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Ford

2018 Ford EcoSport SES: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you happen to have a Madras skirt, shorts or a shirt, you can match it with the 2018 Ford EcoSport SES, which was made in the same place.

Madras clothing, as many older folks recall and a few younger ones have discovered, is made from lightweight summertime cotton with plaid or patterned designs. It is named for the mega-city on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, which has been renamed Chennai.

Ford EcoSport

The EcoSport is actually an international vehicle, a small four-door crossover sport utility vehicle. Though the version sent to the U.S. comes from Chennai, the EcoSport also is manufactured Romania, Russia, China, Thailand and Brazil.

That’s why it looks odd to American eyes: tall, sort of squished front to back and with a side-opening fifth door instead of the more familiar tailgate. A plus: it opens correctly for right-hand drive countries, hinged at the left and opening from curbside on the right. Other small crossovers with side-opening doors, like early Honda CR-Vs, opened the opposite, requiring loaders to stand out in traffic.

Ford EcoSport

The EcoSport is part of a proliferation of mini-sized crossovers that includes the Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Toyota CH-R, Nissan Kicks and Mazda CX-3.

At just 13 feet 5 inches long, it is shorter than other small crossovers and even some hatchbacks like the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra. It is just a few inches longer than BMW’s all-electric i3. Still, it manages 91 cubic feet of space for passengers and 21 cubic feet for cargo, which is equivalent to a midsize sedan.

However, on the EcoSport space is not allocated well. There’s plenty of room and comfort up front, but the second row comes up short on knee room, which would force the driver and front passenger to move their seats forward simply to accommodate those in back.

Ford EcoSport

Once you divvy up the space, rear-seat passengers get generous headroom to go with the short knee room. Outboard passengers, as usual, fare the best while the unfortunate in the center position must contend with cramped foot space and an uncomfortable cushion.

The basic S version, with a $20,990 price tag, comes with a 123-hp, 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that delivers 125 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. It also is available with other trim levels but was not driven for this review, likely because it is more suited to the byways of Bangkok and Bengal than Milwaukee or Miami.

Instead, the tested EcoSport was the SES model with all-wheel drive. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes a more Yankee-friendly 166 hp with 149 lb-ft of torque, also with a six-speed automatic transmission. On the SES, the automatic was enhanced by a manual-shift mode that included steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.

ecosport-trunkThat combination transforms the Eco-Sport into an entertaining urban runabout of a size that can dodge traffic and park easily almost anywhere. The main downside is lackluster fuel economy — just 23/29/25 mpg on the EPA’s city/highway/combined cycles.

With a $27,735 price tag, the SES comes well-equipped with rear cross-traffic alert, navigation, blind-spot warning, pushbutton starting, motorized sunroof, automatic climate control, leather-trimmed cloth upholstery, heated front seats, the paddles for manual shifting and 17-inch alloy wheels.

More important from the driver’s standpoint is a stiffer suspension system for improved handling. The EcoSport SES handles curves without much lean and cruises steadily on freeways. Safety equipment does not include collision warning, automatic emergency braking or lane-departure mitigation.

Ford EcoSport

The tester’s price tag placed it at the top end of the mini crossover class. Comparably equipped competitors sell for less, though the new all-wheel drive Hyundai Kona Ultimate has a higher price tag of $29,775.

However, an all-wheel drive Honda HR-V has a sticker price of $24,660. The new Nissan Kicks checks in at $22,205 and the Toyota CH-R sells for $24,060. However, both the Kicks and CH-R have front-wheel drive.

Ford has announced that it will bail out of sedans, which means the demise of the subcompact Fiesta, compact Focus and midsize Fusion. It will concentrate on trucks, no surprise because its F-Series pickups have been best-sellers for four decades.

Because of the current buyer infatuation with SUVs and crossovers of all sizes, shapes and price classes, the EcoSport likely will continue to anchor the bottom of the Ford lineup, which includes the Escape, Edge, Explorer and Expedition.

Ford EcoSport

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Ford EcoSport SES four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 166 hp, 149 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length:13 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 91/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,300 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/25/29  mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,735.
  • Price as tested: $27,735.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Ford EcoSport

Photos (c) Ford

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Autoline

by Jason Fogelson

I’m always happy to share my opinions about cars and the car business. Every once in a while, someone invites me into their studio to do just that. This week, I was a guest panelist on Autoline After Hours (episode #413). Also on the panel was Mike Austin from Hagerty. You can watch the one-hour webcast or listen to it as a podcast here.

jmcelroy_bigJohn McElroy is the host of Autoline After Hours. Here’s an excerpt from his bio on the Autoline site: “John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis. He is also the host of the television program “Autoline This Week,” an Emmy Award-winning, weekly half-hour discussion program featuring top automotive executives and journalists. And he co-hosts “Autoline After Hours,” a weekly live webcast that focuses on new cars and technology… McElroy also broadcasts three radio segments daily on WWJ Newsradio 950, the CBS affiliate in Detroit. He writes a blog for Autoblog.com and a monthly op-ed article for Ward’s Auto World.”

The first part of the show this week was a conversation with Tim Clyde, the CEO of Katzkin Automotive Leather. Katzkin brought a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited outfitted with Katzkin leather seats — a great package that you can order from the MOPAR Accessories catalog when you buy a new Wrangler at the dealership. I have toured the Katzkin factory in California, and have a Katzkin interior in my wife’s 2012 Mazda3 — so I was able to participate in the conversation with some first-hand knowledge.

After the Katzkin discussion, Tim Clyde left the set, and McElroy, Austin and I had a free-form conversation about some of the automotive news of the day. All three of us had been to a Ford press conference earlier that day, and so we talked about the current state of the company and future plans. The conversation then ranged to the upcoming New York Auto Show, Fred Diaz’s appointment as CEO at Mitsubishi North America, and how potential tariffs might effect the US auto business.

I had a great time participating in the show. McElroy is an excellent host, directing the conversation with probing questions and (best of all) listening very well. Before I knew it, the hour was complete, and I had escaped without saying anything dumb.

Take a look at Autoline.tv if you’re interested in the latest automotive news. There’s a ton of content on the site, and it’s professionally produced and presented. I hope they ask me back again.

2018 Ford Mustang GT: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Ford Mustang arrives with unprecedented power, lowdown styling, a new 10-speed automatic transmission and enough models and colors to satisfy any Mustang enthusiast.

There are 10 versions in all: Six fastback coupes and four convertibles with three engine and two transmission choices. All of them can deliver driving excitement and an adrenaline rush — even the tested model with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost (Ford’s synonym for turbocharged) four-cylinder, which makes 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque.

It now is the only alternative to the V8 engine in the Mustang GT. The previous V6 engine no longer is installed in the Mustang.

2018 Mustang Pony Package

The 5-0-liter V8 delivers 460 hp with 420 lb-ft of torque. Like other new Mustangs, it is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or the new 10-speed automatic transmission, which can be shifted manually with steering-wheel paddles.

Also offered are two fastback Shelby GT 5.0 V8 models with 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. However, only Fastback 2.3-liter four-bangers and 5.0-liter GTs with performance packages were tested at the press introduction in the Malibu hills near Los Angeles, Calif. — the latter with both the six-speed manual and 10-speed automatic.

Dedicated enthusiasts likely will opt for the stick shift, which features a slick and positive linkage and easy clutch engagement. With all those horses pawing at the pavement, the GT manual can be driven in almost any gear in any circumstance. There’s enough power to tool around at modest speeds in 5th or 6th gear, and you can quickly get up to freeway speeds in first and second.

2018 Ford Mustang Interior

The 10-speed does as well, automatically. But it has a curious quirk. With the shift lever in “Drive,” it sometimes gets befuddled at modest speeds, hesitating then lurching. It overcomes that if you stomp on the throttle. The solution, Ford engineers said, is to drive it in the “Sport” mode. But then you have the engine on the boil constantly, with fuel-economy consequences.

However, that same transmission in Ford’s new aluminum-bodied 2018 Expedition full-size sport utility vehicle shifts almost as smoothly as a fidget spinner. Likely it uses different software, which should be adapted to the Mustang’s “Drive” mode.

The 10-speed’s paddle shifters are there for the entertainment value. But modern, computer-controlled automatic transmissions handle the shifts with more dexterity than humans. Even professional drivers on road-racing courses now often allow the computer to determine the shifting, especially when driving cars with rev-matching on downshifts. The GT has both rev-matching and drag-strip launch control.

2018 Ford Mustang GT

In spite of the GT’s zero-to-60 mph sprint at a hair shy of four seconds and a top speed of 155 miles an hour, the 2.3-liter is no slouch. It can reach 60 miles an hour in 5.9 seconds, with a top speed of around 140, and still manages a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 21/32/25 mpg compared to the GT’s 15/25/18. Premium gasoline is required for both engines.

Some enthusiasts might even prefer the 2.3 because its lighter front end delivers better cornering balance on curving mountain roads. But that’s at speeds of 40, 50 and 60 mph, dictated by the tightness of the turns. On a road racing course with long straightaways, you’d obviously prefer the GT for its massive power, or even one of the Shelby variants.

The Mustang’s membership in the high performance and handling club do not bar it from the grand touring class. With comfortable and supportive front seats, it celebrates long-distance motoring for two. Anyone relegated to the difficult to access back seats, however, will rebel.

2018 Ford Mustang Interior

Besides its slicker profile, the 2018 Mustang, depending on the model, comes with full safety equipment, including lane-keeping assist and a pre-collision system that can detect pedestrians. Other features include LED headlights, a dozen wheel options, 11 colors, customizable instrument cluster, and even an “active valve performance exhaust system” that allows you to drive your Mustang in quiet mode or bellowing like an agitated moose.

None of this, of course, comes cheap. The GT had a base price of US $39,095 and, with options, a bottom line of US $53,160.

The 2.3-liter Fastback Premium, also with the 10-speed, started at $30,600 and topped out at $39,880.

The Mustang has now been with us for nearly the double nickel — 55 yearsn— a long ways from the original 1965 model, introduced in 1964, with a 101-hp, 2.8-liter six-cylinder engine and a three-speed floor-mounted gearshift. Ain’t evolution great?

2018 Ford Mustang

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Ford Mustang Fastback Premium two-door coupe.
  • Engine: 2.3-liter four-cylinder, 310 hp, 350 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 85/24 cubic feet
  • Weight: 3,535 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/32/24 mpg. Premium recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,500.
  • Price as tested: $39,880.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Ford.

2018 Ford Mustang

2017 Ford Edge Sport AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like their products, vehicle manufacturers historically develop recognizable characteristics, as Ford does with the 2017 Edge crossover sport utility vehicle.

Over the years, the Ford Motor Co. acquired a reputation for expertise with pickup trucks and station wagons. Its F-Series pickup has held the sales championship among all cars and light trucks for 40 years in a row. Though station wagons have fallen out of favor, the company built many excellent wagons over the years.

The full-size Country Squire, for example, had a run of 41 years, ending in 1991 when Ford introduced the Explorer as the country trended away from wagons and toward sport utility vehicles. Unlike the Country Squire, the Explorer started as a truck-based vehicle with optional four-wheel drive, taller and wagon-like, but not a wagon. Now it, too, has morphed into a car-based crossover.

In its time, the Explorer became the most successful SUV in the U.S. market. Its best year came in 2000, with sales of more than 445,000. More than seven million have been sold over the years.

2017 Ford Edge

The Edge, on the other hand, is a relative youngster, celebrating its first decade in 2017. It resides in the middle of Ford’s lineup of four crossovers and one full-size truck-based SUV, the Expedition. Others are the crossovers: the compact Escape, the best seller with 307,069 sold in 2016, the midsize Edge (134,588) and full-size Explorer (248,507) with three rows of seats. The Flex (SALES FIGURES) fills out the lineup as a three-row wagon.

With the Edge, Ford shows that it has not lost its touch in designing desirable wagon-like, family friendly crossovers. There are four trim levels, starting with the SE with front-wheel drive at $29,845. Add $1,495 for all-wheel drive. Other starting prices are the SEL at $32,685, Titanium at $36,495 and the tested Sport at $41,795.

There are three engine choices: 245-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 280-hp, 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 and the 315-hp, 2.7-liter turbocharged V6. The last is standard equipment on the tested Edge Sport. All use a six-speed automatic transmission.

2017 Ford Edge

The Sport also comes with all-wheel drive, a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel and Ford’s innovative adaptive steering, which changes the steering ratio based on the wheel position and the vehicle’s speed. Housed in the steering wheel with the air bag, the system weighs just two pounds and can automatically vary the left-to-right lock-to-lock from 2 to 2.6 turns.

However, as sophisticated as it is, most drivers would be hard-pressed to notice any difference unless an adaptive steering Edge were driven immediately after one without the feature.

What it does is impart an unobtrusive, relaxed feeling of straight-line control in long-distance highway driving, which is the Edge Sport’s forte. It responds quickly to steering corrections and emergency moves when needed.

2017 Ford Edge

With deep and supportive seats upholstered in suede-like cloth trimmed with leather, along with a supple suspension system that delivers a comfortable ride, driver and passengers can settle back on an all-day trip. The interior is quiet with little intrusion of mechanical, road or wind noise. Rolling Wi-Fi would be welcome but the tester was not equipped with it.

Primarily, the Explorer Sport is a fine family vacation machine. Though it’s a five-passenger, two-row crossover, the back-seat passengers have plenty of head and knee room with seatbacks that recline. Even the center-rear position, which is punishing in most vehicles, is usable though not as comfortable as the outboard back seats.

Behind the rear seats, a cavernous cargo area can swallow 39 cubic feet of luggage, food and drink, coolers, and beach chairs and umbrellas. On the Sport, the lift-gate is motorized for added convenience loading and unloading.

2017 Ford Edge

Standard equipment includes Ford’s Sync3 touch screen with voice activation to control infotainment and other functions, along with pushbutton starting, perforated leather upholstery, satellite and HD radio, dual-zone climate control, hill start assist and a garage door opener.

The Sync3 system improves on the earlier Ford MyTouch system. On the Sport, the touch screen worked in concert with in-dash displays that could be controlled from the steering wheel. But it takes some skill to set up and should not be tinkered with while driving.

The tested Edge Sport also had option packages that included adaptive cruise control, voice-activated navigation, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, remote starting, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, split-view rear camera rain-sensing windshield wipers and active parking assist. All of that brought the as-tested price to $47,925.

2017 Ford Edge

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Edge Sport AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:7-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 315 hp, 350 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 117/39 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,337 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,795.
  • Price as tested: $47,925.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2017 Ford Edge

Photos (c) Ford.

2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because Ford’s forte tilts toward trucks, people sometimes forget that it builds some impressive performance cars, including hopped-up versions of standard fare like the 2017 Fusion V6 Sport.

Its hottest piece of performance machinery is the GT, a purpose-built super car that can be driven on the track or street. But it is intended for racing conglomerates or enthusiasts with mega-bucks, given its price tag north of $450,000.

17FusionSport_35_HRNo, we’re talking here about pavement and boondocks blasters that real people can buy — or at least finance for longer than it will take to get their kids through graduate school: Things like the Ford Raptor, a monster off-road truck intended for places like the Baja 1000 in Mexico’s lower California.

More to the point here, there’s the Ford Focus RS, a plebian hot rod that can rocket to 60 mph in less than five seconds thanks to its all-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox and 350-hp 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine — all at a price between $37,000 and $40,000.

Though affordable for many enthusiasts, it is rude and crude, something like the Harley-Davidson of hatchbacks. There likely are those who would appreciate a bit more refinement, which is where the new Fusion V6 sport slots in.

17FusionSport_14_HRIt uses the same twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine that also powers some versions of the Ford F-150 pickup truck, which is way bigger and heavier. In the Fusion, it delivers 325 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque funneled through a beefy 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Using all four wheels to deliver power is a fine idea. Sending all that grunt just to the front wheels likely would fry those tires and result in such heavy torque steer that it would rip the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands.

Moreover, the Fusion Sport also has (guess what?) a sport mode. A simple button resides in the center of the rotary knob on the center console that controls the transmission. Select “drive” and you still can hammer the throttle to send the Fusion to 60 mph in around five seconds.

17FusionSport_10_HRBut push that S button and a bunch of things happen. The automatically adaptive shock absorbers tighten up, the steering takes more effort, the engine reacts more quickly to throttle inputs and the 6-speed automatic transmission keeps the engine on the boil by shifting at higher rpms.

If you choose, you also can use the steering wheel paddles to shift for yourself — but the system doesn’t trust you. Keep your foot in it too long and it will shift anyway to avoid triggering a power shutoff. But on up-and-down twisting mountain curves, it usually will hold the gear you select.

Even in the Sport mode, however, the Fusion has a settled and flexible ride so you can tool around the city and suburbs in comfort, thanks to that adaptive damping.

17FusionSport_09_HROther sport-oriented cars have selectable driving modes, so some enthusiasts might not cotton to the Fusion’s system, which packages all the good stuff in one small button. But it means you don’t have to try to figure out what you want while underway. It’s the full gorilla without distraction.

Obviously, this doesn’t come cheap. But the Fusion Sport actually is not all that expensive given its performance. The base price of the tester was $34,350, which is about average price of new cars these days. With options, it topped out at $41,350.

That encompassed a full suite of safety and driving assists: automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear-view camera, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic parallel or perpendicular parking, voice-activated navigation with an eight-inch center touch screen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

17FusionSport_31_HRThere’s plenty of comfort for four. But the center-rear seat, as in most sedans these days, is compromised by a hard cushion and restricted head and foot space.

A welcome safety feature that is receiving increased attention: If you inadvertently leave the Fusion Sport in “Drive” when you turn off the engine, it automatically kicks the transmission into “Park.” Some other vehicles simply roll away.

One cool thing about the Fusion Sport is that it is a stealth car. It doesn’t have a spoiler or badges that scream performance. The main tip-off is the shiny black grille with a chrome frame. But only the cognoscenti will notice that. You can surprise some lead-foots in the stoplight sprints.

17FusionSport_41_HRSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:7-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 325 hp, 380 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,130 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/26/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,350.
  • Price as tested: $41,350.

Disclaimer: This test drive was based on a loan of the vehicle from the manufacturer. It was driven by the author in circumstances similar to everyday driving by consumers.

17FusionSport_42_HRPhotos (c) Ford.

2017 Ford Escape: A DriveWays Review. . .

by Frank A. Aukofer

There are a whopping number of popular priced compact crossover sport utility vehicles to entice buyers, but few like the 2017 Ford Escape that also offer scintillating performance.

To get that, however, you must order an Escape with the optional 245-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which delivers 275 lb-ft of torque (or twisting force) through a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. “EcoBoost” is Ford-speak for turbocharging.

The $1,295 engine option is available on the SE and Titanium Escape trims, which have as standard a 179-hp 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine four-cylinder engine on front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions. The base Escape S, in front-drive only, comes with a non-turbo 168-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_14_HRDriven for this review was a front-drive SE model with the 245-hp engine. It proved to be a willing conveyance, especially darting about and shooting through holes in urban traffic. With turbo lag nearly absent, throttle responses were mostly instant, allowing for quick maneuvers that could be decisive in emergency situations.

Straight-line acceleration was rapid, with a 0-60 mph sprint of about seven seconds, according to an instrumented test by Car and Driver Magazine.

Yet the Escape also proved to be a decent road car. The suspension keeps the wheels planted while delivering a reasonably comfortable ride when the highway is not overly pockmarked. A tall vehicle, it hustles around curves capably and tracks steadily in a straight line.

The Escape feels tightly bolted together with little wind noise and enough insulation to muffle road and mechanical noises. Front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the back seats — except for the center position — offer comfort with ample head and knee room.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_16_HRThere’s 99 cubic feet of room for passengers with 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. Passenger space is about what you find in a midsize car, while the cargo space is about double that of a large sedan. Fold the rear seats and the cargo space jumps to 68 cubic feet.

The Escape parks in the sweet spot of the current market, where buyers are flocking to small, compact and midsize crossovers across the board from economy to luxury. They are rapidly displacing midsize and compact cars.

When you check the charts, it’s astounding to find that there are at least 52 small, compact and midsize crossover SUVs available in the United States, including popular priced and luxury models. Almost all have two rows of seats; the number doesn’t include larger models, some with three rows of seats.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_25_HRIn 2016, the Escape ended up in third place in its class with 307,079 sales, bested only by the Honda CR-V (357,335) and Toyota RAV4 (352,154). It outsold its sedan garage mates, the midsize Fusion with a total of 265,840 sales and the compact Focus with 168,789.

With a base price of $25,995, the tested front-drive SE arrived with a decent level of equipment. But even with $6,170 worth of options, for a bottom line sticker of $32,165, it had a few puzzling shortcomings.

Full safety equipment comes standard, including a backup camera, traction control and antilock brakes. Also: dual-zone electronic climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, audio system with SXM satellite radio, power windows and mirrors, cruise control and an electric parking brake.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_32_HRAdded on the tested Escape was the $1,295 engine, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, voice-activated navigation system with a touch screen, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels and a power rear lift gate.

It all made for a nice, borderline luxurious package except for missing a couple of expected items on a vehicle in this category. Though it had stop-start technology that shut down the engine at stoplights to enhance fuel economy, it did not have pushbutton starting. There was a standard ignition key with a remote control for locking and unlocking, along with a keypad on the outside door frame for performing the same functions with a numeric code.

Curiously, the AM-FM-SXM radio did not include station presets, meaning a number had to be punched in every time a different channel or station was chosen. The owner’s manual made no mention of presets for that particular radio. Other radios, however, are available.

With many fine competitors vying for attention, a prospective buyer can simply choose whatever suits him or her. The 2017 Escape is a good place to start.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_09_HRSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Escape SE FWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four cylinder, turbocharged, 245 hp, 275 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/34 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,613 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/29/25 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $25,995.
  • Price as tested: $32,165.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_15_HRPhotos (c) Ford

2017 Ford Focus RS: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though not widely lauded, the 2017 Ford Focus RS epitomizes the ongoing revolution in the world-wide automobile industry.

First, it’s a four-door hatchback, a body style that American buyers rejected but now is getting new respect because of the way manufacturers reconfigured and renamed hatchbacks as crossovers.

A crossover generally is defined as a tall utility vehicle that is built with a unit body like a car, instead of with a body on frame, like a traditional pickup truck.

The biggest current change in consumer preferences is away from traditional sedans and toward compact and mid-size crossover sport utility vehicles. They are now setting sales records across the board, from popular priced to luxury. Even a high-altitude luxury brand like Bentley weighs in with its $229,000 mid-size Bentayga.

_42a1075_hrMany crossovers are little more than jacked-up four-door hatchbacks with all-wheel drive. They demonstrate the ingenuity of automotive designers and engineers, who took an orphan design and turned it into a star.

The Focus RS also has all-wheel drive, though it’s more of a performance feature than a utilitarian, all-weather enhancement. That, too, is a trend with no end in sight.

Most of all, however, the revolution is under the hood as manufacturers, thanks to creative computer software, extract ever more power from smaller engines.

No longer do people repeat the old mantra that “there’s no replacement for displacement.” That was once true. Muscle cars of the last half of the 20th century, despite poor handling and brakes but with big V8 engines, now are history though avidly sought by collectors.

16fordfocusrs_11_hrFour-cylinder engines, including the one in the new Focus RS, are becoming the norm. Often with turbocharging, they deliver horsepower and torque, along with fuel economy that only could be imagined even a decade ago.

The RS four-banger has a displacement—the total volume inside the cylinders—of 2.3 liters. That’s not much more than that two-liter soft drink bottle at the supermarket. Yet it delivers a whopping 350 horsepower and 350 pounds-feet of torque. With its six-speed manual gearbox and curb weight of 3,460 pounds, it can rocket to 60 miles an hour in less than five seconds.

That sort of performance doesn’t come cheap. Basically, the Ford Focus is a compact economy car with a starting price of about $18,000. The RS, with its high-zoot power, all-wheel drive and handling refinements, starts at $36,995. The test car, with options, had a suggested retail price at $40,475.

Base equipment includes Brembo high-performance brakes, selectable drive modes, pushbutton starting, launch control, satellite radio with Ford’s Sync system, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights and a rear spoiler.

focus-rs_12An options package on the test car included a navigation system, performance summer tires on painted alloy wheels, heated front seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated outside mirrors.

Except for the custom 19-inch wheels and a few other styling fillips, the Focus RS does not betray its economy compact origin, which makes it something of a stealth bomber on the highway.

Even the interior does not depart much from the base car except for the aftermarket Recaro bucket seats with their generous side bolsters and high friction cloth upholstery with leather trim to grip the torso in spirited driving. They feel terrific but take a bit of extra effort to settle into.

focus_rs_09The RS’s standard launch control minimizes wheel spin in acceleration runs. It also comes with four different drive modes: normal, sport, track and drift. The last is a bit questionable because the motor sport of drifting involves busting the rear end loose around a corner in a display of tire burning smoke.

The RS all-wheel drive mitigates the drift. It features a standard torque vectoring system that can send about 70% of the power to the rear wheels.

The operative description of the Focus RS is “tight.” The steering, shifter, clutch, ride, seating—everything about this so-called “hot hatch” is tight and stiff. It’s a characteristic well loved by enthusiasts but not endearing to commuters. Despite that, however, the shift linkage is direct and intuitive.

The sport, track and drift modes deliver a rock hard ride so most owners likely will engage normal for everyday driving. The different modes adjust the suspension system.

This obviously is not a casual car. Many drivers likely would reject it out of hand after one test drive. The Focus RS requires skill and effort to bring out its considerable qualities. But over time it can deliver the automotive equivalent of a teenage crush.

_p9a2215_hrSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Focus RS four-door hatchback.
  • Engine:3-liter four cylinder, turbocharged, 350 hp, 350 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 91/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,460 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/25/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,995.
  • Price as tested: $40,475.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Ford.

2017 Ford Super Duty Pickups

by Jason Fogelson

There are a few vehicles that dominate their class. The Ford Super Duty Pickup Trucks crush the competition, and the 2017 Ford Super Duty will maintain that dominance.

One of the most interesting statistics that I heard from Ford during a recent launch event in Denver, Colorado was that 90 percent of Super Duty owners use their trucks for towing. At first, I balked at this figure. How could that be true? But then I considered the truck’s capability, and realized that it made sense. If you’re not going to be towing, or if you only tow a light load, an F-150 or competitive light duty truck is robust enough, and you’ll get a better ride on a day-to-day basis when you’re not towing.

The gap has narrowed between F-150 and Super Duty (F-250, F-350 and F-450), however. The new Super Duty now has the same cab as the F-150, and a much better suspension system than before. The ride is better, and the available creature comforts are very similar.  Super Duty doesn’t punish you with a pogo stick ride when unladen, and new steering enhancements have improved low-speed handling significantly.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Super Duty trucks on the road as daily drivers and lifestyle vehicles in the future.

Read Jason’s 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4 Crew Cab King Ranch Test Drive and Review at Autobytel.com.

Read Jason’s 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty: First Drive Review at Autotrader.com.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson

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