Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hi-Tech and Lo-Tech winners from the Blue Oval

The big news this week is about Ford's MyFord Touch and SYNC system revieled at the CES.
I'm very happy with my SYNC in the Mariner and I'm not even using half of the features.
Go to Autoblog's latest piece (linked in title) to read and see their videos.
But here's a piece of lo-tech gear that's really impressed me....

I've forgotten what Ford calls it, the "Easy Fill" capless fuel system?
What's in a name. The funny thing about this, is that I was soooooo unimpressed when the press release came out so long ago. And when I bought my Mariner, Frank the salesman pointed it out but again color me unimpressed.

Now, just about 2 months into ownership it really hit me just how f@#*ing great this is!
It's cold out there! And having one less step to fill up with gas and not having to look for the cap are huge benefits.

Quick update on the Mariner, just about 1,500 miles, still averaging 19.5 mpg on a mostly urban loop and no issues. I'm really loving this little SUV. The AWD doesn't seem to hurt the MPG or drivability and as I pointed out with the big storm a few weeks ago, it's very effective. It's not like my Ranger, with the hi/low range transfer case, manual trans and offroad tires, but if there's any flaw it's the rubber not the AWD.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ford's "Better Ideas" for the new age... SYNC helps Ford leap ahead of other makers' "tech" features

If you're old like me, well approaching "middle age", you may remember Ford's old "Better Idea" ads from back in the day. Well, they may not use that phrase anymore, but just as "Quality is (still) Job 1" Ford continues to have better ideas as well. And case in point is the SYNC technology package.
I'm old enough to remember when cell phones came out and even remember when radio phones were for the very rich, but today every auto company has some sort of Bluetooth connectivity in their lineup. SYNC is more than just that, and as I'm learning with my new Mariner it's fairly easy to use and very well integrated into the car. But if you read the article from PC World, linked in the title, you'll see that Ford hasn't just sat back with SYNC and let it become static. Even before I bought my new Mariner, I had read that you could get free updates downloaded so that as new features came online for the system you wouldn't experience that new tech regret that's inevitable when new upgrades come after you bought the early run. And now Ford's latest upgrade will allow you to have a mobile WiFi in your car for no extra cost, when you use your Smartphone or USB Mobile Modem with the SYNC system. I'm not a tech guy, read the article, but this is just amazing. And the fact that you don't need to buy hardware or software beyond what you may already have is a huge plus. Oh and there's no extra service to sign up for! No hidden fees or subscriptions? Ford in my opinion has just gut punched the competition.

And let's not forget that Ford offers all of this high tech goodness across it's entire lineup (I'm fairly certain) from the upcoming "entry level" "aspirational?" Fiesta, to the Focus, Fusion, Mustang, Taurus and across the SUV and CUV lineup and even the trucks.
I'm fortunate to have wireless service from a very good provider and I believe I can get a suitable adapter for my current phone or just upgrade to a suitable new phone. Just imagine on a long road trip, passengers can surf the net while we clock the miles. A mini WiFi "Hot Spot" in my car? I'm going to take baby steps with this, but I'm excited.
I was reading recently that although Ford's new Fiesta will have a sub $14k entry price, it's expected the average transaction price will be closer to $20k. You may laugh at that, but when you think of all the "Millenials" (you know young people) who love their tech gear and want to drive something that's economical, then Ford could be ahead of the curve here. Around the globe, small cars don't mean "cheap".
I've often said that I could see myself buying a Fiesta, if it had enough features and that I'd be willing to pay around $20k.

You say "Way Forward" or "We Speak Car" I say Ford is still cranking out "Better Ideas"
In the end it's just proof that Ford will be a major player in the foreseeable future.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

1,100 mile and severe storm update, the Mariner earns it's stripes!

Ok, I just turned over 1,100 miles and drove through some wicked weather last night, so it's time for a Mariner update. And there have been no further issues with the little SUV. Once the swaybar link was repaired the truck has seemed to be improving on a daily basis. Fuel economy has been improving, averaging 20 mpg on a mostly urban loop.
The big news was last night's storm here in the New York Metro area. We decided to go to a party in New Jersey near Newark, which in good weather is just under an hour away. The forecast was for bad snow, high winds and low visability. Not the weather you'd think I would take a brand new untried vehicle out in? I don't drink, I have tons of experience driving in very bad weather (usually in the bulletproof Ranger) and knew that if I just took my time I'd be fine.
And the Mariner earned it's stripes! We left the party in Jersey at 11 pm, and got back to Westchester at 1 am, without a hitch. Most of that delay was because we were following slower traffic, including several plows on the local roads in Jersey.
I can't tell you how many stuck/stranded/abandoned cars we passed on the various highways, but I can tell you that no matter how slick it got the Mariner's "Inteligent AWD" with traction control was able to pull us through. Sure there was that long stretch of 280 in Jersey where speeds were held down to 10mph, but for the bulk of the trip we averaged 35 mph and not a wiggle from the Mariner.
I'm not ready to put the Ranger out to pasture yet, but it's nice to know that the car is smarter than I am. If I had known just how bad traveling was going to be I would have lit a fire and stayed home. But it's nice to know that the Mariner can move through some ugly road conditions. One note that I found odd, was the majority of cars I saw stuck were BMW and Mercedes, some with AWD. The key besides having a capable car, is knowing that slow and steady gets you home while overconfidence gets you stuck.
The Mariner is looking like one of the best buys in my humble view.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The good news from Ford has been just coming again and again

Mustang 3.7 V6 check! 2011 Fiesta doesn't get "Dave" treatment, check! Fusion gets Motor Trend Car Of The Year, Check! The news just gets better and better everyday.

Ford has some of the freshest product out there and some really inovative technology in the pipeline and on dealer's lots today. EcoBoost, SYNC and upcoming Hybrid and Electric vehicles.

There's always room for improvement (Mustang) but there's little doubt about which of the domestic brands will come out on top, it's going to be Ford all the way.

But what about Mercury? Did I just buy the next "Orphan" brand?

Finally! 3.7 V6 for Mustang in 2011

Ford's getting rid of the boat anchor 4.0 V-6 in favor of the 3.7 finally! And going toe to toe with Chevy Camaro's 300 hp/29 mpg with 307 hp/30 mpg. Read all about it at Autoblog.
Now, let's see when we can expect that IRS?

21 days 510 miles and first problem with Mariner

Ok, so today is day 21, I've put 510 miles on my Mariner and it's already been back for a warranty repair? Yes, you read that correctly, the Mariner had to go back to the dealership today. The good, the bad and the not so ugly facts are these. On Saturday I was setting off to visit friends, we pull out of the driveway and get 1,000 feet when I hear a knocking noise from the suspension. I went less than a mile when said knocking noise caused me to turn around and park the Mariner. Luckily we have more than one vehicle, so we transferred our weekend bags to the Honda and set off. This morning the Mariner went the less than 5 miles back to the dealership.

And the problem was? Driver's side stabilizer bar link had come loose. I have to give credit to the dealership. They found the problem quickly and 2 hours later we were on our way home, without any knocking noise.

But only 19 days into this "extended test drive" (lease) a stabilizer link fails?
My Ranger had a a stabilizer link fail, but after 10.5 years and 57,000 miles.

I'll put this off to a fluke this time, but I'll be documenting any further problems very carefully.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Mariner is paying it's way easilly! Perfect vehicle for Holiday traveling.

Ok here's an update on my new Mariner. I've had it just over 2 weeks and it's been a real pleasure to live with. And yesterday's Thanksgiving holiday travel really helped the Mariner prove it's worth. As expected gas milage is improving on almost a daily basis. And the switch to the automatic paid big dividends in the 2 hour bumper to bumper traffic on both legs of my journey. One thing that I almost laughed at when I bought it but now love is the blind spot mirrors. At first glance I was thinking this was too small a vehicle to need them, but with all the bumper to bumper snaking around accidents on the Thruway and Parkway they really were a life saver.

I had a full load of passengers and leftovers coming home, and everyone was impressed with the ride comfort, even the back seat. Since I will never ride back there I hadn't really considered this, so it's a bonus that it's so nice.

The SYNC system's Bluetooth really made it easy, as I was receiving and making calls from the road in bumper to bumper traffic without any distraction. The voice command dialling and clear display high up on the dash meant that I didn't ram into the idiot that cut me off on I-87.

My sister who loves her Explorer but is wanting a smaller more efficient vehicle next spring liked my little Mercury so much that she's putting on her list for consideration. Her real goal is the Ford Edge, but the Escape/Mariner make a nice second choice. She was thrilled when I told her it's a 4 cyl and what milage I'm achieving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sighting today and competitor for the Fiesta in 2011?

I drove upstate today to visit family in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday and on my way back home I had to make a pitstop on the NYS Thruway. And sitting there was a car I had only seen online and in videos from Europe, a Mercedes B200 (Wiki article linked in title). To be honest I felt bad for the poor guy sitting in the passenger seat waiting for his lady friend to return. I wasn't the first guy to ask him about the vehicle, but at least I did explain to him that he was riding in a vehicle that Mercedes doesn't sell in the United States (yet?). And his response was that he was from Montreal and unspoken was the fact that he's not a gearhead. It was a sharp looking little vehicle, but what's not impressive are the stats in the Wiki article. Only 136 hp? There is a Turbo option, as well as CDI options that are unlikely to come to these shores.
And as I walked around the little Merc, I was not as impressed as I was when walking around the Fiesta at the New York Auto Show. In my humble opinion, the Fiesta is a sharper looking package. Only time will tell.

Friday, November 13, 2009

5 days and still the honeymoon continues

It's only 5 days and I know the honeymoon period is still ongoing, but so far so good.
On the plus side, all the tech features are amazing, the ride is smooth and I don't get killed merging onto busy highways. Only 171 horsepower, but that's enough for the nimble Mariner. I can only imagine that the V-6's 240 hp would really make this move, but I'm not complaining, the better fuel economy from the 2.5 more than makes up for the fewer ponies.

One minor complaint is this, in order to fold the rear seats flat, you need to remove the headrests and find a place for them. This is not a problem unique to the Mariner, I've encountered it in the past with other vehicles, but it is a minor inconvenience none the less.
The load floor is flat and large enough to swallow a ton of gear. I'm in the middle of moving my office at work and I'm using my Mariner for the job. Several boxes of office supplies and files, the copier, fax machine, phones and PC tower all fit without a fuss. The load height is perfect for me and I would imagine for most folks. The liftgate height is enough that I don't bump my head even with the stupid bump cap required in our work area.

This is a very easy vehicle to live with on a day to day basis. No road trips on the horizon, unless you count the 60 mile drive upstate to see family for Thanksgiving, so I can't say how it will be on my anual 5 hour pilgrimage to Cape Cod.

While I don't notice the rear drum brakes when I'm driving, it still hits me that in this day and age they're back there. I'll be interested in how they feel this winter.