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, 27 Aug 2015 22:00:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 Piston Slap: At What Rate, the Falcon’s Restomod Wings? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-rate-falcons-restomod-wings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-rate-falcons-restomod-wings/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151185   Stephen writes: Sajeev, I drive a ’65 Falcon convertible with the 289 and a T-5, hydraulic clutch, and 4-wheel discs just like it came from the factory. (Wink – SM) I replaced all of the rubber in the front suspension about 15 years ago and it’s past time to do it again. I’m up […]

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Wendy 473

Envious. (photo courtesy: OP)

Stephen writes:

Sajeev,

I drive a ’65 Falcon convertible with the 289 and a T-5, hydraulic clutch, and 4-wheel discs just like it came from the factory. (Wink – SM)

I replaced all of the rubber in the front suspension about 15 years ago and it’s past time to do it again. I’m up in the air between sticking with factory stuff or upgrading to some of the aftermarket Mustang stuff (i.e tubular A and control arms). While the aftermarket stuff is significantly improved over stock, I actually drive the car; earlier this summer I did a road trip from Denver to Bozeman, MT via Yellowstone, a total of about 1800 miles. I can go to any auto parts store and get replacement parts, while I could wait for TCI, etc to FedEx me something.

Second question. I still have the 4bbl carb on it for the same reason. Do any of the aftermarket fuel injection system use mainly OEM parts (i.e injectors, fuel pump)? I did get between 23-28 mpg on the Bozeman trip.

Sajeev answers:

First we discuss:

  1. How that Falcon is disturbingly awesome.
  2. How restomods are usually done wrong, except here.
  3. How beautiful your part of the country is.

Ahem! So, about the suspension upgrades: look at the bushings. Bushing size (diameter, thickness) and composition (rubber, polyurethane) have an impact on ride quality and NVH control.

My experience with aftermarket suspensions on old Fords is personal: take this restomod Mercury Cyclone seen in Hemmings. The stance is sinister and it’s a blast to drive in the twisties, but the aftermarket (Mustang II style) control arms with teeny-tiny, non-rubber bushings are tough on Houston roads. It’s a bad-ass persona ideal for most restomodders, and I respect that. But, if I was in charge of this project, I’d ditch the kit’s control arms for factory Mustang II control arms with big, juicy, plump and delicious rubber bushings. A regression-mod restoration, perhaps? 

Granted your roads are a far cry from mine, but I wouldn’t add an NVH-averse suspension on a droptop Falcon without chassis stiffeners like subframe connectors. I’d add those connectors no matter what! Since you can (?) grab parts designed for the 1964 Mustang, I’d recommend the stock (rebuilt) suspension with the best shocks and springs you can find.

And what about EFI conversions? Many reputable setups use GM sensors attached to custom wiring harnesses, so don’t sweat that. In the spirit of your T-5 swap, add EEC-IV from a 5-liter Mustang, provided hood clearance is no different than ’60s Mustangs. Aside from the occasionally wonky TFI module, it’s a great swap: Fox Mustangs are losing their EFI systems for LSX-FTW swaps on a regular basis! You can pick up an entire EEC-IV setup (intake, fuel rails, wiring, sensors) for a couple hundred bucks!

Fuel pumps get dicey depending on the easiest fuel tank conversion. I’d put faith in expensive Aeromotive parts, but maybe these guys got the Falcon covered better. Often these assemblies use the same tube-shaped pump available at any parts store.

Your current mileage is impressive and proves that a well-tuned spread bore (?) carb runs nearly as efficient as EFI…provided it stays in tune. Swapping to EFI nets greater consistency in all driving conditions…if that’s what you really want.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Let’s Break Down The Ford Ranger and Bronco Rumors, Shall We? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/lets-break-ford-ranger-bronco-rumors-shall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/lets-break-ford-ranger-bronco-rumors-shall/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 19:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153297 News today that the Ford Ranger pickup and Bronco utility could return to the United States and Canada is being met by very enthusiastic ears, including yours truly. According to multiple outlets, the two vehicles could be built at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant, the same plant that will lose Focus and C-MAX production to Mexico in 2018. […]

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everestfront

News today that the Ford Ranger pickup and Bronco utility could return to the United States and Canada is being met by very enthusiastic ears, including yours truly.

According to multiple outlets, the two vehicles could be built at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant, the same plant that will lose Focus and C-MAX production to Mexico in 2018.

But, is everything as it seems? Let’s dive into the Ford product portfolio and try to make some sense of it.

First, the Ranger rumor: The global Ranger — dubbed T6, which just received a refresh for 2015 and will likely be due for a redesign for MY2019 — will make a return to the United States and Canada.

There has been some recent Ranger activity around Ford facilities in Michigan. However, the larger evidence at play to support the rumor is growing interest in smaller trucks.

Tacoma sales are up even though the next-generation truck hasn’t really started selling yet. The GM twins — Canyon and Colorado — are flying off lots as quickly as the General can build them. Why there’s an increased interest in the mid-size pickup segment is unclear; it could be that full-size pickups have just grown too big for a decent segment of the truck-buying public, that people again see mid-size trucks as alternatives to the seemingly dead, truck-based SUV segment (see: Xterra), or increased competition and marketing is making mid-size trucks more visible to consumers.

The fact the Wayne, Michigan facility needs product is another strong support for the rumor. The previous plant to build the Ranger has been shut down, so it can’t go there.

I have professed some “Charger Love” as of late and would never consider a full-size pickup. However, a mid-size offering would certainly fit my own lifestyle, as I’m sure it would for many others.

The second and more involved rumor: The Everest will come stateside with the Bronco moniker.

This rumor requires some finessing of the Ford lineup, which means we must examine the Explorer and Taurus.

It’s no secret that the Ford Explorer and Taurus gain a significant number of their sales from police departments.

Year-to-date, nearly 20 percent — 5,929 to be exact — of the Taurus’ 29,967 total sales are of the Police Interceptor variety. The other 80 percent of Taurus sales aren’t just retail; those sales are split between retail and other fleets. While a breakdown isn’t available, it does mean less than 24,038 Tauruses were sold retail year-to-date. (For comparison, FCA has sold 28,889 units of the Chrysler 300 to retail and fleet.)

The Explorer has become far more popular with police departments than the Taurus. Year-to-date, Ford has sold 14,920 Explorers to police departments, but it makes up a smaller percentage of the Explorer’s 145,785 total sales — just over 10 percent. Currently, the Explorer is the 6th most popular SUV in America behind the Nissan Rogue and ahead of the Jeep Cherokee.

The Taurus, as TTAC has reported in the past, is not long for this world … at least the American world. The sedan is likely to continue on in China, but is expected to be cancelled here. Other D4 platform mates — Lincoln MKS, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT — have also been rumored for the guillotine. That means if Ford wanted to keep the Explorer in its current form, it would likely be the only vehicle riding on a platform currently shared between five different models. Goodbye, economies of scale.

So, let’s assume that even though Explorer sales are doing fine, it’s not going to stick around either, leaving a significant hole in the Ford lineup above the Edge and below the Expedition. That hole is very similar to another one found within the Lincoln lineup between the MKX and Navigator.

Enter Everest — or, as you might be calling it in the future, the Ford Bronco (or possibly Explorer) and Lincoln Aviator.

The Everest is based on the Ranger, so the “Bronco”/Explorer and Aviator would both be a body-on-frame, rear-wheel drive SUVs. Instead of a Wrangler competitor, this would be a Grand Cherokee/Durango competitor. If you were hoping for a droptop Bronco, you’re out of luck here, folks.

“By 2020, we expect to expand the segments that we participate in by adding two new nameplates to the Lincoln brand,” said Stéphane Cesareo, spokesman for Lincoln, when we inquired on the Lincoln Aviator rumor, and the Everest would fit the bill for a premium, rear-wheel drive SUV for the Lincoln brand in addition to the return of Continental. There’s your two “new” nameplates.

This possible plan leaves Ford without a full-size sedan to sell to police departments and lacking a livery car for the Lincoln brand. However, that new Lincoln Continental could do livery duty, and a Ford-badged Continental derivative could fill the spot left by Taurus.

Whether this all comes to fruition, we’re not sure. However, as far as speculated plans are concerned, this seems like the only option for Ford (and Lincoln) going forward if the “Bronco” is anything but a rumor.

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Add Bronco To Today’s Ranger Return Rumor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/add-bronco-todays-ranger-return-rumor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/add-bronco-todays-ranger-return-rumor/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 17:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153329 Ford may bring back the Bronco name as a Ranger-based SUV if production returns to the U.S. in 2018, Bloomberg is reporting. The Bronco would be based on a mid-sized pickup frame, unlike the current Explorer. A Bronco could be targeted at Jeep, either Grand Cherokee — or Wrangler. Ford ended production of its Bronco in 1996. […]

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Classic 1966 Bronco Body Shell Available Soon

Ford may bring back the Bronco name as a Ranger-based SUV if production returns to the U.S. in 2018, Bloomberg is reporting.

The Bronco would be based on a mid-sized pickup frame, unlike the current Explorer. A Bronco could be targeted at Jeep, either Grand Cherokee — or Wrangler.

Ford ended production of its Bronco in 1996.

According to the Bloomberg report, both Ranger and Bronco could be built at Ford’s plant in Wayne, Michigan, which will lose production of the C-Max and Focus to Mexico in 2018. Adding the production of those trucks to that plant would replace production to appease the United Auto Workers during contract negotiations.

It’s unclear how the addition of a Bronco would fit into the Ford lineup, but I’m guessing Mark Stevenson has a good idea.

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Ford May Bring Ranger Back To US in 2018 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-may-bring-ranger-back-us-2018/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-may-bring-ranger-back-us-2018/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152977 Ford is reportedly discussing bringing back the mid-size Ford Ranger pickup to America and Canada in its bargaining negotiations with the United Auto Workers, the Detroit News is reporting. Ford may be assembling the truck, which could be brought back as early as 2018, at its Wayne, Michigan plant. The truck would replace the outgoing C-Max and Focus […]

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Ford is reportedly discussing bringing back the mid-size Ford Ranger pickup to America and Canada in its bargaining negotiations with the United Auto Workers, the Detroit News is reporting.

Ford may be assembling the truck, which could be brought back as early as 2018, at its Wayne, Michigan plant. The truck would replace the outgoing C-Max and Focus at the plant. Ford announced production of those two products would move to Mexico in 2018.

The last U.S.-spec Ranger was most recently produced at Ford’s St. Paul, Minnesota plant, which shuttered in 2011.

According to sources, the formal decision would need to be ratified by Ford executives and the union’s board.

According to the report, Ford was enticed by the small, but growing, mid-size pickup segment. Although the segment only accounted for 227,000 sales in 2013, it is expected to grow in coming years. Toyota’s Tacoma dominates the segment, accounting for more than half of the segment’s sales, but General Motors’ Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon could slowly gain a higher market share.

Ford produces the Ranger in Thailand, South Africa and Argentina for 180 global markets including Mexico. Recently, Ford announced it would produce the Ranger in Nigeria.

It’s unlikely that Ford would would bring the global Ranger to America without significant modifications for safety and fuel economy. The Ranger’s size and classification places it firmly in the CAFE “dead zone,” which could make it difficult for Ford to find a suitable (read: efficient) powertrain.

The Ranger was last redesigned in 2011 and facelifted in 2015. A redesign for the Ranger would align with the 2018 production start date in Wayne. The C-Max and Focus are scheduled to leave that plant in 2018 as well.

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Automakers Using Chinese, Mexican Production As Leverage With UAW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/automakers-using-global-production-leverage-uaw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/automakers-using-global-production-leverage-uaw/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 20:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151673 As talks with the United Auto Workers continue, domestic automakers may be using global production strategies to leverage lower wages from the massive union, Automotive News is reporting. News that Buick may import most of its lineup from outside North America, or Ford shifting production from Michigan to Mexico, could be weighing on conversations to […]

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GM Arlington Plant

As talks with the United Auto Workers continue, domestic automakers may be using global production strategies to leverage lower wages from the massive union, Automotive News is reporting.

News that Buick may import most of its lineup from outside North America, or Ford shifting production from Michigan to Mexico, could be weighing on conversations to keep production in the U.S. and Canada at union plants.

“It’s a veiled threat to the workers,” Gary Chaison, a professor of labor relations at Clark University told Automotive News.

The automakers may be saying: “If you ask for too much, we can take the work out of the U.S. So, give us a reason not to shift more production overseas,” he added.

It was widely expected that the UAW would be looking to narrow the pay gap between its veteran workers and newer, Tier 2 workers who make considerably less during its talks with the automakers.

Automakers, for their part, have potentially looked to appease the UAW by announcing plant upgrades and more shifts for the cars it produces in North America. Already, General Motors in Canada said it would invest $12 million into its Oshawa Assembly Plant on top of larger investments in North American plants, including its Arlington and Flint Truck Assembly Plant. They were all announced after talks with the UAW started in July.

Those plant improvements may have be announced to leverage demands from the UAW to increase pay for its workers.

In North America, Tier 1 workers make about $28 per hour, and Tier 2 workers make around $15 an hour. According to the report, workers in Mexico make $8.24 an hour and Chinese auto workers make just $4.10 an hour.

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Just How Bad Are the Automakers Taking a Beating in the Stock Market? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/just-bad-automakers-taking-beating-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/just-bad-automakers-taking-beating-market/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 17:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151441 Markets around the world are down, down, down, down and down. At the time of this writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down roughly 650 points on Monday, which is more than 1,500 points off of where we were at the beginning of August. A lot of the run is fueled by fears that China […]

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Come on Carlos, let’s hit up the Limeys for some money. Picture courtesy of motortrend.com

Markets around the world are down, down, down, down and down.

At the time of this writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down roughly 650 points on Monday, which is more than 1,500 points off of where we were at the beginning of August. A lot of the run is fueled by fears that China is tapering off its growth (or they’ve been making it up for a while) and that Europe is tinkering on the brink of sinking into another recession.

There are plenty of financial sectors that are taking a beating. Automotive companies are no different. Here’s a rundown of publicly traded automakers and how much they’ve lost from their July 31 close to mid-day trading today.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest droppers are those with more exposure to China (Especially Toyota, whose production has been hampered by a blast in Tianjinand Tesla, whose second stock offering could be diluting shares in addition to the larger, global shock.

Tata Motors (TTM) — 29.66-23.01, -22.4 percent
Tesla Motors (TSLA) — 266.15-219.46, -17.5 percent
Toyota Motor Corp (TM) — 133.71-110.87, -17 percent
BMW (BMW.DE) — 91.30-77.88, -13.5 percent
Daimler (DDAIF) — 89.19-77.59, -13 percent
Nissan Motor Company (NSANY) — 19.34-16.90, -12.6 percent
Honda Motor Company (HMC) — 33.96-29.70, -12.5 percent
Ford Motor Company (F) — 15.18-13.21, -12.9 percent
General Motors (GM) — 32.08-28.22, -12 percent
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) — 15.80-14.02, -11.2 percent
Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) — 40.35-36.56, -9.3 percent

Earlier this month, General Motors issued a statement before the massive stock sell off to ensure investors that it would endure a devalued Chinese currency. It’s “natural hedge,” or locally sourced suppliers, would help insulate it from massive market fluctuations, but not entirely. Last month, GM announced it would invest $5 billion in a joint venture with SAIC motors in China to locally build smaller cars.

On Monday, Daimler said it would press on further in China, despite worries that the market for luxury vehicles could be drying up, according to Automotive News.

Losing this much steam in China will undoubtedly have a ripple effect in the rest of the automotive world, that much is clear. The size of the wave has yet to be determined.

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2015 Ford Mustang GT Review – No Longer A One-Trick Pony (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-mustang-gt-review-no-longer-one-trick-pony-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-mustang-gt-review-no-longer-one-trick-pony-video/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149057 2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium 5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm) 6-speed Getrag MT82 manual 15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats Base Price: $30,875* As Tested: $45,470* * All prices include $900 destination charge. Ford’s Mustang is […]

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2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-010

2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium

5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm)

6-speed Getrag MT82 manual

15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats

Base Price:
$30,875*
As Tested:

$45,470*

* All prices include $900 destination charge.

Ford’s Mustang is as American as the hot dog and KFC Double Down, but for 2015 it received an internationally-focused makeover. Since 1964, the Mustang has been the place to find a large V8, a manual transmission and a solid rear axle. That solid axle has been a point of contention for foreign auto journalists who frequently compared the Ford’s handling to a pickup truck, and decried the GT as a one-trick pony: the car that was excellent in a straight line at a drag strip — and that was about it. That’s a problem when Ford’s new mission is greater harmony in their lineup worldwide.

While 2015 retains the large V8 engine, manual transmission and rear wheel drive we’ve all come to know and love, it brings the first completely independent suspension to every Mustang in over 50 years. Also big news for 2015 is the resurrection of a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, something we haven’t seen since the Fox body Mustang of the early 1990s. In a nod to our friends in Old Blighty, a factory-made right hand drive model is also in the works. All of these changes are because this Mustang is suddenly thrust into a much bigger pool of competitors.

Can Ford teach this pony some new tricks to compensate?


Exterior
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Mustang is the Aston Martin meets Fusion meets Mustang styling. The sheetmetal looks more elegant and more intentional than before. While the 2014 looked cartoonish from some angles, the 6th generation ‘Stang doesn’t seem to have a bad angle to be found. It’s clear Ford not only spent more time styling their new 2-door, but is also spending more on stamping the metal as we have more curves and angles providing visual interest. The front quarter panel for instance rises up, then curves back down to meet the hood panel, giving the front of the Mustang something of a “proto-fin.” We’re hyped that 2016 will bring back turn signals integrated into the hood vents (visible to the driver) in certain trims.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-014

All Mustang models now come standard with HID headlamps, a nice touch in a segment that generally lacks modern lighting. Out back, the sequential turn signals are now made from LED strips inside large vertical plastic housings with deep recesses between the lamp modules. The look is striking, but proved more effort to clean than I had considered.

The sleek profile belies the sixth generation’s shrinkage of about two inches versus the out outgoing model. The loss in length helps the Mustang slightly in international markets where the Ford is considered a large two-door. In terms of comparisons, the Mustang is nearly a foot longer than the BMW M235i we recently reviewed, about the same size as a 435i, and a foot shorter than a Dodge Challenger. The main reason for the long body, of course, is the massive engine bay designed to longitudinally accommodate large engines.

There was a great deal of speculation about Ford’s right-sizing program. Would a weight reduction be part of the package? The answer is no, the Mustang has actually gained a little weight in this generation. Contrary to the earlier rampant “weightgate” speculation, curb weight is up just 20 to 80 pounds, depending on how you compare a 2014 trim to a 2015 trim.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-004

Interior
The one area that didn’t receive as much attention is the interior. The style is fresh and instantly recognizable as a Mustang, but we only get an incremental improvement in the feel of the parts. There are still plenty of hard plastics lower in the interior including the center console and areas where your knee and leg are likely to rest. (Remember that the Mustang starts under $24,000.) The new steering wheel is loaded with buttons, but thankfully I found the layout intuitive. Lovers of thick-rimmed steering wheels will be disappointed to find that the tiller is no thicker than the Ford Edge we recently tested.

When looking at the Mustang parked next to a BMW 2-Series, you might assume the Ford would be larger inside. You would be wrong. The Mustang and the 2016 Camaro have about the same amount of front and rear seat legroom as the baby Bimmer, with the Mustang actually being slightly smaller inside. This mainly has to do with the position of the engine in the Mustang and the size of the engine bay which makes the nose longer to give it a proportion similar to a British sports coupé. Meanwhile, BMW pushes the engine a little further back making the overall packaging more compact. On the upside, the Mustang has more footwell room making it more comfortable for folks with larger feet.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-011

Our tester had the nearly $1,600 optional Recaro seat package. If you track your car regularly, and need the aggressive bolstering, and are about my size or smaller, get them. Everyone else should avoid them entirely. The standard seats are softer and more comfortable, they offer more lumbar support and the Premium trim of the Mustang would normally get memory-linked power seats, adjustable lumbar support as well as heating and ventilation. All of those features are given up for the Recago logo, and it’s just not a good trade. A quick spin in a dealer provided GT without the Recaro seats, but with the Performance Package, confirmed that the firmer suspension is also easier to live with if you get the base seats. The difference is more pronounced when you consider the Mustang comes with very comfortable seats in every other version, beating the current Camaro and Challenger easily, and are actually quite competitive with the standard seats in the 2-Series, 4-Series and Lexus RC.

Hop in the back and you are reminded the Mustang is best described as a “2+2 coupé” where the last digit is a little smaller than the first. While not as tight as a Jaguar XK, the back seat should be reserved for small children or your legless friends. With the driver’s seat adjusted comfortably for my 6-foot frame, there was a 3-inch gap between my seat back and the rear seat bottom cushion. (I prefer an upright position when driving a manual.) Convertible shoppers will be pleased to know that rear headroom actually increases if you chose the rag top. At 13.5 cubic feet, the Mustang’s trunk is also similar in size to the BMW 2-Series, but Ford thankfully uses hidden hinges to make the most out of the trunk. You should know that the optional ShakerPro speaker package consumes just over a cubic foot of space.

2015 Mustang My Ford Touch

Infotainment
Our pony car had Ford’s optional MyFord Touch infotainment system. This software is due to be replaced in 2016 by Ford’s completely redesigned SYNC3 system. MFT 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 plagued MFT, except for the speed. Interacting with the touchscreen requires patience as screen changes are considerably slower than the Hyundai, Chrysler and GM alternatives. SYNC includes an integrated telematics system that emails vehicle health reports, allows you to call a concierge, request emergency assistance and knows when your airbags have gone off. On the downside, this system is dependant on a paired Bluetooth phone to actually make the calls — so if you’ve forgotten your phone and you get in an accident, the car can’t dial for help.

Our tester included the optional navigation software and the up-level ShakerPro branded speaker system. The 12-speaker system uses a trunk mounted subwoofer, a dash-mounted center channel speaker and a 550-watt 9-channel amp. The system is certainly tuned with a significant bass punch, but overall it is still well balanced. It had no problems rocking my Vanilla Ice album all the way to A1A Beachfront Avenue.

2015 Forg Mustang GT Engine-003

Drivetrain
The big engine news for 2015 isn’t that the 3.7-liter V-6 lost a few ponies, or even that Vanilla’s five-point-oh is still available; it’s that we have the first four-cylinder Mustang in quite some time. To make room for the new EcoBoost mill, Ford de-tuned the V6 slightly to 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 280 lb-ft of twist at 4,000. That means that unlike the Camaro, the four-cylinder is an upgrade, not the base engine. Checking the EcoBoost box gives you 310 horsepower at a lower 5,500 rpm and a whopping 320 lb-ft at a low 3,000 rpm. But I’m here to talk about what separates this American from the European and Asian options. Five. Point. Oh. Revving up to 7,000 rpm and featuring twin independent variable valve timing, the Coyote V-8’s only modern omission is direct-injection. Power comes in at 435 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 400 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm. (The recently announced 5.2-liter V-8 Shelby is a perfect example of naturally aspirated engine designs vs turbo engine design. The 2016 Shelby GT350 will bump power by 91 horsepower but torque by only 29 lb-ft. Compared to the twin-turbo German V8s, the horsepower is similar but torque is notably lower.)

Unusual in 2015, even in performance cars, is your choice of manual or automatic transmissions on all models (in 2016, the Shelby will be manual only) and your choice doesn’t interfere with the options packages. That means you can get the GT and EcoBoost Mustangs with radar cruise control, all the goodies and still get the 6-speed stick. (There have been some complaints about the Getrag MT82 manual transmission but I didn’t experience an unusual shift feel during my week. Be sure to let us know if you’ve had a problem with yours in the comment section below. There has been quite a bit of forum buzz regarding “clunks and thunks”.) Also a little unusual these days is the option of multiple rear axle ratios. For those that are unfamiliar, axle ratios are the final “link” in the chain for your drivetrain. The transmission’s 3.65:1 first gear ratio is multiplied by the rear axle you chose — 3.31, 3.55 or 3.73 — to get the effective total ratio of 12:1, 12.9:1, or 13.6:1. (All three ratios are available in the EcoBoost model but just the 3.55 and 3.73 are offered in the GT). That has a big impact on acceleration and fuel economy since the 6th gear ratios have the same variance. The available axle ratios are why fuel economy has dropped in the V-6’s EPA test, as Ford is no longer offering the 2.73:1 rear axle in the V-6 like they did in 2014. This means the base V-6 in 2015 is much peppier, but the MPGs drop two steps. This is where the EcoBoost model steps in with 31 or 32 mpg combined (depending on the transmission) despite giving you more power, more torque and a more aggressive rear axle ratio than the base 2014 V-6. On the downside, power and economy figures for the 5.0 and 2.3 are based on premium unleaded.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-001

Drive
Over twenty years ago, I was learning to drive on my neighbor’s 1988 2.3-liter four-cylinder Mustang LX with a shot clutch. My how times have changed. Back then 300 horsepower was a pipe dream, the GT’s 6.3 second 0-60 time was rad to the max and a 32 mpg Mustang was as likely as a blue unicorn. Even ten years ago, the thought that the Mustang would be serious competition to the imports was wishful thinking, but the sixth-generation pony offers 300 horses standard, the mid-range model gets over 30 mpg on the highway, and every version is faster to 60 than it was in 1988. Combined with a more refined and capable suspension, this is that unicorn.

The 2014 Mustang’s rear end got upset on broken pavement and felt heavy in the corners. The 2015 feels composed and significantly lighter in comparison, despite actually being heavier. The GT still feels slightly front heavy in the corners, no surprise with a large V8 under the hood, but the EcoBoost model feels much better balanced. Thanks to the gearing and tire selection, all versions are tail happy when prodded. Next year brings us a new Camaro with a Cadillac ATS-derived chassis and suspension, something that bodes very well for the bowtie brand as well. However, this is 2015 and the current Camaro is a notch behind the outgoing Mustang. Absolute handling is obviously a factor of your tire choice, and ours was equipped with the optional Pirelli PZero summer rubber in a staggered 255/40R19 front, 275/40R19 rear setup. In an interesting twist, the suspension is quite firm but there’s more body roll than you’d expect.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-007

If you’re a traditionalist, fear not. The Mustang, especially our GT tester, is still about well-priced straight-line performance. The V-6 will sprint to 60 in 5.8 seconds, the turbo will do it in 5.6, and our GT in a swift 4.6 seconds with launch control enabled and the 6-speed manual. A nice touch: Unlike many cars out there with launch control, Ford keeps it crazy simple. Once enabled in the LCD between the speedo and tach. it stays on. Period. That means you don’t have to worry about fiddling with menus; you just floor it, release the clutch and let the nannies do their thing. The car retains the setting even through ignition cycles. You can improve things further by double-tapping the traction control button and enabling sport mode which allows a little more action in the rear. (Note: Ford says that both systems should be used on the track only. Sure…) Of course, you’ve probably also heard about Ford’s nifty line lock feature that allows perfect burnouts every time without wearing your rear brake pads.

The GT’s 7,000 rpm redline means that the ‘Stang sings like a high-revving European sports coupé more than a Camaro or Challenger. Since all the ponies come to a trot at 6,500 rpm, you’ll spend a great deal of time at those lofty heights. The good news is thanks to the throttle mapping and general character of the 2015, it revs easily, happily and sounds great while doing it.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-009

Thanks to electric power steering, the Mustang’s wheel is as numb as most of the competition, although BMW and Nissan manage to transmit more road feel in the M235i and 370Z. Skipping the Performance Package makes the GT more driveable on a daily basis in terms of suspension tuning, and in that form the body roll seems well-balanced with the spring firmness. The downside of skipping the pack is the reduced grip. If I were shopping in this segment I’d probably skip the package and use the cash to swap in some sticky rubber. If you do get the package, I suggest some stiffer sway bars.

Ford set the base price for 2015 low — very low. At $23,800, the Mustang undercuts the Camaro and Genesis Coupé by $3,000 and the 370Z by nearly $6,000. That means that for the price of the base 2.0-liter, 275-horsepower 2016 Camaro, or the Genesis Coupé V-6, you could get a 2.3-liter EcoBoost ‘Stang with an option or two. A base Z will cost you more than a well-equipped V-6 Ford or only about $2,500 less than a Mustang GT. At $32,850, the BMW 228i is a whopping $7,550 more than the more powerful EcoBoost model, and the M235i is $11,850 more than a Mustang GT. Why all this focus on the M235i? Because the Mustang actually reminded me a great deal of the small BMW. The Mustang finally feels light and nimble, and at the same time the M235i feels far more substantial than small BMWs of the past. While the BMW does feel more refined, the delta has never been smaller. With previous generations, one could have argued that the BMW’s greater refinement was worth $10,000. With this generation, I wouldn’t pay more than $1,000 for the extra feel in the BMW. That’s a problem because in order for the M235i to be as fast as our $45,470 tester, you would need to add the 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, both of which would make it less fun. Better in the rain, but less fun. The added hardware also makes the M235i xDrive tip the scales at 3,695 pounds, just 10 pounds lighter than the Ford, and still considerably more expensive. Although the BMW’s suspension is better sorted and more settled, if you shod them with identical tires, the Mustang will be right on the 2-Series’ bumper.

Is the Mustang perfect? No. I wish the interior was a little more comfortable and the automatic transmission needs a few more gears in order to match the competition. Hyundai, BMW, GM and Chrysler have gone 8-speed and even Nissan is one cog higher at 7 in the 370Z. That means there is still a toll to be paid for selecting the automatic, while the competition’s slushboxes promise improved fuel economy and improved acceleration. Still, the Ford holds true to what the Mustang has always promised: performance at a reasonable price. The big news is that those reasonable prices come with surprisingly few compromises and it’s entirely possible to consider the Mustang as a value alternative to a German coupé. Comparing a Pony Car to a compact German coupé used to be ridiculous, but this pony is a blue unicorn that’s learned a few tricks.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13 Seconds @ 112 MPH

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F-150 Raptor Runs Off Road, Ford Offers Pictures to Prove It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-f-150-raptor-runs-off-road-ford-offers-pictures-prove/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-f-150-raptor-runs-off-road-ford-offers-pictures-prove/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 16:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149633 Ford released photos and video Friday of its newest Raptor off-road testing in Northern Michigan. The truck, which will go on sale next fall, has better ground clearance than the outgoing Raptor, although Ford isn’t giving us official specs yet. We know the last generation’s fording depth was officially 30 inches up to 4 mph and […]

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Raptor Prototype Testing

Ford released photos and video Friday of its newest Raptor off-road testing in Northern Michigan.

The truck, which will go on sale next fall, has better ground clearance than the outgoing Raptor, although Ford isn’t giving us official specs yet. We know the last generation’s fording depth was officially 30 inches up to 4 mph and that capability likely won’t decrease — but we don’t know if it’ll go up.

“The all-new Ford Raptor will be more capable than the previous Raptor, including improved wheel travel and ground clearance,” Ford spokesman Mike Levine told us.

Ford said today that the newest-generation Raptor will have new Fox racing shocks with internal bypass to adjust and stiffen suspension off road, and an all-new four-wheel-drive transfer case in the back.

In other words: Specs for the official truck are slowly coming out. We’ll stay tuned for official horsepower figures from the twin-turbo V-6 under the hood.

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Ford May Offer 10-speed Mustang, Maybe With Mach 1 Name http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-may-offer-10-speed-mustang-maybe-mach-1-name/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-may-offer-10-speed-mustang-maybe-mach-1-name/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1148945 Ford’s plans for the Mustang may include their 10-speed automatic transmission, jointly developed with General Motors, and a Mach 1 version, according to Automotive News (via Motor Authority). The amazingly engineered 10-speed, which will make an appearance on the new Ford F-150 Raptor, may be mated to Ford’s four-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the Mustang in the U.S. — […]

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2015 ford mustang ecoboost front side

Ford’s plans for the Mustang may include their 10-speed automatic transmission, jointly developed with General Motors, and a Mach 1 version, according to Automotive News (via Motor Authority).

The amazingly engineered 10-speed, which will make an appearance on the new Ford F-150 Raptor, may be mated to Ford’s four-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the Mustang in the U.S. — and only in the Mustang — which feels weird.

But Mach 1(!)

The report is fairly sketchy on whether Ford will revive the nameplate from the 1970s (and early 2000s, I guess) for this generation. According to the story, the Mach 1 may not arrive until 2018, which would be one to two years before the Mustang would be due for a major update.

It’s unclear what engine Ford may stuff into the future Mach 1. Every version up until now has included a V-8 strapped under the hood, but Ford’s upcoming GT hypercar will have a twin-turbocharged V-6, so things have clearly changed.

Any mention of the Mach 1 probably brings up more memories of this than this, so it could be a good move to help move more Mustangs toward the end of its lifecycle. But for now, I guess we’ll just have to deal with our flat-plane V-8 noises from the GT350.

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Could Africa Support Its Own Auto Industry? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/africa-support-auto-industry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/africa-support-auto-industry/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 20:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1146337 Africa may be one of the last untapped continents for automakers and one of the largest growth markets in the future. But the opportunity is now for carmakers such as Uganda-based Kiira Motors, Kenya-based Mobius Motors, Nigeria-based Innoson and Ghana-based Kantanka Motors, they say. “The automotive industry presents one of the fiercest competitive market environments,” Kiira Chief Executive Paul […]

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media_mobius2_2

Africa may be one of the last untapped continents for automakers and one of the largest growth markets in the future. But the opportunity is now for carmakers such as Uganda-based Kiira Motors, Kenya-based Mobius Motors, Nigeria-based Innoson and Ghana-based Kantanka Motors, they say.

“The automotive industry presents one of the fiercest competitive market environments,” Kiira Chief Executive Paul Isaac Musasizi told the Wall Street Journal. “We need to remain focused, courageous and committed.”

His commitment is shared by other automakers such as Ford, who recently announced that it would produce 5,000 trucks at a plant in Nigeria for sale within the continent. Hyundai said they would invest $22 million to build an assembly plant in Nairobi and expand dealerships.

A cursory look at market penetration for automakers looks promising — no African country cracks the top 50 in vehicles per capita.

According to Ward’s Auto, East African countries such as Kenya are registering more new cars than before, with total registrations increasing 9 percent in 2014 from 2013. Most of those cars are used imported examples, though new car purchases were up in the country last year as well.

All that may be why startups such as Kiira, which makes hybrids, are looking for investors to build locally produced cars for Africa, which places taxes on imported parts like headlights and batteries.

The continent’s most economically developed country, South Africa, has manufacturing plants for BMW, General Motors, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Volkswagen, which exported 271,000 cars in 2010.

That could create a favorable, home-grown automotive business if the countries labor supply settles into consistent manufacturing.

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Could the Ford Taurus be Imported From China? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-taurus-imported-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-taurus-imported-china/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 17:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1144049 The Ford Taurus, once the flagship in Ford’s range, apparently has fallen on hard times. Sales are down 28 percent through July, it hasn’t done much to outrun its perception as a perennial fleet queen and police fleet buyers are picking the Explorer-based Interceptor over the sedan. Automotive News details the fall and rise and fall again […]

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New Ford Taurus

The Ford Taurus, once the flagship in Ford’s range, apparently has fallen on hard times.

Sales are down 28 percent through July, it hasn’t done much to outrun its perception as a perennial fleet queen and police fleet buyers are picking the Explorer-based Interceptor over the sedan. Automotive News details the fall and rise and fall again of the Ford Taurus (thanks mostly to former Ford CEO Alan Mulally) and throws in a little tidbit in the middle:

If sales keep falling, analysts speculate Ford could eliminate U.S. production of it and … import the small volume it needs here from China …

Oh boy. 

It’s clear that Ford will have to make a decision about the Taurus soon. The current Taurus was last redesigned in 2009 and slightly updated in 2012. In April, Ford announced it would redesign the Taurus, but only in China.

Sales of the full-size Taurus peaked only a couple years ago, but the Taurus is on pace to sell 45,000 cars this year — including police cars — it’s lowest total ever.

In fact, the move to a full-size sedan — something Mulally pressed for early on in his tenure — may be what is killing the Taurus. By comparison, the Ford Fusion outsells the Taurus nearly four to one and is about $5,000 less for roughly the same car.

All that may be contributing to the tough time the Taurus is having in the States, and there’s always the Lincoln Continental right around the corner too.

So could the Taurus be Ford’s first import from China?

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LEAKED: 2017 Ford Fusion Refresh – Can You Tell The Difference? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/leaked-2017-ford-fusion-refresh-can-you-tell-the-difference/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/leaked-2017-ford-fusion-refresh-can-you-tell-the-difference/#comments Sat, 15 Aug 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1143137 Is this the refreshed 2017 Fusion? A Ford slideshow presentation used at the J.P. Morgan Auto Conference sure points to the affirmative, according to AutoBlog. Yet, it doesn’t look like much in the way of change is afoot with the Blue Oval’s midsize sedan. You’d be hard pressed to find much of a difference at all. The slideshow […]

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Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 12.32.30 PM

Is this the refreshed 2017 Fusion? A Ford slideshow presentation used at the J.P. Morgan Auto Conference sure points to the affirmative, according to AutoBlog. Yet, it doesn’t look like much in the way of change is afoot with the Blue Oval’s midsize sedan. You’d be hard pressed to find much of a difference at all.

The slideshow doesn’t offer up any details on the refreshed-looking model pictured, but we can take a few educated guesses.

For one, the Fusion is likely to retain all its powertrain options — minus the base 2.5-liter fleet flavorite. There is a change Ford could ditch it all together in favor of the 1.5-liter EcoBoost that currently sits one rung higher on the current ladder.

With the Taurus looking more and more likely to leave the American market, could the Fusion will that role with V6 power? That’s unlikely, as it would go against the grain of the current market — other sedans are downsizing and adding turbos, not upsizing and adding cylinders.

We are likely in for a fairly mild refresh that doesn’t rock the boat, but we will see later this year or early next year what comes to pass.

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Review – Identity Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ram-rebel-review-identity-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ram-rebel-review-identity-crisis/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 19:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141673 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm) 8-speed 8HP70 automatic 15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear […]

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4

5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm)

8-speed 8HP70 automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear exhaust with bright tips; Luxury group, $560 (Heated mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors); Protection group, $150 (Transfer case and front suspension skid plating); Monotone paint; Rear Camera and Park Assist, $595 (Backup camera, ParkSense rear park assistant); ZF 8-speed automatic, $500; Anti-spin differential rear axle, $325; 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, $1,150; Rebel instrument cluster, $175; Four corner air suspension; Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen w/nav, $1,005; RamBox cargo management system, $1,295; Trailer brake control, $230; Spray-in bedliner, $475.

Base Price (Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4):
$45,195*
As Tested Price:
$52,375*

* All prices include $1,195 destination fee.

Any debate about Jeep inevitably ends on a common, agreeable topic for all parties involved:

“Jeep really needs to make a pickup already.”

The idea that stuffed shirts at Auburn Hills, who make more in a day than we do in a year, have somehow missed the point is entirely possible (remember the center-mounted exhausts in the Grand Cherokee SRT8, effectively prohibiting any sort of towing?) but highly unlikely.

In fact: Jeep now has a pickup. It’s called the Ram Rebel.

Obligatory disclosure: I have no skin in the pickup game. None. My father owned exactly one of the following: A white Ford F-150, a black Chevrolet Silverado and a green Dodge Ram (when they were called as such). They were all new when he bought them, of 1990s-era vintage and equally pampered. No, we were not a wealthy family, and no, I still couldn’t back up a trailer with a gun pointed to my head.

To be even clearer: The only pickup I fondly remember is a dingy 1996 Toyota Pickup (pre-Tacoma years) that my brother took to college. It was five in speeds and six in cylinders; gutless and indestructible. It couldn’t run up a hill and run the A/C at the same time, but it felt like it could run over anything.

Put simply, in the domestic pickup war for dominance, I am Switzerland.

Now that you know where my allegiances fall, let’s get on to the important stuff.

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Powertrain
The nuance and variation in pickup powertrain and configuration options is dizzying and, in some places, probably an accredited college course for matriculating majors. I shall do my best.

Our Ram Rebel came equipped with the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The 395 horsepower mill bests any option from Ford (for now), but falls short of the 6.2-liter V-8 offered by GM by 25 ponies — if the tale of the tape is the sort of thing matters to you.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(16_of_18)Ram’s 5.7-liter V-8 is getting a little long in the tooth and isn’t my favorite all-around application in the Ram 1500 anyway — the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 takes that crown. But in the Ram Rebel, the V-8 is saved by the smartly cautious and clever 8-speed ZF slushbox. The eager mill keeps the Rebel in check on highway driving, keeping revs low and mileage high. Off road, the 8-speed decently held gears depending on yaw and steering angle, and I seldom used the steering-wheel-mounted gear selection buttons to adjust the ZF’s gear selection. (The gearbox’s Achilles heel is freeway passing; mash the pedal to the right between 55 mph and 80 mph and wait for a second before the revs and speed react accordingly. Eh.)

The motor is decisively torquey and moderately responsive, but certainly not nervous. On a couple ascents, I adjusted the throttle position ever so slightly forward to encourage the mighty motor to climb, but I wouldn’t consider it to be deficient or lagging. After all, I would expect a 13-year-old truck engine to be about as spry and useful as three bad knees.

(Strangely, I would have imagined Ram could have pulled out its 6.4-liter Hemi V8 for the Ford Raptor-esque Rebel. Perhaps that gets a little too close for comfort with the Power Wagon?)

In back, the power is transmitted through a standard 3.92 rear axle or an optional 3.21 rear axle, both available with an anti-spin rear differential if you’re so inclined to add it to your 4×4. Our tester was fitted with the former, optioned with anti-spin, and could climb and sprint like a champion. (Predictably, our mileage with the higher ratio wasn’t great.)

Our Rebel’s rated towing capacity is 9,600 pounds and its payload capacity is 1,211, according to the manufacturer. We opted to find the nearest mountain to climb instead.

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Exterior
Choose your own adventure!

Do you think Ram’s new design language is awesome? (Skip to Paragraph 1)

Do you think Ram’s new direction isn’t awesome? (Skip to Paragraph 2)

Paragraph 1: Head to toe, the Ram Rebel is the most polarizing truck on the market. Undeniable.

Paragraph 2: If the Rebel’s front end has evolved into a snout, then the rear end is most certainly an ass.2015_Ram_Rebel_(7_of_18)

When Ram took the wraps off the Rebel earlier this year, it was clear that the truckmaker couldn’t
outrun its Dodge days fast enough. The rear end, which sports a “Ram” brand visible from space, doesn’t pass the breakfast test for me. The front end boasts a Ram logo that is big enough to be an intention and not a brand (i.e. “I’m going to RAM you with my RAM truck now!”) is saved by the amount of black plastic hiding its sharp lines. If you get past both braggadocios ends, then Ram makes a case as a sensible alternative to Ford’s Art Deco movement and GM’s wallpaper paste movement.

(The hood-mounted nostrils are more my speed, and I wish Ram had left it at that.)

Between the head’s fangs and the tail’s, um, pipes, is the heart of the Ram. Thankfully, chunky 285/70R17 Toyo Open Country A/T tires aren’t hidden by the Ram’s black wells; deep gray wheels pull the rubbers from the wells. There is a little more cladding than I’d like, but it gives the Rebel a sense of purpose and a dare to drivers: Use me.

I really do like Ram’s overall style; I just wish it were subtler that their current approach — which is understated like a five-finger ring.

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Interior
You could find more comfortable chairs than the ones found in the Ram (or any other full-size FCA car for that matter), but they’d probably have the word “La-Z-Boy” written on them somewhere. The overstuffed-oversized thrones are deeply comfortable and I’m highly suspicious that they’ll last any longer than a couple years.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(10_of_18)The high-contrast red on black interior is a visual cue to the Rebel’s unique position within Ram’s lineup — just incase you missed the giant “Rebel” emblazoned on the glove box and instrument panel. There were nice touches everywhere, like the embroidered Ram on the sides of the driver and passenger seat, and the embossed tread pattern on the seat backs, but in all, the Ram Rebel is a nice place to be — even on rocky roads.

The controls and gear selector knob all have a feel of being usable and accessible, even with work gloves on, and I can appreciate its tactile feeling. Ram may have to catch up to GM in terms of ergonomics and accessibility, but we’re talking about a 7-year-old design compared to a 2-year-old design — there will be generational differences.

You want gripes? I have a few. The Rebel’s unique instrument cluster isn’t very easy to read, and its 12-volt power plug is buried in the small storage opening.

But I love the gripped phone holders, which are placed in the small storage opening underneath the infotainment. That’s a 30-cent solution to a million-dollar problem. Engineering at its finest.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(13_of_18)Infotainment
Ram’s 8.4-inch Uconnect screen (yeah, that Uconnect) was stuffed into the dash of our tester and performed adequately. For my money, General Motors still has the least fussy, easiest-to-understand system (yes Mark, I know) but Ram’s Uconnect isn’t bad.

It could use a few more pixels and a better Bluetooth interface, but I wouldn’t kick Uconnect out of bed.

I’m also petitioning for better navigation-to-instrument cluster integration, but I’m assuming that’s already on the horizon.

Drive
Unexpectedly, the Ram Rebel was stiffer than I was expecting. Its interstate manners were sorted, but the Bilstein dampers aren’t doing it any favors there. The road ride is stiff (but not as painful as a Power Wagon) and the Rebel pines for extra-road activity.

Off road — though, admittedly not the most technical course in the world — the Rebel shines. The extra inch of ground clearance the Rebel gains over the Ram helps to increase its approach angle by some 2.5 degrees (22.9 vs. 25.3), and it can climb moderately steep inclines. (I’d figure that we shimmied up a 30-degree incline without scraping anything.)

2015_Ram_Rebel_(4_of_18)The Rebel is equipped with an adjustable air suspension that raises or lowers the truck four inches from top to bottom. We spent more time in Aero mode — which is below Normal and Off Road heights, but above Entry/Exit height — because “aerodynamic truck” feels like an oxymoron. That’s just who I am, people.

Around the bumpy stuff, the Rebel is communicative and expressive. It’s timbre and buck expressed the uncertainty of its footing below the bed, but remained relatively quiet inside. On highways, the chunky tires drone. On the trail, the chunky tires grip and plant. It’s a wonderful toy.

Which is why, after days behind the wheel, I realized what kind of truck Ram made with the Rebel. It isn’t a logical competitor to the Raptor. In fact, it’s not even close.

In reality, the Rebel feels like the next step up when a Wrangler Rubicon just isn’t big enough. And despite the massive Ram badge on the back, I know exactly what the Rebel is: It’s a Jeep.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(1_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(2_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(3_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(4_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(5_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(6_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(7_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(8_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(9_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(10_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(11_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(12_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(13_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(14_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(15_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(16_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(17_of_18) 2015_Ram_Rebel_(18_of_18)

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QOTD: Why Hasn’t Anyone Out-Gas Mileaged The Prius? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-why-hasnt-anyone-out-gas-mileaged-the-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-why-hasnt-anyone-out-gas-mileaged-the-prius/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:28:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141713 Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the Prius came out in hatchback form, and a decade since it achieved those impressive fuel economy figures: 51 miles per gallon city. 48 miles per gallon highway. And still, no one has unseated the Prius.

It hasn’t been without trying. After the original Honda Insight failed, Honda came out with a Prius-looking second-generation Insight trying to dethrone the king. But it didn’t even come close, with fuel economy figures reaching just 41 miles per gallon city and 44 mpg on the highway. Even the Civic Hybrid, in its current form, can manage only 44 mpg city and 47 mpg highway.

And then there are the other challengers. The Ford C-MAX, also a hybrid-only 5-door hatchback, originally seemed like it might be close to the Prius’s EPA ratings — until people started complaining that they couldn’t come anywhere near Ford’s published figures. Down the C-MAX’s numbers went to their current resting place of 42 mpg city and 37 mpg on the highway.

The Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid gets close at 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. So does the Honda Accord Hybrid, at 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. And the Ford Fusion Hybrid, at 44 mpg city and 44 mpg highway. But none of them can unseat the reigning king and champion, the Toyota Prius.

Interestingly, even Toyota doesn’t seem to be able to top the Prius. Proof of that came a few years back, when they debuted the even smaller Prius c, a subcompact hatchback version of the Prius designed to provide a low-cost alternative to the iconic car. Despite a smaller engine, a smaller size, and less weight, its fuel economy ratings are 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway — no better combined than the Prius’s 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.

So how does the Prius do it? It isn’t by cheating. The people on Fuelly all seem to report somewhere between 47 and 49 miles per gallon, which is right there on par with the EPA’s estimate. By comparison, second-generation Honda Insight people all seem to be somewhere between 43 and 45 miles per gallon.

We must assume that the Prius gets its amazing miles per gallon by honest-to-goodness engineering: a streamlined body, a tremendously efficient engine, and a wide range of other modifications that gives this car a leg up on all of its wannabe-Prius competitors. Which brings me to ask: why hasn’t anyone topped the Prius?

If it’s just engineering, someone can certainly do it. After all, this isn’t rocket science. Tear down the Prius. See what they did. Replicate it. This is how Volkswagen created its current-generation Passat, although unfortunately the car they used as the benchmark was a 1995 Camry CE.

So maybe people don’t want to replicate the Prius. What I’m thinking is, other automakers have decided the Prius is old news, and they want to focus instead on plug-in hybrids and electric cars which are all the rage these days. But here’s the problem with that: last year, Toyota sold 207,000 units of the Prius family, compared to roughly 19,000 Chevy Volts, and 30,000 Nissan Leafs. In other words: although electric cars might be all the rage, the “highly efficient hybrid” segment is still exponentially larger than the plug-in EV class.

And so I ask: in today’s world of people trying to conserve energy, save the planet, and lower their carbon footprint, how is it still possible that nobody has managed to equal the Toyota Prius in terms of fuel economy? How is it possible that nobody has beaten it? How has nobody entered this wildly profitable, popular segment and given the Prius a (slow, quiet) run for its money? Because the way it stands now, it doesn’t seem like General Motors should’ve devoted all that energy to making the Chevy Volt. Instead, they should’ve made a Chevy Prius.

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Piston Slap: PATS on the back for Panther Love? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-pats-back-panther-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-pats-back-panther-love/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 12:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1137106 TTAC commentator supremebrougham writes: Hi Sajeev, Sitting in my Grandma’s garage is her pristine 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, with a whopping 24,800 miles on the clock. Grandpa bought it right off of Mr. Sesi’s showroom floor not long after he retired. About two months ago, my Mom and Grandma took the car out for […]

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TTAC commentator supremebrougham writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Sitting in my Grandma’s garage is her pristine 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, with a whopping 24,800 miles on the clock. Grandpa bought it right off of Mr. Sesi’s showroom floor not long after he retired.

About two months ago, my Mom and Grandma took the car out for the day to do some shopping. They stopped by my house, and when they went to leave, the car wouldn’t start. I got in and noticed that when I turned the key, the fuel pump was not making any noise.

I pushed the car into my garage where my uncle said he would come and look at it later in the week. A couple of days later, I decided to try it. Sure enough, the car started right up. I took it back to Grandma’s and put it in the garage. A couple of weeks later I went back and started the car — it ran perfectly — so I took it across town and washed it and brought it home, with no problems. Two weeks ago, my uncle and aunt took the car out for the day, and while they were out, the car wouldn’t start, so they had it towed home. A couple of days later, I went out to the garage, and it started right up! We have no idea why it’s doing this. Any suggestions? I want to take the car to the Woodward Dream Cruise to use as my Staff Car for The Brougham Society, so I need it fixed fast!

Sajeev answers:

Pretty easy one for a fanboi like myself, and it has little to do with Panther Love. This thread encapsulates the possible faults. Assuming the car will not crank when twisting the key, I doubt a shredded fuel pump (or frayed wiring) exists on such a low mile vehicle. The fuel pump relay? Maybe, but nah.

The last post on that thread (regarding the PATS key) is the culprit. PATS keys have a transponder in the head, and perhaps yours is damaged in a fall: kinda like smartphones, things happen when falling from a few feet to a solid surface. Check if the PATS warning light in the gauge cluster stays on longer than the normal (2-3 seconds upon startup) or if it flashes. If so, that’s why your Panther ain’t starting.

A new key (either a universal or a factory Mercury branded key) is easy to get at a locksmith, dealership or even eBay. The last link presented also has programming instructions for the new key, so its a cheap and easy fix.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Automakers Are Taking a Beating Over China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/automakers-taking-beating-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/automakers-taking-beating-china/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1139322 Stocks for automakers such as General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford took a pounding Tuesday after China devalued its currency in an effort to boost exports from the country, stemming the economic slowdown already underway. In a statement released Tuesday, GM said it had enough of a local supply chain within China to offset its […]

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Stocks for automakers such as General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford took a pounding Tuesday after China devalued its currency in an effort to boost exports from the country, stemming the economic slowdown already underway.

In a statement released Tuesday, GM said it had enough of a local supply chain within China to offset its exposure to international currency fluctuations.

“We believe that our exposure is limited and manageable, and do not expect that the devaluation will have a material impact on the company’s financial performance,” the company wrote.

According to the New York Times, China’s currency swing of nearly 2 percent yesterday is historic for the country. Typically the Yuan would fluctuate hundredths of a percent against the dollar. The largest move up until yesterday was 0.16 percent.

Still, the 2 percent dip isn’t considered a big enough swing to warrant a huge reaction. By comparison, the Euro and Yen have fallen 18 and 22 percent against the dollar in the last year, and China’s economy is ranging out of double-digit growth — but still growing.

Nonetheless, automakers with heavy ties to China — notably GM and FCA — took a shot in the pocketbooks yesterday on expectations of what could be around the corner for China.

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Case Study of Incentives: 2015 Ford Expedition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/case-study-incentives-2015-ford-expedition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/case-study-incentives-2015-ford-expedition/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131497 In my recent test of the 2015 Ford Expedition, I wanted to give a sense of real-word pricing rather than just MSRP, so I quoted TrueCar’s estimate of the average discount available on the vehicle. I had planned to quote available cash and lease incentives direct from Ford’s website, but after 15 minutes of research my head started […]

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2015 Expedition Incentives

In my recent test of the 2015 Ford Expedition, I wanted to give a sense of real-word pricing rather than just MSRP, so I quoted TrueCar’s estimate of the average discount available on the vehicle. I had planned to quote available cash and lease incentives direct from Ford’s website, but after 15 minutes of research my head started hurting and the story would have been longer than DeadWeight’s diatribes on what’s wrong with Cadillac.

So let’s take a separate look at the quagmire of incentives that Ford offers you to buy an Expedition. Before you click the jump, do you know the expansion of the above acronym “RCL” ?

There’s no doubt 99 percent of the B&B know the correct answer is “Red Carpet Lease.” So does the RCL Customer Cash incentive mean Ford will throw $3,750 in trunk money if you lease? The answer is a definite, absolute maybe. The “S3″ asterisk leads to legal mumbo-jumbo, not an explanation of the offer. Nowhere on Ford’s website are details published of the $3,750 lease money or the definition of “RCL.” 

The fine print says, “See dealer for residency restrictions and complete details.” Attention Ford: customers go to your website so they don’t have to go to the dealership to learn about your products and offers.

And don’t get me started on Ford using industry lingo like “RCL.” I have tried to pound this Advertising 101 principle into dealers’ heads for years: Speak in the consumer’s language and not your own. I cringe when I see the phrase “brass hat car” or similar without explanation in a dealership’s promos. You would think Ford and other automakers would know better.

Let’s dive deeper. After building your Expedition, you can click on “Get Local Offers”:

Untitled

It says you may receive 72-month, 0% APR financing or $2,750 in trunk money, but the fine print points out the cash is a combination of $1,500 in Customer Cash, $750 in Competitive Lease Conquest and $500 in Ford Credit Bonus Cash. So you would need a leased vehicle in your driveway and finance the Expedition through Ford Credit to get the full $2,750. Nowhere in the fine print does it say you have to trade in your leased vehicle. The competitive model set is identified as all non-Ford products, so your leased Mini counts as a competitor to the Expedition.

But where is my $3,750 in RCL cash? Look under Lease Offers link and you find: “Please contact your local dealer for the latest information on our current lease offers.” (We are not telling you this again!)

The remaining offer buttons show an eye chart of which incentives may be combined and an additional $500 Military Appreciation Bonus Cash offer for active military members only, the latter mentioned in the fine print of many Ford dealers’ ads in font far smaller the their “$XXXX DISCOUNT” headline.

Bottom line: the maximum cash incentive available is $3,250 for military members and $2,750 for non-military if you meet all the requirements. Walk into a Ford dealer to ask the average salesperson about the $3,750 offer and I am sure they can fill you in on the details: “Dunno, but if I get you $3,750 off, will you buy today?”

Stair_Step_Ad_09-10-12 Courtesy NADA.com.jpgThe lack of transparency by Ford on their lease deals may be a case of cowtowing to their dealers as the retailers hate factory-advertised lease specials. The exact configuration of the featured vehicle is rarely available and the deal structure needed to hit the payment not only cuts the dealers’ margin on the sale of the car but also mandates a low money factor and a non-marked up lease acquisition fee so the store’s profit is limited in three areas.

Let us leave you with one more example of the strange world of Ford incentives: there is $500 cash available on the Explorer (but not the Expedition) for current police officials called the “2015 Police Association IUPA and NAPO Appreciation Program.” I am all about supporting our LEOs, but should anyone of a certain occupation get a better deal than other people?

Advertised incentives are only the fin of the shark: most carmakers have a wide range of confidential factory-to-dealer cash programs, some based upon a dealership hitting a specific sales objective. These so-called “Stair-Step” incentives create in theory the situation where one dealer could offer a deeper discount than another. The information on quiet cash programs is as hidden as Hillary’s emails, but among the B&B are many automotive retail folks who will be glad to tell us some incentive horror stories, right?

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Automakers Are Companies and Don’t Care About You http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/automakers-companies-dont-care/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/automakers-companies-dont-care/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 19:05:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1135530 Just like children who pledged allegiance to the flag before they started their school day, a number of grown adults are brand faithfuls who pledged their hard-earned dollars to a cause they believed is theirs to fight. For whatever reason, they are still steadfast in their belief that their brand is the best, their truck is better than […]

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Just like children who pledged allegiance to the flag before they started their school day, a number of grown adults are brand faithfuls who pledged their hard-earned dollars to a cause they believed is theirs to fight. For whatever reason, they are still steadfast in their belief that their brand is the best, their truck is better than all others and their car is the most reliable piece of transportation since God invented feet.

Yet, if there’s one thing that the last week, last month, last year, or even the last decade has taught us it’s that companies, specifically automakers, do not care about us. Not one bit.

Allow me to explain.

A piece published yesterday by Bloomberg called out Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on its failure to declare a defect in its highly embedded uConnect system found in 1.4 million cars and trucks to the NHTSA. While the defect itself, detailed by Wired late last month, thankfully wasn’t exploited between the time FCA first identified the issue and when they reported it (only after the Wired article went public), the situation is just one of many where a corporation chooses a financially advantageous route over that of the safety of its customers.

And FCA isn’t the only one.

Just this week, Ford was fingered for not putting reinforcing metal bars on regular and extended cab F-150 pickups — models that wouldn’t normally be tested by the IIHS — that are a primary component in Ford’s best-selling pickup truck taking home a “Good” crash-test rating. The IIHS only requests automakers provide their volume seller for testing. In the F-150’s case, the crew cab model is the best seller, the only cab configuration fitted with these particular reinforcement bars.

To say Ford went out of its way to game the IIHS crash test might be a leap too far, but to say Ford’s cost analysis of adding a part weighed against the possibility of a lawsuit when someone is seriously injured or killed in an accident is not far fetched. After all, if a person in a crash doesn’t even know their vehicle is missing something, how could they even think of suing?

Yet, these recent antics are, by far, not the worst safety-related shenanigans to hit our industry in recent years. Honestly, neither is the ignition switch debacle still being handled by GM.

No, the worst one I can remember — at least over the last few years — included GM and a little rental car agency called Enterprise.

Back in 2009, Enterprise purchased some 66,000 Impalas from General Motors without side airbags — the same side airbags that were standard equipment if you bought the car yourself from the showroom floor. Enterprise saved an estimated $11.5 million USD ($175 on each car) with that one change and General Motors was more than willing to oblige as they took a nice, big bite out of the fleet business pie. That move in itself isn’t noteworthy, but what the rental car company did with many of those Impalas after they reached their rental life spans is: They sold those airbag-less Impalas to unsuspecting customers advertised with equipment lists stating the cars did, in fact, have side airbags.

From CBS News:

“There’s definitely a glitch in the system,” Enterprise’s vice president for corporate communications told The Star after the paper asked about the Web postings. “We’ll make it right with our customers. … None of this is intentional.”

What did Enterprise do in the end? For the vehicles that eventually ended up as privately owned vehicles, the rental car company offered to buy them back for $750 more than the Kelley Blue Book price at the time. According to Enterprise, only 745 vehicles ended up in private hands. Doing some incredibly conservative math means Enterprise was still ahead by roughly $10 million.

If you ever wanted an example of a company weighing cost vs. customer safety, well, there it is.

Just like Enterprise and GM back in 2009, Ford and FCA see these problems as being non-issues … until they’re caught red handed.

FCA has recalled the 1.4 million affected cars — against their will, I might add — and will need to mail out patches or have customers visit local dealers. Remember, this is all happening as FCA looks at a record-setting $105 million infraction ticket for its historical recall performance, or lack thereof.

Ford has flooded the blogosphere today with news that the F-150 will now come with a sport button. Yes, that’s right, a fucking sport button. Try Googling “Ford F-150″ today and it’s as if Crashgate never happened.

So, next time to pledge your donation to the My Favorite Brand club, remember this: You might care about them, but they only care about one thing from you — and it isn’t your life.

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2015 Ford Expedition Platinum Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-expedition-platinum-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-expedition-platinum-review/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 15:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1116809 Has there ever been a longer running runner-up in an automotive category than the Ford Expedition? The large three-row SUV has been outsold by the Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL twins for years by as much as a 2:1 margin in the ever-shrinking large SUV segment. Throw in the Tahoe and regular Yukon numbers and the Expedition lags even further […]

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Has there ever been a longer running runner-up in an automotive category than the Ford Expedition? The large three-row SUV has been outsold by the Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL twins for years by as much as a 2:1 margin in the ever-shrinking large SUV segment. Throw in the Tahoe and regular Yukon numbers and the Expedition lags even further behind. The Expedition does outsell its luxo Lincoln stablemate, the Navigator, by about a 4:1 margin.

It may not be able to overcome the years of momentum and iconic brand image of the Suburban — proclaimed back in 1986 as the “National Car Of Texas” — but the latest iteration of the Expedition is fighting back.


The Tester

2015 Ford Expedition Platinum 4×2

Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V6 EcoBoost, twin-turbocharged and intercooled, direct injection (365 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm, 420 lbs-ft torque @ 2,500 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed SelectShift automatic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 16 city/22 highway/18 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 17.1 mpg, approx. 75 percent city

Options: Power deployable running boards, power liftgate, 600A Equipment Group (power moonroof and voice-activated navigation system), 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, leather front bucket seats, heated/cooled front seats, heated 2nd-row seats, Powerfold 3rd-row seats, 390W Sony premium audio, SYNC with MyFord Touch, Continuous Control Damping Suspension with three selectable drive modes, HD Trailer Towing Package.

Base Price (U.S.): $59,995
As Tested: $63,750

Additional Reviewer Notes:

Average available savings off MSRP per TrueCar: Los Angeles: $4,974; Dallas: $6,459; Chicago: $6,774; New Jersey: $6,319.

Other styles, base price: XLT, $45,095; Limited, $54,805; King Ranch, $59,035

Add approx. $3,000 for 4WD.

Wheelbase: 119 inches. Add approx. $2,700 for 131-inch wheelbase EL models.

Maximum towing capacity: 9,200 pounds.
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The 2015 Expedition’s refresh highlight was Ford’s dropping the 5.4-liter V-8 engine in favor of the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 power plant. With a jump in horsepower from 310 to 365 and an additional 2 mpg in gas mileage over the V-8, it is hard to argue with this CAFE-driven decision. Other upgrades for 2015 include the optional controlled damping suspension on our tester that offers three driving modes — comfort, normal and sport — and a redesigned center stack.

Exterior changes were minor and included an enlarged grill and tweaked lower bumper, fog lights and taillights. Ford calls these visual updates “fresh and aggressive.” Every automaker calls such changes “fresh and aggressive.”

It may be an 8-year-old design, but the optional 22-inch polished aluminum wheels and Ruby Red Metallic paint on this top of the line Platinum edition make the old war-horse look pretty darn good…until you notice other Expeditions on the street and realize its looks are pretty darn tired.

The first thing you see when climbing aboard is the keyless entry keypad on the doorsill. I had forgotten this feature was still around. first seeing it on a 1990s Lincoln Mk VIII Coupe (which means Sajeev probably has three of the pads in his parts bin). Instructions on how to program the keys and keypad take up 28 pages of the owner’s manual but work intuitively. Open the door and the Escalade-like stainless power running boards whir down to assist you with the two-step climb into the cab.

The voluminous interior is a mix of old and new: tons of outlets, cubbies and cup holders with modern satin aluminum trim clashing with ugly, dark vertical slabs of plastic on the dash. The heated and cooled leather front seats in our tester were comfortable but already showing signs of cracking on the edges after a few thousand miles. It is too bad Ford does not offer a panorama sunroof option because the expanse of black tones made for a dark interior on our tester.

This is a true eight-adult-sized vehicle with third-row seats that fold down at the touch of a button on the back of the seats. Cargo volume is 108 cubic feet (131 cubic feet in the long-wheelbase EL model) with 55 cubic feet available with the 3rd row of seats folded down. A low load height thanks to the independent rear suspension makes access to the rear a snap.

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The last Ford I drove with the MyFord Touch infotainment center was a 2012 Escape and it was fine if you were a Rubik’s Cube champion, but was way too confusing for the average driver. In this redesigned system, with an 8-inch touch screen high sitting in the center stack and twin 4.2-inch LCD screens surrounding the speedometer, every function was easy to find. Syncing phones and iPods was easy and the soft multi-colored glow it emits at night looks great.

One quirk I noted is when you switch the transmission into manual mode a tiny tachometer pops up on one of the small LCD screens and it’s truly comical in appearance.

The center touch screen can be divided into quadrants displaying Phone, Navigation, Entertainment and Climate functions. It resembles an electronic version of the old-school car dealer “Four-Square” closing worksheet. Perhaps Ford could speed up the sales process by programming the elements of the four square into the boxes and you could negotiate your deal with your salesperson during your test drive:

MyFordTouch_Home_screen-640x383 (1) Courtesy extremetech.com

Why yes, I have been in the car business way too long.

It is strange to fire up a 5,600 pound SUV and not hear the rumble of a V-8. You will not miss the sound when you hit the gas on the EcoBoost V-6: the Expedition is quick, whooshing from 0 to 60 mph in the mid 6-second range. There is a touch of turbo lag but the motor shows tremendous flexibility at all speeds, helped along by the smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. I absolutely loved the brakes, which are firm and easy to modulate.

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Along with its independent rear suspension, our tester had the new Continuous Control Suspension option with three selectable drive modes — comfort, normal and sport. You can actually feel the difference in the each mode. In the sport setting, the slightly sloppy steering tightened up, the cornering was much crisper and the ride much more choppy. The comfort mode may as well be called the wallow mode. All three settings eased the pain of driving Tucson’s crater-filled roads. After fooling around with the settings on the first day, I ended up leaving it in normal mode for the duration of the test. Who needs a sport setting on a school bus anyway?

Despite a tiny bit too much wind and road noise, the Expedition is an extremely comfortable long-distance cruiser.

As far as the comparison to the Suburban, tests indicate the refreshed Ford offers a better ride thanks to its independent rear suspension and adjustable damping, slightly better acceleration and better towing capacity at 9,200 pounds vs. 8,000 pounds. With the Suburban you get a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 with only a slight sacrifice in gas mileage (16/23) versus the Expedition, but it’s accompanied by less road noise and a more luxurious interior thanks to a generous use of softer materials.

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The Suburban offers much more interior room than our 119-inch wheelbase tester; the 131-inch wheelbase Expedition EL is slightly roomier than the Chevy.

Basically, the Expedition is the better truck and the Suburban the better car.

Comparing similarly equipped models shows a Suburban LTZ stickering at $70,215, or about $3,600 more than a long-wheelbase Expedition Platinum.

Ford is readying a complete overhaul of the Expedition for 2017. Word is they will add a diesel engine option, which Chevrolet has not offered in the Suburban since 2000. (Ford’s even-larger Excursion, discontinued after 2005, did have an available 6.0-liter Powerstroke diesel.) The Mercedes-Benz GL is the only large SUV currently offered with an oil-burner engine and I think an American-brand, full-size SUV with a diesel powerplant would sell very well.

The 2015 Ford Expedition is an old-school SUV with a new-school motor. If you are a road warrior needing lots of room for cargo or kids and tons of towing capacity, this may be the sport-ute for you.

Picks:

  • Powerful EcoBoost V-6
  • Power-folding third-row seats
  • Plush, comfortable ride

Nit Pics:

  • Some cheap interior materials
  • Even 22-inch dubs can’t hide dated look
  • No pano roof available

Wife Sez: I love the power extending running boards!

Ford provided the vehicle for one week, one tank of gas and insurance.

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For $58 You May Pass the IIHS Small-overlap Crash http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/58-may-pass-iihs-small-overlap-crash/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/58-may-pass-iihs-small-overlap-crash/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 17:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132489 Metal bars welded to the Ford F-150 Super Crew in front and behind its front wheels that helped it pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s notoriously difficult small-overlap crash cost roughly $58, Automotive News is reporting. It was revealed last week that the low-cost part was left off of regular- and extended-cab models, prompting the […]

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2015 F-150 Crash Test

Metal bars welded to the Ford F-150 Super Crew in front and behind its front wheels that helped it pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s notoriously difficult small-overlap crash cost roughly $58, Automotive News is reporting.

It was revealed last week that the low-cost part was left off of regular- and extended-cab models, prompting the insurance organization to retest the F-150 models and revise their ratings much lower than the original test.

According to Automotive News, Ford stopped short of saying that it would include the low-cost parts on the regular- and extended-cab versions of the truck, but said it would install “countermeasures” to improve crash performance. The regular and extended cab comprise about 5 and 25 percent of overall F-150 sales respectively.

Ram has said it would include the bars, which engineers have dubbed “wheel blockers,” in its pickups this year going forward.

overlap-overheadThe effectiveness of the relatively inexpensive part underscores the auto industry’s evolution to the small-overlap crash, which has been incredibly difficult for automakers since it was introduced three years ago. In 2012, only 3 out of 11 midsize luxury or near-luxury cars received “good” or “acceptable” ratings on the crash. In 2015, many of those ratings had improved to “good,” but when optional crash avoidance systems were installed on the car. For instance, the front crash mitigation package on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which scored a “good” rating when equipped with that option, costs $2,800.

Safety officials at the IIHS said they would begin testing the top two bestselling models of pickup trucks to avoid truckmakers testing only their most-popular models and applying the rating to the rest of its lineup without having the same equipment.

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Ask Bark: Should I Lease a Jetta? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ask-bark-lease-jetta/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ask-bark-lease-jetta/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131809 This week’s “Ask Bark” comes from a reader who wants to know if he should prolong his Volkswagen-related madness or start new Volkswagen-related madness. Bark, I have read your articles. I like your style. I know about the fact people ask you for advice on what car to get and then completely ignore it. You’ve […]

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This week’s “Ask Bark” comes from a reader who wants to know if he should prolong his Volkswagen-related madness or start new Volkswagen-related madness.

Bark,

I have read your articles. I like your style. I know about the fact people ask you for advice on what car to get and then completely ignore it. You’ve said you won’t respond to that question anymore. I’m about to ask the same question. (WHY GOD WHY??? — Bark) But I really do want your answer.

Fine … here we go.

About me: I’m 32 years old. A lot of my friends and colleagues have BMWs (I’m a software engineer). Most of them don’t use their BMWs for all that they could be; it’s mostly a badge engineering thing.

I consider myself knowledgeable about cars, but fairly relaxed about them as well. I know how to drive a manual, but I’m not great at it.

I live near downtown Seattle and spend a lot of time in traffic commuting to work (20 minutes to an hour away).

I’m 6’3″ and 200 lbs with a physically fit frame. In cars, I tend not to be able to see traffic lights when I’m the first one in line. Trucks tend to not fit in the parking garages nearby me in downtown.

I’ve owned a lot of vehicles (some old and some brand new) and, while I’m very fiscally conservative, I find I go through vehicles every 3 years, so I haven’t really done all that well financially with automobiles. My cars in order have been a 1996 Prelude SI, a 2005 Acura RSX Type-S, a 2007 Toyota Tundra, a 1992 Nissan pickup, a 2007 Honda Pilot and a 2001 VW Passat GLX 4Motion. I liked the RSX the best as it was actually very roomy (love hatchbacks!) and the engine was great, but really didn’t have it all that long because I bought a boat that I needed to haul around. Then I lost my job and started over for a bit before buying the Pilot in an attempt to haul my boat but get better gas mileage (it didn’t). I went with the Passat because the Pilot was actually a lemon, the boat has long since been sold and I wanted something cheap that could get me to the mountains for snowboarding while I paid up my 401k.

Now onto my question (Whew, I was worried that I had missed it in there somewhere).

Fast forward to today, my 401k is happy with my current slot in life and I’m comfortable in the Passat, but it’s getting a little long in the tooth. While it has been fairly reliable, unlike what most people think of when they think of VWs, it is still a VW and the maintenance is not cheap. I did the math and it has cost me $3,600 in maintenance over the last 12 months (an engine leak, new tires, spark plugs, wires, brake fluids, transmission flush and oil changes/filters at independent shops rather than the dealer). The previous 12 months (actually 15 months) I owned two vehicles so I don’t have good math as it wasn’t a daily driver. Over the next 12 months I expect a little less, but it’s coming up on needing new brakes all around and what if the old VW curse comes for me.

So, being a guy who likes to try new things, getting a newer car that costs the same or less than I’m spending already makes a ton of sense for me. I’ve come to the realization that I’m never going to be the guy that buys a car and keeps it for 10 years (me either). I’m too fickle for that. I’m not opposed to leasing but I’m also a cheapskate when it comes to leasing. I’d rather pay more a month to consider something mine and be able to sell it later.

I’ve heard multiple sources say you can lease a Jetta for $100 a month right now. A Jetta doesn’t really excite too much (AWD, hatchbacks, all electrics, roofless vehicles and Apple car play excite me much more), but it’s brand new, the reviews aren’t terrible on the 1.8T, the gas mileage is way better and the maintenance should be null. I’m really into the idea of the Model 3 coming out but that’s not for a while longer and I’m tired of being patient.

Doing the math of $100 a month plus a few grand down seems cost-effective from my current standpoint. So all this wordiness being said: Is the Jetta 1.8T with a few added options a better car than a 2001 VW Passat V-6 4Motion? Are there any other cars you would suggest based on my desire to own it for three years and keep the costs lower than $3,000 a year? Should I go buy another RSX and relive my ricer days without any mods this time around?

Sincerely,

A Man Who Should Be Committed (He has a real name, but that’s what I’ve decided to call him based on this letter)

All kidding aside, thank you for your e-mail, sir.

OK, there’s several things to consider here. First of all, thanks for demonstrating the reality of the Modern Day Car Shopper. You’ve owned a hatchback, a couple of pickup trucks and an all-wheel-drive, 14-year-old sedan. Now you’re considering an econobox, or maybe another older hatch. People think that most car shoppers have it narrowed down to just one or two models, but all of the research available today suggests otherwise. In fact, most people actually expand their search to more cars and models as they get closer to the actual purchase event — which is exactly what’s happening here.

Now, let’s talk about your actual question. Is the Jetta 1.8T better than a 2001 VW Passat V6 4Motion? Only in the sense that nearly any 2015 car is going to be better than a vehicle from 2001. The new Jetta is not a particularly fun car to wheel, but the 1.8T at least makes it bearable.

The problem is that I can’t find anything like a $100 a month lease on the 1.8T (I’m sure the B&B will prove me wrong immediately) — it’s the base 2.0 liter engine, manual transmission variety that has the $139 a month lease special with $2,199 down, $1,000 VW cash, and a dealer contribution of $2,167. Trust me when I say that you’re not going to want anything to do with a 2.0. I had that same motor in my MkIII Jetta back in 1994, and it’s not any faster today than it was then.

The 1.8T looks closer to $197 a month with $2,000 down (which is the approximate value of your trade). To get it down to the magic $100 a month, you’re going to have to float a couple grand of additional cash above and beyond your trade. However, VW dealers aren’t exactly ringing the register with any great regularity nowadays, so they might be willing to increase their dealer contribution a little more than usual.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of putting money down on a lease. I’ve done three leases in my day, and I never put down a single dime above and beyond whatever customer cash and/or rebates were available at the time. There’s not much, if any, financial advantage to doing so unless you’ve come into some money and you’re prone to letting cash burn a hole in your pocket. I’d put your trade on the table (or, if you’re not in a hurry, sell it privately for a few hundred more) and that’s it.

The second part of your question: Are there other, better cars that would cost you less than $3,000 a year for the next three years? Abso-effing-lutely, especially given your preference for hatches. At the very same lot where they’re struggling to pay the electric bills, the Golf 1.8T is leasing for $219 a month with the $1,999 down. If you like hatchbacks and VWs, why not get the Golf?

Or how about a Focus? They’re putting $2,000 on the hood right now. You can get a Titanium hatch for less than three grand a year with your trade-in. In fact, you can damn near get an ST. Or, if you’d rather buy, you can get a Focus SE hatch for about $235 a month on a 0 percent, 72-month buy (which is exactly what I’d probably do — whine away about long-term loans, haters).

So here’s the Tough Love portion of this post: Life is too short and money is too precious to spend a freaking cent of it on a car that “doesn’t excite” or of which the reviews “aren’t terrible.” You make good money, you have a good job — why are you punishing yourself? Spend some of that money on something that does excite during that dreadful Seattle commute (my office used to be in Bellevue, so I totally get it). You’re going to be in your car upward of two hours per day sometimes. You like hatchbacks. Why not get one? Besides, the Jetta interior is not a particularly pleasant place to spend that much time, even if it does come with modern conveniences like Bluetooth. Your purchase history doesn’t suggest that you’d be happy in one.

Regarding your RSX idea: When I was your age, making what was probably similar money to what you make now, I realized that I needed to grow up a bit and get a sedan. So I bought a Pontiac G8 GT. If I’d had even the slightest bit of patience with that car, I could still be driving it now and it would still be worth about what I got when I traded it. Alas, I wasn’t. Sometimes I see a G8 GT on the road and I get a little sad that I don’t have one — until I remember that it had major mechanical issues that caused me to be without it for months at a time. Yet, the further I get away from actually having had to drive a Chevy HHR rental for a month because of a parts availability issue, the more I romanticize the idea of the G8 in my mind. Sigh.

Where was I? Oh, right. Buying an RSX. Yeah, don’t do that. The amount of money those things pull on the used car market is downright mind-boggling. Your monthly payment over 36 months for what is now a 10-year-old car would be equal to or greater than a 36-month lease payment on any number of hatches that are just downright better. Yes, at the end of it, you would own it, but at the end of it, you’d also now own a 13-year-old car.

So, here’s the Bark-approved final answer: Don’t get a Jetta 1.8T. Don’t get another RSX. I am really trying hard not to recommend leasing a Fiesta ST, mostly because I don’t think you’d enjoy the harsh suspension and the manual transmission on that commute. So here’s what I’d do: Go drive both a Golf 1.8T automatic (since you apparently have a little VW thing going on) and a Focus Titanium automatic — which are two very different cars — and pick whichever one suits your driving style better. Or, if you can’t stomach the idea of leasing a car for that much money, drive the Focus SE hatch and work the numbers on buying one of those over 72 with 0-percent financing.

Over to you, B&B!

Send your “Ask Bark” questions to barkm302@gmail.com. Bark really has nothing else better to do than answer your questions. I mean, there’s the whole “parenting” thing, and there’s also his actual job. So, maybe he has couple of better things to do than answer your questions, but he’ll do it anyway.

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2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium Review (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-subaru-legacy-2-5i-premium-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-subaru-legacy-2-5i-premium-video/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 12:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=767697 Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system […]

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Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system is around $2,600-$3,000 effectively making the Subaru a much better value than the base Volkswagen that is front-wheel drive with a manual. This value proposition is the key to understanding Subaru in general and the Legacy in particular.



By making AWD a core Subaru value, and therefore standard on almost every model, certain costs are unavoidable. How then (or why?) does Subaru give you $3,000 more drivetrain for almost the same base price? Excellent question. The reason is simple: the average shopper has troubles with the concept of value. To be competitive Subaru has to keep their pricing in line with the FWD competition. It’s easier to say “my car has AWD for the same price” than “I know it’s $3,000 more, but we give you AWD and they don’t.”

To keep the MSRP competitive on billboards and pop-up ads, Subaru makes up the difference elsewhere. Building any car in the mainstream segment involves what I jokingly refer to as “cutting corners.” Cash can be saved by strategically placed hard plastics, by skipping a little trim in the trunk, making features optional or streamlining common parts. The trick in this segment is knowing what “corners to cut” and those to leave alone. This is a game that Subaru has been quickly learning. Standard AWD and pricing aside, there’s more about the Legacy that marches to a different drummer.

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Drivetrain
For the uninitiated, almost every modern engine is either an in-line design where the cylinders are lined up in a row, or a “V” engine design where two banks of cylinders interact with a crankshaft at an angle that is either 60 or 90 degrees. Except Porsche and Subaru. Mainly as a nod to nostalgia and uniqueness, these two brands have a dedication to the horizontally opposed, boxer engine. In a boxer design, cylinders are 180 degrees apart in two banks. Four-cylinder boxers are approximately half as long as an inline-four, but considerably wider. Although the boxer design is better balanced than an I-4, the prime benefit to this design has more to do with  the short overall length. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer is good for 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque while the optional 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer bumps that to 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft. The 2.5-liter engine is right in line with the competition but the 3.6-liter lags behind most of the V6 and turbo-four options from the competition. For 2015, both engines are mated to a CVT, although the 2.5 and 3.6 use slightly different transmission internals.

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Subaru’s AWD system has more in common with Audi’s traditional Quattro system than the optional AWD systems you find in the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. That’s because the Legacy is the only car in this segment with a longitudinally mounted engine, a mounting choice normally associated with rear-wheel drive vehicles. Like Quattro, Subaru integrates the AWD system and the front differential into the same case as the transmission meaning that the engine and torque converter are entirely in front of the front axle. So, although this layout resembles a RWD layout in a BMW, the weight balance hovers around 60/40 front-to-rear. Subaru likes to advertize the Legacy’s low center of gravity when it comes to handling, but in my opinion the front-heavy weight distribution has more of an impact on the handling than anything else. On the flip side, the overall dimensions of the drivetrain allow the front wheels more room to turn enabling a tighter turning circle than most midsized sedans.

Previous Legacy generations used different AWD systems depending on the transmission and engine choice but 2015 standardizes on Subaru’s latest multi-plate clutch design. Like other systems in the segment the system can lock the clutch pack to send power 50/50 front/rear with no slip and it can direct up to 90 percent of the power to the rear if slip occurs up front. What’s different is the “beefiness” of the clutch pack, this system is designed to send 40 percent of the power to the rear most of the time, while Chrysler’s 200 disconnects the rear axle as often as possible to save fuel and the Ford system defaults to a near 100/0 power split unless slip occurs.

Oil Consumption
Subaru’s new 2.5-liter engine has been the focus of conspiracy theories about oil consumption. Over my nearly 800 miles of driving, the oil level on the dipstick didn’t budge, but I don’t doubt consumption can be higher than some engine designs. First off, the new 2.5-liter engine uses low friction rings and very low viscosity (0W-20) oil. These two design choices invariably lead to higher efficiency and — you guessed it — higher oil consumption. All things being equal, if you add thinner oil and lower friction rings to any engine design, higher oil consumption is a likely byproduct. In addition, the very nature of a horizontally opposed engine may be a causal factor as well. However you feel about the Legacy’s appetite for dinosaur juice, the resulting fuel economy is undeniably high at a combined 30 mpg in the EPA cycle and a very respectable 28.8 mpg in our actual driving sample. Despite being four-wheel-driven, the Legacy is just 1-2 mpg lower than the thriftiest entries in this segment.

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Exterior
Form ultimately must follow function. Even though the Legacy uses longitudinally mounted engines and transmissions, the exterior still sports a long front overhang (like Audis) because of the engine’s location. Thanks to the “squatter” engine design, the hood slopes gently toward the front improving forward visibility. If you notice something un-Subaru in the side profile, you’re probably noticing that this Legacy ditches the frameless window design long associated with Subaru for a more traditional design. The change has a positive impact on wind noise in the cabin.

Borrowing a page from the Fusion’s design book, Subaru decided to give this Legacy a sportier profile with a roofline that starts plunging just after the B-pillar and extends behind the rear wheel. Like the Fusion and 200, which use similar design cues, this style has a direct impact on rear seat headroom. Overall this generation Legacy is far more mainstream than my neighbor’s Legacy GT with the hood scoop and rear wing.

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The rear bumper is a perfect place to see one of the trade-offs for the standard drivetrain. Many vehicles that have single and dual exhaust options use two different bumper moldings but Subaru saves some cash by just using one and inserting a blank in the four-cylinder model. In my mind this is the kind of trade-off that’s worth making for two reasons. The blank is well done (as you can see above) and should you for some reason want to have an exhaust shop upgrade you to a dual exhaust tip look, it’s easier than a bumper swap. In addition Subaru saves a little cash by giving base models steel wheels instead of the alloys found on most base midsize sedans.

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Interior
The same kind of trade-offs can be seen inside the Legacy’s cabin. Base and Premium models lack rear seat air vents, automatic climate control and you’ll find a hair more hard plastic in the cabin than in some of the newer competitors. That said, this Legacy is a definite improvement in terms of interior refinement compared to the last model.

I found front seat comfort to be slightly below average in the base model with the 6-way manual seat, and above average in the 10-way power seat found in Premium and Limited trims. You will find more comfortable seats in the Accord and Altima, but these seats are on par with the Fusion. Another area where costs were recouped is the front passenger seat which is 4-way adjustable only and notably less comfortable than the right seat in top-end trims as a result.

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Because of the roofline’s plunge toward the trunk, headroom is just about as limited as the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. (In other words, if you want AWD, be prepared for a height-restricted back seat.) At 6-feet tall, I had to slouch slightly in the rear to keep my head from touching the ceiling. This profile seems to be a trend in this segment and fewer and fewer midsized sedans have the headroom for six-foot-plus folks in the rear, the Accord and Passat are notable exceptions.

At 15 cubic feet the Legacy’s trunk is a hair smaller than the Camry, Passat, Accord, 200 and Fusion. However, Subaru uses a hinge design that doesn’t consume any trunk space meaning the slightly smaller hold is actually more practical. The Altima still takes top honors in this segment for swallowing multiple 24-inch carry-on sized roller bags in the vertical position.

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Infotainment
The Legacy debuts Subaru’s all-new StarLink infotainment software running on either a 6.1-inch or 7-inch LCD depending on the trim level. The new software brings expanded voice commands, finger gestures, climate control integration, improved USB/iDevice integration and optional navigation. The entire interface is snappier and more refined than Subaru’s previous software, although it still lacks direct voice control over your connected media library a la Ford’s SYNC or Toyota’s Entune. The optional StarLink app for your Android or iOS phone enables streaming audio and unlike some of the competitive apps, it doesn’t make you register and create an account in order to work.

One of the more interesting features of StarLink is unfortunately not supported in the United States: MirrorLink. you can think of MirrorLink as the more open alternative and precursor to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sadly MirrorLink looks to be something consigned to the dustbin, but hopefully this means Subaru will support the other two standards at some point soon. (Note: Although Subaru does not support it in the USA, Subaru owners tell me it does work with a limited number of Android devices.)

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Drive
The Subaru AWD system has a distinct impact on the Legacy’s road manners. Because the system sends 40 percent of the power to the rear without wheel slip, the Legacy is easily the most surefooted and confident on slippery surfaces. [Edit: Shoppers should know that when the temperature drops below approximately 40 degrees fahrenheit winter tires are recommended for optimum traction. AWD does not improve braking or neutral handling but appropriate winter tires will. A FWD car with winter tires will our brake, out handle and likely out accelerate a comparable AWD car with all-season tires in the snow.]

The boxer engine may drop the center of gravity, but it also makes the Legacy just as front-heavy as a V-6 Accord. Like that Accord and every other V-6 front wheel drive sedan, the Legacy feels heavy and reluctant to turn in neutral handling (power-off) situations. Apply power in the corner, and the Legacy feels more neutral and predictable as the car shuttles power to the rear wheels, but the Subaru AWD system does not torque vector in the rear so it’s never going to rotate like a RWD car or an Acura with SH-AWD. The previous generation Legacy 3.6R used a mechanical center differential to give it a slight rear bias, but that has been removed for 2015 in the name of fuel economy.

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Speaking of fuel economy, the Leagcy’s numbers are unexpectedly high. Over the course of a week, I averaged 28.8 mpg in mixed driving with plenty of hill climbing as my commute involves a 2,200-ft mountain pass. Looking back on the recent sedans I’ve tested, the Legacy beat the four-cylinder Camry, tied with the 1.5-liter Fusion, was 1-2 mpg lower than the Passat 1.8T, Altima 2.5 and 4 mpg lower than the Accord with a CVT.

The high fuel economy comes at a slight cost. Subaru’s CVT has a ratio spread of 5.8 (that represents the spread of ratios from low to high, the higher the number the bigger the difference between high and low) which is narrower than most of the other transmissions in this segment. This means that when picking a final drive ratio Subaru had to chose between low end acceleration and fuel economy and they chose the latter. The resulting 14:1 starting ratio is notably higher than the 17.6:1 ratio we find in the four-cylinder Chrysler 200 and explains the Legacy 2.5’s leisurly 8.3 second 0-60 time. Some folks have incorrectly assumed the 2.5-liter boxer is “guttless” at low RPMs, but it really has more to do with this ratio and the torque converter design, as evidenced by the 3.5 second 0-30 time (longer than a Prius). Opting for the 3.6-liter engine certainly adds some scoot, but the big boxer is notably less powerful than the V-6 engines in the competition. Couple that with a tweaked CVT and an even higher starting ratio of 12.8:1 and 3.6R Limited is decidedly sluggish compared to the Fusion’s 2-liter turbo and especially the Chrysler 3.6-liter V-6.

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Subaru’s revised suspension in this generation of Legacy has improved the road manners. While not as soft as the Altima, the Legacy proved to be a smooth highway companion and never seemed upset over broken pavement. This year’s cabin is notably quieter than before in both wind and road noise. This softer side of Subaru translates to plenty of body roll and tip and dive when you’re out on your favorite mountain road, but the Legacy is still firmer than the Altima. The steering rack isn’t as responsive or direct as the Mazda6, Fusion or Accord Sport, opting instead for a middle-of-the-road feel. Subaru has tweaked the suspension further for 2016, but I did not get a chance to sample the change. Although the Mazda6 is not one of the faster options in this segment, it is still the most fun out on a winding road.

In terms of AWD competition, for the 2.5-liter model there simply isn’t any. Ford’s requires you to select the SE or above trims and the 2-liter turbo engine in order to add four-wheel motivation to the Fusion. As a result, the least expensive model is $27,810. Not only is that $6,000 more than a base Subie, the EPA says it’ll cost you $300 a year more to run. Chrysler only bundles AWD with their 3.6-liter V-6, which drops fuel economy to 22 mpg in combined driving and bumps the price tag to $29,562, which is $8,000 more than the base Subaru. On the filp side, the 200 AWD will hit 60 in under 6 seconds, more than a full second faster than the Legacy 3.6R.

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Thanks to high fuel economy and a well chosen feature set, the Legacy 2.5 is a solid alternative to the FWD competition with only few caveats. The 3.6R is another matter. The top end Legacy will set you back 30-large and adding push-button start and navigation bumps this up to around $34,000. For that price, the Chrysler adds real wood trim, ventilated seats, better handling, better performance, heated steering wheel, more comfortable seats, auto high-beams, autonomous parking and a partial LCD instrument cluster.

Taken out of context, the Legacy could seem less than competitive. If you’re looking for the best rear seat accommodations, the highest fuel economy, the best performance or the most luxury features, your future lies elsewhere. But it’ll cost you more and it won’t have AWD. The interesting twist is that even if AWD isn’t terribly important to you, there is little penalty at the pump and almost no price premium at purchase. That means that whether you’re above the snow-belt or not, if you’re looking for one of the best buys in the CamCord segment, drop by your Subaru dealer. If you want the “best AWD family hauler” however, that’s at the 200C AWD from Detroit.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.5

0-60: 8.3

1/4 Mile: 16.2 Seconds @ 87 MPH

Average Economy: 28.8 MPG

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Senate Committee Approves Bill to Help Detroit Make Hybrids http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/senate-committee-approves-bill-help-detroit-make-hybrids/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/senate-committee-approves-bill-help-detroit-make-hybrids/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 21:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129497 A U.S. Senate committee for transportation passed along a bill Thursday that included provisions to help domestic automakers develop and build cleaner vehicles, the Detroit News is reporting. The proposal, dubbed the Vehicle Innovation Act, was included in a larger clean energy bill taken up by the committee. The Vehicle Innovation Act would set aside […]

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A U.S. Senate committee for transportation passed along a bill Thursday that included provisions to help domestic automakers develop and build cleaner vehicles, the Detroit News is reporting.

The proposal, dubbed the Vehicle Innovation Act, was included in a larger clean energy bill taken up by the committee. The Vehicle Innovation Act would set aside $313.6 million next year for research and development of hybrid technology, battery development and alternative fuels such as natural gas. Funding would increase by 4 percent every year up to 2020.

Nearly all major U.S. automotive lobbies representing manufacturers supported the proposal.

The proposal, which will now head to the Senate, faces an extremely difficult future. The bipartisan bill, which was sponsored by Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Michigan Democrat Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, may be a long shot in the Republican-controlled House — if it makes it that far.

Separately, a bill that Peters introduced that would allow states to use highway funding to help advance road-to-vehicle communications, passed the Senate as part of a larger transportation package. The bill, called the Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Safety Technology Investment Flexibility Act of 2015 says what it does and does what it says will be part of the Senate’s larger 6-year highway funding package.

Along with the Vehicle Innovation Act, the “smart road” provision and larger funding bill won’t be taken up by the House anytime soon. Congress is working toward a 3-month stopgap measure and will take up the larger spending packages after its August recess.

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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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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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TTAC Project Car: Sacrifice to The Sierra Gods! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-project-car-sacrifice-sierra-gods/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-project-car-sacrifice-sierra-gods/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128273   No surprise, the auto journo that insists on everything LS-swapped is actually a big ol’ fraud. Do as he says, not as he does with TTAC’s Project Car — a 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia previously reviewed with the promise of more to come. Promises: kept. After scouring the interwebs, reading about the Sierra’s factory […]

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Merkur? ZOMG SANJEEV Y U NO LS1-FTW?

Merkur? ZOMG SANJEEV Y U NO LS1-FTW?

No surprise, the auto journo that insists on everything LS-swapped is actually a big ol’ fraud. Do as he says, not as he does with TTAC’s Project Car — a 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia previously reviewed with the promise of more to come.

Promises: kept.

After scouring the interwebs, reading about the Sierra’s factory shortcomings and applying a modicum of common sense, the ultimate in Chevrolet LS-performance was beyond my financial scope and my intentions for a Mk1 Sierra. Stuffing 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag, no matter the ability to make the baddest, brown, 5-door hatch on the planet, wasn’t in the cards.

1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

Then a 1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe arrived via phone call. Bought by my friend (and infamous LeMons racer) Brian Pollock as a rust-free restomod worthy of a good home, he parted it out to feed his racing addiction. True to form, he made a quick buck off me with its valuable Fox Body parts, but our conversation soon regressed to the Sierra-worthy goodies: the turbocharged 2.3-liter mill, EEC-IV fuel injection, T-5 gearbox (a la Sierra Cosworth), the largest injectors/camshaft/manifold/VAM of its breed, rear disc brakes and even a serpentine accessory belt drive. It was all mine for $700, with Brian’s commitment to be the craftsman behind this madness.

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Then another LeMons racer offered the running, restorable 1988 Merkur XR4ti (American Sierra to you noobs) seen in this article’s introduction. Sure, the motor’s hurt, but it rounds out the Sierra’s Ford-ification: a drop-in EFI wiring harness/fuel system/clutch, bigger (front) brakes, firmer springs, fatter anti-sway bars, stronger 7.5-inch differential and countless interior bits including a boost gauge.

$600? Sold! There’s even my favorite 2.3-liter aluminum cam cover with complimentary mud dauber nest:

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Shockingly, the Merkur’s hurt motor fired up on first attempt after a 2+ year slumber. Once the amazement subsided (terrible quality YouTube video remains), the notion of driving a parts car certainly beats pushing the damn thing.

For the price of an LS1 take-out motor, my path to being a complete fraud — a two-faced bastard of massive proportions — was complete. Plus, I enjoy slamming performance Ford parts in Ford products where they do not belong. It’s been my shtick with non-Mustang Fox Bodies since 1999.

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Necessary Aside: Behold the amazing parts interchangeability of (disturbingly comfortable) Turbo Coupe seats in Brian’s Ford truck. It’s also a 5-speed Fummins conversion, garnering attention from the tow-savvy among the B&B in our last article, effortlessly yanking the Merkur, T-bird and the Sierra around Texas. Aside from the color clash, this embodies everything I wanted to share in this update.

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That’s a very handy book to find in the back seat of your Merkur parts car. I bet I can get $50 for it when I’m done with the swap. So what’s next for TTAC’s Ford Sierra?

The Turbo Coupe is stripped; of no further use to anyone but China. It’ll be scrap metal by the time you read this.

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The Merkur isn’t long for this world, but the sacrificial lamb’s pain is pure pleasure to The Sierra Gods. I suspect we’re swapping subframes (for that stiffer suspension and big differential), grabbing fuel, drivetrain and EFI wiring bits in the coming months. And since its rust free, maybe I’ll sawzall off the rocker panels as the Sierra is a tad rusty-crusty after those hard UK winters.

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Most of this is on Brian’s plate, but me? I’m ensuring the Merkur’s computer accepts a tune like the (better) unit salvaged from the Turbo Coupe, with input from my SCT tuner friend. Perhaps intake, exhaust and camshaft upgrades are in the mix. You never know!

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I’m also geeking out over the Merkur’s factory boost gauge via installation into the Sierra’s cluster. Not a direct drop in, as the right-hand-drive Sierra puts the speedometer (and cable) on the wrong side of the assembly.

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Nothing I can’t handle.

What other roadblocks shall TTAC’s project encounter? Until next time!

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