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. Sat, 18 Apr 2015 19:36:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Long-term Tester Update: Fiesta ST on the Free-Love Freeway http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-free-love-freeway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-free-love-freeway/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:18:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046394 “Whoa, hold on. A car hauler is actively trying to run me off the road.” Yesterday, I was talking to my older brother via Bluetooth while driving home from Louisville when, for the third time in approximately ninety miles of highway driving, a trucker was moving over on me in a way that clearly indicated […]

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

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

“You in the FiST?” my brother asked.

“But of course!” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

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

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Rude Remarks? GO!

 

 

 

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Best-In-A-Decade March 2015 Ford Explorer Sales Cause Us To Remember Times Gone By http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/best-decade-march-2015-ford-explorer-sales-cause-us-remember-times-gone/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/best-decade-march-2015-ford-explorer-sales-cause-us-remember-times-gone/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:18:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044946 In the lead-up to the launch of a refreshed 2016 Ford Explorer, March 2015 sales of the current model rose to the highest March output since 2005 and the highest monthly level regardless of season since July 2005. Explorer volume jumped 19% to 23,058 in March 2015, a total made up of 2293 Police Interceptor […]

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Ford SUV sales chart March 2015In the lead-up to the launch of a refreshed 2016 Ford Explorer, March 2015 sales of the current model rose to the highest March output since 2005 and the highest monthly level regardless of season since July 2005.

Explorer volume jumped 19% to 23,058 in March 2015, a total made up of 2293 Police Interceptor Utilities (up 45%) and 20,765 civilian Explorers (up 17%).

In a month which saw particularly strong results from the Nissan Rogue and Chevrolet Equinox, the Explorer ranked sixth among America’s best-selling SUVs and crossovers. (With consistently strong performances from the CR-V, Escape, and RAV4, it’s not reasonable to think the Explorer could routinely stand on the podium.)

But those are all smaller CUVs. Among vehicles which come standard with a third row of seating, the Explorer outsold the next-best-selling three-row crossover, Toyota’s Highlander, by more than 10,019 units and the best-selling minivan, Toyota’s Sienna, by 10,203 sales.

2015 Ford ExplorerCombined, GM sold 24,197 copies of their Lambda-platform (Traverse, Acadia, Enclave) crossovers, a 2% year-over-year gain. But in the interest of full disclosure, Ford also sold 1848 copies of the Flex, which takes the Ford brand’s three-row CUV total up to a Lambda-besting 24,906 units.

That’s besides the point, however. The real story is the return to high-volume status for the Explorer. Last America’s top-selling SUV nine years ago, the Explorer has improved upon its 2006 total in each of the last two years. If the current rate of improvement holds through the next three-quarters, Ford will sell more than 260,000 Explorers in the U.S. this year, the highest total since 2004. March 2015 sales marked the first time since May of last year, which had marked the best month of Explorer sales since July 2005, that Ford had sold more than 20,000 Explorers in a single month. But Explorer sales have increased in 13 consecutive months.

Last month’s 23,058-unit tally was down 7% compared to the previous best March of 2005, but there’s a key difference between the two performances. In March 2005, sales tumbled 17%, a loss of 5000 units compared with March 2004. 2005 was to be the third consecutive year of decline in what would become a seven-year streak. March 2015, on the other hand, marked a 19%, 3700-unit improvement. 2015 is set to be the sixth consecutive year of improved Explorer sales.

Granted, the Explorer isn’t back to historic levels yet, nor is it likely to get back there. Ford averaged 405,000 annual Explorer sales in the U.S. during the decade between 1995 and 2004. The utility vehicle sector has broadened significantly since then, and the competition between nameplates, not to mention the changing tastes of consumers, hasn’t allowed a single SUV/CUV nameplate to come within 60,000 units of the 400K mark since Ford sold 373,000 Explorers twelve years ago.

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

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Ford To Announce $2.5B Investment In Mexico On 90th Anniversary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-announce-2-5b-investment-mexico-90th-anniversary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-announce-2-5b-investment-mexico-90th-anniversary/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044762 This Friday, Ford will announce a $2.5-billion investment plan for two of its factories in Mexico. According to Reuters, Ford will spend $1.3 billion to expand its engine production facility in northern Chihuahua for two new diesels, with the remaining $1.2 billion to go a transmission plant in Guanajuato. A government representative said the Chihuahua […]

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Ford Chihuahua Plant in Mexico

This Friday, Ford will announce a $2.5-billion investment plan for two of its factories in Mexico.

According to Reuters, Ford will spend $1.3 billion to expand its engine production facility in northern Chihuahua for two new diesels, with the remaining $1.2 billion to go a transmission plant in Guanajuato. A government representative said the Chihuahua investment would create 4,000 jobs as a result.

The announcement will be made in Mexico City in celebration of Ford’s 90th anniversary in Mexico, with Mexico president Enrique Peña Nieto set to attend. Ford’s previous major investment occurred in 2008, when the automaker spent $3 billion to update the Cuautitlan plant for production of the Fiesta.

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Published Ford Patent Reveals 11-Speed Automatic Transmission http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/published-ford-patent-reveals-11-speed-automatic-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/published-ford-patent-reveals-11-speed-automatic-transmission/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1043146 Ten-speed transmissions not enough? Ford is turning it up to 11 with an 11-speed automatic waiting in the wings. AutoGuide reports the patent application for the 11-speed was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in early October of 2013, with schematics like the one above showing various combinations of clutches, brakes and gearing. […]

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Ford 11-Speed Transmission Schematic

Ten-speed transmissions not enough? Ford is turning it up to 11 with an 11-speed automatic waiting in the wings.

AutoGuide reports the patent application for the 11-speed was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in early October of 2013, with schematics like the one above showing various combinations of clutches, brakes and gearing.

As for when such a thing will arrive to direct power for an F-150 or a GT, representative Paul Seredynski wouldn’t give confirmation, stating that Ford submits ideas to the patent office “as a normal course of business” in protecting new ideas, and is not an indication of any future plans or products. Until then, consumers will have to settle for the 10-speed unit set for the 2017 Raptor.

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Ford, Toyota Missing Amid Subcompact Crossover Boom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-toyota-missing-amid-subcompact-crossover-boom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-toyota-missing-amid-subcompact-crossover-boom/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039593 What do Ford and Toyota have in common as far as subcompact crossovers go? They’re the only ones without such a thing in their respective USDM lineups. Detroit Free Press says that while “city-sized” crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Buick Encore — the last one being the catalyst for the current mini-CUV […]

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2014 Ford EcoSport

What do Ford and Toyota have in common as far as subcompact crossovers go? They’re the only ones without such a thing in their respective USDM lineups.

Detroit Free Press says that while “city-sized” crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Buick Encore — the last one being the catalyst for the current mini-CUV boom — are doing well for themselves in the United States, Ford and Toyota are nowhere to be seen. Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer explains:

The small SUV trend is undeniable. These vehicles are hot, with the potential to easily sell in the tens of thousands or more. Neither Ford nor Toyota has shown any plans to jump into this space, which seems crazy given the revenue both companies generate from their other SUV lines.

Though Toyota is tight-lipped about its product plans in this segment, Ford has the EcoSport to consider. That said, the latter is taking a “wait-and-see” approach in bringing the subcompact to the United States, according to Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo, adding that Ford could bring the EcoSport up to USDM spec if it made sense to do so.

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Bark’s Bites: The Good, The Not-As-Good, and The Ugly: Part Four http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-four/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-four/#comments Sun, 05 Apr 2015 19:56:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038409 All right, it’s the big close! The one we’ve all been waiting for! Will Bark show his fanboi colors as somebody who owns not one, not two, but THREE Fords? Does GM actually do anything well? Is Chrysler on the road back to respectability? Does anybody really like articles with questions like this? Let’s go! […]

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All right, it’s the big close! The one we’ve all been waiting for! Will Bark show his fanboi colors as somebody who owns not one, not two, but THREE Fords? Does GM actually do anything well? Is Chrysler on the road back to respectability? Does anybody really like articles with questions like this? Let’s go!

FCA/CHRYSLER

The Good:

I can go ahead and put JEEP here. Yes, I’m aware of the Compass. I’m even aware of the Patriot.

But the Cherokee has been better than expected, both from a performance perspective and a sales perspective. I’m consistently shocked as I travel the country about just how many of them I see everywhere—they aren’t a regional success, like some cars. They’re everywhere. And the growth is magnificent—the Cherokee continues to climb up the sales charts every single month. It’s come a long way since DK (that’s Derek Kreindler, not Drift King) reviewed it those many moons ago.

To be honest, though, I’d step up to the Grand Cherokee, if it were my money (or my dad’s). It’s the best SUV for the money in today’s marketplace. In fact, you might even be able to take that “for the money” qualifier off of it. We used one to take a crew of four to last year’s New York International Auto Show from Columbus, Ohio to LaGuardia airport. We had to take a Ford Edge back. We were all sad.

And what else can be said or needs to be said about the Wrangler? It’s a goddamned icon. It’s great. We should all be lucky as to have a reason to own one at some point in our lives.

We should all take a moment, as automotive enthusiasts, to recognize that we need to be grateful that the Charger and the 300 still exist. There’s really nothing more American than a full-sized, RWD sedan that can go like hell in a straight line. It straight up befuddles me that Ford and GM just hand over this segment of the business to Chrysler without a fight—if you want a real 300/Charger fighter, you have to go to Hyundai. That just ain’t right, people.

It’s hard to believe that there are now just three vehicles that are sold under the Chrysler brand in America. Luckily, the 200 is no longer an embarrassment to that once-great marque. It outsells the Sonata now, which was probably an unthinkable accomplishment in the last generation of 200s. The rest of the car is now a match for the remarkable Pentastar engine, especially when matched to the 9-speed automatic. My only complaint about the 200 is the dearth of colors that it’s available in. Go build one on the Chrysler site and try to make one that doesn’t look boring as heck. It’s tough.

The Viper goes here. I dare you to tell it that it doesn’t.

Don’t look now, but the RAM lineup is ever-so-quietly sneaking up on the F-150 and Silverado/Sierra twins, and it may have even overtaken them. In fact, if I were buying an entry-level pickup truck today, the RAM 1500 would be my personal choice. There’s a guy in my little Kentucky hamlet who owns a big, yellow “RUMBLE BEE,” and I have jealousy pangs every time that I see it.

The Not-As-Good:

This hurts, but I have to put the Challenger here. Listen, it’s not that I don’t love the Chally, because I totally do. I was moments away from buying one. And I love that FCA has embraced the true nature of the Challenger by building a Hellcat variant of it. But if you stack up the Challenger against its competition—the all-new Mustang and the soon-to-be all new Camaro—it’s genuinely difficult to make a case for buying one. If you have no sporting pretense at all, if you just wanna go fast in a straight line and then have a comfortable cruiser the other 99.9% of your car’s life, then the Challenger is for you. But if you ever have any ideas about taking it to a track that actually has turns in it, then you’d be silly for not buying the Camaro or Mustang. And while the Mustang and Camaro are markedly better on a track than a Chally, the Chally isn’t that much better for daily driving. I drive what is potentially the least comfortable Mustang there is every day, and never once do I think, “Boy, if only I’d bought that leather-seated, softly-sprung Challenger SRT-8 instead.” Does being a very, very good 3rd place out of three mean that you go here, or up there? Oh, boy. I think it means you go here. Sorry, Challenger.

The inventor of the minivan has been surpassed. The Grand Caravan is still a fantastic value, simply because it’s available at under $20K in many parts of the country after rebates and discounts, but neither the GC nor the Town & Country are going to win any comparison tests any time soon. Did you guys know I own a Town & Country, btw? I do. Long story.

The Ugly:

The Journey suuuuuuuuuuucks. It’s so bad. Every time that I have to take one off of rental row, I silently ask God what I did to deserve such a fate. The Pentastar versions are borderline tolerable, but the four-cylinders that are mated to four-speed automatics are miserable places to be. I get why they exist—I mean, special finance has to be available on a crossover somewhere—but, man. The Journey is just light-years behind the competition. Unless you have a beacon score of less than 600, you have much, much better options.

One also has to wonder how Dodge botched the Dart so badly. Terrible engine options and manual-only at launch doomed this car. I’d be curious to know exactly what the market days supply is for the Dart—every CDJR dealership I visit has at least twenty of them on the lot, and nobody’s buying them. Also—why no SRT version? Why not dig up the old SRT-4 Neon engine and throw it in there?

The Fiat 500. I just can’t. A close friend of mine got an Abarth. He sold it six months later and got a Fiesta ST. I think that about wraps up my feelings on that car.

 

FORD

The Good:

It’s hard not to start this list with the Mustang. In order to dislike this generation of Mustang, you really have to want to dislike it. I admit, I was skeptical. But of you who called me out were right—the new Mustang is just better than the old one. Independent Rear Suspension has been a revelation. Ford is providing warranty support for people who want to boost their EcoBoosts through the roof. And the Shelby. Oh, goodness. It’s just pure perfection. I still don’t like the rear end of it, and I’m not 100% convinced that I’ll be trading my Boss for the GT350 when it arrives, but it’s clear that Ford has, dare I say, a game-changer on its hands here. They’re not going to reach their goal of 100K sold this year—they’ll smash it and probably sell 120-140k.

The Fiesta ST/Focus ST. I can’t think of another car that so many people in the automotive journalism field have opened up their wallets to buy new. I don’t think of myself as a journalist in any way, shape, or form, but I certainly think that Zach Bowman and Matt Farah qualify (but does Lieberman’s purchase cancel them out?).  When that many people who write about cars for a living (many of whom have so many testers delivered to them that they have no need to actually buy a car) sink their own money into a car, do you really even need to question its greatness any more? While I certainly think the Fiesta is the better driving of the two, for anybody who actually needs to make his ST into a daily driving machine, the FoST is the better choice.

Is there a better driver in the mid-sized sedan category than the Fusion? I’d say there are equals, but nothing better. Is there a better looking midsizer than the Fusion? No way. Where the Accord, Camry, and Altima blend in, the Fusion is much more likely to make your neighbors think you got a raise, even in SE trim.

The Not-As-Good

When I bought my own Flex in late 2013 (which, by the way, is “Good” but sells like it’s “Ugly”), I also test drove the new Escape. I loved it at the time, but it was just too small for my growing family’s needs. I still would have put it in the “Good” category up until quite recently, however, when I rented an Escape EcoBoost for a drive from Lexington, KY, to Myrtle Beach, SC. OH MY GOD THE FUEL ECONOMY! I think that it would have been cheaper to fly. The EcoBoost 1.6 in the SE is supposed to average 32 MPG—I think I saw around 21. That, combined with the completely non-intuitive version of SYNC that you get on the SE, drops it into the “Not-As-Good” category.

As good as the ST version of the Fiesta is, the regular Fiesta is just…meh. I totally supported Caroline’s decision to get a Sonic over a Fiesta (say, doesn’t she owe us a one-year review of the Sonic?). Virtually none of the fun of the ST makes its way down into the SE. It’s not terrible—although the transmission problems are a bit scary—but I wouldn’t pick it over the competition.

The Explorer is just okay. I would never, ever buy one over a Grand Cherokee, and it’s just about even with the Highlander for me. It’s funny—it’s essentially the same car as the Flex, just lifted up a bit. For some reason, that changes everything. I don’t know why (other than the storage is compromised), but it does.

Here’s the biggest secret in the car business today—Ford dealers are scared to death about the F-150. They’ll whisper to you that Ford made a huge mistake by going aluminum. They’ll privately tell you that the Silverado might be a better value. They worry that the Colorado is eating into their sales. Truth be told, at the end of the year, the F-150 will still come out on top, but I can definitely tell you that Ford dealers aren’t nearly as confident in their halo car as they used to be.

The Ugly:

Will somebody put the Ford Taurus out of its misery? There is literally no reason for anybody to buy this car, or its stablemate, the MKS. The Impala, the Avalon, hell, even the Azera are better—and that’s only if you’re considering FWD! The Charger/300 and Genesis shame the Taurus, too. A rare miss from the Mulally era, the Taurus needs to be replaced immediately. Hmmm, if only somebody had suggested this a year ago.

The Edge needs to die or be replaced. It’s become redundant in its own lineup, and it’s noticeably older than any of its competitors.

I think LINCOLN is going in the right direction. Really, I do. The MKC is a good entry into a crowded marketplace (although, again, that fuel mileage). The rest of the lineup needs help. They need the Continental in the worst way—not because I think it will help sell one more MKZ, because I’m not sure that it will. But if it’s everything that it appears to be, it will be the first step in restoring some “premium” to the brand. Right now, there is literally not a single reason to buy a Lincoln over the Titanium version of the Ford that’s sitting across the showroom from it. Make the Continental. Make a bad-ass, four-door Mustang saloon for around $45k. Then we’ll talk.

 

GENERAL MOTORS

The Good:

Any “Good” list at GM has to start with the Corvette. It’s the best sports car, per dollar, in the universe. The biggest barrier to my purchase of a Shelby GT350 isn’t the cost of the SuperStang—it’s the fact that I have to drive past a GM dealer every day. The dealer where I bought my G8 and my Equinox has been purchased by a friend of mine, and he constantly tortures me with GM employee pricing on a Stingray. I’ve already gotten past the stigma of being a “RUSTANG” owner—I think I could overcome the gold chains and chesthair vibe of the Vette, too. It’s just gorgeous—I’ve yet to see a color that doesn’t look great on it. The fact that I live within a three-hour drive of the National Corvette Museum and its 4200′ straightaway doesn’t help my primal urge to buy one, either. We’ll see.

I predicted earlier in the year that the Colorado/Canyon twins would be a sales failure. Turns out that I’m an idiot. Do they sell as well as the Silverado/Sierra? No, of course not. But GM dealers are literally selling every single one that they can get. Here’s a fun game—go to www.gmc.com and search for Canyons in your area. Now, in theory, they are supposed to start at around $21K. IF you can find one with 50 miles of you, which is a big if unless you live in a big metro area, see, if you can find one for less than $30k. There are 5 within 100 miles of me, and the cheapest one is $31k. Every GMC dealer I talk to says that they haven’t even gotten one on the lot that stickers for under $30k, and most of the special orders are for trucks nearer to $40k. Same thing from the Chevy dealers that I talk to with the Colorado—I was able to find one for $23K, but all of the other examples within 100 miles were at least $34K. I know! I don’t get it either! I drove a GMC Canyon and found it to be just okay, but I’m admittedly not a big pickup guy. The market says they’re good, so I’m gonna take the market’s word for it.

My biggest personal surprise as I have written this series? The fact that I’m going to put BUICK here. Seriously. I kinda dig everything they’ve got going on right now. I’m not sure that I’d actually buy any of them, personally, but I love the fact that the Encore and the Regal exist in this marketplace. And of the full-sized FWD land barges out there, the Lacrosse AWD would be my pick (if I were tied-up, had a gun stuck to my head, and forced to choose one). Did you know that Buick, as a brand, outsells Audi, Acura, and Infiniti? It’s true.

The Sonic definitely goes here. Surprised? I would be too, except that I’ve personally put a few hundred miles on an LTZ hatch, and found it to be very, very good. I think that this might be an example of a car that becomes an exponentially greater value as a late-model, CPO car as opposed to new, more so than your average vehicle. When I see the sticker prices on new Sonics at dealerships, my eyes tend to roll back in my head a bit.

I like the Impala. It’s a shame that such a high percentage of them are sold in rental fleets, because I think that GM has somewhat diminished the Impala by making it seem like a “rental special.” A close friend and colleague has a V6 LT, and it’s a great car. If somebody wants a reliable, powerful car that seats four adults comfortably, and couldn’t care less about driving dynamics…why not pick the Impala?

I am going to reserve judgment on the new Camaro until I see it in the flesh. I would have put the old SS and V6 in the “Not-As-Good” category, and the 1LE and Z/28 in the “Good.”

The Not-As-Good:

The Spark isn’t bad for what it is—I’ve had one or two as rentals, and while they are painfully slow, they aren’t as small inside as you’d think. The interiors are actually quite good, with comfortable seats and gauges that will seem familiar to Millennial types. I think the new one is going to be a marked improvement over the existing model, too.

I struggle with where to put the Cruze. I think I’d pick several of its competitors ahead of it, but would I? Civic? Probably not. Corolla? Definitely not. Elantra? No. Senta? Nope. Focus? Probably. So doesn’t that mean I think it’s the second best car in the segment? So why am I so blah about it? A friend and colleague has been driving his about 50K a year for the past three years with virtually no issues and great fuel economy. I don’t know. I can’t get excited at all about the Cruze, mostly because I every time that I drive one, the seats freaking kill my back. So it goes here.

I think that time has caught up a bit with the Equinox and Terrain. When I bought mine in 2011, I felt it was clearly the best choice in the segment. In 2015, I don’t think I can say the same.  Observed fuel economy has never been what GM claimed it would be. The dash and the infotainment feel old in 2015. I’d definitely pick the CR-V and CX-5 over the Equinox/Terrain now, and probably the Escape, too. That being said, it is absolutely the number one choice of traveling salespeople everywhere.

I really wish that GM would figure out what the heck they’re doing with the SS. They fixed the two issues with it—the lack of a manual transmission and the suspension—and then continued to put zero advertising push behind it. If I were just evaluating the SS based on the car itself, it would go in the “Good” category, no questions asked. I mean, Road and Track dared to compare it to what many consider the greatest sports sedan of all fucking time and it held its own. But I can’t reward GM for this half-baked strategy.

The Ugly:

The Traverse/Enclave/Acadia. Ugh. Gross. Overpriced, unreliable, ugly, old. GM needs to do better in this segment.

The old Malibu would definitely have gone here. It’s mindblowing that GM can’t be competitive in the mid-sized FWD sedan playing field. I guess we’ll all see what the new version has in store for us, but I don’t have high expectations.

I’m sorry, Johan, but I gotta put CADILLAC here. I was in a GM store in Indiana last week that had a genuine, no bullshit price of $24,995 on the windshield of an ATS, against a sticker of $35k. I mean, seriously. Is this what the brand has become? Only Volkswagen is shrinking its market share at a faster rate (which seems impossible, what with the miraculous Golf flying out of showrooms nationwide). If you took the Escalade out of the numbers, Caddy would be down twenty freaking percent year over year in a new car market that is actually up over five percent. You’ve GOT to fix your supposed volume sellers, the ATS and CTS, or whatever the hell you’re gonna call them in your numeric naming strategy that was so successful over at your previous employer. Yes, the ATS-V and CTS-V look pretty impressive, but we all know those things aren’t gonna sell in volume that will actually impact your bottom line in any meaningful way.

———————————————————————————————————————————————

So, there you have it. Eleven thousand words or so from one man’s perspective on every major car manufacturer. You don’t have to agree with me—hell, I’m not sure that I agree with me—but I hope that it helped us all realize a few things:

  1. Every car maker has promise
  2. Every car maker can screw things up royally
  3. Most of the world lies somewhere between “rocks” and “sucks

I would never count out a car maker. Every single OEM we discussed has cars I’d love to have in my own driveway, and cars that I would never dream of buying. Three years ago today, I had never owned a Ford. Today, I own three. I’ve owned (in order) cars from Volkswagen, Infiniti, Porsche, Hyundai, Mazda, Scion, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, and Subaru.

As long as you continue to vote with your dollars, you can shape the automotive world to be whatever you want it to be. If you want sportier cars, buy them. If you want V8s, buy them. If you want manual transmissions, buy them. Somewhere, some automaker wants your business.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crapwagon Outtake: Tabula Rasa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-tabula-rasa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-tabula-rasa/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031169 Last week’s Hillman Husky/Miata swap provided the example for what I view as the best of both worlds – old European car with an entirely new drivetrain. Here’s a half-way finished example that could be turned into a real firecracker – provided you have the patience of Mother Teresa. “Never buy someone’s project car – […]

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1965-Ford-Cortina-Front

Last week’s Hillman Husky/Miata swap provided the example for what I view as the best of both worlds – old European car with an entirely new drivetrain. Here’s a half-way finished example that could be turned into a real firecracker – provided you have the patience of Mother Teresa.

“Never buy someone’s project car – it’s like buying a half finished Science Fair experiment” were the immortal words of a relative, who has managed to keep his 2002 WRX free from modifications, theft or general abuse. It may be the last of its kind in such good condition. I’ve kept that mantra in my head for some time, but I could be tempted to stray for this.

This 1965 Ford Cortina is very much a work in progress, save for an already swapped in 1.8L Ford Zetec motor. My first inclination for a project like this would be for a Miata swap. But let’s face it, the B6 is underpowered and the later BP engines are miserable, torqueless boat anchors. I’ve had two of them already, and I hope that I avoid it on my next Miata. At the very least, the Zetec has a bit more charm than the BP.

Unfortunately, the rest of the car needs work. Suspension, brakes and if possible, the steering would be upgraded to modern spec. You’re already $9,500 in the hole for the car, and all of that could easily double it. On the other hand, you’ve got a modern day Lotus Cortina so good that even Jim Clark couldn’t have dreamed of it.

 

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Williams: UAW Vows To ‘Bridge The Gap’ Between The Tiers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/williams-uaw-vows-bridge-gap-tiers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/williams-uaw-vows-bridge-gap-tiers/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029753 During his speech at the 2015 UAW Bargaining Convention in Detroit, president Dennis Williams proclaimed that the time for sacrifice and tiers are over. According to Automotive News, Williams stated before the 900-strong delegates inside Cobo Center that the UAW’s goal was to “raise everybody up and bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier […]

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UAW Wages

During his speech at the 2015 UAW Bargaining Convention in Detroit, president Dennis Williams proclaimed that the time for sacrifice and tiers are over.

According to Automotive News, Williams stated before the 900-strong delegates inside Cobo Center that the UAW’s goal was to “raise everybody up and bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees in the union’s upcoming contract talks with the Detroit Three: FCA US, Ford and General Motors.

Not only did he vow to roll back Tier 2 toward Tier 1, he had this to say about Ford’s and GM’s desire to create a third tier for lower-skilled employees:

We’ve got too many damn tiers now!

Though preventing a Tier 3 from occurring could be a possibility, bringing Tier 2 on par with Tier 1 may prove difficult for Williams and the UAW.

Established in 2007 as a temporary measure to help the Detroit Three weather the storm of the oncoming Great Recession, the two-tier wage system is now firmly entrenched among the trio, with FCA holding the most Tier 2 employees at 42 percent of its workforce. Around 33,000 employees hired since the middle of 2011 are Tier 2, making up 29 percent of the overall Detroit Three’s 137,000 employees.

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Lincoln Continental Concept? We’ll Do You One Better http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/lincoln-continental-concept-well-one-better/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/lincoln-continental-concept-well-one-better/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:03:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029441 The rest of the blogosphere is breathlessly heralding the return of the Lincoln Continental. They’re two years behind the curve. The Lincoln Continental concept might be coming, but the next Lincoln large sedan will be the production Continental. Unfortunately, it won’t be like the JFK-era sedan, but rather a front-drive CD platform car with Ecoboost […]

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The rest of the blogosphere is breathlessly heralding the return of the Lincoln Continental. They’re two years behind the curve.

The Lincoln Continental concept might be coming, but the next Lincoln large sedan will be the production Continental. Unfortunately, it won’t be like the JFK-era sedan, but rather a front-drive CD platform car with Ecoboost V6s and some design language that mirrors the Chevrolet Impala. Why? Because it’s made for Chinese customers who want to be driven in comfort, not for Americans who like to drive. The next Continental is even carrying the codename “Project GOBI” within Lincoln, and internal documents seen by TTAC emphasize “rear seat comfort and amenities” as a key feature of the car.

But there’s still a ray of sunshine for Lincoln fans. There’s going to be a real RWD Lincoln on the way. But it’s a crossover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New York 2015: NAFTA-Spec Ford Focus RS Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-nafta-spec-ford-focus-rs-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-nafta-spec-ford-focus-rs-revealed/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:14:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029161 The 2016 Ford Focus RS will make its North American debut in New York, featuring some different alloys and a new shade of blue paint. While specs remain the same, the RS won’t go on sale until spring of 2016.  

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The 2016 Ford Focus RS will make its North American debut in New York, featuring some different alloys and a new shade of blue paint.

While specs remain the same, the RS won’t go on sale until spring of 2016.

 

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Ford, GM Looking Into Tier 3 Wages For Lower-Skilled Workers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ford-gm-looking-tier-3-wages-lower-skilled-workers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ford-gm-looking-tier-3-wages-lower-skilled-workers/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028897 While the UAW wants to “bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees, Ford and General Motors want to have a Tier 3. Bloomberg reports the two automakers are considering the issue before its talks with the union in September, proclaiming the new tier — for lower-skilled labor — would help them better […]

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UAW Member Assembling Corvette in Bowling Green Circa 2015

While the UAW wants to “bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees, Ford and General Motors want to have a Tier 3.

Bloomberg reports the two automakers are considering the issue before its talks with the union in September, proclaiming the new tier — for lower-skilled labor — would help them better compete against the transplants and their non-union employees through lower labor costs.

Meanwhile, the UAW leadership are seeking raises for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees, just as its rank-and-file want an end to the two-tier wage system entirely. The thought of a Tier 3 would prove hard to stomach among all in the union, though such a tier could help bring work that had been outsourced to suppliers in-house, as those employees would not be assembling vehicles.

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Ford’s Graying Car Lineup Relying On Mustang To Boost U.S. Sales Numbers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/fords-graying-car-lineup-relying-mustang-boost-u-s-sales-numbers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/fords-graying-car-lineup-relying-mustang-boost-u-s-sales-numbers/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:45:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028329 Through the first two months of 2015, U.S. sales of non-Mustang Ford brand cars are down 2% to 91,026, a marginal loss of 1813 units. The overall Ford brand car lineup tumbled 6% in the month of February despite the Mustang’s 32% year-over-year improvement. The five non-Mustangs slid 11%, a loss of 5592 units to […]

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2013 Ford Taurus SHOThrough the first two months of 2015, U.S. sales of non-Mustang Ford brand cars are down 2% to 91,026, a marginal loss of 1813 units. The overall Ford brand car lineup tumbled 6% in the month of February despite the Mustang’s 32% year-over-year improvement. The five non-Mustangs slid 11%, a loss of 5592 units to 45,234. The Mustang was Ford’s third-best-selling car, contributing another 8454 sales.

That February result was more in keeping with the Ford brand’s recent car sales disappointments. But we can’t be surprised to see Ford’s car division falling after 2010’s 22% improvement, 2011’s 14% jump, the 7% increase in 2012, and 2013’s 10% uptick. Ford’s share of the overall passenger car market increased to 10% in 2010, climbed to nearly 11% in 2011 and moved past 10% in 2013 again. Mustang aside, the results we’re now seeing from Ford’s cars reflect the age of the lineup.

The Fiesta arrived in 2010. A refresh and an ST variant produced no measurable benefit but may have stymied greater losses. Sales tumbled 11% in 2014 and are down 20% in early 2015. The Fiesta is America’s fourth-best-selling subcompact through the first two months of 2015, and its market share in the category is down to 10.4% from 14.1% in 2013. 2015 is its sixth model year.

Ford USA passenger car sales chartWe’ve yet to see the impact of the 2015 Focus’s refresh. Sales are up 16% so far this year thanks to a stronger-than-last January, but February volume tumbled 12%. As is the case with the Fiesta, the arrival of a halo ST didn’t lift all boats. Focus volume decreased 5% in 2013 and 6% in 2014 even as its category grew 5% and 3%, respectively. 2015 is the current generation’s fourth model year.

The Ford Fusion’s U.S. sales were down 5% in the first one-sixth of 2015 even as overall midsize car volume increased modestly. The Fusion trailed the top-selling Toyota Camry by more than 17,000 sales heading into March. It’s one of the fresher faces in Ford’s U.S. car lineup – 2015 is its third model year. But the Camry, 200, and Sonata have all been redeveloped more recently, and an all-new Kia Optima and Chevrolet Malibu will be out before the next new Fusion.

The C-Max? Sales are down 22% so far this year after sliding 22% in calendar year 2014. It accounts for just 2.3% of Ford brand car sales in early 2015, down from 3.2% at this stage a year ago. Like the Fusion, 2015 is its third model year.

Meanwhile, though often revised, the Taurus, reviewed earlier this week by one Jack Baruth, has been around under one name or another on its D3 platform for a decade. Overall Taurus sales are down 20% this year. Taurus sales plunged 22% in 2014, including a 7% drop in Taurus Police Interceptor sales.

The all-new Mustang is the natural booster of Ford car sales volume, but as we look ahead to what will likely be another challenging period for Blue Oval cars regardless of the Mustang’s impact, keep the model timelines in mind. (Ford has also pursued fleet sales much less aggressively than had been the historical norm.)

As for Lincoln, well, those numbers are frightening. 2014 sales of the MKS and MKZ slid 2%, but the early 2015 results show the pairing is off last year’s two-month pace by 26%.

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

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Delegates Call For End Of Two-Tier At UAW Bargaining Convention http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/delegates-call-end-two-tier-uaw-bargaining-convention/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/delegates-call-end-two-tier-uaw-bargaining-convention/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028857 Delegates at this week’s 2015 UAW Bargaining Convention in Detroit are pushing hard for an end to the two-tier wage system in place since 2007. Detroit Free Press reports that while the union may likely “bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier 2 workers as far as pay goes during its talks with the […]

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UAW Bridging the Gap Banner Circa March 2015

Delegates at this week’s 2015 UAW Bargaining Convention in Detroit are pushing hard for an end to the two-tier wage system in place since 2007.

Detroit Free Press reports that while the union may likely “bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier 2 workers as far as pay goes during its talks with the Detroit Three — FCA US, Ford and General Motors — in September, the delegates want nothing more than the complete end to a scheme that was meant to be a temporary solution to keep the trio afloat through the darkest days of the Great Recession.

One delegate, Bill Parker of UAW Local 1700 in Detroit, went as far as to convince the 900-plus gathered inside Cobo Center to pass a resolution formally committing the union toward complete dismantlement of the two-tier system; the resolution did not pass:

Ending the two-tier wage and benefit relationship is something that we the delegates want to make abundantly clear coming out of this convention. Not as one of many things that have to be corrected, but as the issue that needs to be corrected.

As of this moment, 28 percent — 39,500 — of 137,000 hourly workers on the floors of the Detroit Three are under Tier 2, earning $15.78/hour with a raise to $19.28/hour after four years; Tier 1 employees — those hired before 2008 — earn $28/hour in comparison. FCA US holds the highest percentage of Tier 2 employees at 42 percent, with Ford and GM holding 29 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

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2015 Ford Ranger Facelifted http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-ranger-facelifted/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-ranger-facelifted/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 18:57:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027737 If you live in the NAFTA zone (excluding Mexico, of course), your best bet at seeing a global Ford Ranger is in the movie The Counselor.  Otherwise, you’ll soon be able to buy a now-updated version of Ford’s F-150 for the rest of us. As you’ve been told countless times, the Ranger is redundant in America, thanks […]

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If you live in the NAFTA zone (excluding Mexico, of course), your best bet at seeing a global Ford Ranger is in the movie The Counselor.  Otherwise, you’ll soon be able to buy a now-updated version of Ford’s F-150 for the rest of us.

As you’ve been told countless times, the Ranger is redundant in America, thanks to being 90 percent of the F-150’s size but no less expensive. Along with an updated SYNC system, it gets a new suite of active safety features (active cruise control, park assist), as well as trailer sway control, hill descent control and things that our government considers mandatory, like tire pressure monitors. A basic mid-size pickup this ain’t.

Power comes from a gasoline 2.5L 4-cylinder engine or 4 and 5 cylinder diesels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Two-Tier Wage System May Merge Toward Tier 2 In UAW-Detroit Three Talks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/two-tier-wage-system-may-merge-toward-tier-2-uaw-detroit-three-talks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/two-tier-wage-system-may-merge-toward-tier-2-uaw-detroit-three-talks/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027497 The two-tier wage system in place now may come down in this year’s UAW negotiations with the Detroit Three. If so, Tier 1 may be the dead man walking. Automotive News says its sources and analysts believe the outcome of the upcoming negotiations could see Tier 1 wages phased out in favor of more Tier […]

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Auto Workers at Labor Day Parade Call for an End to Two-Tier Wages

The two-tier wage system in place now may come down in this year’s UAW negotiations with the Detroit Three. If so, Tier 1 may be the dead man walking.

Automotive News says its sources and analysts believe the outcome of the upcoming negotiations could see Tier 1 wages phased out in favor of more Tier 2 employees, mainly on the basis of keeping up with the labor-cost schemes among the transplants. Center for Automotive Research industry and labor group director Kristin Dziczek states that the tiers could merge over the next two negotiation cycles, proclaiming that “over the next eight years, we won’t even be talking about tiers.”

At present, nearly 40,000 workers are under Tier 2 contracts, making up just 29 percent of the 137,000 hourly employees working for FCA US, Ford and General Motors. Among the UAW rolls, FCA has the most members under Tier 2 with 42 percent, followed by Ford’s 29 percent and GM’s 20 percent.

Ford worker and bargaining committeeman Gary Walkowicz believes Tier 2 should give way to Tier 1, which pays $28/hour, a feat he says could be done overnight for $335 million a year at his company, which made $6.9 billion last year. He adds GM could do the same, considering the automaker recently bought back $5 billion in shares.

However, the two companies have higher hourly labor costs than FCA or the transplants, coming to $59/hour compared to the latter’s $40. Further, FCA’s situation is a result of a hiring cap suspension made during its bankruptcy proceedings in 2009, allowing the automaker to hire as many Tier 2 employees as it needs. The cap, established in 2007, limits hirings to between 20 percent and 25 percent of total hourly employment, though FCA and GM had theirs lifted through September 2015; Ford never had its cap removed.

Tier 1, meanwhile, could disappear due to demographics: average age of those workers at FCA and GM is 51, 49 at Ford. Eight years and two cycles later, most of those workers will have retired or nearing retirement. The hiring cap could also push the upper tier over the cliff, as all three automakers will want to gain or maintain a higher percentage of Tier 2 hiring than the current cap allows.

One proposal, according to consultant and former GM labor negotiator Art Schwartz, could see the UAW raise Tier 1 wages, while the Detroit Three offers to boost those of Tier 2, adding that the end of Tier 2 could jeopardize jobs that would not have happened were it not for the two-tier system.

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

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Wooten 017 (Custom)

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

Well, duh.

trunk1

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

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

Wooten 019 (Custom)

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

Wooten 020 (Custom)

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

Wooten 054 (Custom)

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

Wooten 055 (Custom)

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

Wooten 057 (Custom)

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

Wooten 051 (Custom)

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

Wooten 058 (Custom)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2017 Ford F-250 Aluminum Edition

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

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

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

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Piston Slap: To Need a Gentrified Pickup? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-need-gentrified-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-need-gentrified-pickup/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 12:10:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017634 Zach writes: Sajeev, I would like your, and the B&Bs, opinion on my dilemma, but first a love letter of sorts… I’m a proud owner of an ugly truckling, a 1988 Toyota single cab short bed pickup in all its carburated 22R goodness. The 4spd close ratio stick makes anything above 60mph interesting, but I’ve hauled 2200 lbs of […]

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The Cure for Gentrification? (photo courtesy: OP)

Zach writes:

Sajeev,

I would like your, and the B&Bs, opinion on my dilemma, but first a love letter of sorts…

I’m a proud owner of an ugly truckling, a 1988 Toyota single cab short bed pickup in all its carburated 22R goodness. The 4spd close ratio stick makes anything above 60mph interesting, but I’ve hauled 2200 lbs of radiators in it to the scrap yard, and other than having to hit the brakes to steer, it had no problems. No AC, no power anything. For a while I had a dump bed on it, which meant that trips to transfer station attracted every hispanic and african in the vicinity. I bought it for $700 from a gentleman who commuted around DC in it since new, and whose new wife forced him to sell it. I still run into him at the local HomeyD and he always looks longingly at it.

Unfortunately since I’ve finished renovating my rowhouse, it barely gets driven and sits rotting on the street. A couple of weeks ago I had to get the emissions inspected (in DC it gets a dyno drive cycle) and a hard brake line blew in the middle of test, causing them to rerun the test. I passed (!), but the drive home took two bottles of brake fluid and judicious use of engine braking.

I guess this is the long winded way of saying this truck as been most excellent to me in all ways and I feel terrible that it’s going to simply rust away on the street. Not to mention that my neighborhood, once a nice place to live once past the multiple muggings and burglaries, is becoming douchebag central as one of the hottest areas for development in the city, and so parking three vehicles (my 240 wagon, my girlfriends 850 wagon, and my pickup) has become onerous as the out-of-city asshats have no idea how to parallel park.

I’d like to get my fleet down to 2 vehicles (hopefully selling off the POS 850), but I’m way too attached to having a pickup in the city. Its utility is far greater than any negatives I can think of, but at the same time, I want something I can take my dogs to the park in, something the gf can drive to work in a pinch as well as something safer than a tuna fish can on wheels. Fuel efficiency really doesn’t matter to me (<3,000mi/yr, I put more miles on my bicycle), but price does since the damn thing won’t move most of the time.

So the DC Metro area is littered with 11th gen F150 supercabs used as commuters and while not being particularly attracted to the truck, they’re cheap and plentiful. On the other hand, I love me some Toyota, and I’d love to get the last good looking and right-sized Taco, a 1st gen double cab, but they must have made them out of gold. For roughly 2x that of a used F150, I can get an equivalently used Taco, which completely blows my mind. I’m not looking at mint examples either, and the enormous price differential is really pushing me to honestly consider abandoning my small truck love for a full-size. I don’t want anything the F150 supercab provides other than the back seats for the dogs and the bed, but a $4-8K price differential is a very persuasive argument in its favor…

Of course, the Taco is far more nimble and about 30″ shorter than the 6.5′ bed F150, but is the size, Toyota build quality, slightly greater fuel economy worth 2x+ the price of the best selling vehicle in America?

Sajeev answers:

Oh man, that 4th Gen Toyota truck is totally sweet.  I mean dumpy and crude, but I’d rock that bad boy in a gentrified yuppie-hipsterville portion of town all day.

That said, even baseline trucks have come a long way.  Take my daily driven 2011 Ranger, compared to 1990s models that are supposedly the same, it’s obvious newer trucks are superior: better interior electronics, refined engines, improved NVH materials, bigger brakes, safety equipment (like Volvo-esque seat backs Ford ripped off), and the list goes on.

That said, the last of the “good” Tacos was a terrible value in the used market for years, even worse now that newer F-150s fall into that price range.  Not worth it: those Tacos aren’t waaaay better than a modern Duratec (DOHC) Ranger, Frontier, or a newer F-150. If the F-150 fits in your parking space(s).

If you can safely park an F-150 in your world, buy it.

If not?  Try a Nissan Frontier, Duratec Ranger (2003+?, but no crew cab) or a Chevy S-10. No matter what, you’ll get almost the same quality of vehicle for less cash than the Taco. It’s close enough.

 

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

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17FordRaptor_04_HR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ford F-150 grey, side

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

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

The Miata of my obsessions. Sadly.

The Miata of my obsessions. Sadly.

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

Ford F-150 grey, front

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

Ford F-150 grey, rear

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

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

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

Still, I could’ve had him.

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

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

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

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

Mike Keegan close up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gen-you-wine buttons and knobs!

Gen-you-wine buttons and knobs!

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

John from Tripoint Engineering and Chris Hayes unload the engine.

John from Tripoint Engineering and Chris Hayes unload the engine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chevrolet-Bolt-Concept-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Williams: UAW Must Balance Member, Corporate Demands In Detroit Three Talks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/williams-uaw-must-balance-member-corporate-demands-detroit-three-talks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/williams-uaw-must-balance-member-corporate-demands-detroit-three-talks/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1006346 Though the UAW would like to see wages go up as part of its upcoming talks with the Detroit Three, it also wants for the automakers to remain competitive. UAW president Dennis Williams said as much during an interview with Reuters last week, when he discussed what the union has in store when it comes […]

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UAW-logo-outside-Union-Solidarity-House

Though the UAW would like to see wages go up as part of its upcoming talks with the Detroit Three, it also wants for the automakers to remain competitive.

UAW president Dennis Williams said as much during an interview with Reuters last week, when he discussed what the union has in store when it comes time to sit down with the management at Ford, FCA US and General Motors this summer.

The main issue will be the two-tier wage system that has been in place since 2007, just before the start of the Great Recession. The policy has been applied at varying rates since the division took hold, with 42 percent of FCA US’ UAW workers — 35,720 — being paid at the second-tier rate of $15.78 to $19.28 an hour; second-tier workers at Ford and GM make up 28 and 20 percent of their respective 50,700 and 49,900 represented employees.

While the union is facing pressure to get as much for its membership as it can, it also has to make sure the Detroit Three remains viable over the long-term. With GM in particular, the UAW has a major political and institutional stake in the automaker’s well-being, as the union is its largest shareholder via its retiree health care trusts.

That said, should push come to shove, Williams says his membership is ready to strike, following in the footsteps of workers at oil refineries and those along the West Coast ports. The UAW hasn’t conducted a major industrial action since the 1990s, and were barred from striking at all at GM and Chrysler as a result of the agreements made in 2009.

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