Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Chevy reveals next gen Camaro Convertible

The good folks premiered the new Camaro convertible. Nice looking. Not as long and sleek, slim as a Mustang but nice. I'll reserve final judgement for when I see it in person.

Details in advance of the leak GM promises it will be lighter and faster than a Mustang. Will it be as nimble remains to be seen.

From the press release offered up little in the way of details: 

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The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible.
 The Camaro convertible has a hard tonneau cover that deploys automatically, providing a more refined, finished appearance when the top is lowered and stowed. 

Chevrolet Camaro Chief Engineer Al Oppenheiser unveils the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Camaro convertible has a hard tonneau cover that deploys automatically, providing a more refined, finished appearance when the top is lowered and stowed. It is capable of opening or closing at speeds up to 30 mph. (Photo by John F. Martin for GM.)
Steve Fecht
GM News Photos

Photos are for Editorial and Social Media Use Only. They may also be archived.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ford F150 FX4 V8

The real surprise in the V8 isn't the subtle natural rumble in the exhaust, the premium feel of the cloth interior and touch surfaces, nor the substantive changes in ride and handling over the outgoing 2014 model.  The real surprise can in the MPG jump for the V8 with the switch to the all aluminum body for this model year.

Over the 20 mile loop of nicely moving freeway traffic, urban streets and a big hill climb this truck returned an incredible 19.2MPG, half mile per gallon less than the 2.7L EcoBoost.  Its also a huge increase over a 2014 model, 4X2 with the same engine that I drove a while back that returned 15.8 over the same loop.  That switch to all aluminum makes this V8 down right thrifty for a pickup truck.
There are subtle differences between this and the volume leading 2.7l Ecoboost.  The added weight of the V8 over the tiny turbo V6 you do notice when making turns on a twisty hill.  The extra weight makes it feel just a bit more ponderous and slow to react to input speeds, on wavey freeway it wants to bob a bit more before recovering.  Nothing obnoxious, just noticeable.

The interior on this model was the all cloth.  Well, actually a very nice durable artificial fiber called Repreve made from recycled water bottles. As a part of its commitment to sustainable, recyclable and renewable materials, Ford wants to help change that. So this week, Ford announced that all fabrics in the all-new F-150 will be made from REPREVE fiber, a sustainable fiber made from 100 percent recycled materials, such as plastic water bottles.The F-150 is the sixth Ford vehicle to be manufactured with this environmentally responsible, high-performance material. And this simple substitution will have a major impact on the planet: By adding REPREVE to the F-150, Ford will divert five million plastic bottles from landfills each year.

On the topic of the F150 being ecologically friendly I got a real treat courtesy my friends at Ford where I was their guest at the NAIAS aka Detroit Auto Show this past January.  Not only is the new F150 made of all aluminum that will contribute to better fuel economy and fewer greenhouse emissions than its competition, it also is manufactured in a green plant.  The Ford Rouge.

The Rouge was the first, and for several years, largest factory in the world with a living roof.  A prairie constructed of native plants on the roof that grow and produce oxygen and serve as insulation to reduce heating and cooling costs at the plant.

But that's not the end of of the The Rouge's ecologically friendliness.  It's also a green plant. Its a near zero waste generated plant. IE everything is recycled, reused or re-purposed so they have near zero landfill waste created in the manufacture of the new F 150.

Manufacture of the all aluminum F150 is an expensive proposition as military grade aluminum doesn't come cheap.  There's milling waste that's captured via vacuums and traps that's remelted and recycled into new aluminum.  This yields little waste and more efficient manufacture that offsets the added cost of the raw aluminum.  Added bonus to this is that recycled aluminum is cheaper than new aluminum made from raw materials as its less energy intensive.

All in all the F150 is an amazing vehicle thats eco-friendly from manufacture to on the road in the drivers hands.  The V8 was a real surprise in improvement from the outgoing 2014 which was no slug in its own right.  For 2015 its more refined, more capable and more eco-friendly.  A win on 3 levels.

The cost of entry on pickup trucks is no longer the inexpensive proposition it once was.  These are in many ways luxury vehicles that happen to be very capable haulers for whatever the activity may be.  The entry cost for the basic XLT starts at a pretty reasonable 36.4K.  Add in the FX4 all wheel drive, creature comforts like Sync/MyFord with Navigation and the prices jumps up pretty quickly to $40.4K  Not unreasonable for what you get.  For more information visit and build your own.

all pics by me, more high res images from the shoot on my flickr album.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

2015 Ford Focus Titanium - thorough update for this model year

The updates were many barely a feature or touch point wasn't changed inside.  Outside its an entirely new front clip incorporating the now familiar trapezoidal grill first seen in the Fusion a few years ago.  Even the rear has new tail lamps on both the sedan and hatchback, the latter is my choice for a lot of reasons.

At the Open house I got to drive 3 versions of the Focus, the Titanium Hatch I liked best.  Creature comforts were all over the place as well as really nice tech features that made it a more enjoyable car than the volume leader SE, which in itself isn't a slouch when it comes to features.

Let's focus on the Titanium.  Above the well equipped SE you get Sync/Myford with navigation and the ability to voice command many of the features.  It pairs well with a smart phone and lets you control it via fingertip controls or voice commands.  Easily.  Roll in push button start/stop, HD radio, and Dual Zone climate control for more of a premium compact luxury sedan than not. Optional in a technology package includes goodies like Automatic High Beam Headlamps, BLIS® with Cross-traffic Alert and Lane-Keeping Aid (includes Lane-Keeping Alert) make it uber competitive with the likes of likes of Audi instead of main streamers like the Corolla from Toyota.

Where the Focus still shines is its 2.0L direct injected 4cyl putting out 160 horse power and 146 ft lbs or torque.  This little 4 pot really moves the Focus along with urgency and nary a huff or puff at steep grades.  My only caveat with this car is the Dual Clutch Transmission.  Early models, including my 2013 were plagued with premature failure and endless warranty repair and reprogramming visits.  Over the now famous 21 mile loop of mixed urban driving this Focus returned a  very respectable 29.1MPG.

The interior got a complete refreshing as well.  The dash is different, flatter less curves and bumps than the prior, but still the same quality high end material feel to it.  The dash layout changed.  Thankfully adding the USB port right to the center console rather than buried in the center armrest that you can't easily swap while driving.

Really, the Focus Titanium with its technology package is a viable alternative to the Audi A3 hatch on many levels.  The added bonus is that comparably equipped the Focus Titanium is a solid 9K cheaper.  Yes, I said it, the Focus Titanium is built with the luxury feel to compete with the likes of an entry level Audi and that's where Ford shines these days, premium quality cars able to compete in the near luxury market at a price we can afford.

As a final side note, Ford added in a lot of these same upgrades to the SE models.  The interesting addition to the SE was the 1.0L 3cyl (yes, THREE CYLINDER) EcoBoost.  Its an interesting powerplant churning out 123 Horse power and 123 foot lbs or torque mated to a nicely ratioed out 5 speed manual.  If MPGs and rowing your gears is what gets you going don't miss out on this combination.  It returned a commendable 35.6 MPG on the 20 mile loop in a very nicely equipped Focus SE.

More pics of the Titanium in high res detail in my flickr album for the Ford Open House.

Monday, June 15, 2015

2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Convertible Premium

To paraphrase that old Shakespeare guy "how do I love thee my sweet Mustang, let me count the ways"...  Seriously this generation was huge leap forward but more so in the convertible than the other models.  Theres plenty to love.  Last generation with either motor under the hood on bad roads you got some cowl and door shake, you could even see the hood wobble over the worst of what L.A. Freeways could pitch at you.

This generation is a whole new story.  Yes, it picks up a few pounds of weight from stiffening key areas, but this was a purpose built convertible not a conversion.  IT was designed to be a convertible so there isn't after work to be done to stiffen and make up for the loss of a roof.  IT shows, driving the convertible top down, and elements be damned, it tracks as accurate and peppy as its hard topped variant.  I.  Love.  This.  Car.

They day I had this car it was classic June Gloom here in the L.A. Basin.  So gloomy it was actually drizzling on my way down to Motor City in Carson where the Ford Open House was taking place.  Lucky me, I was the first to arrive and had my pic of Mustangs...make mine an EcoBoost with 6 Speed Manual please, thank you very much.  I arrived to have the drizzle stop and the top down on my ride of choice.

Yes, it was a bit nipply out, but who cares when heated and cooled seats are standard equipment on the EcoBoost Premium Convertible.  Flip on the heaters, adjust the seats to fit and snick snick through the gears and  you are off.  Cars like this are meant to have a manual tranny, its half the fun of a spirited car when you get to match engine to gear and go to your hearts content.  Mustang delivers fun in spades to start with, the convertible is having your cake and eating it tow.  With extra icing.

I won't bore you with the details, and if  you're a V8 only die hard who hasn't wrapped his head around same power as the V8 from V6 or 4cylinder, stop now and skip ahead a paragraph.  The 2.3L Ecoboost in the Mustang is a marriage made in heaven. With 300+ horsepower on tap when you use premium fuel AND 320ft lbs of torque this car takes off when you want it to. It feels nimbler and quicker to respond than the GT. Top gear and 60 on the fwy and you spot a gap to dive into to get around slower worries it has the power to do that without having to down shift. Just goose and go. Steep hill to climb like in Signal sweat, an on ramp to charge up, no worries.  This 4cyl twin scroll turbo engine cranks out the power the V8 did only a few short years ago.  And that's an accomplishment.  I said in another post this 2.3L Ecoboost is the best 4cyl Ford has ever made and I was serious.

All that fun doesn't come at a penalty either.  My average MPG with spirited driving still was a very respectable 22.8 over a 20 mile loop from Carson to Signal Hill.  Had I not gotten stuck in a 5 mile traffic jam wherein I spent my time shifting back and forth between 1 and 2 for 15 minutes that number would have been a lot higher.  Those kind of numbers are what taking the Ecoboost over a V8 is all about, with premium still over $4/gallon in the basin those numbers make living with a spirited sports convertible a lot easier to afford than one would think.  Do remember these Ecoboost engines turn out their best numbers for performance and MPG on premium fuel...don't cheap out on regular, get the 91 and live life in the fast lane.

The Ecoboost Premium Convertible comes with a lot of really sweet standard features, heated cooled seats, 6 speed manual tranny, Sync/MyFord (updated this year and faster than ever), glossy painted wheels, leather seating, push button start, HID head lamps and then you get to the goodies that are optional.  Things like adjustable suspension, steering and larger performance wheels.  The car starts at 34.8K and is nicely equipped as is.  See for details on building your own.  The Competition Orange version I had was optioned out to a whisker shy of 38.7K and that's a helluva lot of car for the money.  I'll take one, but in Magnetic.

Of course as long as I have a kid at home this is not a practical car for me.  One day again I will have a Mustang.  And it will be a convertible.  Just like this.  Until then I'll take the adventures and chances to drive and imagine what life all the time motoring top down in the fast lane is like.

More high res pics of the Mustang EcoBoost Premium Convertible in my flickr album from the Ford Open House.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

2016 Ford Explorer Duo Sinner or Saint - pick one for kicks or giggles

Ford heavily updated 2016 Ford Explorer is on sale now. You can get it in a variety of forms from entry at a nose hair over 31K  and nicely optioned out Limited starting at 41.7K or a Sport at 43.7K, the latter gets you the totally awesome 3.5L V6 with twin turbo EcoBoost.  Between Limited and Sport think of it as having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other daring you to push the limits.

New for 2016 is the option of the 2.3L Ecoboost on all models but the Sport.  This engine is the model of refinement and power.  Perfect balance.  It gives up 10 horsepower to the standard V6 but picks up 55 foot pounds of torque that amply makes up the nominal horsepower difference. This is simply the best 4 cylinder Ford has ever put out, turbo or not. Smooth, steady power delivery, nice growl at the upper ranges without nary a rumble, shake or stumble throughout the rev range.  It easily kept up with traffic and ran with the best of them.  It climbed Signal Hill with no drama stress or worries.

Think of the Explorer Limited as the one you drive with an angel on your shoulder.  Its completely comfortable, able and drives like a charm.  Easy handling, remarkable given its overall size as it feels more like a competent luxury sedan not an SUV that bobbed and floated and sorta went where you aimed it that was common even a few years ago.  IT doesn't beg you to flog it, it rewards the driver with competency and coddles them in just about every creature comfort one could want.

The list on the Limited is extensive and really nice.  Heated standard steering wheel, tasteful matte wood trim with brushed aluminum accents. Heated/Cooled front seats. Power folding 50/50 split 3rd row seats are standard.  Leather seating.  Hands free power lift gate...a little wiggle waggle of the foot under the rear bumper and voila its open.  A full list of standard features can be found on  Suffice it to say its completely equipped as is, the options you can add are all technology related.

The angel on your shoulder will love the Limited.  Its truly about refined motoring, plush and comfort all the way all day.  Think cathedral on wheels. Its having your cake AND eating it too, as all that comfort, quality and zip doesn't come with a penalty at the pump.  The fuel economy on my 21 mile loop was a respectable 19.1MPG. Not bad at all for a big SUV with All Wheel Drive.

If the Limited is soothing the angel on the right, the devil on the left is drooling to get his hands on all the twin turbo goodness that is the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 found in the Explorer Sport.  This car is a beast in all the best terms of the word.  Where the Limited is plush and controlled, this is firm in the sport sedan sense and begs you to push the limits.  In corners, on ramps and straight aways.  The suspension is tuned perfectly for zipping about. The devil on the left is pushing you to be bold and enjoy what this SUV can do.

But the Sport does this without being coarse or giving up any of the build quality and luxury found in the Limited.  Yes, its a sport but that doesn't mean you give up the premium feel.  In fact there are little touches all over to let you know this is still a top tier auto.

The devil is in the details.  Brushed aluminum and carbon fiber trim on the dash.  Red stitching on the black leather seats.  Sport specific bright wheels.  Its a complete package, its luxury meant to be pushed to the limit and the execution is there.

Yet with all that performance and giving into the urges this EcoBoost still doesn't kill you at the pumps.  In spite of spirited driving and on ramp charges it turned in a respectable 17.3  MPG over the 21 mile loop of mixed freeway and urban driving.  And a curvy hill to climb.  Pretty slick...V8 performance when needed and V6 economy when you don't in a large SUV is quite a trick.

Common to both is the latest updates to Sync/MyFord.  It's faster to the touch, better voice recognition in a word simpler and more intuitive than the version that launched 3 years ago.  The improvements are welcomed.

Now there's a 3rd version coming later this summer that promises to completely upstage these two.  Explorer Platinum.  All the go fast capability of the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost in a version so luxurious its options will be few and luxury will be nothing like we've ever seen Ford put into an SUV before.  This promises to have unique LED head lamps and fog lamps just to get the exclusivity cranked up a notch and make it possible to tell it apart at a glance, not by reading the rear tailgate.

So who you gonna listen to?  The angel on the right looking for a heavenly motoring experience or the devil on the left begging you to be bad and push it?

More from the Ford Open House I attended in a flickr album.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

2015 Ford Expedition Limited now with Ecoboost

I tried so hard to love this SUV. For a car guy like me it has a lot going on to love.  Starting with the new for this year Ecoboost 3.5l V6.  Those twin turbos give that beast life it never knew possible.  This thing has CHUTZPAH like I never dreamed possible in a full size SUV.

Add in the 6 speed automatic and this beasty is really fun to drive and easyish on gas compared to its V8 brethren if you keep your foot out of the gas.  In a rather spirited 20 mile loop including a steep hill climb, urban bump and go and zippy urban freeway I averaged middling 15.2MPG.  Given its size not that bad, given that its EPA ratings are 15 City/20 highway/17 combined I did expect a bit better.

Where you sit in the new limited...a lovely leather throne you can't help but love this vehicle.  Where it falls short is the lack of even faux wood, brushed aluminum or any other lux details you expect from an SUV starting at 54K and optioned up to nearly 60K.  The hard plastics on the doors and dash wreak utilitarian hose it off rather than a luxury vehicle.  Sad really as those touches just aren't what we've come to expect from Ford of late.  Even the lowly Focus is detailed better in terms of luxury appointments, premium feel at half the price.  I understand this is a stop gap edition and an all new for 2016 is coming that will address these short comings and be on part with expectations and the rest of the fleet.

But enough of the niggles...this truck has some outstanding features.  The latest iteration comes with forward and rear sensors to protect bumping objects as you park, power liftgate, and heated/cooled power seats.  All nice touches and expected at this price point.

The iteration I drove also had Ford's most current Sync MyFord package and it worked like a charm.  Voice commands for everything and ample dummy switches for those that prefer that option than a slick working touch screen.

Really nifty touch too is the automatic running boards that deploy when you unlock the doors from the key fob or put the truck into park after driving.  A nice way to get in and out without mucking up your pant legs.

At the end of the day, this may not have the premium feel of other Ford products of late, but the refinement and power of its 2015 updated engine/tranny combo more than makes up for the shortcomings.  Nice SUV, certainly the most technologically advanced out there for the money.