Posts Tagged ‘Ford’

Of the three Detroit manufacturers, only Ford has been a major player in the hybrid car game for several years now. The Ford Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid were the two main-stay offerings from Ford until the company completely revamped its lineup in 2012 for the 2013 model year with all-new  hybrid offerings.

Ford dropped the Escape Hybrid when it introduced a completely redesigned model for the 2013 model year. More fuel efficient gas engines in the new Escape are able to achieve nearly the same level of economy as the outgoing hybrid model.

To replace the Escape Hybrid, Ford introduced the 2013 C-Max which is available only as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid known as the C-Max Energi. The C-Max, based on the outstanding Focus platform, has been sold in Europe in various forms for years – just not as a hybrid.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid SEL

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid SEL

Ford reconfigured the C-Max for US sales by getting rid of its rear sliding doors in favor of conventional 4-doors. Ford marketing believed that sliding doors would automatically brand the C-Max with the Scarlet M (for minivan) and, in the States, the M-word is the kiss of death.

The compact interior of the 2013 C-Max will seat five - but that's two adults and three small children.

The compact interior of the 2013 C-Max will seat five – but that’s two adults and three small children.

The C-Max is as close as we are going to get to a Focus wagon and it’s the only direct competitor to the Toyota Prius V. It’s tall, like the Mazda5 compact minivan and you sit a bit higher and more upright than a normal car. The rear liftgate is large and the floor height is marginally higher than a comparable passenger car for easy loading. Lots of glass surrounds you so visibility is excellent and the large side mirrors are tipped with concave mirrors that provide an analog solution to blind spots.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid - Rear

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid – Rear

My 6′ 1” frame fit into the driver’s seat, but there wasn’t much extra room. The standard manual tilt/telescoping helped make things comfortable. Rear seats are best for children or small adults as the cushions are short, with no thigh support and there’s a paucity of larger adult legroom. It should be fairly easy to strap in child seats as the tall doors and the C-Max’s diminutive size put belts and buckles in easy reach for weary parents.

The rear seats of the C-Max split 60/40 and fold flat. Not much leg room for adults, but it's pretty easy to reach in to grab the kids.

The rear seats of the C-Max split 60/40 and fold flat. Not much leg room for adults, but it’s pretty easy to reach in to grab the kids.

The flat-folding rear seats split 60/40 to open up 52.6 square feet of cargo space. Perfect for a Costco run or a couple large dogs. It would be nice if the rear windows rolled all the way down, but I’m not sure the rear occupants would care.

Plenty of cargo space in the back of the Ford C-Max with the rear seats folded down.

Plenty of cargo space in the back of the Ford C-Max with the rear seats folded down.

MyFord Touch is Ford’s much maligned infotainment system that is the number one cause of customers’ dissatisfaction with Ford vehicles in recent in JD Power & Associates surveys. Consumer Reports slammed Ford both before and after a major software update to the system. I’m a fairly tech-savvy guy, so I have mixed feelings about it.

The 8 inch color display on the C-Max is set high – too high, in my opinion – in the center stack. It’s deeply inset (as opposed to flush) in the dash and there is a table ledge of hard button controls in front of the screen.

The 8 inch touch screen of MyFord Touch is deeply inset into the dash. Note the hard shortcut buttons and volume control in front of the screen.

The 8 inch touch screen of MyFord Touch is deeply inset into the dash. Note the hard shortcut buttons and volume control in front of the screen.

I think that you’d get used to it with some time; but the on-screen fonts are too small and delicate and each of the four major function – telephone, information (including navigation), radio and climate are brought up only by touching a slim bar that is either in the top or bottom of each assigned quadrant.

Because of the placement of the screen, when your hand reaches for one of those functions, your hand partially blocks your view of the screen, so you’re mostly poking around blind. It’s also hard to see the hard-button controls that are on the ledge in front of the screen. There are some redundant “hard” controls for things like volume or climate control; but selecting a preset radio station can be difficult with bumpy streets and the slim on-screen touch controls. At least the touch response is fast.

The four quadrants of MyFord Touch. To bring any area up to full screen, you tap on the slim area at the top or bottom corners.

The four quadrants of MyFord Touch. To bring any area up to full screen, you tap on the slim area at the top or bottom corners.

Power for the C-Max comes from a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle I-4 hybrid engine channeled through an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The gas engine is good for 141 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque. Together with the permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor, the system is good for 188 hp with a top speed (not that you’ll ever get there in this car) of 115 mpg. Ford says the C-Max can go up to 62 mph in electric-only mode, but it’s nearly impossible to do without being on a closed track with nearly zero gravity on your left foot. The statistic is useless in normal driving.

The C-Max’s electric motor is powered by a compact 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery and, like the Prius, regenerative brakes feed the battery when you brake and the gas engine runs a generator to keep the battery charged. The battery doesn’t suck up any cargo space. Nifty graphics in the instrument panel show you how “green” you’re driving and which direction the electrons are flowing.

A cutaway of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid.

A cutaway of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid.

Speaking of the Prius, I think Ford engineers have jumped over Toyota’s flagship hybrid when it comes to smoothness of operation. Most of the time, it’s hard to notice when the gas engine goes on and off. You don’t feel the shakes and vibrations associated with the Prius. Even Ford’s CVT lacks a distinctive whine unless it’s pushed hard. The regenerative brakes don’t have that touchy-grabby hybrid feel either. In short, the driving experience is utterly normal except for the odd silence when the car is started and when it’s drifting in EV mode.

The cockpit of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the Ford Focus, which serves as the basis for the C-Max.

The cockpit of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the Ford Focus, which serves as the basis for the C-Max.

I like the compact size, ease of operation and visibility of the C-Max for daily city driving. The electric power steering had decent feedback – shocking, really, when compared to the electric rubber band attached to the Prius. While the C-Max will never be a NASCAR pace car, it scoots up to city speeds easily and without fuss, never feeling underpowered. I think it would need a bit more time to come to highway speed. Its turning radius was good and parking was easy. The C-Max was also relatively quiet for a small car.

Ergonomics are very good and the plastics and switchgear is on par with the excellent Focus. I’m not sure how much I’d like it on highway trips where road noise and the short wheelbase might make for a noisy and choppy ride.

While the C-Max may not be the sexiest car in the parking lot, it is fresh and modern.

While the C-Max may not be the sexiest car in the parking lot, it is fresh and modern.

The C-Max’s stated EPA fuel economy is impressive – 47 mpg city, highway and combined , besting the Prius V’s 42 mpg combined. However, several media sources, including Consumer Reports, has called out Ford, challenging those figures for the 2013 C-Max.

The C-Max I drove showed an average 28 mpg – but you expect lower figures in a tester. CR states that the C-Max achieved overall fuel economy of 37 mpg during its tests. By comparison, the Prius V achieved 41 mpg in CR’s test cycle – just 1 mpg shy of its EPA rating. So while the C-Max bests the Prius V in the EPA number game, in the real world, the Prius V bests the C-Max by 4 mpg. If you buy a C-Max, I recommend lowered expectations when it comes to fuel economy.

The 2013 C-Max Hybrid SE starts at $25,995 and a fully-loaded SEL can easily grow to $33,500 with niceties like leather-trimmed seats, navigation, an upgraded infotainment system and MyFord Touch, hands-free park assist, hands-free liftgate, rearview camera, parking sensors and a panoramic fixed glass roof. The Prius V can get pricey too, starting at $27,445 and rising all the way to $37,535.

While the C-Max Hybrid wouldn’t fit my driving needs, I believe it is a sweet little tall wagon that drives well (like its cousin, the Ford Focus) and offers lots of grown up features for a reasonable price. I wouldn’t call it stylish, but it is a fresh face in the hybrid market – particularly in Prius-happy L.A. The C-Max will appeal both to Eco-conscious buyers as well as people just looking for good fuel economy in a tidy, versatile package.Ford C-Max badge


Chrysler Group: Chrysler didn’t show any new models, but it did show some awesome updated and special edition models. And of course, this is the Los Angeles debut of the 2013 SRT (Street Racing and Technology) Viper.

The 2013 SRT Viper is one mean-looking snake. Move over Corvette, the Viper is finally more user friendly, while still packing a mean bite with the 8.4L V10 making 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque.

The 2013 SRT Viper from the rear. This beauty has no bad angles. Prices start at $97,395. Something this pretty doesn’t come cheap.

There was scant information about this 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T. I love the stripes and amber running lights.

This was a Mopar Concept Car – a Dodge Challenger with a big engine under the hood (note the bump) and a mean purple paint job.

This is another Mopar Concept car – The Dodge Charger Juiced. This lovely orange-copper colored beast has the Viper V10 engine stuffed under the hood. Talk about muscle!

This 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye has a factory matte paint job and it was quite sharp. You too can order it this way.

The 2014 Jeep Wrangler with the Rubicon 10th Anniversary package. It also has some cool Mopar accessories like that mean winch on the front bumper. The red leather interior was very sharp, I’m just not sure it would do well in open or off-road motoring or in mud.

Another popular Mopar Concept is this Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sand Trooper with Chrysler’s 5.7L Hemi V8 and a 5-speed automatic. The tires and wheels are ridiculous but it would be a wet dream for serious off-roaders.

The rear view of the Jeep Wangler Unlimited Sand Trooper.

The interior of the Mopar Concept Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sand Trooper is mostly stock. Most of the modifications were under the hood as well as the chassis, suspension, off-road accessories and 4-wheel drive hardware.

Ford: Ford had several interesting new models in Los Angeles. The biggest news, of course, was the LA premier of the all-important 2013 Fusion. It’s a volume leader for Ford and with Aston Martin-ish handsome face, it will be a serious treat to the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat.  The only engines offered will be 4-cylinder, with the top of the line being a 2.0L EcoBoost making  240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.  The Fusion Hybrid is rated at 47 mpg – city or highway, besting the Camry, Sonata and Optima hybrids as well as the Passat TDI.

2013 Ford Fusion. Check out that Aston Martin grille.

This 2013 Ford Fusion has a Euro Series styling package by 3d Carbon-Air Design

The interior of the 2013 Ford Fusion is all high-tech. However, I found some of the controls didn’t respond quickly to my touch and I accidentally pressed surface controls that I didn’t want to change or activate.

Ford’s Mustang is getting very old and is due to be replaced in the Spring of 2014 with an all-new, completely modern model to celebrate Mustang’s 50th Anniversary. In the meantime, Ford just keeps adding horsepower and styling packages to keep up interest.

The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible is always a crowd favorite. I mean who doesn’t like 662 HP, 631 lb-ft of torque and a price tag of $68.,710?

The white leather stripes make for a nice continuation of the paint stripes on the outside of the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible.

Ford also introduced a refreshed 2014 Fiesta. The headline in the redesign isn’t the exterior, but that for the first time in decades, it will be offered with a 1 liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine. The little mill whips out 123 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque and should be good for at least 40 mpg highway.

The 2014 Ford Fiesta with the 1.0L 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine.

To please the enthusiast crowd, Ford also showed the 2014 Fiesta ST.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST. Note the grille looks more like the 2013 Fusion.

Ford is jumping back into the minivan market, albeit in a completely different way.  Ford’s little Transit Connect commercial van has been selling well since it went on sale a few years ago. Now it’s time for a refreshed Transit Connect and with that refresh comes a consumer minivan option. It’s definitely a Euro-flavor van as it’s quite tall and shorter than something like a Chrysler Town & Country.  I think it will find a new type of buyer – a family which may not want a traditional minivan or a big SUV.  I think it’s pretty cool!

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon.

The interior of the 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon.

The rear of the 2014 Transit Connect Wagon (don’t call it a minivan) can easily be reconfigured for passengers or cargo. Sliding doors are on both sides. And it should be more fuel efficient than a traditional minivan.

Honda: The big news was the redesign of the Honda Civic for the 2013 model year. However, I’ll cover that in another post as it happened on Day 2 of the auto show.

Honda did have an interesting little hybrid concept called an EV-STER and it also showcased the new 2013 Plug-In Accord Hybrid.

Honda EV-STER Concept. It’s small and cute… I doubt it will ever see production.

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid.

Hyundai: The big reveal was the 2014 Santa Fe – long wheel-base version.  However, I’ll cover that on Day 2. On Day 1, the fun Concept Veloster Roll Top opened some eyes. If you don’t like the Veloster, you won’t like the Concept, but I really like the sporty and high-style concept of the Veloster, so the Roll Top concept for an active lifestyle hit the right note.

Hyundai Veloster Turbo C3 Roll Top Concept

Everyone needs a custom bike to put in the back of your custom concept car, right? Very cool Veloster C3 Roll Top rear hatch.

Infiniti: The LA Auto Show got nothing from Nissan’s luxury brand.  The LE Concept has made the rounds of auto shows for over a year now, finally landing in LA.  Is this its final resting place?  The LE is based on the all-electric Nissan Leaf platform and it shows nicely, but I was tired of seeing it in photos before I was bored seeing it in person. Hey, Infiniti, time for some new product, right? And I don’t mean the JX – a luxury version of the Nissan Pathfinder SUV.

Infiniti’s all-electric LE Concept.

Jaguar: The 2014 Jaguar F-Type roadster was probably the highlight of the LA Auto Show. I have more pictures of it from Day 2 that I will put in another post. There’s no denying the Sexy Kitty and the F-Type is a sure hit, even if it’s a low volume one. It’s more of a halo car for Jaguar, something the brand sorely needed. The Old XK Cat has been face lifted more times than Joan Rivers and while we will eventually get a new XK, I almost don’t care as the F-Type is so delicious.

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S’ supercharged engine makes 495 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a ZF 8-speed automatic.  It looks sensational in orange. Can you say tiger?

The rear of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S has a spoiler that rises out of the rear deck lip.

The interior of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S looks like a lovely place to spend many hours on the open road. The electronic shifter appears to be lifted straight out of a BMW.

Jaguar also showed an updated XF sedan. The screaming blue example on the floor refuses to be ignored. I have more pictures from Day 2 which I’ll put in another post.

The 2014 Jaguar XFR-S.

The business end of the 2014 Jaguar XFR-S. Hear its supercharged V8 roar as it blasts past you.

Kia: The Kia Sorento mid-size SUV is all new for 2014. It features both four and six-cylinder engines and improved fuel economy.  It’s much more stylish than the Toyota Highlander.

The 2014 Kia Sorento is rides on an all-new platform.

Interior of the 2014 Kia Sorento.

Lexus: Toyota’s luxury division didn’t have anything new for the LA Auto Show, but it did have some very cool (albeit recycled) concept cars.

The Lexus LF-CC Concept previews the upcoming new IS. However, I can’t believe the production IS will ever look this good.

The Lexus LF-LC Concept Coupe was also sensational. Now if Lexus would actually produce an IS or GS coupe and/or convertible that looks this good.

On the production side, the GS F-Sport models are looking good.

2013 Lexus GS F-Sport. The ground effects package give it a sportier appearance.

I think Lexus nailed the interior of the new GS. The horizontal lines work and the matte colors in the F-Sport look, well, sporty.

Lincoln: The big news is the 2013 MKZ, which was introduced on Day 2 of the show, so I’ll cover it in a subsequent post. But lucky for the press, and only on Day 1, Lincoln brought a collection of classic Lincolns.

1929 Lincoln L Dietrich Convertible Coupe.

1932 Lincoln Derham Sports Sedan

1932 Lincoln KB LeBaron Convertible Roadster

1932 Lincoln Zephyr Sedan Coupe.

1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet

1961 Lincoln Continental Sedan.

Elizabeth Taylor’s 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II

To be continued in the next post, 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show Part 3