Thursday, October 27, 2005

What would I buy if I needed to replace my Ranger today?

So the wheels in my head started spinning and the thought that came to me was this- What would I buy if I was looking to replace my Ranger today? Would it be a new Ranger, or could something else take it's place. I'd like to say that I bleed blue, but the facts are that I've owned other makes before including 2 Chevy trucks. Out of 17 vehicles I've owned over the years 9 were Ford, but in the end it would be what truck met my needs and did so at a reasonable price. So here goes, the criteria for my search ; A compact or "mid size" pickup, it must have 4 wheel drive preferablly with an available "off road" package, it should be an extended cab and a crew cab would be most desirable. Power and Economy will play a role in the decision as will cost to buy. I think I've assembled all the players here, let me know if I've missed any.

My current ride is a 1999 Ford Ranger XLT with the OffRoad package and trailer package, with the 4.0L V6 and manual transmission. It's got a nice cloth interior and air conditioning and a stereo. I don't need power windows unless I get a crew cab, but a slidding rear window is necessary, power or not.
Subaru's latest attempt at a truck is the Baja is more akin to a crossover SUV than a truck. Based on the Legacy Outback Sedan/Wagon with the horizontally opposed 6 making 165 hp and a small "bed" it's the token truck from Subaru. Not as cute or even useful as their previous effort the Brat and all that cladding just looks stupid. No real payload/ towing capacity or ground clearance to speak of, I don't see much utility in this at all. EPA ratings are 23/28 price $23,120
Honda's first attempt at a truck the Ridgeline is based on their Pilot/MDX unibody chasis and has the same 245 hp V6. Fuel Economy of 16 city 21 highway are not impressive numbers, but average for this segment. Honda gave the truck market only a half hearted effort and I don't care how many little cubby holes or underbed storage bins it may have, it's not a truck to me.
EPA rating of 16/21 price of $28,250
OK, here's the first serious contender, Nissan's latest Frontier with the most powerful V6 in it's class at 265 hp. EPA rating of 17/21 price of $23,305
The Toyota Tacoma is the truck that made it possible for the Japanese to expand into the full size market. A reputation for being tough and dependable, this is the truck that nipped at the heals of the big three, until it became a force to be reconned with in "compact" trucks. The latest redesign brought the Tacoma into the growing "mid size" club. EPA rating of 17/21 price of $24,145

The truck that created the "mid size" segment and now blurs the line between the mid and full size trucks is the Dodge Dakota. Unless they're parked side by side, it's tough to tell it from the Full size Ram. And it was the first mid size to come with an optional V8. EPA rating wiht 3.7 V6 is 16/20 price of $26,850 Mitsubishi after being absent from the truck market for several years has opted to sell a rebadged Dodge Dakota. Funny how the world has turned, years ago Dodge sold rebadged Mitsubishi Mighty Max trucks as Dodge D-50's. EPA ratings same as above, prices not available, no manual trans with V6 4x4
Even General Motors wasn't going to give up on Compact/Midsize trucks. Retiring the S10/15 after over 20 years they came up with the new GM twins, the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado (as well as an Isuzu clone) A variation of the Trailblazer's chassis and choice of 4 or 5 cylinder inline engines making 175 and 220 hp each, GM put some money into this and came up with a competative vehicle. EPA rating of 16/22 price of $23,855
EPA ratings same as above price of $23,800
Isuzu whick like Mitsubishi used to supply their American partner with compat trucks (remember the Pup/Luv ?) now sells rebadged versions of the Canyon/Colorado only with fewer choices. The I280 and I350 have the same I4/I5 engines also. EPA ratings same as above and pirce of $24,860, no manual trans available with I5 and 4x4.
The "Once and Future King" of the compact truck segement, the Ford Ranger was the #1 selling compact truck for about 16 years. The latest version is basically a cosmetic upgrade of the same truck Ford has been selling for many years. Now one of the smaller trucks in it's class and on the low side of the power scale. What may surprise you is that the 4cyl 2wd Ranger is the EPA's best rated truck for fuel economy. But with the 4.0 V6 and 4wd, the economy is poor at 16 city and 19 highway. Pricing was $23,100 after the $1500 cash back. Yet another Japanese manufacturer that sells rebadged versions of their American partner's pickup is Mazda. Mazda used to build the Ford Courier, a rebadged Sundowner pickup. EPA rating are same as Ranger, price was $22,515, not as much content, packages restricted.

And getting mention but little consideration is the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, based on the previous generation Explorer SUV, it's deep 4 ft bed seems of little utility to me. This one, who cares, it's not offered for 2006.

Problems with Blogger caused me to loose this post 4 times and have to retype. I will be away until Monday.

I almost forgot, the winner is the Nissan Frontier, with it's class leading power and pricing that is right where it should be. Who could pass up 265 hp and a 6 spd manual trans?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dog ate my homework

OK, I know no posts so far today, well I have a valid excuse, I really do.
My dog (Blogger) ate my homework. Really, don't laugh it happened.

I spent almost an hour posting pictures and typing and editing text, and when I went to save it, it was wiped out. I tried to "recover post" but only got about a quarter of what I had prepared.
So it all had to be redone and will be up soon. Bad Blogger, Bad!

Now to add insult to injury Blogger has designated my blog as a "Spam Blog" and I have to use word verification to post. Something to do with the fact that I post links to the same sites with some regularity. I need a break.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Practicallity of Compact Pickups vs Full Size

Parked behind my truck is a late model Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab, it makes mine look small.
This shot shows how mine looks miniture by comparison.

But I walked around both and took a couple of quick measurements. My truck's bed is actually 6 inches longer, while it is almost 6 inches shorter in height. I asked the owner what his payload capacity was and he told me he hauled as much as 2500 lbs. Impressive, but I've over 1500 lbs in mine. So I asked him how often he uses that kind of capacity and he said very rarely. Now the Quad Cab is an enviable option, but enough "Compact" trucks have them now, that it begs the question "why buy a full size truck?" Of course Ford hasn't seen fit to give the Ranger or it's Mazda clone the B Series a Crew Cab, but that's another reason it's slipping in market share.

Now I've used my truck for just about everything, helping people move, bringing stuff to the dump, picking up trees from the Nursery, going off road, and into the city for dinner and a show. My truck is what we take on vacation (just the two of us) and we get fair fuel economy and travel in decent comfort. Now I do all this for lower cost of operation and insurance and I can park it anywhere.

There are few things my truck can't do that a full size can. One guy told me that he tows his Vette to the race track with his full size Chevy truck. My response was "I drove my Mustang to the track." You always have to bust on the Chevy guys, keep them in their place.

Why I don't jump on doomsday bandwagon

Some may wonder why I don't post on some news related to Ford, such as managment changes or plant closings or the "decline" of Ford or the big three in general. It's simple, there are two reasons. The first is that I don't feel that I know enough about the situation to discuss it inteligently, and there are enough people doing it already. Second, I don't think Ford is necessarily in "decline", I think they need to do some work to get back up to the level they were at and I think they can and will do it.

So if you must read about these topics, please check the following blogs and sites; and

All of these are among my daily reads, and are well writen and updated often. I don't feel the need to repeat rumors and guesses, because that doesn't make them true. Maybe if some of the people who tear down Ford and GM in their posts, should tell us how they would do things better, what they would like to see changed.

Can Ford's Mustang compete against even more powerful Japanese competition, Jalopnick reports on possible 450Z

The short answer is yes, but just barely. The GT500 will be able to meet or beat many of the new 450Z's numbers.
But the 350Z and proposed 450Z have IRS and for now the GT500 does not.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Averge family hauler comparison shopping for my sister

OK, here's the situation, what do you do if you're an averge family of 5 and you want to buy a new vehicle that will fit everybody comfortably and not have the kids killing each other or driving you nuts, but want to spend as close to $30,000 (or hopefully less) as possible.
I was on the phone with my mother this morning and (Hi Mom!) we were just talking. In the course of conversation the subject of my sister Cathy's search for a new vehicle to replace her Ford Explorer came up. I decided to call her and see if I could give any input. Input will be all it is, as it's not me buying the vehicle, but her that needs to live with it everyday. Now it's no secret to my readers that I love station wagons and long for the return of the Country Squire. I have fond memories of road trips with my family in my uncle's Country Squires as a child. I'm sure I'm the only one who has these fond memories, the others probably cringe at the memory of the big wagon with all 7 of us and luggage cruising around the North Eastern United States and Canada. But let them work it out in therapy (just kidding, no need for hate mail.)

Now Cathy has had a series of vehicles over the years and while she doesn't hate the Explorer, it doesn't really serve her purpose any longer and she wants something that has a third row seat, car like handling and economy and enough space for her the husband and the kids. Something that can be used all year round, but does not require all wheel drive. All this for the as mentioned target price of $30,00 give or take. Well isn't this what most families want? So I decided to do a little quick research and yes I was biased towards Ford or partner vehicles, but will give every one their fair shake here. I used several web sites in my search including Edmunds (click link above) and as well as . So off I went in search of what would fill the needs of an average family, a crossover SUV with front wheel drive and hopefully a DVD entertainment system to keep the younger crowd quiet on long drives. The third row seat bumped a lot of models out of consideration and there is only one Hybrid that fits the criteria. Crossover SUVs only no trucks or minivans.
Now when talking to my sister, she mentioned that the Volvo XC90 would be her ultimate choice if money were not an option. And it is an extremely good choice, so I started there. Now the closest I could get in price for the comparison was $36,000 for the front wheel drive with cloth interior but with enough creature comforts to be livable. Volvo is the benchmark for safety in many people's minds, with a reputation for solid reliable cars and now crossover SUVs. The XC90 is based on the modified S80/V70 chasis and uses the Turbo I-5 making 208 hp. Now I was surprised by only one thing the economy, it's not really great. According to the EPA it's rated at 17 city, 23 highway and 19 combined actually tied for last place in this group.
Now one other vehicle that Cathy wanted to see was the Subaru Tribeca, the only one in the comparison that is not available without all wheel drive. Based on the Legacy Chassis, this is Subaru's answer to families and if you can get past the "styling" ( I think it looks like a pig) it's been reviewed very well. But I thought that the all wheel drive would be a price handicap, but at $33,020 it's not that far off the mark. It's 250 hp turbo H-6 puts it in the higher end of the power range for this group and fuel economy is average for the group too with 18 city, 23 highway and 20 combined ratings. Reviews I've read have said third row access is tight. I'm not a huge fan of Subaru, but this could be a contender.
The Pacifica from Chrysler was also mentioned as a candidate. Now when these burst onto the market they were fetching premiums and praised in the automotive press. But after the initial flurry of activity they were overshadowed by the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum (Which did not make it here, because of the lack of third row seat.) Now the Pacifica is a heavy vehicle and even with it's 250 hp V-6 is not a stellar performer. Also the low roof line in rear makes it a cramped third row. Fuel economy was the tie for last place at 17 city, 23 highway and 19 combined and that's the front wheel drive model, the all wheel drive model is even more thirsty. At $32,930 it came well equiped with leather, moonroof and the DVD system. These can be had for less with lower content, but most dealers order them loaded. I don't see this as really in the running.
Now for the Honda, not requested, but since it shares the platform of the Acura MDX which was and does fit into the price range specified, here it is. With a 244 hp V-6 it's got a bit of get up and go, and of course there's that percieved Honda quality. The Pilot priced out at $33,995 a little high for this group, but within a reasonable bargaining range. Don't let anyone tell you Honda dealers don't need to haggle, cause they do and they will. Nothing stelar about the Pilot, but not bad. Another surprise for me was the economy at 18 city, 24 highway and 20 combined it's not great. The only compelling reason for anyone to buy is the name. It's in the running, but barely.
Now the Toyota Highlander 4x2 V-6 does not stand out in a crowd, especially this one, power rating is unecceptional at 215 hp for the 3.3L V-6 and fuel economy isn't either at 19 city, 25 highway and 21 combined. The price for the non hybrid was$31,055 and that wasn't fully loaded. Not at the top of my list and nothing I could suggest to a friend or family member.
Now for the higher price of $$35,365 you can get the Hybrid version rated at 33 city, 28 highway and 30 combined. For that reason alone people will buy this. For it's the only hybrid with a third row seat. The selling point is the milage, not much else. But I'd test drive it if I was in the market.
Now I know that many people will say that this is because of my devotion to Ford, and they may have a point, but let's really look at this vehicle and see why I consider it the hands down winner. First price, a front wheel drive Freestyle Limited with leather interior, moonroof, all the airbags, traction control and DVD system goes for $32,305 and with rebates and motivated dealers less than that. The "underpowered" V-6 has 210 hp and gets amazingly good milage when compared to this group, being beaten by the Hybrid alone. THe Freestyle has an EPA rating of 20 city, 27 highway and 23 combined. Add onto that the fact that it just recieved the highest safety ratings and it's amazing that these aren't flying out of the dealerships.

If you configure a Freestyle correctly it's possible to get it for well under $30k, but even fully loaded the price compared very well with the others only the non Hybrid Highlander was cheaper, and that didn't have Leather or DVD.

Now I would recomend that my sister drive the Freestyle, and maybe the Highlander Hybrid, but if it was my money it would be the Freestyle. If you haven't seen one, go and test drive it, the vehicle is outstanding in value and utility and now we know in safety and economy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

AutoProphet discusses Chrysler's attemtp to chalenge the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor

For most of my 40 years on this planet Ford has been a major player in Law Enforcement vehicles. Thanks to deals with TV production companies, most of the police cars you saw on TV were Ford products, from Mayberry to the Streets of San Francisco and even Jack Lord of Hawai 5-O served and protected in a FoMoCo product. And when Chevy stopped production Ford truly dominated the Police Interceptor market.

Even with some departments moving to front wheel drive Impalas and various SUVs, the majority of police vehicles are Ford Crown Victorias. Well every few years someone tries to knock Ford off that perch and now with the recent bad press and lawsuits, it could be Chrysler's time to shine. Now that they've returned to the world of rear wheel drive sedans, Dodge's Charger could be the car that replaces the Crown Vic. The Auto Prophet points out correctly that Ford's price could be a saving grace, and the service history of the platform has been good. But with the much publicized fuel tank problems Ford could loose an important market.

All the more reason to bring out a redesign or replacement for the aging Panther Platform, which has changed little since 1979. As I've said before, Ford needs a new rear wheel drive platform not a fleet of 500 clones. The Police, Taxi and Limo sales have kept the Panther platform profitable for Ford and they will miss the sales dearly. A redesign for these cars should have been a priority years ago and now is critical with new cometitors on the way. No I don't anticipate that Hyundai will build an Interceptor package on their new rear wheel drive model, but the rumors of GM's return to rear wheel drive and Chrysler's hot new models should be all the motivation needed to get a new Panther class of vehicles out there.

It's not just a matter of money to me, it's another example of Ford admitting defeat in a segment they dominated, like the Ranger in the Compact Truck segment and how the Focus has been left to stagnate while the competition rolls out new product all around it. You can't just surrender markets and hope that full size trucks will keep you going, or hope that Hybrids (which they can't build enough of) are going to pick up the slack.

Supplier problems cause delay in getting Fusions out to dealers

Just what Ford doesn't need when introducing the most important model in 20 years is a suplier problem, but that's what they got. A supplier that makes interior pieces for the new Fusion and it's Milan/Zephyr stablemates is causing a slow rollout of the car Ford needs to be a huge hit. Dealers can't get them fast enough, only 20,000 built and Ford says they've had over 100,000 requests for information on their site. Ford's working to get the problem resolved with supplier.

MPH comparison of Mustang GTO and Charger RT from August, and what if the Falcon GT had been thrown into the mix?

I was reading the latest issue of MPH today and they had an article about Chryslers new Dodge Charger SRT8. So I went onto their website to see if I could find a link to this article and discuss it here and found an article from August that was even better. A classic Big 3 shootout. They compared the Mustang GT to the Charger RT and Pontiac GTO. Interesting read, click the link above, but to summarize briefly, they declared the GTO the winner.

The Mustang was criticized for rough ride and handling because it's the only one of the three without IRS. But the Mustang was praised for styling and utility somewhat. Even though it's got the smallest engine and lowest rated horsepower it faired well.
They loved the Chargers handling and comfort (I guess it's not bad for last gen E Class Mercedes) and loved the interior comfort and utility. No surprise for the only 4 door in group.
They beat up on the GTO for it's looks and lack of any utility, but praised it's beastly power and declared it the winner in the neo muscle car shootout. Funny that the winner is the only one not even built in the US. But the GTO's 400 hp and IRS go a long way in helping overlook the bland styling and useless backseat and trunk.
The GTO is going to have some real competition from the new Charger SRT8 with it's 425 hp and better utility.

But available to Ford is another contender in the Australian Ford Falcon GT. This could give both the GTO and SRT8 a run for their money and do it with real style. MPH talks about the SRT8's Brembo brakes, well this Falcon has them too, as well as an IRS and enough luxury apointments like moonroof and DVD navigation too.

Ford wake up! Not everyone wants a 500, some of us want excitement.

Found review of V-6 Mustang Convertible at BlueOvalNews on CanadianDriver site

I was checking BlueOvalNews and found a link to a review on a Canadian website of the Mustang V6 Convertible. Two reviewers drove a Legen Lime V6 Mustang Convertible and it was actually a 5 speed manual. I found it interesting and thought you might also.

Some of the criticism is harsh, but overall it's a fair evalation and a posative review. Both feel that the V6 is more than adequate power at 210 hp and the manual shifts better than the GT's.

I still have to confirm availability of a manual trans with the Pony package Convertible. Otherwise Ford lost a sale.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ford shows new Equator concept in Tokyo

This is the new Equator concept (this time an Escape not an Explorer) introduced at the Tokyo auto show. Now as I recall the earlier Equator concept (Explorer) Focused more on off road ability, but the new one is more urban sport. Aimed at the Asian market, I'm sure it will be shown around the US in the upcoming auto show season. I can't help but notice a slight resemblance to the EcoSport R that I've shown before here, maybe it's the color and the body kit. I'm sure we'll see a version of this grille on future Escapes as it is the new 3 bar corporate face of Ford.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Auto blogs under the microscope, Bill Discher researching what makes us tick

A University of Baltimore graduate student, Bill Discher is doing a research project where he's examing the Automotive aspect of blogging. He's set up his own blog where I presume we will be able to follow his progress and read his opinion of the Automotive Blogging community.

I wish Bill luck and look forward to following his progress.

Funny, that's the second Grad student this year that I've heard of looking into differnt aspects of the Automotive Enthusiast culture. If you recall when I was at Carlisle in June I ran into Josh Ford the student film maker who interviewed me and Joe for his documentary on the car show hobby. I never heard from Josh, I hope his project went well, I'd like to see his film some day.

More news about those darn French, this time it's rumors about Renault wanting to buy Volvo

I've been catching up on my blog reading and have seen several mentions of rumors that the French Automaker ( who now have controling interest in Nissan) have approached Ford about buying Volvo, in an effort to buy into the upper end of the European market. The rumors all say that Ford flatly said no, smart move on Ford's part considering that Volvo is turning a profit and the shared technology and architecture between the two brands would make seperation difficult.

No French automaker has sold vehicles in the US market in almost 20 years. The French like the Italians ( Fiat and Alfa Romeo) suffered from a loss in reliability and prestige. Renault, Citreon and Peugeot all were available in the US for a period extending from the early 60's until the late 80's, but they could not compete with the more efficient and reliable German and Japanese imports. And even in Europe are not considered a premium brand. Buying Volvo would have given them a brand with the necessary credentials.

Opinions on the net seem to agree that Saab will be their next target for aquisition, that is if GM doesn't run the brand into the ground first. It would be a win win situaiton for GM and Renault, giving GM much needed cash.

Life gets in the way of blog, but I'm back

You may have noticed that I took a few days away from blogging. You know how it is, Life gets in the way. But I've posted some stuff today and have some posts I'm working on.

I did manage to get to Englishtown Raceway Park in OldBridge NJ for the Fun Ford Weekend on Sunday, but stupid me forgot the camera. It was low attendance with no vendors to speak of, maybe because of recent weather and of high winds, but it was fun just the same. Some of the things I would have taken pictures of are;

High 12 second Diesel Ranger dragster, the guys of Phase II Diesel in New York had a Cummins 4 cyl Diesel in a Ford Ranger and were pulling high 12 second quater mile runs all day long. I got a chance to talk to Bob between rounds and the truck has about 320 hp and over 500 lb ft of torque from a 4 cyl out of an old bread truck. Lots of fun to watch.

Evan Smith of Muscle Mustangs Fast Fords magazine, was pulling the front wheels on every run in his Fox Mustang and still winning with some impressive runs.

There was something for every Ford fan there, and it was cool to watch all the new Mustangs run 13.8 quaters all day on street tires with no mods. I also loved some the Pinto and Mavericks running strong against Fox Mustangs. I promise next time to bring the camera and a note book, really I will.

As Ford fumbles the ball on Rear Wheel Drive, even Hyundai gets in the game

As Ford releases the Fusion, a fine car, they still haven't been able to keep up with trends.
The aging Panther platform and the outgoing Lincoln LS are Ford's only rear wheel drive sedans, having opted for front/all wheel drive for the new 500. And despite the trend of other automakers toward rear wheel drive, Ford is set to replace the Panther Platform Town Car with 500 clones ( see earlier posts and rants.)

But even Hyundai sees the future is going to be partially rear wheel driven.

Come on Ford, wake up and smell the burning rubber around you, that's the competition leaving you behind.

Why isn't the FreeStyle selling in big numbers, check it's safety out at AutoBlog

When I first saw the FreeStyle in Nashville in 2004, I was amazed. I thought that this and the sedan 500 would be milestone cars for Ford, and by all rights they should have been. Crisp clean styling, very well put together, the FreeStyle in particular is like a swiss army knife in it's usefull features. I was in Nashville for the 40 th aniverary of the Mustang and at a display there it was with no fuss or shouting. And that's the way it is today. Ford never gave the FreeStyle the marketing it needed. And the name makes it suffer because of it's similarity to the awful FreeStar, guilt by association.

Now if you look at the reveiws over the last year and a half in different magazines and of course at the article linked above, you should ask yourself "why don't I see tons of these on the road?"
SUV versatility and utility, sedan handling and fuel economy, it truly just makes too much sense.
But this suffers from the blahs. It gets slammed in the automotive press as being underpowered, but in head to head tests with the Chrysler Pacifica it's faster despite an almost 40 hp deficit. Now with the revision of Japanese hp ratings, it stacks up fairly well against the competition. But Ford is ready to demote the FreeStyle to the Mercury Meta One and lower volume sales. At least it's not going away completely. But I still insist they should have called it the Country Squire or Ranch Wagon and the 500 should have been the Galaxie 500.

Tuner Fusions to be at SEMA show AutoBlog has nice pictures

Any new release that hopes to sell well, has to be featured heavily at the SEMA show. And the Fusion which is the most important rollout from Ford in years (arguably more important than the Mustang) is no different. And like the Mustang Ford made sure that they got early production models to several custom shops to receive the "tuner" treatment.

Late in the Summer Ford also had Funk Master Flex, the host of Ride With Funk Master Flex on Spike, as well as sucessful radio dj and well known auto enthusiast, do his version of the Fusion and tour with it to car shows. Ford also had the series of Flash concerts this summer and fall in order to creat buzz for the Fusion. All money well spent if the Fusion is the hit it should be.

Ford isn't the only one that has done this, GM sent several HHRs out and when they were rolled out originally Chrysler sent the 300 and Magnum out for the same treatment. Your Fusion may never have the Dub look, but people like to know it could.

MPH Online spyphotos of Jaguar S Type and short review of MPH magazine

The current S Type Jaguar, which shares architecture with the outgoing Lincoln LS is a very handsome car and has done fairly well for Jaguar. Dave Thomas over at MPH Online has posted some spyshots of test mules and an artists rendering of what the new updated S Type will look like.

Now I only recently discovered MPH Online and it is now a site I check on a daily basis. It's a very well done and interesting site and Dave seems to be a very friendly guy, having corresponded several times with him via e-mail. I had not seen the news stand version of MPH and told Dave, he was nice enough to send me a couple of copies so I could check it out.

Now at first I was ready to dismiss it as yet another youth oriented trash rag, with articles on music and video games as well as the Backseat Betty quasi centerfold section. But after giving the two issues a careful read through I can see that it's much better than a first glance would have left me. Don't get me wrong, I think it will be a hit with the younger guys, reviews of the latest driving games and tech gear, but there is enough substance to even entertain an old man like me. It's not AutoBuff, the now defunct soft core porn rag with models thrown across the hoods of custom muscle cars. The articles are well written and interesting and the parodies that pop up in the back are amusing and smart.

It's not Automobile or Road & Track, but hell that's a great thing. Those two rags are both snooze time material. This is a combination of Car and Driver and Maxim. Actually entertaining and informative, but geared toward a younger market than some of the old guard auto magazines. So if you like cars, technology and want a little humor and fashion (luckily very little) this could be for you. And I know a couple of my friends that will get a real rise out of the Backseat Betty feature (you know who you are)

Click the link on the left to check out MPH Online, including the new blogs by their staff. And while there say hi to Dave and consider buying the hard copy version, I don't think you'll be disapointed.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Those darn French are so silly

In another way off topic post (sue me, it's my blog, I'll post off topic if I want) I have to point out this article on AutoBlog about French "activists" vandalizing SUVs in Paris. Also read the comments about the US made by French Oficial, and wonder why we hate the French.

If you get a chance and want to laugh, go to;

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Are Hybrids the answer? Not alone and not for everyone

I've been reading a lot of blogs today and the fur seems to be flying in every direction concerning Hybrid vehicles, and I'm as guilty as anyone, with my latest post telling Ford to produce more Hybrids. Many people mistakenly think of Hybrids as the solution to our energy needs, and the simple truth is they aren't, not for everyone at least. Don't get me wrong, they're great for a portion of the driving public that would include me. The truth about Hybrids are that they only really make sense for people that do an urban or even suburban driving circuit. For people that commute long distances there is absolutely no relief. The same goes for Electric cars like the now defunct Ford Think, pictured above. Electric cars do not work in the US almost at all. The range of them is limited and the size of them makes them unsafe compared to the average car.
Nobody wants to drive a golf cart with a roof on the highway, where you can be knocked on your side by the tail wind of a passing tractor trailer.
Gasoline/Electric Hybrids solve several problems of the Electric cars, but not all. The range is basically unlimited, because you have a gas engine that takes over and most Hybrids use braking to recharge the batteries. But Hybrids achieve their best milage on a "city" driving loop and on the highway perform much like their gasoline counterparts. As an example the Ford Escape achieves 34 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. So for commuters traveling into cities from far flung suburban communities, they really have a limited benefit.

My personal driving routine would be a perfect fit for a Hybrid, as I drive about 5 miles to work each way and most of driving is done in stop and go traffic, with the ocasional trip on the highway. But many people I know drive 40-50 miles each way on the highway, where the Hybrid has no advantage.

The answers to our problem are manifold, a combination of Hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles, as well as more efficient gasoline and Diesel vehicles. Ford's partner Mazda is rolling out the MazdaSpeed6 with it's 2.3 L Direct Injection Turbo I-4, making over 270 hp and still achieving decent milage. Many pundits have said, and I agree that the future of the automobile as we know it is going to involve many smaller displacement motors with this type of technology.

I remember in the 80's many auto makers were wild about Turbos, Chrysler put a turbo in almost everything they sold, including the mini vans. Ford jumped on the wagon too, with the Superb Mustang SVO and the almost ran Turob GT Mustangs, as well as turbo Escort, EXP, Merkur and Thunderbird. GM's Buick division seemed the champion of turbo technology across their model line up as well. Mitsubishi had big hits with their Turbo Codria/Tredia and Starion models long before the Evo came to these shores. Turbos were nothing new, GM had them in early Corvairs and many Diesels had turbos for years. But in the 80's the mantra was V-8 power with 4 cyl milage. And it was a turbo boon for a while. Then people experienced turbo failures. Turbos are great, but early turbos were prone to failure because of lubrication and heat related problems. So turbos fell out of fashion. Only showing up on high end sporty cars and the Chevy Sprint ( Don't ask me why.)

Turbo technology as well as fuel injection and engine management have come a long way. I'm not saying that's the solution either. I think that all of them are the answer. Some Bio Fuel Diesel vehicles, some Electric and Hybrid, and a redesign of the current powertrains to include technology to increase fuel economy while not loosing performance. We can have our cake and eat it too.

Ford is poised to take bold steps if they dare, and lead the American Auto Industry into the future, as they are the only domestic manufacturer with viable Hybrids right now and with the Direct Injection Turbo in the toolbox, things could be looking better. That is if they can survive long enough to implement these technologies.

But what the hell do I know?

Auto Extrimist nails it


I know this is not Ford specific, but in one of those rare moments I have to go slightly off topic.
Peter D of AutoEtrimist writes an excelent editorial on the shaky future of the American Auto Industry and our economy in general.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Aviator spyshots

Click the link to see spyshots of the upcoming Lincoln Aviator. Based on the Mazda Crossport and Ford Edge, it replaces the Explorer based Aviator that has not been selling well.
This is the original concept for the Aviator, I wonder how close the production model will be.
I loved the old Aviator, with it's 300 hp quad cam 4.6, but apparently that wasn't enough. With tough competition in this segment sales have been dropping. Hopefully the new Aviator will reverse the trend.

Rear wheel drive revival?

Wards Auto is declaring the rebirth of rear wheel drive and declares the Mustang the front runner at 190,000 units for 2005. Chrysler's 300/Magnum combined didn't sell as well, although they did very well.
This should come as no surprise to anyone, but the combined sales of the three Panther platform models Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis/ Town Car totaled over 220,000 units.

Now the LS did very poorly in sales, but as I've stated before, the chassis could be utilized in a new model or models.

Wards questions if Ford could sell 200,000 Mustangs a year, and says to do so would require concessions from Mazda that are unlikely. But the LS is built at the Wixom plant which may close and if new models were to be built on this chassis at the existing plant that could be a winning situation.