Design is still the leading factor when purchasing a new vehicle according to Ford Motor Company. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker opened its 2014 product preview for journalists with a “talk show” format presentation in which Ford president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs and global product development group vice president Raj Nair answered prepared questions about Ford’s present and future.
Hinrichs explained Ford’s recent gains in market share are driven by their product and they are committed to continuing aggressive introduction of new products throughout the showroom. Perhaps testimony to that is with a corresponding introduction of an all-new sport truck version of its sales-leading F-150 pickup lineup dubbed “Tremor.”
Tremor will be a short cab, short box pickup available in FX2 (2WD) or FX4 (4WD) trim and powered by Ford’s popular 365hp twin turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine. The new sport truck will also see sport bucket seats for the first time in a regular cab F-150.
Following the presentation and introduction journalists were whisked away to three driving modules for seat time in the newest Big Blue Oval has to offer (except for the Tremor or the hot new Fiesta ST).
The most time was allotted to drive time in the redone Fiesta that consisted of city driving courses and an autocross track where journalists were allowed to really hammer on the fun little car. The 2014 Fiesta stands out as an attractive little car offered in hatchback or sedan models powered by a fairly responsive 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine backed by choice of five-speed manual or six-speed PowerShift automatic gearboxes and good for 120hp and up to 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.
A new euro-sourced 123hp 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine is on the way to American shores for the Fiesta this year as well but none of those were available for our driving pleasure and we will have to continue to wait for the hot new 197hp 1.6-liter EcoBoost-powered Fiesta ST.
The little Fiesta proved itself worthy on Dearborn city streets and highway runs although while riding in the front passenger seat my co-pilot and I each experienced a bit of unpleasant vibration in the floorboard that seemed engine-rev dependent. Other than that, Fiesta performed quite well, although the new PowerShift automatic transmission did seem to hesitate once or twice during quick transitions from brake to gas in congested city driving. On the all out, no holds barred autocross course Fiesta proved to be quite the little scamp with journalists clamoring for every last opportunity to punish the car before being whisked away to the next event.
On the outer oval track at the Dearborn test facility we drove the new Fusion Energi PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) that is the latest version of Ford’s popular new Fusion midsize sedan. Sharing powertrains with the C-Max models, the Fusion Energi replaces the Hybrid battery pack with a larger unit for an EV-only range of up to 21 miles, albeit at the expense of cargo space.
We were able to zip around the track at up to 60 mph with the AC full blast in silent, smooth electric mode, that is until a cladded sport coupe or camouflaged compact crossover caught our eye testing and tooling around the inner loops.
Next came trucks and utes, specifically F-150s on an improvised off-road course smack dab in the middle of all of this asphalt and concrete and a couple of cone courses demonstrating the virtues of Escape and Explorer against competitive models. Of course we found the Fords to outshine the others in acceleration and handling and, to a good degree, comfort.
Surprisingly, as Ford prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mustang there were no sport coupes in sight. Perhaps this is a sign the next Pony car we see will be the much-anticipated 2015 model arriving to blow out the candles. We can only hope.