Archive for September, 2010


First Drive: 2011 Ford F-150

September 27, 2010

Dallas, Texas – Texas is truck country, with 20 per cent of Ford’s U.S. truck sales accounted for there. Success in the Lone Star State, therefore, implies success in every other truck market. No wonder that Ford typically goes to Texas to introduce its new trucks.

The recent introduction of the 2011 Ford F-150 pickup in Dallas was an opportunity to showcase a range of new F-150 technologies, including four powertrains — which Ford refers to as the most significant engine overhaul in the history of the F-150 — along with the new electronic power assisted steering (EPAS) and six-speed automatic transmissions.

The F-150 is available in literally dozens of configurations — different wheelbases, cab configurations, drivetrains and packages — ranging in price from $19,999 for the XL 4×2 regular cab, to $64,899 for the Lariat Limited Supercrew. Major model categories are XL, STX, XLT, FX2/FX4 and Lariat, with the King Ranch, Platinum, Lariat Limited, Harley-Davidson, and the extreme SVT Raptor (now including a Raptor Supercrew) offered as special editions. The Lariat Limited, returning for 2011 after a two-year absence, is limited to 1,500 units for Canada.

Externally, things haven’t changed much compared with the 2010 models, and likewise inside, the 2009 makeover carries over, although the 2011 F-150 features new gauge clusters. Most of the 20011 changes are under the hood, but they are significant.

The engines — two V6s and two V8s — represent a nod to the past and a look at the future, and combine for a projected fuel economy improvement of 20 per cent. The 6.2-litre V8, for instance, will appeal to those for whom power and reliability are synonymous with a V8 specification, and in the F-150 this single-overhead camshaft engine makes 411 horsepower, 434 pound-feet of torque, and can tow 11,300 pounds.

The 3.5-litre “EcoBoost” however, is a state-of-the-art V6 engine with technology common to diesel engines, like twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection. Doing duty in Ford’s trucks it generates 365 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque (90 per cent of which is available from 1,700 r.p.m.) and like the 6.2-litre V8, it will tow 11,300 lbs. Ford is planning to offer various engines using EcoBoost technology in 90 per cent of its vehicles by 2013. It will be available in the 2011 F-150 in the first quarter of 2011.

In the 2011 F-150, the EcoBoost engine is effectively the same Duratec V6 found in the Ford Mustang (with displacement reduced from 3.7 to 3.5 litres), but with added technologies and engineering to increase power and improve fuel economy. Ford is embarking upon a series of challenges to demonstrate the durability of the EcoBoost V6 that replicate over two-and-a-half million kilometres of service, and, in one engine, simulate 240,000 km of severe duty operation, after which the engine will be installed into a competition F-150 to run in the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race November 17-20, 2010. This vehicle was introduced at the Texas State Fair.

The “base” F-150 3.7-litre V6 F-150 makes 302 hp, 278 lb.-ft. of torque and tows 6,200 lbs, and like the Ecoboost, it is fundamentally a Duratec V6, only re-tuned for truck duty. Likewise, the F-150 application of the all-aluminum, 5.0-litre Mustang V8, generates 360 hp, 380 lb-ft torque and tows 10,000 lbs.

All 2011 Ford F-150 trucks now feature a six-speed automatic transmission with standard tow-control, which increases control when hauling a heavy load or towing a trailer, especially when descending grades. Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS), now a standard feature, features “drift control,” which increases stability by compensating for lateral forces (road crowns, wind) and reduces fuel consumption by three per cent.

We drove 2011 F-150 trucks featuring each of the new engines in environments ranging from a racetrack to highway to rural road. EcoBoost trucks were used to tow 6,500-lb trailers in an exercise to demonstrate power and stability. In comparison with competitive vehicles from Chevrolet and Dodge (Silverado 5.3L V8, Ram 5.7L V8), the EcoBoost engine felt smoother, quicker and more responsive (although the Ram Hemi V8 provided reliable and lusty power). Torque was typically available with only minor throttle input and the six-speed transmission shifted almost imperceptibly on inclines. Notably, the six-speed transmission was not as busy as those found in the competition.

In this towing exercise, fuel consumption was similar for each of the vehicles, at 24 to 26 L/100 km (11-12 mpg Imperial).

With the new EPAS, the Ford trucks felt more stable when towing, and more directly connected to the road. This is not to say that competition failed in the tasks assigned them, as they were quite capable of towing an equal load. However, the experience in the F-150 generated a greater level of confidence at speed, and acceleration times from standstill were quantifiably lower in the Ford trucks.

Driving on a variety of surfaces without a trailer, the F-150 impressed with its quiet interior, smooth ride and poise on rougher roads. Indeed, such is the sophistication of this vehicle’s platform, and the occupants’ insulation from road and wind noise, that the driving experience in many ways felt as comfortable as a sedan.

A fuel economy run was also included in the test drive, covering 32-km of rolling country roads. While 7.8 L/100 km (36 mpg) could be squeezed out of the EcoBoost F-150 using extreme driving techniques, a more representative 11.7 L/100 km (24 mpg) was achieved in regular highway driving with two occupants and no load. “Official” fuel consumption numbers have not yet been released. All of the new Ford F-150 engines, including the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost, run on regular fuel.

A full range of driver and passenger amenities is available for the F-150, including navigation system, Ford SYNC and Ford Work Solutions, which features an in-dash computer that provides Internet access and wireless accessories like mouse and printer. Ford’s available Tool Link provides a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) asset tracking system that enables customers to maintain a real-time inventory of tools and equipment stored in the vehicle.

Safety enhancements for 2011 include a seat-integrated shoulder belt for the front, middle seat, and a head restraint for the second-row middle seat, along with an integrated spotter mirror for the driver (although the spotter mirror is not fitted to the passenger side).

With the new powertrains, Ford has now completed a full makeover of its F-150 line. The result is a truck that feels entirely modern and capable. Despite its size, the F-150 is easy to drive, from the parking lot to the highway to the work site. One senses that it can’t get much bigger, though, as it’s already quite a hike up into the cab (unless your truck is fitted with the handy power-assisted running boards), and reaching into the box from beside the truck is no longer possible for most people.

The Ford engineers conceded that this is likely the limit, although for those who like truck functionality but don’t need such a formidable vehicle should take note, as the compact Ranger is expected to be retired in the next year or two.

The 2011 Ford F-150 trucks will be available this Fall. The EcoBoost-powered F-150, as mentioned above, is scheduled for early 2011 release.

(from Paul Williams, Canadian Driver)


2011 Ford Explorer: Torture-Testing in the sands of Dubai

September 20, 2010

The 2011 Ford Explorer has been redesigned from bottom to top, inside and out to meet the needs of SUV drivers from Dubuque to Dubai. While the atmospheric conditions of eastern Iowa can be closely replicated in Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., facilities, there’s no substitute for being there when validating vehicle capabilities for Dubai customers.

Ufford and his team make the trek to Dubai for more than the opportunities that are inherent in the extreme-condition testing the humid desert climate provides. They are here to listen to customers, too.

A recent Dubai trip for Ufford and the team offered the opportunity to test interior air conditioning effectiveness and occupant comfort in the combined desert heat and high humidity of the adjacent Gulf of Oman. With a 50 percent humidity factor, the equivalent temperature can exceed 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Engineers fitted an Explorer test vehicle with interior temperature sensors in the very places where occupants would be sensitive. A majority of the adjustments the team makes to improve air conditioning performance will find their way into all Explorers.

Dubai also offers unique terrain characteristics to validate Explorer 4WD capabilities.

Terrain management sand mode allows for some wheel spin at initial throttle tip-in to gather momentum, while limiting slip as vehicle speed increases. Once in motion, the sand setting on Explorer’s terrain management system constantly monitors traction to send the right amount of torque to the wheels for optimal performance in the soft and hilly conditions, without the need for customer intervention.

Intelligent 4WD with terrain management – including the sand setting – will be an added convenience to experienced SUV drivers and a confidence-builder for those new to the segment.

The all-new 2011 Ford Explorer – delivering capability, refinement and fuel economy – will be available in North American Ford dealerships later this year with exportation to more than 90 markets globally.

(from Auto123)


Pony car buyers prefer Mustang

September 15, 2010

So here we have Consumer Reports emphatically confirming what customers have already acknowledged – the Ford Mustang is hotter than the Chevrolet Camaro.

In a recent head-to-head test, CR’s testers gave the Mustang a Very Good road test score, while the Camaro earned a mere Good. This was in a face-off of V-6 versions. The Mustang is now two-for-two: in last year’s CR face-off between V-8 versions of these two, the Mustang trumped the Camaro “despite being an older design,” to quote CR.

The Mustang’s advantage this time is its new V-6 engine. It is “not only more refined than the Camaro’s, it delivered stronger acceleration and better fuel economy.”

As David Champion, head of CR’s auto testing put it, “The Mustang is the more agile and enjoyable car to drive of the two.  Moreover, the Mustang is on CR’s Recommended list, while the Camaro is too new for Consumer Reports to have reliability data.

It should come as no surprise, then, that we find the new V-6 Mustang doing very well sales-wise. The new V-6 and some pretty aggressive pricing are the reasons why.

First, the engine: It’s an all-new aluminum 3.7-litre, dual-overhead camshaft V-6 which at 305 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque represents an increase of 45 per cent and 17 per cent respectively versus the 2010 sadder 4.0-litre V-6 engine.

Now pricing: The average price of a V-6 Mustang, less customer cash rebates, is a pretty affordable $27,879. Compare that to the Camaro at $33,162 and the Challenger at $30,355.

Which brings us to sales. Real-time sales information from the Power Information Network (PIN) shows that V-6 Mustangs are sitting on dealer lots for just 18 days on average. That’s what they call a quick “turn rate” in the car business. By comparison, the six-cylinder Camaro has a 29-day turn rate and the Dodge Challenger has a whopping 55-day turn rate.

Looks to me as though an ages-old auto industry tactic is at work here: give buyers more car for less money and they’ll bite.



Ford Fiesta Wins First Ever Top Safety Pick Award in Class

September 13, 2010

When it comes to crash safety, North America’s institute of choice is the United States’ Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Crashing hundreds upon hundreds of brand-new vehicles every year in the name of occupant safety, the IIHS’ testing is considered to be a benchmark for many car buyers, and of the utmost importance to every manufacturer.

Which is why Ford’s executives are probably throwing themselves one heck of a party right about now, thanks to the Fiesta’s excellent performance during its IIHS evaluations? The first minicar to earn a Top Safety Pick rating since the addition of the institute’s rollover testing, the Fiesta managed all the standard testing with ease, and was capable of withstanding five times its own body weight placed upon one corner of its roof before failing. A good rating requires just four times a vehicle’s body weight be survived. Obviously, as the only minicar to earn the coveted Top Safety Pick rating, the new Fiesta is already distinguishing itself from the pack… how much more distinction it deserves will have to be determined when the much-awaited car finally makes it onto showroom floors.

(from The Car Guide)


Ford maintains its Tech Edge

September 9, 2010

If the Fiesta and Mustang don’t prove that Ford has been listening to its customers, the 2011 Ford Edge should put any debate to rest.

Ford sold more than 400,000 first-gen Edges worldwide (about 10% of those in Canada) since launching in 2006. At the same time, the crossover segment grew 220% with 20% growth forecast for 2009-10.

Instead of simply keeping up with the Joneses, though, the new Edge features substantial improvements all around that pretty much leave the Jones clan in the dust. There’s a new engine, some nice design tweaks, and probably the most useful and intuitive in-car technologies available from an automaker today.

A 3.5-litre Duratec V6 makes 285 hp and 253 lb.-ft. of torque and comes on the familiar SE, SEL and limited models. Allwheel drive (basically a $2,000 option on the limited trim) is standard on the Edge Sport (the U.S. gets a front-wheel drive model), which features Ford’s 3.7-litre Duratec V6 making 305 hp and 285 lb.-ft. of torque, 22-inch alloy wheels, MyFord Touch with Sync and lots more standard equipment.

Both engines mate with six-speed automatics. Select- Shift is standard on the SEL and limited series, with paddle activation standard on the sport.

Visually, the second-generation Edge benefits from a new front fascia, hood, grille, fenders and bi-functional projector beam headlamps. Aero updates can be found in the grille area as well as under the vehicle. In the rear, new unique tail lights, rear fascia and bright exhaust tips make for nice updates along with body-coloured door handles with integrated intelligent access.

The biggest gains for buyers have been made inside the vehicle where the materials, fit, finish and overall quality are all better than the previous gen.

Though it’s more closely related to the Fusion Hybrid, the Edge’s digital instrument cluster looks like it came straight from the deck of the starship Enterprise. The large speedo is flanked by 4.2-inch LCD colour displays that make accessing important information easy and seamless for the driver. On the left is traditional vehicle info while the right side provides an interface with the infotainment/multimedia systems.

The MyFord Touch eight-inch full-colour LCD touchscreen provides access to multimedia and climate control systems, and the Sony Audio System, which adds a Sony-designed electronic finish panel with touch-sensitive controls on the centre stack.

Sync 2.0 lets users control audio, climate, navigation controls and even make phone calls and receive text messages by using voice commands and a new (more intuitive) “flattened grammar” system. Available sources include AM/FM bands, satellite radio, CD, USB and Bluetooth, but the system also works as a mobile hotspot for on-the-go Internet.

Turn-by-turn route guidance is available via the driver connect system but upgrading to an SD card map-based system costs extra.

The FWD Limited is quiet and composed despite a heavy downpour during a drive through rural Tennessee. On the twisting and turning rain-soaked Natchez Trace Parkway, the Edge carves along nicely with very little body roll or slippage.

Capable of towing up to 1,580 kg (3,500 pounds), acceleration from the 3.5L is good. More impressive perhaps is how well this rather large mid-size crossover handles. Weighing roughly 1,850 kg (AWDs are a bit heavier), the Edge benefits from a 60/40 weight split.

The variable-ratio power steering is direct, with good feedback and the right size steering wheel. Front and rear stabilizer bars shore up the suspension and helps reduce body movement.

The updated brake callipers and pads offer better initial bite and do well to resist fade. The gearbox isn’t hunting for gears either as it trundles along oblivious to the deluge all around.

Mechanically and visually, the nips and tucks are not excessive. Yes, they’re important, but the real game changing stuff in Edge is the technology.


VALUE FOR $ –    4

STYLING –    4

COMFORT –    4

PERFORMANCE –    4 1/2

OVERALL –    4

(from Shaun Keenan, Toronto Sun)


Ford leads Canada with best sales in 20 years

September 8, 2010

Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd. said Wednesday it had its best August in 20 years with sales increasing 8% during the month.

As a result, the Detroit automaker once again retained the top sales spot in Canada in August, selling 24,034 units, up from 22,236 units for the same period last year. August’s sales were driven by a 21% increase in compact utility vehicle sales, as well as a 5% increase in truck sales during the month, the company said. Year to date, Ford’s sales are up 17% compared to the same period last year.

Most analysts currently expect that Ford will overtake General Motors of Canada in the 2010 Canadian sales race for the first time in history.

“Last August, Ford was the only major manufacturer to post a [year-over-year] sales increase. In spite of difficult comparisons, this year we posted our best August sales in 20 years,” said David Mondragon, Ford of Canada chief executive, in an email.

He noted in August 2009, industry sales as a whole were down 9%, while Ford of Canada’s improved 7% during the month.

(from Scott Deveau, Financial Post)


New Car Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Ford Mustang

September 5, 2010

NEW FOR 2011:

– 3.7-litre V6 replaces 4.0-litre V6
– 5.0-litre V8 replaces 4.6-litre V8
– Shelby GT500 receives all-new aluminum-block 5.4-litre engine
– New six-speed standard and automatic transmissions
– Standard integrated spotter mirrors, message centre, MyKey programmable vehicle key, and universal garage door opener
– Electric power-assist steering replaces hydraulic steering
– V6 adds standard limited-slip differential, new instrument cluster graphics, and additional lightweight soundproofing
– V8 adds illuminated visors and sun visor storage; available GT Brake Performance package
– Shelby GT500 adds standard xenon headlamps, MyKey programmable vehicle key, integrated spotter mirrors, fold-down rear headrests, slotted brake dust shields, new exhaust, lower ride height; new optional glass roof and SVT Track Pack
– Exterior colours: Yellow Blaze Tri-Coat, Race Red and Ingot Silver added

For 2011, the Ford Mustang receives three new engines. A 3.7-litre V6 replaces the previous 4.0-litre V6, while a 5.0-litre V8 replaces the 4.6-litre V8 in the GT. Both also receive all-new six-speed manual and automatic transmissions to replace the previous five-speed choices. The Shelby GT500 receives an all-new aluminum-block 5.4-litre engine that is lighter and more powerful than the 5.4-litre V8 it replaces.

Several new standard features are added, including blind-spot exterior mirrors, a new message centre in the instrument cluster, MyKey programmable vehicle key, and garage door opener. Hydraulic power steering is replaced with electric power steering on all models, including the Shelby GT500.

A new GT Brake Performance package for the GT adds 14-inch vented front discs from the GT500 Mustang, along with unique 19-inch alloy wheels and summer performance tires. For the Shelby GT500, a new SVT Track Pack makes the car race-ready, with unique styling, lighter wheels, higher rear axle ratio, stiffer springs and Goodyear Eagle F1 Super Car tires; it is available on both the coupe and convertible.

Available as a coupe or convertible, the Mustang comes as the V6, with 3.7-litre V6; as the GT, with 5.0-litre V8; and as the Shelby GT500, with supercharged 5.4-litre V8. The V6 and V8 use a six-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a six-speed automatic, while the GT500 uses a six-speed manual only.

Features on the V6 include 18-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, tire pressure monitoring system, six-way power driver’s seat, cloth seats, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input jack, cruise control, full centre floor console with armrest and locking storage, message centre, MyKey, garage door opener, power locks with keyless entry, power windows with auto up/down, LED taillights, power mirrors, rear spoiler, and variable intermittent wipers. The coupe includes a 50/50 split-folding rear seat, while the convertible uses a vinyl top.

The V6 Pony Package adds 18-inch wheels with tri-bar centre cap, fog lamps, rear deck lid spoiler, unique badges.

The GT adds leather-trimmed seats, MyColor instrument gauge illumination, ambient lighting, SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system, leather-wrapped steering wheel with satin aluminum spokes, illuminated sun visors, Shaker 500 Audio System with six-CD/MP3 stereo and Sirius satellite radio, automatic headlamps, and fog lamps.

The Shelby GT500 adds 19-inch alloy wheels, Cobra badge, unique aluminum power dome hood, unique front and rear fascias, xenon headlamps, rear diffuser and deck lid spoiler, and over-the-top racing stripes.

(from Canadian Driver)