Archive for June, 2010

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New Ford Explorer will debut Curve Control

June 30, 2010

Curve Control Launches On the All-New 2011 Ford Explorer

Dearborn, Michigan – Ford has announced a new innovation, Curve Control, which it said is designed to help drivers maintain control of their vehicles when taking a curve too quickly. The feature will debut as standard equipment on the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer, and will be offered on 90 per cent of the company’s vehicles by 2015.

The technology senses when a driver is taking a curve too quickly and rapidly reduces engine torque. It can also apply four-wheel braking, slowing the vehicle by up to 16 km/h in about one second.

“Too many accidents stem from drivers misjudging their speed going into curves and freeway off- and on-ramps,” said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice-president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering. “Ford’s Curve Control technology senses a potentially dangerous situation and reduces power and applies brakes more quickly than most drivers can react on their own.”

Curve Control, which works on wet or dry pavement, measures how quickly the vehicle is turning and compares it with how quickly the driver is trying to turn. The system activates when the vehicle is not turning as much as the driver is steering.

Ford said that approximately 50,000 crashes each year in the U.S. involve driving too fast on a curve.

(from Canadian Driver)

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Looking good in a Mustang

June 29, 2010

For decades six-cylinder engines had a reputation for being under powered or “economy” engines.

The new 3.7-litre Duratec six that Ford is putting in the new Mustang is a bit of an economy engine in that if you behave, you can get about 8.5 litres per 100 km.

If you don’t behave, you will be making use of all 305 horsepower to put a grin on your face. You should also know that the original small block 289 that the original Mustangs came with had to be massaged by none other than Carroll Shelby to get up to 275 horsepower. Who says progress isn’t grand.

I am positive Shelby would be proud of this engine. It uses all the modern hot rod tricks both to make power and provide fuel economy. The cams use variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust.

Ford split the intake into upper and lower parts to promote better air delivery to the four valves per cylinder and to save weight. Another weight savings, this time in the valve train is the elimination of rocker arms. The cams run directly over the valves and use buckets and shims to control valve lash, just like top echelon race engines do.

As good as horsepower is, torque is what gets you going. Drag racers will tell you that torque is what gives a low elapsed time and horsepower gives you the speed. Good engines balance both out. The new 3.7 puts out 280 ft.-lbs. of torque over a broad range so that when you push the pedal to the floor, it move out smartly.

To use the engine’s power properly, Ford lets you hook the 3.7 up to a six-speed manual gearbox, or a six-speed automatic (which is new for 2011). My test unit was the automatic gearbox and it was nearly as much fun as a manual and in traffic it was a lot easier to live with. This is another of what I would call “smart” transmissions in that the electronic controls do an excellent job of getting the box down a couple of cogs when you put the pedal to the floor or even part way.

Yet, when cruising, the tranny goes to the highest gear suitable and stays there without hunting up and down.

Suspension components are a touch different than last year, but it will take a discerning derriere to tell the difference. Up front shock and spring rates have been tuned for a better highway ride. In the rear new lower control arms and stiffened stabilizer bushings (the stabilizer bar is the same as last year) improve cornering ability.

The other major change for 2011 is EPAS or Electronic Power Assisted Steering. This new system allows for variable effort steering such as getting easier when parking, yet providing a solid feeling when out at speed. There is also the added benefit of removing the power steering pump from the engine so that about 10 more ponies can be switched to helping you go fast (or improve fuel economy if you behave).

Interior changes for 2011 are minimal. The instrument cluster graphics are new although the design is similar to last year. The dash now has a place for a Sync™ display that can include things like traffic directions and information as well as vehicle health.

Bucket seats are comfortable and easily adjusted. The rear seat is a bit tight for full sized adults, but if your need is for baby seats, a couple of them will fit in the back with ease. Not only that, you can get your kids in and out without needing a volume discount coupon from your chiropractor.

There is enough space between the front and rear seat that it qualifies for seat status rather than being a padded parcel shelf. I have to admit, I didn’t spend much time in the back seat.

I work on the theory that if I’m going to be making payments, I get the front seat. I did have a couple of younger passengers who assured me that although space was a bit tight for legs and knees, overall the rear seat was pretty comfortable.

Living with the Mustang from day to day was pretty easy. The distinctive design still leaves the driver with good sight lines for parking and for visibility when shoulder checking. It is still small enough to fit easily into parking spaces and large enough and comfortable enough to take on a trip.

All you have to do is choose the hardtop or convertible and make a couple of other choices and you too can be driving with a grin on your face.

At a glance

– Configuration: Two-door mid-sized sports coupe

– Engine: 3.7-litre, DOHC, 24-valve V6 that produces 305 h.p. and 280 ft.-lbs. of torque

– Transmission: Six-speed electronically controlled automatic (optional) or a six-speed manual transmission

– Fuel: Not currently rated by Transport Canada, but preliminary tests show 8.5 l/100 km on the highway

– Suspension: Front; Reverse L lower control arm on an independent MacPherson strut suspension with a stabilizer bar. q Rear; Three link solid rear axle with coil springs, a panhard rod and a stabilizer bar

– Brakes: Four-wheel power assisted disc brakes with ABS

– Safety: Dual front, side and side curtain air bags are standard. LATCH system of anchoring child seats in the rear is standard. Keyless remote entry is available. Sync™ 911 Assist is available

– Special features/options: Performance Package includes the Mustang GT suspension and larger disc brakes as well as some components from the Shelby GT 500. 19-inch wheels and Pirelli performance tires are standard

(from Charles Renny, The StarPhoenix)

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Stay connected while keeping your hands on the wheel

June 28, 2010

The Ford SYNC system is improving the conversation you have with your car.

For those looking for an integrated in-car communications and infotainment system, the next generation of the award-winning SYNC is now new and improved.

Its design is sleek, clean and integrates nicely into the interior. Smartphones connect to it with ease using the phone’s Bluetooth. An option for downloading the address book enables identification of incoming calls on the screen by full name, not just by phone number.

Also, iPod connectivity is simple with a dedicated AUX connection located in the centre console.

“With SYNC you can place or receive a call, or request a song from your digital media player with the touch of a button on your steering wheel and simple voice commands,” said Genevieve Auclair from Ford of Canada.

“Not only is it easy but, most importantly, it helps to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.” Answering an incoming call using the steering wheel controls is a great hands-free feature.  One-word voice commands allow you to easily make calls as well.

Features such as viewing call logs, placing a call on hold and browsing your phone book are all possible.

Another great hands-free feature is the SYNC’s ability to read incoming text messages to you. It even translates popular text message phrases like “LOL” and :). Text to voice has long been a popular application on BlackBerrys and iPhones. It is great to see it as a feature built into a car’s communication system.

The built-in satellite radio is perfect for music lovers.

“We are thrilled to offer new Ford owners SIRIUS Satellite Radio, which is a standard feature in most of our vehicles, along with a six-month subscription. This feature allows our customers to surf up to 120 channels including 100 per cent commercial-free music, plus, the best sports, news, talk and entertainment across Canada,” said Gonzalo Contreras from Ford of Canada.

If an incoming call is answered while listening to either SIRIUS or an MP3/CD, the music automatically turns off and then resumes immediately once the call ends. Specific tracks can be selected through voice commands, such as “Play [Artist]” or “Play [Song Title].” Music through an iPod or MP3 player can also be selected through the steering wheel controls.

Overall, the best feature is SYNC’s ease of use in the integration of smartphones and iPods.

The upgraded version, launched just this year, is great for those looking for a complete in-car communications system that allows you to do activities safely that are normally impossible to do hands-free. So go ahead and talk to your Mustang, even more than you already do.

(from Melissa Guillergan, Vancouver Sun)

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Auto Tech: Ford’s 2011 SuperDuty Power Stroke Diesel

June 25, 2010
2011 Ford F-series Super Duty turbodiesel
2011 Ford F-series Super Duty turbodiesel.

When it comes to pulling power, truckers know that diesel is king. So when a new diesel engine comes along, they check it out carefully. Ford’s new 2001 SuperDuty diesel is definitely worth checking out.

This 6.7-litre Power Stroke V8 turbocharged diesel engine shares one thing with the previous Ford SuperDuty diesels: the Power Stroke name. Everything else is new. Past Power Stroke diesels were based on a design introduced by International. With this new engine, it is all Ford and the engineers started with a clean slate.

The most obvious change is to the exhaust and intake manifolds. This 6.7-litre engine has the exhaust ports facing the valley area of the engine between the cylinder heads. The short exhaust ports now feed directly into the turbocharger, which is located between the cylinder heads. From the turbocharger, the exhaust gases exit through a single large pipe down the back of the engine and into the converters and muffler. This is a very simple and compact exhaust arrangement and has advantages in performance by providing quicker turbocharger boost and in easier serviceability because of simpler exhaust routing.

2011 Ford F-series Super Duty turbodiesel
2011 Ford F-series Super Duty turbodiesel.

Although not a part of the engine, the exhaust system beneath the truck requires mention. This new system looks like a rocket booster and is part of the emissions system that most diesel engines require to meet the 2010 emission standards. It consists of several parts, including a particulate filter to trap carbon particles and a couple of converters to break down the exhaust gases. One of the converters uses Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) to help break down the gases. This DEF, also called Ad Blue by Mercedes, is a liquid Urea solution and is stored in a separate tank beneath the truck box. The fluid is injected into the converter as needed to help convert the exhaust. The amount of DEF injected will depend on driving conditions, but a tank-full will normally last for one regular service interval.

Back to the engine, the turbocharger pulls in clean air from the air filter, compresses it, pushes it through the intercooler and then back through passages cast into the valve covers and down through the top of the cylinder heads. This unusual arrangement of air flow again simplifies the engine compartment, making service parts more accessible. The turbocharger itself is a twin compressor design in a single unit. Two compressor wheels are connected to a common shaft and both are driven at the same speed by the exhaust gases. The compressor wheels are shaped and sized differently and work progressively to provide boost over a wide range. This shows in the truck’s pulling power. With 735 foot-pounds of torque at 1,600 r.p.m., this engine is strong. I experienced its pulling power up a six-degree slope with a 42-foot trailer loaded to maximum towing capacity and the truck didn’t even hesitate. It accelerated up to speed and maintained it, even shifting into high gear at times on the slope.

2011 Ford F-series Super Duty turbodiesel
2011 Ford F-series Super Duty turbodiesel.

The fuel system is a direct-injection Bosch design. Ram and GM trucks also use Bosch components, and this new Ford system uses a common rail design with fuel pressures that can go up to 29,000 psi. The injectors will fire several times for each power stroke, which may include a couple injection pulses as the piston is rising on the compression stroke and a few injection pulses as the firing cycle continues. Pre-injection helps reduce the “diesel knock” noise we are familiar with, while post injection keeps the cylinder pressures higher for more power. The system is also designed to operate on B20 Biodiesel if you desire.

While designing the engine, ease of service was kept in mind so maintenance costs are lower. The oil filter is easily accessible and even the oil drain plug is a quarter turn-type device. Fuel lines for the common rail system are located on top and the injectors can be removed without major engine disassembly. Even ancillary parts, such as the water-cooled exhaust gas recirculation system, is clear and free of other devices for ease of service.

The new SuperDuty diesel has no shortage of power, gets great fuel economy (I got 9.4 L/100 km!) and is designed for quick maintenance. Some may be leery of a new engine design, but thousands of hours of testing at maximum loads helped engineers find weaknesses and correct them before the engine went into production. The 2011 SuperDuty diesel really is a super engine.

(from Jim Kerr, Canadian Driver)

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Ford taps Toshiba for electric vehicle motors

June 24, 2010

Houston, Texas – Toshiba will expand its plant in Houston, Texas to provide high-performance drive motors for hybrid and electric vehicle motors to fulfill a contract awarded by Ford.

The production will be Toshiba’s first overseas manufacturing base for automotive motors, which are currently produced in Japan.

The company will begin construction for the expanded capacity in January 2011, with production of the automotive motors beginning in 2012.

(from Canadian Driver)

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Keep on truckin’; With 34 million trucks in 60 years, Ford’s F-Series is one of the best-selling vehicles in history

June 23, 2010

Ford rolled its first F-Series pickups – with their Million Dollar Cabs – off the assembly line and into showrooms early in 1948. Company executives undoubtedly had high hopes for the model’s success, but little idea they had launched a light-truck dynasty.

More than six decades and 12 generational changes later, F-Series production tallies almost 34 million, doubling the number of Model T’s built and jockeying with the Toyota Corolla for honours as the best selling vehicle in history.

The F-Series has also been the best-selling full-size pickup in the U.S. for 33 consecutive years and the top-selling vehicle of any kind in most of them. In Canada, where Canucks are often lauded for purchasing smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles than their Yankee cousins, Ford’s big F-Series pickup’s popularity here stretches back an astonishing 44 consecutive best seller seasons. More than 714,000 were sold here over the past decade, making it the top-selling model of any kind.

Small wonder F-Series sales reputedly account for about half of Ford’s annual profits. Its story begins in the years following the Second World War, when Ford, along with other auto makers, was scrambling to create new models. Ford made a major investment designing the modern F-Series in 1948, spending $1- million just on the cab.

The “Million Dollar Cab” crowned an eight-truck series that ranged from the F-1 half-ton through heavy duty, parcel delivery and even school bus models – powered by 95 hp, 226 cubic inch, flathead, inline sixes or a 100 hp, 239 cubic inch, flathead V-8.

The F-Series was smartly styled with rounded fenders, into which the headlights were inserted, flanking a five-bar grille. The windscreen was a single sheet of flat glass, and the cab was mounted to the frame on rubber pads, bringing roominess and comfort to what had been viewed as a strictly utilitarian type of vehicle type.

Comforts and conveniences included a sun visor, ashtray, and larger, easy-to- read instruments, and a fully adjustable coil-spring bench seat. Also offered was the “Spiralounge Seat,” a single driver’s seat with a hydraulic shock absorber and spring.

The ventilation system provided three-way control and optional was Ford’s “Magic Air” fresh-air heater and defroster. You could also order a “See-Clear” windshield washer system operated by a foot pump and dress things up with optional chrome.

Mercury-badged versions of the F-Series were sold in Canada from 1948 to 1968.

The second generation appeared in 1953 with significantly revised styling, including a wide and handsome new grille that incorporated the headlamps. They were now known as the F-100, the F-250 and the F-350 designating half, three- quarter and one ton versions. Mechanical improvements over the next couple of years included more powerful engines, power steering, and features such as armrests and cigarette lighters.

The third generation arrived in 1957 with new styling, featuring a flat hood that sat flush with the fenders, a chrome grille and curved windscreen. A Flareside, with separate fenders flanking the box shared showroom space with the slab-sided Styleside. New six- and eight-cylinder engines provided more power for the F-Series, which was now being built in 10 assembly plants.

Canadian production began in 1961 with the fourth generation, which was a full redesign with wider and better-integrated front end styling, engines with more than 200 hp, and in 1965 Ford’s new Twin I-Beam front suspension. Ads claimed this allowed it to “drive like a car – work like a truck.”

The next generational change in 1967 was more about style – a simple and clean new look – than any real changes in the truck’s major features, although 360-, 390- and 302-cubic inch engines became available. The cabin was also redone with improvements to function and comfort, as two third of pickup owners were using them for recreational purposes.

By the time gen-six rolled out of the factories for 1973, the mechanical basics, with the exception of powertrains, were pretty much fixed. Styling changes began to reflect increased personal usage, with the Supercab appearing in 1974 and the now-classic F-150 in 1977, the first year the F-Series began its domination of pickup sales. In 1978 a record 864,000 were sold.

In 1980, a significant redesign was undertaken for the seventh generation, introducing new squared-off styling, improved fuel efficiency – and a diesel engine option for the first time – and improved rust protection. The F-100 designation ended with 1983 models, with the F-150 taking over the base truck role.

The eighth remake of the F-Series debuted for 1987 with the edges rounded off for a smoother look, with Flaresides no longer offered. New features included rear anti-lock brakes, five-speed manual gearboxes, fuel injection (carbs had disappeared by 1988) and independent suspension on 4×4 models.

By the time the ninth generation hit the streets for 1992, styling had become more aero-oriented and the Flareside was back. A year later the hot-rod F-Series Lightning – with 351 cubic inch, 240hp engine and handling tuned by racer Jackie Stewart – charged into showrooms to change people’s pickup perceptions.

New features included driver’s side airbags, keyless entry and CD players, and an Eddie Bauer option upped the luxury quotient even further. In 1995 F-Series production passed that of the VW Beetle.

The most comprehensive redesign in two decades was introduced with 1997’s tenth generation. Stunning aero-styling and more fuel-efficient engines aimed at the new millennium raised eyebrows. An even wider range of body styles had evolved to suit every conceivable need, along with a new Lightning and Harley- Davidson and King Ranch editions.

The F-Series was redesigned again for 2004, its appeal broadened even further by new features reflecting more daily-driver usage, that included much improved safety ratings. Sales reached 939,511 that year. And a 60th anniversary special edition was created to celebrate that milestone in 2008.

The current and twelfth generation F-Series was launched for 2009 and continued trends towards more passenger comfort with a larger cab and improved efficiency and safety, while still being able to work hard when required.

Latest models include the 2010 SVT Raptor aimed at off-road enthusiasts and the latest Harley-Davidson edition, with seats covered in bike jacket leather.

(from Bob Ennglish, Globe and Mail)

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Domestics top imports in J.D. Power Quality Study

June 21, 2010

Westlake Village, California – Domestic brands as a whole have demonstrated higher initial quality than import brands for the first time, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2010 U.S. Initial Quality Study. Overall, Porsche led the rankings for fewest quality problems.

The study, which has been conducted annually for the past 24 years, found that the industry average for initial quality is 109 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), increasing slightly from 108 PP100 in 2009. However, initial quality for domestic brands as a whole improved by four PP100 to an average of 108, slightly better than the initial quality of import brands, which averaged 109 PP100 in 2010.

The overall improvement was driven by substantial improvements in many domestic models, including the Ford Focus, the company said. In particular, the initial quality of Ford models has improved steadily for the past nine years.

“Domestic automakers have made impressive strides in steadily improving vehicle quality, particularly since 2007,” said David Sargent, vice-president of global research. “This year may mark a key turning point for U.S. brands as they continue to fight the battle against lingering negative perceptions of their quality. However, there is still a long road ahead, and domestic manufacturers need to consistently prove to consumers that they can produce models with quality that equals or beats that of the import brands. Achieving quality comparability is the first half of the battle; convincing consumers, particularly import buyers, that they have done this is the second half.”

Initial quality of new models and major redesigns continues to improve in 2010, led by new launches such as the Ford Mustang, Fusion and Taurus, Lexus GX 460, Honda Crosstour, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Porsche Panamera, all of which launched with notably high initial quality levels.

The study measures new-vehicle quality at 90 days of ownership. J.D. Power said that initial quality has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term vehicle durability. The study captures problems experienced by owners in the areas of design-related problems, and defects and malfunctions.

Porsche led the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 83 PP100, followed by Acura (moving from 14th in 2009 to second in 2010), Mercedes-Benz (improving from sixth to third), Lexus, and Ford (which moved into the top five for the first time since the inception of the study).

Among individual vehicles, Ford and Lexus each received three segment awards. Ford took awards for the Focus, Mustang and Taurus, while Lexus received awards for the GS, GX and LS models. The Lexus LS has the fewest quality problems in the industry, with just 55 P100.

(from Canadian Driver)