The Truth About Cars » Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:57:25 +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 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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Ford-Focus-RS-1

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.

Ford-Focus-RS-10 Ford-Focus-RS- Ford-Focus-RS-1 Ford-Focus-RS-9 Ford-Focus-RS-5 Ford-Focus-RS-6 Ford-Focus-RS-7 Ford-Focus-RS-8 Ford-Focus-RS-2 Ford-Focus-RS-4 Ford Focus RS ????????????? Ford Focus RS ?????????????

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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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Review: 2015 RAM ProMaster City (with video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999922 Please welcome back Alex Dykes as our Road Test editor. Alex will be contributing reviews and video reviews at our re-launched YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe. Everyone has been talking about the Dodge Caravan being sent out to pasture soon, but there is a third badge-engineered Chrysler minivan heading into the sunset as well: […]

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2015 RAM ProMaster City Front-001

Please welcome back Alex Dykes as our Road Test editor. Alex will be contributing reviews and video reviews at our re-launched YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe.

Everyone has been talking about the Dodge Caravan being sent out to pasture soon, but there is a third badge-engineered Chrysler minivan heading into the sunset as well: the 2015 RAM C/V. Behold the replacement: the 2015 RAM ProMaster City. With industry boffins calculating that the class 1 cargo-hauler segment will explode by over 300% in the coming few years, Chrysler is getting in on the commercial action with another Euro model. While the larger ProMaster van is based on the Fiat Ducato, the smaller ProMaster City is an Americanization of the Fiat Doblo. Does the recently formed Fiat Chrysler conglomerate have with it takes to compete with the all-new and all-sexy Transit Connect?

Exterior

Outside it is hard to tell the Doblo and the ProMaster City apart. Both have dual sliding doors and rear 60/40 barn doors that open to near 180 degrees but most of the sheetmetal is shared. New DOT compliant tail lamps and headlights were fitted and the RAM logo and cross-hair grille were grafted to the long nose. Let’s be frank, the ProMaster City isn’t as attractive as the new Transit Connect which wears strong lines and Ford’s new corporate grille. The ProMaster on the other hand goes for rounded corners and a function-over-form front end. RAM boasts that the unpainted black bumpers can be easily replaced without a quote from the paint shop. Shoppers should note that top end models ditch this repair savings for body-colored parts. Style is usually a low priority for most commercial shoppers and the PMC’s funky looks are unlikely to be a turn off. The wagon version may be a different matter.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-005

Interior

Speaking of wagons, the ProMaster City Wagon exists mainly as a “why not?” statement. You see, every PMC starts life as a passenger wagon built by TOFAS (a sort-of contract manufacturer) in Turkey. The completed vans are then shipped to Maryland for “conversion” where the “cargo” vans lose their rear seats and gain a load floor. This is essentially the same process Ford uses to bring the Transit Connect to our shores and avoid paying the dreaded “Chicken Tax.” Because the vans are imported with 5-seats, why not sell a few on the side? That’s the version I had for a week.

It is best to think of the wagon as a utilitarian people and cargo hauler for the avid mountain biking family than a replacement for the American minivan. The difference between the PMC and the Sedona, Sienna, Caravan and Odyssey is stark. You won’t find a third row, fold-int0-the-floor seats, squishy plastics, rear entertainment systems, snazzy audio systems or leather rear captains chars with ottomans. Instead we have a commercial grade Euro-funky interior cast in shades of black and grey. The hard plastic dash and doors will withstand years of abuse and are easy to clean, but not as nice to touch as what you find in Ford’s redesigned Transit Connect.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2

Most of the PMC’s dashboard is lifted directly from the Doblo except for a new steering wheel with audio controls on the back, a new shifter and a touchscreen infotainment system. The gauge cluster is easy to read but the trip computer is unintuitive. Similarly the door release handles also function as the door locks and the electric door lock controls. That took some getting used to. Storage pockets abound but the cupholder count of two is decidedly European.

The Ford is more comfortable as a people hauler because it has a dual mission. You see, the PMC doesn’t need to compete with the Sedona or Sienna, because that’s what Chrysler has the Caravan and Town & Country for. Want a minivan? Go to the Chrysler dealer. Want to haul your portable poodle washing system? Visit the RAM dealer. Ford on the other hand is using the Transit Connect to compete in both worlds, for better or worse.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area.CR2

Cargo Hauling

For commercial haulers and the “active families” manufacturers are courting, cargo capacity is king. This is area where the baby RAM starts to shine. With 131.7 cubic feet of widget-moving space in the rear this easily beats the Nissan NV200 and Chevy City Express and barely eeks out a win over the long wheelbase Transit Connect. The RAM also manages to haul longer items thanks to a slightly longer box swallowing 11-foot items from the windshield to the rear doors, 9-foot items from the dash to the doors (after removing the front passenger seat) and 7-foot items from the front seat backs to the rear doors. You’ll notice something missing, there’s no 8-foot measure, and that is the area where every vehicle in this segment let me down, you can’t put a 4×8 sheet of anything in these vans. If you want to haul plywood, you’ll need a Caravan for that once the RAM C/V dies next year.

Loading a widget that’s 4-feet by 4-feet by 5-feet long with a forklift is a cinch thanks to the bi-folding doors, something that the larger C/V has lacked for a while. Sadly you’ll find the payload, although class leading at 1,883 pounds, is not any higher in real terms than the Caravan. This leaves a huge payload gap between the ProMaster City and the 3,922 pound payload of the base model ProMaster. In an interesting twist, the PMC uses an independent rear suspension and coil springs while delivering a higher load capacity than the NV200’s more truck-like rear end.

2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2-001

Infotainment

Although uConnect 5.0 sounds like it would be a smaller version of uConnect 8.4 (the systems found in most Dodge and RAM models) it is actually an entirely different system. Based on a Microsoft O/S and not the UNIX-like QNX that runs the larger system, this software was almost entirely designed by Fiat. It started its life back in 2006 as Fiat’s Blue & Me system found in Europe but Fiat re-designed it to look like the larger uConnect system in 2013 and we’re starting to see it offered as Chrysler’s base infotainment unit. With available TomTom navigation, Bluetooth speaker phone integration and USB media / iDevice support, uConnect 5.0 is a perfectly serviceable head unit. It lacks the smartphone and voice command  functionality you find in the larger uConnect and upcoming revision of MyFord Touch, but it is snappy and easy to use.

Base PMC models skip the touchscreen infotainment system for a basic AM/FM unit with a USB port and four-speakers. Jumping up to the SLT trim adds the touchscreen as standard equipment and makes a 6-speaker package available. That limitation goes for the wagon model as well, in base form you get the speaker grilles but no speakers in the cargo area.

2015 Ram ProMaster City 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with 9-speed, Courtesy of Chrysler

Powertrain

Thankfully RAM chose not to raid Dodge’s compact sedan for the powertrain as Nissan did with the NV200, instead opting for the same 2.4L “Tigershark” engine found in the Chrysler 200. The four-cylinder mill produces 178 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of twist which easily outclasses the NV200 and compares well with the Ford 2.5L naturally aspirated and 1.6L turbo engines. Unfortunately this does not compare terribly well with the average American minivan like Chrysler’s own Town & Country at 283 horsepower. Admittedly the Town & Country is heavier, but the power to weight ratio is still better at the Chrysler dealer.

Helping make up for some of the power defect is a ZF-designed, Chrysler built, 9-speed automatic. (If you want to know more about the 9HP and why it behaves the way it does, check out ZF’s 9HP Transmission Puts Dog Clutches On the Leash.) The 9-speed auto gives the PMC the lowest starting ratio in the segment and the highest final drive making the bulbous RAM the fastest to 30 MPH and the most efficient at 75 MPH. The result is an EPA rating of 21/29/24 MPG (City / Highway / Combined). Should you live in state with higher speed limits the tall 9th gear is a serious advantage. I averaged an impressive 31 MPG on a 70-mile one-way trip with the A/C blowing, cruise control set to 76 MPH and 800 lbs of cement blocks in the rear. If however you commute is in the city, expect that number to drop to the teens.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel

Drive

When you compare the ProMaster City and the Grand Caravan, you’ll notice that the baby-RAM trades 850lbs of curb weight and 105 horsepower for 50% more gears in the transmission. The trade means higher fuel economy as I said, but notably slower acceleration with the RAM taking 9.55 seconds to buzz its way to 60 MPH. That’s Prius territory. Add a thousand pounds and any of these “class 1″ cargo vehicles will feel slow, but the turbocharger on Ford’s 1.6L engine helps it scoot to 60 nearly a second faster. The RAM still bests the 2.5L Ford engine and the Nissan and Chevy.

If you’re after exciting dynamics, you’re looking inside the wrong white box. The RAM has a better feel behind the wheel than the Ford, but raw grip is better over at the Blue Oval. The NV200’s leaf springs and wheezy 2.0L engine are the least exciting of the bunch, but the trade is truly the best city fuel economy. The better dynamics in the Transit Connect are not surprising since it is competing both in the cargo hauler and minivan segments. Is the RAM exciting? No. Is there steering feel? No. Can it out handle the Caravan in the left lane? No. But it can out handle a Prius on your mountain bagel delivery route.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View-001

And now we must address the glaring problem that hit me when I looked at the price tag. At $23,130 the Tradesman trim of the City is $1,735 more than the 2015 Grand Caravan AVP, aka the cheapest minivan in America. The Caravan isn’t the freshest minivan on the market, but the interior is still several steps above the ProMaster City. Dodge gives you a 283 horse V6 standard, it can swallow a 4×8 sheet of plywood, the factory payload is just 154lbs lower and it will tow 1,600lbs more. FCA does plan on fixing this, but the fix is killing off the AVP instead of lowering the ProMaster City’s price. This value problem is not unique to the RAM however as the Transit is also more expensive than the AVP. Admittedly suggesting the passenger version of the Caravan over the ProMaster City is “missing the point” a little, but the wagon variant we tested widens the gap to nearly $3,000. If your cash is on the line, my best advice is to skip both the ProMaster City and the Transit Connect and get a Caravan AVP while you can. As long as you don’t need the barn doors in the back or don’t mind a DIY conversion, the discount Dodge is the most compelling option.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.8 Seconds

0-60: 9.55 Seconds

Average economy: 24.3 MPG over 486 miles

 

2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 3 4 view 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 3 4 view-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Gauges 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-003 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-004 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-005 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-006 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-007 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-008 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear Doors 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View 2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel

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Ford Cuts $900 From Fusion Hybrid, Energi Price Tags http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/ford-cuts-900-fusion-hybrid-energi-price-tags/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/ford-cuts-900-fusion-hybrid-energi-price-tags/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004482 Shopping for a Ford hybrid or PHEV? The 2016 Fusion Hybrid and Energi models won’t be as thirsty for your wallet as before. CarsDirect reports both models will see a price drop of $900 across all trim levels, from $26,575 to $25,675 for the Fusion Hybrid S, to $33,900 (from $34,800) for the Fusion Energi […]

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2015 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium

Shopping for a Ford hybrid or PHEV? The 2016 Fusion Hybrid and Energi models won’t be as thirsty for your wallet as before.

CarsDirect reports both models will see a price drop of $900 across all trim levels, from $26,575 to $25,675 for the Fusion Hybrid S, to $33,900 (from $34,800) for the Fusion Energi Luxury SE.

Despite the cuts, no decontenting will occur among the Fusions; the Hybrid, in fact, will have a new driving mode called EcoSelect, which offers more regenerative braking while delivering a softer launch from the light and less intense heating and cooling.

The price drop follows a similar action last year, when Ford chopped up to $1,200 off the price of C-Max Hybrid and Energi models, and is meant to draw interest away from the upcoming redesigned Toyota Prius, set to begin production later in 2015. Both 2016 Fusion models are due in showrooms at around the same time.

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Bark’s Bites: Welcome to Our 24-Month Long Fiesta http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/barks-bites-welcome-24-month-long-fiesta/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/barks-bites-welcome-24-month-long-fiesta/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 17:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1001274 When we last saw our hero, he was debating between keeping his Boss 302 or selling it and downsizing to a little pocket-rocket Fiesta ST for a year or so until the Shelby GT350 hits the showrooms. Wait, let’s leave that writing-in-third-person nonsense to NFL wide receivers and people with delusions of grandeur. Reset. I spent much […]

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When we last saw our hero, he was debating between keeping his Boss 302 or selling it and downsizing to a little pocket-rocket Fiesta ST for a year or so until the Shelby GT350 hits the showrooms. Wait, let’s leave that writing-in-third-person nonsense to NFL wide receivers and people with delusions of grandeur. Reset.

I spent much of last week crunching numbers and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Like our fearless leader (Obama, not Derek)—to those of you who voted in the comments section, I heard you. For those of you didn’t vote, I heard you, too. I read all of the reasoned opinions. I calculated. I planned. I schemed.

And then I said, Eff it. Let’s do both.

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The more visually astute of you will notice that the above is a picture of my driveway/garage. You’ll also notice that this driveway/garage has both a Fiesta ST and a Boss 302 residing in it (the Flex steadfastly refused to vacate its well-earned spot on the other side of the garage, as did the mountain of children’s toys and Cozy Coupes). Dafuq happened? Sit back, relax, adjust the resolution on your monitor on this Monday morning, and let me spin a yarn of excess for you.

I had been in communication with the Internet Manager at Paul Miller Ford in Lexington, Kentucky all week, explaining to him that I would coming in that Friday to look at the Fiesta ST that they had on their lot, which was the only one in Kentucky dealer inventory at the time. The terms of the deal I laid out were easy—I wanted $37K for my car, and I would gladly pay X Plan minus rebates for theirs.

It wasn’t exactly the car I wanted—it was Performance Blue, and I wanted Molten Orange. It had full SYNC navigation/entertainment and a roof, neither of which I was particularly excited to pay for. My dream Fiesta would have had neither of those options, but would have had Recaro seats. One of the commenters in last week’s post said something about Baruth boys being, ahem, plus-sized. As Gershwin would have told you, it ain’t necessarily so. I’m scraping the botton of 5’9″ and I tip the scales just south of 160 pounds, so the Recaros are no problem for me.

However, I was prepared to drive the Fiesta they had and order the Fiesta that I wanted. When I arrived at the dealership on Friday, I was surprised to see it totally swamped by sub-prime customers wearing Kentucky blue. Turned out that Julius Randle, the former UK Wildcat and current resident of the Los Angeles Lakers’ injured reserve list, was in the house to sign autographs. Much to the chagrin of the sales manager on duty, Randle rolled up in an A8 to the dealership, not an Expedition. The circus-like atmosphere of the store made it a little difficult to conduct business, but that was fine with me. I just wanted to drive the little hatch and be on my way.

There was one small snag—I was coming directly from the airport, so I wasn’t driving my Boss. I rolled up in my Legacy Wagon, which impressed exactly nobody at the dealership.

“So, uh, what’s that car you’re driving? Is that a Subaru?” asked the new car manager upon greeting me, undoubtedly trying to see if his only sales prospect of the day was a 520 beacon score waiting to happen.

“That’s my airport car. No worries, dude. I work for (redacted).”

“Oh, okay.” He was visibly relieved. “Let’s go find that great little car!”

He introduced me to the Internet Manager, who introduced me to the salesman. As per usual, the salesman knew next to nothing about the car, but that was okay by me—I actually prefer it. I’d much rather spend my test drive focusing on the driving dynamics of the car, not hearing about crumple zones and airbags.

The test drive loop wasn’t exactly the Grand Prix Monaco course. I didn’t have too many opportunities to scare the salesman—he only asked me to slow down three times. But what a car. The statement I’m wanting to make may seem a tad ridiculous out of context, so I’m going to save it for a tad later in this post. Instead, I’m going to focus on some of the complaints that people have about the Fiesta, namely the interior.

First of all, if you’re complaining about the interior materials of this car, you’re an idiot. You’re completely missing the point of the Fiesta. The interior is more than adequate—in fact, it’s a major upgrade from a Boss 302. The SYNC MyFordTouch system is exactly the same one that you’d get in a Flex Titanium, complete with 2 USB ports, SD card reader, and audio input jack in the center console. It synced up easily with my iPhone 5s, no questions asked. The Sony eight-speaker sound system is quite acceptable. I wouldn’t call it “good,” but neither is it terrible. Again, I’m coming from a Boss 302 most days, so I’m easy to please. I much prefer the spooling turbo whine that is pumped into the cabin from the sound symposer, anyway.

The test drive was more than enough to convince me that I wanted the car. A few questions remained, however.

  • Should I do a 60 month buy at 0%, or a 24 month lease?
  • Should I order exactly the car I want and wait three months, or get it today?
  • What the hell am I going to do with my Boss?

Taking them one at a time:

  • The sales manager was likely staring at a terrible February. The weather in Kentucky, like everywhere, has been awful for car sales. On a 24 month lease, he was willing to do X Plan plus all rebates plus a little bit more, and then also give me 12K miles for the same price as 10,500. Done.
  • I suck at being patient. The discounts pretty much wiped out the additional cost of the navigation system, which meant that for the next two years I wouldn’t have to do the dreaded “I HAVE TO HANG UP ON YOU RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE I’M GOING AND I’M USING MY PHONE FOR GPS” that I often have to do in unfamiliar cities. And I had been driving a yellow car for 32 months—maybe a subtle color wouldn’t be so bad for once.
  • Fuck it. I ‘m keeping the Boss.

The last one was the tough one. In order to explain, let me introduce you to Kevy.

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Kevy is the little boy on the left in this picture, standing proudly next to his little sister. He’s a smart, talented, warm-hearted kid. He’s a pretty good goalkeeper. Most importantly, he also happens to be my son.

Kevy loves the Boss 302. He asks to be picked up in it from school daily. He brags to his friends about it. He tells them that his daddy’s car is the fastest car in the parking lot, and that Daddy will beat any of their daddies in a race. The day I bought the Boss, on June 9th, 2012, Kevy asked to pose for pictures with it all day. As you can see in the picture, his favorite color is now Yellow, because Daddy’s Boss is yellow. He loves it. How could I disappoint him?

After I figured out that I could afford to have both cars in the driveway, it was a no-brainer. The Boss has entered a realm known as the “993 Zone,” where depreciation no longer has any real meaning. Case in point: The Boss stickered for $45,240 32 months ago. It now sells privately with 30,000 miles on it for at least $38k. That’s insane. My financing rate is good enough that I’m essentially paying 98% principal with every payment, so I will likely get back nearly every dollar I pay on it for at least the next twelve months. One could make the case that the Boss will be devalued by the launch of the GT350, certainly, but one could also make the case that the Boss could become more popular as people realize that the additional dealer markup on the Shelby isn’t going to go away any time soon. There’s also this: neither the Boss nor the Fiesta can do what the other can do. Neither is a replacement for the other. If you love one, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll love the other.

So I signed some papers, left the Subaru in the dealership parking lot overnight, and immediately went canyon carving.

There’s a stretch of road in Kentucky that’s a favorite among the buff books for road tests. Route 52 from Richmond to Morehead, as well as some of the lesser arteries that wind off of it, is one of the best driver’s roads in America. The Fiesta ST is perfectly suited for just such a jaunt,  stretching out its 202 lb-ft of torque and power-to-weight ratio of an E30 M3 along the banks of the Kentucky river, making elevation changes of a nearly a hundred feet around every corner.

It’s one thing to hoon around in a press car. It’s entirely another to do it in a car that you just signed paperwork for less than an hour ago. In some ways, it’s more confidence inspiring. In others, much less so. Nevertheless, on this Friday afternoon, the Fiesta and I became one as we traversed the hills of the Bluegrass.

Every turn was perfect. Each gearshift executed perfectly, the gearbox easily the best I’ve ever driven. The tires never slipped. The wickedly short wheelbase meant that the nose never plowed. I nearly forgot that I was driving a FWD car. The turbo never lagged. The torque-curve never flattened. I simply couldn’t push the car hard enough—each time I thought I had reached a limit, the Fiesta nudged me. Come on, Bark. We can go faster. We can turn harder. We can tempt fate on this next blind hill. It will all turn out okay. And you know what? It always did.

Journos throw around the term “usable speed” somewhat casually, normally in reference to some slow car that’s supposed to be fun to drive “at the limit.” Most journalists would piss themselves “at the limit.”  In my mildly capable hands, the Fiesta’s limits are almost unreachable on a public road. Every ounce of its speed is not only usable, it’s capable. As I closed the gap between myself and other cars on the road, occasionally a Fox Mustang or Miata out for a spirited drive would attempt to keep me from overtaking. It was an exercise in futility. The Fiesta artfully absorbed them, lifting a rear wheel almost as if to wave goodbye on the next corner entry. The fingers extended by my fellow road-goers wasn’t a middle finger—it was a hearty thumbs up.

Road tests seem to suggest that the Fiesta does zero-to-sixty in roughly seven seconds. I suggest it doesn’t fucking matter. No more fun can be had for this amount of money. No more fun can be had for twice as much money. So here’s the ridiculous statement that I wanted to make earlier:

The Fiesta is the best car I’ve ever driven.

Maybe not the best car for sitting in or for taking to a dragstrip or for showing off how much money you make, but for driving? No question. It manages to do the impossible—it inspires nearly endless confidence while keeping the nannies and electronics out of the way.  My only wish would be for a slightly higher rev limiter—it’s quite easy to find yourself bouncing off it.

As I flew along State Route 388 up towards Fort Boonesborough State Park, I finally came to a rest at the intersection of 388 and 627, where the hooning would be forced to subside as the road became a straight line all the way home to Winchester. I could smell a little tire and a little brake, but I mostly just sensed pure driving nirvana.

So stick with me for the next 24 months. We’ll see if the driving dynamics of the Fiesta manage to keep the snarling Boss in the garage, or if my lust for power eventually proves unquenchable. But for now, let’s do both.

 

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Capsule Review: Ford SVT Raptor – United States Border Patrol Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-ford-svt-raptor-united-states-border-patrol-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-ford-svt-raptor-united-states-border-patrol-edition/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:50:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1001114 I’m driving down a narrow dirt track somewhere in a South Texas at a hurried but not unreasonable pace. As I round a bend, the ground arches up into a tall “whoop” just a few meters in front of me. I can’t go around it, and hitting the brakes will only send me skidding into […]

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Raptor 6

I’m driving down a narrow dirt track somewhere in a South Texas at a hurried but not unreasonable pace. As I round a bend, the ground arches up into a tall “whoop” just a few meters in front of me. I can’t go around it, and hitting the brakes will only send me skidding into it at nearly the same speed.

Until now, I’ve mostly driven the Ford Super Duty, in F250 or F350 guise, while on patrol. They can be surprisingly capable out here in the desert, but they don’t like to be driven fast on rough terrain. Hitting one of these “Border Patrol speedbumps” at anything above a cautious crawl transforms the cabin into a world of violence as the industrial suspension crashes to the stops and your head crashes into the ceiling. I brace for the inevitable.

Moments later, I’m past it and all is well. My ass never left the seat cushion, and as far as I can tell, my tires never left the ground. Hell, even my water bottle is still resting serenely in the cupholder where I left it. There’s a reason for that. Today I’m not in a Super Duty. Today, I’m in a Raptor.

 

Raptor 3

I wonder if a couple engineers sat down in Dearborn one day and said, “How bout we design the perfect truck for the U.S. Border Patrol?” It wouldn’t be an enviable job. Our trucks are operated in the some of the roughest conditions faced outside of pure military duty, and they have to withstand those conditions every day. They are piloted over steep, rocky mountain roads; across expanses of deep, soft sand that will trap you in place if you apply just a bit too much or too little throttle; through patches of dense, wet clay that wraps itself around your tires in thick, slick layers. They are driven by adrenaline junkies who are not financially liable for their repair or maintenance, and whose supervisors don’t particularly care how much unnecessary abuse is hurled at the chassis so long as you don’t dent the bodywork. We ask a lot, often way too much, of our fleet.

Drowned

Our mildly modified Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Super Duty vehicles can do almost all the things the Ford SVT Raptor is capable of doing. The difference is the ease (and speed) with which the Raptor does them. Where a Tahoe scrabbles up a steep slope, struggling to find purchase in loose rock, the Raptor simply ascends. Where an F350 churns through soft sand, fighting to keep its massive bulk afloat, the Raptor seems to glide over the surface. Our other trucks can be made to work in this environment, but the Raptor is to the manor born.

Raptor 1

Every component on the Raptor is intended to be used this way, under these conditions. Anecdotally at least, this means fewer repairs due to parts being pushed beyond their limits. Even if an agent is not willfully abusive towards his mount, conditions in the desert sometimes require that one drive less than lovingly. Getting across a flooded ditch or a patch of large rocks often requires a bit of momentum going in. I’ve seen this technique result in shattered suspension components, dislodged coolant and/or turbo plumbing, busted oil pans, and dented rims.

Raptor 5

Not with the Raptor. I’ve yet to see a single one sidelined for damage caused by routine overuse. That’s not to say we haven’t “deadlined” a few; if you want to find a product’s limits, give it to a Border Patrol Agent. The Patrol has determined that the Raptor will not float across a running arroyo during monsoon season. Also, if you have too much fun playing with the included inclinometer display, it will roll sideways down a mountain. Yet to my knowledge, not even our wildest/dumbest agents have managed to bend the frame on one.

Raptor 4

We have other trucks that can give the Raptor a run for its money in some circumstances, but none of them do it without significant compromise. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon’s short wheelbase is a delight when crawling through narrow canyons and up tight switchbacks, but it gets skittish when you have to dial in a bit more speed. The old HMMWV/Hummer H1 can bash its way across any landscape, but it is deeply unpleasant in every other regard and driving them makes me feel sad. Also, every fluid in that venerable military vehicle will boil if it’s hot or hilly, which can be a problem in the Southwest. The Raptor may be outclassed by a particular competitor in that competitor’s one-percent scenario, but you’ll be glad to have the big Ford when you realize 99% of the drive is still ahead of you.

When duty takes us back onto pavement, this off-road savant behaves with polite road manners as well. Pin the throttle coming off a soft shoulder, and the forgiving traction control allows the rear end to kick out a bit as the exhaust plays a thunderous siren song. Disappointingly, the government doesn’t trust us enough to remove the 98 MPH electronic limiter, but the Raptor will get to that limiter in a big damn hurry for such a big damn truck.

Fortunately, the typical smuggler’s vehicle is a circa 1997 Ford Expedition or Chevrolet Suburban loaded well beyond the manufacturer’s recommended GVWR, so 98 is usually fast enough. On an open road, the Raptor will only begrudgingly do anything under 90, the quiet cabin and stable handling cutting your perceived speed about in half. On the rare occasion that the Southwestern hardtop gets twisty, Ford’s desert racer inspires more confidence than most vehicles in the 3-ton+ class. The suspension resists leaning too far into its twelve inches of travel as the 315mm BFGoodrich All-Terrains brace against the pavement and the lateral momentum shifts smoothly from one side to the other. Your average driver will have found his way off the road, through a fence, and into a tree long before a pursuing Raptor hits its limits.

F250

Beyond the apparent savings in repair costs, purchase costs look pretty favorable as well. An F-250 built to standard Border Patrol spec, with the PowerStroke turbodiesel engine and an extended cab, goes for $44,710 according to Ford’s configurator. A base 4×4 Chevy Tahoe stickers over $50,000 nowadays. A 2014 Raptor starts at $44,995, and it requires no additional options for our purposes. Frankly, I’m not sure why the Patrol has purchased anything else since the Raptor arrived in 2010. SVT is taking a hiatus from the OEM off-roader game for the 2015 and 2016 model years, but they’ve already announced the Raptor will return with a lighter, aluminum-clad successor as a MY 2017. The 6.2L V8 will be retired in favor of a tuned 3.5L EcoBoost V6 producing more power and torque than its naturally aspirated ancestor. I can only expect that the price will rise proportionately, I just hope it remains within reach of the U.S. federal government and its humble civil servants like me. Does Uncle Sam qualify for 90 month financing?

F250 Raptor 1 Raptor 4 Raptor 5 Raptor 6 Drowned Raptor 3

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Dispatches do Brasil: 1975 Ford Corcel Luxo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/dispatches-brasil-1975-ford-corcel-luxo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/dispatches-brasil-1975-ford-corcel-luxo/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 18:33:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999306 The year was 1968 and it was a good one for Brazilian motorists. GM launched its Opala and Volkswagen its 1600 (sedan). Meanwhile, Ford launched its first car aimed at a broader swath of the market, the Corcel. Up until that time Ford aimed at better off consumers and commercial applications. Its only car was […]

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Ford Brasil LtdaCorcel I e II

The year was 1968 and it was a good one for Brazilian motorists. GM launched its Opala and Volkswagen its 1600 (sedan). Meanwhile, Ford launched its first car aimed at a broader swath of the market, the Corcel. Up until that time Ford aimed at better off consumers and commercial applications. Its only car was the Galaxie 500 and F100 pickup besides medium and large trucks. It signaled the future direction of the market in Brazil as this Ford was in reality a Renault…

Ford had acquired Willys Overland do Brasil in 1967. Besides such cars and trucks as the Aero Willys and Itamarati and Rural and Jeep (not to mention Renault Dauphines and Gordinis), Willys had been developing internally what was known as Project M. According to William Max Pearce, then Ford Brazil president, that Project was a very large part of the reason why Ford bought Willys out. He said that two prototypes were taken to Detroit and extensively tested before the Americans green lighted the purchase and as such, instrumental to the decision.

Renault-12-1

Willys had a history of working with Renault in Brazil. They built and sold here French products and worked together with them to adapt those cars to Brazilian conditions. When Willys started looking for a buyer, that Project was almost ready. Curiously, while it was launched here in 1968, Renault would only launch their final version in 1970. It was the R12 and lived on until recently having been well sold in Europe and elsewhere. It had a long career. Dacia, then an independent East-bloc automaker from Romania had close ties with the French and kept building the model until the present century (2004).

Ford purportedly did some work on the car though how much is anybody’s guess. Supposedly they beefed up the suspension and increased its course. Most of the mechanicals however were in fact developed during the Willys-Renault cooperation. The engine for example was all French. The Corcel was an important launch in Brazil as it showcased many technologies for the first time in Brazil. It offered such things as front wheel drive, five engine bushings, sealed cooling system, and an early version of a collapsible steering wheel. It was a small car, but partly because of the front wheel drive system it offered internal space of a medium car from back then. The trunk was large and finishing and decorations depended greatly on version, coming from quite simple, but correct, to almost sophisticated and sporty.

For Ford it also marked greater cooperation between the local and corporate units. To launch this car Ford invested in the local engineering team and a large degree of autonomy was granted. The car was well received in the market and got off to a good start.

Oon however, trouble struck. The Corcel gained a reputation of being impossible to align and incapable of going up hills, especially those paved with cobblestones (then so common) and in the rain many would park their cars and wait for things to dry out. This was due to the gutless but economic engine (68 hp according to the metrics then, about 55 today, and given more power over time) and distrust of front wheel drive (though DKW-Vemag had sold FWD cars in Brazil for more than a while). As such, sales took a major hit and the car was looking like a flop. This made the car a star of another first in Brazil.

renault_12_tl_6-600x342

In 1970, Ford did the first official recall in Brazilian auto history. All owners were called upon to head to the dealer and receive their free fix. The problem was that due to its unique setup, the front suspension looked like a traditional McPherson, but it was not. What Ford did was simple. They fixed the steering system at a predetermined point and called it good. The original Renault system was more sophisticated and varied that point according to how high the car was sitting. To get it right, some calculation and care was required and the after market and even the dealers were just not prepared for it.

manual characteristics

The Corcel in its original form lived on until 1978, when a more modern looking one, the Corcel II, was launched. About 600 000 cars of this vintage were sold, taking into account all versions, coupe, sedan and station wagon. They are still a relatively common site on Brazilian streets, often terribly rusted and gutted. However, due to the many firsts and luxury versions it has always been a favorite of well-heeled collectors. Recently, Brazilians have experienced some prosperity and the car collection bug has started biting more middle class members. The numbers of well-kept Corcels and other cars of its time has increased on the streets. Though rarer than 80s cars, I see some of the 70s specials driven about.

orange corcel

Now I have had a chance to drive one. A kid I know bought one from his uncle. It is a 1975 Corcel Luxo. It has an improved 72 hp 1.4 CHT engine. I love the orange paint job and the interior is in good shape. The lines are crisp and slightly sporty. This is the coupe and it helps with the impression of sportiness. The back lights are different from what is done today and seems to me the part most stuck in the 60s. The front had the revised less chrome-y grill and looks quite nice. The greenhouse is tall and the beltline low, hinting of great visibility that I would later confirm. It is a tidy package that though dated is a timeless design.

This car was bought in 2007 and has been slowly been recovered over this time. They young man who bought it has been involved with the resuscitation since the start and plans on a making yet a few more changes to make it reliable. He intends to put it to use as his daily driver, driving it to university and his job and in his nightlife soon.

engine bay

The car is on its original engine and marks a little over 90 000 km. The owner is sure that has turned over at least once, but they opened up the engine and changed all the parts to get it back to standard. They did a good job because the car fires up the first time you turn the key and runs smoothly and surely.

back

Getting on the go takes a bit of effort. The car does not have hydraulic steering so its necessary to muscle it a bit. The oversized (for today) steering wheel helps the effort and it not too bad as the wheels are just 13 inches and the tires have a nice sidewall. A note on those wheels, the Corcel might be the only three lugged Ford in history (yes, due to its French inheritance).

The gear box is the only non-original change made to the car. This orange Corcel uses a Ford Del Rey 5 speed box from the 80s. The original 4 speed was broken and hard to get when the time came to change it. The engagements are nice and crisp and can be done relatively fast. The seating position is correct with pedals, wheel and seats (though they do not recline) well-aligned. There is a surprising amount of space in the front though in the back space is at a premium. People must have been smaller back then as this car did fill family duty.

inside (1)

The ride is very soft. It absorbs the imperfections well and goes straight without the need for constant corrections. The steering once at speed is light, too, and very communicative. This all harks back to more pristine time and the driver does feel more in synch with the machine. None of the modern creature comforts are available and the car is not isolated from the driver. It is also relatively quiet too, with no overbearing noise from the finishing. The engine does intrude though, very much the faster you go. Of course, this has to do with the lack of air conditioning. As such, I drove about with the windows open to try to refresh some in this very hot Brazilian summer.

Because of the soft suspension and weak engine, this car is not a canyon carver. On curves it inclines more that any more modern cars I’ve driven. I was aware of this characteristic and thus looked out for it, but it will surprise those used to modern suspension set ups. Allowing for this and anticipating it, curves can be taken at speed. It helps that the brakes are relatively modern. This one sports front disk brakes and braking power and characteristics are similar to modern small Brazilian cars.

fuel gauge

The interior is dark. Almost everything is black. Instrumentation is a delight and quite complete however. The design language used in this car is no longer in vogue and there are quite a few surprises on how the various knobs and commands function. Nonetheless, they are easy to use and for the most part visible, though not that intuitive for a modern driver. It also helps they are all very light to operate.

To me driving this car was surprising. I expected a more primitive experience, but it wasn’t except for the lights which were just awful and did a terrible job of illuminating. Maybe because this was a modern car from the get go with its front wheel drive and disk brakes. Maybe because so many Brazilian cars make use of small 1.0 engines that have (slightly) better performance. The Corcel did prove to me that it would be a fun daily companion.

The Ford Corcel. A French Ford. A purveyor of many firsts in this country. Now a kid’s first car. May it go on pleasing its owner for a long time as it has undoubtedly has many other owners since it was built 1975.

back engine bay front (1) front (2) front grill front seats (1) front seats front fuel gauge (1) fuel gauge inside (1) inside interior jumping keys lights out manual characteristics orange corcel Ford Brasil LtdaCorcel I e II renault_12_tl_6-600x342 Renault-12-1 side speed gauge

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Chicago 2015: Ford GT Presents Its Canadian Passport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-ford-gt-presents-canadian-passport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-ford-gt-presents-canadian-passport/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 23:21:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999058 The Blue Oval has no use for 50 shades of gray, not when two will suffice for the 2015 Chicago Auto Show debut of the Ford GT. Per our friends over at AutoGuide, the big news this time around for the 3.5-liter turbo-six exotic is that it will be assembled in Canada. Multimatic Motorsports in […]

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Ford-GT-2

The Blue Oval has no use for 50 shades of gray, not when two will suffice for the 2015 Chicago Auto Show debut of the Ford GT.

Per our friends over at AutoGuide, the big news this time around for the 3.5-liter turbo-six exotic is that it will be assembled in Canada. Multimatic Motorsports in Markham, Ontario — just north of TTAC Zaibatsu HQ in Toronto — will be in charge of putting together the GT, lending further credibility to the rumor that Ford wants to throwdown at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans. The group campaigns a pair of Mustang Boss 302Rs in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

As for other details about production and pricing since its jaw-dropping world debut in Detroit, analysts believe a few hundred units will leave Multimatic annually, each with a price tag of around $200,000. Ford remains silent about either figure, however.

Ford-GT-10 Ford-GT-1 Ford-GT-2 Ford-GT-3 Ford-GT-4 Ford-GT-5 Ford-GT-6

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Generation Why: I Want My S16 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/generation-want-s16/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/generation-want-s16/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 16:25:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=996778 Driving a rear-drive, turbocharged car in the winter is usually an exercise in gentle throttle control coupled with self-restraint. And it’s tough when you lack both of those traits. Past experiences with this kind of car tend to follow a typical pattern. Enter a turn, lift the throttle to unsettle the rear of the car, […]

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2015-ford-Mustang-coty-nominee

Driving a rear-drive, turbocharged car in the winter is usually an exercise in gentle throttle control coupled with self-restraint. And it’s tough when you lack both of those traits.

Past experiences with this kind of car tend to follow a typical pattern. Enter a turn, lift the throttle to unsettle the rear of the car, get back on the gas. Wait, wait, wait for the turbo to spool up (if you’re in something like a Volvo 700 or 900-Series wagon) and then *BAM*, get hit with a fist-full of boost. No wonder Gordon Murray always championed the naturally aspirated engine.

But it looks like things have changed.

This week, we’ve got a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost, in the exact same spec as the one pictured above. A spell of crappy weather and a lack of plowed side streets has let me explore the dynamics of a boosted RWD car without really trying. The 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder is impossibly smooth. Too smooth in fact. There’s virtually zero perceptible turbo lag. Like most small-displacement four-cylinder turbo motors, it pulls strongly through the low end of the rev range, but runs out of breath towards the top. It feels quick, but not that quick, even though it would probably show its tail lights to a Mod Motor SN95. To me at least, it doesn’t really feel like a Mustang.

What it does feel like is the best Audi A5, BMW 228i, 428i, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Nissan 370Z or 240SX you’ve ever driven. The seating position and sightlines no longer feel like the “large and in charge” Mustangs of yesterday, where you’re sitting bolt upright over a big, blocky hood, grasping a bent shifter and a yacht-like steering wheel.

The chassis is tighter than a yoga instructor’s glutes, the ride is *too* firm, the Brembo brakes are brilliant and the electric steering’s got plenty of feedback and feel even in “normal” mode. But when you mash the throttle, it sounds like a Focus SE. The automatic transmission in our car may be hampering some of the performance, but even sound clips where the car has an upgraded exhaust still sound…off. Like hearing Radu Marian sing an aria when you’re expecting a tenor. I’m sure that with the new Ford Racing ProCal and an uncorked exhaust system, this thing will be an absolute riot on the street at a significant discount to the five-point-oh.

But that’s not good enough for me. If I’m buying a pony car, I want the full pony car experience, and that means 8 cylinders of unholy torque and the soundtrack to match. As petty and vain as it may be, I would never be happy not having the “5.0” badge, the NASCAR soundtrack and not having to explain to everyone that “it’s a 4-cylinder, but it’s actually lighter and better balanced and Immakingexcusesfornotgettingthebigboymustang”.

Well, not quite. If I lived in Calgary or Denver or somewhere at altitude, I could see how a tuned-up Ecoboost would be a hell of a car on a brisk drive through the mountains. When the V8 would be huffing and puffing its way up the mountain, the 2.3L would be whistling a sweet turbo tune. A barely audible one at that.

The Speedhunters blog recently compared the Mustang EB to the never-produced S16 version of the Nissan Silvia, one of Japan’s most iconic cars. I’d have to agree. It’s got all the right elements to the successor to one of the best sport compacts of all time. The only problem is, it’s a pony car.

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