Remember when some people thought a power lunch was when you worked out on your lunch break during the work week? Well Ford and Reebok has taken this power lunch to a new level. Food trucks are old news – this fall, it’s all about the #FitTruck.
Starting tomorrow, the first-ever FitTruck, powered by Ford and Reebok, is hitting the road for a pumped-up fitness tour spanning more than 2,000 miles during seven weeks. The truck will pop up in locations across the eastern U.S., tapping Reebok’s world-class instructor network to take fitness beyond the gym with the help of the exceptionally customizable Ford Transit.
FitTruck Cities & Dates:
•Oct 20-21: Boston, MA
•Oct 24-30: New York, NY to Washington, D.C.
•Oct 30: Nov. 6: Virginia Beach, VA
•Nov 8: Raleigh, NC
•Nov 12: Charlotte, NC
•Nov 26-Dec 2: Columbus, OH
MANjr writer Jeremy Johnson takes the 2017 Ford Escape to Joshua Tree, CA
The desert has a way of putting you in your place. One step out of our press fleet Ford Escape and the hot air stuck to my face like the oven door was open. I was stunned by the sudden shift from a dual climate controlled cocoon to the bone dry desert air and took a moment to get my bearings. The Mojave desert is definitely not Los Angeles. The barren moonscape is dotted with mystical rock piles and joshua trees straight out of a Dr Seuss book. With red tailed hawks circling overhead, we departed the electronic influence of civilization, flipped on the satellite radio and cranked the AC. Our peaceful retreat to the desert had begun, and with it our test of the 2017 Ford Escape was underway.
Though still a flagship vehicle for Ford (306,492 sold in 2015) the Ford Escape is under heavy fire from competitors at home and abroad. It’s not hard to see why the compact SUV segment is in such demand, the size and accessibility offers a little bit of everything for everyone. Increased competition by automakers has resulted in an arms race of features and comfort, traditionally found in more luxurious brands. This one-upmanship helped get us to the 2017 model year, where Ford has focused on refreshing the design of the Escape, offering new engine sizes, a tightened up exterior, and a more upscale and open interior.
We gave the Escape a fair shake, asking it to perform in many varied terrains. It delivered.
From the front, the Escape benefits from some minor tweaks. The trapezoidal grill and headlights are framed in chrome while the air intakes and fog lamps have a more subdued finish. Side panels follow two clear lines with slightly concave door panels and gray matte rocker panels run the length of the doors. Up top the Escape pinches smoothly towards the back and manages to appear aerodynamic without losing all of its aggressive notes. The rear finishes with strength in the corners and a broad shouldered roofline. The 2017 refresh ends all comparisons to older Explorers and latches firmly on to the styling embraced by the newer Explorer and Edge models.
Clearly a lot of attention paid here. The gear shifter has been moved back and the traditional pull parking brake has been replaced with an electronic model, opening up the center console for two cup holders and device storage. The arm rest is wide and useful and the instrument panel remains simple and clearly laid out. Nearly all surfaces have been refreshed with more high end materials and the cabin succeeds in offering a more open and useful space. The two rows of seating offer enough to comfortably seat four full size adults and the split fold 60/40 rear seats give an already substantial cargo area in the rear more than double the space. We packed a 3 night weekend, including groceries, with room to spare and the back seats upright. Plenty of space for glamping and play dates alike.
My favorite part. In city driving, the Escape showed off it’s car chassis and modest size with a smooth ride and easy parking. The optional Parallel Park Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control offer more than a glimpse of self driving technology to great success. Swinging into a perpendicular spot between two cars was a breeze, the added height of the driver’s seat position combined with the slightly tapered nose gave great visibility in and out of tight spots. Mostly seamless automatic start and stop helped save fuel mileage (20 city, 27 highway) and the constantly monitoring blind spot indicators helped keep an extra eye on adjacent lanes. Out on the open road the 2.0L turbocharged engine flashed enough power to overtake semis and commuters with ease and managed little to no turbo lag. The 6 speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly through it’s paces and a “Sport” setting offers the option of paddle shifters and a more responsive throttle. We spent most of our time in the sport mode, where the Escape was able to showcase it’s relatively nimble handling and effective acceleration in turns and straightaways. Ford’s claims of best in class handling may be up for debate but the 2017 Escape showed an athleticism rarely found in the Small Crossover SUV marketplace. Out of the city and off of the road, the optional 4WD proved very capable in loose sand and gravel across the California Desert. There was little to no backslide and when encouraged to do so, the Escape found its nose and continued on with little oversteer at all.
The Finish Line
The 2017 Escape grew on me the more we asked it to do. It is an exceptionally useful vehicle, combining practicality with some premium touches to offer a definite upgrade of years past. 2017 seems to be a year where Ford addresses some of their critics biggest complaints by fixing the infotainment system and focusing heavily on more upscale interiors. The Ford Escape starts at $23,600 and tops out fully loaded at just over $38k.
Earlier this week Ford released some of the much desired info on the 2017 F-150 Raptor. Those who love Ford trucks have been waiting for the news! The F-150 Raptor is equipped with the all-new 3.5-liter twin-turbo high-output EcoBoost engine, the Raptor churns out 510 lb.-ft. of torque and 450 horsepower across a wide power band.
All-New Ford F-150 Raptor Draws a Line in the Sand with 450 Horsepower, 510 lb.-ft. of Torque, Improved Fuel Economy. The F-150 Raptor combines more power and torque with a 500-pound weight reduction and advanced powertrain control technology to deliver the ultimate high-performance off-road pickup. The second-generation 3.5-liter high-output EcoBoost engine produces 450 horsepower and 510 lb. ft. of torque, plus a 23 percent improvement in EPA-estimated combined fuel economy. It has an advanced 10-speed transmission enables Raptor customers to enjoy exhilarating performance and efficiency both on- and off-road.
Earlier this week I was in Detroit, Michigan to be part of the #FordTrends media trip from Ford Motor Company. I have been on media trips before for car companies, but this one was different. We did get a chance to test the cars and trucks, but the first day we explored a variety of topics. Most of those topics really didn’t involve the automotive industry, but how Ford was looking to reduce their carbon footprint and how technology is driving them to create new innovations in their product line. There were a lot of great questions asked. It started up an intriguing dialogue that I am still thinking about.
All of these different topics and conversations were looking to what the future might hold. It wasn’t just about the automotive industry, but how the world will look in a few years. There might be some naysayers, but Ford is trying to use recycled products in their cars and trucks to reduce the need for new materials to be created for their product line.
Ford uses recycled cotton, soy, wheat and plastics in the construction of their new vehicles. Ford uses soy-based polyurethane foam on every vehicle built in North America, reducing petroleum production by more than 5 million pounds and carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20 million pounds annually. Ford is the only automaker to use REPREVE –an innovative, recycled fiber made from plastic bottles – in its vehicles, including the all-new F-150. By using this recycled material, Ford will have diverted more than 11 million plastic bottles from landfills in 2015 alone. Ford was able to use Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle material to produce the first-ever fiber that can be woven into durable, automotive-grade PET.
There were also discussions about ride sharing vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Ford CEO Mark Fields said that there should be self-driving cars on the road by the year 2021 in large cities used in ride sharing programs. There were even talks on car sharing and flexible use and ownership. This isn’t going to be a change over night, but Ford is looking at the way millennials are looking at the world. They are not looking to consume products, but experiences. This will dramatically change the retail world for all industries.
The next day we had Andy Serwer from Yahoo Finance talk with Bill Ford about his take on what to expect from Ford in the near future. Bill agreed with his CEO that we will see autonomous cars on the road in a few years, but people will still want to drive cars.
After the closing remarks with Bill and Andy we were able to test out some of the 2017 vehicles out on the test track. Since I haven’t driven a truck in a long time I wanted to make sure I had time with the F-150. As soon as I got into the 2017 model my perceptions of a truck were completely off. There was a ton of room for the front passengers as well as the back passengers. The handling on the F-150 wasn’t bulky or clunky. The acceleration was beyond amazing. I didn’t know a truck could move so quickly from idle to drive. So not only was I taken back from the first day of talks and discussions on how Ford was looking to reduce their carbon footprint, but now all of my preconceptions of Ford trucks were thrown out the window.
My trip to Detroit was outstanding all the way around. I got to see how Ford was looking to make quality vehicles that were fun to drive, but was also making sure that they were taking care of our planet. I was part of discussions on how we all can look to the future and use the science and technology to not only make amazing products, but create them in a smart way.
If you are curious about what Ford is doing you can go to their website or follow along on social media by using the #FordTrends hashtag. I am looking forward to what Ford will have in store for us in the near future!
This week I am in Detroit to check out some new innovation from Ford. I have seen a lot new tech and design added to the Ford cars and trucks we all know and love. While I am here I heard that new car buyers say audio brands are influencing their opinions of vehicles, Ford and HARMAN are teaming up to revolutionize in-vehicle experiences through the introduction of all-new B&O PLAY audio systems in Ford vehicles worldwide.
“Customers tell us they value consistent, high-quality audio experiences, and our collaboration with HARMAN is helping provide that,” said Raj Nair, Ford‘s executive vice president, product development and chief technical officer. “This is just one of the ways we are creating richer, more engaging in-vehicle experiences for customers.”
A recent Ipsos 2016 Automotive Audio Branding study, shows roughly one-third of new car buyers say that the audio brand in their next vehicle would have a significant impact on their purchase consideration. B&O PLAY products reimagine more than 90 years of audio heritage, with natural materials, distinctive design and high-quality audio for seamlessly integrated experiences, whether a listener is in their home, on the go, or soon, in their car. Ford announced the exclusive collaboration with HARMAN during the automaker’s annual Further with Ford trend conference. B&O PLAY debuts in Ford vehicles globally starting next year.
For further information regarding B&O PLAY and Ford, visit www.beoplay.com/Ford
We are just one day away from another NFL season! I can’t wait and neither can Ford! To celebrate being the official Truck of the NFL, Ford Motor Company is announcing a series of exclusive offerings for only the toughest of players and fans to get involved all season long. But what’s kick-off without a hardcore tailgate experience, right?
Ford partnered with celebrity chef and “King of Burgers” Josh Capon to create exclusive tailgate recipes with the power to tackle even the toughest appetite — including the F250 Double Short Rib BBQ Burger stacked with double short rib patties, a layer of pulled braised short rib, fried onions, BBQ sauce and aged cheddar.
Ford and Uber are reinventing the tailgate. Today, fans can experience the first-ever ‘Tailgate On-Demand’ experience in NYC. Anyone in Manhattan (below 95th street) can enter the code ‘FORDTOUGH’ into their Uber app, and on Sept 7th between 11 and 6pm they can request the “Tailgate” option in their app for the change to be connected with a Ford Tough Tailgate vehicle. Those lucky users who are connected will receive 2 tickets to a local NFL game this season, a $100 gift card for NFL merchandise, and a mouthwatering tailgate feast made by celebrity chef, Josh Capon.
Ford is working with the NFL to celebrate the unheralded tough guys of the offensive line. To celebrate, every week Ford will highlight the Offensive Line who best exhibits toughness, smarts and capability, as measured by performance in the prior week’s game. Winners will be announced on Tuesday afternoons on NFL.com/Ford.
You can enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to Super Bowl LI, plus an all-new NFL-themed 2017 F-15; apply online at NFL.com/Ford.
For those of you who love the Ford GT you can smile a bit bigger today! Ford Motor Car Company plans to build the carbon fiber supercar for four production years, up from the previously announced 2-year-run. The move comes on the heels of letters sent to potential customers notifying them of their application status. 6,500 people applied for the chance to own one of the 500 Ford GTs – Ford will only produce 250 of them a year. The third year of production will support those who were wait-listed. Previously deferred applicants and those who missed the initial application window will be served by production year four. The next application window opens in early 2018. Those who already applied will only need to update their request.
“While we can’t build enough Ford GTs for everyone who has applied, we are going to produce additional vehicles in an effort to satisfy more of our most loyal Ford ambassadors,” says Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “We want to keep Ford GT exclusive, but at the same time we know how vital this customer is to our brand.”
Year three of production will support applicants who were placed on the wait list; previously deferred applicants and those who missed the initial application window will be served by production year four. The application process for fourth-year production will reopen in early 2018. Those who already applied to own the car will only need to update their request.
Even though Roger Federer is not going to be competing in any matches for 2016, he is still on the court. Well sort of. One of the greatest tennis athletes of all-time will be on the court for an new ad that will be played during the US Open later this month. The video from Mercedes-Benz features Roger Federer, Rod Laver and Bill Macatee, celebrating iconic eras of tennis excellence: Roger Federer and the SL. Timeless Legends.
Federer is a true brand ambassador for MBUSA, using earnings from his first-ever tournament victory to buy himself a new Mercedes-Benz vehicle. This new “Timeless Legends” video campaign celebrates Roger as one of the best performers in the history of the sport with imagery of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL convertible.
Last month I got to take the 2017 Lincoln MKZ out for a drive around LA. The day started with a lunch at Broken Spanish, a hip spot near the Staples Center where Chef Ray Garcia reimagines classic Mexican dishes with a modern touch. The folks at Lincoln wanted to make sure we were all properly fed before testing out the MKZ, and fed we were. Calabacitas tamal, campechana, ensalada verde, ensalada rusa, birria, ridiculously tasty guac, tres leches cake – you get the idea. It was almost too much, but nothing could go to waste. Even after I hit capacity, the grub was too good to pass up.
During lunch, I met Solomon Song, the Exterior Design Manager for the MKZ. When Song spoke to the group, he introduced himself by saying “I’m a little quirky.” I found his quirkiness entertaining and his passion for design refreshing. Song described the amount of detail that went into designing the exterior of the MKZ, which was first introduced in 2013. From the refractive quality of the headlamps (which were inspired by crystal chandeliers and vases) to the need for “quiet luxury” (an appreciation of the finer things that embraces understatement and shies away from in-your-face swagger), Song spoke about the MKZ like a proud parent.
“Treat it like a rocket ship,” he said, where every detail is a painstaking decision but function leads the way. Song spoke of the human to machine interface that really defines the driving experience. He also stressed his focus on depth as a core point of design emphasis. He highlighted the tight radius in the front of the car flowing into the bigger radius in the back – pleasing lines that he likened to a well-tailored suit. While most of the media folks in attendance powered through course after course at Broken Spanish, Song sat down with a pen and produced MKZ sketches for everyone. The proud parent’s joy was on full display when Song sketched out the familiar lines of the MKZ from memory.
Song’s partner in crime is Tom Ozog, the Chief Program Engineer for the MKZ. As Song put it, Song gets to come up with the concepts, like a retractable glass roof, and Ozog has to figure out how to execute it. Continuing with the “quiet luxury” theme, Ozog underscored the isolation from outside noises in the cabin as a core part of the MKZ experience.
“Quality is quietness,” Ozog explained. He encouraged all the folks who would be testing out the MKZ to pay attention to this important feature. Ozog also emphasized the exterior design, overall craftsmanship and the “effortless performance” of the driving experience as distinctive features of the new MKZ.
After the good eats and introductory chats, it was time to hit the road. My destination was Hammer & Nails, a manicure/pedicure salon for men located in West Hollywood. I’ve never gotten a manicure before, so that was an interesting bit of man-pampering that I got to experience. If you’re a guy and you need to up your hand/food grooming game in a chill environment with cool people, check em’ out.
The 2017 MKZ Reserve AWD was my ride for the day. It came in Magnetic Grey Metallic with an Ebony Leather interior. As advertised, the overall luxury look-and-feel of the car definitely came with a dose of subtly. It’s clearly in the luxury class, but it doesn’t need to try too hard to flaunt this distinction. The outside lines are pleasing and display a certain depth, something I was keen to look for after chatting with Song. The interior cabin is a like a tastefully designed living room. Nothing gaudy. No gold and marble. Just cozy and comfortable with a touch of class.
The MKZ had a few features that I knew I had to test out. The first was Auto Hold, a system that allows you to remove your foot off the brake when the car is idle. I was initially hesitant to activate this feature, as I can be pretty absent minded and clumsy at times. After working up a bit of courage, I gave it a go. It’s the type of feature that you wouldn’t think is really necessary. I’ve been leaving my foot on the brake when idle my whole life, so I never thought about active foot pressure being an inconvenience. After flipping the switch though, I never went back. It’s a subtle indulgence that may seem unneeded, but being able to chill at a red light and adjust your comfort level without having to worry about the brake is really quite nice. There’s no hiccup when you want to press the gas and go. It’s all pretty seamless.
Another feature that I was keen on testing was the Active Cruise Control. I’m not really a big cruise control guy. I get that it can be convenient for long road trips, but just like using my foot to control the brakes, I’m pretty used to actively driving cars without assistance. With Lincoln’s ACC, the cruise control senses traffic slowing ahead and reduces your speed to maintain a preset distance automatically. Your cruising speed resumes when traffic has passed, which is nifty. AAC also includes forward collision warning with brake support. This feature flashes a heads-up display to warn you of potential impact and even pre-charges/increases the sensitivity of brake assist to provide a more responsive braking situation if you’re about to smash into someone.
Any review of the MKZ wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of the Revel Audio System. The MKZ comes in 14 and 20 speaker options. I’m glad I got the 20 speaker Ultima setup. I just got back from Spain so I was keen on bumping some tunes that I picked up at the Rastro. Like this record. Pairing my phone up to the Revel Audio System was super easy, and I was blasting travel tunes in no time. The sound system really is a major selling point here, especially with the overall quietness of the cabin helping to isolate the sounds you actually want to hear. No matter what seat you end up in, you’re going to get a crisp, rich audio experience in this ride. It also helped that the redesigned control panel was as intuitive as advertised, allowing me to jump from Spotify playlists to the navigation map with ease.
There’s a lot to like about the new MKZ: the understated luxury, the signature grille, comfort and quality sound for all passengers, clean lines, a fully retractable panoramic glass roof. You can’t argue with 41 city/38 hwy/40 combined mpg from the 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Hybrid Engine either. It’s the little things that go a long way with this car, and with releases like this, it’s easy to understand why Lincoln is experiencing double-digit growth in year-over-year sales.
While the Fusion remains one of the standard bearers of the mid sized sedan category, it faces increased competition from all sides. Traditional segment customers are flocking to crossover SUV’s while the more well heeled continue to be enticed by the comfort and high tech offerings of luxury brands. It’s this market sweet spot that the 2017 Platinum Fusion takes aim at, combining the steady style of the 2nd generation Fusion and the luxury of the Lincoln MKZ into the highest level Fusion available.
Bold on the Nose, Mellow on the Finish
Ford stuck with their wildly successful 2013 redesign with a few subtle additions. Chrome trim is everywhere, most notably wrapped around the headlights and now signature oval shaped grill. The Platinum benefits from the sharp accents of LED head and tail lights and the 19” wheels give the car a stout and bold profile. The front quarter angle allows the car to really shine, showcasing the premium sport grill and the strong lines down the sides. The dual exhaust and slight flare on the trunk help finish the design with character and flow.
A Steady and Capable Drive
Though the 2017 model year will offer a Fusion Sport Trim level (325-hp twin-turbo V-6!!!), the Platinum Model is not engineered for overt performance. The drive is smooth, utilizing continuously controlled damping technology to adjust the shock absorbers to current road conditions. This allows the suspension to be firm in the corners without rattling your jaw every time the tires find a bump. The “S” mode creates a more aggressive shift that can be controlled by paddle shifters on the wheel and does provide a noticeable difference in performance. Steering is responsive and provides good driver feedback while the 2.0L Ecoboost engine proved capable in negotiating freeway on ramps and passing lanes.
Inside it’s Time to Shine
This is where you stop and say whoa.
The interior of the Platinum is not what you expect from a Fusion, not one bit. Glove soft leather is mended with big attractive stitches and diamond shaped patterns on the seats and door panels. The steering wheel is hand wrapped in supple leather that is equal parts luxurious and functional. The slightly bolstered seats promise hours of driving comfort with their deep cushion and firm support. Chrome trim is tastefully applied throughout the cabin and useful space is prominent. The dial shifter frees up space in the center console for two cupholders and easy to access device storage. The minimalist design of climate and media controls proved to be as functional as it is modern, giving the dash a clean and uncluttered look.
Don’t Sleep on the Technology
Ok first things first and if you’ve read our reviews you know this is a big one.
The new Sync 3 software is hands down the best infotainment interface we have seen in a car to date. Its simple and intuitive layout knocks all other suites out of the water. Finally gone is the clunky and frustrating Microsoft powered Sync system, the Sync 3 wins because everything is easy to find, easy to touch and right where you think it should be. The strip at the bottom of the screen provides constant access to Audio, Climate, Navigation, Phone and Settings. It features the smartest and fastest phone pairing process to date, and buttons large enough to touch while you’re paying attention to the road. It requires no learning curve for the reasonably tech savvy and enough RAM onboard to switch between menus with little to no lag. Simply put, the Sync 3 is now our new standard bearer in infotainment software.
Outside of that, the Platinum offers an automatic parallel and perpendicular park that is actually useful in real life applications, rear cross traffic alerts, blind spot monitoring, and a lane keeping system that helps to keep the car between the lanes if it starts to drift. Heated and cooled seats continue the luxury, as does a power moonroof and a 12 Sony speaker audio system.
Smashing the Line Between Economy and Luxury
Ford’s newest offering to the Fusion line hits all the marks of a mid sized sedan while raising the bar on the segment’s highest trim levels. From the curb, the Platinum refreshes and accents the successful Fusion design but it’s on the inside that really counts. With premium luxury and class leading comfort, the Fusion Platinum comes a whisper away from joining a new class entirely. The late summer addition of the Fusion Sport will join the Platinum in rounding out a full slate of styles for most types of mid sized buyers. If the goal is to surprise and coddle, the 2017 Platinum hits all the marks. Whether it has enough to slow the tide towards crossover SUV’s remains to be seen.
2017 Ford Fusion Platinum
231 hp 2.0L Ecoboost Engine
6 Speed Automatic Transmission
0-60 in 6.7 seconds