Ford 2009 Model Year Test Drive
As you may already know, last week I went to Ford’s 2009 Model Year Product Program Event in Dearborn, MI. Ford paid for roughly 200, give or take a few, automotive people to come and check out all of their 2009 cars and technology. It was a lot of fun. I met some great journalists and got to drive some good cars on two of Ford’s tracks, a small slalom course and part of their road course test track. Needless to say I was able to put the Bullitt and many other Fords and Lincolns through their paces.
To me there is nothing better than getting the keys to numerous cars, whether they be crap or great, and driving the hell out of them, for free!
On my plane flight I started to try and think about the cars. I could still remember driving the Bullitt and the Flex, and was already ready to drive them again on the track. But I wanted to try and clear my head of every negative thought I had about Ford and try and see them for what they were trying to become and newly do.
There is no doubt that Ford treated us great while we were there. So much so that I think I gained 5 or 6 pounds, ugh…
This is all beside the point, though. Ford has lost a lot of money. We all know this. We all know that the Big 3 are in for a good, long uphill fight just to try and remain in business. This has been no mystery. The main question that has yet to really be answered is, “Is Ford working to better their company?” Yes, I believe so. If you drive their cars you can feel a difference. Is it a drastic difference? Yes and no. Ford has increased their quality and the standards at which they make their cars. But, they still haven’t gotten that last bit about the car feeling like quality. If you get into any new Ford you will discover a much better interior, ride comfort, usability, equipment quality, and just overall betterness. But, with all of that aside, there still are some things that Ford to me just isn’t getting.
Let’s take the Ford Taurus. Decent looking car. Drives well. Handles well. Gets good fuel mileage. But why is it so bland and bulk looking, and driving? It may handle well, but it sure feels like a boat wile doing it. The Ford Fusion is actually better than the Taurus. It isn’t as big, but to me is worth the same money. Especially when equipped with the Sport Appearance Package. Which by the way tunes the shocks and springs. That is something that Ford doesn’t really advertise.
There is something that Ford is getting, though. The Lincoln MKS, or the Mark S to those who know what that is. That car was great! A few plastic pieces on the interior could have been changed out. But other than that, the car handled really well for it’s size, and felt more like a $46,000 car (when fully loaded) then most cars its size. Just look at the lines of it. The rear-end can be argued to be ugly, but I particularly like it. The front is my favorite part, though. I must agree with Joe from KBB, who I became friends with while there. Joe said that the numbers on the speedo and tach were too small. Older people were going to be buying this car and they need to be able to read the numbers better. It was fine for me, but then again I’m 22 and don’t need reading glasses to see small print. So that is one point off. But the rest of the overall car was good. The engine felt nice and had some grunt to move out of the way. But not too much that you would confuse it with a wannabe 550i BMW.
The largest improvement of any car there was obviously the Bullitt. I drove the 45th Anniversary Mustang GT in Vista Blue. It was nice. But as soon as I stepped into the Bullitt I immediately recalled my first drive in it. This time I was gonna wear it out. And I did! I was shocked at how much better it was on the track then even I expected. I expected a typical Mustang. Shabby brakes. Steering that didn’t give you much information. A rear-end that would wag its tail when pushed hard, and a clutch that wasn’t anything to write home about. Brakes: great. Steering: Went where you put it, and the wheel was the like a BMW ///M car with its weight, size and thickness. Rear-end: felt dialed in. Clutch: Better than a GT500. The transmission was impeccable for such a car. From a guy who drives BMW’s more than any other car around the world, trust me, this car was the best American sports car I’ve ever driven. Outside of quite a few Corvettes, though.
Another big surprise to me was the Ford Flex. I expected a land yacht on the slalom course. Not so much. It really held up well for a car that’s almost 5,000 pounds. The only thing you could have asked to be better was the feel of the seats going hard through the turns. But who drives a slalom every day on the road? Well, besides me?
Another big surprise was the fun abilities of the 2009 Edge Sport. The one that I drove had the optional 22-inch rims. It handled pretty funly for an SUV. It was kind of fun.
The largest complaint I have about any Ford is their transmissions. There is never a time where you plant your foot into the gas and the power is right there. Now in these types of cars I don’t expect the power to be there immediately, but I do expect no real hesitation. Ford speaks so highly of the fact that they have more 6-spd automatic gearboxes in its cars than any other automaker. That’s all fine and dandy. But it’s not really if they don’t respond to what you want them to do.
What am I getting at with all of this? Simple, don’t count Ford out. This all may sound like I’m kissing up to Ford, but I think you know by now that if I don’t like something that I’ll say it. I hated the Cadillac CTS, didn’t I? And here is the truth, I’ve been driving a good bit of Ford products lately. And outside of the usual American stuff, they aren’t doing bad. The only real thing that I can recommend to Ford is to listen more to its ‘true’ customer base. There are a few weird products in the line-up, but nothing that Ford can’t fix.
Hopefully I will get invited back to Ford in October for their release of the new 2009 F-150 and the Fusion Hybrid. We shall see.