Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ecoboost Tour - do it and you'll be surprised

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.

First stop for me was the Hybrids.  Pitting the Prius V against a Ford C-Max.  First one up was to step into the Prius V.  No power seats in the top line model, whats up with that.  Can't exactly dial in a comfortable seating position without it.  *Grumble*.  Silly drive selector aside its not that bad of a car ergonomically once you get it and get your self half way situated.  Its definitely lacking in power, in the slalom portion of the circuit it was flaccid, kinda like a 40 year old Buick Estate Wagon.  No fun with this car.  Definitely for the point A-B commuter. Mileage...disappointing 38mpg.

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.

After the Hybrids is the main event.  Ecoboost Mid-size car, SUV and Pick-up against its competition.

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.

The final stop, and absolute kick in the pants is the ST Performance Academy where you get to run a Fiesta ST on a race course and are timed against other participants.  Its a ton of fun and the Fiesta ST is an amazing machine.  The time to beat was 30.1 seconds through a half mile course.  After 3 tries I got a nice upper third result of 33.611.

Also on hand to enjoy were some 2015 models coming on sale soonish.
Coming this fall is the aluminum bodied F150.  Loosing nealry 700 lbs will increase its performance on all measures including the all important fuel economy.  Top MPG powerplant is expected to be a 2.7L V6 with stop/start technology and bring in near diesel numbers without having to pay the premium for diesel fuel (which is 25-75cents/gallon over premium here in L.A).
2015 Ford Expedition in Platinum trim.  New for 2015 is a host of changes, the biggy being the dumping of the thirsty 5.4L V8 and slipping in the more powerful and efficient 3.5L V6 Ecoboost.
The Transit Connect grows up for the new model year and loses a lot of its Eastern European quirkiness.  Bigger and with Ecoboost engines its being billed as the alternative to the mini-van.  Should be interesting to see how it performs in the market.
The show stopper for me, and I did save the best for last was the 2015 Mustang.  What a beauty this one in Charcoal metallic was.  Its a "base" V6 with a nicely optioned up leather interior.  I so want this car, but we aren't in the market for one now, but I did get the Mrs blessing to add it to a short list when we are ready for a new car in a couple of years.  Make mine this exact color and trim but swap out the 300+ Horsepower 2.3L Ecoboost please.

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.