It takes real chutzpah to invite people to test their product against the segment leaders, or in the case of the Ford F150 its closest competitors. But Ford is doing just that and opening eyes in the process. Their Ecoboost products are more than competitive in my not so humble, ditto their hybrids and no one else domestically has car like the Fiesta ST or the Focus ST (before the trolls attack...the VW GTI isn't a domestic so there).
Friday I was invited to the Ecoboost Tour on a VIP Pass along with a lot of other Media Types to spend the morning taking turns driving various Ford products and their competitors, often a market leader. We were given a closed loop circuit on a track at Santa Anita Race Park to run the cars back to back and then render our opinion.
The C-Max as a joy and complete polar opposite. Power seats to dial in the perfect seating position, better materials that you touch. More of a luxury feel. On the track this car was more more at home in the curves and the slalom. Even the acceleration portion this car went faster with less of a foot plant than the Prius V. Granted I spent most of my time in EV mode, an option not available on the Prius V...but I got a whopping 64.7 out of it. Impressive. It drove and handled like a much smaller car.
For kicks and giggles I took out a gorgeous new Fusion Energi (Ford talk for plug in hybrid) on the track. It was done up in the new for 2014 drop dead gorgeous Sunset. It didn't disappoint me in how it rode and handled. I managed a very respectable 81.3 MPE in all electric mode. My only niggle is that I would have liked to have a Camry hybrid or Accord plug-in to go up against it.
First drive was the Honda's CRV and the Ford Escape have been duking it out this year for sales dominance. The Escape with its 2.0L Ecoboost just knocked the snot out of the CRV in the acceleration run. It just flew down the straight away and braked straight going into the curves. No drama just an urgent slam back into the seat when you stepped on it. That 2.4l naturally aspirated engine just isn't a match for the Ecoboost.
In the Slalom its close for the two, the CRV does nose dive on braking a bit more than the Escape and demonstrates a little tilting sensation in the curves, but not scary. Close but I'd still give the edge up to the Escape. The CRV was put together well inside, but its much more simple and lacks the elegance of the Escape, material choices the Escape winds hands down.
Next I stepped into the Fusion with its 2.0L Ecoboost to go up against the Toyota Camry with a 3.5L V6. In the straight line acceleration the Fusion was easily 10mph faster at the end of the run than the Camry. the Camry power came on in a swell with the big gain after 30mph where it seemed to come up on cam and get is power.
In the slalom the Camry was outright scary. It sloshed through the slalom so bad I feared I was scrubbing the door handles on the tarmac. The Fusion was confidence inspiring and just swooshed through the curves with little tilting sensation. Fusion was the clear winner in this portion of the test.
I'll toss down the gauntlet and tell you the Camry needs a lot of work inside and mechanically to be the car the Fusion is. The only reason I think the Camry sells is on its bullet proof reputation of durability in getting you from point A to B daily. Live is more than just a straight line without detours.
The Final test in this cycle was the spanking new redesigned Chevy Silverado against an F150 FX4 Ecoboost. The Ecoboost won on acceleration against the 5.3L V8 by a nose. Handling was similar with it really too close to call. Interior fit and finish...really Chevy, your interior materials are no where near as nice as my Focus, and you are wanting how much for this truck and can't spring for decent fabric? I will be most curious to see what happens when the new F150 comes out this fall, all aluminum for a 700 lb weight loss which will translate to better economy, performance and handling.
In the end we were given an exist interview and asked our opinion on a lot of topics. Overall I can't believe how crappy Toyota's products are against the comparable Ford, folks just need to drop the marketing rhetoric of both and drive them back to back and make up their own mind. Ford will the own the pony car market again when the new Mustang launches. Camaro is a good competitor but won't have the weight and performance edge, Challenger doesn't count as its a bloated pig for old farts. Just my not so humble ramblings after a fun day on a track.
More pics from the event in my flickr album.