Ford appears to have spent a fortune in order to convince the world that electric vehicles have nearly limitless potential.
Its latest spot promoting the Mach-E (and its current efforts to embrace battery power) include a high-powered prototype boating 1,400 horsepower and some of the most recognizable faces in motorsport attempting to challenge it — or at least help make for some quality entertainment while parodying the scientific method. The marketing campaign is so bonkers, it’s hard to be cross with the company even if Ford had taken the testing more seriously.
While physics-defying electrics aren’t new, they’ve only recently begun making appearances at Ford Motor Company. The Mach-E 1400 — developed in collaboration with RTR Vehicles — is here to drive home the message that the automaker isn’t taking electrification lightly.
If you’re in the market for a midsize pickup and possess an irresistible urge to tackle the worst terrain you can find, chances are the most rugged variants of Chevy’s Colorado and Toyota’s Tacoma top your list of maybes. Ford would like a word.
The Ranger didn’t enter the segment with the brawniest hardware in tow, but the passage of time has a way of correcting mistakes (if you want to look at it that way). On Tuesday, the Blue Oval debuted a trio of packages designed to deliver more off-road capability — and even power. Raptor Lite?
Ford Performance has expanded its catalog, adding tunes for the Mustang and Ranger that should make mashing the right pedal a tad more exciting. While the pony car kit is basically an extension of the staged Power Packs already on sale, just for the 2018-2020 model years, the Ranger package is rather novel — as this is the first factory tune available for the model in North America.
It also happens to offer noteworthy performance gains.
Dave Pericak, former head of Ford Performance and now responsible for the brand’s icon models, told CNET on the sidelines of the Chicago Auto Show that evolving environmental regulations have forced the automaker to reassess how it views performance.
“A lot of countries are changing regulations so quickly, and so much, they’re almost forcing the performance products out,” he said.
“Our job is going to be two-fold,” Pericak continued. “One is to figure out how to continue to make performance that will exist in some of these regulated countries, even our own, and how do you do it so it’s a global offering?”
It’s a good question. Environmental regulations have indeed forced automakers to downsize displacement and re-familiarize themselves with turbocharging. Electrification is an option growing in popularity too, with many global automakers tossing battery packs into vehicles of all sizes at no small cost to themselves.
Ford’s whetting electric appetites at SEMA this week with its new Mustang Lithium prototype. Officially a one-off model for the show, the automaker said it was present to prove how utterly dope future electric performance vehicles will be. Good timing, too, as the debut of Ford’s all-electric, Mustang-inspired crossover is almost upon us.
Ignoring the timing in relation to the Mach E, it’s mildly curious that the brand would first preview the prototype at an aftermarket trade show. But it’s worth noting that the electric Mustang actually cobbles together quite a few parts from various catalogs. The manufacturer informs us that Lithium is equipped with Ford Performance’s Track Handling Pack and Brembo brakes sourced from the Shelby GT350R — though they’re the tamest inclusions by far.
While Ford Motor Company doesn’t have any trouble offloading F-150s and Rangers on a truck-hungry populace, there’s always another way to sweeten the pot. To boost the appeal of its full- and mid-size offerings, the automaker will now offer off-road levelling kits, perhaps saving a unlucky pickup from scraping its chin.
Developed by Ford Performance Parts, the kits are a dealer-installed affair, offering buyers a way to leave the store with a touch more brawn.
Having completed a tribute to Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s 900-horsepower drift car with its Series 1 Mustang, RTR is moving onto Ford’s F-150 — delivering something akin to an unofficial Raptor appearance package. As with the coupe, the pickup attempts to provide RTR’s unique blend of automotive style and performance without obliterating drivability. However, we expect a bruiser to arrive later on, since RTR also sells several beefed-up versions (kits, really) of the Mustang.
For now, shoppers will have to make due with Series 2.0 shocks from Fox, 20-inch RTR Tech 6 wheels, 295/55R20 Nitto Ridge Grappler tires, and a throaty exhaust system from Ford Performance. The engine has not been modified. But RTR assured us that the custom grille does improve airflow to the radiator, which we suppose you could brag about in a pinch.
To our collective horror, Ford decided not to sell the new Fiesta ST in North America. Instead, the automaker chose to cull its passenger car lineup during a period of declining demand and profitability in order to focus on higher-margin trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. No one in this office is particularly excited about the idea, but most of us could rationalize our hurt by trying to see things from Ford’s perspective and focusing on the bottom line. However, Ford is just rubbing salt into our wound at this point.
While the 2019 Ford Fiesta ST has abandoned its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-banger for a more Euro-friendly 1.5-liter triple boasting the same 197 horsepower and more torque, the United Kingdom also receives a limited-run Performance Edition that would have made a nifty little runabout/track day hooligan. Sure, it probably wouldn’t have been a hit here. But we would at least like to have the opportunity not to buy it.
Ford Performance hooked up with drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr. and his RTR Vehicles team to produce a rather curious offspring. Their love child, the Series 1 Mustang RTR, pays homage to the track car that inspired it while attempting to remain grounded in the world of daily driving.
The limited-edition model (package, really) can spawn from any Mustang GT or EcoBoost equipped with Performance Pack 1 and is said to be trackworthy, but it seems like it’s not sacrificing many of the sport coupe’s streetable characteristics to get there. An interesting choice, considering we’ve seen loads of amateur drift cars that don’t even have bumpers or carpeting.
Last week, we gave you the lowdown on the new Ford Edge ST. The verdict, according to yours truly, was that it was miles ahead of the Sport trim is was replacing but had a few wrinkles that the manufacturer could stand to iron out. Since the ST occupies a place in the market that is entirely dominated by premium nameplates, these shortcomings were largely trivial. There’s less reason to gripe about its non-showy interior or high price tag when Ford is still offering you more performance and functionality for less money.
However, one aspect stood out as consistently vexing — the transmission. While the eight-speed Ford installed into the crossover was competent on the luxury-minded Titanium trim, its programming was occasionally frustrating when you asked it to blast through gears on the ST. That’s not because it was broken, it simply isn’t set up for maximum hustle.
This was an observation echoed by numerous other outlets and something Ford appears keenly aware of it. In fact, Ed Krenz, chief functional engineer for Ford Performance, said that aspect is one the automaker isn’t yet satisfied with and intends to continue tweaking until it is.
In 1968, Ford issued a limited number of lightweight, “335-horsepower” Mustangs intended for the drag strip. While street legal, the vehicles were absolute beasts on the track thanks to the implementation of the 428 Cobra Jet engine. The powerplant utilized the racy 427 FE’s intake manifold and added ram-air induction, a functional hood scoop, and an engine bay full other performance modifications. It was serious business and produced far more horsepower than Ford claimed. Most estimates place the initial Mustang Cobra Jet’s output around 410 hp.
It’s now half a century later, and the model 50th anniversary is not an occasion you ignore. Ford chose to bring the Cobra Jet back for the occasion with iconic decals and mechanical upgrades that send it into the past and future, respectively. Unfortunately, onlookers can only enjoy the retro graphics and savage acceleration of this version at the track or in a garage. Because the Cobra Jet is way too extreme to be road legal.
Ford’s former head of performance car manufacturing, Dave Pericak, is now the engineering director for the automaker’s North American unibody vehicles. While in charge of Ford Performance, the division launched the Raptor, Focus RS, Shelby GT350, and GT. Prior to taking the helm in 2014, he was also the chief engineer of the 50th anniversary Mustang.
Now responsible for mainstream models from both Ford and Lincoln, Pericak’s previous duties will be split between Mark Rushbrook and Hermann Salenbauch. Rushbrook will handle the company’s racing efforts as Salenbauch runs Ford’s production vehicle development.
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- 3SpeedAutomatic "...to make room for reality TV reruns..."What an insult!! Shows how far broadcast TV will stoop for a few extra bucks.I much appreciate Jay for keeping the "motor head" world alive in a Zoom society. However, maybe it's time for him to retire or semi-retire. There's enough material for him to do YouTube with most auto related companies willing to underwrite....but the number of shows would be at his own pace.I wish him well!!
- Gregtwelve I had an '88 Turbo Coupe with 5 spd bought used and really liked it. I loved the looks, it had decent power for the time and a nice interior. Unfortunately the head gasket went at around 60K miles. I repaired it myself and sold it.
- Mattwc1 I bought a Maverick specifically because I wanted utility and great fuel economy. My wife has a RAV4 hybrid that we really like. I think Toyota would print money with a smaller RAV4 based truck.
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- SCE to AUX "Its militaristic, drab fortress presence, is some sort of reflection of the times."Very insightful comment in your excellent summary. The Cybertruck vs Hummer EV comparison tests will be enjoyable, sure to enflame their fans.