Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Ford Explorer


Ford Raptor R – R stands for Reality-challenging!

Forgive me if I write this column while hunkering down under my desk, because I'm afraid I might get struck by lightning for actually liking a full-sized pickup truck.

Of course, Ford's F-150 Raptor R isn't your garden variety pickup truck. No, indeed. It's an outrageously in your face vehicle that lets you cut a swath through traffic while also waking the neighbourhood with its outrageous exhaust bellow.

And it's an absolute blast!

And all this truck goodness and fun – all 700 horsepower of it – can be yours for a paltry $150,000 CDN, if you can find one for that price. Apparently, there's a waiting list and the trucks are selling for much more than list. I haven't heard that officially, but I was told that by someone who would know.

Anyway, Ford's Raptor has been around for several years now, but to compare that original Raptor with this one isn't really fair. This is an "UberRaptor" that eschews the regular Raptor's EcoBoost V6 (which works very well) with a big, supercharged V8 – the sort of engine you might imagine in a high-end Mustang (and where I imagine it would be even more of a blast!).

As Ford says, it's "the fastest, most powerful, most extreme high-performance off-road desert Raptor yet." more...

Ford hopes to garner new sales with its Maverick truck

Ford has long been the "king of trucks'", at least when it comes to overall sales of its long-time top seller F-150. But the company is heading in a new direction with its brand-new Maverick, a pickup truck that isn't built like most other pickups.

The Maverick is more like Honda's Ridgeline than the F-150, or its smaller sibling the Ranger. This means that, rather than being built "body on frame" the way most pickup trucks are, it's a more car-like unibody arrangement that may not be as robust as the "dedicated" pickup trucks, but which brings its own delights to the equation – for instance, in overall driveability.

It's a rare combination in pickup trucks. Besides the Maverick and the Ridgeline, I can only think of one other such truck/car combo and that's Hyundai's new Santa Cruz, which I haven't had a chance to see – let alone drive – yet.

So, the Maverick competes in a small niche. How does it do?

I thought it was terrific. Now, I'm not a truck guy and never will be, but within about a minute of having picked up Ford of Canada's sample Maverick, I was impressed mightily by how it drives. It drives more like a car – or, I guess, an SUV – than a truck, and to me that's a really good thing. more...

Mock Mustang is a darn nice electric SUV as long as you aren't going anywhere

Electric cars are all the rage these days, or probably would be if more people would buy them without coercion or other people's money. We're promised – well, beaten over the head with – an inevitable electric future, even though it appears few have given thought as to from where the electricity to charge these vehicles will actually come.

Yeah, we're led to believe the power will appear magically, where in reality it's coming generally from coal, natural gas, hydroelectric or nuclear sources. But at least it isn't filthy oil, right?

I've only driven a couple of electric cars over the years, from the silly little Mitsubishi iMiev I spent an interminable few days with in 2012 (it was like a $32,000 Toyota Yaris, only not as nice as the real Yaris) as well as some quick drives in a couple of electric cars at AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year Testfest. I liked their performance as cars – the instant torque, for example, is quite intoxicating – but felt that until they get the prices down and the ranges up they'd only be curiosities.

Well, now, after being beaten over the head by governments concerned with sucking up to loudmouthed liberals and the blissfully unaware, pretty well every carmaker is ponying up (no Mustang pun intended, of course) to the Altar of the All-electric Car. This is because they want to stay in business.

Including Ford, with its new Mustang Mach E, which is really not a Mustang at all but which is a pretty nifty mid-sized SUV. And it's all electric to boot!  It's pretty darn good to drive as well. more.

Ford Explorer charts new ground again

Ford's Explorer came back with a mostly all-new generation for 2020, and if you're a traditionalist – or a hooner – you might like what it has to offer.

That's because the new generation Explorer has returned to its roots, as a rear-wheel drive model that can send torque to the front wheels when it's needed. That's as opposed to the last couple of Explorers that were front-drive-based but could send torque to the rear wheels if necessary.

"Who cares?", you may say. "What difference does it make?", you may say.

Well, if you aren't an enthusiast, it may make little difference, especially if you've been told over and over over the years that front wheel drive is better for traction because the engine's weight is right over the front wheels.

Fair enough. But there are definite advantages to rear wheel drive as well.

I could tell the difference between FWD-based Explorers and the new RWD-based one almost as soon as I drove away from the dealership at which it was stored. You feel it push you along, rather than pull you, and it felt really good! Not that the last Explorer sucked in that way! Sure, I love RWD – and in AWD modes I daresay you may not feel much difference, depending on how much torque the vehicle sends to the other axle – but the rear drive just felt more right, more capable.

This was an easy call for me because I've spent many an hour in the previous generation of Ford Explorer: for about a year and a half, I worked one day a week as a shuttle driver for an area Ford dealer. And as good as that vehicle was, this new one drives better. more...

Ford Bronco Sport a real head-turner

I have a funny feeling that Ford is about to sell a ton of its new "baby Bronco".

That isn't judging from my impressions driving the newly spawned SUV, but from the reactions I got to driving the newly spawned SUV – from neighbours, passersby, perhaps even from passengers in aircraft flying over at 40,000 feet.

This vehicle, which I happen to find quite unattractive and not particularly compelling, garnered so many stares and thumbs up gestures (and possible a few other gestures aimed at the driver) that I couldn't believe it. I've had Porsches and BMW's and Lexi and Jaguars and Mercedes and Audis, and some of them bring crowds – but nothing like this new Bronco Sport.

Obviously, this is yet another vehicle for which I am far removed from the target audience. What can you do?

The Bronco Sport joins its new big brother, the Bronco (non-sport, I assume), as a 4x4-only SUV and it competes in a niche where on-road performance is only as important as its off-road capabilities. Or so they say.

"Bronco Sport has the toughness and smarts to help turn off-road novices into 4x4 pros," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer. "Bronco Sport embraces the needs of outdoor enthusiasts – every inch of it was designed and engineered with weekend adventurers in mind."

To that end, the Bronco Sport is ready to haul a couple of mountain bikes (which can stand up in its cargo area) and enough "factory-backed standalone accessories" to let Bronco Sport owners customize their vehicle the way they want, whether they're carrying bikes, kayaks, skis, whatever.

Hardly unique, but undoubtedly welcome for those who want these capabilities in a Ford.

Bronco Sports come in three trim levels besides the base model: one call Big Bend, one called Outer Banks, and, the one Ford sent for review, the Badlands model. more...

Ford adds hybrid tech to its venerable pickup truck line

If you drive a pickup and find its fuel mileage a tad, shall we say, anemic, would you think about embracing hybrid technology to help ease that fuel bill?

How about if the raise in mileage was only a few miles per gallon?

I suppose it would depend on how much of a percentage improvement that might be – and in a pickup truck (a genre not known for fuel mileage) even a few MPG could be a large percentage improvement.

There are other reasons to think about a hybrid now, though. Time was when buying a hybrid meant you were paying through the nose for a small and light – and gutless – little car that may have improved your gas mileage and given you an excuse to signal to the world how wonderful and green you are. I mean, I remember driving one of the original Honda Insights (the first widely available hybrid) and that little squashed bug of a car nearly had me (well, my wife…) getting out to push it up some of the mountainous hills in my neck of the woods.

I hated hybrids back then. But that was then and now there are many compelling reasons to buy a hybrid as long as you can live with the damn continuously variable automatic transmissions with which most of them come saddled. Those reasons include increased oomph, where today's hybrids offer performance that feels very much like a turbocharger, but without the "whoosh" of a turbo coming on.

So it is with Ford's F-150 PowerBoost, which is a full hybrid powertrain that enhances Ford's 3.5 litre V-6 and is, according to Ford, the only full-hybrid powertrain available in a pickup. The company also says the PowerBoost system cranks out a lovely 430 horsepower and 570 lb.-ft of torque - the most torque ever offered in an F-150.

And it feels as robust as all get out! This was one of the most fun and interesting pickup truck drives I've experienced – and as a "not a pickup truck guy" I came away impressed. Not enough to run out and buy a pickup truck (I think I'd have to have a stroke first…), but enough to see why some folks would want to pick up such a pickup. more...

Ford's Escape sports a nice new suit of clothes for 2020

The new, mostly carless era at Ford is beginning and one of the newest salvos in the company's battle for market success is personified by the latest version of its popular SUV, the Escape.

And it's a pretty nice item for the most part. I like its looks compared to the also-handsome outgoing model, and I was even happy with the performance obtained by Ford Canada's sample SEL trim level's 1.5 litre turbo three. Sure, it doesn't offer a huge amount of horsepower or torque, but in my week driving it in various winter road conditions – from bare and dry to awful – it performed just fine.

Well, there were a couple of electrical gremlins, which in my experience isn't unusual in Ford products, but they were pretty minor and would hopefully be taken care of under warranty.

As mentioned, Ford's sample wore the SEL trim, and it starts at $35,049 Canadian, according to the sample's sticker. That trim level could have come with the optional two litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine rather the 1.5 litre EcoBoost three banger, and I probably would have enjoyed that even more. Yet this "little engine that could" three banger really, well, did – and I had no trouble keeping up with traffic either on city streets or on the highways around here.

Sure, it didn't leap ahead like a Mustang when I stepped on the gas, but it oozed forward well and I never felt it to be the gutless piece of engine technology that I had feared. more...

Ford Ranger a solid mid-sized truck in the vein of big brother F-150

Are you looking for a pickup truck that'll haul your stuff and get you where you want to go, yet not take up your entire driveway the way a full-sized truck might?

If so, you might be a prime target of Ford's new Ranger. It's a pickup that, like the legendary F-150, offers a lot of truck goodness, but which is aimed at those in the market for a smaller pickup.

In my last vehicle-related column I looked at the Jeep Gladiator, which is arguably a more serious off-road fun machine, but the Ranger will also take you off of the asphalt and undoubtedly do a fine job – though if you're looking for a more "civilized" ride on paved roads, you might find the Ranger ticks your boxes better.

As I mentioned in my Gladiator column, however, I must remind you that these opinions are coming from a non-truck person, so take my tirades with a grain of salt, knowing that this isn't my area of supposed expertise.

That said, after spending a week with each of these trucks I found that I preferred the Ford Ranger, not only because it was a lot easier for me to get into and out of, I also liked its driving experience better. That said, the Jeep got more "ooohs and aaahs" from onlookers and passersby when I had it – not that the Ranger wasn't received well – but the Gladiator appeared to be the "sexy" choice, whereas the majority of the comments I heard about the Ranger were from people who were glad to see that it's back – potential customers as opposed to "not so secret admirers?". Time will tell, based on each model's sales, I guess.

Ford of Canada's sample was a 4x4 CrewCab version, and to me if felt basically like a small F-150 (if equipped comparably, of course). It came with Ford's 2.3 litre four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, and its 270 horsepower and 310 lb/ft of torque seemed just fine for driving around with nothing in the bed – and would probably be fine with stuff there as well. I didn't notice any lag from the turbos, either. more...

Enhanced Mustang offers a lot of performance and a great soundtrack

How do you not have a barrel of laughs driving a Ford Mustang?

Well, you could get one that's souped up nicely, even to Recaro seats, then stick ultra wide and slickish race track tires on it that are quite impractical on chilly autumn roads in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

That's what I spent a week doing recently, and even though the road and weather conditions made it virtually impossible for me to enjoy the 'Stang as much as I'd have liked to, I still managed to come away with a big, muscle car smile on my face – as well as many stares from onlookers who heard me coming and undoubtedly were wondering at the ancient oaf and his mid-life crisis.

And I loved it!

I'm not really a muscle car-kind of guy, though if I were, I'd be a Mustang person. It's not only the original pony car, with GM and Chrysler coming to the party after the horse was already out of the barn – but I've always tended to prefer vehicles that come from the blue oval to those from the other two "once-big three" manufacturers.

Not only that but, beauty being in the eye of the keyholder, I think this current generation of Ford Mustang is the most attractive ever. My favourite was the 1967-68 fastback (though the early 00's reboot was plenty fetching as well) and this one not only captures its stylistic feel, it also upgrades it to modern car status while retaining that Mustang magic that's been so popular for the past 55 years.

So, when Ford offered me a chance to spend a week in the 2019 Mustang GT Coupe Premium, I jumped at the chance even though I knew that its optional rubber was going to "rubber" me the wrong way at this time of year. And it did, though those 305/30 19-inch tires would certainly be a blast at other times. more...

As its name suggests: Ford EcoSport displays a split personality

Ford's entry-level SUV – or crossover, if you prefer such a designation – is an interesting beast. It's small, can be equipped very well in its upper trim level(s), and offers some of the stuff I appreciate most about Ford, such as its Sync 3 touch screen interface.

Yet it also leaves quite a bit to be desired. It doesn't "sport" a lot of power, its fuel mileage (during my week of relatively lead-footed driving, so I could review it "apples to apples" compared with other such vehicles in this class that I've driven) is unremarkable, and it had one of the worst conventional automatic transmissions I've ever sampled – and since I generally hate CVT's (and this isn't one) that says something!

It also has a tall seating position I couldn't get just right for my legs (which barely reach the ground when I'm standing), a seat narrow enough that my prodigious posterior threatened to ooze over its sides, and a wheelbase short enough to make speed bumps seem even worse than in other vehicles with more space between the front and rear axles.

That wheelbase issue isn't unique to the EcoSport, of course, and is shared by other SUV/Crossovers in this niche. It's more the nature of the beast – and it certainly isn't as jarring as taking speed bumps in something even smaller, such as the purportedly Smart car. more...

Ford F-150 King Ranch an awesome hauler

There are Ford F-150's and there are Ford F-150s. And one of the most lusted after among them is the King Ranch.

Well, that's according to my non-scientific poll of folks who met me while I had a 2019 King Ranch for a week, a truck that garnered ooh's and ahh's from a variety of ages and, it appeared, demographic and economic groups. Truck folks, it seems, like the King Ranch.

I'm not the target audience here, alas, and so you might have to take my comments with a mine of salt: I'm no truck guy and would never buy a pickup truck, though nor am I one of those "non-truck persons" who thinks that because I don't like 'em then nobody should be allowed to have one. Trucks are big (as in popular) and here in Alberta they're everywhere.

I think it should be Porsches that are everywhere, but that, apparently, is a minority opinion. Hey, who'd have thunk: white male me is a minority!

Anyway, the King Ranch – despite its lust-inducing manner – isn't much more than half way up the Ford F-150 line, with the awesome Raptor and the Platinum and Limited trim levels above it. I kind of figured the Raptor would be the lust inducer, with its aggressive good looks and even more aggressive performance, but as usual no one asked me. And to be fair, when I last had a Raptor it had a similar effect on passersby and hangers on. So maybe it's just Ford trucks that inspire this lust. Beats me. more...

Ford's Explorer makes visiting Canada's capital less unpleasant

Ford's "fuller sized" SUV/Crossover, the Explorer, continues to be a compelling vehicle for people looking for a well-appointed ride that can handle up to seven people.

The Explorer, which was really one of the first so-called SUV's, isn't all-new for 2018, but it soldiers on as a solid and capable vehicle that also offers good off-road performance, as well as most, if not all, of today's popular vehicle/connectivity/entertainment technology.

Ford of Canada was kind enough to lend me a Platinum trim level Explorer for the week and a half my wife and I were sentenced to spend in Ontario a few weeks ago. I'd driven the Explorer a few times before and liked it, though it's a larger vehicle than I prefer, and this time helped cement its basic goodness into my psyche as we visited my elderly Dad and tooled around the area between Ottawa and Trenton, Ontario. more...

Ford's biggest and littlest SUV's offer a lot to like

Ford continues to expand and update its line of SUV/Crossovers for 2018, with a minor refresh of the Escape but also with a brand new Expedition.

The two units bookend the Edge and Explorer, ensuring there's a model for every person's size preference, from small to absolutely humongous. And they're pretty nice vehicles as well.

I spent a week with each of these units, an Escape wearing the Titanium trim level and an Expedition Limited, both of which come with about as much tech and toys as one can want. Of the two, the Escape would be my personal choice because, as a small person, it's much more a size I'd find useful – but that doesn't mean that larger folk (or folk who need to carry more folks and/or stuff) won't find the Expedition worth a look. more...

Fusion Sport and MKZ offer sporty variations on a mid-sized them

One is the sportiest version of Ford's mainstream mid-size sedan, while the other's Lincoln's variation on the theme. So, when it comes to a choice between the Fusion Sport and the Lincoln MKZ, which is the better car?

Waffle time (syrup, anyone?)! As is so often the case, the answer is a clear "it depends." Mostly, it depends on your budget, I suppose, because the loaded Ford Fusion sport Ford loaned me to wring out for a week is priced at $42,388 (sans taxes, etc.) while the MKZ stickered for $59,300. That's a pretty big spread for what beneath the surface are two cars who share a lot of their DNA. more...

Ford F-150's blend comfort with utility and size - and even some fun!

Ford's F-150 truck line has been at or near the top of the vehicular sales heap for decades, and that's a laudable achievement in an ever-more-competitive automotive marketplace. Especially for a truck!

And even though the joy of a full sized pickup truck is nearly entirely lost on me, I just got to spend two weeks behind the wheel of two Ford F-150 samples, a fairly conventional (but quite loaded) F-150 Lariat edition and (drum roll…) the Mighty Raptor.

Trucks being not only big in size but in business as well, it's nice to slide the Bray buttocks into a representative sample periodically if only to see how the "other half" lives. So with that in mind, I tackled the Lariat and the Raptor with gusto - the former of which is likely to rope in many sales thanks to its all-around capabilities and goodness and the latter of which could very well cause rapture among those for whom its capabilities and goodness are aimed because it's not only a very capable truck, it's also a comparative blast to drive. It's also a "truck guy magnet," as evidenced by the number of people who wanted to talk about the Raptor during my week with it. And not just guys! more...

Ford SUV's offer good driving and plentiful technology for 2017

Ford offers a long list of SUV's for sale, from the entry size Escape to the humongous Expedition, all of which face stiff competition from a huge number of SUV/Crossover models available. So how do the three most popular models stack up for the 2017 model year?

Pretty well, I'd say, though I haven't driven all of the competition recently. But after a week with each of the Escape, Edge and Explorer (with a week off between to fall under the spell of the exquisite new Lincoln Continental), I came away impressed with how well the vehicles drive, how easy they are to operate, and how nice they are overall.

I slid my prodigious posterior into the Edge first, Ford of Canada's sample wearing the Sport trim level that immediately caused my ears to perk up. Sure, it's a bigger SUV than I like (which makes the Explorer even more so…), but - at least in the Sport trim - it drives  smaller than it looks, and that made a huge difference to my enjoyment. more...

Ford Fusion hybrid adds mileage but - like most hybrids - subtracts driving joy

It drives like a hybrid - with a whiny CVT transmission and more leisurely acceleration than some might like - but at heart Ford's 2017 Fusion hybrid is a very nice car. And if you don't want a hybrid, they make enough other models to satisfy nearly everyone.

Those "other models" include a plug in hybrid and a Fusion Sport that sounds really fun and interesting (more on that in a future column) - and there's also a Platinum trim level now that tosses about every creature comfort and technological gewgaw you could think of into the mix.

But this column is about my week in the Fusion hybrid, in its Titanium trim level. And if you take it out of eco mode and ignore the CVT's whine, you might find it a very nice choice in the mid-size sedan niche. more...

Ford F-150 Limited a big but luxurious worker

There are many reasons why Ford's F-150 truck is the biggest selling vehicle in North America, and has been for decades. It's rugged, hauls a lot of stuff, and with every generation it gets more advanced and sophisticated.

The current generation, for those who've missed the many, many commercials for the F-150, even switched from a steel-intensive body structure to one made of "military grade" (whatever that means) aluminum. That decreases the vehicle's weight, which can increase its payload capacity and/or reduce fuel consumption, both of which can be handy features in a large utility vehicle such as this.

It's near the end of the model year, but Ford of Canada sent me a 2016 Limited trim level of the F-150 to drive anyway and, truck person that I am not, I wasn't really looking forward to it. But - alert the media - I really liked driving it, its size and utility notwithstanding. more...

Ford's Flex is a capable true crossover

In the tradition of the little engine that could, Ford really could call its Flex crossover the minivan that isn't.

That's because it isn't a minivan, but it might as well be. Even better, it isn't an SUV either, as compared with most "other" SUV's on the market. And it's a station wagon, too! Really, the Flex is one of the few true "crossovers" I can think of, a vehicle that transcends the niches between the various and supposedly "soccer mom movers" that make up a so much of the marketplace.

Ford could be accused of trying to maximize sales by straddling the line between two or three, niches, but that would only be fair if the company had come out with some mishmash that didn't do any job adequately. Fortunately, the Flex is, if not formidable, at least very good - and surprisingly driveable as long as you keep its turning circle in mind when you're angle parking. more...

Ford ups the content ante on 2016 Mustang

It wasn't exactly a mid-life crisis, but it sure may have looked like it to people not inside the car.

I'm referring to my recent week in the 2016 Ford Mustang GT convertible, which just happened to coincide with my 64th birthday and came at a time when the weather cried out for a ragtop.

Mustang has always been my favourite muscle car, sometimes called Pony car - but only because the Mustang is the original pony car, appearing first in 1964 and changing the fun car market ever since then. Well, mostly. There were some Mustangs during the 1970's that weren't fit to carry the horse logo and, I have to admit, none of the Mustangs really turned my crank between 1970 and the car's reboot in the early 2000's.

But that's just me. The Mustang has cantered on all through those years regardless of what I thought of it and now the car exists with its most attractive styling ever; it's also full of modern electronics and gewgaws, yet it retains its pony car demeanour and heart - an interesting balancing act Ford seems to have pulled off with aplomb. more...

Ford's 2017 Fusion offers something for nearly everyone

Ford's top selling Fusion has a new look and new capabilities for 2017, and if my all-too-brief experience with the car on its introduction in British Columbia last week is any indication, it should continue to be a popular choice with consumers.

Ford of Canada invited me, and a gaggle of other car writers, to sample the 2017 Fusion, which isn't a complete redesign but is still a major rethink of what was a pretty decent car already. Ford has made a number of tweaks they think - and they're probably right - will help keep the car competitive in this bread-and-butter market niche that also features such great vehicles as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda6, VW Passat, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata etc. etc. etc. more...

Ford introduces magic trailer-backing technology

Talk about having a backup plan!

Whether you're towing a boat trailer, a camper - or a howitzer - one of the biggest challenges is backing the thing up without your little train skewing off in the wrong direction. But Ford thinks it has the solution, with a nifty wrinkle it's making available on some of its new pickup trucks.

Called "Pro Trailer Backup Assist," the thing is kind of analogous to the self-parking feature Ford and others have introduced over the past several years, except that instead of being designed for cars driven by the parking-challenged and aimed mostly at parallel parking, it's meant to help truck drivers back their trailers into spaces - boat launch ramps, loading docks, driveways, whatever - easily and reasonably quickly.

The company demoed the feature at a recent event on the eve of the Calgary Auto Show, an event at which they also introduced their new Super Duty and Raptor pickups, a couple of workhorses (well, one could be thought of as a "funhorse") that look extremely capable. more...

Ford tries making an edgier Edge

Ford's supposedly mid-sized SUV/Crossover has been redone for the 2015 model year, but fans of the old Edge won't find themselves left out in the cold by the redesign. The question is whether people who hadn't fallen for the Edge already will notice the differences.

By writing that, I don't mean to damn the Edge with faint praise, because it's a decent vehicle. But I wonder if it's enough to stand out in a very crowded market niche - and I guess only time will tell. The new Edge, like the old one, is modern and handsome, if a tad bland, and if Ford has corrected the electrical gremlins that plagued the last Edge I drove (and there was no sign of them during my review) it should serve its customers well. more...

Ford gives its innovative F-150 an icy reception in Quebec

What do you do for an encore when your F-150 pickup has been the best-selling vehicle in Canada for nearly 50 years, especially when it faces absolutely furious competition?

It appears you up the ante by lowering the weight, then sweeten the deal by cramming the truck full of modern amenities, from LED lighting to handy steps to the box – and a lot more.

Ford of Canada invited me to join a gaggle of auto journalists as it put on a wintery demonstration of the new model that started in Quebec City and ended in a rock quarry in the Charlevoix area a couple of hours away. It was very cold and humid, and snowy as heck – a real shock to a guy whose home town of Calgary experienced record-breaking high temperatures about a week before. more...

Ford Fusion hybrid wears its green colors proudly - and well

It may look like a James Bond-mobile when you first see it coming at you on the road, but don't confuse Ford's Fusion with high end sports cars. Fusion, in all of its guises, is a decidedly mainstream vehicle - almost pedestrian, if you can say that about a car.

And in its hybrid suit of clothes it's even less sporty, but could save you some money at the gas pump.

That saving, of course, is after you pay the initial "hybrid tax" in the way of a higher sticker price than its gas siblings, but it may pay for itself if you keep the Fusion long enough. more...

Ford's Focus is sharp in SE trim

This "bread and butter car" competes in a very crowded market niche - everything but the kitchen sink, including the VW Jetta, the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and many more - and it goes head to head with some pretty fine vehicles. Obviously, Ford's work is cut out for it to get this car noticed in such as rapidly improving throng.

Fortunately, Ford seems to be up to the task because the 2014 Focus SE Ford of Canada supplied as a test vehicle was a nice car to drive, handsome, equipped well, and priced competitively. Sounds like a winner - and from the number of Foci I see on the streets wherever I go, people must be noticing. more...

Ford Fiesta ST and Honda Civic Coupe: small cars of varying fun factor

Small cars are practical and efficient, usually, but many people like a sense of fun in their wheels as well. This led to the "hot hatch" category, as well as a number of sporty cars that weld shut the rear doors in the hope of adding some of that elusive fun.

So we have the subjects of this piece, Ford's little hot hatch Fiesta ST and Honda's reasonably fun little two door Civic - one coupe and one sedan - and despite two doors sometimes translating into more fun than four, it's the most-portaled car that's the hotter of the two. More doors to adore, as it were! more...

Ford's Fusion Energi sips gas, gulps electricity

How does your car get its "energi?" Is it solar, nuclear, coal-fired, wind, natural gas?

However it gets its power, chances are you aren't really helping Person Earth unless your car is solar powered - in which case it isn't much practical use considering the state of the art today. If your raison d'être for going electric is gladdening Gaia, have fun explaining how mining the material for, transporting, building and eventually disposing of all those batteries helps the environment. Not only that but, since weight is the enemy of efficiency, how exactly do those extra kilos of batteries help?

Inconvenient truths, eh?

On the other hand, if you just don't like spending more money on gasoline than you have to, the lack of electric-powered range doesn't bother you, you don't mind the cash premium for electrification (despite government grants that force your neighbors to help pay for your car) or you simply must have the latest whiz bang technology (let alone great torque!), an argument can be made for electric vehicles. more...

Ford uses Badlands to showcase its 'baddest' trucks

Drumheller, Alberta – When your bread and butter truck, the F-150, has led the market in sales for years and years, what's left to do to stay ahead?

Well, if you're Ford, you stay on top of the issues, of what consumers want, of what technology allows that it wouldn't before. So it is that Ford, in its 2013 F-150 line, is tweaking its already winning inventory in hopes that its existing customer base will like it, and that maybe some people who prefered other brands may be convinced to switch.

Ford chose the Alberta Badlands – home of the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum and enough dinosaur remains to create the biggest prehistoric epic movie you could imagine – to introduce the 2013 models to a bunch of fossils they invited for their show. Fossils, as in writers (though there were quite a few youngsters there as well, damn their eyes), who were invited to drive a plethora of different F-150's around the starkly beautiful Drumheller area. more...

Ford puts the "sport" into its Explorer sport ute

Ford's big Explorer "crossover" has taken a decidedly sporty turn, with a hot engine that ups the power ante substantially.

Sport, of course, is subjective, and it's hard to take a vehicle as big as the Explorer seriously as a sports car. On the other hand, since it is a so-called "Sport Utility Vehicle," maybe it's only appropriate that Ford has finally dropped its marvelous twin turbo V6 EcoBoost engine into it. And what a difference it makes! more...

Ford C-MAX a surprisingly interesting drive

Hold on, Prius owner wannabes. Ford has a new kid in the hybrid game and they think it'll make you think twice about jumping into a Prius.

It's the C-MAX, available in two versions, and it's a pretty neat vehicle as far as hybrids are concerned.

I first heard the C-MAX mentioned on the radio, so perhaps I can be forgiven for believing that the "sea max" was a new amphibious vehicle –  a car with which you can "Ford" every stream, as it were.  

Of course when I saw the spelling, I thought about Einstein – in that the C-MAX was really, really fast ("C", in Einstein speak, being the speed of light).

The reality of course is somewhat different. The C-MAX isn't going to break speed, nor will it let you drive to your Hawaiian vacation. But it will let you zip around your home area smartly and efficiently, and with a tad more panache than you might expect from some of its competitors such as the Prius. more...

Ford Sharpens its Focus for 2012

Ford's newly designed Focus takes a previously dumpy-looking but otherwise good car and brings it more in line with the competitive models the company hopes buyers won't choose.

And judging by the number of new Foci I've seen on my local roads already, in the short time it's been available, the new model appears to be doing the job. Why not? It's a good car, modern, equipped very well and – as a bonus – it's even fun to drive. more...

Ford Hones its Edge for 2011

Talk about living on the Edge!

Ford's popular midsize SUV enters the 2011 model year with upgraded features and technology, including enough high tech gewgaws to be the stuff of geek dreams. As with so many things technological, however, the gadgetry proved it could be a tad problematic.

The front Edge, er, end of the vehicle also sports a new nose, one that gives it a more aggressive look than before. I don't like it as much as the old one, but no one asked me. more...

Ford Fusion Hybrid Seductive Temptation for the Hybrid-averse

Ford's Fusion Hybrid manages to toe the line between green and "GO!" extremely well. It's a high mileage-achieving mid-size sedan that still manages to be a compelling vehicle to drive, something that can't be said for most hybrids I've driven.

All of which led me to be very pleasantly surprised by the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid with which I spent a week recently. Not only is it a very nice car to be in, and to drive, I even got what I would consider excellent gas mileage considering my lead footed driving style. more...

TechnoFile updates the Ford Explorer

I also got to spend a week in the new Ford Explorer, a welcome test since I'd driven it at the Canadian model introduction a month or so earlier and was looking forward to some quality seat time on my own.

The new Explorer takes the vehicle's traditional body-on-frame construction – which means it was basically truck-like but with no bed – and replaces it with the unibody construction that's become so popular with cars and crossovers in today's marketplace. I never drove the old version, but I liked the new one a lot.

My sample wore the Limited trim, which included three rows of seats and plenty of technology. That technology included the MyFord Touch interface the company ballyhoos so much, which gave me a second look at the system. more...

New Engines Power Ford's Line of F-150 Trucks

Calgary, Alberta - Ford's iconic F-150 pickup truck enters the second decade of the second millennium bristling with new power choices and features the company hopes will keep it at the top end of the best selling truck list.

And if the demonstration they set up for us holds true in the real world, they probably will.

We gathered at Race City Motorsports Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a chilly and snowy supposedly-spring day to put the F-150 and two of its chief competitors through their paces under a variety of conditions, from heavy (well, heavy to me!) hauling to acceleration and handling tests on a tight, twisty road course. more...

Explorer Covers New Territory for Ford

Quebec, Canada – It bristles with high tech new features, and Ford is hoping its new Explorer will be discovered by armies of consumers searching for just the right big SUV.

Ford introduced the all-new 2011 Explorer to a group of media folk at a "Winter Adventure" in the ultra-frosty climes of Quebec City and environs, an event that also proved the value of a good heating system for that time of year when the temperature drops to near Absolute Zero.

Fortunately, the Explorer's heater works well! Even better, there's a lot more about it that works well, including the MyFord Touch interface and a bunch of safety and driving aid features that can help keep the Explorer planted wheels down regardless of the terrain. more...

Ford Mustang V6 Convertible – Ponying Up Topless Fun

When it comes to having fun in a Mustang, you don't absolutely need a V8 engine.

Okay, an "eight banger" does up the oomph ante substantially, but with today's six cylinder engines now putting out power that was once reserved for eight or more cylinders, it's amazing to see just how quickly you can go from zero to "Oops, sorry Officer" in a V6.

Six cylinders also offer the advantage of generally using less gasoline than eight, so there's not only the initial savings you can achieve by buying the more "entry level" engine, but the ongoing costs at the pump. more...

Ford Fiesta Meets Scion xD

One's a Canadian Car of the Year contender, the other's a boxy hauler. But which one's a better car?

Well, if you believe the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada members, it would have to be the Ford Fiesta, the company's new-to-North-America entry level car that scored top marks in its class at the recent Canadian Car of the Year TestFest. Fiesta bested the Scion xD compared here, as well as three other entrants for the title of Best Small Car under $21,000 (Canadian dollars). But it really depends on what you need. more...

Ford Transit Connect Delivers

Ford's new little delivery van really does "deliver the goods", as it were.

Depending on the type of business you own, the Transit Connect might be just what the doctor ordered. It's small for such a vehicle and the fact that it doesn't offer a huge amount of power may limit its practicality, but for what it is, it's very good. more...

Ford Flex Gets an Eco-Boost for 2010

Ford's Flex has a new heart this year, new motivation for both the vehicle and perhaps for those interested in buying it.

It's Ford's Ecoboost technology, which includes the company's new twin turbo 3.5 liter V6 that Ford says delivers V8 power with V6 fuel economy. It's a peach of a system and it produces 355 horsepower, which Ford says is 35 percent more than that of the base Flex's V6, and 350 ft.-lb. of torque, up 41 percent.

The engine is connected to a six speed "SelectShift" automatic transmission with a manual mode that includes paddle shifters that let you take control over the shifting, even to it providing rev-matching downshifts – which comes in handy, both when the open road beckons and in more mundane circumstances such as going down hills where you want to take advantage of engine braking. more...

Ford F-150 Raptor a Real Attention Getter

Judging by the reception I got during my week with Ford's outrageous SVT pickup truck, the company is causing much lust among truckophiles.

I kid you not; of all the vehicles I've driven over the past decade or so, none got as much attention from neighbors, strangers and passersby as the Molten Orange (which looks like red to me) Raptor. Not Porsche, not Mercedes Benz, not Lexus; none of them had people gather in front of my house or in parking lots or on the streets, peeking into the Raptor like kids pressing their faces against a candy store window.

I have to hand it to Ford. They've certainly created a show stopper. more...

Ford's Hot Taurus Sedan – It's SHO Time!

Ford's new Taurus SHO is another welcome sign the company may be making a comeback, product-wise at least, avoiding the government takeover to which its domestic competitors succumbed.

It deserves to sell. I spent a week in a loaded SHO (as opposed to "loaded in an SHO") and liked it a lot – much more than I thought I would. Even its exterior, which had seemed bland, even frumpy, in my brief glances previously, grew on me.  

While the exterior may be the car's weakest link, the interior is top notch and, at least in its upgraded SHO configuration, the car's performance is exhilarating. more...

Ford Previews Small Car at Vancouver Fiesta

Europe has it already, and now Ford's terrific little Fiesta subcompact is getting ready to tackle the North American market.

The Fiesta is meant to go head to head with competitors such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa, and Ford is so excited about its potential that it flew a group of writers to Vancouver, British Columbia, to sample the version on sale currently in Europe and, undoubtedly, whet our appetites for the car. And whet it they did. more...

2010 Mustang Freshened, but Still Packs Muscle

The original muscle car finds itself facing serious competition from the government-controlled domestic car industry as the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro vie for a slice of the Pony car market the Mustang once had to itself.

Perhaps that's why, for 2010, the Mustang has been freshened somewhat, though not enough to be considered a major redesign. more...

Lincoln MKZ and Ford Fusion – Variations on a Theme

Whether you want your car luxurious or mainstream, the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans are nice pieces of work.

I spent nearly back-to-back weeks with the four cylinder Fusion and the V6 MKZ, both of which were new 2010 models, and came away more impressed than I had expected to be. more...

Focusing on a Ford and a Honda you Really "Odyssey"

"Fun to drive" may not be everyone's priority, but if an everyday vehicle also has some of that factor built in it can certainly make life with it more pleasant. Such is the case with a couple of 2009 vehicles I drove recently that, while nowhere near "all new" or "all fun" are still worth a look if you're shopping for a compact sedan or minivan.

The sedan, the Ford Focus, is a pleasant and well-equipped, if "style-challenged" vehicle that performs better than you might expect considering its niche near the lower end of the market. And the minivan, the 2009 Honda Odyssey, is about as nice a way to haul people and their stuff as you can get. more....

Ford F-150 Vs. Dodge Ram – Head to Head Haulers

Big and brawny, with plenty of towing and hauling capability, the latest generations of full size pickup trucks are the most capable and sophisticated yet. But what are they like to drive?

That's the question I asked when going into back-to-back weeks with the 2009 Dodge Ram and Ford F-150, two of the most popular examples of the big beasties. more....

Ford Flexes its Marketing Muscles with New Crossover

It's big, it's boxy, it's flexible! It's the new Flex, Ford's latest entry into the increasingly crowded crossover market

I took a brand new Flex on a trip across Vancouver Island and the lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada, and it performed well, better, in fact, than I thought it would. more....

Pickin' and Grinnin'? How about Truckin' and Vannin' 

There are utility vehicles and there are utility vehicles. Some, like the Ford Explorer Sport Trac are part pickup truck and part SUV. Others, like Ford's Taurus X, are part SUV and part minivan.

Such vehicles are called crossovers today for the most part, undoubtedly because SUV's and pickup trucks have been deemed evil by a gang of vocal busybodies who'd rather see us walk than transport our families and stuff in the manner of our own choosing. But while the term "Crossover" fits well with the Taurus X, the Explorer Sport Trac is at heart an SUV converted into a pickup truck, and it looks and acts like one, too. more....

Car Enthusiasts Converge for Classic Ford Fiesta

They called it a "T Party," and that description suited the event to, well, a T.

It was the celebration of the Ford Model T's 100th anniversary, a week-long bash in and around Richmond, Indiana put on by the Model T Ford Club of America, with Ford offering support. The event saw literally hundreds of Ford Model T's of varying age, state of restoration, and configuration take over the Wayne County Fairgrounds for a gigantic group hug and hat tip to the vehicle that sold more than 15 million copies during its reign and helped change the world as we know it. more....

Ford Sharpens its Focus

Ford's Focus isn't all new, but it's freshened and, according to Ford, features an all-new interior and improved driving dynamics.

Updating the car is probably a good idea, because it sits in one of the most competitive niches in the marketplace, going head to head with vehicles such as the Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic and others. more....

Ford Escape Hybrid – Cheap on Gas, With Room to Haul

The test unit may have been a pretty "Light Ice Blue Metallic" color, but to Ford the Escape Hybrid is all green.

And why not? Ford claims the Escape Hybrid is "the cleanest and most fuel-efficient SUV in the world," getting up to 41 U.S. mpg (5.7 liters/100 km in Canadian parlance) in city driving, which they say is 14 per cent better than the 2007 model and 80 per cent better in city driving than the V6 gasoline burning Escape. That's pretty good no matter how you slice it, especially in a time of high gas prices. more....

Ford Taurus is no Bull...

Ford says there have been more than 500 changes made to the Taurus (not including the names), to make it "more distinctive, quieter, faster and safer." Highlights include "new exterior styling, a new powertrain, a new all-wheel-drive system, more standard safety features and structural upgrades to further enhance crash protection." more....

Ford unveils plug-in hybrid vehicle (AP)

Ford Motor Co. is joining the list of automakers working on a plug-in hybrid - with a twist. It combines the convenience of plugging in your car with a zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell. more....

Ford Fusion

Let there be no confusion: Ford is hoping for a profusion of its new Fusion on roads around North America, and judging by the Fusions that are starting to appear on the roads in my neck of the woods they may not be wishing in vain.

The Fusion, new for 2006 and the replacement for the aged Taurus, shares the same basic platform as the terrific Mazda 6 sedan, a car I like a lot. But it doesn't look much like a 6 inside or out; instead, it sports its own skin and demeanor and that's not a bad thing. more...

Ford Escape Vs. Toyota Highlander Hybrids

It’s the battle of the hybrid SUV’s!

In the green corner, the Ford Escape, a nice if somewhat bland vehicle that’s pretty good for hauling, if pretty boring to drive. In the other green corner, the Toyota Highlander, a Camry-based SUV that feels more like a car than a truck, and which is not quite as boring to drive.

So which is the winner? more...

Ford Ponies Up the Fun in Retro Mustang

It was just like having a midlife crisis, then being able to get back to reality again without having ruined my life in the meantime.

“It” was a week with Ford’s new Mustang GT, the latest and possibly greatest version (

not including the various Shelbys, Machs and the like, perhaps) of the car that changed the business back in the 1960’s.

I took my Drivers’ Ed (kind of like Mister Ed, but featuring horsepower instead of a horse) in a 1969 Mustang convertible back longer ago than I’d care to admit, though as a hint I’ll admit that the car was new at the time. Three students and one instructor poured ourselves into the pony during the dead of winter and learned our stuff, including such cold weather exercises as parking lot donuts, though I’m not sure that was really part of the curriculum. more...

Ford F250 – Guts, Glory and Guzzling

When you think tough, and you think wheels, you think truck. Trucks are vehicles for when you have things to do, stuff to haul, lousy terrain to cover. A full size truck is big, brawny and loaded for bear. And they’re extremely popular, for the above reasons and others.

Alas, I’m more of a SNAG (sensitive new age guy, though I’m sure my wife disagrees about the sensitive and new age parts) with a healthier dose of couch potatoness than optimal. So a lot of the benefits of a serious truck are lost on me, at least until it’s time to get firewood. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to drive one if the opportunity comes along, though; the broader cross section of vehicles I experience the better my perspective about things automotive and, hopefully, the more relevant these ramblings are. more...

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