Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Morning full of 2015 Mustangs

And yes, I have a real favorite of the group I drove.
I'm going to date myself horribly in about 20 seconds.  My romance with the Mustang goes back to learning of a publicity stunt Ford did when they rolled out this car in 1964.  I read about the 'Stang in my Weekly Reader in second grade where they put this revolutionary sports car on top of the Empire State Building.  It was the Mustang.

I remember the magical day my friends saw our first Mustang in the little town in the UP of Michigan.  It was a big deal for a bunch of second graders.  I remember it well, it was cool overcast day and this brilliant Turquoise Mustang was flying down 2nd street in front of our house.  We all gasped and did the toot your horn arm signal and the driver obliged.

For Christmas that year my youngest brother got a metal pedal was a red Mustang and he tooled all around the basement until the snow left and he got to take out on the driveway.

Flash forward to my starting to drive.  I remember shopping new cars and I always wound up drooling over the Mustang's, convertibles and the SVT Turbo.  In 1986 I met a woman who stole my heart that I eventually married.  She had a 1984 Charcoal grey metallic Mustang LX Coupe.  That was a terrific car and it lasted us into the early years of our marriage.  We unfortunately had to get rid of it when child #2 rolled along as there was no way we'd get 2 car seats into it.  But I digress too much.

This last week I got to spend a morning driving 3 Mustangs.  1 GT, 2 Ecoboost, 1 manual and 1 automatic. All had the performance pack.  All had the latest technological goodies Ford has to offer on the Mustang.  Two even were equipped with the Recaro package.  Trust me.  Spend the extra for those seats over the basic seats offered even with the premium leather package.  There is nothing like settling in to a car and dialing in all the bolsters and such for a perfect fit for the car.  It was nothing short of amazing how comfortable those seats are.  They should be standard with the performance pack.
First up was the 2015 Mustang GT.  WOW.  With 435 horse power and 400 ft lbs of torque this car is a beast in the very best meaning of the word.  Blip the throttle and you are off, mash it and the traction control nannies step in and ensure a straight as an arrow run through the gears with an oh so very satisfying growl.

The version I drove had the performance pack on top of all the goodies found on the Mustang GT Premium.  Add in the Recaro seat package and I was in heaven.  Coddled and nestled into the car as one, even with an automatic tranny this car begs you to hit it hard.

I really liked the adjustable driving mode with this car.  You can chose from normal, snow/wet, sport and track to suit what you are doing at the moment.  Its done with a simple flick of the switch and voila your driving character changes.  Track pretty much disables all the nannies, on a wet road at 30 I flipped to that, punched it and got a nice fish tail going without trying.

Another adjustment available is for the steering. The options are pretty straight forward, comfort, normal and sport.  One is aimed at parking lot maneuvers with minimal effort, the other for just cruising and the latter for canyon carving. All good stuff and easily adjusted on the fly with a simple toggle switch in the center stack.

The amazing thing about all these adjustments is that you can have your canyon carver and still live with the car on a daily bump and grind commute.  The switch to independent rear suspension and redo of the front suspension to work in unison with that new rear end produced a car that is nothing short of amazing.  Set it all to normal and comfort and you are set for a cross country run or daily commute without ruffling a feather.  Set it to the more aggressive modes and you're ready to tackle Azusa Canyon and its glorious twisties and switch backs.  Point is Ford refined this car so its at home in both worlds.  Its still the hairy beast when you want it to be.

A pleasant surprise was the fuel economy numbers I achieved on my 20 miles loop. It was a good mix of urban, flowing freeway and bump and grind.  End result for the 5.0l V8 with an automatic is a pretty amazing 18.4 MPG.
Along with the bumper to bumper redesign of the car the interior was gutted and completely redone. Yes, it has a few retro touches that still tell you its a Mustang, but its different.  Things are integrated better with stunning, luxury touch materials that belie its pony car for the masses appeal.  Its immediate competition has a long way to go to get to this level of fit and finish and high end material feel.  More of a M Class for the masses and considerably cheaper.

My only niggle with the car is the tiny buttons on the steering wheel to control the center information stack or even the infotainment and sync.  Perfect for someone with with petite hands, not for fat fingers like me. At least there are redundant controls on the dash for the infotainment center, but you don't even need that with the voice controls of MyFordTouch with sync.  The latest version is much faster and more refined that the one used even a year ago.

I absolutely loved the Mustang Ecoboost with the Recaro package.  The weight difference in the front end is immediately noticeable over the V8 GT.  The car goes from meaty glued down performance to slot car darty with this engine tranny combo.  Much more fun to drive than the GT.

The Ecoboost with Recaro allows you to perfectly tune your seats to align you with the 3 pedals that control the fun factor of the car.  It was by far the easiest manual tranny car I have driven in ages.  Pedals were perfectly placed and balanced. It just begged you to step on it and row those gears flicking though the gates picking up speed with each shift.

This car too had the performance pack which I won't go into to much detail other to say with a manual tranny those options become even more fun.  Until you hit a traffic jam and bump and go traffic which is always my reminder why I don't want a stick if I live in the city and need to deal with jams on a daily basis.

Even with my spirited driving I turned in some impressive numbers with this 6 speed transmission Ecoboost Mustang.  27mpg is nothing to sneeze at when you have the same power as the Bullitt V8 of a few years ago.  Impressive results for a car with performance that runs with the 8's of a few years ago with a turbocharged Ecoboost 2.3l 4 cylinder. These results compare favorably with the EPA estimates of 22 city/31 highway/25 combined. Nice work Ford.
The final car in my rotation is the one I want for my daily driving.  Its the Ecoboost Premium but instead of the standard interior I'd opt up for the Recaro package and keep the performance pack that was on the car I drove.  The standard seats are good, but the Recaros are amazing and worth every penny.
The Ecooboost Premium with automatic transmission you do loose a little bit of the performance edge in the 0-60 run, or is it all imagined as you are shifting for yourself.  Since I don't have instrument testing I can't tell you for certain if its real or imagined.

All I can tell you is that this automatic is perfectly matched to the Ecoboost, not hunting for gears transparent in operation and will run through the gears at redline with no issues when lunging into the freeway from an off ramp stop signal.  I loved this car for its utility and practicality when I ran into an traffic jam and I reverted to bump and grind traffic with the other lemmings on the 405.  Much more comfortable than having to clutch in and out every 5 feet of movement over a couple of miles.

My only niggle with the Ecoboost is the fake sound track played through the speakers, fun when you are driving aggressively. Kind of annoying when you settle into cruise mode.  My suggestion is that you have it disabled when comfort and normal are chosen for your driving modes and on for the more spirited driving modes. I mean it really tells you nothing of what the engine is really doing, its that fake, just makes for a nice sound track when you are having some fun.

It really comes down to economics of the Ecoboost over the GT with a V8.  Gas is cheap now, but it won't be forever, especially with the guvs Cap and Trade tax going into effect in a few weeks on a gallon of gas.  The Ecoboost Premium with Automatic turned in a very respectable 25.2 MPG over the same course the GT turned in 18.4.  Over the course of the year that's a lot of Premium unleaded. Ad in the insurance premium difference between the two the Ecoboost makes more sense for me.  All the fun with some frugality works.

I priced out an Ecoboost Premium I want with the Automatic, Magnetic dark gray metallic paint and Recaro seats...$38.1K.  Anyone wanna be nice to me for Christmas?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2015 Ford 150 Lariat, Pinch me is this really a truck?

I'm not a truck person and this is the closest thing yet to make me rethink that.  Driving it I had to pinch myself to remind me in fact it was a truck, not a large luxury sedan.  Not a sports sedan, but a very capable luxury car none the less.  Its so refined you have to remind yourself it has got an 8 foot bed behind you and consciously need to remind yourself of that when making turns and lane changes.

Where to start.  First off by now everyone has heard a bajillion times that through the use of "military grade aluminum alloy" the F150 has lost as much as 700 pounds over the outgoing generation.  That's huge. (Yes, I know some folks have put similar versions on scales from each year and have measured that, but why quibble over a few pounds difference).  The second you start driving you notice the huge difference in how the truck feels.  Gone pretty much is the "truck ride" of yore, that diet make a pronounced difference in how the truck feels on the road.  That diet has pretty much eliminated the pitch and yaw common in heavier trucks.

When Ford first began talking about the direct injection 2.7l twin turbo Ecoboost I was like "what!?", that's a smaller displacement V6 than they offered back in the Pinto decades ago.  This engine is a jewel.  Smooth, powerful and quick to respond.  This engine is totally new for 2015.  A special iron alloy block built to take the turbo load with special aluminium heads for better cooling to handle the heat load make this a very special engine.  Producing 325 horsepower and 375 ft lbs of torque, its no slouch in the power department.  Power comes on early in the curve and has a wide spread making it very responsive and an easy substitute from the V8's we're used to seeing in trucks.

The truck I drove was the Lariat in a SuperCab configuration.  I opted for the more common 4X2 version from the several Ford had for us to drive that day.  Its outright zippy. The interior is much more hushed than last years truck. Paying attention to traffic and not speed I found myself cruising along in the "fast lane" with others with no effort...well above the limit and was surprised by its quiet complacent ride even over some rough stretches of pavement.  Over my 20 mile loop of mixed freeway, stop and to traffic and urban driving I averaged 19.7 MPG.  This stacks favorably against the EPA's estimate of 19 city, 22 combined and 26 highway.  Is this really a truck?

Also included in the F150 is 2 information screens.  One is an 8" My Ford Touch that included navigation in the version I drove .  If interest in particular to me was the 8" Productivity screen that you control from buttons on the steering wheel to display information critical to what you're doing,such as trailer towing, off roading, MPG, whatever.  Nice touch and certainly good to be able to sort through data most important to what you are doing at the moment.

Interior fit and finish is the best I've ever seen in a truck from anyone.  Earlier this year I drove a V8 powered Silverado in mid-range trim and was pretty repulsed by the fit and finish...worse material choices than my 2013 Focus, certainly not up to the levels seen in this year 2015 F 150,  The details in the stitching on the leather trimmed seats alone is high end luxury car, not what you expect to see in a truck.
The version of the 2015 F150 Lariat I drove was very nice equipped.  It included the Trailer tow Package and a technology package that bumped the base $38.7K sticker up by another $7K to well over $46,000. Not chump change and certainly way more than your average mid size sedan.  But you also get your money's worth out of this truck as it has considerably more utility and a lot more luxury than those cars can only dream of.

Driving and spending time in this 2.7l Ecoboost truck I wonder why anyone would bother with the premium of a diesel like the Ram 1500 offers for only an extra MPG you gain.  The F150 turns in its numbers on regular gas which is selling for $2.89/gallon in my corner of Los Angeles today, versus the cheapest diesel at 3.99/gallon.  The cost per mile of diesel over the gasser just doesn't make sense in my book.

After spending a half hour driving the 2015 F150 in a variety of situations around the South Bay area of Los Angeles and Signal Hill all I can say is wow.  Certainly the best in the class.  Again.  Certainly competitive with luxury SUV's out there and a better alternative if you have real toys to haul, never mind the utility as a work truck.  You can build your own here on

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mustangs. A bunch and I have a favorite.

The one day this week it rained HARD and I was out driving cars for kicks and giggles. You'll have to stay tuned for which was my favorite and which Id choose as my daily driver.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Whats an RS and why should we care?

RS.  As in Focus RS, the Focus that embarasses the already uber competant Focus ST.  This iteration of the hot hatch has been in tthe EU for a while.  Ford announced today the car is going global and we here in the States, especially SoCal will love this car.

Imagine sport tuned ralley suspension, all wheel drive and a 2.3l Ecoboost 4cyl reported pumping out a rumored 320-350 hp!  Thats an easy 50-75 hp bump over the ST and with all wheel drive to put all that power down handling and speed will be unbeatable.  What, is the Suby WRX looking nervous in its rear view mirror?  It should be.

Actually from what I've read RS is part of a bigger Ford Performance Division that will encompass not only RS, but SVT, ST, Raptor and Racing under one umbrella.  Image the outcome with all those resources combined.

Sidebar and rumor mill.  Detroit's NAIAS is coming in about 3 1/2 weeks.  I plan on being there.  Quite a few cars are due to be unveiled there.  Ford, from sources I've read is going to reveal 3 cars, a new GT, Mustang GT350r and the Focus RS.  That should be quite a show at Cabo Center.  Count on me being there and videoing it all crudely with a flipcam.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Quick Tour: 2015 Ford F150 Lariat

Thursday of the L.A Auto Show Press Days was also Green Car Ride and Drive.  That's where you get to sign up and drive the greenest of the new cars out there in production or concept form.  I wasn't all that surprised when I saw that the Ford F150 with the Ecoboost 2.7l V6 was among the test options for us.

By now we've heard all the significant details, military grade aluminum brought about some 700 lbs weight reduction that allowed the use of newer, smaller engines for better fuel economy and less green house emissions.  Yeah.  Sounds like a win...and it is.

Pictured here is the mid-level Lariat with the standard SuperCab set up.  Super comfortable seating for 5.  Easy access to the rear via suicide doors.  Its trimmed better than many so called luxury cars of 5-10 years ago, gorgeous leather, soft touch materials.  Very much the class act and it starts at 38.7K.

This truck was loaded with technology, lastest MyFordTouch with navigation, blind spot monitoring, trailer, 8" productivity screen nestled with the gauges, power sliding rear window with privacy glass and more goodies than I can mention in this one post.  Want to build your own?  Visit FORD HERE.

Driving this truck was about exceeding expectations. The 2.7l V6 Ecoboost has ample power to zip around city traffic. Wait, I said zip?  Yes, the weight loss and changes to suspension and the power of this tiny (recall the Pinto back in the day had 2.8l V6 available which had nowhere near the power) Ecoboost makes for a truck that handles more like a large car than trucks of yore.  Its really quite composed over the the potholed streets of Los Angeles around the Convention Center, no shake and shudder, quiet and doesn't pitch and yaw going into turns.  Very untrucklike.

An interesting feature on this truck is the stop-start feature that stops the engine when conditions are appropriate like at stoplights, rail crossings etc.,.  This allows you to eke out an few extra MPG's in both city and Highway driving.  I do have to say its among the best applications of the stop-start in any nonhybrid I've driven yet.

I get to spend a bit more time with this truck at a Ford Open House in a few weeks.  A full review and driving impressions will follow...along with a video and MPG round up over my tried and true 20 Mile loop through the South Bay.

More pics from the 2014 L.A. Auto Show HERE.

All pics here will get bigger with a click, some are suitable for wallpaper on your desktop.