This week Ford brought me to Detroit for their 2014 model lineup event, and I have to tell you, I am impressed. Through vertical integration and Ford’s One-Design idealogy, the latest offerings from Ford not only share powertrain options, but all of the cars share some similar features, so that you know it’s a Ford. The Hexagonal grill is finding its way throughout the car lineup, something that is often lost on other manufacturers. The aggressive grill design gives each model a unique look while maintaining the brand synergy. It also has personality; the Ford Fusion brings a tough fascia into a market subdued with boring Camry’s and Accords.
During the morning’s discussion panel Global Product Development Vice president Raj Nair said “You fall in love with a car though the exterior first. We want people to get out of the car feeling like they are better driver than they may actually be.” This goes along with the progression of the Eco-Boost engine development. With the 3-cylinder 1.0 liter engine coming to the US market soon, there will be some interesting things happening in the Ford world. Reaching beyond 40 MPGs in a standard gas engine while maintaining actual performance on the road is a real possibility with the 1-liter. Ford doesn’t want to eliminate performance in the race to 50 MPGs, the Eco-Boost platform provides the ability to maintain passing power while yielding that coveted fuel economy.
After the talking was done, Ford rolled out the newest in the F150 lineup, the Tremor. Based on the FX2 Eco-Boost truck, the sport truck features bucket seats, aggressive styling, and of course, deep gears for smoky burnouts. The Tremor will be available in the fall of 2013, with a price to be determined.
We spent the rest of the day driving some of the new cars at the Dearborn test track. The F150 hill course was fun, letting the truck take over on a 30-degree downgrade is quite off putting at first, but the truck handles the braking very well. The dashboard angle guides are really cool too.
If you have ever driven an SUV, the last thing you would think to do with it is take it on an autocross track, but here at Ford, we did exactly that. First I drove a new Nissan Pathfinder and then hopped into the Explorer Sport. What an incredible difference, the Explorer Sport had very little body roll, where the Pathfinder felt like it was about to roll. The one negative is in throttle response, when I push the go-pedal, I want instant response. The Explorer Sport had a second of lag time, which is most likely due to a combination of the electronic throttle and the automatic transmission hunting for gears.
I have to tell you about the slowest track experience I have ever had. That would be the CMax efficiency challenge. The goal was to post the highest score for regenerative braking and overall driving efficiency. While those who have actually ridden with me, I am an aggressive driver, but I am also highly competitive. I was eeking every last drop of juice from the brakes, using controlled acceleration, we even turned off the AC. My car started out the roughly 10-mile journey with 20 miles of full electric range, and I managed to return it to the finish line with 20 miles of range on the clock. My co-driver blew 5 miles off his range. While I did not post the best ratings of the day, I am sure I was a close second…
The highlight of the day was the Ford Fiesta autocross. The new Fiesta a fun, sporty car that is just plain fun to drive. I don’t care for the passenger side comfort, but then I am not a small-car kind of guy. The Fiesta did handle itself fairly well on the autocross track.
Unfortunately, there were no Mustang driving events this time, but that’s OK. You can still have fun in a Focus.