Category Archives: Ford

2004 Ford Freestar Limited (484)

Overview:
This week I drove the 2004 Ford Freestar Limited Mini Van. If you haven’t driven a Ford lately look again their ad slogan rings out. Cool slogan, and it sticks with you. I wonder who took the credit on that one? If it doesn’t work you can be sure the top guy didn’t make the mistake.

The first thing that will impress you with this Freestar is how easy it is to put the 3rd row seats down and out of sight. Someone has been thinking at Ford. It reminds me that Henry is quoted as saying “The hardest work is thinking, which is obvious since so few people do it”.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Canada

Class: – Mini Van

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:

It handles like a van, which is a good thing. If it handled like a Corvette it would only seat two. But this is equipped with a 4.2 liter V-6 so it is no slouch. It scoots just fine and carries 5 more people than the Vette. We won’t compare 0-60 between the two.

Styling:

Line ‘em all up from every manufacturer and all the vans look like sisters. Each wants to be the fairest of them all but the competition is fierce. But looking alike is more a function of being in the same class. There isn’t much you can do to be very different. The most venturesome of all is the Nissan Quest, which I liked a lot.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Conveniences:

There are nooks and crannies everywhere. If I were to choose from the list of options noted below it would have to be the DVD entertainment system. Whether a parent or grandparent that is the best invention for kids since the hand held video game but it has the advantage of being educational. I’m happy to see power sliding doors standard, because if they weren’t I’d have to buy them as an option.

Cost:

Kia Sedona has to be on the top of the list for me because it is priced more competitively at this time. It’s the new kid on the block and still the most affordable. I recommended it to my kids. But if Korean made cars scares you the cost difference won’t matter much.

Consumer Recommendation:

Kia Sedona is my first choice under the present circumstances all things considered, and my choice beyond that would be because of my preference in manufacturer. I suspect your decision would also be based on a similar bias. But frankly there simply isn’t enough history on the Korean made cars to feel totally comfortable recommending them, but I’d buy one.

The Competition:

Ford Freestar $22-37,000, Chevrolet Voyager $21-24,000, Chevrolet Venture $21-34,000, Dodge Caravan $21-32,000, Kia Sedona $20-22,000, Toyota Sienna $23-37,000, Pontiac Montana $23-31,000, Chrysler Town & Country $23-40,000, Honda Odyssey $24-30,000, Nissan Quest $24-32,000, Oldsmobile Silhouette $28-37,000 and Mazda MPV $23-28,000.

Good News:

Good storage, the best of the pack when it comes to seats that fold down and away.

Bad News:

I noticed a clunking noise that made me wonder if someone forgot to bolt things together properly. I got the same noise in the Mustang that followed. I hope Ford will look at the criticism because that is what has given Japanese car makers a reputation for quality. Gas performance is only slightly better than trucks and it is a little pricey.

Standard Equipment:

4.2 liter 201 hp V6 engine, 4-speed automatic trans, privacy glass, power sliding doors, remote keyless entry system and anti theft, power front seats with power adjustable pedals, power windows, leather wrapped tilt wheel with speed and audio controls, leather trimmed captains chairs, third row tailgate bench seat, message center and compass, climate control, audio system with cassette and CD, rear audio controls, power sliding doors. Optional equipment: 17 inch aluminum wheels, side airbags, traction control, reverse sensing system, heated front seats, DVD entertainment system.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 23 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $32,945 or with options $36,885.

2003 Ford Super Duty F350 4X4 SuperCab (460)

Overview:
This week I was carried about by the 2003 Ford Super Duty F350 4X4 SuperCab pickup truck. And it totes more than folks around. It tows nearly 6 ¾ tons with a payload of about 2 tons with the single rear wheel and 2-wheel drive. With a dual wheel rear axle the payload is 5160 lbs in California and 5500 lbs in 49 other US states. 4-wheel drive increases the Gross Vehicle Weight and thus decreases the payload down to 4600 lbs.

The competition has similar muscle. GMC’s Sierra Dualee will tow 7 ½ tons and tote about 2 ½ tons. All the competition are close enough in capability that the decision will be more about your choice of which American manufacturer you’ll support. I prefer a Cummins diesel engine because I trust some friends that own trucking companies who wouldn’t drive anything but Cummins powered trucks. Ok, that means I have to buy the Dodge who places an emphasis on the Cummins brand name recognition. So I bought a dual wheel rear axle Dodge Ram 3500 with a Cummins diesel. Ford uses the Power Stroke Diesel that is a Ford product, and GM hangs its hat on the Duramax Diesel produced in association with Isuzu. It may be too early to know how well the Power Stroke 6.0 liter engine holds up for Ford. 

Another personal problem I have with Ford is that I don’t like to be reminded about putting my seatbelt on, which is what all Ford cars and trucks do for you. They have this annoying tone that goes off every 30 seconds until hell freezes over or you buckle up, whichever comes first. Mark says “I just hook it up the seat belt and sit on it because seat belts are uncomfortable for me to wear”. But my accident reconstruction friend (and relative), Steve says his professional experience proves that since most vehicles today are equipped with air bags you MUST wear your seatbelt or you can be seriously injured in an accident without seatbelt restraint if the airbag is deployed. So “Buckle up and drive safely” is not just a slogan. Your life could depend on using it in conjunction with air bag technology.

Editorially however I resent being told what I should and what I shouldn’t do. Just like the Helmet law enacted in too many states by bureaucratic control freaks bent on protecting motorcycle riders from themselves. Where did free will go? Where are the Free Choice activists or the ACLU when you need them? And although I use the seatbelt the idea that someone else forces me to be reminded is what I hate. Anyway it should be my business … argh, argh, argh!

By the way, before there was a seat belt law or helmet law people bought them and used them. Some car companies even made seatbelts optional equipment. What do you know, CHOICE… my choice, and not because some bureaucrat morons thought it necessary to pass a law confirming my choice thereby making it a “Mandatory Compliance” issue. I believe if you give people the facts they will generally do the right thing. One person is just as capable as the next, but some are just less informed. So, inform them and let them make the choice.

General Info:

Parts – N/A

Assembly – United States

Class: – Pick up Truck

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Escape – van and wagon, Excursion, Expedition, Explorer – sport and trac, F150-250 and 350, Focus, Freestar, Mustang, Ranger, Taurus, Thunderbird and ZX2.

Handling & Performance:

This thing drives like a truck. Oh, right it IS a truck. And the turning diameter is lousy to prove it. Ford is second best out of four competitors by a whole half a foot at 49.6 feet. One reason I like this workhorse is that it is a single rear wheel model and close enough in performance to dual rear wheel models. Dualee’s are that much harder to maneuver.

Styling:

”Built Ford Tough” or “Like a Rock” says Chevrolet means they are rugged. Well they’ve managed to make ‘em rough while maintaining nice lines and they are assembled better than a truck needs to be.

Fit and Finish:

Trucks ain’t what they used to be, just like the “Old gray mare”… and in this case it’s all for the better. Nice attention to detail.

Conveniences:

Great rear view mirrors that come with an insert below the regular mirror and the insert points beautifully at the next lane. Ok, but why is it no manufacturer can make a vehicle with a sun visor that actually blocks the sun on the side as well as the front window. Doesn’t anyone at the plant actually drive these things? Or is it always cloudy in Detroit?

Some will call the seat belt beep warning a convenience. I call it an annoyance. I wonder how many Ford buyers disable that beep, beep, beep… ?

It has a lot of nooks and crannies and a clipboard top on the center console. I love when designers “Think”.

Cost:

Very expensive as a transportation Vehicle. And when they don’t publish EPA numbers on fuel consumption look out… and incidentally trucks like this are not required to publish such stats.

Consumer Recommendation:

When you have a need for a truck with “Attitude” a Diesel is the hot ticket. On the ranch we have several Diesels and when you need to haul a ton or two of hay you learn how valuable 390 foot pounds of Torque can be. If you don’t have the need, don’t do the deed… because it is simply too expensive as “Just a truck” transportation.

The Competition:

Ford F350 Super Duty $22-37,000, Chevrolet Silverado 3500 $28-40,000, Dodge Ram 3500 $25-41,000, GMC Sierra 3500 $29-37,000.

Good News:

Strong-working truck single rear wheel, competitive and attractive, great rear view mirrors, relatively comfortable and uncharacteristically responsive for a diesel.

Bad News:

Bumpity – bump – bump – bump on cement highways, small bench seat in rear, pricey for a pickup with extended cab space in rear and poor turning radius.

Standard Equipment:

6.0 liter 260 hp Diesel V-8, 5-speed diesel automatic transmission, cargo box light, power mirrors, trailer towing package, tailgate key lock, stereo with cassette and CD player, power windows and locks, power steering, dual air bags, power ABS brakes. Note: Dual wheel rear axle is optional.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 18 Highway Estimated MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $38,465.

2002 Ford Escape (401)

Overview:
This weeks test vehicle was the 2002 Ford Escape SUV that carried me and the little lady on an “Escape” of our own. Over several rivers and through lots of woods to the Jensen’s we did go. But on the way we covered a lot of ground and as the miles ticked away I was impressed that we got 24 highway miles per gallon of gas. That’s what they claim, and that’s what we got.

Comfort was our major concern since we would be sitting for long stretches on each leg of our journey to Yellowstone, which I expect most American families have embarked on during their lives. I truly expected the seats on this Escape to be cheesy and uncomfortable, but that truly wasn’t the case, which I’m happy to report. In fact, the Cadillac Escalade EXT that took me to Oregon recently did have more substantial seats but at twice the price as this Escape. And to add insult to injury the Cad didn’t pass as many gas stations since it only got 15-mpg tops. 

Escape is a direct competitor to the Jeep Liberty, in my view, which I tested in Oregon in November on an elk-hunting trip in the snow. The Liberty was a 4X4 as compared to this two-wheel drive Sport Ute, but as you probably know, only 5% of all SUV’s ever get used “Off-Road”. I never had the need to do any hill climbing on our vacation.

General Info:

Parts – USA

Assembly – USA

Class: – Special Purpose (SUV)

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Econoline, Escape, Explorer, Excursion, Expedition, F150, F250, F350, Focus, Mustang, Ranger, Taurus, Thunderbird, Windstar, ZX2.

Handling & Performance:

Over the passes and winding mountain roads this Ford was equal to all that was asked of it. It’s a good road car and I was pleasantly surprised with gas performance of 24 mpg. I never wanted for more power in any situation, and we were both impressed with the feeling of stability around those curves. Escape also comes with a 2.0 liter 127 horsepower engine that gets 3-4 miles per gallon of gas more than the 3.0-liter engine I tested.

Styling:

All Ford SUV’s – Escape through the largest Excursion have a solid looking, robust appearance. I like the design as well as any SUV on the market today.

Fit and Finish:

Very good and consistent with the competitors noted.

Conveniences:

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Cargo area is 33 cu ft as compared to 48 cu ft in its largest sibling Excursion and 4 cu ft more area than its rival Jeep Liberty. But it seems that no matter how much space you have, you find a way to fill it. Surely this was good for the two of us, but larger camping families will need to look at the larger models.

Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole’s Grand Teton National Park, Glacier International Park and Lake Tahoe, CA were host to our Escape and us. It was trouble free and afforded us the ability to haul all our camping equipment for our two-week escape from Los Angeles, CA and not even use the Roof Rack. Two-wheel drive is all we needed and unless you have the burning desire to get off road, the added gas mileage is a great trade off for the 2-wheel drive version. And if power is not an issue you can get close to 30 mpg with the smaller engine.

Cost:

The price must be right or it wouldn’t be the big seller it is. Surely it is at the top of the group as to average price, but the prices are close between what I consider comparing Liberty, Xterra and this Escape.

Consumer Recommendation:

I’ve tested all the competition listed below and in my view, the closest rivals include Jeep Liberty, Nissan Xterra and Ford Escape. For the money these three are my favorites.

The Competition: 

(1) Kia Sportage $15-18,000, (2) Toyota RAV4 $17-18,000, (3) Chevrolet Tracker $16-22,000, (4) Hyundai Santa Fe $17-23,000, (5) Jeep Liberty $17-23,000, (6) Honda CR-V 19-22,000, (7) Mazda Tribute $18-24,000, (8) Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-23,000, (9) Nissan Xterra $18-26,000, (10) Subaru Forester $20-24,000, (11) Ford Escape $19-26,000, (12) Mitsubishi Montero Sport $23-33,000, (13) Isuzu Axiom $27-31,000.

Good News:

Spacious, good gas performance, smooth ride.

Bad News:

Ignition switch awkward to reach.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 24 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $23,000.

2002 Ford E Class E350 XLT Super Duty Wagon (371)

Overview:
Ok folks I thought it would be boring too, but the 2002 Ford Econoline F350 Van was way cool. Sure, it has to have a purpose, but there are many uses for such a versatile vehicle.

It seats 8 so that must be the first requirement you’re looking to fill. That could include anything from a business application where you car pool and want to have 6 of the 8 watch training videos, for example, while in transit. There are two screens mounted from the roof for great visibility. Or if you’re an every day mom who always volunteers to shuttle the scout troupe around, this is great because once again those little darlings can be seen and not heard. However, if all the kids are yours you’re in trouble because the entertainment center won’t be nearly enough to accommodate agreement of varying ages on what to watch.

Handling & Performance:

Just what you’d expect. It’s a big van with high profile design and isn’t designed for road racing. Well, daah. But this puppy is equipped with a big V10 and will never lack the power and torque for most any use. The bad news is it will never want to pass a gas station.

Styling:

Good for a utility van. It is designed for the things it must be able to do, carry people and gear comfortably, and it does that well.

Fit and Finish:

Much better than I expected.

Conveniences:

Aside from the entertainment center with headsets, it is equipped with the usual radio and air, etc., as noted below. What it doesn’t have are two sliding doors like the conventional mini van usually designed to seat only five. The manual operating sliding door is on the passenger side. The huge cargo area makes it convenient to move 8 people including all their ski equipment, for example.

Cost:

Not cheap, but this is a specialty vehicle that has the towing power along with the passenger capability with all the bells and whistles.

Consumer Recommendation:

Assuming you have a need to tote 6 passengers with luggage you’ll want to look at this van that provides comfortable utility because it is more car like than vans of the past. You can knock off $5,000 from the MSRP below by eliminating the “Traveler Package” that includes the remote keyless entry, entertainment center and heavy-duty tow package.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Express $24-35,000, Dodge Ram Wagon $21-26,400, GMC Savana $24-35,000.

Good News:

Powerful, spacious, seats 8 comfortably with luggage, great entertainment center.

Bad News:

Poor gas mileage, little competition in this class.

Standard Equipment:

6.8 liter V10 engine, 4-speed auto trans, power mirrors, air front and rear, power windows and door locks, cruise control, power steering, power ABS disc brakes, class 1 tow package, dual front and side air bags, remote keyless entry, entertainment system, power driver seat, stereo with CD player, 7-passenger captains chairs and much more.

Gas Stats:

14 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $35,290.

2001 Ford Mustang GT (370)

Overview:
This week I had a chance to drive the regular every day version of the Ford Mustang GT. They continue in the tradition of the Mustang that entered the scene in the mid 1960’s. They have always been sporty albeit basic transportation cars.

But the price is more than basic. Basic today isn’t even VW that was a cheap car when Mustang was born. Cheap is reserved for the Kia, Saturn, Hyundai, Toyota Corolla and Echo and the like. But for a good old-fashioned muscle car the price is competitive. It really continues to compete with the Camaro and Firebird. Macho guys have to love this kind of car because it is truly the last of a dying breed of car to those of us who learned to drive and fell in love with the automobile in the middle years of this past century. 

Some feel that car prices have gone through the ceiling but they haven’t, even though they are as high as house prices 25 to 30 yrs ago. That is especially appalling when you consider that houses still appreciate in value while cars will always be depreciating assets. Does that mean a car is a bad investment. Yep. But then we buy cars for “convenient” transportation that gives us the freedom to move around easily and provide that sense of adventure.

Handling & Performance:

Raw power linked to a 5-speed manual trans on the console and a heavy foot combines for driving excitement. You sit low and the car sits lower for great cornering. The great exhaust sound is reminiscent of the muscle cars so popular 40 to 50 years ago, and the low roar brings out that machismo in men. The exhaust also helps to drown out the road noise that should have been better insulated at the factory. The scoop on hood gives that racy supercharged look and that identifies the driver as twenty something. Shifting was smooth but I felt the reach was more than it needed to be. It should have been back a bit

Styling:

Youthful as always and that racy look gives a carefree image. They are timeless and always in style.

Fit and Finish:

There was a bit of a vibration under dash that turned out to be the clutch rattling under the floorboard. Closing the doors is tinnier sounding than I expected from a Mustang. The back seat is small and not for long trips but ok for short distances or little kids.

Conveniences:

I like the pass through rear seats on both sides that make the trunk much more useful. This is especially needed for cars with small trunks. I also appreciate center consoles that add to storage for cell phones and sunglasses, etc.

Cost:

Not bad Charlie Brown, speaking of relativity, Albert.

Consumer Recommendation:

Buy the house and grow your investment, but if you want to have some driving fun grab hold and hang on when you mash the pedal to the metal. Ok, enough clues, have you guessed my age yet? Ok, one more. I attended Pasadena High School when it was on the same campus with PCC (Pasadena City College) in Pasadena (not Texas), California, USA. Oh, the competition, it’s like the ladies – I love ‘em all. By the way, you may want to look at the Bullitt version for about $3,000 more.

The Competition:

Acura RSX $20-23,000, BMW Z3 $31-38,000, Chevrolet Camaro $18-29,000, Chrysler Sebring $18-29,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $18-26,000, Pontiac Firebird $20-32,000, Toyota Celica $17-22,000.

Good News:

Priced with the competition, great ageless styling, decent gas mileage for a muscle car, and pass through seats for those ski trips, etc.

Bad News:

Tinny sounding doors, a bit of road noise and you have to reach too far to shift, small back seat for long trips.

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter V8 engine, 5-speed manual trans on the console, dual air bags, 4-wheel anti locking disc braking system, anti theft system, remote keyless entry, power steering, air conditioning, handling suspension, stainless steel exhaust, fog lamps, rear deck lid spoiler, dual power mirrors, split fold rear seat, cassette radio, power windows and door locks.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $23,590.

2001 Ford “Bullitt” Mustang GT Coupe (355)

Overview:
This week’s car is the 2001 Ford Mustang special edition with a Bullitt badge. Ok, if you were going to the movies in the 1960’s and 70’s you’ll likely remember actor Steve McQueen, born 1930 and died 1980.

Some of his world famous movies include The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), Nevada Smith (1966), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Le Mans (1971), Papillon (1973). Another memorable movie, for me, was “Bullitt” (1968) and the exciting authentic celebrated car chase. McQueen was an expert automobile and motorcycle racer, and did his own stunt driving as he propelled a high-performance Mustang GT around and over San Francisco\’s fabled hills at speeds up to 115 miles an hour. As with so many fans of McQueen, he was a special kind of guy to me in the images he helped to create.

Ford did a good job of recreating the feeling, sights and sounds of those famous performance scenes in Bullitt. This car will grow on you, even if it comes in only one color, Pursuit Green, which is the color of the car in the movie.

Handling & Performance:

Fantastic. This car will take you back in time and the sound of the exhaust is priceless for those who love the era of the big block performance cars of the 1960’s. It is built to turn you every way but lose, and blow you away with impressive power and handling.

Styling:

If you love the Mustang you will quickly warm up to this classic nostalgic version.

Fit and Finish:

For those of you who have driven or ridden in the original 1967 GT you’ll especially appreciate today’s technology that has made this remake a solid and decided improvement over the older version.

Conveniences:

Relative to early Mustangs that were very basic, this model is far and away well equipped.

Cost:

The Bullitt Badge and touches make this model slightly more expensive than other Mustangs.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you are 50 or older and are into classic cars, grab one of these while the price is right. You can park it next to your Prowler and PT Cruiser that you paid twice the window sticker because you waited too long to decide. As a performance car, this Mustang compares closest to the Camaro, but of all the competition listed, I liked the Eclipse equally as much, but for different reasons. The Bullitt is unique and really sets itself apart from all the competition. Nice job Ford. I’m looking forward to reviewing the T-Bird, coming soon.

The Competition:

Acura Integra $19,400-24,450, Chevrolet Camaro $17,305-28,980, Honda Prelude $23,600-26,100, Mitsubishi Eclipse $17,987-25,407, Toyota Celica $16,985-21,455, Volkswagen GTI $19,275-22,900.

Good News:

Something different in today’s world, real fast, sounds hot and gets twice the mileage as the 1967 version.

Bad News:

You’ll catch yourself driving entirely too fast.

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter V8 engine, 5-speed manual transmission, dual air bags, ABS, antitheft system, remote keyless entry, power rack and pinion steering, air conditioning, dual power mirrors, unique instrument cluster, split folding rear seat, power windows and door locks, tilt steering wheel, leather wrapped wheel.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $26,230

2001 Ford Focus Wagon (354)

Overview:

This week’s car is the 2001 Ford Focus Wagon. I\’ve want to get into one since they came out, but you can only drive one car at a time. I thought the styling was interestingly different and rather futuristic. And the price was likely to be real af-Ford-able.

I gave it a good test to Tahoe, California for a week. There were just the two of us traveling, but once there we transported the grandkids, car seats and all. Boy, those things are a pain. A bungee cord and some duct tape would be easier to keep the little buggers quiet. Just kidding dear – I love ‘em.

Little 3-year-old Cierra fell down and scraped her knee and like a good boy scout I had a first aid kit in the spacious cargo area. The designers provided more than enough space for all the stuff women find a need to bring along. Not really true. I’m probably the worst offender, but worse yet, out of all the stuff I always forget something I just can\’t live without.

Anyway we got there no worse for wear and all in all it was a great car and I didn’t have to rob a bank to fuel its 130 horsepower 4-cylinder engine. As you’d expect, that 130 horses did strain a little on the mountain climbs, but no big deal. We got there in the same time that you’d make it in a Mercedes Benz or any other car that costs many times the price of this Ford Focus.

Handling & Performance:

Actually it handled pretty well in large part because it’s front wheel drive, but I don’t like to feel every pimple on the road, which you do in the Focus. Others have mentioned tire noise, which is another way of complaining about feeling the road. ”Well, duh Joe”, Ilona said, “this isn’t a luxury car”. I guess I forgot dear. Sorry.

Today’s cars often have long intervals between needed tune-ups, which is true of this Focus as well. But I doubt many people even know what points and condenser’s are. Nor would they ever consider changing spark plug wires. Well you still need to change the oil regularly, but lube joints are as foreign and remote to most drivers as Siberia, Russia.

Styling:

Different and rather unique. You can\’t miss it on the highway and like the old days, you get a car with some differentiation in appearance from other cars. When I first saw the Focus I thought of the radical styling of the Pontiac Aztek that still looks a little ugly to me. But I’m getting used to both of these futuristic body styles. Look for the Chevrolet Avalanche for another adventure in different design.

Fit and Finish:

Good for the money. It seems as though the shake; rattle and roll went out with the cars of the “good old days”. Plastic and other synthetic materials plus the experience of a hundred years of making these things, allow us to expect and receive the most solid, squeak free ride ever in auto history. Of course auto buyers weren’t as picky in the early days and a few squeaks were almost expected. After all, they traded in a horse and buggy or wagon to buy that new fangled contraption with all the horses under the bonnet (hood). Well, they wouldn’t complain back then, but I will in saying the hatches and doors sound a little “tinny”. On the positive side, however, they designed in lots of cubbyholes for storage and I appreciate that everything is laid out well.

Conveniences:

Not a lot, but enough. Reminds be of my favorite quote; “Enough is abundance to the wise”. So I’ll try to be a little wiser about my next car purchase and live with a few less gadgets, and use the money I save for a trip to Hawaii.

Cost:

Not too bad. Overall it is impressive that they can make a car with so much for so little money. Thanks to Ford the average car buyer has been buying affordable cars since the Model T and A at the turn of the 20th Century.

Consumer Recommendation:

Cars of this price range are Economy cars and they have their place in the lineup of what we have to choose from. Like I always say, the car you buy should fit your need. It truly is a good young family car, or those on a strict budget as evidenced by the fact that 50% of Focus sales have been to young drivers (35 and younger). I remember buying a Ford Fiesta back in the late 1970’s and this Focus reminds me of that car, albeit an upscale version. That was a great car and if daughter Jennifer hadn’t rolled it, it would still be running today.

The Competition:

Daewoo Nubira $11,699-15,199,Hyundai Elantra Wagon $12,499, Saturn SW $14,290, Subaru Impreza Wagon $17,495-23,495, Suzuki Esteem Wagon $13699-16,499.

Good News:

Affordable new car pricing, 100,000-mile tune up interval, good gas mileage.

Bad News:

Road noise, tinny sound from doors and especially the rear hatch.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 Liter 4-cylinder engine, auto transaxle front wheel drive, dual air bags, child safety door locks, remote keyless entry, theft system, power rack and pinion steering, power front discs and rear drum ABS braking system, independent suspension, rear window defroster with wiper / washer, luggage rack, dual power mirrors, air conditioning, stereo with CD player and power windows.

Gas Stats:

25 City and 31 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $17,795.

2001 Ford Escape XLT 4X2 (348)

Overview:
This weeks test car is the 2001 Ford Escape. It was developed with Mazda who sells the Tribute based on the same platform and power trains. Both SUV’s roll off the same assembly plant in Missouri. Ford owns part of Mazda.

I always complain about how difficult it is to get in and out of the typical full size SUV, but that isn’t true of this Escape. I think you’re going to like this version as much as I did. It’s the best in a long time. Nice going Ford.

Handling & Performance:

The 70.1 inch wide beam makes for good handling characteristics. Put up the jib mate and head into the wind, we’re going places. And we’ll burn less gas than most SUV’s, primarily because it’s a two-wheel drive. Contrary to what you’d expect, a 4X4 won’t get better mileage while in two-wheel drive, compared to a true 2-wheel drive vehicle like this front-wheel-drive Escape. However, if you just have to have a 4X4, it is available with Ford\’s Control Trac II 4-wheel-drive system.

Styling:

If it walks like a duck and quacks like one it probably is a duck. This looks like most other SUV’s even if it is only a 2-wheel drive, and it will be an effective SUV 95% of the time. It has nice lines but I don’t care for the side step bars. I couldn’t find a use for them. In effect they are only facades to give it that macho off road look.

Fit and Finish:

This Escape is put together very well and I tend to like it over the quality of the other competitors.

Conveniences:

You can opt for a tow package that will tow up to 3,500 pounds, contrasted with the CR-V, for example, with a maximum towing capacity of 1,000 pounds, and the RAV4 up to 1,500 pounds.

Cost:

Well priced because you get an SUV, granted on a smaller scale, but with lots of standard equipment and your operating costs will be less if you opt for the 4X2 drive train.

Consumer Recommendation:

There have been several manufacturers’ recalls, which are not only embarrassing, consumers will surely question the quality of this new model. I wouldn’t worry too much about the recalls, however, because they are minor issues. I tested the Jeep Cherokee and while I liked it a lot I got a better feeling driving this Escape. For the dough and all things being equal, this is the best of the competition.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Tracker $15,435-21,430, Honda CR-V $18,750-22,800, Jeep Cherokee $17,910-23,480, Kia Sportage $14,645-19,345, Mazda Tribute $17,210-23,430, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $22,747-32,777, Nissan Xterra $17,999-25,099, Subaru Forester $20,295-22,895, Suzuki Grand Vitara $18,399-22,999, Toyota RAV4 $16,365-17,765.

Good News:

Well priced, car-like ride, comfortable and spacious, powerful 200 hp V6 or a more fuel efficient 130 hp 4 cylinder option, good handling and attractive styling.

Bad News:

Poorly placed ignition, early production Escapes had five safety-related recalls in five early months of sales, including wipers that could stop working, steering wheels could come loose, possible fuel line leakage and vehicle fires.

Standard Equipment:

Standard Equipment: 3.0 liter 200 hp V6 engine mated to a 4-speed auto trans front wheel drive (optionally a 4X4 is available and a 4-cylinder engine), power windows, door locks and mirrors, roof rack, rear window wiper/washer, cloth bucket front seats, 60/40 split rear seat, cruise control and tilt leather wrapped steering wheel, stereo with cassette and CD, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, 4-wheel ABS brakes, dual front and side air bags, power 6-way driver seat.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 24 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $23,305.

2001 Ford F150 Harley Davidson Super Crew Edition (340)

Overview:

This week we’re taking a Ford F150, painting it black and adorning it with the ever-popular Harley-Davidson (HD) insignia. We’ll also trick it out a bit and thrill some folks who aren’t even Harley riders. An article in the LA Times referred to Harley bikers as RUB’s, which stands for Rich Urban Bickers. Well, if you’ve ever priced Harley motorcycles you know what they mean.

I’ve owned a few bikes in my days and the custom soft tail I recently sold broke my heart, but there’s a time for everything. Surely this F150 rekindled that love of riding. Now I saddle up the four legged kind but it’s not the same. I met a lot of great people during those years riding those Harley’s, and contrary to the image of bikers they simply are people like you and even me. The perception must be changing and I suspect that has something to do with why Harley-Davidson and Ford got together on this unique effort to make a statement.

Handling & Performance:

Truly the smoothest riding truck I\’ve ever driven. I thoroughly enjoyed the “Ride” and the countryside around Sacramento, where I picked up the vehicle, is breathtaking in the spring. That was the frosting on the cake, as they say, and it made the trip magical.

Styling:

What a good idea. Who ever thought of the idea for this link up should get a lolli-pop. All the Harley logos give it that special feeling and I got a few thumbs up like you get when you ride a Harley. The statement is “Freedom” and even though you may not ride, most people have a place in their hearts for the rebel in us all. After everything, this is a truck, but I felt it was too pretty to get it dirty.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent. What a nice pickup-mobile this is.

Conveniences:

Well appointed and the price tag shows it.

Cost:

It’s a truck with a lot of Macho Fluff, but you will pay dearly for being different.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you need a great looking truck to haul your Harley Davidson Custom Soft Tail or even a full dress model, this is a class act – go for it. And it will only cost twice as much as the new Hog you just bought.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $16,045-35,107, Dodge Ram 1500 $15,285-24,425, GMC Sierra 1500 $16,690-38,370, Toyota Tundra $15,605-29,065.

Good News:

Smooooth ride, unique truck statement, bed extender for a comfy fit for your Harley.

Bad News:

Usual poor mileage from trucks, small truck bed limits cargo capacity.

Standard Equipment:

5.4 liter V8 210 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, 4-wheel disc brakes, heavy duty front stabilizer bar, power windows, door locks and mirrors, power steering, cruise control, air conditioning, power driver seat, leather wrapped steering wheel, stereo with CD player, chrome side nerf bars, fog lights, dual front air bags, quad captains chairs with HD logo, heavy box mat with HD logo, Harley-Davidson badges on the fenders and rear gate, anti-theft system.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $35,995.

1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX 4-Door Sedan (210)

Overview:
This is Ford\’s largest passenger automobile and it seats six adults comfortably. I doubt we’re headed back to the 1950 era of \”huge\” cars even though they are convenient when you need to transport more than a few people and their luggage. Of course the industry, in response to overwhelming demand, has provided for that need with the sport utility and vans.

There is no question that this is one of the last domestic full-size rear-wheel-drive passenger cars left and it is the second-best seller in the full-size segment. The Crown Victoria is available in two trims: the base Crown Vic and the LX that I drove.

Remember the Buick Roadmaster in the 1950s? We called them \”Road-Hogs\” back then. Well one of the features reminiscent of those cars was the extra soft ride you got. They were like \”luxury tanks\” and when you went over a dip or bump it would take a half-mile to level out again. You could get sea sick in those busses. I suspect the ride in this Crown Vic reminded me of the experiences of yesteryear with the Buick Roadmaster. Bad? No, I don’t think so. For every tush (sp) there’s a seat, and some folks still want to have the driving comfort you can only get from this kind of car. Handling and control is diminished however and I still prefer the stiffer ride so common in most of the automobiles on the road these days.

In keeping with the cars of the past, you also get rear windows that roll all the way down. What a novel idea. Do you think they can find a way to have the rear windows roll all – the – way – down on other cars? On the other hand, I was more irritated not having enough storage space than I was thrilled that the rear windows rolled all the way down. I always have a cell phone with me, as most people do these days, and I found myself putting it on the floor for lack of a better place. There were pull down arm rests in the front seat between driver and passenger and I would have expected them to double as storage areas. Don’t the engineers drive the cars they design? Another example of design improvements needed is the placement of radio and air condition controls. You literally have to reach to tune the radio. It isn’t that I’m lazy. When you’re driving at 65 mph it’s nice to be able to find all controls easily and without having to look. Doing that on a curvy road accentuates that inconvenience even more.

The Competition:

Buick LeSabre $22,465 – $25,790, Chrysler Concorde $21,305, Dodge Intrepid $19,685 – $22,465, Mercury Grand Marquis $22,090 – $23,990, Oldsmobile Eighty Eight $22,795 – $24,195, Toyota Avalon $24,408 – $28,288

Good News:

Spacious, comfortable, relative low cost, well placed cruise controls on the steering wheel.

Bad News:

Ride is soft, handles like a limousine, too much of a reach for instruments and door lock button poorly placed.

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter V8 200 HP engine, (note: a 175-horsepower compressed natural gas –CNG- V8 is also available), automatic trans, dual airbags, air, power windows & door locks, tilt wheel, cruise control, power seats tinted glass, a rear window defroster, and an AM/FM stereo system with cassette.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 24 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $21,135 – $23,335