April 27, 2013

2013 Ford Fusion SE EcoBoost

I was in attendance for the debut of the 2013 Fusion at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last January.  I’ve waited over a year to drive this car and it was definitely worth the wait.

Base Price: $23,830
As Driven: $30,975
Engine: 1.6L 4 Cylinder EcoBoost (turbo-charged), 174 hp
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic with Auto Start-Stop
Curb Weight: 3,427 lbs.
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
MPG Rating: 23 city/ 36 highway

The driver’s area is surrounded by technology.  Lots of HD displays and touch sensitive areas on the center console.  I like the look, but not the functionality.

The space in the back seat is acceptable.  The rear legroom is listed at 38.3 inches, which isn’t the most in the segment.  The amount of legroom in the Fusion is two inches more than the Malibu and five inches more than the Accord.  The space in the back made sure that my youngest son wasn’t able to kick the back of my seat.  I know eventually he will outgrow the space and I’ll be doomed, but I’m still thankful for the space now.

The children LATCH system was set further back into the seat.  It frustrated me at first, but I found out that it is one of the easiest setups I’ve used when it comes to getting the kids’ car seats in and out.  The ability to latch the hook and the ease I was able to depress the latch to get it back out was quite easy.  Normally I end up with at least one banged knuckle and three to five curse words.  None of that took place in the Fusion.

I couldn’t get the rear headrests out.  The top of the headrest hits the ceiling before the ends would clear the holes to take them out.  I’m sure there is a way to get them out, but I became frustrated and didn’t take the time to actually figure it out…  My bad.

The trunk is huge.  The single stroller fit with ease.  The double stroller was a little awkward through the opening, but once it was in, there was more than enough room. 

The old Fusion was a good looking car.  Today’s Fusion is very good looking, almost gorgeous.  It isn’t “Angelina Jolie,” but more of “Eva Mendes;” curves in all the right places and a smile that kills.

I’m not ever getting hired to write about cars or women again…

The backend of Fusion is just as good looking as the front end (we’ll get there, don’t worry).  The rear end is rounded with sharp edges.  The tail lights add emphasis to the corners with LED lights.  I like the back end of the Fusion, but not nearly as much as I like the front.

The front end is all you need to see of the Fusion.  This car shares some design language with Aston Martins.  If the two were put side by side, there would be no comparison.  The Astons are ridiculously gorgeous.  The Fusion is very good looking, but they are not in the same league.  There are hints of Aston on the front end, and this design is one that Ford has since adapted to the C-Max, Fiesta, Focus, and a less-aggressive looking version on the Taurus.

The lines of the Fusion are distinct.  You will not find a better looking sedan for the money in this segment.  There is the Camry; snooze.  The Accord; yawn.  The Malibu with the same style tail lights as when I was a kid in the late 80’s-early 90’s.  Only the Charger has some really attractive styling.  The Fusion is the best looking.  Just look at NASCAR races now.  The race cars actually look like the road cars they’re styled after and the Ford is the best looking by far.  Win on Sunday, sell on Monday can be a mantra again.

Rant first: Please do not take away the analog buttons from the center stack of controls; the media and climate control.  I get that My Ford Touch is touch screen and there has been enough negative things said.  I can adjust to My Ford Touch, but making all of the analog buttons into touch sensitive areas on the dashboard is infuriating.  I would have to press everything, except the power button on the radio (an actual button), multiple times. 

There were times when I had to press a button three to five times to get it to finally work.  The whole time glancing up and down to make sure I didn’t plow through a turkey (the turkey population is way up this year out here…).  Technology for the sake of technology is not progress.  Please leave some analog buttons.

Some of the technology was awesome though.  All four windows were one touch Auto up/down.  I love that.  It is a simple feature and adds value to the car for me.  I get frustrated when a car has auto down, but not auto up windows.  The Fusion has all four auto up/down and it was great!

There is the Active Park Assist (Automatic Parallel Parking), the Rearview camera, the parking sensors, which tell you when you’re about to hit something or if there is a car coming as you back out.  All of it was very helpful.  I liked all of this.  I think that in the next five years, the car will not need me at all to park.  Just select the parking space on the monitor and the car will do the rest.  You won’t even get to shift or use the accelerator.

My Ford Touch is the same as before.  I used the navigation which was pretty straight forward and easy to use.  The phone syncing is very simple.  Both of my boys (4 and almost 2 years old) loved being a part of all my phone calls as they would holler their "Hello's" from the back seat.

There were times when the My Ford Touch got confused while playing songs from my iPod.  I was listening to “J!$z in my Pants” by The Lonely Island.  When I switched to another song, the display continued to read “J!$z in my Pants” and did so for the next four songs.  The 12 year old in me thought it was hilarious.  The adult was underwhelmed.  This happened a couple times with different songs and podcasts.  It is something that I would expect from any other form of technology and disconnecting the iPod and plugging it back in helped.  “Have you turned if off and on again?”  Always the first question asked when getting technology help! 

The SE model had the optional 1.6L 4 cylinder EcoBoost engine.  This engine makes 174 horsepower and 184 ft. lbs. of torque at 2,500 rpms.  This is why the Fusion felt the most athletic around 3,000 rpms. 

There is a trick to getting the best performance out of this car.  You had to find the sweet spot for acceleration.  If you accelerated the Fusion too quickly or not enough, then the transmission would feel confused and unwilling.  If you got it just right, then the Fusion would feel athletic, light, and ready for anything.  It’s all about balance. 

The mpg numbers have me a little worried.  The 1.6L 4 cylinder should be getting some pretty good numbers.  The weather was fairly warm and the humidity levels were down, so I thought I’d get some great mileage from this car.  I averaged 25.5 mpg over the whole week.  That includes city, highway, idle, and the Auto Start-Stop.  Ford lists the 1.6L at, using the Auto Start-Stop, 24 city, 37 highway, and 28 combined.  Most days I would be around 27 for the morning commute and then back down to 25 for the trip home.  I think over 30 is achievable on the highway, but I didn’t take any trips far enough away on the highway to see if that was true.

The chassis and suspension make the Fusion feel “grounded to the ground” to steal a line from a Camry commercial.  I took the Fusion up my favorite curvy road and really gave it the business.  The Fusion responded well.  The torque coming in at 2,500 rpms means that the car is ready to jump with one down shift.  This was my favorite time with this car.

The torque from the 1.6L engine is enough.  It measures 184 ft. lb. of torque at 2,500 rpms.  The torque really helps the Fusion want to go.  It seems ready to roll off the line.  There is no hint of it being sluggish.  When you get higher up the tachometer then the 1.6L gets airy, light, and a little gutless.  When you’re whipping the Fusion the transmission shifts around 4,000 rpms, keeping you in the high area of the torque curve.  If you put it in S mode the transmissions holds the gears longer, which make the car feel less athletic.

I have history with this car.  It’s the first debut at an auto show I’ve ever seen in person.  I’m not a major automotive journalist, but I do plan to play one on TV.  This car is one of my “firsts.”  I rarely forget a first and I will never forget the 2013 Ford Fusion.   It looks soooo good.

I built my own Fusion on Ford.com.  I picked the same engine; the 1.6L Ecoboost.  I also picked the 6 speed manual transmission.  I have a feeling I would have to order the manual from the factory, since this is America and only the car nerds want a manual anymore.  The 1.6L is the only engine that comes with a manual.  I also switched to the 18” Premium Painted Sport Wheels for $650.  This package also gets me Eco Cloth seats made from 100% recyclable materials.  The hippie in me lives on, for now…

The price for my Fusion was $26,070, which is a lot, but not as expensive as my tester.  I didn’t click the package with My Ford Touch…  I like Sync, though, and I really like the Fusion.  Go drive one!

April 22, 2013

2014 Maserati Quattroporte Kansas City Launch

The brand new 2014 Maserati Quattroporte made a stop in Kansas City.

The car is ginormous.  The new Quattroportes are six inches longer than the old models.  There were two of the brand new Quattroportes in the Aristocrat Motors showroom and they took up a lot of the space.  The Gran Turismo Sport and the two Gran Turismo convertibles were pushed to the edges to make room for the Quattroportes.  The cars are just that big.

From left to right: Gran Turismo Convertible, Gran Turismo Sport, and Gran Turismo Convertible.
The size of the car means that there is room.  Lots of room.  The Quattroporte will work in America.  We’re big, the roads are big, and the Quattroportes are big.  It’s the trifecta of largeness. 

There are two options for engines.  There is a twin turbo V8 that produces a large amount of horsepower; 523 to be exact.  The V8 cars will be rear wheel drive and complete 0-60 in 4.6 seconds.  That is as fast as much smaller cars from the fairly recent past.  There is also a twin turbo V6 engine that makes 404 horsepower.  The V6 car will have optional Q4, which is Maserati’s all-wheel drive system.

Both engines will come with 8 speed automatic transmissions.

The interior is plush and comfortable.  There is a Business Man’s Special that only has two seats in the back seat.  It might be called the executive edition.  I should probably read the brochure.  (insert wait time) 

It is called the 4 seat configuration.  If it’s called something else then the Internet and the Maserati brochure have failed us.

The rear seat has entertainment screens and tray table options.  The kids will be entertained and this way you can control your evil minions on the move.  “Launch the missiles!” 

The exterior of the new car is still very Maserati.  The lines around the front fenders and down the side are gorgeous.  The rear end is shapely and functional, while the front end is stately and aggressive at the same time.

It will be awhile before production models hit KC.  You can’t configure a 2014 on Maserati’s website yet.  Trust me, I tried.  When the Quattroportes do get here though, look out.  They’re big enough to reverse the rotation of the Earth, like Superman but with a mustache, arm hair, and an Italian accent.

Thank you to Aristocrat Motors for allowing me to come by and see the new Quattroportes in person. 

April 21, 2013

2014 Porsche Cayman S

Please read the rest of this with the sound of German-accented English in your ears.

You don’t really have to. 

C’est la vie, or whatever the French say…  Wait, what?

German, think German.

Base Price: $63,800
As Driven: $83,520
Engine: 3.4L 6 Cylinder, 325 hp
Transmission: 7-Speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung)
Wheelbase: 97.4 inches
Curb Weight: 2,910 lbs.
MPG Rating: 20 city/28 highway

I did not spend a lot of time with the Cayman S, but it definitely left an impression.  I’ve driven some sporty cars.  Some were fast; Audi R8 V10 Spyder.  Some were quick; Fiat 500 Abarth.  Then there’s the 2014 Cayman S.

This car is great.  After my short time with it, the only word I could come up with was, “Wow.”  That’s it.  No attempt at eloquence.  No searching for the perfect twist of phrase or superfluous sentences to describe my feelings or emotions.  Just, wow.

The interior is Porsche.  There are buttons and lots of them.  But there are no buttons on the steering wheel.  There are two small screens on the steering wheel to tell you when you’ve engaged, Sport, Sport Plus, and Launch Control.  The rest of the wheel is free and clear of buttons, knobs, and dials.  It’s like Porsche wanted you to use the wheel for steering and to navigate their automobile without distraction.

The key and the ignition are on the left hand side of the steering column.  This is unusual to the American market where the rest can be found on the right side.  This is one of Porsche’s historical features.  Just like how the 911 still has the engine located at the back of the car, the left hand ignition has hung around throughout Porsche’s lineage.

The left hand start comes from Porsche’s days racing Le Mans.  The drivers used to have to run to their cars, get in, strap in, start the car, take off, and then race the rest of the competition.  By placing the ignition of the other side Porsche was trying to free up milliseconds at the beginning of the race, anything to get the drivers out on the track more quickly.  So the left hand ignition has stuck around.

The instrument cluster and gauges were easy to navigate and adjust settings.  The navigation does not come up on the console into between the driver and passenger seats.  The map displays itself in the right one of the three circles that makes up the gauges.  This helps the driver by letting them check the instrument console and not the screen in the middle of the car which is located down out of the sight line.

There is no back seat.  The 6 cylinder engine is located in front of the rear axle, behind the front seats, in the middle of the car, and helps with perfect weight distribution.

The exterior of the redesigned 2014 Cayman is gorgeous.  From the lip spoiler at the back to the flowing curves of the wheel wells to the aerodynamic stance that look fast while standing still.  All of the lines look great.  I like the looks of the Cayman more than the 911.  I know that’s sacrilege, but it’s true for me.  The aggressive front end, the xenon headlamps, the red brake calipers, the mid-engine design, the aggressive exhaust, and the gorgeous curves all add up to inappropriate advances by me towards this car.  I really like the look of it.

There is some tech in this car, but I didn’t play with it.  The infortainment system is functional and fairly straight forward, but there are some that say the whole system is overpriced and useless.  It serves a purpose like most features in a modern car, but I don’t NEED it.  The upgraded stereo is more of a want than a need. 

I did use the hill start assist.  It was a steep incline.  When I took my foot off the brake, the car was stock still, until I applied the accelerator, then we were back to being rockets.

The fuel economy for the Cayman S is impressive for a sports car.  The Cayman using Auto Start Stop technology and “Coasting” technology to help save on fuel usage.  “Coasting” means that the engine disconnects from the PDK transmission while not accelerating.  This means that the engine is not used to slow down the car, so there is no force acting against the motion of the vehicle other than air resistance.

The Auto Start Stop feature turns off the engine when you come to a stop.  This is a feature that works with the manual and the automatic PDK transmissions.  To turn the car back on with the manual take your foot off the clutch.   When it’s the PDK, you just have to take your foot off the brake.  By turning off the engine, you save fuel.  Coasting and Auto Start Stop help the Cayman to achieve 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway.  That’s pretty good for a car that bases its whole identity on performance and handling.

The performance is the best part of the Cayman S, other than the fact that you would own a Porsche.  The Cayman is quick, fairly light, and comes with an optional 7 Speed PDK transmission.  I love manuals, but spend the extra cash for one of the greatest automatic transmissions.  The PDK’s shifts are measured in milliseconds. 

This Cayman had the Sport Chrono package which means you get “Launch Control” and the PDK gets the “motorsport-derived gearshift strategy.”  If you do buy this package, promise me that you will launch the car at least once a day, if not more.  The Cayman S is not designed to be a garage queen.  With the PDK option and the Sport Chrono package (the combined small price of $5,570) the car will do 0-60 in 4.4 seconds.  The regular manual will do 4.7 seconds if you shift correctly and the PDK without the Sport Chrono will do 4.6 seconds.

The steering was very proficient for getting me around the tight bends and helped me get lined up for the next corner.  I know that it is electric power steering, but there were no major differences in the aggressive city driving that I engaged in. 

We drove without the Auto Start Stop.
This is a car where the “Sport” and “Sport Plus” buttons actually do something.  They tighten the suspension and change shift patterns for the PDK, but all of those things add up to a dynamic street car. 

The 3.4L horizontally opposed 6 cylinder aluminum engine makes 325 horsepower near the top of the tachometer.  The torque is 272 ft. lb. around half way up the tach.  The torque curve is consistent which makes the Cayman S feel very quick to the butt dyno (where you use your butt to tell you how fast and how much torque a car has.).

 The Cayman S has a track top speed of 170ish…  I’ve never had it on a track, but would love to really let the Cayman fly.  It wants to.  Just add wings.

Please enjoy the sound of the Cayman S starting and reving.

Overall, I love the Cayman S.  If I had $80,000 sitting around, then the Cayman S would be in my garage.  There are a lot of cars that I would like to have in my garage, but there is a spot for the Cayman.  I would probably buy the 2.7L six cylinder base Cayman over the S.  It’s cheaper with 50 less horsepower, but would still be a blast to drive around town. 
Thank you to Aristocrat Motors for allowing me to borrow the Cayman.  Check out their website for information on all of their brands.