to an optional 6-speed dual-clutch box.

Ford’s 6-speed PowerShift gearbox has received plenty of criticism from owners and Consumer Report. After talking with a number of Fiesta owners I have come to the conclusion the problem is mainly a lack of understanding. You see, PowerShift is Ford-speak for DSG. While Volkswagen’s robotic dual-clutch manual is smoother under certain circumstances (thanks to their use of wet clutches) VW seems to do a better job marketing and explaining their fuel-sipping tranny. Inside the Fiesta’s gearbox lies essentially two robotically shifted manual transmissions, one handling the even gears and the other taking the odd ones. The lack of a torque converter increases efficiency, and the twin-clutch system allows shifts to happen faster than in an automatic. By their very nature, dual-clutch transmissions feel more like a hybrid between a manual and an automatic. When you start from a stop, you can feel the clutch slip and engage. If you’re on a hill, the car will roll backwards when the hill-hold system times out. Occasionally you can hear a bit more gear noise and shifting noise than in a traditional slushbox and reverse has that distinctive sound. Because the Ford system uses dry clutches, starts are more pronounced than in VW’s DSG units with wet clutches (not all DSGs are wet clutch anymore).  2014 brings a major software update that noticeably improves shift quality but there is still a difference in feel. My opinion is: I’ll take PowerShift over a standard automatic any day as I prefer fuel economy and rapid shifts to “smoothness.” What say you?

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002

Drive

Little was done to the Euro suspension for American duty, making the Fiesta the firmest ride in the segment, tying with the Mazda 2. The Honda Fit is a close second, but the Japanese compact is starting to show its age, feeling less refined and composed over rough pavement. The Versa Note feels composed but delivers more body roll, while the Rio’s suspension feels softer than I prefer while at the same time transmitting more road imperfections to the driver’s spine. Regardless of trim, the Fiesta handles incredibly well. This is due as much to the suspension as the light curb weight. Ranging from 2537lbs to 2628lbs, the Fiesta is a featherweight in America and it shows when you toss the Ford into corners, being far more willing to change direction than a Focus.

When it comes to straight line performance, the 6-speed PowerShift scooted our tester to 60 MPH in 9.08 seconds, a full second faster than the last manual-equipped Fiesta hatchback we tested. The reason for the variation is down to the gear ratios in the 5-speed manual. Ford combined low first and second gears with a tall fifth gear (taller than the Euro Fiesta) for better hill starts and improved EPA numbers but the decisions take a toll on performance and driveability. By dropping first and second, the delta between second and third grows to an odd gap that hampers acceleration after 50 MPH while the tall top gear means frequent downshifts on moderate inclines. Although I normally prefer a manual to any automatic, the Fiesta is one of my exceptions. The PowerShift box seemed to always have the right gear for the situation and made hill climbing a much less frustrating experience.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008

The Fiesta has always been small, but the Fiestas and Festivas of my youth were mainly known for being cheap. The new Fiesta however is all about value. Ford’s new pricing strategy is a mix of an aggressive $14,100 starting price for the sedan, a $500 premium for the hatchback and an options list that pushes most Fiestas on the lot to between $17,000 and $18,000. Fully loaded, (excluding the ST) the most expensive Fiesta you can get is $21,705. My realistic starting point for the Fiesta is the SE at $15,580 which includes all the essentials the S lacks.

When you compare that to the competition, the Fiesta starts only $110 more than a Versa Note and at the top end is just $855 more than a Rio. Nissan’s Note stacks up best at the bottom of the food chain, delivering more room, better fuel economy and a similar level of equipment for less. Putting things nicely, the Mazda 2 is outclassed by the Fiesta in every way at every level, while the Kia matches the Ford closely in terms of price for content. Although the Rio is the more spacious alternative and it offers a more powerful engine and 6-speed manual, the Fiesta is more attractive and more fun to drive. Chevy’s Sonic suffers from a bargain basement interior and a price tag that doesn’t offer much of a discount vs the Ford, even when you take into account some of the features Chevy offers that aren’t available on the Fiesta.

What the Fiesta does best of all however is wear that $21,705 price tag. No matter how you slice it, the Rio, Sonic and Fit feel like an economy car at the top end of their price range. The Fiesta Titanium however feels like a decent deal for the cash. Those shopping lower in the food chain benefit from a cabin that feels like a cheap version of a more expensive cabin, unlike the Versa Note SL which feels like an expensive version of a cheap car. Plenty of you will baulk at a Fiesta that lists over 21-grand when a base Fusion is just 2000 bucks more, but those looking for mid-size sedan comforts and luxuries in a compact carrying case will do well to drive a Fiesta.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.4 Seconds

0-60:9.08 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.9 Seconds @ 81.6 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPG over 561 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 72.5 db

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-003 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-004 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-005 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-006 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-007 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-009 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-010 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-003 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-005 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-007 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-008 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-009 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-010 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-011 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-012 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-013 ]]>
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Seventy Percent of Fords to Receive Stop-Start By 2017 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/seventy-percent-of-fords-to-receive-stop-start-by-2017/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/seventy-percent-of-fords-to-receive-stop-start-by-2017/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2013 13:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=681250 2014 Ford Fiesta

For those who are adverse to hybrids, EVs and the like, yet want to do their part to be green may be in luck: Ford plans to install their Auto Stop-Start fuel-economizing technology in 70 percent of their North American lineup by 2017.

The tech, already found in the 2014 Fiesta with its 45 mpg EcoBoost 1-liter I3, and the 2014 Fusion with its 1.5-liter variant, will allow drivers to add anywhere from 3.5 to 10 percent more fuel economy when faced with stop-and-go traffic.

Aside from helping the consumer save fuel, Ford’s expansion of Auto Stop-Start is due to costs; the tech is easy to implement, and barely makes a dent in the automaker’s bottom line. No word on when other vehicles, including the C-MAX and Expedition, will see their own version of the technology.

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Turbos, Diesels Rule Top 10 Engine List in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678850 Audi 3.0 TFSI Engine

‘Tis the season for year-end Top 10 lists celebrating and lamenting all things in the world of life, and the automotive industry is no exception. Ward’s Automotive has announced its list of the 10 best engines for 2014, and it’s a turbodiesel-intercooled festival of power this year.

The winners on the 20th anniversary of this list are as follows:

  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V6 (Audi S5)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I6 (BMW 535d)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC V6 (Ram 1500 EcoDiesel)
  • 83 kW Electric Motor (Fiat 500e)
  • 1.0L EcoBoost DOHC I3 (Ford Fiesta)
  • 2.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I4 (Chevrolet Cruze Diesel)
  • 6.2L OHV V8 (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray)
  • 3.5L SOHC V6 (Honda Accord)
  • 2.7L DOHC H6 boxer (Porsche Cayman)
  • 1.8L Turbocharged DOHC I4 (Volkswagen Jetta)

Of note, Ford’s three-pot EcoBoost marks the first time an automaker won a spot on the list with only three cylinders, while Fiat scores a first-time win with its 83 kW electric motor found in the 500e. On the other end, only two engines from last year’s list returned — Audi’s 3.0-liter TFSI and Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 — while six of the 10 are oil-burners, a first for Ward’s.

General Motors scored two wins this year for the first time since 2008 with the Cruze’s 2-liter turbodiesel I4 and the new Corvette Stingray’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. Among trucks, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the sole winner, based on the strength of its 3-liter turbodiesel stump-puller.

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Kelley Blue Book: Ford F-Series Dominates America In State By State Breakdown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/kelley-blue-book-ford-f-series-dominates-america-in-state-by-state-breakdown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/kelley-blue-book-ford-f-series-dominates-america-in-state-by-state-breakdown/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 13:19:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=668658 2014 Ford Super Duty

Business Insider wanted to know the buying habits of Americans when it comes to cars. Thus, they asked Kelley Blue Book to present their findings from data gathered between January and August 2013, as well as the lowest price for each top model sold in New York City in November of this year.

The result? Thirty-five states, from the Bakken in North Dakota to the super patriots of New Hampshire, love the Ford F-Series. Perhaps Ford’s truck division strategy is truly paying off after all?

As for the other 15 states and our nation’s capital, California opts for the Honda Civic, Michigan adores the Ford Fusion, and DC’s Beltway is adorned in Toyota Corollas. The rest of the story is in the map below.

Top Selling Cars in 2013 Map

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