Archive for the 'Ford' Category


Keepin’ busy

Hey all. Updates have been admittedly slow, but we’ve been busy! Behold, proof!

Stay tuned for some tales from behind the wheel of these cars and more. Right, back to work…

-Alex K-


2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Review

The majority of us, if not all who read this, spend a great deal of their day on the endless cement network of highways, back roads, main streets, parkways and parking lots. Regardless of whether or not we’re in the most mundane of family shuttle or face-melting speed machine, there is always, at some point, the inescapable sense of confinement. Traffic, road work, or even the errant deer will throw a monkey wrench in the transport system, immediately awaking the reality that ultimately, we’re no more free to roam than a slot car on the living room floor.

But there is a class of car that is designed to drive clear off the grid, which we see every day, driving among us like a subversive rebellion who operate within the system but can hop clear out of it when at a whim, and it’s them that we envy when our little world is disrupted by the elements. When work needs to be done, and when the unforgiving world needs to be traversed, we will always turn to the 4×4 truck. I climbed into the latest example of the breed, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, and immediately saw the world around me in completely different way.

While being off-road capable is almost synonymous with brands like Jeep and its Wrangler here in the states, and the globe-trotting Land Rover, Ford has outdone both marks in the “sheer brazenness” category by having their Special Vehicle Team re-tool the DNA of the F-150 and produce the Raptor, a truck dedicated for wild off-road adventures. Most of the Raptor’s promotional images have it leaping with two or all four wheels catching air through a cloud of dust. In instances like these, one usually has to take into account that photos like these are designed to get your hopes up and the sense of action conveyed will result in a more underwhelming reality. For example, you know they Veryron will exceed 200 mph, but if you were fortunate enough to take one for a spin, the likelihood you’d experience the accompanying legend would be quite slim, with all your friends asking “did you?” afterward while you disappoint them.

Seeing the Raptor for the first time, live, and in “Molten Orange,” the exuding charisma is palpable. Standing at 78.4 inches and in the audacious paint scheme, coupled with the vinyl slashes, the Raptor is imposing. The blue oval may be solely allocated to the tailgate, but the grille still makes it clear who produces this truck. The grille also sports LED marker lamps that inexplicably add a genuinely interesting quality to the way the Raptor looks when it’s lit up. The hood has a pair of functional vents, with another duo of air extractors that are SVT badged on the front fenders, just before the A-pillar. Below the Raptor-specific bumper, you’ll find the skid plate protecting the underbody from terrain, debris, or anything that will be thrown towards the truck as you surmount the world before you. The cab of the Raptor is the F-150 SuperCab that holds six passengers with two full-sized doors and two half-doors to access rear seating. There may only be a small 5 ½ ft cargo box, but it’s still functional enough to satisfy most pickup needs, and the Raptor is a truck that is purchase more for play than for work.

The engine in my test vehicle was 5.4 liter 3-valve Triton V8 that puts out 310 HP @ 5,000 rpm and 365 lb-ft of torque @ 3750 rpm, with a small increase to these numbers if you’re burning flex-fuel. There ‘s also be a 6.2 liter V8 on deck for the near future that will undoubtedly trounce these numbers . All this power is managed through an automatic 6-speed transmission with overdrive. The truck sports a double wishbone front suspension with coil springs on the front, with leaf springs on a semi-floating rear axle. These are coupled with internal triple-bypass Fox Racing Shox and ride on 17”painted machined cast-aluminum wheels adorned with 35” all-terrain tires as standard.

In the normal world, before any grand expeditions are made, the Ford Raptor most definitely has a presence. To start with the obvious, it is quite tall and quite orange. The Raptor carries enough prestige that enthusiasts in the know will do a double take, and may even warrant an impromptu Q & A in the mall parking lot by one or two giddy truck fans. This leaves you with a reflective sense of being the champion of all that falls in your path, lord of the road and slayer of medians. Other weaker cars tremble at the sight of you and your mighty Raptor.  You are aware of being seen exiting and entering the truck and your inner monologue is a gravely, whiskey-honed narration of your every action. If Patton were around to drive a pick-up, he would choose the Raptor. It all goes straight to your head.

Reality will set in at moments like the gas pump. At 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway the Raptor, given its function, expectably guzzles a fair amount of fuel. The relief here is that it runs optimally on regular, and is ethanol capable if you have a nearby provider (I don’t). Also being so noticeable does leave you with a sense of detachment and concern when you’ve parked it somewhere. Your imagination runs away with itself in-between the moments your large audacious extension is out of sight, worried some vandals might bite at the irresistible lure. Lest we forget, there’s also the flip side of the law, highway patrolman with quotas to fill.  Parallel parking does seem as dubious as expected, but an optional rear mounted camera makes this task very manageable with guideline graphics displayed on the screen and light enhancement at night. On the subject of options and the clarity of thought a tug on the wallet brings, a great deal of the accoutrements effect the bottom line. The F-150 in its pure Raptor incarnation starts at an MSRP of $38,020. Luxuries like the power seats and adjustable pedals, as well as heated mirrors bring the price up nearly $2,000. The vinyl graphics along the side and the accented interior can also be left out. These do add to the lunacy, but at a cost. Adding up the features my test truck had installed, the bottom line amassed to $45,045, not including any delivery fees.

Ford Raptor is equipped with SYNC, Ford’s award-winning touch screen interface. While this could warrant an article on its own, it most definitely complements the Raptor’s functionality. Bluetooth connectivity allows for integration of various devices, both phones and media. It’s simple enough to do, and multiple phones can be saved into the system and chosen easily if you share your truck with someone. And thanks to the 700-watt Sony audio system, the volume can be raised considerably when talking via the speaker system. It was a refreshing rare occasion where calls were potentially too loud instead of vice-versa. If you have a phone that’s capable, there is the ability to send and display text messages on the display. Despite pairing multiple phones with the blessing of their various owners, none had this functionality, so I unfortunately couldn’t experience this for myself or discover if this allows you to text while driving. I’d imagine not as SYNC does lock out typing for other inputs while on the move. (Update: Ford HQ tells me that SYNC will read messages on certain phones that allow the text feature or allow a pre-programmed response, presumably ones like “can’t text- ridin’ the RAAAPTOR!!!” safety first, folks.)

Other than Bluetooth, there’s an auxiliary jack as well as a USB to plug in various media devices and manage them through SYNC. There is, of course the AM/FM radio and 6 disc CD-changer, in which is housed a 10GB hard drive where over 2,000 songs can be stored in the Raptor’s “jukebox.” SIRIUS satellite radio is offered, as well as its Travel Link that incorporates itself in the navigation functions. The map screen becomes replete with gas station glyphs when your fuel level starts to run a bit low. At any point, you can also search for nearby gas stations and arrange your search results by price range. Travel Link also allows you to look up weather info, search for nearby sports activities, and browse movie times for nearby theaters. SYNC is well balanced between the touch-screen functionality and the physical buttons that adorn the dashboard. It’s easy to familiarize yourself with the functions and to decipher at quick glances, allowing you to focus on the road. Most of these features are voice activated as well, which can streamline the process with a little practice. What I found to be the greatest feature that many fixed-screen interfaces seem to lack, is that not only can the display switch to a black screen with the most minimal information on it, it can be turned just plain off. It sounds like a no-brainer, but a perfect example would be the display in the Dodge Challenger that can at best be switched to a black “stand-by” screen while still dominating the interior with an unwanted ambient glow.

Beyond the dash, the rest of the interior can be replete with molten orange highlights if orange or black is chosen for the exterior, and just black leather trimmed if the truck is painted blue or white. The rest is either rubber or hard plastics with a great deal of silver paint to go around, which looks better here than in most, but a spade is still a spade. The cabin is expansive, and easily houses 6 occupants with ease. The front seats, with optional ten-way power adjustment, include two much-appreciated seat memory buttons which interestingly can only be engaged in park. Your Raptor interior will come standard with an auxiliary switch board by the gearstick where the hill decent and off-road modes are activated, as well as four pre-wired switches to activate any aftermarket parts you may want to install into the system. With the optional tow package, the interior will also have a trailer brake available by the steering column for maximum towing control. The best feature on the inside? A good ol’ fashioned cigarette lighter. I don’t even smoke, but it just being there seems right for the Raptor’s persona.

Being based in New York, and not the big, expansive part, tests of various vehicles tend to take me through a variety of places like town roads, highways, and usually Manhattan (and yes, it’s loads of fun watching NYC pedestrians at crosswalks leap back onto the sidewalk at the sight of the oncoming Raptor). This truck demands more than a road test and luckily, had knowledge of series of trails through an area I wasn’t supposed to tread. Emboldened by the recalcitrance of the Raptor, I went anyway.

The path was a network of varied trails cut through the woods. The direction taken at the onset was mostly flat and sandy, and it was here that the Raptor was in its element. While highway driving was comfortable, the truck felt slightly out of place, like a creature in captivity. Here, the Raptor was bounding across the bumpy path with ease and speed. Our route gradually took me uphill, and the area became much more boney. Putting the truck in 4WD and activating off-road mode gave me the confidence move forward. Off-road mode eased the traction and stability controls while languishing in gears a little longer. The throttle response became more cautious, allowing me to ease and creep over rocks and out of troughs with care. This mode also activates the ELD or electronic locking differential and, as you can guess, locks the differential until you exit off-road mode, or manually disengage it with a pull of a knob. The 29.8 degree approach angle and 22.8 departure angle allowed me to take the Raptor higher up the terrain where the uneven ground had significant ditches cut into it. Obstacles were approached with held breath, but each time, the Raptor handled each without concern.

I finally reached the top of the hill where I lingered with the truck and watch waves of heat emanate from the hood vents. Evidence of a camp fire, coupled with the journey up there, reinforced my impression of the Raptor as a capable companion to take beyond the borders of the daily grind. Hill decent mode (and the breadcrumbs map option) saw that we returned back to the highway, making short work of a few mud puddles along the way. Back among the populous, passers-by, seeing a mud-splashed, orange behemoth, were inclined to ask “did you have fun?” as they saw the Raptor at a cursory glance as the big plaything that it is, and not simply a dirty truck.

Could the same journey have been done in a Jeep or a Land Rover? I’d say no. Both are certainly physically capable of the same trip (possibly superior in the case of a wrangler), the Rover, with its cameras and automated everything would seem too serious as it faithfully carried you aloft. And with the Jeep, you sort of expect it to handle various terrains like a good piece of equipment, whereas the Raptor amazes you each time it crawls out of some rocky maw. The Ford Raptor is a fun truck that has its faults but doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the good times do well to sooth the sting of the price tag. And if you ask “did you?” about catching air, in the middle of secluded private property, in a borrowed truck? Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint.

-Alex K-

It will read messages on certain phones that allow the text feature

Clever Girl….

Check back in a week for the full skinny.

-Alex K-


First Look: 2012 Ford Focus

Sat in an empty assembly plant in Dearborn and told to expect news about the Focus, I can’t say I was enthused. It’s a good car, but I’ve regarded it with indifference since the U.S. was never going to have a Focus as good looking and interesting as the RS. When the sheet was pulled back, I, prepping for a very long presentation and in “subtle-nap” position, sprang up in pleasant surprise.

The next-gen incarnation (2011? 2012? the press release says” goes on sale early 2011″  but I’m being corrected. weird.) has been re-worked by a global team of specialists to make a sporty, stylish car that meets their targets of fuel economy and driving quality. The 2012 Focus is also the first car to be created under the ONE ford approach, a strategy to create and design cars that appeal to all markets. Indeed, the new Focus will be nearly identical in all markets, with 80 percent parts commonality around the world.

“The new Ford Focus is a clear demonstration that our ONE Ford strategy is providing global consumers with great products that harness the best of Ford Motor Company,” said Alan Mulally, Ford’s president and CEO.

The 2012 Focus continues Ford’s kinetic design initiative and giving the car a sporty feel that will be eye catching worldwide.  The lower trapezoidal grille is divided into 3 sections, which is the first detail immediately noticeable in the car’s expressive form language. The Focus features an athletic profile and a great stance on both the 4-door sedan and the 5-door hatchback. The interior will be equally sleek and will have the recently announced MyFord Touch interface incorporated into the design.

The Focus brought improved levels of agility and responsiveness to C-segment cars, and the new Focus plans to raise the bar even higher with refining the precision and ride control of the driving characteristics.  Engineers have updated suspension concepts from prior models and optimized the multilink rear suspension and the semi-islolated front and rear subframes. The chassis design will be complemented by an Electronic Power Assist Steering system, which will aid in precision at high speeds and adjust itself accordingly to be maneuverable for actions like parking.

Cornering stability and agility have been enhanced with the introduction of an advanced Dynamic Cornering Control system, which uses “torque vectoring” to transfer power between the drive wheels to reduce understeer, allow better turn-in, and improve traction.  These characteristics will be the same across the globe, using identical chassis and suspension architecture in all markets, except to meet minor regional specifications such as tires.

The power behind the 2012 Focus for the North American market will be a completely new 2.0-liter engine that features direct injection and Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT)  for enhanced fuel efficiency and performance, the same engineering to be used in the Mustang GT 5.0.  The 4-cylinder engine looks to produce an estimated HP of 150+, and 145 ft-lbs of torque.

To maximize the performance and fuel economy , the engine is mated with a dry-clutch six-speed Ford PowerShift automatic transmission.  Based on manual gearbox technology, torque converters, planetary gears, and  oil pumps will be out, and electronically controlled twin clutches will shift gears for optimal torque flow and ease of operation.

now with radial blur!!

The new range will start production simultaneously in Europe and North America late this year, and is expected to go on sale in early 2011 and will be revealed in person at the North American International Auto Show.

Head over to Autosavant to read this news with the E-I-C’s contributions as he’s on hand at NAIAS to compare it in person with the competition.

-Alex K-


MyFord Touch announced

Ford Just announced a whole new driver interface technology for all future Ford, Lincoln and Mercury automobiles. Based on iPods and other touch-screen tech, MyFord Touch is designed for ease-of-use while driving and manegement of all available SYNC applications.

Get the full skinny at

-Alex K-


Mustang Madness! 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 and BOSS 302R

You may have heard rumblings about Ford’s engineers in Dearborn tinkering away at something special, but now we can say without a doubt: the 5.0 is back. In 2011, the Mustang GT will be powered by an all new 5.0 liter V8 that will deliver 412 horsepower and 390 ft-lbs of torque. The naturally aspirated feat owes much of its efficiency to the 4-valve Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT), producing a substantial amount of power while still upping the fuel economy to 25 miles per gallon.

This double-overhead-camshaft configuration employs two camshafts per cylinder bank – one camshaft to operate the intake valves and one camshaft to operate the exhaust valves. Ti-VCT rotates the camshafts to advance or retard the cam timing, based on several measures including throttle opening. An element unique to the Mustang GT 5.0-liter V8 is that Ti-VCT is actuated by camshaft torque, with assistance from pressurized oil. Using camshaft torque energy should provide faster throttle response and maximize use of existing energy, aiding fuel economy.

An additional element is the increased capacity and baffling of the deep-sump stamped steel oil pan to enable sustained high-rpm use and keep the oil change interval at 10,000-miles. Piston-cooling jets also were incorporated for performance-minded customers and for faster oil warm-up on cold start.

Specially designed tubular exhaust headers were developed to maximize exhaust pulse separation and improve flow. This was a response to customers immediately swapping the headers out for 3rd party replacements for an easy performance boost, so the engineering team sought to make them the best from the get-go.

To manage all the new grunt and help along the miles per gallon, the Mustang GT will gain a new 6 speed transmission. With the automatic, the estimated miles per gallon is 25 highway and 17 in the city. The manual will match the current estimated 24 mpg highway and 16 mpg city numbers, but getting an extra 112 horses with no compromise is very much getting your cake and eating it too.

Driving dynamics have been sharpened up as well, as Stabilizer bar diameters, spring rates and dampers all have been tuned for improved dynamics, and a Brembo brake package will be finally available, something that Mustang enthusiasts have been itching for. The package will include the 14-inch vented front discs from the GT500, 19-inch alloy wheels and summer performance tires. Hopefully I can get Ford to slap a pair on this guy.

The look of the Mustang GT won’t change dramatically from the recent refresh, but 2011 GT’s will proudly sport 5.0 fender badges, as well as a host of new colors such as Yellow Blaze Tri-Coat, Race Red and Ingot Silver.

Inside, the driver will notice the speedometer increased to 160 mph, and the tach redline is upped from 6,500 to 7,000 rpm.

Those who may feel left out of the V8 party shouldn’t fret, as with these developments, the 2011 Mustang V6 will have its horsepower increased to 300, matching the current V8.   and if that weren’t enough, there’s more:

Hot on the tail of the news of the 2011 5.0 Mustang GT is the announcement that Ford Racing is returning the road racing legend back to the track.

Dubbed the BOSS 302R, this factory-built race car is set to go fro Grand-Am, SCCA, and NASA classes.  “From Shelbys to Bullitt, Mach and Cobra Jet, it is now time for BOSS to join the list of America’s most coveted Mustangs’ says Jamie Allison, director of For North America Motorsports.  The BOSS 302R will come equipped with the new 5.0 –liter 4-valve engine like the 2011 GT, a 6-speed manual transmission, roll cage, race seats, harness, data acquisition, and race dampers/springs, plus a Brembo brake and tire package. I had a brief chance to hop inside one, and I’m so very much looking forward to sitting in one on the move.

A Grand-Am Homologation Package (M-FR500-BOSS R1) will also be ready to compete in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Daytona on January 29th, 2010, where five BOSS 302R’s will be delivered for the opening race.  These will feature a sealed high-output race engine with an upgraded cooling system, a close-ratio six-speed transmission with integral shifter, a seam-welded body, race suspension/KONI dampers and ABS brake tuning, race performance exhaust and a high-speed balance one-piece driveshaft.

The BOSS 302R will be replacing the highly successful Mustang FR500C (this one)that has won three Triple Crown championships in five years in KONI competition, and has also seen success in FIA GT4, winning the driver’s championships in ‘07 and ‘08.

“Racing has long served as a technical proving ground for production engines,” continues Allison, who echoes the belief of many that great road cars stem from excellent race cars.  The great part is, you don’t have to be left out of the action: the BOSS 302R is available through any Ford dealer. While obviously not street legal, anyone can walk in, go straight to the Ford Racing performance parts counter, and place an order for their track day or SCCA races. The base package starts around $79,000, while the Grand-Am packages will start at about $129,000. It’s best to get a move on, however, as only 50 will be built this year, so if you have the means and the proper forum for make this car shine, now is the time to get a hold of one.

Read this post and more over at Autosavant.

-Alex K-


Need For Speed: Shift Review

We have all found ways to satiate our car lust in the interim time that our supercar of choice is unavailable. Be it a hot wheel collection, a magazine or oft-visited website (made up of handsome, exciting and popular contributors), our greatest automotive fantasies are constructed with the materials available to us. Being just shy of 30 (renew!), I’m fortunate enough to have been a part of the generation that grew up on the magical device that allows us to vicariously experience our wildest fantasies from the comfort of our living room: the home video game console.

The Need for Speed series of games has been around for a very long time, taking its loyal fans on a tumultuous journey throughout its many evolutions. In the beginning it was a virtual cruise through Road & Track, which then expanded to different modes keen to fuel the enthusiast’s desire to perform such acts as outrunning the fuzz in a Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR through a gothic cityscape in the dead of night. The series then went Underground, focusing on modded-out rides and pandering to a demographic that believes an aftermarket spoiler bolted to the trunk of a Honda Accord imbues it with stunning agility and street cred as it sets the highways ablaze with streaks of neon.

Need for Speed: Shift is the beginning of a new era for the series, taking the action off the street and bringing it to the track, with a focus on bringing the player as close to the fray as possible. The game puts you in the role of a driver just setting off at the start of a racing career that will take the player from tracks and events across the globe, mastering different styles and crafting a personality based on your unique driving attitude. Your race engineer is the narrative voice that gives advice and introductions for the game’s many events. He starts you off in a hot lap in a BMW M3 that determines what control setup and difficulty is best recommended for you, which you can arrogantly ignore and apply the most hardcore settings if you so choose (and later humbly reset after some eye-opening humility).

I attempted to be as pro as possible, turning off much of the assists and immediately removing the visible driving line on the track. That’s just…no. The one setting that defeated me was my attempt to play with a manual transmission, as the makers of the game chose to place the upshift and downshift buttons on the controller right above the triggers used for gas and brake, so if I wanted to upshift, my finger had to leave the throttle, and, most frustratingly, the other had to leave the brake for the sake of a downshift, which in a pinch I want to do simultaneously. With no way to re-map the buttons, (this was on the Xbox360 and I assume it’s the same on the Playstation 3), I was forced to relinquish control of the transmission to the game.

In Shift, much attention has been given to emulating the sensation of speed and, indeed, the dramatic loss of it. An in-car view is available, with pleasantly detailed interiors that can be scanned freely, with fully functioning gauges and upgradable features, plus usable mirrors. The development team seems to be aware of how distracting enjoying the interior details can be when you should be paying attention to the race at hand, so you’ll notice everything inside of the car slowly blur at speed, forcing your eyes to concentrate on the world through the windscreen. Looking up too late will treat you to the jarring sight of a tire wall or barrier rushing towards you, and plowing into it turns the screen into a distorted, shaky mess as the game does its best to make you really feel like you’ve had a serious collision. The degree of the impact determines just how dazed the perspective becomes, from the full-blown aforementioned madness, to a little color de-saturation and gauge rattling for minor scrapes. All this knocking about will reflect on the cars as well, depending on the settings you choose. If you’re going for as much realism as possible, the shunts and slams that your car endures will reflect on the body and performance of the vehicle. While there isn’t a way to fully incapacitate your car, a massive accident will leave your ride a crumpled mess with low power and skewed alignment.

The car you choose will be one of many in the 4-tier system available to you based on your driving level. Tier 1 contains cars such as the BMW 135i and the Volkswagen GTI, while higher tiers promise the chance to purchase supercars like the Pagani Zonda and Bugatti Veyron with the in-game currency you’ll earn. Being a green racer when you pop in the disc, only a handful of cars will be unlocked for purchase, and your initial funds allow for only the most frugal choices. As you progress, you will unlock more tiers, with higher performance cars, garage spots, and different visual and performance upgrades for both the interior and exterior.

As mentioned before, your skills in NFS:Shift are measured in your driver level. At level one, you’ll have only bare-bone essentials at your disposal, but as you race, you’ll advance in rank as you earn points for podium finishes and different challenges for particular races (such as hitting a certain speed or spinning out a number of competitors), as well as points earned for the two branches of driving styles that define your progression: Precision and Aggression. You’ll earn Precision points for driving the line, clean passes, and managing corners properly, and gather Aggression points for trading paint, throwing the tail out, and generally muscling your way through the grid. The system seems fairly responsive, but I spent a few races shoving rivals out of my way, only to inexplicably end up with a “Precision” badge at the end of the race because I managed to drive a decent racing line most of the time.

Tracks like Brands Hatch and Spa-Francorchamps mix in well with the various fictional tracks designed for the game.  A series notorious for its product placement has found a good medium in track advert postings and car liveries, so don’t have the feeling that the game is shilling any particular product. Some of the menus for tuning and customization could be a little more user friendly. You can paint the car in numerous configurations and apply decals, but there isn’t a way to have a design on one side of the car perfectly mirror the other, which will work the OCD of in-game car artists hard. Other than this section, your currently selected car will be featured in the background, spinning and being shown off at various angles. This is nothing particularly worth mentioning until you attempt to change the body kit in the upgrade menu, which sits opaquely on top of this animation. The kits are functional and there’s a graph that shows the difference in performance if you choose to install it, but it’d be nice to see what my car would look like if I did so, especially since if you select a kit, it is applied to the car animation as a preview, only visible through the spaces in between the menu windows.

Assuming you don’t play the game in the 3rd-person perspective, the only ways to enjoy your visual tweaks are through the after-race replays where you can also pause and take snapshots of your car at various angles, inside and out. I spent a lot of time in photo mode just for the sake of scrutinizing and enjoying the in-car details without having to worry about driving, taking pleasure in nit-picking features of real-life cars I’ve driven, and pretending to be behind the wheel of cars that I haven’t, which seems to me is the point of the game—fuel for the fantasy. Players of the game will enjoy the gameplay, but most of all, they’ll revel in opportunities, like pitting a Reventon and a Veyron head-to-head at Laguna Seca to see who’d win, even if it’s just make-believe. Even so, in lieu of the real deal, it might be a good way to settle a few bets.


-Alex K-