Monday, March 16, 2015

2015 EcoBoost Challenge visits Los Angeles

This past weekend the 2015 EcoBoost Challenge visited Los Angeles at the Santa Anita Park in suburban Arcadia here in the SGV.  To say I had fun would be an understatement.  I mean...what could be more fun than cars on a closed circuit track?

There are several stations within the event.  Each has its own merit...peaks in my not so humble opinion with the ST Academy where you get to drive a Fiesta ST or Focus ST in a reaction time, timed competition.  Also in that group is the chance to really drive a Mustang EcoBoost the way it was meant to through twisty corners.

First up was the Drive the competition.  Interesting choice of vehicles representing the areas Ford dominates in the market place, Crossovers and Trucks against some very worthy competitors.

  • Ford Escape Titanium VS Honda CRV
  • Ford Edge VS Toyota Highlander
  • Ford F150 VS Chevy Silverado
First drive it was the compact crossovers, Escape and CRV.  The Edge handily won all categories when you look at driving dynamics.  It was very capable in the corners and slalom.  It smacked the CRV upside the head and left it dead in the straight line acceleration portion of the test.  Honda's CRV does get a nod for improvements in the interior and the addition of the 2.4l direct injection Earth Dreams engine to the carlet for 2015.  The changes weren't enough though for it to best the Escape on any level whether it be sheer performance or aesthetics.

Second up for me was driving the 2015 Edge Sport against the Toyota Highlander Limited.  The Limited was very nicely outfitted and full of wonderful soft touch materials.  Straight line acceleration was really very good, certainly more capable than what needs for daily driving.  Handling was another matter, the steering was so over boosted there was no road feel and the front end dove under hard braking or in corners it was more like a 45 year old Buick than a contemporary car based cross over.  The all new for 2015 Edge was equipped with the 2.7l EcoBoost and it handily spanked the Highlander on any metric you want to consider for driving enjoyment and confidence.  It was really that good.  Add in the significantly upgraded for 2015 interior and standard features and you will agree Ford really will handily beat the outgoing models sales.

Last up for me was the Trucks.  The Silverado for this year got a direct injected 5.3l V8 that was a significant upgrade from last year.  Its definitely more powerful than the trucks in the past, the interior needs a lot of work. Like I noted last year this LTZ doesn't have a better look and feel to build quality than my '13 Focus and that's unacceptable when you are talking vehicles in the $40K price point.  The F150 as I've written in the past is superior in this category and this 2.7l EcoBoost equipped Lariat was no exception.

The track made a change with the trucks, instead of the curvy road portion of the track used with the cross overs they add in a rough road test....2X4s laid out on the tarmac for you to drive over and get a feel for how the truck will handle and ride on a rough cobbled dirt road in the woods.  Here the Ford and Chevy were pretty neck in neck for acceleration and braking.  In the slaloms they were again similar with Ford getting the nod for not understeering and plowing through, I chalk that up to the lower weight on the front due to smaller engine and aluminum construction.  The rough road test...Chevy had more cowl shake and noticeable bed shake than the Ford...I presume that comes from a more solid build with the "military grade aluminum"

The ST Challenge portion of the day was without a doubt my most favorite part of the day.

Due to a slight equipment malfunction the timer was working so I got a few extra laps in the Focus ST.  To perform this challenge one gets a brief lesson in how the drag timer works, rev to 3,000 RPM and let the clutch out and floor it until the finish line.  Then you get to run through a slalom and a twisty curved set on the track before returning to the pit.

Mustang EcoBoost challenge was fun as well.  Accelerate hard, mash the brakes for a quick 90 degree turn into some rough curves, then a slalom then a cool down straight away to the pits.  Fun.

To learn about the Ecoboost Challenge for a potential visit to your area visit the web site HERE.   This was the only shot for SoCal this year.  The next closest they will be is NorCal in June.