Ford’s Missed Opportunity With The Focus RS

Ford Motor Company has done a great job with launching the Focus RS today, watching the enthusiast press and gear heads on Facebook, Twitter & G+ go on about it has been interesting. Here are the three things almost no one is addressing.

#1 You won’t be able to buy this for 14-17 months most likely, and I base that off of Ford’s history of showing off a new model or version of a current model, and it’s time frame to come to market. If the car is as good as it looks people want to buy it now, but they can’t. In the mean timeVolkswagen USA is happy to sell them a Golf R and Subaru of America, Inc. an STI and has quite a bit of time to convince those potential buyers to scratch that itch.

The lead time on the Focus RS is WAY to long, a two to four month lead time, sure, however, you make people wait 12-18 months, (a) they will purchase something else in the interim, (b) keeping peoples interest that long isn’t going to happen in the back half of the 2010’s, (c) if it fails to live up to expectations the fallout will be 10X worse BECAUSE you forced people to wait.

Look at Ford’s F150 and Mustang launches this year. Yes were well received, and they are good vehicles, however, there is an air of disappointment about both vehicles. The F150, for all of the tech involved, when real world tests are conducted, isn’t that much of a leap forward, and the weight reduction merely gets to down to the weight of the competition or there abouts. For the Mustang, the car once again gains weight and size when every Mustang fan that I’ve spoken to in the last three or four years, be it drag race, road race or daily driving enthusiast, wanted something smaller and most importantly, 200-500 LIGHTER. These two vehicles are the Crown Jewels of the Ford empire and while they will sell well, they are covered with disappointment.

#2 This ties in a little bit with the point number one and the lead time, and it’s about the lack of details. Oh yes, the PR people will tell this gives us time to spread out the information, horsepower and torque, weight, performance, fuel economy, etc., keep up the interest and such. Again, if this was 2003, perhaps. In watching what Ford did with F150 and Mustang, the initial launches had the splash they wanted, but as the information dripped out, the reaction of the general public, was, “get on with it already”.

Over the next 12 months we will find out that the “315+ horsepower” will end up around 330, the weight close to 3,400 lbs (OUCH!!) fuel economy about 3-4 less than the ST, 0-60 in 5 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.7-14.0 seconds, and the price, by the time you add destination, $40,000. While I’m sure there are some calibration details still going on, if, this close to launch those numbers aren’t nailed down, oh boy!

#3 It’s the price. Now, at $40,000 that’s not out of line with the Golf R, or the Subaru STI, but really are there really that many people who are making the $70,000+ to afford that payment? Lets not kid ourselves, 75% of the buyers are going to be financing most of that purchase, so, say to finance $35,000 over 6 years, because that is now the norm, and money is still cheap, so a 4.9% interest rate, you are at $562/mo, and that is before insurance, so toss another $200-$400/mo on for that. So, $750 a month all in? That is a HELL of a proposition, no matter how good the car is.

You know who got this right? Chrysler of all people. I’m not a huge fan of the Charger and Challenger, they are both far to large and heavy, but with the Hellcat they got it right, from announcement, to press drives to available for sale in under 6 months! They still got all buzz, all the run, and because of the shorter time frame, the lather they built up didn’t get old, it was just enough so that as it was beginning to fade, the cars were on sale, and then, the new news cycle for them began.

People far smarter and or far more educated can give me the reasons why I’m wrong about all the above, but now, after watching the industry for 30 years, you are going to have a tough time convincing me differently.

Ford Announces New 2014 F-150 SVT Raptor Special Edition

Normally we don’t re-post press releases, there are plenty of other sites out there that pass of news and coverage as just pushing out press releases.  That said the Ford Raptor is one of our favorite vehicles that we’ve ever tested, so excuse us if we do it this one time.

 

Ford’s F-150 SVT Raptor, the ultimate high-performance off-road pickup truck, has a new Special Edition package customers can order that adds more unique touches to the hot-selling pickup.

 

Ford today reveals the 2014 F-150 SVT Raptor Special Edition, which adds unique new touches to Raptor’s existing Luxury Package, including a Ruby Red Metallic exterior color and box-side graphics. Interior upgrades include Brick Red seat bolsters with black inserts and cloth honeycomb highlights, console top finish panel, and center stack and door panel appliqué accents. Raptor Special Edition is also available in Tuxedo Black Metallic.

 

The 2014 F-150 SVT Raptor Special Edition goes on sale this fall.

“Raptor owners are looking for a high-performing, uncompromising off-road pickup truck with the features and luxuries found in today’s premium trucks,” said Doug Scott, Ford truck group marketing manager. “Since its launch in 2009, we’ve continually moved Raptor forward in capability and design, and the 2014 Special Edition is the best Raptor yet.”

Raptor has found an enviable niche in full-size pickups. SVT Raptor sales are up 14 percent in 2013, with five out of the past six months seeing record sales. More than 13,000 Raptors were sold in 2012.

SVT Raptor prowess and power

Since launching as a 2010 model, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor has set the benchmark for low- and high-speed off-road performance through aggressive all-terrain tires, industry-exclusive internal triple-bypass FOX Racing Shox dampers, skid plates and standard Hill Descent Control.

A Raptor development imperative has been continuous improvement, so Ford expanded Raptor’s footprint for 2011 with a four-door SuperCrew model joining the two-door SuperCab original.

For 2012 Ford began offering a grille-mounted camera to improve driver visibility when climbing over rocks or other obstacles. The 2012 addition of a Torsen® limited-slip differential to Raptor’s 4WD system enables the truck to balance traction between both front wheels.

For 2013 industry-exclusive beadlock-capable wheels were added to help increase grip in low-traction conditions, along with high-intensity discharge headlamps for improved visibility. SYNC® with MyFord Touch® was also made available for added connectivity.

SVT Raptor is available exclusively with a 6.2-liter V8 engine producing best-in-class 411 horsepower and 434 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to an electronic six-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode and SelectShift Automatic® functionality. The 4WD system features electronic shift-on-the-fly capability for the transfer case.

The front axle features a Torsen® differential with 4.10 to 1 gearing. The rear axle is also 4.10 to 1, with an electronic-locking differential.

Reviewed: 2013 Ford Fusion SE

Ford is changing the game in the mid sized segment by putting design up front, along with European driving dynamics all in a very affordable family sedan.  We are going to look at the 2013 Ford Fusion SE with the 1.6 EcoBoost engine and a 6 speed manual to see if Ford pulls it off and sets the standard for the class.

 

Reviewed: 2013 Ford Flex

Back in 2009 the Ford Flex was the first car we reviewed when we rebooted the blog, now three and a half years later, Ford has refreshed the Flex and we want to see how far it has come. When we reviewed back in ’09 we were blown away by how good it was, does it still remain that way? And, can we explain why such a great Crossover hasn’t had mainstream acceptance. Watch the video to find out.

Reviewed: 2013 Ford Mustang V6

If you’ve followed this blog for any time, you know that we are huge Mustang fans.  We’ve owned in the past an 83 GT, a 92 LX 5.0 Notchback and our current Supercharged 95GT.  What we wanted to know was is this modern V6 Mustang something close to what the 5.0 LX was back in the day, or is it just a secretary’s car?

Lets dive in and take a look!  Also make sure that you check out our full gallery of pictures.

Reviewed: 2011 Ford F-150, V6 Power Takes On The World

There was a time, not all that long ago, that having a six cylinder in your half ton pickup was a non issue.  Everyone who made full sized half ton pickups had a quality six cylinder in their lineup that, while it may have been the base engine, got the job done.

We had some experience with the Ford 300 straight six back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The fuel injected straight six had a ton of torque and unless you were trying to tow 7,000 pounds didn’t sweat the work load.

Sometime in the late 90’s the culture determined that unless you had a V8 under the hood of your half ton, (insert Arnold Schwarzenegger voice over), “you, were a girly man!”  It was said you need a big V8, even if all you ever towed was a small Bass boat, or a couple of jet ski’s and the most you ever brought home from the home improvement store were three 4×8 sheets of plywood.  In the era when gas was $2/gallon, that was fine, but now when gas is $3.50 or more a gallon, things change.

Ford along with everyone else got caught out when in 2008 fuel prices spiked from $2.75 a gallon to $4.25 a gallon in two months, and sales of full size trucks fell off a cliff.  Not wanting to get caught out again Ford put together a program where they would revamp their entire engine line for the F150 pickup so they could retain their crown of the “best selling vehicle in the U.S.” and with it, keep money flowing into the company, since pickups and SUV’s are where a majority of the profits come from.

We had the opportunity to drive the two new V6 powered F150’s in back to back weeks.  We started out with the base 302 horsepower 3.7 liter V6, then the week after we had the 365 horsepower 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6.  The question to be answered is, by going with a V6 are you missing anything by not having a V8. 

The first F150 we had was was a 4×2 Supercrew in XLT trim.  Perhaps it’s our perception, but the Ford F150 seems to have gotten much wider in the last couple iterations.  The F150 now feels as large as the F250.  These truck are extremely wide inside, and outside as well.  The truck is every bit of seven feet wide, so you will be taking up most of the lane driving down the road, and if you live in an older neighborhood, it’s tight going down the street if cars are parked on both sides of the road.

In the Supercrew, the back seat leg room is huge.  There may be more leg room for back seat passengers then on a BMW 750iL sedan!  Seating in the back is comfortable too.  You can put three large people in the back and not have any complaints even if you have a  drive of several hours.  For the driver and passenger, the captains chairs were comfortable and had plenty of adjustment for us to find the ideal spot. 

The cloth that we had in our XLT model is quite good.  It had good heft and thickness and felt like it would hold up for a long time, even under hard use.  We would like to have seen the USB and AUX jacks that are are at the bottom of the center stack, moved into the center console which is absolutely huge.  This is not necessary for aesthetic reasons, more ones of security.  Even though the F150 sits up so high, you can still see wires connecting to devices in the cab, that just invites problems.

The F-150’s now have the 4.3” information screen that debuted in the SuperDuties a couple years ago in between the the speedometer and the tach.  This multi function display is laid out well and provides good information to the driver in an easy to navigate menus.  It has more information then you will probably need, but always nice to have.  There are sub menus that are relevant for off roading and for towing along with the usual trip/distance measurements, diagnostics and the clever average and instant fuel economy gages which are blended into one.

 

Once you are accustomed to the size of the truck, it drives quite well.  While we didn’t have a chance to hook up anything to tow while we had the 3.7 V6 it did make a few trips to Lowes for supplies.  No, a 4×8 sheet of plywood will not lay flat in the bed, however, when propped up to fit, it didn’t protrude much past the upright tailgate.  We would recommend getting the step that makes getting into the bed of the truck easier.  Unless you have a 36”+ inseam, it’s a big step to climb up into the bed of the truck.

 

We would also recommend the back up camera option as well.  Living in an older neighborhood, one built in the nineteen teens and twenty’s backing out of the driveway was a bit of an adventure a few times.  On one occasion we had to get out of the truck to  see just how much further we could back up without hitting the car parked on the other side of the street as it could not be seen in the rearview or sideview mirrors.

Now the big question is, does the 3.7 V6 have enough power?  The answer is yes.  While one could always use more power, the base V6 felt fine.  Again we didn’t load it up with a ton of weight in the bed, or tow anything heavy, but for driving around and hauling a few things it was fine.  The only thing that struck us as odd, is that under full throttle, this engine shifts at 7,000 rpm’s.  It’s very un-truck like and it takes a little getting used to having the power is up higher in the rev range then most traditional truck buyers are used to.  The question remains though is how people who will tow with the base engine will feel when they don’t have the majority of their torque right off idle.

Fuel economy for the base V6 in two wheel drive is rated at 17 city and 23 highway and 19 combined.  We saw 18 combined and 22 on the highway, so the readings are about spot on.  The base sticker on our XLT was $31,810, then with options came to $34,880.  It seems a bit high priced, however, go and option out a pickup from ANY manufacturer these days and they get expensive in a hurry.  Long gone are the days you could get a full sized half ton for low to mid $20,000’s.  Then again, the interior of trucks today are as nice as some near luxury cars!

Next up we had the EcoBoost V6 F150, again a Supercrew but this time it was a 4×4 and in Lariat trim.  The move to the EcoBoost V6 is an attempt by Ford to offer the power of the larger V8’s in this case the 6.2 V8, yet retain better fuel economy.  While the EcoBoost is down on horsepower to the 6.2, 365 vs. 411, they are near equal on torque.  

No matter how much advertising is thrown at you about “we have more horespower then insert brand here” in a truck intended for work, TORQUE is the most important thing.  You want as much as you can get, as low in the rpm range as you can get it.  With the EcoBoost, Ford is not only able to match torque numbers of the 6.2 V8, but through the use of careful computer tuning they can create a near flat torque curve so that 80-90 percent of torque is available from 2,000 rpm’s on.  The EcoBoost is rated to tow 11,000 and while we wanted to try that out, the person we know with the 32’ race car trailer was out of town, so we were again unable to hook up anything meaningful to really test this engine.

While testing by sites like PickupTrucks.com has shown that when towing at near max capacity the advantage in fuel economy between the EcoBoost and the 6.2 V8 is negligible, it’s when driving around in “normal conditions” that the EcoBoost really shines.  We had some experience with the 6.2 in the Raptor that we tested some time back, and while that is a bit unique due to the 35” tires and it’s elevated stance, the best highway fuel economy we got in the Raptor as 14 mpg and we had to be very light footed to achieve that, 12-13 mpg was more the norm.  With this 4×4 Supercrew we pulled down 20 mpg on a 550 mile trip to Indiana and back.

 

Power with the EcoBoost is very good, in fact it didn’t take very much throttle to begin to feel the traction control coming in.  Put your foot down with the traction control turned off, and in two wheel drive, it would smoke the tires with easy.  Get the EcoBoost and the F-150 is an entertaining truck to drive.

The interior of the Lariat package was nice, but the level of materials in a few spots left something to be desired.  The leather material on the dash is paper thin, and didn’t have a real quality feel to it.  The wood grain for some of the interior trim looked nice, but the veneer appeared to be about 2 millimeters thick.  There was also quite a bit of hard plastic to be found as well, and while this IS a press vehicle with 8,000 miles on the clock, the fit and finish is not what we have come to expect from Ford of late. 

We bring these issues up because the out the door price on this very well equipped truck as $49,115.  Now, I don’t care who you are, when you are paying just shy of fifty large for a new vehicle there are some expectations that come with it, and we have to say, that the interior of this F-150 didn’t live up to it.  The rest of the truck was great.  It rode very well for a 4×4, it was very quiet in the cabin, the Sync and Nav systems worked well, but that price tag gives you cause to make that Jeremy Clarkson sucking air between his teeth sound that he’s not best pleased. 

We could knock $4,000 of the price pretty easy by ditching the $2,495 Sony Navigation Radio package and $1,450 for the Lariat Chrome package, and maybe another $995 for the sunroof, but we are still talking about a mid $40,000 truck at that point!  Again we know the cost of pickup trucks has gone up dramatically in the past decade, it’s just that we still have a hard time wrapping our head around those figures, and we know we aren’t the only ones.

Overall we do have to say, if you plan to tow frequently and with bigger loads you should feel very comfortable getting the EcoBoost V6.  Ford has spent quite a bit of time and money making sure it will hold up as good as any V8, and we think you will like the results.

In the end we like these F150’s, the base V6 does a fantastic job and will suit most people who don’t have need to tow very heavy loads.  Most contractors could get away with this V6 and be happy with it.  If we were to buy a new F150 we have to seriously consider this 3.7 V6 because the most we would be towing is 5,000 pounds and that would be maybe six or eight times a year to go to the race track, though that weight is at the top end of it’s tow rating.

To get the EcoBoost isn’t an expensive option up front, but to try and get one out the door for under $40,000 takes a lot of doing.  That said over 50% of the F-150’s coming off dealer lots right now are equipped with the V6’s and dealers are having a hard time keeping EcoBoost’s in stock, so no matter what some may think, consumers are voting with their wallet, and Ford appears to have hit it out of the park with these two engines.

The F-150 continues to be the best selling vehicle in the U.S. year after year, even when gas has become much more expensive, F Series trucks continue to sell at around 50,000 units a month and for October 2011 specifically 40% of those were EcoBoost models, it will be interesting to see if GM, Dodge, Toyota and Nissan follow Ford down this path, or come up with something of their own.  We should find out very soon.

Have a look at all of our photos of these two trucks below.

Blame California: Why You Can’t Have The TracKey For Your BOSS 302

For many people who have bought the BOSS 302 Mustang, they have been wondering when they would receive their TracKey.  It is the magic red key, that changes 200 parameters in the cars systems to provide maximum performance.  It is “For Off Road Purposes Only”, but yet CARB, the California Air Resources Board, has not signed off on it.  Ford can not guarentee that the TracKey does not affect emissions, the engine’s durability or mess with on-board computer diagnostics.

Given how well California’s government works, it may never happen, and once again, the People’s Republic of Kaliforna fowls it up for the rest of us.  In a responce someone made this brilliant video which plays on the meme of changing the subtitles to a particular scene in the movie “Downfall

Have a look and be prepared to be in tears with laughter!

2011 Old Car Festival At Greenfield Village

We were out at Greenfield Village over the weekend for their annual Old Car Festival.  You get to see some really neat stuff from the beginning of the 20th Century and some years into it.  This year though they had a 1770 Fardier de Cugnot which was pretty amaizing to see and watch.  Thier were also replicas of the first Daimler car and motorcycle along with Henry Ford’s famous 999 car that he set world speed records in on a frozen lake.

We shot a ton of pictures and we have then for you in a slide show below, enjoy!

Autoline After Hours Tonight With D. Mark Trostle, Head Designer, Roush

This week we’re asking: why did Jack Roush hire a full-time designer? And, we think we’ve got the perfect man to answer that question: Roush‘s new head of design, D. Mark Trostle, a man with an impressive performance car pedigree. He’s designed such cars as the Buick GNX and Chevy SSR as well as the renowned Speed33 Roadster — so what’s going down at Roush? In addition, we’ll be discussing the news as usual. Is Toyota playing it too safe with the Camry’s new styling? Is the Cadillac Ciel concept a hint at the brand’s upcoming flagship sedan? Why are Ford and Toyota teaming up on hybrid development? To discuss all of this and more, John McElroy is joined in studio by the one and only AutoextremistPeter De Lorenzo.

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