January 31, 2012

2012 Ford Focus Titanium


Base Price: $22,700
As Driven: $26,640
Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder, 160 hp
Transmission: 6 speed Automated Manual
Curb Weight: 2,948 lbs.
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
MPG Rating: 27 city/37 highway

The Ford Focus was redesigned for the 2012 model year.  Our past experiences with the Focus are mainly through a friend who managed a local office of a major rental car company.  The company shall remain nameless, but Captain Kirk should have been in charge.  The branch manager referred to the Ford Focus quite frequently as the Ford F@#% Us. This was five years ago and a lot has changed for the Focus.
Ford provided a Focus Titanium that had MyFordTouch, 18 inch wheels, leather, and heated seats.  This particular Focus came with 17,000 miles on it.  Media fleet cars are known for getting thrashed, but this car was in great shape.  Some minor scratches around the interior, but otherwise it ran flawlessly.

The interior is quiet and feels solid.  Competitor models have more road noise and ride like a Humvee rolling over IED’s, but those same models can be had for substantially less money.  We just rated a list of cars for a friend and had to drop the Focus from the list because the other vehicles cost thousands less.  The road noise was noticeable, but it didn’t restrict conversation.
The backseat’s legroom is listed at 33.2 inches and as long as you’re not an adult it won’t matter.  We had two child seats in the back; one forward facing and one rear facing.  The rear facing one takes up more room and we were still able to position the driver’s seat comfortably.  Both kids had plenty of room and loved the Focus.
The backseat has molded plastic pockets on the door and two snack/candy traps lower next to the seat.  Places in other brands where the orange fish and gummy candy ruins carpet; Ford has installed easy to clean plastic.  Making it easier to vacuum out and wipe down; putting that seed of doubt in your single friends’ minds that you might have been lying about having kids the whole time.
Check out the cracker traps!
One of the features we really enjoyed was the cruise control.  We love this option when it displays the exact speed when set.  It’s convenient to be able to adjust the speed by one mph with just the touch of a button.  The controls themselves were easy to use, but we wished the car would remember if we had turned the cruise on the last time we were in. 
The ergonomics of the upper steering wheel controls weren’t quite bothersome, but didn’t stand out in a good way.  We’re used to a more flat plane for the controls on the wheel and the ones in the Focus are curved.  The shape of the wheel causes the top half of the controls to be farther away than the bottom half.  Again, not changing the overall experience of the car, but something that stood out like that gnat at Grandma’s annual Awkward Conversations with All the Relatives We Don’t Really Talk To Picnic.  We love our grandmas and that’s why we go; period. 
The Titanium came with MyFordTouch.  Being able to browse our iPod is a feature that we all enjoy.  It’s one thing to use the voice commands to request a band, but sometimes we can’t remember all of the individual artists contained in 8GB of content.  Between the voice recognition and the touch screen, pretending to be Ensign Wesley Crusher is simple and fun.  “Computer, play something fast!”  When the touch screen would respond sluggishly, it was even easier to imagine Capt. Picard screaming at us.  No matter how we changed the sensitivity of the touch screen, we couldn’t get it right.

That's not an alien spacechip; it's a Ford!

While the Focus has loads of technology on the inside, there is no back up camera.  It’s not a very big car, but we kind of expected it to have a backup cam; if for no other reason than for Ford to be able to charge accordingly.
The LED dome lights will outlast all of the other components in the car.  The interior lighting is so brilliantly white that the 3.5 year old kept asking us to turn it off.  Without going through the manual, we’re still not sure how to set the dome lights to not turn on when the car doors open. 
The cargo volume is very impressive for the Focus’ class.  Measuring in at 23.8 cubic feet, the Focus has the most readily accessible cargo volume.  The Hyundai Accent was the closest competitor at 21.2 cubic feet.  The back hatch is easy to open, but you have to use the specific hatch handles to close it, otherwise the ergonomics get all wibbly-wobbly.

The Kinetic design of the exterior is much better to look at than past models.  The front end is especially great.  The lines of the front end are aggressive and sinister.  With the five spoke sport wheels, the Focus rivals the rest of its class.  It doesn’t have the gapping smile of the Mazda3 or the awkwardness of the Elantra. 
Most Fords come without a fuel cap now!
The gas door blends in perfectly along the side.  The door is not a sugar cookie shape of other models.  It’s a parallelogram that matches the rest of the lines perfectly.  In fact it took most of us a substantial amount of time to find it. 
We’re not fans of the Titanium wheels.  There are approximately 93 spokes and we prefer the more aggressive five spoke wheels. 
While we had the Focus, a number of admirers came up while we were at the park & running errands.  This is the 1st car we’ve had in a while where people wanted to know what it is and who makes it.  Hands down the front grill is the best part; too bad we can’t see it while driving.
When it comes to the final judgment of the exterior, we’ll let you decide.  If you don’t like it better than the old models, we’re not talking to you anymore…
Everything is covered in plastic! Half the battery is hidden and hard to reach for jump starts!
The performance of the Focus is acceptable, but the thought of taking the Focus around a track is anxiety inducing.  The 2.0L four cylinder engine turns out 160 horsepower.  If you really want to feel the Focus pull you around with the front wheel drive, you have to keep the revs up around 4,500 rpms.  The 6 speed automated manual means you can put the Focus in S mode on the gearshift and control the gear changes with a + or – button.  We found ourselves putting the car in S mode, but then still letting the car decide on the appropriate time for gear changes.  S mode means the transmission holds the gears longer and wraps the revs higher.  Once you reach cruising speed you need to pull the gearshift back to D, otherwise the higher revs will worm their way into your psyche and you’ll find yourself in a Costco buying a product in a quantity that makes 3rd world countries blush.
The back end isn't as aggressive, but it stills looks great!
The sticker for the Focus lists the miles per gallon at 27 city and 37 highway.  The average for our time with it was 30.8mpg. This number is just under Ford’s published 31 mpg combined.  On our highway specific trip the mpg meter was reading 38.7.  Given a longer trip on the interstate we feel like we could have edged that closer to 40, but Ford wants us to let you know this number is a non-typical result, that only us car immortals will be able to achieve (We achieved 27mpg in an Ecoboost F-150, again non-typical blah, blah, blah). 
We noticed that the 2.0L engine sounded vaguely diesel-esque on the winter nights.  This might be due to the low idle/gas saving measures taken by Ford to cut back on emissions and raise mpgs.  Even when the engine is warm, the sound is not sporty.  If you’re looking for a better sound out of the Focus, we suggest the Focus ST which isn’t due out till later this year (We’re already plotting to get to the head of the media fleet line for that car!). 
The steering was light and nimble.  The forgiving nature of Truck/SUV steering that we are accustom to means that the Electric Power Assist rack and pinion Steering felt twitchy to us.  Driving with your knee is always frowned upon, but in the Focus it could quickly lead to a situation involving light bars.

Being that most of us who drove the Focus are well over six feet tall and had to have child safety seats behind us; we were not looking forward to this test.  After the Fiat 500 from earlier this year, we expected the Focus to be a slightly larger less fun version.  Turns out we were wrong.  Each of us was sad to see the Focus go.  The power couldn’t run the LHC at CERN, but it adequately moves the Focus swiftly through traffic.  The Focus was roomy, felt solid, and was short enough for the 3.5 year old to climb right in.  The fuel efficiency does not lead the class, but will save you money.  If you buy the Focus Electric, then you will save enough money to buy your own island off the coast of Somalia.  We hear it’s lovely there, ARRRRRRR! 

Think about it.

Thank you.

If you are starting a car search and want help narrowing it down, send Chris an email at everymansauto@gmail.com.

January 29, 2012

Revenge of the Electric Car

This last week Revenge of the Electric Car was released on DVD.  It chronicles Tesla, the Chevy Volt, and the Nissan Leaf's evolution from twinkle in an engineer's eye to bane of gas powered cars existence. I still enjoy my conversation with Nancy Gioia more.  Too bad I'm crap as a film maker...  Other than the Top Gear episode, this is the most I've ever seen of the Teslas.  We'll be back with more reviews shortly!  Thank you.

January 20, 2012

Volkswagen Dogs

After Wednesday's display of the Internet going "black" resisting SOPA, it's becoming more and more clear that nerds/geeks really do rise to power.  I still categorize politicians as the ego-maniacs from high school, just they have more expensive wardrobes now...

Volkswagen has shown that they get their demographic and that the marketing department really likes Star Wars.  I don't care how much VW is paying George Lucas; it's worth it!  Last year's Darth Vader ad (Who doesn't picture their son or nephew under that mask?) and this year's The Bark Side are just fantastic.  Here's to every nerd or geek who found a little more love in the world!  Enjoy the Imperial March!

January 15, 2012

Booth Models of NAIAS '12

There are more than just cars and trucks at the auto shows of Earth.  Not sure how they do it on Mars, but down here there are cars and "Booth Babes" at most of the manufacturers' displays.  Subaru dressed everyone men and women very conservatively this year.  Volkswagen brought some hip hop dancers that they might have stolen off the set of Step Up 4: Get me a Ladder!  I'm still trying to scratch John Lovitz  from my retinas.  Thank you, Mercedes/Smart...

Here are some pictures of the ladies this year.  It's like playing a very easy version of Where's Waldo, but Waldo is 1000x more attractive.

It's hard to be worth $200,000 and be the second most attractive thing in a picture.
Can you find the pervert in the background?

I love the black rims on this Ram.  Half of you haven't realized there's a truck in this picture yet.

I got nothing...  Still not sure why they have leather-motorcycle sleeves...

I think her name is Heidi.  She had a male twin dressed identically, which was awkward when I didn't take his picture.

These ladies were preparing for a quest to Mordor with their elven cloaks...

She's blinking because the glare off my glasses blinded her. Nerd alert!

The shrouds hides the Lincoln MKZ concept, but my attention was drawn else where.
Cadillac was going for more "Sexy Lawyer" than Booth Babe.

Audi understands the impact of the little black dress and Quattro.

The most educated about her brand.  She was explaining Abarth to any one who looked her way!

If I had found the Audi display earlier, I never would have left.
I'll have more NAIAS coverage up soon, but couldn't resist getting these ladies up.  Thank you for stopping by!  Check out Business Insider for more coverage of Detroit & LA Auto Show Ladies, plus more car news.

P.S. The best part of these pictures is watching all the uber-nerds, that are too nervous to ask the ladies for pictures, leeching off others who did ask.  It was awesome.

January 11, 2012

Acura NSX Concept

Redesigned RDX (left), NSX Concept (middle), ILX Concept (right)

   It’s been a rough year for Acura.  The tsunami, floods in Thailand, and the competition of the North American manufacturers having a solid year.  Acura brought the redesigned RDX and the entry-level luxury sedan ILX concept to the North American International Auto Show in 2012.  The media snuck in some naps for the RDX and ILX presentations.  We all knew why we were there and it wasn’t for those vehicles.  The ILX concept is a Civic in an evening dress and the other is to make Soccer Moms feel superior to their mini-van counterparts.  The shroud in the middle of the stage is what held my attention.
   Takanobu Ito, President of Honda Motor Co., was on the engineering team for the original NSX 25 years ago as a much younger man.  He has aged well and the original NSX is no longer in production.  Honda has tried to restart the NSX a couple of times before and the concepts haven’t made it to production yet.
   The shroud was removed and the first pictures of the new NSX concept were soon available to the masses.  Every Man’s is not a “we got the story first” publication.  That’s for overachievers and (insert snarky reference to your choice of people who disappoint you here).  After I hip-checked the Asian lady next to me, who was very understanding as she gave me a dead leg, I snapped off my version of the first pictures of the NSX concept.  The lines of the NSX are sweeping and aggressive.  The nose looks like you’re staring down the barrel of an aquatic predator.

   Second only to the actual unveiling of the NSX was the cheer that went up when it was announced that the Sport-Hybrid engine package for the NSX will be researched & developed in Ohio.  The NSX will use a mid-engine V6 and an electric engine to couple performance and handling.  Acura is calling it a Sport Hybrid with All Wheel Drive (AWD) or SH-AWD (the SH stands for Super Handling, not Sport Hybrid, so really it is a SH with SH-AWD…).  When I think Super Car, a V6 with an electric motor doesn’t spring to mind.  It took me awhile to realize that the video Acura gave us was actually Gran Turismo video game footage and not a real car, hence the R&D of the drivetrain in Ohio, it’s not available yet.  It’s also why Acura didn’t drive the NSX out onto the stage, but just pulled the sheet off.  The key to the NSX’s great performance and handling is taken from its predecessor.  The thrust to weight ratio is the key to making the NSX.

   According to the video from Acura the electric motor is providing power to the front two wheels.  The V6 is powering the rear wheels and providing most of the power and acceleration.  The electric motor is there to improve the handling.  The motor can provide power to the outside wheel, while using the inside one to preform regenerative braking, which helps charge the electric motor and turn the NSX into the corner with more precision. 
   “The NSX will make the driver one with the car to enhance dynamic driving abilities without getting in the way,” said Takanobu Ito.  When asked if this meant that the NSX would be able to read the thoughts of the driver and respond accordingly, Mr. Ito continued to walk away talking to the Japanese reporter who had been interviewing him.  He might not have heard the question. 
   The new NSX is taking steps towards being available to the world in the next three years.  Acura is noncommittal on an actual release date, but there is a lot of R&D still to come. With the economy slowly swinging back to not depressing, it was uplifting to see a number of concept vehicles this year.  Too bad Acura engineers are going to have to look for houses in Ohio.  I hear it’s pretty cold and full of Buckeyes there…   Poor Bastards.

Courtesy of Acura Motor Co.

Nissan 370Z

Here's our first guest review!  Please welcome, Meghan Tracy, blogger from The Extravagant Platypus.  She shares a love of cars and books, not your normal combination. But who's "normal" any more.  Thanks to the Internet everything can be given a degree of normality.  Thank you, Meghan for your insight!

While I know there are some girls out there would qualify as gearheads, I’m pretty sure I don’t.  If someone spouts anything outside of horsepower or torque my brain gets all mushy and glazes out to thinking about that episode of Castle from last night or which book I’m going to read next.  I tend to enjoy cars based on their practicality or their aesthetics or the rather delightful noise that comes out of a Ferrari in a tunnel.  I say this ahead of time as a word of warning. 

I know the 2012 model is out to test drive now, but I was a little early and ended up driving a 2011 baseline coupe.  It was pretty clear that the 370Z at the dealership I went to didn’t get out much.  It had a vaguely dusty appearance to it.  That being said, it still made me smile just looking at it.  Nissan seems to agree with me when it comes to practicality because the 370Z looks like a car that was made to go fast.  Everything about it screams aerodynamics to me.  Admittedly, it’s not the car for you if you’re just looking to get from Point A to Point B or if gas mileage is even remotely a concern for you.  This is the car for people who want to feel their stomach pressing on their spinal cord when they step on the accelerator. 

The interior isn’t exactly what you would expect in a $30,000 car.  Yes, there’s a lot of leather and a few touches of chrome, but most of the interior is hard plastic (not unlike the mildly beat up ’97 CR-V that I usually drive around in).  However, I will say this, the seats kind of hug you, which I’m sure would be nice in winter, spring, or fall, but definitely falls under the less than pleasant category when it’s 105°F and the humidity is 95%.  I was told that there’s an on board computer that can do all kinds of fancy things, but what I saw was a tiny dial where every option was listed out and no obvious means of selecting them.  In many ways, the interior is just a continuance in the “this car is really only meant for speed” theme.  There aren’t a whole lot of extras, which only serves to make the car lighter and get you more speed. 

I will say this, if you like being able to see into your blind spot, this is really not the car for you.  The blind spots on this model, made me feel like I was trying to see around a brontosaurus: it’s freaking cool, but there’s no way you’re going to be seeing anything that’s on the other side.  On the upshot with 332 hp at your finger tips, it’s pretty easy to just accelerate away from anything that might have been there.  Trust me on this, there’s a minivan that was thoroughly dusted by me, since I couldn’t see the damn thing

The exterior is wholly practical.  It’s clearly built with speed (and only speed) in mind.  It’s not as stunning as a Ferrari 250, but really what is. The body of the car looks to me like they took liquid metal, set it on the nose, and then let a wind tunnel sculpt from there.  Despite the pure practicality of the body, it still somehow manages to look cheerful.  It’s zippy, in a slightly over-caffeinated way.  They didn’t really make any changes to the exterior for the 2012 model. 

In the end, I enjoyed the hell out of driving the car.  I would have preferred to take it a little further away from the dealership to find a road that I could speed on with abandon, but the salesman started vibrating in his seat when I was 10 miles away from the dealership.  I’m pretty sure that car is still on their lot, though I think that has more to do with the dealership than it does the car.  The 2012 base model comes in at a little over $31,000, which makes this very reasonably priced for what you’re getting.  Despite falling just shy of qualifying as a supercar, it stands up reasonably well against its main rivals.

January 9, 2012

Ford Fusion Reveal

The new Ford Fusion will be revealed this morning at NAIAS.  Watch it live at 7 Central at  livestream.com/ford.  If you don't get to it live, you can still watch it later at the same address.  

Thank you, again to Ford for this opportunity.

January 8, 2012

Ford Fusion App

Here is the link to the Ford Fusion App.  It is all leading up to the big reveal tomorrow at the North American International Auto Show.  Check it out and get ready for some more pictures and possible videos from Detroit.

January 7, 2012

Clarkson on Daughter's 1st Car

Very rarely do we link to another site or blog, but I really liked this article. Having two boys I spend a lot of time and effort making sure I have them in a safe vehicle.  Click here to see what Clarkson has written about purchasing his daughter her first car.  It's way more down to Earth than I expected.

January 1, 2012

Director's Cut

The Director's Cut of the Wide Open Throttle segment.  This one's about two minutes instead of one.  Enjoy!