The setting is a brightly sunny day in Southern California with a new 2013 Ford Taurus SEL. The Taurus has a tilted center screen and bright instrument panel applique in front of the passenger seat. Additionally, there is a bright “racetrack” around the instrument cluster in front of the driver. Frankly, in high ambient light load conditions, this is a disaster of veiling glare. This is when the interior materials reflect the sunlight and either distract the driver or temporarily blind them.
Ford’s MyFordTouch system uses a touchscreen center screen. This is good, but it shows finger prints and with the way the screen is situated in the Taurus it is particularly objectionable. When reversing and trying to use the back-up camera, the sun washed out the backup image and the fingerprints further obscured the view.
In Googling “Veiling Glare”, I found an SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) paper titled “Fundamental Issues of Automotive Veiling Glare” written by Ford Engineers in conjunction with the University of Florida back in 1997. Clearly, they understand the issue, but did not use their own institutional knowledge when launching this model of the Taurus SEL.
Veiling glare is a situation mostly missed by European manufacturers developing cars in gloomy, overcast conditions. American manufacturers, even those developing their products in the Mid-West, usually don’t miss this.
Smaller EcoBoost 4-Cylinder Transforms Taurus into a Much More Nimble Product While glare is more than a nitpick issue with the SEL, the car powered by the 2.0L gasoline direct injection turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with EcoBoost giving 240HP and 270 lb-ft of torque was very nimble. Much moreso than the Taurus with the 3.5L V6 – even in 3.5L V6 EcoBoost form. The car still suffers from an interior too small for the exterior size of the car, but it is good looking and well-appointed.
“I can’t underestimate how important the Fusion is to Ford,” — Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, to workers at Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant.
The mid-size car segment is filled with able competitors and most are either new or recently updated. The oldest, Hyundai Sonata, is a 2011 model and each new model is being launched with a wider range of features than ever before. Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Malibu and next year’s Mazda6 represent the best collection of mid-size cars ever available in the United Sates.
What makes this competition interesting is the different approach that each manufacturer is taking. The Nissan Altima enters the race with a cost conscious four-cylinder engine with no turbo or direction injection. Despite this, the Altima has superior fuel economy and excellent power. Add in attractive styling cues from the Maxima, and you get a pretty compelling offering at a great price.
The Ford Fusion takes a different tack with six powertrains, including two hybrids. We got a chance to drive four of them in Santa Monica this week. Our impressions are positive, but we wonder a bit about the complexity of all these offerings.
2.5-liter inline four-cylinder with a 6-speed auto: This might be the best combination of price and attributes of the four we drove. While not as powerful as the EcoBoost options, it works well for a vehicle in a segment where dynamics are less important than price.
1.6-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder with a 6-speed manual: While Ford won’t sell a lot of manual transmission Fusions, this vehicle clearly has a European feel and would be our choice for fun. You clearly feel the small size of the 1.6, but pushing it hard and gliding through the gears with the smooth shifter makes this a fun ride.
2.0-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder with a 6-speed auto: More fun than the 2.5 liter four, but will buyers in this segment buy-in? Ours had the stand-alone start-stop feature, which worked better than other executions we’ve seen. It’s a good glimpse into the positive future of start-stop fuel saving technology.
2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline four-cylinder with an electric motor: As fun to drive as a hybrid! The hybrid version has received an EPA certified 47 miles per gallon for both city and highway driving, giving the vehicle the highest fuel-efficiency of any hybrid in its class. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry Hybrid LE gets 43 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, according to Toyota.
Building a hybrid can get you to about $38,000. A Titanium All Wheel Drive can get to you to $39,000. Start saving now.
AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand. Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understood what their target customers want and have made the vehicle to meet their demands.
The 2012 Ford Flex comes closest to the ideal of any Large Crossover SUV scoring a close win over the Chevrolet Traverse. Eighty-percent or more of Flex owners find these characteristics ideal: exterior size, exterior styling, passenger roominess, seat comfort, ride and handling, tires and wheels, ease of getting in and out and safety features.
EcoBoost Gives Flex a Substantial Performance Advantage, but Only 15% of Flex Owners Bought It: About 25% of Flex V6 owners want more power and acceleration, but only 6% who opted for the 355HP EcoBoost 3.5L V6 want more. Clearly, EcoBoost provides surprising power without a fuel economy disadvantage. About 11% of all Flex owners would give up power and acceleration for better fuel economy. So, when it comes to Flex, performance and fuel economy, twice as many owners would take more power and acceleration than would trade off power for fuel economy.
More/Better Technology Wanted: The 2012 Flex is available with SYNC and SYNC with navigation, but not Ford’s new MyFord Touch system. About a quarter of Flex owners want more/better technology than their vehicle has now.
You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/ideal-suvs-pickups-rated-by-owners-in-2012-iva-awards-112117/
For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact email@example.com and title your email “IVA Results”. A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.
I need to give you full disclosure: I love engines with forced induction. Turbos and superchargers make me smile, well, most of the time. My father had a Lincoln MKT EcoBoost when they first came out and I appreciated the idea of a turbo V6 but wasn’t particularly impressed with the the package. The front-wheel biased all-wheel drive torque steer and transmission calibration never seemed to be as polished as I had hoped for in a vehicle of that price point. It could use a dose of that torque vectoring system from the Focus to balance out the massive amount of power. My opinion of the V6 EcoBoost from Ford was basically “meh”, as I never felt like the refinement was all there. A stint in a Taurus SHO confirmed this fact for me. Sure, it’s a stupid powerful powertrain but it was missing the harmony that made the engine mate up to the car like peanut butter and jelly.
Ford EcoBoost Logo
High Tech V6 Gives V8 Power and V6 Efficiency: Several years ago at a dinner with Ford Group Vice President Derrick Kuzak we had a spirited conversation about replacing V8 engines with high technology V6 engines in Lincolns. My position was that a Lincoln could not be a REAL Lincoln without a V8. Kuzak’s position was that Ford could not wait to bring high technology, high performance, high efficiency engines to market. His strategy resulted in the Ford EcoBoost engines that have now been on the market for over a year. Based on AutoPacific’s owner data, it appears that the EcoBoost strategy is on the mark.
Ford Motor Company launched a new powertrain technology called EcoBoost earlier in 2010. EcoBoost will eventually be available on 90% of Ford’s lineup in the USA. The first EcoBoost installations are in Ford’s new D3 Platform vehicles – Ford Taurus SHO, Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKT, and Ford Flex. EcoBoost’s first installation is a 3.5L V6 with gasoline direct injection and twin turbochargers. Power output on the Taurus SHO is 365HP while on the MKS, MKT and Flex is 355. The EcoBoost 3.5L has 350lb-ft of torque. These technology advancements yield substantially better performance while achieving equivalent fuel economy as a vehicle equipped with a non-EcoBoost 3.5L (of course this is only on paper. EcoBoost is so fun to drive you’ll be in it all the time – achieving equal fuel economy is just a dream).
EcoBoost a $5,000 Proposition Anyway, EcoBoost is not free. A Taurus SHO is almost $40,000 and the price increase for EcoBoost on the MKT, MKS and Flex comes out to about $5,000. That price includes all wheel drive which EcoBoost requires to handle the power and torque on the front wheel drive platform. So, with the power and price increase, how many is Ford selling?
EcoBoost Installations Running Ahead of Forecast According to George Pipas, Ford’s spokesman for sales reporting and arcane numbers, the Taurus SHO now represents about 15% of the Taurus lineup. This is 5%-pts higher than Ford had estimated. Each Taurus SHO generates $10,000 more economic profit than an average Taurus. Installation rate on the Lincoln MKT is 47%. About 30% of Lincoln MKS gets EcoBoost (and 37% gets AWD). The Flex has about an 11% rate lowest of the four.
So, it appears that EcoBoost is well on its way to being a success even in these tough economic times. In each vehicle line, with the possible exception of Flex, the installation rate is healthy for a performance option. It will be interesting to see what the mix is of EcoBoost engines as Ford continues to roll the technology across its vehicle lines.
We recently spent a few days with a Lincoln MKS equipped with EcoBoost and its host of technology features. Not industry firsts, Lincoln’s execution is impressive. From headlights that adjust high- or low-beam spread based on conditions to adaptive cruise control and parallel parking assist, these systems work smoothly and confidently. As systems like these tend to get better quickly after their first automotive application, Lincoln should still be commended for putting together a comprehensive and usable package.
If you’re driving the MKS EcoBoost, you have a willing and comfortable partner in a stylish package (assuming you’re a fan of the chrome-laden signature grille, of course); the 355HP powertrain moves the 4300-pound vehicle along briskly. Not only heavy, MKS is big, and feels it. Looking at its specs on paper tells you that, standing next to it tells you that, and driving it reminds you of it all the time. MKS is relatively nimble, but this is not one of those big-but-drives-small kind of cars, a trait perfectly appropriate for what is functionally a modern Town Car. The MKS driving dynamics seem pretty spot on. There’s power, comfort, a compliant but not overly soft ride, and plenty of technology to make being in it as easy as possible. I can’t say sporting. This is not a sports sedan, but offers grace and presence, with the muscle to back it up.
MKS is sized between an Audi A6 and A8, BMW 5-Series and 7-Series, and Mercedes E- and S-Classes, and slightly bigger than the Cadillac STS. Our EcoBoost could boast a nearly $57,000 price tag. While a healthy number, to be sure, in context of the amenities, style, and power offered, the price seems quite reasonable.
Resurrecting Ford’s Tarnished Taurus Name Ford’s front wheel drive large and mid-size entries have been in disarray since 1996 when Ford introduced the third generation Taurus. The “monocle” Taurus with its round backlite violated the truisms it established itself ten years earlier.
Listening to the criticisms of journalists at the evolutionary change from the 1st generation to the 2nd generation Taurus, Ford decided to break the mold and go bold with the DN101 – its 3rd Generation car. Even if the styling had been accepted, Ford reduced the size of its rear seat and trunk. These were characteristics Taurus had excelled in when it was the top selling car in America for a few years.
With retail buyers rejecting Taurus, Ford relegated it to rental and commercial fleet service where it languished. Taurus’ sales volume and image deteriorated as Japanese automakers kept their Accords, Camrys, Altimas fresh and more exciting. By the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century, Ford had decided to drop the Taurus and throw the nameplate in the trash bin.
Several months ago I had the opportunity to drive a pre-production Buick Lucerne Super for a few miles around Malibu with Karen Micklin the program manager for the car from General Motors’ Performance Division. I was pretty impressed with the Super as a very competent front wheel drive large car from GM’s “mature division”. Also impressive was the fact that Buick was not trying to make an overt move to capture younger buyers. They simply want to provide the most competent car a Buick driver can buy.
Last week we had a Super at VehicleVoice offices and the staff had a chance to drive the car. Several balked at the idea of driving the Buick – too mature for their youthful sensibilities – but when they came in the day after driving the car each was surprised and impressed. The highlights: effortless cruising on the freeway, good performance from the tweaked Northstar V8, quiet and comfortable ride, good size.