Friday, June 27, 2014

Ford Fiesta SFE - 1.0l Ecoboost and you get to shift your own gears

I like this little car.  Its rev happy and you get to row your own gears.  Puts the fun back in driving with that combo.  I've extolled the virtues of this little car in a variety of places from when I first drove a prototype in '09 until the current release.

What is new for this year is an SFE package that takes a tiny 1.0l 3 cylinder engine, slaps in direct injection and turbocharging and an Ecoboost badge on the rear of an already best in subcompact class car.  The result is a little car that is an absolute hoot to drive and turned in a respectable 40mpg on my 20 mile loop of mixed city and highway driving.  Folks, that hybrid territory mileage without sucking the life out of the car in the process.

The standard trim of this car is nice, premium look and feel from stem to stern inside and out.  My only niggle is that it is tight for a big guy like me, someone more petite and under 6 foot would likely find it completely acceptable.  This example had a nice cloth that was grippy without looking cheesy like the mouse fur that was stuck in cars all that long ago.  Certainly on par if not better than the rest of the subcompacts out there.

The 3 cylinder motor is a rev happy little mill. Good torque across the board if with turbo lag noted when in higher gears when you press the gas.  Row the gears and keep it on boost and it will dart and weave around traffic with no problems.  My only niggle is you don't need to look at the tach as at higher RPM's there is a coarseness to the engine that I didn't expect to find.  Ford Mills of late are nearly as smooth and rev happy as the best in the business...Honda.  I think the NVH engineers need to spend a little more time at the high end of the revs as its really not up to what I expected.'

Stats...we all love them.  The Ecoboost 1.0 generates 123bhp and 125 flt lbs of torque.  The standard issue 1.6l naturally aspirated 4 cyl generates 120 bhp and 112 ft lbs of torque and is coupled to their direct shift automatic.  The Ecoboost is the clear win in the power category for the base models.  My only niggle with the slick shifting manual is that its only a 5 speed and everyone else seems to be doling out very nice 6speeds that add an extra mpg on the highway.  Regardless, on a 2,575 lb car that is a lot of power being put to good use and generating some great mileage numbers.  Kinda having your cake and eating it too.

Build your own 1968 Mustang GT 500 - from paper

Who wouldn' want their own '68 Shelby GT500. The problem is they are getting pricey...110K at a recent Barret Jackson auction.

Well have no fear, break out the exacto knive and card stock for the printer and you able modelers and crafters can build your own scale model.  Link for the instrucdtions HERE.  Plans HERE

Don't thank me, thanks the good folks at Blue Springs Ford Parts for this gem.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

2014 Ford Focus Electric

I'm a huge fan of the Focus Electric from Ford.  Its the first small electric car that doesn't look like some sort of freak mobile and actually drives really great.  Range anxiety...I do well with it and easily drove 10 miles on reported only 3 miles of juice. Go figure, but I'm a good hyper miler and know very well how to use regen braking so I always score 100% or damn close.

Of course I'm not the only one enamored with the Focus EV.  Local AAA publication called it the "Tesla of small electrics" giving a nod to all of its tech goodies, premium fit and finish and driving.  Not bad accolades for the car.

The latest iteration of the venerable Focus Electric isn't much different than what launched over a year ago.  Its still got a decent 110MPE city and 99mpe highway rating.  The car has the same 130hp motor backed up by a 23kwh lithium ion battery.  The horsepower may not seem like much, but that 181 ft lbs of torque available the second the go pedal is pressed makes it seem like a much more powerful motor than the stock gasser.

Driving it isn't that much different than the traditional Focus.  It rides a bit smoother and quieter without the engine and tranny noises.  Its so quiet that you really have to watch your speed as the sound insulation is so good you really don't know how fast you are going without glancing at the speedo.  Often.

The Focus EV is fitted with virtually every goody Ford threw at the Focus option list as standard.  Nice, comfy power leather seats, a very capable version of MyFordTouch with apps aimed at the Focus for your iphone to make it even more user friendly.

This year Ford took the bold move and cut the price 5K from last year.  The list is now $35,170.  Deduct off the fed tax credit of 7.5K and the states 2.5K and you suddenly have it down in price to a very nicely optioned out gasser.  Except you charge at home and avoid the lines at the gas station.  Its also only a few bucks a charge if you negotiate with your local power company for the cheap rate at night or have your own solar system.  Nice move Ford, where was that when I was looking seriously at the Focus EV 18 months ago?

The big thing to consider when getting an EV is your daily needs and compare it to the range of the EV you are looking at.  For me the Focus EV would fill easily 95% of my given driving any month. Most trips are short and local.  Only once a month do a I do a massive Costco run where the limited luggage and interior room would be a problem.  Yup, batteries eat up a lot of space in the cargo area and floors of these cars.

Another thing to look at is the cost of converting your garage to handle the charging of the Focus EV.  For me with a detached garage and city requirements for 220v lines under ground the cost was nearly 10K which wiped out the chance of ever breaking even  with the cost of operation over the basic gasser.  Charging if you work with local utilities can be as low as base rate of 15Cents kwh when done at night.  That sure is a big savings over their peak rate of 34cents kwh if you charge doing the day and go into Tier 4.

I still want one.  Just can't justify it with the costs of wiring the garage as It would take years to break even.  Others who aren't worried about breaking even and more concerned with the environment, your car is waiting for you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BMW Ultimate Driving Experience coming to L.A

Few things get me more jazzed than looking at cool cars, what gets the juice really pumped is driving them.  BMW is bringing their Ultimate Driving Experience to Los Angeles and other cities around the country this year.  Include in this is a special 4 hour Teen Driving clinic that I'll be enrolling my 17 yo driver in.  Without further blather on my part...the press release:

BMW’s Ultimate Driving Experience, Offering Dynamic Behind-the-Wheel Driving Programs with over 80 BMW Vehicles, Launches June 14 in Boston, MA.

The nationwide tour through 7 markets runs from June through November, 2014 and will feature BMW’s Teen Driving School at no cost.
Woodcliff Lake, NJ – June 9, 2014… BMW is launching the Ultimate Driving Experience, a nationwide tour that will offer dynamic behind-the-wheel driving programs through eight events in seven markets for a total of 74 event days. A popular component of The Ultimate Driving Experience will be the Teen Driving School, which is an extension of the BMW Teen Driving School curriculum taught at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, SC. The first Ultimate Driving Experience kicks-off June 14-22 in Boston, MA at Gillette Stadium. The Experience will consist of 9-11 day events across the U.S. in the following markets:

  • New York/NJ at MetLife Stadium (Jul 13-20)
  • Chicago, IL at Arlington International Racecourse (July 26-Aug 3)
  • San Francisco, CA at Alameda Point (Aug 16-24)
  • Los Angeles, CA at Santa Anita Racecourse (Sep 6-21)
  • New York/Long Island at Citi Field (Oct 4-12)
  • Miami, FL at Hialeah Park (Oct 25-Nov 2) 
  • Houston, TX at NRG Park (Nov 9-17)

The Teen Driving School is a fully interactive, 4-hour teen driving course featuring the BMW X3 and 3 Series that will be offered at no cost. The Teen Driving School will focus on improving driving skills and increasing road awareness through classroom instruction, driver awareness activities and hands-on driving exercises. A main focus during the Teen Driving School will be creating awareness about the consequences of texting while driving and how it affects not only teens – but everyone who drives a vehicle. Eligible drivers under the age of 21 with a valid learner's permit or driver’s license can register for the school.
“The Ultimate Driving Experience is grounded in BMW’s passion for providing driving enthusiasts with the opportunity to get behind the wheel,” said Trudy Hardy, Vice President, Marketing, BMW of North America. “Incorporating the Teen Driving School into the Experience is an important component of BMW’s continued effort to teach safe driving practices and to educate teens about the dangers of texting and driving.”

The Ultimate Driving Experience will feature over 80 BMW vehicles, from BMW i to BMW M. Attendees will have access to a truly immersive experience including:
Self-guided, hands-on demos of the BMW 335i Sedan and X5 xDrive50i that at most stops include Hill Descent Control, which is a BMW electronic function that allows for safe descent and proper vehicle balance on uneven surfaces, and Skid Pad, showcasing vehicle control on wet surfaces;
Street Drives that allow for 30-minute test drives per vehicle of a range of BMW vehicles including the BMW 2 Series, 4 Series, 6 Series and the all-electric BMW i3;
Autocross, a 2-hour challenging, closed-course driving program featuring the BMW 2 Series and 5 Series that pairs attendees with BMW’s Professional Driving Instructors for a dynamic experience that highlights advanced driving theories, defensive driving techniques and culminates in a pulse-pounding hot lap;
Car Control Clinic, a full-day driving school that allows drivers to get behind the wheel of a powerful M3 or all-new M235i for an adrenaline-filled day of driving with individual instruction from BMW-certified Professional Drivers. Drivers will develop a sharper understanding of BMW’s responsive handling and performance while learning advanced driving theory. The Car Control Clinic is offered for a fee of $650.
 Additionally, The Ultimate Driving Experience will feature a main pavilion with interactive displays.

Harman Kardon, a partner with BMW for over 30 years in providing customized sound systems and innovative technologies for BMW vehicles including the 1 Series, 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, X1 and X5, is partnering with The Ultimate Driving Experience to create a virtual classroom experience onsite with the Harman Kardon Theater.
For more information and to register for The BMW Ultimate Driving Experience visit: or call 800-558-4BMW (4269). Location and dates subject to change. Follow BMW of North America on Twitter @BMWUSA and Like BMWUSA on Facebook. Hashtag #DrivingIsBelieving.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ford Expedition gets the Ecoboost treatment in 2015

Video HERE  Why blogger won't embed is beyond me.

It was bound to happen, and I for one can't believe it took the good guys at Ford this long to plunk the Ecoboost 3.5LV6 into the Expedition. I can't think of a better place to put this power train than in the Expedition.  That simple engine swap makes the Expedition uber competitive with the Tahoe from Chevy and the Sequoia from Toyota.

The 5.4L V8 it replaces was a good, durable engine, but lacking in power and refinement compared to the V8's of its immediate competition.  The Ecoboost solves that in spades and will likely yield better mileage than the Chevy in the process.

The particulars.   The outgoing V8 produced respectable 310 horsepower and 365 ft lbs of torque.  It was thirsty, sucking down fuel at the rate of 14 mpg on the generous EPA estimates for city driving.  Real world in the Ecoboost with 365 horsepower on tap and a whopping 420 ft lbs of torque.  Couple it with 2 fewer cylinders to feed this next iteration of the Expedition with the Ecoboost will pick up an easy couple of mpgs over that out going V8.  Having your cake and eating it too I say.

Its competition has V8s, but are weak compared to the Ecoboost.  Chevy 5.3L small block V8 generates only 320bhp and epa estimates of 15/21.  The Toyota Sequoia has a large 5.7L V8 that generates 381 thirsty horsepower with an epa estimate of 13/18.  The Ecoboost hits right in the middle with power.  EPA estimates aren't available yet, but the 2014 F150 with this engine is rated at 16/22 and I'd expect similar ratings out of the Expedition.

The Expedition Platinum I got to peak at the other day has MyFord Touch and navigation. The automatic tranny is a full 6 speeds and has the option of full manual mode, or partial locking in gear ranges for better speed control in hilly country.  There is an optional independent rear suspension with mechanical leveling that should take the squat out of full loads quite nicely.  There's even a new trailer brake control (TBC) that better synchronises your brakes/trailer brakes for safer trailering.

Aside from the drop dead gorgeous gray interior of the Platinum edition that's in this video, there is also a King Ranch edition named after the fabled ranch in Texas that was founded in 1853.  The King Ranch edition is swathed in deep brown  leather with the center console branded with the King Ranch brand.  Nice.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Walk around sneak peak tour of the 2015 Mustang V6

At a recent event Ford had posed for our picture taking a 2015 Mustang with a stunning two tone Leather interior. Quizzing the Ford Rep I leanrned this is the base V6 with the premium leather upgrade.  It also had navigation and MyFordTouch...the car was locked as it was still a "prototype" so I couldn't get in and squish around in the seats and get interior pics.

The color was metallic gray that was absolutely stunning on the car.  Prolly a bugger to keep clean and shiny looking all the time, but very nice none-the-less.  This exact color combo inside and out is what I want for mine...providing the lovely Mrs Fraz is serious about letting me swap out her Milan for a new 'stang in another year or so.  I think she'll love this combo as much as I do as its similar to the '84LX she had when we were dating all those years ago.

Much has been written about the 2015 Mustang, a lot of it by me so I won't regurgitate it all again, google it and look around for the details.  In short the car will come in 3 flavors of powertrain, base V6 is 3.7L and slightly detuned from this year, a 305+bhp 2.3L Ecoboost and a 5.0L V8 to start at launch this fall.

The Ecoboost is my choice for a lot of reasons, less weight in the front will give it an edge in handling.  At cruise or bump and grind traffic it will be less thirsty than even the already thrifty V6. Plus it not being the V8 it will be cheaper to insure in the long run.

Much has been written about weight on the Mustang in the last few days. I was disappointed to learn that coming roof crush standards added weight to the car instead of the reported weight loss some 6 months ago.  Its still svelt compared to the Camaro, but I really expected better.  Weight gain is estmated to be 50 pounds on the base V6/ecoboost models and a whopping 200 lbs on a GT Premium.  The latter is quite a bit.

Ford has quite a bit of additional information on the 2015 Mustang on their web site HERE.  I'm quite anxious for them to opening up the "build your own" so I can option out what I want and begin stashing away the coinage for one of my own.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

2015 Ford F150 Sneak Peak

Massive and lighter don't always coincide. They do with the new F150 from Ford due out this fall as a 2015 model.  Through the extensive use of "military grade" Aluminum this truck is reportedly at least 700 lbs lighter than the outgoing model.  Changes like that impact everything about this truck.  Smaller engines can be used yielding better fuel economy without sacraficing power we are used to.  Handling improves as much as straightl line performance.

I gotr a sneak peak  up close and personal at a prototype of the truck.  I could walk around and kick the tires, but I couldn't get inside. Bummer as the inside looks markedly different and appeared to use my better materials than the outgoing truck, and that one is nothing to sneeze at in terms of all around goodness.

Twin -LED headlamps are visible up front. In the rear there are back up cameras on this Lariat trimmed model.  Ditto back up sensors, kind of redundant, but very helpful if you will use the beast for trailering.

Powertrains are where the big shake up happens for this truck.  Gone is the 3.7L replaced by a 3.5lV6.  Remaining is the 3.5L Ecoboost and 5LV8 Coyote.  New to Ford and this truck is a 2.7L Ecoboost V6 with stop/start technology that will easily add 10% to its city numbers when that feature can fuction.  (Ford enables the start/staop feature when you don't have a heating or airconditioning need).  The new 2.7 Ecoboost I look forward to driving most, that's a tiny engine, but with the weight loss it should be ample to power this truck in all but heavy duty towing situations.  Of course I know Ford doesn't build engines for a single product and can't help but wonder where else this powertrain will show up...

The inside of the truck had a massive navigation system, presumably a version of MyFordTouch adapted to the needs of the truck.  Reports are that there will be power outlets inside the truck that will make it possible to recharge your mobile devices as well as power tools.  Something handy for the dude that buys the truck for work and for the soccer moms that love them too.

Here are a few of the key new features on the truck cribbed from a press release:
  • Is nearly 700 pounds lighter
  • Features two EcoBoost powertrain choices, 
  • 2.7L EcoBoost with Auto Start Stop
  • Is built with a military-grade aluminum body on a steel frame
  • Features safety technology such as Lane-Keeping System and 360-degree camera views
  • Helps save gasoline costs
  • Features high power outlets for charging mobile devices or power tools
  • LED headlamps and LED sideview mirror spotlights
  • Active park assist
  • 8-inch productivity screen
  • Inflatable rear safety belts
  • Smarter trailer tow module