Category Archives: Ford

2007 Ford F-150 Lariat Supercab 4X4 Pick up (635)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Ford F 150 Lariat Supercab 4X4 pick up truck.  The F Series has a rich history that began in 1948. As a new driver I owned arguably the most popular model year 1955. That year, like all pickups of the day, was a two door, one bench seat with practically no useable space behind the seat.

Today, for Ford, all models of the F Series are 4-door – either full or half rear doors. If you need to carry passengers or gear in the cab I found the smaller rear half door cumbersome to use.

My Dodge Ram 3500 has a rear half door and I’ve been unable to warm up to it in light of the more convenient Crew Cabs. Unless the cargo area is secured with a hard cover, as was the case with the recently tested Ford Explorer Sport Trac, pickups are a pain if you must leave them for even the shortest time. You can be parked at Home Depot or Lowes and you are literally unable to leave anything in the bed or someone will find a use for your stuff. I suppose when you drive a truck you learn to live with the inconvenience. In fact it must not be considered too troublesome because buyers continue to have a love of trucks. And Fords F Series trucks have earned the spot as number one sales leader for over 20 years.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent for a truck. The wheel base seems to be long enough to eliminate much of the bounce, bounce you feel when driving them empty on some highways. 300 horsepower is great and some buyers will even use the 4X4 capability. Steering is sure and perfectly geared for comfortable steering. The overall feel is solid and sure, and the feel extends to the large door handles in and out that are easy to grasp. I hate it when design is more important than function. You know, like door handles that slip out of your hand as you pull up. In any case Ford appears to deliver on its slogan that their trucks are built “Ford Tough”.

Styling:

Very attractive with clean lines and no nonsense style. The bed extender is becoming more popular as it provides for longer loads on demand, yet allows for a smaller bed for generally smaller loads. The extender also works great inside the bed to separate cargo and makes for a convenient space for hauling smaller loads with easy tie down.

Most macho guys will not mention the high step up into the cab but the ladies will appreciate the (albeit too small) running boards on some models.

Fit and Finish:

Car like interior but exterior seams must be wide for needed movement between the bed and cab.

Cost:

Pricey which, as I’ve said before, is one of the reasons trucks are profitable and why every manufacturer is in the truck market. They are simply the most profitable vehicles to make and sell. Believe it or not Ford’s Lincoln division sells a Lincoln LT.

Conveniences and comfort:

Nearly as well endowed as passenger cars and far from the “good old days” just 40 and 50 years ago when 4 wheels, hydraulic brakes, a radio and heater were about as much as you’d expect from a truck. Roll up windows were common, and power anything was rare to non-existent.

Consumer Recommendation:

There are approximately 31 model configurations to select from and only 6 car makers in this segment of the truck market. That means you can find just about any configuration to fit your specific need. You may also want to consider looking at the Avalanche or Escalade EXT if your use will be more recreational than dirty work. That truly gives you two vehicles for the price of one.

Recognized Competition:

Ford F150 Lariat $18-36,000, Lincoln Mark LT $38-41,000, Dodge Ram 1500 $21-41,000, Nissan Titan $24-36,000, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $18-38,000, Toyota Tundra $16-34,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $18-38,000, Honda Ridgeline $28-35,000.

Good News:

Powerful, smooth long wheel base ride, car-like comfort in seating and ride suspension.

Bad News:

Half rear door is cumbersome, very poor fuel economy and bed extender should be standard on all short bed models – the option price is $195.

Standard Equipment:

5.4 liter 300 horsepower V8 engine, 4-speed auto trans, shift on the fly 4 wheel drive, 2-speed transfer case, 4-pin trailer wiring, front tow hooks, fog lights, stereo with CD changer, cruise control, tilt leather wrapped steering wheel, auto temp control, compass, outside temp, power driver seat, power heated mirrors, power windows and locks, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, dual air bags and keyless entry and keypad.

Options: special metallic paint, Navigation system, power adjustable pedals, skid plates, power sliding rear window, overhead storage system, trailer tow package, bed extender, reverse sensing system, leather seats, power driver seat and satellite radio. ($6,800).

Gas Stats:

$2.45/ Gal avg. Jan 25, ‘07

14 City and 18 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $32,765.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – USA

Class:  – Standard Pickup

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Edge, Escape & Hybrid, E-series Van & Wagon, Expedition, Explorer & Sport Trac, F150, 250 &350, Five Hundred, focus & Wagon, Freestar, Freestyle, Fusion, GT, Mustang, Ranger and Shelby GT500.

2007 Ford Escape Hybrid FWD (634)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid FWD. The last time I had an Escape it was a standard power plant and we journeyed to Glacier National Park by way of Yellowstone and Jackson Hole Wyoming State Parks in the heart of America . 3,000 miles later and we were back in California .

You do the math on how many gallons we burned at about 20 mpg then and the 32 mpg possible from this hybrid. My calculator says that’s a 38% savings in fuel consumed with a Hybrid version. Any more questions?

If you believe Al Gore invented the internet and is absolutely correct about global warming you will surely buy a hybrid like this Ford Escape Hybrid. If you don’t you’ll buy a less fuel efficient model. But after all said and done it matters little what Gore thinks because it makes economical sense to support the higher fuel efficient models. If I were taking another 3,000 mile trip you can bet I’d schedule a high mileage Hybrid.

I guess the bottom line is that the industry gives us the hybrid option in the same car or truck. I have to say there is still no information on how reliable the electric motor and conventional internal combustion engine will be over time. But “No news is good news”. If you have had experience with repair and maintenance difficulties please share with others by emailing me. I’ll share with our readers.

Handling & Performance:

Wow. This is truly an “escape” from gas guzzlers without suffering performance. It is nearly undetectable that it is a Hybrid until you come to a stop and the engine shuts off. Then when you resume the electric motor starts you off and the engine kicks back in when it’s needed. Driving to my friends’ house for poker night I drove up his long half mile drive in stealth silence – on battery alone. Very cool.

Styling:

The only difference in look and presence of this hybrid is the small green leaf that is a part of the logo. The rest is unmistakably Ford.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Not bad – all things considered.

Conveniences and comfort:

Quite good – see list below. I particularly like the Nav systems, but the screen on this one is as small as a portable model. Car makers really should compete with the portables that save you $2 grand for a Nav system. You can do as well with some cell phones for a small usage charge. Two car families, (like everyone), would be spending four grand for Nav, so why not get $500 portables and take them anywhere, with anyone. Daughter Jenny bought an Acura with Nav and husband Marc bought the portable and you can guess which is more flexible. When they came down for the holidays and had to take the truck the Acura stayed home with the Nav solidly attached to the dash. So much for $2,000 options.

Another favorite that I would invest in is the rear back up sensor option that is very practical. I can do without the camera that is more of a distraction than a help. My head still rotates so I can turn and see much better.

Recognized Competition:

Ford Escape Hybrid $26-27,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-25,000, Mazda Tribute $20-25,000, Nissan Xterra $20-28,000, Hyundai Tucson $17-24,000, Ford Escape $19-26,000, Mercury Mariner Hybrid $28,000, Chevrolet Equinox $22-29,000, Toyota RAV4 $21-26,000, Jeep Liberty $21-27,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $21-25,000, Pontiac Torrent $23-24,000, Honda CR-V $20-28,000, Kia Sportage $16-23,000, Subaru Forester $21-28,000, Saturn Vue $17-24,000.

Good News:

Great fuel economy that is even best around town, precise steering and snappy performance.

Bad News:

Costly Nav system.

Standard Equipment:

2.3 liter inline 4 cylinder engine, auto transmission, front wheel drive, 330 volt hybrid battery, regenerative braking system, electric power assist steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, dual air bags, fog lights, privacy glass, power windows, mirrors and locks, rear defrost and wiper, roof side rails, cloth bucket seats, 60/40 rear fold seats, 6-way power driver seat, center console, stereo with 6-in dash CD changer, cruise control, tilt wheel, hybrid gauges, message center, air conditioning, perimeter alarm and tire pressure monitor system.

Optional: Nav system for $1,995, 110 AC power outlet $180, upgraded cladding etc. $695, other items for a total with destination charge of $29,705.

Gas Stats:

$2.60/ Gal avg. Jan 07

36 City and 31 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,600.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Kansas City , USA

Class:  – Special Purpose

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Edge, Escape & Hybrid, E-series Van & Wagon, Expedition, Explorer & Sport Trac, F150,250 &350, Five Hundred, focus & Wagon, Freestar, Freestyle, Fusion, GT, Mustang, Ranger and Shelby GT500.

2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Ltd. 4X4 (633)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Ltd 4X4 standard pickup. But to me this was very special. My first pick up truck was a 1946 Chevrolet ½ ton and it would pull a house with an inline 6 cylinder engine. Long stroke and torque. My second Pickup was a 1955 Ford ½ ton and with a small V8 it has remained the most memorable of vehicles. In those days and those cars and trucks you could smuggle 10 illegal aliens under the hood.

The engine was almost an afterthought – remember?  

Today you can’t find room under the hood of this Explorer for a Mexican Chihuahua, legal or illegal.

I loved that first Ford Pick up and although I’ve leaned to GM cars ever since that pick up I can’t tell you why. We all have our favorites but in the truck market the field is getting very crowded. Toyota has now set up a new factory in San Antonio , Texas for trucks only. They have announced building 5 more factories over the next 10 years. On the threshold of becoming the second largest car manufacturer in the world, behind GM, they have some nice product.

But they will have to pay some more dues in earning a place in the Big 3 truck makers – GM, Ford and Chrysler’s impressive Dodge Ram Series.

Congrats to Ford for this small pickup. It is especially good for those outdoor sports enthusiasts where large is not as important as comfort, convenient manuverabliity and well provided tie downs and closed in and lockable cargo area.

I enjoyed this well equipped truck and quickly got used to the back up sensors and a tire pressure monitoring system that saved my bacon in the middle of 3 million acre Death Valley , California . A rock must have broken the bead between tire and rim and released half the air on one of the tires. Ding and the Tire Pressure Icon popped up on the instrument panel. I just happened to be close to a service station and fixed the issue before it became a problem.

General Info:

Parts –

Assembly – USA

Class:  – Standard Pickup

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Edge, Escape & Hybrid, E-series Van & Wagon, Expedition, Explorer & Sport Trac, F150,250 &350, Five Hundred, focus & Wagon, Freestar, Freestyle, Fusion, GT, Mustang, Ranger and Shelby GT500.

Observation:

I have a keen sense of the obvious and have to express my frustration with the ineptness of CalTrans and every other government agency and official we’ve entrusted with the job of planning highway construction and maintenance. The obvious part? Population growth is no secret in high density parts of the cournty. And with that knowledge they do nothing about highway congestion. It has reached critical 24-7 and that didn’t happen over night. These guys must smoke dope – shame on them. Jobs of this nature should be elected postions so those scoundrels are accountable to the people who pay them. What’s more, where has the mainstream media been all this time. All they do is report how congested it is. Lousy reporting on such an obvious problem – especially in California .

Handling & Performance:

The Crest test proved unexpectedly positive mostly due to not being as high profile as larger trucks. Dropping it down to 3rd gear allowed me to cruise easily up and over the San Gabriel mountain range. 0-60 is a quick 7.5 seconds and plenty of power for condident freeway passing.

Another benefit of a standard size pickup is the short turning radius and precise steering. The 4X4 is automatic.

Styling:

The turn signal is oddly placed, higher than usual design and since it is something you use all the time, it is misplaced. The Orange Frost paint initially strikes you as wild but it grew on me.  And the sharp edges do as well.

Fit and Finish:

The ride is solid with a tight feel.

Cost:

A little on the pricey side as equipped, mostly because of the Navigation system. That can be replaced with a portable one that would save $2,000. I can’t understand why they are so expensive. Portable versions can be purchased for about $5-600. And if you don’t need an entertainment system that’s another $1,295.

Conveniences and comfort:

This is truly designed for the dual purpose of having a truck and a family vehicle equipped with a roomy crew cab complete with a rear entertainment center. Sirius satellite is also worth the price even if only to eliminate commercial interruptions. Cruise control was perfect – these things get better every year, which reminds me this is perhaps the best invention of the past 20 years for cars. I find the longer I drive, before cruise control I would drift in and out of consciousness as pedal control of speed has to be the most significant reason for stop and go flow and resultant accidents.

That being said I have to ask Ford to improve the seats that are uncomfortable on longer commutes.

Consumer Recommendation:

I’ve always been a Chevy fan but I have to admit this Ford impressed me.

Recognized Competition:

Suzuki XL7 $23-32,000, Dodge Durango $29-38,000, Nissan Murano $28-32,000, Hyundai Santa Fe $21-28,000, Ford Explorer $25-35,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $25-37,000, Toyota Highlander $25-32,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $28-43,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $27-31,000, Honda Pilot $27-35,000, Kia Sorento $20-26,000.

Good News:

Nice handling, versatility of truck combined with SUV-like passenger compartment, roomy, rust resistant cargo bed and 131 inch wheel base for smooth ride.

Bad News:

Very poor fuel economy, seats on the uncomfortable side, great looking instruments but hard to read.

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter 292 horsepower V8 engine, 6 speed auto transmission, locking tailgate, rear privacy glass, roof rails, chrome grille, stereo w/ CD / MP3 player, auxiliary audio input jack, 6-way power front seats, 60/40 rear split fold down bench seat, power windows and locks, temp and compass display, hverhead console, auto headlights, power 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, cargo box tie down hooks, class II trailer tow hitch, front and side air bags, child seat tether anchor and anti theft system.

Optional: door entry keypad, auto dimming mirror, ltd elect pkg, upgrade to class III towing, Nav system, power sliding rear window, power adj pedals, cargo cage bed extender, reverse sensing system, Sirius sat radio, hard tonneau cover, two-tone leather seats and rear seat entertainment DVD.

Gas Stats:

$2.60/ Gal avg. Jan 07

14 City and 20 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $29,540

With Options $37,545.

2006 Ford Fusion (614)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the new for 2006 Ford Fusion. New cars used to be risky business for consumers in the old days. I remember the first Datsun (Name change to Nissan) I bought in 1968 and it was so new parts were a pain to get if you needed them. I guess it could be true today, because as it has been said “change a grain of sand on the beach and the whole world is different”. But generally that is no longer true.

These guys are pretty good, but if that were always true there wouldn’t be the word “Recall” in our vocabulary. From what I could tell this past week of driving, and I did a lot of that in this Fusion, this car is pretty “Bullet-Proof” in all areas that can be seen and felt.

The first thing you notice, and Ilona was way off in her estimate of price on this one, is that the car is much more expensive looking than the price would indicate. Perhaps US automakers have learned from the Japanese how to compete. We seemed to have forgotten from our unchallenged years of building cars for the world.

General Info:

Parts – USA
Assembly – Mexico
Class:  – Midsize
Cars: – Mustang, Crown Victoria , Edge, Escape (& Hybrid), E-series Van & Wagon, Excursion, Expedition, Explorer (& Sport Trac), F-150, 250 and 350 trucks, Five Hundred, Focus (& Wagon), Freestar, Freestyle, Fusion, GT, Ranger and Shelby GT.

Handling & Performance:

It should be noted here that Fusion will replace Taurus for Ford’s Race program. And I found it to be really capable on the Crest Test. Thirty miles of twists and turns that will wear you out but it didn’t seem to tire the Fusion. I suspect the only negative in this area is the “Low” range on the auto transmission. It found it fairly useless over 25 MPH or you’d be running at 5,000 rpm. But “Drive” range is ok and shifting is very smooth but required too much braking downhill without an effective lower range.

Styling:

I like it because it’s simple clean lines won’t go out of style.

Fit and Finish:

very good

Cost:

Very competitive. Ford came to play. There are options that would take it to a few thousand, but the standard equipment is plenty. This is worth the time to look if you’re in the market for this price range car.

Conveniences:

Well endowed.

Consumer Recommendation:

Whenever I’m asked these days what car to buy I start with their answer to personal intentions. Wants, needs and what activity level and kinds of uses they will have for the car or truck they buy. THEN, I move right to the best buy for their hard earned money. Buy American – especially if they live in America , because that is even more of a reason to support U.S. automakers who contribute greatly to what makes this wonderful country work. In any case it is high time we looked after our own because that helps us all and that economic boost will ripple well beyond our borders. We’ve beat up on US car makers long enough beginning in 1960 to now. Even Moses only had to wander in the desert for 40 years. Enough already – buy American.

Recognized Competition:

Ford Fusion $17-22,000, Mercury Milan $18-23,000, Mitsubishi Galant $19-27,000, Mazda 6 $19-28,000, Honda Accord $18-29,000, Nissan Altima $18-30,000, Dodge Stratus $20-24,000, Chrysler Sebring $20-32,000, Subaru Legacy $22-34,000, Toyota Camry $18-28,000, Kia Optima $16-20,000, Pontiac G6 $17-29,000, Chevrolet Malibu $17-23,000, Hyundai Sonata $17-23,000.

Good News:

Solid yet simple styling, shockingly great ride, Midsize big 5 seater for the family.

Bad News:

Low range on the auto trans is poorly geared.

Standard Equipment:

2.3 liter inline 4-cylinder 160 horsepower engine, 5-speed auto trans, fog lights 17” aluminum wheels, power mirrors, climate control, audio with in dash MP3/CD player, analog clock, information center, power windows and locks, leather wrapped wheel with speed, audio and climate controls, 6-way power driver seat, illuminated vanity mirrors, 60/40 rear seat power steering , 4-wheel disc brakes, tilt and telescopic wheel, keyless entry, child latch safety system, anti-theft and illuminated entry.

Gas Stats:

24 City and 32 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $18,985.

2005 Ford Mustang GT Coupe (571)

Overview:
This week I needed a jump-start for a quiet heart. This 2005 Ford Mustang GT Coupe is just what the doctor ordered. You can just hear the doctor yelling, “Clear!” as the paddles are pressed to the chest of the heart attack patient in the ER, when all the patient really needed was to buy a car that gets the heart pumping every morning without caffeine.

Truly… you know down deep inside when you turn the ignition key you have a tiger by the tail. That’s one big pussycat. And you will enjoy your trip down memory lane back to the past while driving in the present and on into the future.

Last week I experienced the quiet performance of the Cadillac CTS. That was a ball to drive too. This Mustang is more of a braggart and makes a lot of noise but doesn’t perform any better. Sometimes it is the quiet ones that are the most exciting, not that either are homely. Know what I mean.

This is Hot, Sporty and Youthful and I like the robust exhaust sound reminiscent of the early Mustangs and most muscle cars of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Today there are only a few that come to mind – The Viper, Corvette and Mustang. Anyway this was a fun jumpstart every morning and the drive home from the office was somehow more alive and enjoyable.

General Info:

Parts – USA

Assembly – USA

Class:  Sub Compact

Cars:  Mustang, Crown Victoria, Escape (& Hybrid), E-series Van & Wagon, Excursion, Expedition, Explorer (& Sport Trac), F-150, 250 and 350 trucks, Five Hundred, Focus (& Wagon), Freestar, Freestyle, Fusion, GT, Ranger, Taurus and Thunderbird.

Handling & Performance:

The thought of the “Crest Test” was a little scary contemplating all the ups and downs and hairpin turns. I wondered how we would handle the curves together. Would it feel as confident as the 350Z or even the Cadillac CTS both of which were fantastic partners?

Styling:

Talk about growing old gracefully… this Mustang hasn’t aged a bit. In fact it is tighter and more stylish than it was in the 1950s. A few years ago I tested the Bullet version of this Mustang and even in this GT I envision Steve McQueen sitting behind the wheel. He added a bit of excitement and class in any situation. I guess you can tell I just love this Mustang, even though I’ve owned a few Camaro’s and never a Mustang. Perhaps it is the mystique of wanting what you’ve never had. And to go more easily back in time, Ford has used a lot of aluminum and chrome. Remember those days?

Fit and Finish:

As I said, this 2005 Mustang is tightly pieced together. Don’t you just love not having to deal with rattles and squeaks as you drive down the road in most of today’s cars? And it isn’t that the roads are better paved – it is the vast improvement of materials used to put the cars together.

Cost:

Cars, like most other things you buy today, are cheaper than they have ever been – relatively speaking. Consider a Ford Model T would have cost about $700 at the turn of the century. What’s the future value of $700 in today’s dollars? Huge. In no industry is the value improvement any more dramatic than in autos.

Conveniences:

Not an abundance of gadgets but I have to tell you I appreciated the simplicity. Quite frankly all the higher tech stuff only adds to the complexity of operation. And when I’m driving a performance car the simpler the better. Otherwise my kids are needed to help me understand how to operate what should be simple. Ok, one simple example that bugs the heck out of me is when they remove a simple knob for channel selection. I just don’t get it. What are they thinking when they design a radio with anything but a knob? Is it just me or do you feel the same way?

Consumer Recommendation:

I received one comment from a young man who said he didn’t like the red and black interior leather. I told Rickie I rather like it, but it’s an extra charge anyway so you don’t have to order it that way.

When you test-drive this car, listen and look for the ratchety sounds from the drive train. To me it seems too reminiscent of early cars. Yes, this car is tighter and quieter than older versions but there is a sense the mechanical end may still be a little loosy-goosy.

The Competition:

Mustang $19-31,000, Chrysler Crossfire $29-49,000, Pontiac GTO $32,000, Toyota Celica $18-22,000, Nissan 350Z $27-37,000, Volkswagen GTI $20-22,000, Mazda RX8 $25-32,000, Infiniti G35 $31-33,000, Hyundai Tiburon $16-20,000, 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse $19-24,000, 2006 Corvette $44-65,000, 2006 Acura RSX $20-24,000.

Good News:

Stylish, powerful, great sounding robust exhaust.

Bad News:

Not bad but a little noticeable tinny sound closing the doors – not as solid a sound as I’d like to see, the mechanical was a bit lose and obvious. That is something the Japanese have engineered out of their cars generally.

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter 300 hp V8 engine, 5-speed manual transmission, fog lights, stainless steel dual exhaust, dual power mirrors, Shaker 500 audio system with CDX6 and MP3, air conditioning, leather seats with 6-way power driver seat, split fold rear seat, center console with armrest, cruise control, tilt wheel, power door locks and windows, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes, traction control, power rack and pinion steering, dual front air bags and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,705.

2005 Ford Freestyle SEL, FWD Crossover SUV (566)

Overview:
This week I tested the new for 2005 Ford Freestyle SEL AWD SUV Crossover. Boy, that’s a mouthful. And just what I needed – another new model name to remember. What happened to the ‘Good old days’ when there were only a few brands and models?

This Freestyle is lower to the ground yet SUV’ish and a new breed that is a good evolutionary (natural selection) example of how cars get better because of what you and I vote for with our car purchasing dollars. Simply put only the fittest survive. If you ever thought buying or not buying makes a difference and you didn’t have that much of an impact on what is available for sale, forget it. Your vote “Does” matter.

Another example of this is that “Now” manufacturers are beginning to advise us they are building more Hybrids … because people want them now that gas prices are on the rise. Well dahhhhh! Are they brain dead or what? What it says is that until we actually put our money on fuel efficient Hybrids, car builders will continue to produce and sell big gas guzzling SUV’s. Make a difference – vote.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly –USA

Class:  – Special Purpose

Cars:  Crown Victoria, Escape, Escape Hybrid, E-series Van and wagon, Excursion, Expedition, Explorer and sport trac, F150, F250, F350, Focus and wagon, 500, Freestar, Freestyle, GT, Mustang, Ranger, Taurus and wagon and T-Bird.

Handling & Performance:

I was relatively impressed because the Freestyle was not too scary on the mountain curves! The Ford Five Hundred that I reviewed recently had AWD with a very similar power train and was very impressive in the mountains as well. This Freestyle is a FWD (front wheel drive) vehicle and for a higher profile vehicle it pulled the corners better than a rear wheel drive vehicle. All models (SE, SEL and Limited) are available in either front or “ALL” wheel drive configurations.

Styling:

This Freestyle is pretty simple in design. It has clean lines which are my preference but I gotta tell you I get excited as do many whom I’ve talked with about the bold lines of the new Cadillac’s and Chrysler products today. They are more interesting and memorable.

Fit and Finish:

Cars and trucks today are, for the most part, well engineered to fit together better than ever. This Ford is quite good amongst a sea of cars on the menu. I, for one, expect cars to be assembled with realistic tolerances so tight seams don’t have to be too close. Remember the German designed Lugar handgun used in WWII? They fit so well together, with very close tolerances, they would jam at the slightest hint of dirt. The American’s, on the other hand, built the 45 Cal handguns with much looser fitting parts and because of that it would function even in a mud puddle.

Cost:

A little on the high side. I expected it to be better-priced – meaning less money.

Conveniences:

Good.

Consumer Recommendation:

More and more people will make all car purchases in the future with fuel economy in mind. 20-27 mpg isn’t all that bad for an SUV, but it is a consideration not to be overlooked.

The Competition:

Ford Freestyle $25-30,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $26-33,000, Nissan Murano $27-31,000, 2006 Buick Rendezvous $27-30,000, 2006 Toyota Highlander $25-32,000.

Good News:

Great cargo area with easy fold and hide away seats, decent fuel economy.

Bad News:

Pricey for the look and feel – but Ford devotees won’t care. Pricing of the model I drove was for a FWD and of course would have been more with AWD.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter V6 203 horsepower engine, front wheel drive, 17” bright aluminum wheels, roof rack, fog lights, keyless entry keypad (to punch in special code to open doors for the ladies who are notorious for losing their keys), auto headlight control, 6-passenger cloth bucket seating, AM/FM with in dash MP3 / CDX6 player, 6-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, center console, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, air conditioning, dash storage bin, map pockets on front seats, power windows and locks, power steering, cruise control, anti lock braking system, child latch safety system, anti theft system and remote keyless entry with remote perimeter lighting.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $26,345.

2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD (565)

Overview:
This week we’re going to look at a new entrant for Ford in 2005. The 5-passenger Five Hundred Limited AWD sedan reminds me of an FBI staff car especially painted black. But it is much nicer on closer inspection. I like the nice touches like the analog clock and the word grain trim with a clean instrument cluster.

The question is “is it too plain”? Well you can look at it as clean lines or uncluttered with too many angles and obstructions. In any case the quiet, smooth comfortable ride helped me to warm up to the effort by Ford to introduce another sedan for our choice. The rear leg room is appreciated and in spite of it being classed as a mid size, I think it is large. But I was really surprised how well it handled in the mountains. Much of that performance for a large sedan is attributed to the all wheel drive system.

Public Service driving observation: Occasionally I notice something I have to share with my readers. Window tinting. Does it bug you as much as it bugs me? I don’t mean manufacturers tinting of the windows, I mean near black out.

What’s that all about? Are they hiding? They can’t be all that ugly. Well, I find it not only a distraction, it is dangerous too. Not being able to see through the windows blocks vision and I know that is why I go around commercial vans without windows. Vision through a car gives you more information of the road around those cars. Not only is it discomforting it is unlawful.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Chicago, IL, USA

Class:  – Midsize

Cars:  Crown Victoria, Escape, Escape Hybrid, E-series Van and wagon, Excursion, Expedition, Explorer and sport trac, F150, F250, F350, Focus and wagon, 500, Freestar, Freestyle, GT, Mustang, Ranger, Taurus and wagon and T-Bird.

Handling & Performance:

Outstanding for a large sedan because it is all wheel drive. Very cool.

Styling:

Clean lines but a little too rounded and bland for my taste. It is based on (Ford-owned) Volvo\’s P2 platform (Volvo S60 and XC90). However it does not use more expensive Volvo parts as Ford uses steel suspension while Volvo uses pricier cast aluminum.

Fit and Finish:

For the most part it is well assembled. But I was surprised that this new car had developed a bubble on the dashboard. It would appear it was caused from the hot sun on the dark vinyl covering.

Cost:

Really quite good for this roomy sedan.

Conveniences:

Customary.

Consumer Recommendation:

Take a look at the 2006 and then you’ll likely want to save some money buying the 2005 because it hasn’t really changed enough to warrant the newer year.

The Competition:

Ford Five Hundred $22-28,000, Nissan Altima $17-29,000, Mercury Sable $21-24,000, Ford Taurus $21-24,000, Subaru Legacy $21-29,000, Honda Accord $16-29,000, Volkswagen Passat $22-30,000, Hyundai XG350 $25-26,000, Mitsubishi Galant $19-26,000, Mazda6 $19-27,000.

Good News:

Good size trunk, best in class passenger volume and rear leg room.

Bad News:

Rather plain styling inside and out, troublesome blind spot from the large post – driver side, of course.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter V6 203 horsepower engine, 18” bright aluminum wheels, fog lights, auto headlight control, power heated mirrors, 8-way power driver’s seat, radio with 6-CD player, climate control, information computer, o/s temp and compass display, woodgrain accents, leather trimmed seats with heated driver and passenger seats, 4-way power passenger seat with manual lumbar, all wheel drive system, power windows and locks, cruise control, power steering, anti lock braking system, child latch safety system, anti theft system and remote keyless entry with remote perimeter lighting.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $27,845.

2005 Ford Focus Sedan ZX5 SES 5-Passenger (560)

Overview:
This week we’re testing the 2005 Ford Focus ZX5 SES 5-passenger sedan. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my kids about the world condition of oil and it’s time to dump the gas burners and buy a fuel-efficient car. Well you can tell kids, but you can’t tell them much.

 

 

Well you can imagine I was thrilled to see this Ford has achieved 32 highway miles per gallon. Gas that is. And I will share with you one more time; the Europeans achieve much more in their clean diesel burning cars. What’s the matter with us in the US? Are we whacko? Don’t get me started.

This is a redesigned Focus and a great job to get it more car like than original versions. I liked the idea but the execution of the design was ugly. This, while being much better, is commonplace.

I did experience an unusual problem. It had a sticky gas pedal. It was annoying and I couldn’t determine why it was doing it but the linkage had to be hanging up somewhere.

Public Service driving observation: Occasionally I notice something I have to share with my readers. This thought is about your seat belts. Don’t listen to the politically correct folks who tell you to “Click it or Tick-it”. Be knowledgeable and understand why you need to buckle up. The real reason is that if you get into an accident and are not wearing a seatbelt the air bag may cause the opposing forces to break your neck. Look after number one and you will demand the same for your passengers.

 

General Info:

 

Parts – n/a

Assembly – n/a

Class:  – Compact

Cars:  Crown Victoria, Escape, Escape Hybrid, E-series Van and wagon, Excursion, Expedition, Explorer and sport trac, F150, F250, F350, Focus and wagon, 500, Freestar, Freestyle, GT, Mustang, Ranger, Taurus and wagon and T-Bird.

 

Handling & Performance:

Outstanding for a car that will cost about $17,000. How do they do that? And even though it is only 136 horsepower it is a great family car or commuter. I always appreciate the smaller turning radius easy to park yet big enough for the rare moments I carry more than me to and fro.

Styling:

Not all that good. Boring is a better term. Basic also comes to mind. But then I’ve heard that a lot from folks who are big on Chrysler because they have the balls to be different. This is a redesign for Ford and I believe it is a step up from the previous models.

Fit and Finish:

Average for this class car. The gaps and seams will be less precise than more expensive cars in most cases but in its class it is good.

Cost:

I told my sister, Carol dump those gas-guzzling bombs and buy a more cost efficient car (to buy and to operate) or quit complaining the Corvette and El Camino are expensive to operate.

Conveniences:

Quite good and common for the class with a lot of manual stuff. Air conditioning and seats to name a couple. Then I was amazed it had crank windows. I glanced over and found someone riding in the car with me groping around to put the windows down. You just don’t see cranks much any more.

Consumer Recommendation:

Get a grip. For the money this is a great commuter, an inexpensive fuel-efficient family car and easy to get in and go. You may also want to look at the wagon and hatchback models.

The Competition:

Ford Focus $13-18,000, Chevrolet Cavalier $10-18,000, Pontiac Sunfire $11-15,000, Toyota Corolla $14-18,000, Subaru Impreza $18-32,000, Dodge Neon $14-21,000, Hyundai Elantra $13-15,000, Honda Civic $13-22,000, Saturn ION $11-21,000, Nissan Sentra $13-18,000, VW Golf $16-20,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $14-35,000, Suzuki Aerio $13-17,000, Mazda 3 $14-19,000, Kia Optima $16-20,000.

Good News:

Low cost to purchase and operate, comfortable ride for 5 adults.

Bad News:

Plain Jane design that is uninteresting and harder to fall in love with. Me, I’ve concluded the homely ones are often the best – know what I mean? Oh, almost forgot to note it had a sticky gas pedal.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 136 hp inline 4 cyl engine, 4-speed auto trans, dual power mirrors, rear wiper washer and defrost, solar tinted glass, fog lights, air conditioning, manual seat height adjusters, 60/40 split folding rear seat, console with 3 cup holders, map light, sound system with CD player, tilt and telescoping leather wrapper steering wheel, remote lift gate release, front wheel drive, independent suspension, front disc and rear drum brakes, power rack and pinion steering, power windows and locks, cruise control, dual air bags, child safety rear door locks, antitheft system and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

26 City and 32 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $16,905.

2004 Ford Thunderbird (492)

Overview:
This week I tested the 2004 Ford Thunderbird two-seater sports car. I’ve wanted to test this car for a while and was happy to have the opportunity. It reminds me of my high school days and when the first T-Birds arrived on the scene. Daddy bought one for Janet Z and I think the Beach Boys must have written that song “Fun, Fun, Fun” with her in mind. Some of the lyrics

go like this: … And she cruised through the hamburger stand, now. Seems she forgot all about the library Like she told her old man, now. And with the radio blasting – Goes cruisin\’ just as fast as she can, now. And she\’ll have fun, fun, fun \” \’Till her daddy takes the T-Bird away”.

For many who appreciate revisiting their youth, they will be sad to know Ford won’t keep the T-Bird in production much longer.

Handling & Performance:

Relatively fast (0-60 in 6.7 seconds) and surely faster than the original in 1955.

Styling:

The way we were… very close to the original. They could have done something different with the grill however. I’d like some variations on the theme and let consumers pick the best looking grill.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Conveniences:

Good assortment without the navigation systems or communications systems. I didn’t miss their absence.

Cost:

The price of Nostalgia just went up folks. But I guess Ford figures those who will buy this car have very little else to do with their money.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you are into collectibles, this is a nice addition to the stable. But surely this is a “Driver” and it is comfortable even on long trips. Although it only seats two, it does have a small trunk and was just fine for me and my baby taking a trip to visit friends in Arizona.

The Competition:

Chrysler Sebring $19-31,000, Mercedes Benz CLK $45-80,000, Lexus SC 430 $63,000.

Good News:

Unique limited production car, comfortable, smooth and an easy to use soft-top.

Bad News:

Pricey with the hard top option and rumor is it is already a discontinued model.

Standard Equipment:

3.9 liter 280 hp V8 engine, 5-speed auto trans, dual power mirrors, stereo with 6-in-dash CD changer, dual climate control, heated power leather seats, console, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, leather wrapped steering wheel with controls, variable assist power steering, front and side air bags, 4-wheel power ventilated ABS disc brakes, 17 inch 7-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, power convertible soft top and traction control. Note, if you want a removable hard top add $2,500.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $37,970.

General Info:

 

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Wixom, MI USA

Class:  – Two Seater

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Escape, E-series Van and wagon, Excursion, Expedition, Explorer and sport trac, F150, F250, F350, Focus and wagon, Freestar, GT, Mustang, Ranger, Taurus and wagon and T-Bird.

2004 Ford Mustang GT 40th Anniversary Edition 2-door coupe (485)

Overview:
This week I drove the 2004 Ford Mustang GT 40th Anniversary Edition. One of the first things that hit me was a vision of the Steve Martin movie where he was cavorting with a very young woman and he exclaims, “I’m young again”. This Mustang will make you feel “young” again.

You can almost smell the rubber burning from your youthful days at the drags and the roar of engines that have what it takes. The sights and sounds of the 1950’s and 1960’s muscle cars are embodied in this car, and that is likely to be the profile of those most interested in buying one. “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end…” as the song goes.

And to those who think the world will change drastically in the transportation industry like Star Wars hover craft, etc., I have news for you – all those reading this will be dead long before cars, as we know them today, are seen only in museums. For even if the technology was available, the changes in infrastructure to support a new technology would take another life time to implement.

General Info:

Parts – US

Assembly – United States

Class:  – Coupe

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Escape, E-series Van and wagon, Excursion, Expedition, Explorer and sport trac, F150, F250, F350, Focus and wagon, Freestar, GT, Mustang, Ranger, Taurus and wagon and T-Bird.

Handling & Performance:

I just love the sound emanating from the exhaust system. They made it robust and reminiscent of the “Good old Days”, whatever those were. Surely those days weren’t a time for ease of owning and operating the cars of the day. Before fuel injection and electronic ignition starting and keeping your car running was anything but easy. If we insist on calling them “Muscle Cars” we must also admit they were all brawn and no brains. Today’s cars are much smarter. I suspect the kids of today are too.

With 260 horsepower and a 5-speed manual shift you can hardly be expected to restrain yourself. The Highway Patrol must watch out for these “bad boys”. They have to be easy tickets to fill their quotas. Oh, that’s right, they don’t have quotas!

Styling:

It is Steve McQueen unique with the same exciting look and feel of the image made famous in the movie Bullitt. The design touches such as the hood air scoop and the hole punched aluminum pedals and footrest are reminders that you are in a high performance automobile.

Fit and Finish:

Very good

Conveniences:

Enough, especially when you don’t expect much fluff from a Nostalgia coupe. Some may consider the Mach 1000-watt sound system a convenience, or even a necessity to the boom box enthusiasts but the speakers and power amps literally take up most of the trunk. My golf clubs occupied the entire rear seat.

Cost:

Competitive.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you’re in the market for a bit of nostalgia and 40 years of history for this affordable sports car, you’ve gotta love this Mustang. Now that Camaro is no longer, Mustang is the only real game in town. Considering price and features the closest to the Mustang in my view is the Chrysler Sebring. But this 40th anniversary edition really stands alone.

The Competition:

Ford Mustang GT $18-39,000, Chevrolet Corvette $44-52,000, Chrysler Sebring $19-31,000, Volvo C70 $40-42,000, Nissan 350Z $26-36,000, Saab 9-3 $26-43,000, Hyundai Tiburon $17-18,000, Infiniti G35 $28-32,000, Toyota Celica $17-24,000, Acura RSX $20-23,000, BMW Z4 $34-41,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $16-25,000, Honda S2000  $32,800, Porsche Boxster $43-60,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $18-29,000, Toyota MR2 Spyder $25,410.

Good News:

Extremely fun to drive like it was on rails when you go around a corner, wonderful sounding exhaust to announce the powerful 260 hp V8.

Bad News:

Limited space in the trunk and rear seat. Difficult to keep it under the speed limit, so it’s easy to get into trouble.

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter 260 hp V8 engine, 5-speed manual transmission, 17” alloy wheels, rear spoiler, fog lights, stainless steel dual exhaust, dual power mirrors, air conditioning, Mach sound system with 6 in dash CD player, leather seats, 6-way power driver seat, console, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, cruise control, power locks and windows, power 4-wheel disc brakes, traction control, power steering, dual air bags and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $27,960.