Entries in Ford Drive One (5)


Video of the 2011 Ford Focus Intro

Just a quick clip here from the intro of the 2011 Ford Focus at the NAIAS this morning.


Reviewed The 2010 Ford Mustang GT


In this review we are going to try something a bit different and have you play some selected music as you read through this.  You may see a bit of a bias towards music that comes from Detroit, so, we'd like you to play along at home by playing the clips as you read this.


 *John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillun

When we finally got the opportunity to spend some time with the 2010 Mustang GT we were excited, if for nothing else to compare and contrast it to the Camaro SS we drove back in July.  While the new Camaro has been very well received, the body refreshing of the Mustang for 2010 was universally praised.  The huzzah's was near universal, though we weren't one of them.  


When the S197 came out for 2005 we WERE on board with that redesign as a great improvement, drawing on the heritage of the 1st generation Mustangs without being overtly retro.  It wasn't one thing about the 2010 rebody that we didn't like initially, rather, there seemed to be quite a bit of fuss over what didn't seem like much more than a nose job and some minor restyling of the rear.  Like many other cars, the Mustang plays better in person, than in pictures.  The restyling has made the overall look of the car seem more aggressive.  There are body lines that taper both on the front and in the rear that keep the car from being as slab sided and give it some definition.  At the end of our test we didn't have any of the reservations that we did previously about the styling, but we still questioned all the noise that was made about it when it debuted.


When it comes to cars like the Camaro and the Mustang, and the people that drive them, they tend to fall into two camps.  You are either a Camaro person, or you are a Mustang person.  Many of the things that we didn't like as much about the Camaro, it feeling very wide, a bit heavy and such, are just the items that Camaro people look for.  While those same people find that the Mustang feels too narrow and lacks a heavy, substantial feel on the road.  This observation came from several different people, independent of each other, and it explains much.  


*Iggy - I want to be your dog


Now full disclosure here, I have owned two Mustangs in the past.  First was an 83 GT and the other was a 92 five liter LX notchback.  When we first got behind the wheel of the Mustang, the absolute first reaction was, "feels like home", or to quote Chandler Bing, "it's the thing that's been missing from your hand".  Even thought the last Mustang we drove was a pre-production 05 car, getting behind the wheel of the 2010 car felt much like getting in the 92.  The interior space felt much tighter on the inside than the Camaro, which we liked, there weren't the massive blind spots in the rear three quarter view that there were in the Camaro, and two minutes into the initial drive, we felt that while the steering was over boosted, the car felt more nimble and much lighter on it's feet.

The Mustang has evolved from being a bangers car which was only good in a straight line.  That's not to say that it's going to be dicing with say a Porsche Boxster or a Lotus Elise as the best handling car on the market, not by a long shot, that said, it's better than you'd expect.  Much was said by the enthusiast press who's focus is on Sports Cars about the Mustang continuing to have a straight axle rather than an Independent Rear Suspension, and the fact that memo's have surfaced how the IRS system would have only added $100 to the cost of the car.  This is really a 1% problem.  Only 1% of the people who buy the car will notice, or even care about the fact that it lacks an independent rear.  Ford has spent some time refining the ride and handling of this car and unless you are a hard core auto crosser or out doing track days, it's fine.  The enthusiast crowd who has historically been drawn to this car is the drag race community and they are more than happy that the IRS was not the choice as it's durability in those conditions can be a bit dodgy.  Is it a serious GT car, no, but is it a serviceable GT car, yes.


There has also been some conversation about the lack of a six speed manual for the Mustang.  The only advantage a six speed may offer is a slightly higher overdrive gear in sixth, but at 75-80MPH the engine is turning 2200-2300 RPM's .  The advantage in MPG would be minimal. We were a bit disappointed in the milage that we did get from the Mustang on the highway. A couple of different efforts where we set set the cruise at 75 and drove for some distance only netted 23 mpg, mixed driving was just shy of 20.

As an every day car it works well. the driver and passenger have plenty of room, the back seat has a surprising amount of space.  With the drivers or passengers seat set in what would be a normal position, there is room enough for a 5'11" person to sit.  That person may not want to ride back there for a couple hours, but for a normal length drive it's fine.  The trunk has a good amount of room as well.  It swallowed, without a problem our bi-weekly run to Costco, Trader Joe's and Meijer's.

The body wasn't the only thing to get a refresh for the 2010 model year, the interior also got a refresh.  The gages still have a 60's retro look to them, but are easier to read. The quality of materials, along with their fit and finish also received a major upgrade.  Interiors are one of the areas I'm most critical on.  While the body styling may capture you and be the initial infatuation, it's the interior that you have to live with.  I have said, and maintain, that if manufacturers spent an extra $100-$200 on the interior they could get $1000 worth of pricing.  The Mustang is no different.  When you get to a $30,000 price point there should be NO hard plastic surfaces, AT ALL!  That said if we are comparing the Camaro interior to the Mustang interior, the materials are much better in the Mustang. 

The Mustang comes with Ford’s SYNC system and it works as advertised, save one issue.  The SYNC system doesn’t particularly like the iPod Touch with the 3.0 operating system.  This is an issue we have experienced in multiple Ford vehicles, and after spending some time in various forums there is a software update that was in beta testing as we finish this and should be available after the first of the year.  The issue is the system is forever trying to index your iPod.  We had a 45 minute drive and it never did.  If it does ever complete it’s indexing, it doesn’t remember it and will have to start all over again the next time you start the car.  This is only a problem with the Touch though, as the iPod Classic worked just fine.


White Stripes - Fell In Love With A Girl

What matters most to people interested in Mustang’s and Pony Cars in general is the lump in the front.  When for the 2005 Ford upgraded the 4.6 SOHC motor to a three valve head, there was a huge sigh of relief from the performance community.  

The two valve, two cam motor while serviceable, compared to the Five Liter pushrod motor it replaced, it was hated and even vilified.  Not because it wasn’t a pushrod motor, more that it wasn’t really any better for horsepower and the torque was missing all together.  Other than the four valve four cam Cobra motor, in naturally aspirated form, it was only in 2005 that the torque levels approached what they were in 1995, the last year for the the 5.0 motor in the Mustang.  In those ten years though the car packed on some three to four hundred pounds and it can be felt.

While the thee valve motor has good torque, it doesn’t quite have that plant your lower back into the seat push that the five liter cars of days past did.  Here the Camaro is worlds better then the Mustang, though it SHOULD BE as it has a just shy of a 97 cubic inch displacement advantage.  The Camaro kicks in 100 more horsepower and torques than the Mustang, AND at a lower rpm which is noticeable when driving on the street. 

Salvation is at hand though.  For 2011 there are two new motors coming for the Mustang, a V6 that will nearly match the three valve V8 in power and an all new Five Liter “Coyote” V8 that will match or exceed the Camaro in power.  We look forward to driving both versions to see if they address our issues.  In fact if you are thinking of buying a new Mustang I would say hold off till the new motors are released.  Not only will they have more power, but they will have better fuel mileage as well.


MC5 - Kick Out The Jams

As much as I liked and was impressed with the Camaro, I like the Mustang better, but I admit I AM a Mustang person.  The Mustang is much like Detroit, it’s raw, it’s much maligned and it’s unapologetic about who and what it is, you will either get it and bond with it, or you won’t.  The best thing you can do with the Mustang GT is to roll down the windows, put your foot to the floor, shift it like you sold it, listen to the siren song that is a Detroit V8, channel your inner MC5 on and yell at the top of your lungs “KICK OUT THE JAMS MOTHER FU@KERS!!!!!!


Reviewed The 2010 Ford Taurus Limited

We spent a weekend with the 2010 Ford Taurus, here are our thoughts


Five Days With The Ford Fusion Hybrid

When we drove the Fusion Hybrid back from DC, we liked the car very much as you can see from out earlier review, the question was how would it be on a day in and day out basis.  While five days isn't very long, driving it more surface streets, running errands and such gave us a clear view.  Have a look.


Vehicle Review The Lincoln MKX

Over the last few years Lincoln has made a concerted effort to move away from the choice of the blue hair, early bird special crowd, and to a younger demographic and one with probably more money, and that is the Lexus crowd.

Lincoln’s were for many years cars to aspire to.  US Presidents were driven in them, and executives wanted to drive and be seen in them.  Somewhere in the late 60’s to early 70’s they lost their way and it’s only in the last couple years that the ship began to be righted.  

Our tuxedo black MKX review unit left a good first opinion visually.  It has just enough bright work, with the optional chrome 20” wheels to offset and highlight the body lines nicely.  Going down the road, parked in your driveway or being valeted at the Big Rock Chop House in Birmingham, MI the MKX has a presence that it belongs.

When you move to the inside of the MKX and the theme continues.  The materials are nice, and the fit and finish are good.  There are a couple of exceptions where the bean counters got in the way, the sides of the center console and the face of the instrument cluster are a hard plastic rather than the soft touch leatherette found in the rest of the interior.  Seems an odd place to drop some noticeably cheep materials, right where the driver can notice it, and they saved maybe $20, wrong decision.

After out time with the Flex and the Fusion Hybrid we had gotten used to the big display for Ford’s Sync system, however the one in the MKX was much smaller.  While not too small, the larger display in the other vehicles was less prone to fat fingering as you were going through the menus.  That said this install of Sync seemed to be just a bit zippier in voice recognition.  Our only real complaint in the past about Sync is that the delay in between the spoken command and it’s response was just about a second too long to fall into normal speech patterns. The delay here seemed shorter.  Or maybe we are just getting trained by it, hard to say.

For what seems like a smaller vehicle, the MKX is roomy on the inside.  Back seat passengers will have no problems with leg room even with the front seats all the way back.  Also ingress and egress are good for back seat passengers.  On far to many SUV’s the rear doors are quite short and it can make it awkward to get in and out, especially for tall people, and some older folks as well.  The rear area has much more room that you would think from the outside as well.  You would think that it would have less room than an Escape, but it is quite a bit larger.  A trip to IKEA for some shelving and other large items we needed to redo a room in the house were easily swallowed up.  This is good news for the target demographic for this SUV, not so much that they will be hauling stuff from IKEA, or Lowe’s, but that it will haul three or four kids and all their gear to hockey practice.

Driving the MKX is a what you would expect.  The real test for us was coming home from an announcing gig that went very long.  We rolled out of Milan Raceway just after 1:30AM.  The 58 mile drive home may have been the easiest, most relaxing drive home from the track we’ve had.  It was a long day, we were VERY tired, and yet with the cruise set at 70 the time seemed to fly by.  For those road warriors that would purchase this and pile on the miles, that I would think would be very welcome.  General handling is good as well, for such a heavy vehicle, it takes on/off ramps quite well.

There are a couple things that we did not like at all for the MKX in the driving experience however.  Because of the rear design and the sloping rear section, vision between the C and D pillars on the drivers side is not existent creating a MASSIVE blind spot.  The passenger side isn’t much better either.  This makes it difficult merging in traffic trying to judge the distance to vehicles behind you.  What would be very welcome on the MKX is the blind spot detection in the rear view mirrors that we had in the Fusion Hybrid.

Mileage in the MKX is about what your would expect, be got 19 in pretty mixed driving.  We tried to use some of the techniques we learned from Wayne Gerdes to help out the mileage, but by no means did we drive far outside what we would call “normal” driving habits.

A big deal was made when Lincoln began to instal THX Certified sound systems in their product line.  We were very interested to see if it would live up to the hype.  We ran a variety of music through the system.  Mingus, Pink Floyd. Kevin Saunderson, Pantera, Mazzy Star and Norah Jones just to name a few.  Sadly, to my ears, the system sounded no better than the systems in the Flex or the Fusion.  While we are no uber audiophiles, we are pretty sure we would notice a difference of quality, being accustomed to listening to uncompressed music over some nice headphones on a regular basis.

At the end of the day we come out with some mixed feelings about the MKX.  As Billy Crystal’s version of Fernando might say, “It’s better to look good, that to feel good.”  That, and Maxwell Smart’s classic line, “Missed it by THAT much.” sum up the MKX nicely.  The vehicle looks good, but it doesn’t feel special.  If you are driving a premium brand, at a premium price, just shy of $45,000, it should make you feel special, and the MKX didn’t,  It’s a nice vehicle, don’t get us wrong, it just doesn’t feel special.

What could Ford change to bring it to that level?  That’s the kicker, we’re not sure, and we thought long and hard about it.  There is no one thing that it is, it’s just a take away.  Maybe it’s better materials inside, we don’t know, we couldn’t put our finger on it. When we shared that thought with a number of people who rode with us in the MKX we got that silent head nod that tells you they were thinking along the same lines and were having trouble putting their thoughts into words.

At the end of the day how do we grade this?  We may be being hard here but 7.8 out of 10 is where we end up.  Again, not that it isn’t a fine vehicle, it’s just that it didn’t meet our expectations.