Tag Archives: Ford

Escape the City

Well I was supposed to be on the road right now.  On the first short first leg of a road trip.  I was supposed to be eating at the Park Cafe right now but plans have a way of running into real life.

But let’s step back a second.

Ford CanadaFord Canada was cool enough great enough cool and great enough to lend us a 2016 Ford Escape which as you may know, is my favorite vehicle of all time.  Wednesday Wendy and I saw an Alfa Romero parked at The Springroll and while amazed to see it in Saskatoon, at this stage of life, I’d take an Escape (which Ford has for a week).

2016 Ford Escape

Not only has Ford lent me the Escape, they told me to get lost with it for the weekend.  After debating going south to Val Marie (home of NHL great Brian Trottier) and Grasslands National Park or north to Prince Albert National Park (home of noted fraud Grey Owl), we chose north for two reasons.  There is nothing to do in Grasslands National Park and Mark had a football game last night so driving 12 hours to get there and back is more than I wanted for two days.  (I’m not hating on Grasslands National Park or Val Marie, we are going down there for May Long Weekend next year for no other reason to get photos of the signs that say, “Do Not Step on the Burrowing Owls”)

Speaking of Mark’s football game, last night we went to a wet and cold SMF Field at Gordie Howe Bowl to watch Mark’s team get destroyed by Prince Albert.  Mark played well though and on the last series, he took a knee.  We wandered out of the stands to see what was up.  I was wondering if he took a blow the head.  Nope, he took a hard hit to the kidneys and was vomiting up blood.

To spare some details, he was hurt but will be okay and we had him checked out.  We talked about cancelling the trip or just Oliver and I going but he’ll be okay.  So this morning we let Mark get a bit more sleep (a plan that the dog did not buy into)  He is in a lot of pain this morning but he is good to go.  I have a list of things to watch for but if none of those things happen, he should be okay.  If not, in the words of The Guess Who, we’ll be “Heading back to Saskatoon.”  That didn’t stop me from suggesting that because of him getting hurt, we change his name to Tony Romo.

So right away we will be leaving for breakfast a little later than we anticipated but Mark is claiming the heated front seat in the Escape and will try to grab some sleep on the drive up to Prince Albert National Park.  As if he will be sleeping.  The Escape has ESPN Radio which means that we will be listening to countless stories about Vin Scully and college football today.   We will bond without talking.

So breakfast awaits.  Then a trip to Waskesiu via the site of the Battle of Fish and the Batoche National Historic Site.  Then we will go through St. Louis (where we will again have an argument over whether or not that bridge was ever safe for cars) and then Prince Albert.

We will post photos and more stories tomorrow. 

Review of the 2016 Ford Flex

Ford CanadaA couple of weeks ago, Ford Canada was cool enough to lend me a 2016 Ford Flex for a week to review it.   We drove it in the city, we took it on the highway, and we took it on a road that was under heavy construction and kind of scary.   Here is what I learned about the crossover.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

Mark and Oliver liked it.  Especially Oliver.  The third row of seats is amazing when you have children.  There is no fighting, no arguing, just peace and quiet.  When they are sitting beside each other, it is like an uneasy truce both sides are trying to break.  When they are separated, it is peaceful, calm, and relaxing.

The second row of seats is large enough for myself and I am 6’4.  The rear row was fine for Mark and was large enough for Oliver to think he had his own apartment back there.  It is a legit third row of seating.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

I should say that the 2016 Ford Flex broke Mark’s heart.  I have been reviewing Ford automobiles for the last couple of years and each one of them, Mark has been too young to drive anything other than his mountain bike.  In his mind, when he turned 16, he was going to get behind the wheel and put it through his paces.   He just turned 16.   Then I told him he had to be 18.  He was crushed.  Devastated.  Forlorn.

So I asked him what he was going to do about it?  I suggested he tweet at Ferrari that he was kid in the middle of Saskatchewan and if they could lend him a vehicle for a week to review.  Mark was like, “Really?”  I then told him to compare his Twitter following to Kim Kardashian’s and evaluate his chances.  Yes, I troll my own kids from time to time.

Oh well, there is hope for him in 2018.

Driving Around Town

I took the Flex to work with me for the week and we pretty much parked the Chevy HHR.  It is pretty agile around town.  It has a tighter turning radius than you would expect and quite a bit tighter than my old Dodge Caravan which made it a nice commuter vehicle.  While I drove it pretty conservatively, I had to stomp on the gas once to avoid a careless driver and it unexpectedly tossed you back into your seat.  For a vehicle that long, you don’t expect it to handle and have the power of a sports car but does.

The kids liked it.  I had to drop Mark off at Bedford Road Collegiate for his school’s canoe trip.  The response was, “When did you get that SUV?” and “Is that a new Ford Flex?”  Not a huge sample size but it is approved by high school students who love to explore.

At least the 2016 Ford Flex looks stylish

If you want to take a moment to point out that Mark did up the hip straps on his backpack to load it into the car so I could drive him like three kilometers to his school, go ahead, I don’t know what he was thinking.  The Flex had a lot of room for his gear but could barely hold all of the geekness.   The design may be a bit polarizing but the shape means there is all sorts of storage.  if you get the optional luggage rails and then add a luggage rack or pod, you have a vehicle that begs itself to be taken for long road trips.

Driving on the Highway

We took the car to Prince Albert National Park where we intended to hike the trail along Kingsmere Lake to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

My sherpa, I mean my son loads the gear in the 2016 Ford Flex

There were four of us and the dog.  We had a cooler full of cold drinks when we were done and three and a three quarters expedition sized backpacks.  They all fit comfortable in the back even if the dog was confused why she wasn’t driving.   Check out Mark loading the gear in he back when were done.  There was lots of room.

Marley and her backpack

It was a quiet drive using the cruise control on the way up but it’s a great highway vehicle.  Lots of room, Sirius XM radio, nice sound speakers and heated and air conditioned chairs.  It was excellent.  A combination of a long wheelbase and Ford’s suspension made for a smooth and comfortable ride.

Years ago a friend of mine bought a Ford Grand Marquis when his father retired from work.  He picked his dad up, tossed him in and they drove the Trans Canada highway to the east coast, came back, went south and joined up with Route 66 and drove that from coast to coast before heading north to Highway 1 again and headed back to Saskatoon.  I always wanted to do that and have always thought of the Ford Grand Marquis as the perfect vehicle to do that with.  If I was going to do a trip like that, it would be the Ford Flex. 

I do have a funny story though about the Ford Flex.  As we were turning into Prince Albert National Park right at LT’s Food and Fuel, I heard a horrible sound from the Flex.

LT's Food and Fuel near Prince Albert Provincial Park

I immediately slowed down but the noise go louder, I pulled into the parking lot and was about to call Ford over the still going loud noise when I realized that it was a Diet Coke I was holding.  I hadn’t done the lid up tight and the road was rough which shook up the pop until air and fizz started to leak out making this noise that had us all convinced there was something wrong with the car.  For the rest of the weekend, every time something in the Flex would make a noise, Mark would go, “Dad, the Flex is breaking! Better stop.”  I deserved that mocking.

The Ford Flex was quiet on the highway and while I didn’t have a lot of traffic to contend with, when I had to pass, there was power to pass which is what is really important.

Leaving the Pavement Behind

The main reason we didn’t complete the trip was that Kingsmere Road was under heavy construction during the week and was closed.  In what we had hoped would be a three day hike instead turned into a two day one which was more than Oliver could handle.

The construction did allow me to see how the Flex handled off the pavement on some soft and sloppy roads.  Parks Canada warned us about the roads before hand.  She said that it was passable but unpleasant.  I took the warning seriously but despite the soft spots, the Flex handled it easily.  Even coming back from trailhead after a large storm the night before where the road was worse, I didn’t worry.  Well there was one part of the parking lot where there was a D6 Cat that looked stuck, I avoided that part of the road.

Final Thoughts

Over a week, I developed some strong opinions about the 2016 Ford Flex.  Let me share them here.

  • For a family like ours that loves to travel, the extra space was amazing.  Three rows of seats but the second one was large enough for the boys travel comfortably without them bugging each other.  It’s the vehicle you want when driving to Disneyland, the west coast or Waskesiu for the day.
  • ESPN Radio.  It may not be your favorite thing on a roadtrip but it is mine.  Sirius XM radio is worth the money and if the car you purchase has it built in and ready to go, you are one step ahead.
  • Heated seats / air conditioned seats.  When you just walk a bazillion miles in the Canadian Shield, things hurt.  Heated seats make that pain go away.  Air conditioned seats cool you down.  They are amazing.
  • Cup holders up front, in the back, on the sides…. Let’s see we had coffee cups, pop bottles, and water bottles all going on the way home.  There was room for all of them.
  • The front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch.  The rear one is split.  At one point Oliver had his one open and Mark had his one shut. 
  • Designed to seat seven adults, the Flex is equipped with large, plush, overstuffed front and second-row seats.
  • The third-row seat dumps into a well in the vehicle’s floor, similar to a minivan, and because the Flex has a nearly vertical rear window and a square roofline, it provides an impressive amount of cargo room even when traveling with a full house of passengers.
  • For the 2016 model year Ford gave us the company’s new Sync 3 infotainment system in the Flex. Sync 3 replaces the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and it represents a significant improvement.

    Highlights of the new system include:

    • Capacitive touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability
    • Improved graphics, faster response to inputs
    • Upgraded voice recognition technology
    • Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    • System updates available via Wi-Fi
  • Fuel mileage wasn’t bad.  You can check out Fuelly and see what other Ford Flex drivers are getting.  The average seems to be about 18 mpg.   I get around 25 mpg with my Chevy HHR but it is a much smaller and less powerful vehicle.

I am a fan of the Flex.  It’s styling isn’t for everyone but I have come to love it.  If you are a family who loves to travel or just wants a comfortable ride to the great outdoors, the Ford Flex is worth looking a closer look at, you will be impressed at what you see.

2016 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship

As I wrote about on Thursday, Ford Canada sent Wendy, Oliver, Mark, and myself to the 2016 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship in Swift Current, Saskatchewan on Friday and Saturday.  Not only that but they gave us a 2016 Ford Explorer for the weekend to get us there and back.

2016 Ford Explorer

I was given the vehicle on Thursday which gave me a day to get used to it.  The Explorer is what you would expect from a luxury SUV.  Lot of room, heated seats, air conditioned seats, heated steering wheel.  Six cup holders up front.  Heated seats in the second row.  It also has different traction controls which on Thursday, it looked like I would need as we drove to Rosetown and then down south on Highway 4.

Interior of the 2016 Ford Explorer

On Friday afternoon as we got ready to leave for Swift Current, I was loading the SUV with our bags and I noticed it had a third row of seats.  Immediately Oliver volunteered to sit back there and chill out with his Nintendo 3DS.   I picked up Wendy from work and we headed south with Mark in the middle row.

Interior of 2016 Ford Explorer

While three rows is more than we need, having it is amazing when travelling with a family.  Both boys just did their own thing and didn’t say a word to each other.  Not only that but because they weren’t on each other’s nerves for the ride down, they seemed almost thrilled to hang out again in the hotel and dinner.  Not only did it make for a nicer drive, it made for a better drive.

The ride was the one thing I was curious about.  Last week at this time, summer was here.  Then winter came back and the weather was cool and snowy all week.  I was wondering how the Ford Explorer would handle the roads between here and Swift Current.  For those of you who don’t know, the Ford SUVs are incredible in slippery conditions.  They drop down, add extra stability, and more or less own winter.  Luckily the weather improved and it was a snow and ice free drive from Saskatoon to Swift Current and back.  Not being able to test the all weather capability of the Ford Explorer was okay with me but it is nice to know about when you need it.

Wendy was incredibly sick on Friday and slept for most of the way.  While the highways isn’t the best, the ride was quiet enough and smooth enough that she slept from outside of Saskatoon to almost Swift Current.  She woke up in time for me to discover the seat massager which helped her with a really sore back.  Combine that with heated seats, it made a big difference in her weekend.  Wendy made a good point in writing about the weekend, the heated seats feel amazing if you are under the weather.

Of course the best part of the drive was that we listened to ESPN Radio.  On ESPN, they aired constant commercials for Zyppah which is an anti snoring device.  So Wendy is sleeping and snoring up a storm and every time the commercial comes on, we all crack up.  Well except for Wendy, who was snoring.

Motel 6 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan

When we got down to Swift Current, we check into the Motel 6 suite that Ford booked for us.  It is a great hotel and was fine for the family.  We got unpacked and went for a drive around Swift Current while we decided on dinner.  Everyone we talked to suggested Wong’s Kitchen which is where we ended up.   After ordering an order for 4, we all laughed when it came out.  It was the biggest portions that I have ever seen in my life.  It could have fed 10.  After barely making a dent into pile of food, we called it a night and went  back to the hotel.

If I have one complaint about the hotel it is that the chain doesn’t have a feedback form online so I can leave comments about how great of stay it was.  Yes some idiots stumbled into the hotel early in the morning and woke everyone up but that isn’t the hotel’s fault.  Being a concrete building, I only heard it on my floor and no clomping around above me.  The room was clean, the service was good, and the free coffee was appreciated.

The next morning was early.  All of us wanted to get up and explore a bit of Swift Current and get a good meal before heading to the Credit Union iPlex for the start of the curling.   We got up, went to Humpty’s, stopped by Cypress Motors Ltd. and picked up our tickets and then checked out downtown Swift Current.

The Imperial Hotel in downtown Swift Current

Innovation Credit Union in Swift Current

Customs and Excise in Swift Current, Saskatchewan

The architecture of First United Church

First United Church in Swift Current, SaskatchewanFirst United Church in Swift Current, SaskatchewanFirst United Church in Swift Current, Saskatchewan

Then it was off to the Credit Union iPlex to get our seats before the Opening Ceremonies began.

Heading into the Credit Union iPlex2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsMark and Olvier before the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

I learned something very important yesterday.  It doesn’t matter how loud you are or how many speakers your public address system has, it means nothing when 13 bag pipers walk into your hockey arena.  The M.C. wasn’t quite done yet when the Pipes and drums from Saskatoon Legion #63 decided to make an entrance.  No matter what needed to be said, the room belonged to these pipers. 

Opening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

There is nothing quite like 13 bag pipers going all out to start an event off right.

Opening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

Before you ask where the photos are of Team Canada, the additional lighting that was installed to illuminate the ice worked great but Team Canada was marched in right in front of us, outside the additional lights.  To make a long story short, my photos of them sucked. 

So the after the pipers, piped, the drummers drummed and the speakers spoke, we had two hours to kill.  I have written about how bad the food was at SaskTel Centre is before.   Then I go to Swift Current where the food is absolutely amazing.   There were so many choices that it was kind of overwhelming.  Not only were there choices beyond burgers and nachos, there were good and exciting choices.  So instead of leaving the arena, we ate there and were thrilled with our choice.

There was a souvenir area that I went in with Wendy.  I wanted to give her a curling rock themed toque but she said absolutely not.  Instead I got her a t-shirt, a coffee cup, and a pair of curling rock shaped earrings.  Oliver wanted a Canadian flag to wave so I got him that and a pin.  Everyone was full and happy when they sat down for the start of the first draw. 

Draw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

For you curling fans out there, Canada fell into a deep hole, climbed out of it, gained the lead, lost the lead, and then won in overtime.  It was a little tense for those of us who were right there.  We were all happy and relieved when Team Canada pulled out the win against a great team from Denmark.

Draw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

So this is the Russian skip.  She never said a single word the entire game.  She was playing (and destroying) the Italian team whose skip talked the entire game.  One sheet over was the Japanese team who screamed, pleaded, and begged the rock to do what she wanted it to (it worked as her team won) but the Russian skip was quiet all game.  Never yelled the Russian equivalent of hurry or hard once.  Of course from where I was watching, the Italian team was out classed so maybe she was quiet because she didn’t need to say anything.

After leaving the Credit Union iPlex, we fueled up and started the drive home.  It’s a great driving SUV.  I am still really partial to the Ford Escape, if I was looking for something larger, the Ford Explorer is a great option.  It made a long drive seem effortless.  If you are looking for a larger SUV that seats seven, this is what you are looking for.  I drove over 600 kilometers in it and didn’t have a complaint.  Even more importantly, no one else in the family did either.

Last night w got home in decent time and called it a night.  While the Motel 6 in Swift Current was great, there is nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed, even if that means you have to fight a dog for space and covers.

Wendy writes about her weekend with the Ford Explorer and the 2016 World Women’s Championships here.

(Ford) #ExploreSask

Ford Canada is lending me a 2016 Ford Explorer to take to Swift Current tomorrow and take in some of the 2016 Ford World’s Women Curling Championship.  

2016 Ford Explorer

I don’t know if Ford knows this but the drive from Saskatoon to Swift Current is a lot of fun.  First of all you drive from Saskatoon to Rosetown which is no fun at all.  Then once you turn south, the drive gets better.  You get into some hills and curves.  The scenery is great.  There are giant wind farms.  There is Saskatchewan Landing.  Just thinking about taking that SUV down to Swift Current makes me smile.  I love driving that road.

So why am I doing this?  Well let’s get this out the way.

  • I don’t work for Ford.  Nor am I paid for anything that I write about Ford vehicles.  They give me complete freedom to write what I think about their cars. Over the years when I have written about things that I may not like, I have been contacted by people from Ford asking for more feedback and ways I think it could work better.  That’s it. 
  • Basically the only restrictions that Ford places on me is insurance related and I am not allowed to smoke in the car.  Since I have never smoked, that isn’t an issue.
  • For this trip, Ford Canada is paying for my hotel (at the Motel 6 in Swift Current), gas, and some of the food.  I mention some of the food because I decided I wanted to pay for the red licorice I am buying tomorrow out of my own personal money.  That way I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
  • Having thought long and hard about this but if I could own any car in the entire world, it would be a Ford Escape Titanium edition.  You have your favorite vehicle, that is mine.  I love that vehicle and every Ford I write about is compared to how it stacks up to that car. 

Okay, so I mentioned Ford is putting Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I up at the Motel 6 in Swift Current.  The place looks like the inside of an Ikea show hotel.  I can’t wait to take some photos and show you.  I actually am nervous sleeping in it because I am afraid that someone is going to wander through and want to buy part a piece of furniture on their way to go and look at oversized coffee mugs.  The most cutting edge hotel in Saskatchewan is a Motel 6 in Swift Current.  Try to get your head around that. 

There isn’t a lot to do in Swift Current but I will see what I can photograph and explore there.  Several locals have given me some suggestions on where to eat.

Once we eat and are secured safely back into the Motel 6 with the NCAA basketball tournament on, I’ll post a review on how the 2016 Ford Explorer handles and a little bit about the trip.

One last thing, Mark is in driver’s ed but doesn’t quite have his learner’s license yet.  In his (delusional) mind he was so close to test driving the Ford Explorer that he could taste it.  Then I told him that he had to be either 18 or 21 to be able to drive one which pretty much crushed his spirits, hopes, and dreams.  He was quite happy tonight to be able to ride in the front seat.  As he said, “all he had to do was picture being in the U.K. and it was like he was driving.”  I admire his spirit.

Father’s Day Giveaway from Ford!

With Father’s Day almost here, I have a cool giveaway for readers of the blog for Father’s Day compliments of Ford Canada.

Here are the rules.  Leave a comment with your real name and email address.  Tell a story about driving with your dad (or step-dad or uncle or father figure), tell us a little about the car, the place, and why it was memorable.  It can be meaningful or funny, you pick.

I’ll do a draw from the contestants and you will win….

  • Ford Genuine Parts Bar Stool with Backrest Constructed from heavy gauge 1” tubular steel frames with lustrous chrome plated finish. Commercial grade vinyl covering screened on the underside so designs will not scratch off with use. Thick foam padded seats rotate on a 360 degree swivel. Easy assembly required. Recommended for indoor use only. Dimensions: Seat – height 30” Seat Diameter- 14” Backrest Height: 42”
Gp stool
  • Ford Genuine Parts retro metal and wood sign.
Ford v8 blue
  • Ford ball cap

Winners will be notified by email on Monday and Ford will ship the prize anywhere in Canada.  I am looking forward to reading your stories!

2013 Ford C Max Review

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The latest Ford vehicle I am reviewing is the 2013 Ford C-Max.  After letting Toyota kind of own the hybrid market with it’s Prius, Ford decided to make an excellent hybrid of it’s own.  Two models are headed to dealerships: the C-Max hybrid in September and, a few months later, the plug-in C-Max Energi with a larger battery pack for more electric-only driving.

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I tested a Ford C Max SEL which has leather (heated) seats, keyless start, and the MyFord Touch system.  The model as tested lists at $30,199. With extra options, the price tag can rise past $35,000.  

Before I get into it, one thing that I realized this week is not all people know what a hybrid is or how it works. The difference in a hybrid engine and a standard engine is this – the gasoline engine works in tandem with a two-motor, continuously variable planetary-gear transmission that uses one electric motor to provide traction power to the wheels and one motor to change the C-Max’s battery is a compact, air-cooled 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack mounted under the cargo-area floor and comprised of dozens of cylindrical cells from Sanyo Corporation.  Let’s hope they work better than my Sanyo Sportster.

The result is that when you start the car, you hear nothing other than the fan.  With the Ford Explorer, the keyless entry worked poorly and I have had the same result because it wouldn’t recognize the FOB.  With the C Max, there is no noise because the engine is being powered by that battery pack.  It’s both initially alarming and amazing.  It feels like you are driving the car of the future.

When you get in and are 6’4, you are amazed at how big the car is.  I have always wanted to buy a Ford Grand Marquis and take a summer and explore the #1 Highway and Route 66.  If I was going to do it today, I would buy a Ford C-Max.  Considering the far is small on the outside, it is quite large on the inside with lots of storage space to keep kids, dogs, and gear in.  

In someways it is a bit of a competitor with my the Ford Escape (click here to let you know how much I loved that crossover).  While running some errands with it, we unintentionally parked it beside a 2013 Ford Escape.  Right beside each other you realize that you are not giving much up in terms of space between the C Max and Escape.

As for as in car experience, it was positive.  While I have long had a car charger for my iPhone, the cigarette lighter doesn’t drive enough volts to it to charge it quickly.  In the C Max I would toss my iPhone into the arm rest compartment and it would be charged up in no time.  The only odd part of it was that when the car would start up with the iPhone plugged in, it would start playing my podcasts that I had downloaded to the phone and not the previously playing Sirius Radio.

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The MyFord Touch continues to baffle me.  I have had quite a few issues with the Touch system in each car I have reviewed.  In the Escape it would often talk over a block to switch from the backup camera to the navigation screen.  In the Edge it was incredibly sluggish, a feature that was shared with the Explorer.  In the Ford Escape, it had problems syncing both mine and Chris Enns phone until it just mysteriously started working.

On Saturday night, the Sync just stopped working for some reason while I was driving home from Walmart.  Then the touch screen froze.  I got home, turned off the car and the screen was still on.  20 minutes later, it was still on and I realized that I was going to have a) a dead battery or b) in my neighbourhood, a broken into car.  I wasn’t happy.

I went online to see what the problem is that I saw that MyFord Touch freezing up is a fairly common problem and pretty easily fixed if I wanted to swap out fuses.  I did not but I read of some other solutions that involved driving, waiting, chanting, doing a rain dance, more driving, chanting, and turning off the car.  Since none of these needed a dealer or involved me doing anything to the car, I chose that route and hoped for the best.  

After about 30 minutes the MyFord Touch reset itself.  As a reviewer I found the problem a little irritating as I don’t have a dealer relationship but I took some time to think about it as an owner and I don’t think it would be that bad.  The fix appears to be quite easy (pop some fuses out, wait a few minutes, put them back in) and then all I would have to do is resync my phone.  There are apparently some apps on the Ford website that can induce a reboot and if that is the case, I would just keep a thumb drive in the console.  

So normally you would think that something that happened during a review period would be even worse.  In this case, if I was the owner, I don’t think it would bother me.  Software bugs are a part of our life right now.  Even my Nike Fuel Band needed a firmware update.   Of course with the system being powered by Microsoft, you almost expect the car to have a CTRL-ALT-DELETE key to come installed. 🙂  I tend to think that many of these problems will get worked out in the next software update.  Of course like all software updates, that can bring new problems.  During this I was also thinking, while this is annoying, I would hate for this to happen while flying a F-35 Lightening II which has a lot more complicated software and is, you know, a plane designed to fly into hostile airspace.

The only other bad thing about the car can be chalked up to karma.  After testing several cars with heated seats and then quietly turning them up while we drive on the unsuspecting passenger, both Wendy, Mark, and some friends got me with it.  It’s a lot nicer feature when it happens to someone else.

The Hybrid Experience

I really enjoyed driving this hybrid.  Like all Ford Eco vehicles, the leaves appearing and disappearing according to how you drive but for me, the best part of the hybrid experience was a summary screen that showed my fuel usage, efficiency, and mileage at the end of each trip.  It left me thinking as I got out of the car, how that trip could have been more efficient and as I got back in, it made me think how to do this trip better.  I actually walked more and drove less.  I don’t know what that does the Ford C Max sales if it encourages us to drive less but I liked it.  It is something that I would love to see in every vehicle.

A combination of driving less and the hybrid motor meant that I used less than half the fuel that we would normally use in a week.

The rated MPG for the C Max is 47/47 (US) mile per gallon city/hwy EPA-rated.  If you take a look at Fuelly, you will see some real world mileage numbers for a variety of Ford C Max owners.   As you can see, they range from a low of 33 to a high of 48 mpg with the majority averaging around 40 mpg which was a little less than what we got.  I was impressed.  The EPA rated MPG of 47 was higher than the Toyota Prius but the Fuelly numbers show a different story.  It’s an issue that has caused Ford some problems but the National Post suggest the way that the EPA calculates fuel economy is “asinine” and inaccurate.

So, why is there such a vast discrepancy? That I cannot state for sure, although the tests used to generate the “official” federal numbers are asinine, particularly when it comes to calculating the highway consumption figure. I quote: “The highway test simulates a 16-km trip with an average speed of 77 km/h and a top speed of 97 km/h.” Ask yourself, when was the last time you drove on the highway following this guideline? I never have because it could involve getting run over by a tractor trailer — to my mind, that sort of highway speed should be classified as dangerous driving.

That being said, when I was out on the highway and hit the cruise, the Ford Eco engine would kick in and I burned very little fuel at 100 kph.  Low RPMs and almost no engine noise even though the 2.0L/188 hp engine is doing almost all of the work.   Because of it’s larger size and larger engine, I would expect highway fuel economy to be good but not amazing, essentially because at that speed, the electric engine isn’t doing the work, the gas one is.  

The Rest of the Car

As Mark will post later tonight, the backseat experience is good.  My 13 year old had adequate foot room and as I could see on the passenger side, Oliver was able to reach the back of his mother’s seat with his feet.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

9070322863 561fa3e871 b

I did plug my iPod Nano into the Sony audio system, something that I hadn’t done lately and took the car for a drive.  The sound is rich and nuanced.  While any car audio experience isn’t as rich because of the road noise, it does generate a nice rich sound.  It goes back to my initial thoughts about the car, this is a car that you will enjoy highway travelling in.

The batteries go in the back which does reduce trunk space a bit.  Here is the rear storage area with a window in it (it’s going to the cabin)

9070315273 07c2d57b9a c

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Underneath the back compartment there is a secret compartment.  Well not secret but a good place to hide Christmas gifts while you are out shopping with the family. 

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Mark said you someone could use it for contraband but my thinking if you are that bad of a smuggler, Jabba the Hut or the RCMP has tossed you in jail years ago. 

To be honest, the storage thing is really not that big of deal for me.  I drove the C Max Energi in Regina and there is less storage in it but there is still a large room to put a dog, gear, groceries, or hockey equipment.  The hidden storage compartment would be perfect for a tool kit and emergency gear.  

Would I Buy a Ford C Max?

I love the Ford Escape but I would be sorely tempted to buy a Ford C Max.  A combination of fuel efficiency and so much interior room would make up for the Escape’s all wheel drive.  More importantly I think Wendy liked the C Max more so it may be a decision that is out of my hands.  If you are thinking of a hybrid or just a new car, head down to your local Ford dealer and make sure you take a test drive.  It’s worth checking out.

Review of 2013 Ford Escape

For the last couple of weeks I have been reviewing and test driving a 2013 Ford Escape, compliments of Ford Canada.

Ford Escape2 t618

It’s not the first time I had seen a Ford Escape.  I was a part of the Escape with Ford event last summer, a day I called the greatest day in my life.  My wife and kids weren’t impressed.  I still stand by my statement.

The Ford Escape I had was a black 2013 Titanium edition.  It’s hard to describe my first impressions because I already loved the vehicle.  So here is what I liked about the SUV.

  • I am 6’4″ tall.  I am comfortable in it despite it being a crossover.  Lots of leg and head room.
  • I didn’t have my dog Maggi in the car but there would have been lots of room for her in the back.  Maggi is a Lab/Weimaraner cross and is a big dog.  It would have been perfect to take her to the lake for the weekend.  Knowing Maggi, she would have tried to take the passenger seat and have Wendy in the back but whatever works.
  • The traction control is quite incredible.  In Mayfair and all over the city, the streets are deeply rutted with ice and are quite dangerous to drive on.  The Ford Escape shows how hard the traction control is working and it was at work driving through our side streets.  One morning last week while driving 20 kph down Avenue E, the SUV in front of me driving the same speed went sideways in the ruts.  The Ford Escape didn’t move at all.  Traction control works amazing.  It’s one of those things I don’t think you would think of in a test drive but then when driving it prevents a collision.
  • Speaking of collisions.  While at the Escape with Ford event, we did a high speed driving course and one of the parts was collision avoidance.  When swerving at high speed, the Escape actually settles down for more control.  It’s cool on a closed course but amazing when you are driving along Circle Drive doing the speed limit and someone decides to cross three lanes of traffic at about half your speed.  I had Wendy and the boys in the back, hit the brakes and swerved to avoid the idiot.  Despite hitting the brakes and swerving hard to avoid the accident and other cars, the Escape never lost control for a second and I am not sure the boys realized how close we were to a serious accident.  As I said to Wendy, “This thing just saved us from being seriously hurt”.   I have never cared that much about safety features until I tried the Escape. 
  • I am a big Ford MyTouch fan.  So are my kids.  I turn on the navigation screen and Oliver is fascinated the entire time we are in the car.  He actually asked if we could go for a drive so he can watch the “Ford TV”.  Whatever works folks, whatever works. 
  • It has a USB charger built in.
  • Since I don’t use the Ford Sync that much, it starts out like a therapy session.  I ask it one thing and it says, “did you mean…”  Its like having a therapist in your car.  After two weeks I am communicating with Samantha a lot better (apparently that is what the voice is named according to Ford)
  • It does come with Sirius Satellite Radio which is awesome.  A commute is made tolerable because of ESPN Radio.  I don’t know if I drive enough to make it worthwhile in the long term but I love it when I have it.
  • After I bought my Bose headphones, I started to listen to my music in a whole new way which was a good way of listening to the stereo in the car.  It is the Sony factory system and I really enjoyed it.  Using the Ford MyTouch screen in the car, it is easily customizable.  After a couple of minutes of changing the preferences, I was able to get an amazing sound from it.  
  • The kick lift gate.  Here is another feature I was introduced to at the Escape with Ford event.  We played a game of how quick we could carry a box and get it into the back of the SUV.  The rear lift gate can be opened by a kicking motion.  At the time I thought it was a stupid feature but again, you are surprised at how awesome of feature it is in the real world.  
  • The Ford Escape’s soul is a sports car.  At the Escape with Ford event, we got to push the Escape’s to the limit on the closed course.  Around town I drove it pretty conservatively (my fuel efficiency was quite a bit higher than Chris Enns.  Of course the flip side is that the Ford Sync always seemed sad when I got in instead of Chris.
  • A friend of mine is going through an illness making him very sensitive to the cold.  He was talking about how awesome heated seats are in his car because they keep him warm until the heater starts to kick out heat.  I never thought of it but the seats do make a big difference on a cold Saskatchewan morning.  For those of you not from Saskatchewan, some of our mornings are -40 and it can stay that way for weeks at a time.  Heated seats make a difference. 
  • A bonus from the heated seats is that I can easily turn up the seat without the passenger knowing it.  There is some comedy gold there folks.
  • I did have it through two snow storms and you would never have known it was anything less than summer driving conditions.  With traction control it never slid or lost control.   It’s an ideal SUV for winter conditions.

Some random thoughts based on my experience with the Ford Escape

When I picked up the Escape from Chris Enns, he mentioned that the Ford Sync wasn’t syncing with his iPhone.  This was bad as Chris is one of Saskatoon’s Alpha Geeks and if he couldn’t fix it, it was broken.  It would not do it with mine either.  I looked around the Ford MyTouch, found the master reset and rebooted the Sync.  It still would not sync.  It didn’t sync with Wendy’s Android either.  

One day I left work right after Pope Francis was named pontiff and it recognized my phone.  Coincidence or divine intervention?  The Vatican just says that the miracle is being attributed to St. Francis.

The collision avoidance sensors get dirty and covered with grime and ice in Saskatoon’s winters.  When that happens, they beep.  A lot.  Kind of like this.  BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.  

Then the next time you are stopped at a light.

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

That starts

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

to get under

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

your nerves

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

after

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

a

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

day

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

or

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

two.

I finally just tossed a micro fibre cloth in the Escape and would wipe the sensors off every day or so.  On a totally unrelated note, I have no idea where Wendy’s micro fibre cloth went.

The kids (Mark and Oliver) didn’t like the lack of heating in the leather rear seats.  They were actually fine with it until they realized Wendy and I had heated leather seats.  The remedy of this is not to take the kids car shopping.

The Ford MyTouch is a bit sluggish.  I thought it was my Ford but according to the interweb it’s the software.  I know it’s hard to believe that Microsoft would ship sluggish software….

Specifications (snagged from Car and Driver)

  • VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door crossover
  • ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled inline-4, aluminum block and head
  • Displacement: 122 cu in, 1999 cc
  • Power: 240 hp @ 5500 rpm
  • Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
  • TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
  • DIMENSIONS:
  • Wheelbase: 105.9 in
  • Length: 178.1 in
  • Width: 72.4 in Height: 66.3 in
  • Curb weight: 3804 lb
  • Zero to 60 mph: 7.0 sec
  • Zero to 100 mph: 19.6 sec
  • Street start, 5–60 mph: 7.5 sec
  • Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.5 sec
  • Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.8 sec
  • Standing ¼-mile: 15.3 sec @ 90 mph
  • Top speed (gov ltd): 118 mph
  • Braking, 70–0 mph: 172 ft
  • Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.81 g

This is one of my favourite vehicles that I have ever gotten behind the wheel of.  It’s a powerful, quick, and responsive SUV which is big enough for my family, whether around town or on a longer road trip.  It’s also one of those cars that unless you test drive it during a blizzard, you won’t realize how incredible it is until that first winter or first time you need to brake and steer more aggressively than you thought possible.  There is a lot more to this SUV than a test drive will show and I am glad I was able to have it for a couple of weeks.

2013 Ford Flex Test Drive and Review

For the last 12 days I have been test driving one of the 2013 Ford Flex’s compliments of Ford Canada.   Here are my thoughts.

It’s a crossover but a really big crossover.  It’s kind of like a station wagon but a station wagon or mini-van done really right.  Here are my thoughts

What I Liked About It

  • A crazy amount of power.  I felt like at times I was in a muscle car.  When you hit the accelerator, you moved quickly off the line and were thrown back into your seat.  I loved driving it.  It has a 355-horespower twin-turbo EcoBoost model, which is available as a $3,250 option.
  • Sirius XM radio.  Listening to ESPN Radio on the way to work is such a nice perk in your morning commute.21 2013 ford flex review
  • The paddle shifting.  I didn’t really use it that much but it was a nice feature to play with.
  • Park assist.  Now I personally refuse to use it but for those out there that can not parallel park, you will love this with the longer and bigger Flex.
  • Three words.  Air. Conditioned. Seats.05 2013 ford flex review
  • An obscene amount of room in the second row of seats.  They have almost as much room as the front seat.  
  • Wendy made me point out that there are drink holders everywhere.  That’s a big deal when you have kids.
  • Mark loved the fact that he had control of the climate control in back.
  • Individualized temperature settings.  I was born in Edmonton, Wendy was born in Georgetown, Guyana.  These things save marriages.
  • At the push of a button, the third row of seats flip over and become seats that you can tailgate in.40 2013 ford flex review
  • Six speed transmission makes for a smooth ride.
  • Inflatable seat belts… you know in case I drive it into a lake.
What I didn’t like about it. 
  • The Flex AWD now manages just 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway which isn’t great.  Of course I have been driving fuel efficient smaller cars for my entire life and am accustomed to vehicles with higher fuel efficiency.  Compared to other larger vehicles, it isn’t bad, especially if you get the version with Eco-Boost.
  • The adaptive cruise control doesn’t like Saskatchewan.  While I loved the adaptive cruise control on Highway 16, when we turned down a quiet highway, it stopped working and the cruise kicked out with an error message that told me to look at the owners manual.  We did and it told me that it doesn’t work in the desert which I guess Saskatchewan qualifies as.  Basically without anything to return as it’s sonar signal, it stops working which means that you have no cruise.  Now I can understand the adaptive part kicking out but the loss of cruise control totally was a little annoying.  It happened on the way to and from our destination which means that if you drive desolate roads, you won’t be using your cruise control.  For the 2014 Flex, all Ford adaptive cruise control engineers are invited out to the cabin to see if you can make it work.  I’ll put on the beer can chicken, you bring your pocket protectors and a Flex.
  • Push button tailgate seating is a great feature unless you forget a bag of Doritos in the rear seat.  They got crushed.  Mark and I got in trouble.  I am not sure that if Ford’s fault but someone had to be thrown under the bus as we needed a fall guy.
  • Brushing up on the keyless entry system locks the doors, even if the fob is in the Flex.  We learned this the hard way when Wendy leaned up on the Flex’s front door and locked the key fob in the vehicle.  We had to call Ford Roadside Assistance and pay $133 to get the doors unlocked.   From reading online, it’s a problem in a lot of Ford vehicles.  Now if I had bought the car, I would have been able to access the keyless entry but since I was just test driving it…  Of course the funny thing about it was that if you had offered a bonus for figuring out how to lock the fob in the car, neither Wendy or I would have figured it out.  
The base price is around $40,000 which isn’t cheap but the Flex feels and drives like a luxury automobile.  While I am not it’s target market, I would be if I had another kid and needed the third row.  While I prefer the amazing Ford Edge and Escape, with a little larger family, I would be definitely be looking at a Ford Flex.  I know the design has it’s detractors but I rather liked it and so did the family.  All of us were sad when we had to return it.
 
It’s another great crossover from Ford.

Bill Ford: A future beyond traffic gridlock

Bill Ford is a car guy — his great-grandfather was Henry Ford, and he grew up inside the massive Ford Motor Co. So when he worries about cars’ impact on the environment, and about our growing global gridlock problem, it’s worth a listen. His vision for the future of mobility includes "smart roads," even smarter public transport and going green like never before.

Review: 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Review: 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

I am not really a Lincoln kind of guy.  I work in a homeless shelter so it felt odd taking it as a tester and I don’t fall asleep thinking of luxury sedans which makes it hard to review but here is my experience with it.

When I got in the first time, I was confronted with my third different Sync setup in three different cars, a decision that confuses me.  It did look good with leather, genuine wood and chrome touches.  While young families aren’t Lincoln’s target market, there was plenty of room and despite coming from the 2012 Ford Edge, no one in the backseat complained. 

What suprised me was the quality of the ride; it wasn’t as good as the Ford Edge or as much fun to drive as the Ford Focus.  It does have some strong points.  It has both the Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert. Using two multiple-beam radar modules, the car  can detect when a vehicle enters the defined blind spot zone and illuminates an indicator light on the mirror. Cross-traffic alert uses the same technology to help detect if a car is approaching from either side within 14 metres of the vehicle when backing out of a parking space.  It’s a feature that works well in Saskatoon’s urban jungle, especially when looking for a parking spot.

The car didn’t win me over the first time I sat behind the wheel but it did grow on me as I got used to it.  While I wasn’t happy to see a new MyTouch interface, the combination of buttons and touch screen is a good one and the stereo is of excellent quality.  Despite the cold, the leather seats heat up quickly and the traction was excellent on some of Saskatoon’s icy streets.  The handling was fantastic but it did win me over as being comfortable and relaxing.  I never did take the car on a long road trip but after a trip to Pike Lake and back down Valley Road, I realized this would be a fantastic car for a weekend getaway or an extended road trip either with Wendy or the entire family

As for styling; it was non-descript.  I kept losing it in mall parking lots because it looks a lot like a lot of other mid sized sedans.  While Ford got the design right on the Focus and the Ford Edge, the styling of the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid was very conservative, again perhaps of it’s market.

It was an hybrid and I did get excellent fuel mileage out of it.  Ford says that the electric motor can take you up to 75 mph and while I didn’t get it up that fast, it did take a lot less fuel to commute to work than the Ford Edge or my Mazda 5 ever does.

Summary:

If you are looking for a fuel efficient way to get around in comfort, this is your car.  It will get you around the city with class and to your destination with comfort.

2012 Ford Edge Review

2012 Ford Edge

The good: Fantastic styling, comfortable ride, usable Ford Sync, vehicle adapts to you.  

The bad: Fuel economy isn’t great.

So I got a Ford Edge last week and have put it through the paces.  Here is how it did.

How the Edge felt:  Absolutely loved it.  Everything on the Edge feels refined and well thought out.  From the exterior to the interior and how the MyFord Touch is laid out.   Let me describe to you how I used it.  The car does not have a key but features a dongle that as you get within distance of the car, unlocks the doors as you touch the driver side door handle.  As you start the car, I had to use Ford Sync to switch to Sirius ESPN Radio.  After a couple of days of that, the radio stayed on ESPN.  Without fooling with any settings, the car used to reset to the past driver but again after a couple of days, the seats stayed the way I liked them.  I could have figured out how to do that myself but was impressed the car did it for me.

As I got in, the Sync connected with my iPhone which allowed for easy hands free calling while driving.  While I loved the paddle control on the Ford Focus, the Sync in the Edge was started by a button on the steering column, an inconsistency that I wasn’t that crazy with, especially if I owned both a Focus and a Edge.  Hands free calling quality was excellent and was superior to the speaker phone on my iPhone.  One thing that you need to be aware of is that MyFord Touch downloads your address book to the car which means that you need to delete your phone book when you are done with the car.  Something to remember if you are sharing a vehicle or lending it out. Several reviewers before me had left their phone information in the car which I dutifully deleted for them. 

As a crossover, the Edge includes seating for five plus an ample cargo area. The Edge retains its bulky, squat shape, but gets a more curvy front-end and smoother metal for the sides and rear pillars than previous versions. White LED parking light strips set into the front fascia make a nice addition to the car.

The Sony audio system is worth the price for its excellent audio quality. It produces very well-balanced sound through its 12 speakers. The highs come out clearly and the bass has some power to it, thanks to the system’s 390 watts of amplification.  That being said, I generally just listened to ESPN.  The one thing I didn’t like about the Ford Edge was the stereo controls.  Turning the stereo off an on would often change the radio station.  It’s not a big thing and definitely wouldn’t hold me back in buying it but it was the one flaw an other wise flawless car.

As for the Edge’s fuel economy, it was not great. EPA testing gives the Edge Sport 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway (check out fuel efficiency on Fuelly). In our driving, much of it along two-lane highways, we came in at 17.3 mpg, on the low side of the car’s range. Driving around Saskatoon, the transmission remained subtle, getting its job done without fuss. On the freeway it let the engine run at low rpms, around 2,000 while cruising at highway speeds. When I put the pedal down to pass or just get some good acceleration, it kicked into action and never had the disturbing habit that the Ford Focus did of shifting down killing both the acceleration and speed.  When I wanted to go somewhere quickly, it got me there.

I am almost 40 which means that I drive increasingly like an old man so I didn’t push it to the limits, but the car also showed nice stability and grip when turned.  It did have to pass the ultimate off road adventure, the side streets of Mayfair and it did quite well hitting the ruts, potholes, and water main breaks that define my street.

This Edge came  with Ford’s blind-spot detection system, which turns on lights in the mirrors when a car is in the Edge’s blind spot. This system worked well in our testing, giving few false positives.   It does have park assist but I refused to test a feature that helps me park.  That’s just me. 

The handling was fine.  Some reviews thought the car was top heavy but I never noticed it.  I wasn’t tearing into corners but I loved the handling at all speeds.

To summarize, this may be the best car I have ever driven.  I really look forward to owning on in the future.

2012 Ford Focus

So last week I had a great offer to test drive a 2012 Ford Focus.  Here are my thoughts.

Design means something at Ford again.  It’s just not the exterior, it’s everything.  I was watching a CNBC program on Ford a couple of years ago and the engineer was talking about how important it was to get the small things right which is something that for a long time, the Big Three wasn’t getting right.  Initial quality wasn’t that great and their cars didn’t look that great outside of their trucks and SUVs.  Who was passionate and excited about a 2002 Ford Taurus?

Somewhere during the financial crisis, instead of begging for bailouts, Ford decided to design cars.  Looking back at it, it was the right move as the styling on the Ford Focus actually inspired some emotion out of me, despite being an entry level sedan. Maybe the reason that the car is actually German engineered but whatever reason, I loved to get up in the morning, look out and see the Focus there.  It’s that nice looking.

The Exterior

The car was silver, slight tint on the rear window and the SEL version.  It looks exactly like the Ford Focus in the photo except that car is on a gorgeous background and finding something nice as a background in Saskatchewan during February was a hard challenge.  There just was no way to get it inside the Mendel’s Conservatory.  So just envision it slightly dirty and on a grey background with a guy that looks like me wishing he was in a warmer climate.

2012_Ford_Focus_Sedan_Silver

While design is so subjective, it is a similar size to the Chevrolet Cruz while it offers up a lot more refinement and finish.  The styling looks original and fresh, which is something that you can’t say about many other American automakers.  Like I said, Ford found it’s design chops.

The Interior

The car as reviewed had cloth seats and if I owned the car, I would buy car seat covers on it since I have two boys, two sloppy boys.

I am 6’4 tall and I don’t have a slight build so room is an issue.  My 1993 Ford Escort wagon was way to short for me while my beloved 1993 Ford Festiva was more than adequate so I was quite curious how the Ford Focus was going to fit.  To my surprise there was more than enough room for me and more than enough room for me to put my seat too far back.  I think anyone under 6’8 would fit comfortably in the car.  If Dave King was a little closer I would test out my theory that both of us could fit in the car comfortably.  My thanks for Ford for hiring taller engineers.  My back, neck, and shoulders thank you.  We did take it for lunch and there were no complaints from my co-workers in the backseat.

As for the family, Mark (11 years) old and Oliver had a lot of room.  I never thought about it but Mark was the one that sat behind me and he never complained about room and I never felt his knees in my back.  The trunk was impressive and had more than enough room to hold a couple of coolers and duffle bags for a weekend trip if we had headed to the the cabin.

Of course the big marketing point of Ford cars was Ford Sync.  I got into the car and immediately gave it an order.  Nothing.  Gave it another order.  Nothing.  Tried again and again.  Not a single response.  Looked for a manual, none was in the car.  I looked around and finally found the Ford Sync paddle that was on the steering wheel.  After feeling like an idiot, the Sync helped me figure it out.  We had some good trips together and some that I struggled a bit with.

Well I finally got it.  Once I got used to it, the Sync was actually quite useful, especially when sync’d up to my phone or iPod.  I never took it on a long road trip but if I had, it would have been even more useful.  Since I don’t use a hands free, I ignore my phone when in a car (it can wait).  To have it connected to Sync and use it to take calls easily and safely was well worth the money for it.  The one thing the video does show is the fun of my family trying to confuse the Sync and ask it a series of question on the meaning of life.  It controls the temperature well but could use some refinement in answering existential questions.

As for the GPS, I have never ever needed to use a GPS, even when in strange cities (it’s called a map folks, study it).  It was a neat feature but not one that I needed.  That being said, I have friends who can’t find their bathroom without one so there is a market for it.

The heated seats were a nice feature, especially their control which made it easy to discreetly turn up the heated seats on Wendy without her noticing I did it.  Yes I am that childish.

It has a backup camera.  Having never backed into anything, it wasn’t really a needed feature but again, Ford did a nice thing with this.  It projects the path of your car which lets you know if you are going to make it out of that spot.  For a feature that I never thought I would need, I liked it.

Off Road Performance

I did the kind of take the Ford Focus off-roading.  I took it down the ungraded side streets of Mayfair and Caswell Hill.  The ruts are worse than anything you will ever see a SUV drive through on television.  While the ride was rough, the car held together, something that can’t be said for some cars driving to and from work on Saskatoon streets.  Actually the car took the worst that Saskatoon streets could toss at it and handled it quite well.  The traction control was great on Saskatoon’s icy streets and the anti-lock breaks worked as expected in a variety of slippery road conditions.

The other test you will never see in a magazine is the parking at The Lighthouse test.  In the back our parking spots are elevated on  a slope and often icy.  The traction control got me up the slope and parked.  It succeeded where more than one SUV has had to be kicked into four wheel drive to park.

Highway Performance

This is the one area that the car didn’t impress me much.  In accelerating quickly on the highway, the transmission shifted up so many times that it really impacted acceleration.  Not only that but I found it quite disorientating.  While my Mazda Protégé is a standard, I am not one to over-rev it but the Focus seemed to be shifting at way too low of RPM and didn’t seem to realize that I was trying to go fast, not save fuel efficiency.  This was the one thing that I didn’t really like about the car which was brought up in a couple of reviews, the transmission does seem a little odd.

The good news is that it is a firm ride which I have always liked.  On a winding road, the Ford is enjoyable and pleasant to drive.  It doesn’t sway in corners and features responsive steering.  I liked how to felt to drive, both in town and out of town.  With it’s sunroof, it would be a great vacation car, a car that you wanted to take on a long summer road trip.

Wendy’s thoughts on the Ford Focus can be found here.

Summary

Would I buy one?  Yes I would but I would get the six speed manual transmission.  I prefer a standard but other than that, there wasn’t anything on the car that I didn’t like.  I took a Cruz and Camry out out for a test drive this week and of the three, the Focus gave the nicest ride and overall experience.  It’s worth checking out if you are in the market for a new vehicle.  It also gives me faith in Ford’s long term survival if these are the cars that it is making now.

1993 Ford Festiva

1993 Ford Festiva

I bought a 1993 Ford Festiva today from Darren Friesen.  It looks nowhere nearly as cool as this one (it looks good but what is the resale value on a redone Ford Festiva?) but it’s okay, gets obscenely good gas mileage.  Sadly it isn’t one of the seven SHOgun’s but it is good enough for bombing around town.  I’ll post some photos in the next couple of days.

Now the bad news…

In Australia, the 1987-97 Ford Festivas were assessed in the Used Car Safety Ratings 2006 as providing "significantly worse than average" protection for their occupants in the event of a crash

Awesome, just awesome.  It’s not quite as geeky of a vehicle as Dave Blondel’s Lada but it’s getting closer.