2013 Ford Flex-SEL AWD Review

Wednesday February 20th, 2013 at 1:22 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Spacious, Handsome, Comfy
Gripes: Irascible Dash Controls, Parking Woes

It’s not often I lose a fight with a turn signal indicator, but the stalk on this Flex had me flummoxed. So much pressure is required to move the lever, that half the time it wouldn’t budge until after the window of need had shut. In a microcosm, that recalcitrance is emblematic of the Flex’ testy driver/vehicle interface. For example, if you want to turn the seat heaters on, you can only do so if the proper screen is displayed on the driver information center. No physical buttons for this task are present. If it’s really cold and you’re wearing gloves, you can’t activate the touch screen without first removing your gloves, since the screen is sensitive to heat rather than just pressure. Also, if you want to change interior temperature settings, the dash provides poorly differentiated receptor spots that issue a barely audible click when touched. So you need to look at the display screen to confirm any temperature change you think you’ve made. It’s an unsatisfying, time consuming and attention diverting procedure.

Ergonomic transgressions aside, the Flex is a true family warrior, with easy seating for 6 spread over 3 rows. If you delete the 2nd row console ($100 option) you could easily squeeze 7 into this sizeable bus. The rearmost pair of seats fold flat but must be removed for access to the sunken load floor. The 2nd row seats are auto-folders which facilitate quick conversion from bus to truck. Interior room is vast, thanks to a stretch limo wheelbase of 117.1 inches and a cargo hold of 83.2 cubic feet with all rear seats folded. The price you pay for this interior convenience is measured in size and weight. The Flex is a road giant with a length of 201.8 inches and a curb weight of 4,471 pounds. Given those figures, it’s nothing short of amazing that this behemoth manages to return 19 MPG in overall mileage.


What’s even more surprising is this big boy’s spunk and agility. The base engine, a 287hp, 3.5 liter V-6, is 25hp more powerful than last year’s standard offering. But the base V-6, with 255 lb.-ft. of torque, is good for towing just 2,000 pounds of trailer. If you plan to tow a 4,000 pound load, however, you’ll want to opt for the 3.5 liter twin-turbo V-6 which ups horsepower to 365 and makes 350 lb.-ft. of torque. Outside of the towing limitation, the base V-6 is plenty punchy in normal driving. This engine parses power through a 6-speed “Selectshift” automatic transmission with manual gear selection available through a floor-console mounted lever. Steering response is more communicative than you might expect. It’s never difficult to place the front wheels directly on an apex, and the all-wheel-drive system keeps the 18 inch Goodyear Assurance tires (235/60R18) churning relentlessly through each and every switchback. You won’t mistake the Flex for a sports agility vehicle, but considering its size, it gets down the road with alacrity. To this end, Ford has retuned Flex’s 2013 chassis components for better road feel. Passing power is good, handling is commendable, and outward vision through the vast glass acreage is superb.

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2013 Ford Fusion SE Review

Thursday January 10th, 2013 at 8:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Remarkable Handling, First Rate Fit and Finish
Gripes: Tiny Info Screen, No Visual HVAC Temp Confirmation

Park the 2013 Fusion next to Ford’s previous model of the same name and you will instantly see that everything has changed but the name. The previous model was so chrome-clad, clumsily styled and ponderous looking that it makes the new Fusion look like Botticelli’s Venus on the Half Shell. Your first impression of the 2013 Fusion’s comparative grace, balance and purpose is not deceiving. This car will be a game changer for Ford because it not only matches but improves upon the competition from Honda (Accord), Toyota (Camry) and Nissan (Altima).
And for family types who seek a little enjoyment from the art of driving, Ford caters to your specific need by selling a manual transmission version of the Fusion. Try buying one of those at your Honda, Toyota or Nissan store.

Let the celebration begin at the Fusion’s as-delivered price of $26,040, which should provoke a case of reverse sticker shock. The base price of the SE is $23,700, with a $1,510 bump for Equipment group 204A (Appearance Package, 18 inch Painted Sports Wheels, Rear Spoiler), and $295 for a Reverse Sensing System (with dashboard camera display). What really made this car a champ is the availability of the 6-speed manual gearbox, with its perfectly weighted shift mechanism, silky clutch engagement, and ideally suited gear ratios. Although the Fusion’s small displacement (1.6 liter),turbocharged inline four produces just 178hp, the slick gearbox allows you to provide a gear set as demand dictates. No waiting for the lethargic up and downshifts of an automatic, which would seep the lifeblood out of this edgy EcoBoost motor.

The 18 inch optional rims notch the sedan into a performance class on a par with BMW 3 Series road burners. Tire fitment for these rims is generous, with Goodyear Eagle LS2 tires measuring 235/45R18 at each corner. Late one night, clear weather and traffic free road conditions conspired to provide the ideal opportunity to test the Fusion’s handling. This sedan is remarkably composed when pushed close to the limit. Ford has dialed understeer out of the SE’s handling portfolio. Turn-in is crisp and precise, and power is sufficient for really quick motoring without oversteer. The Goodyears, which don’t look particularly aggressive in the tread pattern department, never issued a single squeal. Ford has really managed to sort the twisty road performance of this unassuming family car.

The interior is a pleasure to behold. The exceptionally clean looking black cloth seats benefit from red stitching across their 7 cushion, and 9 backrest pleats. Two different shades of metallic burnishing adorn the interior accents. The center stack and door pulls are done in matte aluminum, while the door panel and glovebox trim strips are matte platinum. The basket weave beige headliner looks expensive, and Ford has even seen fit to equip it with 4 hand grabs which are cushioned to retract noiselessly when you let go of them.

Large water bottle holders make the sizeable door pockets really useful, the glove box offers 2 expansive shelves, and even the rear seat is fully equipped, with adequate leg and headroom, and a drop down cupholder/armrest. A final touch exhibits just how far this company has come in terms of design: the keypad which allows you to unlock your car from the outside – formerly a fixed and ugly device – is now seamlessly integrated into the B-pillar as a lit unit which disappears from view after you shut the driver’s door.

If there’s any confusion about the Fusion it’s in the engine choice department. Those of you opting for maximum scat will want to consider the 2.0 liter EcoBoost option which provides 188hp. There’s also a non-turbo 2.5 liter version good for 175hp. But with highway fuel consumption 37MPG, it’s hard to beat the 1.6 liter engine, especially when it’s tied to that superb manual 6-speed transmission.

2013 Ford Fusion SE

  • Engine: 1.6 Liter Inline 4, Turbocharged, Direct Injection
  • Horsepower: 178hp @5,700rpm
  • Torque: 184 lb.-ft. @2,500rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 25 MPG City/37 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,040
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2012 Ford Edge 2.0L Review

Friday December 7th, 2012 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Aero Crafted Looks, Commendable Interior Space
Gripes: 1960 Shift Pattern, Chiclets Dashboard Feel

At $38,910, Ford’s EcoBoost Edge pushes the price envelope for a 4 cylinder SUV with front-wheel-drive. Base price on the Edge is $34,915. But by the time you’ve added the $995 optional 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine, new for 2012 and featuring direct injection, the $485 Vision Package (with blind spot monitoring), the numerical keypad Driver Entry Package ($895) and a Voice Activated Navigation System ($795), you’ll find yourself spending more than you would for a comparable VW Tiguan, and squarely into Audi Q5 all-wheel-drive territory.

Although you can fit your Edge with either a 3.5 or 3.7 liter V-6, (good for 285hp or 305hp respectively), the turbocharged and intercooled inline 4 cylinder EcoBoost motor produces 240hp, and more torque (270lb.-ft.) than even the 3.5 liter V-6. In the long run, you’ll spend less money operating the EcoBoost Edge thanks to its superior 21MPG/30MPG fuel economy, which trumps any of the V-6 models (which average 17MPG/23MPG). Best of all, you will never notice a power deficit with the EcoBoost engine due to its immediate response to depression of the throttle pedal, and excellent reserve of passing power.

The lively turbo motor deserves a better gearbox than Ford has provided. This one, a 6-speed automatic, has a floor-shift with provisions for Park/Reverse/Neutral/Drive/Low. That’s it. No steering wheel paddles, no way to access intermediate gears for quick downshifts. Just PRNDL, like it was 1960 all over again. Plus, it’s all too easy to slip the lever into “L” when you really mean to select “D” because the detents between steps are weak.


Inside the cabin, the Edge compares favorably with the Tiguan and Q5. On newer model lines like Edge, Ford has refined fit and finish to match the best of the imports. The cockpit here has an expensive look, with flush panel meets, and leather-trimmed 10-way adjustable power front seats that are new for 2012. Even rear seat passenger comfort is well developed, with the 60/40 folding back seats affording plenty of headroom, a pair of overhead grab assists, lots of side glass area, a drop down center beverage holder console, and best of all, sliding and reclining rear seat adjustments.

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2013 Ford Mustang V6 Review

Thursday December 6th, 2012 at 9:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: V8 Performance at V6 Price
Gripes: Illegible Speedo, Chair Flop Annoyances

Most people think V-8 when they think Ford Mustang. To be sure, the brand’s identity is based on the architecture of the 8 cylinder engine. But with gas nudging the $5 per gallon mark, maybe it’s time to rethink the basic Mustang equation. Back in 1964, when Ford introduced the Mustang, the base model’s inline 6 cylinder engine was a weak-kneed shadow of the optional V8. Today, however, the base V6 is a sophisticated triumph of compact engineering, with coil-on-plug electronics and a 12.4 quart oil sump that is just half a quart shy of the 5.0 liter V8’s 13 quart oil pan. Best of all, the latest 24 valve, DOHC V6 makes 305hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque, and earns an EPA overall fuel rating of 22 MPG.

If you’re going to go the V6 route, then you’ll really want to back up the engine with Ford’s sweet shifting 6-speed manual transmission, which features hill-hold for 2013. This gearbox will help you extract every last ounce of performance from the high-revving V6. The stubby aluminum and leather shift knob glides from gate to gate with just a nudge. Performance off the line is particularly explosive if you stipulate the V6 Performance Package ($1,395), which provides extra initial surge through a 3.71:1 rear axle ratio with Limited Slip differential gears. The “track pack” which for 2013 is available on automatic transmission V6 Mustangs, also brings you distinctive looking painted and machined 19 inch diameter alloy rims fitted with premium Pirelli P Zero tires measuring 225/40ZR19.

These 220 Treadwear Rated Pirellis contribute prodigious amounts of side bite to the Mustang’s athletic cornering ability. If you select the correct gear to keep the V6 on full boil, this economy Mustang will run with much more expensive, higher powered sports cars on any backroad. Of course, with an out-the-door price of just $32,025, you’ll have to accept a few shortcomings in the mix. The spring tension on the clutch release mechanism is so strong that the Mustang will leap forward on the 1st to 2nd gear upchange even before you feed in throttle. This can be disconcerting at first, but you quickly learn to adapt your driving style to this eccentricity.

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2013 Ford Fiesta SES Review

Tuesday October 9th, 2012 at 9:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Cute, Practical, City Parking Champ
Gripes: Auto Gearbox Kills the Buzz

The newly reissued Fiesta is small, practical, affordable, and cute. But along with those virtues, it also never lets you forget that it is cramped and underpowered. On the positive side of the ledger, the Fiesta is short enough to slip into any parking spot you can find. It’s even a pleasure to parallel park since side and rear vision is unrestricted. Its diminutive 98 inch wheelbase is 6 inches shorter than that of the Ford Focus, which itself is hardly a limousine. Hence the agile Fiesta is a lot of fun on twisty roads, willingly following your steering wheel command to flick it from side to side. Appealingly grippy performance rubber – 195/50/R16 Hankook Optimo H426 tires – underline the Fiesta’s innate balance and proclivity to carve corners.

The interior appointments of the top line SES model are soothing and handsome. The cloth trimmed seats feature tone on tone inserts that look like they belong on a tapestry in the museum of modern art. Their branch-like patterning contributes an air of Zen simplicity to the cabin. Even the pebbly dash top finish, which resembles compressed shipping cardboard, does a good job of quelling reflections and looking starkly modern. The center stack of the dash, constructed in a V-pattern to replicate a smart phone faceplate, works well with one exception. There’s a center volume control knob for the entertainment unit, but no matching knob to access station settings. This lack requires you to resort to an infuriating scan of the various push buttons, none of which accomplish the simple task of changing radio channels.

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2013 Ford Explorer Review

Saturday September 22nd, 2012 at 11:99 AM
Posted by: AKramer

By Alex Kramer


  • Excellent highway cruiser
  • Spacious, well-appointed interior
  • Decent handling for a large SUV
  • Loads of available technology and safety features


  • 3.5 L V6 needs another helping of torque
  • More soft-roader than off-roader
  • My Touch system still needs work
  • Slurps gas

It’s been a while since the Ford Explorer captivated the minds of American car buyers. Once the SUV sales king, the truck-based Explorer has been passed over in recent years for more modern looking, better performing car-based crossovers. Even Ford seems to have recognized this shift in consumer behavior, offering its own competition to the Explorer in the form of the Edge and Flex crossovers.

Rather than let the Explorer die out, Ford decided to transform the vehicle into a more road friendly, yet still off-road capable SUV. With a unibody chassis borrowed from the Taurus and Flex, and an all wheel drive system that features terrain management and hill-descent control, the 2011 Explorer promises to be the best of all worlds. We took the new Explorer on a trip high into the Sierras to find out if this really is the rebirth of a champion, or just a rehash of what the rest of the industry has already been doing for years.

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2012 Ford Focus Hatchback Review

Friday August 3rd, 2012 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By contributing editor David Colman

Vitals Statistics:
$19095      Focus 5dr HB SE
4-Door Front Wheel Drive , 160 bhp, 146 lb-ft, 5-sp Manual, 26/36 mpg
5 passengers, 2900 lb, 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine, 18.1 lb/bhp


  • Euroslick styling
  • Gem-like interior fittings
  • Razor sharp handling
  • Eager engine that is happy to work hard
  • Hatchback model has added utility over sedan and looks great
  • Long list of upgrades and high-tech options


  • Lack of paddle shifters for dual clutch automatic
  • HVAC dials where radio controls should be and vice versa
  • Driving concentration distracted by Ford Synch GUI

YouTube Preview Image2012 Ford Focus Test Drive & Car Review. This video is brought to you by Autobytel

If you think of the Focus as Ford’s VW Golf beater, you’re aiming too low. Golf was just the low hanging fruit in Ford’s quest to redefine the sport compact sedan. The real target was Audi’s A3, a loftier goal indeed. Has Ford succeeded in outdoing the A3? Not quite, but close enough to give Audi reason to be concerned. If you want to build a better sport sedan than Audi, you’d best hire Germans to design it, and that’s just what Ford has done. The Focus was conceived in Germany, and has been on sale across Europe for more than a year. It has already established a successful track record in World Rallye competition as well as World Touring Car track contests. While Focus may be new to the US, it is by no means an unproven entity abroad.

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2012 Ford Edge SEL FWD Review

Thursday May 3rd, 2012 at 3:55 PM
Posted by: AKramer



  • High-output V6 engine
  • Well-balanced suspension
  • Solid build quality
  • User-friendly SYNC system


  • Hefty 4,300 pound curb weight hampers handling, acceleration, and fuel efficiency
  • Huge wheels = lots of unsprung weight and road noise
  • Transmission lacks manual shift option
  • Edgy exterior styling

YouTube Preview Image2012 Ford Edge EcoBoost Limited. This video is brought to you by CNET

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2012 Ford F-150 Platinum and Lariat Editions

Wednesday February 1st, 2012 at 10:22 AM
Posted by: AKramer

2011 Ford F-150
By Alex Kramer


  • Smooth, powerful 5.0L V8 engine
  • Surprisingly luxurious interior
  • SuperCrew cab means plenty of room for passengers
  • Decent fuel efficiency, especially for such a large truck


  • Ride gets choppy over rough pavement
  • Shorter bed length limits cargo capacity

The big news for Ford truck fans this year is an entirely new engine lineup for the best-selling F-150. Replacing the underperforming 4.6 and 5.4 liter V8 engines is a quartet of new motors, including two new V8s, a new base model V6, and even a turbocharged V6.

Although putting a turbo six in a full-size truck is a risky move for Ford, the 3.5L EcoBoost engine has the goods, producing 355 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, and up to 22 mpg on the highway, a potent combination with gas still close to $4 a gallon. The base 3.7L V6 engine is also an overachiever, making 302 hp and earning 23 mpg on the highway. With numbers like these, even hard-core truck owners might be convinced to abandon their V8s.

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The Five Ugliest Cars of All Time

Tuesday November 29th, 2011 at 7:1111 AM
Posted by: m35man

Raise your hand if you’ve owned an ugly car. Scream out loud if you actually loved your ugly car.

1975 AMC PacerLet’s face it—for every great car we produce on this planet, they’re bound to be a couple of real duds. Unfortunately, failure is just a fact of life. These vehicles probably looked really good on the drawing board, but in reality they were design disasters that are best forgotten.

1.) 1975 AMC Pacer: One of the lowest points in the history of car making, the AMC Pacer was a disaster of great proportions on many levels—from the 95hp inline 6-cylinder engine all the way to the terrible fuel economy—18mpg. So, not only did it not turn heads (except in shock), this vehicle rode like a covered wagon with one bad wheel. The design reminds me of something you’d see in a 1950’s “B” sci-fi film. Consequently, the Pacer has become the poster child of 1970’s bad automotive design. If there are any of these cars left out there, they should be destroyed, for the good of the race and the culture. When other civilizations look back on us 1,000 years from now, the Pacer will undoubtedly be cited as the beginning of the end.

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