Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ford to the Rescue!!!

Ford dropped some huge news yesterday, announcing a new Special Service Vehicle Package for the F-150. This means in the near future when you are pulled over for speeeding or cited by the fire marshall for having too many people in your restaurant, an uber-cool F-150 might be part of the process.

According to Ford, the SSV package will be available in a variety of cab configurations, and with a variety of engines--including the highly popular EcoBoost powertrain. Making the deal even sweeter, the package comes at no additional cost. The marketing boost from having its trucks constantly in front of the public, just like the old Crown Vics, will undoubtedly more than make up for it. Besides, Ford is the only one out of the big three automakers that didn't get a huge government bailout and it is flush with cash.

It's a good time to be Ford, for sure.

EV Smart Fortwos Start Rolling!

Daimler's smallest production car--the smart fortwo--is now rolling out of the factory with a brand spanking new electric power train. As if the combustion versions of the fortwo are not fuel efficient enough, the new EV models promise even less environmental impact and greater fuel efficiency.

Perhaps most intriguing is that unlike some EVs, the electric fortwo promises a drive quality similar to combustion models. Daimler outfitted them with an electric motor that puts out 55 kilowatts and propels the car forward from 0 to 100 km/h at a respectable 4.8 seconds. While I doubt anyone is going to start racing fortwos of any kind (except for tuners--they modify Nissan Jukes for cryin' out loud) such performance should help drivers merge into urban traffic easily. The car also promises a range of 145 kilometers (that's 90 miles for those afraid of the metric system) in stop-and-go city traffic. Because of its small size, I think Daimler didn't count on anyone road-tripping in the fortwo.

Gone are the days that people viewed electric cars as only quirky and slow. The new crop of electrics are promising a more practical way to drive, all with no tailpipe emissions (the car doesn't even have a tailpipe).

How much will a new electric smart fortwo set you back? US pricing has not been announced yet, but in Europe a coupe model with a rental battery will cost 18,910 Euros, while owning the battery increases the price to 23,680 Euros.

Source: Daimler Corporation

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ford Becoming More Advanced with Turbos

Have you ever owned a turbocharged vehicle? I have owned three, and have drive a lot more. Turbocharged cars are funny things, as they are really not all good or all bad. In fact, having owned three different turbo cars, I can tell you that not all turbocharger setups are created equal. The bad of turbos is that they might have major turbo lag, leaving you waiting for your car to get up and go at stop lights. They also can burn through coolant and oil like nobody's business, leading to overheating, and they love to blow gaskets. The good in turbos includes that they are light on the gasoline, which can translate into a lower cost of operation. Turbos also make cool noises (especially if they have a blow-off valve) and they can turn a so-so engine into a monster (or a monster engine into a rocket).

Some higher-end turbocharged vehicles employ tricks such as twin turbo systems, which help eliminate turbo lag and increase/extend the torque curve for better performance. Unfortunately, having two turbos costs more, so on less-expensive turbo vehicles a single setup is the only option.

Well, in steps Ford, the American automaker who is innovating and shaking like crazy lately, with a new turbo technology for the 2013 Focus ST. The Blue Oval calls the new technology "overboost" turbocharging. You can read all about the technicalities (at least some of them--sorry any engineers out there) on Ford's website. To boil it down to the basics: the overboost technology greatly reduces turbo lag even though the Focus ST comes with a single turbo. Ford's technology also extends the Focus ST's peak torque output from 3,000 RPM to 4,500 RPM for up to 15 seconds at a whack. This increased torque band essentially works like a fighter jet's afterburners, giving the car a needed boost on occasion.

This technology actually isn't new, but the 2013 Focus ST will be the first vehicle sold in North America with the overboost turbo technology. Ford has been doing an excellent job selling Americans on turbocharged engines, with the EcoBoost trim levels going for a premium.

What about the drawbacks of turbocharged vehicles? The 2013 Ford Focus ST's engine is supposed to be tuned to virtually eliminate turbo lag. I have drive some vehicles with single turbos where this is the case, and driving them is a blast. As far as the overheating issue, Ford engineers claim they have outfitted the Focus ST with a very robust cooling system.

Also offered on the 2013 Ford Focus ST are Recaro racing-inspired front seats, as well as an exclusive color called Tangerine Scream. Obviously the American automaker is gearing the Focus ST to portray a thrilling driving experience, and I am hoping they actually deliver. With the new turbo technology, peak power output has been certified at 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft torque, which sounds pretty thrilling to me.