Entries in Ford (56)

Thursday
May142009

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.

Monday
May042009

Interviews With Sherif Marakby & Wayne Gerdes

Last week when we were in Alexandria, Virginia for the Ford Fusion Hybrid “1000 Miles On A Tank” event, we had the opportunity to sit down with two people who were very important to the event.

First was Sherif Marakby.  Sherif is the Chief Engineer for Global Core Hybrid and Propulsion System Engineering for Ford.  He not only quarterbacks much of the development for the Ford hybrid systems, he also drove over 10 hours as part of the team in the event.  Sherif stated that there were many reasons for not only doing the event, but doing it in the shadow of the nations capital.  Ford were out to make a statement that (a) they ARE a different kind of car company and (b) that CAN compete with the worlds best on the world stage.

Ford took a car off the dealership floor and with no other special prep than inflating the tires a bit higher than than normal and removing all the stuff from the trunk, they went for it.  There was some neutral coasting, but no key off moments.  He also stated that the metric of how long they could go solely on battery wasn’t a major issue for them.

Have a look at the video portion of our interview:

Next we spoke with Wayne Gerdes.  Wayne is a legend in the hypermiling community and was brought in by Ford to lead the team for this event.  He spent time with all the team members training them in his way of driving to maximize milage, and drive them to reach for a higher goal than even they had looked to achieve.

Here is the video portion of our interview:

After 10+ years of interviewing people you think I would learn my lesson, but I’m sorry to say that after we stopped rolling the video portion of the interview we spent twenty minutes more talking with Wayne, getting to know him, and I didn’t record any of it! DOH!!!!  

It turns out that Wayne is a big proponent of modern clean diesel technology, even though he “made his bones” with the hybrids.  Wayne is a hardcore enthusiast, just in a different manner than we would normally associate that term with car people.  He is as hard core as the guy who drive a high 8 second street strip car with a .750+” solid roller cam on the street.  It takes a special kind of person to do that since many times it’s not the most comfortable ride, but you are doing it to prove a point.

You can find out more about Wayne, his adventures and his cause at www.cleanmpg.com

Wednesday
Apr222009

Something For Earth Day

I'll be up front an honest here, most of this "green movement" is bogus!  There I said it.  I don't want to be the way out wacko guy here, but take a minute and look at the people pushing the hardest for this agenda, they are looking to profit greatly either through investments they have in companies, or in gaining political power.

That said there are some good and common sense things that everyone can do to reduce needless waste.  Ford has been doing something about this for a few years now with the "Living Roof" on the Rouge Truck plant.  Mark and Joe from Re*Move (who I had beers with last night and I have to say are some really great people) put this video together on a trip to visit with Ford.  Have a look.

Thursday
Mar192009

2009 Ford Flex Road Test

Having owned many Ford products over the last 20 years, including the 2005 Escape we currently own, we were curious to see what the evolution of Ford's quality of product would be, especially since the Flex sent to us sticked at just thirty five bucks shy of $44,000!  FOURTY FOUR FREAKING THOUSAND DOLLARS!  That my friends is a lot of jack, even in a time when the average car now costs $31,000.  To be fair, before we start stacking on the options, the list on the Flex Limited was $34,705,  There are several options which could have been omitted and not have been missed, which would have dropped the price significantly.  We'll get to that after a bit.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Flex has been out for a while now, and here in Southeast Michigan they are a fairly common site.  That said, the Platinum White model with the chrome wheels which was dropped off looked really nice.  The chrome accent moldings on the side with the dark tint windows also did a nice job of setting off what could have been overly monochromatic look on a two box design.  This was the first solid color Flex that i have seen, all the others have been a solid body color with a white roof, ala the MINI.  The visual appeal was immediate and positive, many of my neighbors were quite taken with it's looks.

For the interior the first quick look was also positive with the tan leather interior and the three rows of dual seats from front to back, and as everyone knows there are few things better in the world then that new car smell mixed with a decent grade of leather.  Most of the materials in the interior were of a nice quality, save two items.  The first was the fake wood trim.  While it's general appearance is nice, it  feels nothing more that an ultra thin veneer over plastic on the doors, dash and wheel.  Also the trim around the center stack was just a bit to shiny plastic.  It's nice, but plastic is plastic.  Other materials were much nicer with a pleasant soft touch feel.

 

Sitting into the drivers seat the Flex feels like an extra large upscale Scion Xb.  The materials are much nicer, and immediate feel that the vehicle is much larger than it really is.  There is headroom enough for an NBA Power Forward, with room to spare, this was accentuated by the light colored interior and the multiple sunroofs.  At 5'10", I felt like I had about three feet of headroom, which was nice since it gave an ultra airy feel to the car.  The second had good leg room with seats that adjust fore and aft.  The third row was also had plenty of room, I had plenty of leg space and could have rode back there for some time with no discomfort.

Now I call this a car, but maybe a tall wagon would be a better description.  It's no SUV, as even with optional all wheel drive, a dirt road is about as far off road as you'd want to take this.  It's hard to call this a crossover, what ever the hell that is, because the driving position feels more sedan level than SUV level.  The design evokes the tall woody wagons of the 40's and 50's, intentionally I'm sure, and for whatever reason corporate marketers are afraid to call this what it is.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The Flex is powered by a 3.5 liter V6, and on paper the numbers look good, 262 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.  It's not till you look a bit deeper that you find these numbers are a bit high in the power curve.  The peak horsepower number doesn't occur till 6250 RPM, and more importantly the peak torque number doesn't occur till 4500 RPM.  This is important for two reasons.  Number one, in normal driving, you are rarely going to exceed 4000 RPM's and number two with a curb weight of 4500 lbs, the lack of low end grunt is noticeable.  If you stick your foot into it and keep it there, the engine will rev quickly and get you to the meat of the power band where it feels snappy, but that's not going to help you much at the gas pump.  The EPA rates the Flex at 17 city and 24 highway with 19 as combined mileage.  Those numbers were fairly accurate as we got 20 in mixed driving and 25 on the highway.  We didn't go out of the way to increase mileage, just drove what we considered "normal".

If you try and drive with a light foot you feel the weight of the vehicle, if you lean on it a bit it's better.  Ford lists the 0-60 time of 9 seconds.  Our hand timing gave us 8.22 seconds.  The six speed automatic does a nice job and is pretty seamless, though occasionally coasting down from speed the downshifts are noticeable

Handling was surprising good, especially if you are used to, or coming from an SUV, even a smaller one.  It handled on and off ramps nicely, understeer wasn't obnoxious, just enough to know it was there, quick lane changes didn't send the body occelating.  Feedback through the steering wheel is about what you'd expect, there is some feedback, not as much as you might like, but probably what people who buy this type of vehicle are used to.

Down the road the EcoBoost motor is going to be offered for the Flex, and depending on the price, it might be something to consider.  If you frequently are hauling people around or plan on towing with it, the 350 foot pounds of torque from 2000 to 5000 RPM's will be most appreciated.  Ford lists the towing capacity of the Flex at 4500 lbs with the factory installed Class 3 hitch.  I'd have to wonder how hard the motor would have to be working to pull that much weight, especially if you are in a hilly or mountainous area.  Again the EcoBoost motor would most likely solve that issue.

Overall, the ride quality was good.  Spring in Michigan means potholes, and after what I would call the first normal winter we've had in the Metro Detroit area in quite a while, the potholes look more like craters you'd find on the moon!  Michigan Avenue in Dearborn, between Outer Drive and Oakwood is known to have the consistency of a washboard.  The Flex handled all of it fine.  Even some of the worst potholes didn't jar the chassis.  There were no noticeable rattles, as much as we tried.

THE TOYS

The Flex came standard with Microsoft's Sync system, on top of the our test car was equipped with the full monty Sat Nav system with backup camera.  The Nav system also works with Sirius to give you live traffic and other goodies like telling you where the closest gas station is, or who has the cheapest gas, plus much more.  The back up camera gave a nice wide angle with line guides.  The line guides on this system were fixed though, on other systems we've seen them bend to help more in parallel parking situations.  While the Sat Nav system was nice, and worked well, it clocks in at a hefty $2,375!  While it's very nicely integrated into the Sync and touch screen set up, I might have to think about that one for a while if I'm buying with my own cash.

The Sync system worked well, it connected no problem with my cell phone, a USB key and an iPod.  The 390 watt Sony system that comes standard in the Limited model had good overall sound, but didn't knock us out.  We played Techno, Jazz, Alt Rock and Classical in the system, the best that I can say here is that at times the quality of the sound seemed inconsistent.  I'll note that most of my music listening is done on a nice set of Grado headphones.  Now cars are never the best platform for music, including this one, where so much glass is present.  Over all nice system, but nothing special, which I might have been expecting at this price point.  

Voice recognition was generally good but it had some problems with the names of the channels on Sirius.  In the end it was easier to name the channel number rather than the name of the channel.  Side note about Sirius.  I'm guessing that the trial subscription ran out about halfway through our test.  In trying to call Sirius customer service to find out what the story was, three different times we were on hold for over 10 minutes without ever talking to a live person,  That is what is know by the cool kids these days as a FAIL.

The only issue that I had with Sync is that it's slow.  It takes about a beat and a half longer than what feels natural to respond to voice commands.  Voice recognition still has many issues even though people have been working with it for 20+ years now, and this is a first gen system, it holds promise, lets hope that software updates down the road can help it out.

A second toy that was included was the $1,995 DVD system with wireless headphones for the headrests.  The middle row two seats each had their own screen and DVD player.  Sound is about what you'd expect from wireless headphones and the images was certainly good enough on the screens.  It will keep your kids happy for a couple hours on a long trip. 

In between the two seats was a center console ($100 option) that included a refrigerator ($760 option).  If you have kids, or you are an executive who's riding, not driving, I can see the fridge as nice option for trips, but for me, I can't see the value. Maybe in the next Bond flick after James saves the girl, he can get away in this and keep the Krug ready to go for you know what comes next!

Lastly we have the "Panoramic Vista Sunroof" at $1,495.  Even though I've had sunroofs in several personal cars over the years, they never did much for me.  In this car though I'm might spring my own cash for this system.  It lets in a great deal of light, but also does a good job off not heating up the cabin like so many do.  As we said earlier it feels like it adds an extra foot of headroom from the atmosphere it creates.

OTHERS OPINIONS

I met up with some friends while we had the car to go see The Watchmen and I took the opportunity to drive to get their thoughts on the Flex.  One of my friends is a small business owner.  His family has owned an insurance agency for over 60 years and they have some rental properties, he drives a 2006 Acura TL.  My other friend is a VP at chemical company and drives an Infiniti.  I give you this info just so you can judge their reactions as people who are used to better vehicles.  Both were very impressed with the level of quality and features in the Flex.  When I told them what it stickers for they both thought it was a fair price.  Would either of them buy the Flex?  No, but that has more to do with one being a bachelor and the other while being married, having no children.  That being said they would both highly recommend it for their parents.  Both had a sentiment that it was nice that a domestic car maker could put out a product like this, they both hoped though that it wasn't too late.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall I was impressed with the Flex.  There are a few small things I'd like to see tweaked as we have mentioned, and perhaps a heated steering wheel option, that plastic and leather were COLD a couple mornings.  Fit and finish were nice,  The leather on the seats was more than just surface area leather.  Body gaps were tight and uniform, and it passed one of my personally most important tests, the English Mastiff test!  Some people judge cars on how they handle kids/family, I judge them on how well I can handle my dog!

On a scale of 1-10 I'm going to give the Flex an 8.5.  My issues with it are power and weight, some interior materials and price.  Someone told me to look at this car as a Range Rover on the cheap.  Think about the high end quality of it's interior, now put that into a package that's more low key and can hide in this era where displays uber-luxury are frowned upon.  If you come into this with that thought process then I think it succeeds.  At the end of the day this is a vehicle that I can highly recommend and will put it up against anything in the world.

 

 

Monday
Mar162009

Ford Flex Photo Tour

Over the next few days we'll be bringing you our review of the 2009 Ford Flex Limited that we've been driving for a few days.  Quick take, it's a very impressive automobile.  For today we'll take you on a photo tour of the Flex, we'll have a written and video review of it in the next couple of days.

Enjoy!