Monday, 3 August 2015

2015 Ford Escape with Ecoboost

2015 Ford Escape Ecoboost
2015 Ford Escape with Ecoboost

Recently we went to one of our favourite lake campgrounds in central Alberta. Pelican Point is nice because you can camp right on the water, just be prepared for swimmers itch and the potential for strong storms. Ford Canada lent us a 2015 Escape with Ecoboost engine it $42,000 list price as tested. Originally it was mean to tow our tent trailer but then we went an bought a small expandable so it was outside of the towing range of the Escape. Since Brian wasn’t staying with us for the week he took the Escape to commute around Calgary. Here are his thoughts on the small SUV with a few of mine mixed in.

Exterior:
2015 Ford Escape with Ecoboost

It’s a sharp looking vehicle that fits well in our carport. The day time Led running lights are a nice touch and the 19’ rims add a lot of visual appeal.
Ford has this seemingly great foot kick that opens the hatch hands free but the foot kick hatch opening often needed several attempts to open. Once when I (Leslie) was loading groceries I accidently activated it for closing and then slammed my head into the half closed door. We wonder how it would work in winter with snow and ice coverage or with cold hydraulics.
Ford My Key keyless entry and locking was nice. But you have to be more mentally aware of where you are putting the keys so as to avoid losing them. I would like keyless entry for my house!

Interior:

Lots of cargo room, especially with the seats folded down. We fit golf clubs and 4 Ikea bags of wood plus a small cooler no problem,
2015 Ford Escape with Ecoboost

In terms of the dash and gauges the touch screen was out of reach of the driver and pressing certain buttons especially in the bottom corners was difficult due to dashboard layout. On a couple of occasions Brian inadvertently turned on the hazard button while reaching for controls. Ford should consider placement of this button in future models, I don’t remember it being an issue before. I (Leslie) found that the gauges weren’t fully visible, no matter where I put the seat I could not see 90km/hr. Brian did not find this to be an issue but he has a shorter torso. Brian still doesn’t like the giant SOUND and SOURCE buttons. A climate control button needed a DUAL option to sync driver and passenger.

The panoramic sunroof is a beautiful option and really adds tonnes of natural light to the vehicle and the perception of interior space. But why is there two buttons to open and close roof shade? I was always hitting the wrong one? As well some of the buttons seem to be opposite from the way you would intuitively push them.

Ambient lighting was a neat feature, nice to be able to change dimness and colors. Stereo has a nice sound and lots of power. Wireless gateway is an interesting feature although I have yet to figure out how to fully access or understand its functionality.

The seats quite comfortable, I like that the memory button are now in a visible location versus on our 2013 F-150 they are on the side of the seat;  I also that there are 3 memory options which is great for families that have teens who are driving. AC seats would be a nice option but unfortunately are not available. I (Leslie) didn’t like that buckle stopper flap was higher up. I found my arm was always rubbing against it.
2015 Ford Escape with Ecoboost
Grady (7 years old) wasn’t able to ever buckle his own seatbelt due to placement. He does not often have this issue in other vehicle. It was pretty much underneath the booster seat.

The whole purpose of having a leather seat is to reduce wear on fabric yet the fabric was in the primary wear areas on the leather/cloth combo seats. Leather in the center does make sense for reducing messes from spills while driving so why not just have fully leather seats rather than the strange cloth, leather combination?

In general I think that is interior layout is somewhat improved over the 2013 model

Driving:
Ford has sold Brian on the use of Forced induction in engines. The torque available and overall performance is superior to naturally aspirated engines, although the fuel economy improvement over other engines is questionable.
2015 Ford Escape with Ecoboost

Brian really enjoyed driving it, especially on the highways. It had plenty of passing power, maybe even too much! It tracked really well and had a great on center feel, perhaps in part due to the 19” wheels. I felt like the 4 wheel drive system was more seamless than the 2013 model previously tested.
It felt more like driving a car than an SUV, although when you push it around corners you definitely feel the center of gravity more at level consistent with SUVs. Commuting was nice, it was a good drive. I especially liked the backup camera.

We didn’t use park assist often but it did work very well. The car was very easy to park even without the assist, like parking a car.

Steering had a nice feel and it gave road surface feedback quite well. Why no adaptive cruise control? Previous models have it

Getting in and out of the vehicle was easy. Even for people with mobility issues who find other vehicles difficult.

I like that Ford has done away with their experimental turn signals from previous years. I don’t like that it didn’t give you a positive stop when the signal is on but that is no longer an issue.

Ford Escape looks pretty good in rural Alberta #Escape #ExploreAb #Camping #Car @fordcanada

A photo posted by Leslie Brooks (@mrslesliebrooks) on

Overall it is a great little SUV and would be a strong contender if we were looking for a vehicle of that size. Let of space for a family of 4 or less.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Lincoln Navigator - Standard Features, Premium Price

Recently we borrowed a Lincoln Navigator for a multi-family trip to Golden, BC for a ski weekend at Kicking Horse. I was really excited about trying out the Navigator after having taken a Tahoe to Vancouver. Here are Brian's thoughts as he did the bulk of the driving. I have added my notes in green.

Driving and Ride:
The 3.5L Ecoboost engine provides gobs of power and is very quiet in the cabin.  Accelerating onto the freeway was brisk and before I knew it I was at risk of a conversation with a law enforcement official.
The suspension ride select offers 3 settings (Sport, Normal, and Comfort) but felt the Navigator drove like a big boat in anything other than the sport setting.
The throttle response from a stop was non-linear and jumpy.  I found that the Navigator was difficult to accelerate smoothly at a moderate rate.  It would accelerate smoothly in a slow or fast rate but not a moderate rate.
I found the 6 speed transmission slow to downshift in manual mode when trying to regulate speed down steep roads.
I didn’t get a chance to really test the 4x4 system but in automatic mode it seemed it wasn’t as smooth and seamless as similar vehicles i.e. Chevy Tahoe.


Exterior:
I liked the exterior appearance for the most part and the 22” wheels definitely enhance it, although the appearance from the rear is a bit Robocop like and I don’t really care for the vehicle from this angle.
Retractable and wide side step rails are a nice feature helping you avoid muddying up your pants and getting into the vehicle easily. I love these steps and would probably see them as a must have given I typically step past the step rails on our current vehicle, resulting in lots of dirty marks on my legs.
The rear lift gate release button on the exterior of the vehicle is too small and difficult to find. I agree as well as the button for closing is easily hidden once you have packed your contents.
The hood release hatch is one of the best I’ve ever encountered.  Easily accessible and sturdy feeling.


Interior:
Needs a dead pedal (left foot rest on driver side).  My left foot kept falling asleep during driving.
Acres of dash space but very limited storage capacity.  Even the glove box seemed unusually small. Everything seemed big for the sake of being big but with little function and storage. For example there is lots of space for phone or sunglasses caddy within easy reach of passenger or driver but instead it is all unused empty space.

The storage slots on the driver and passenger doors are inaccessible with the doors closed. Why not widen them a bit for extra storage or a place for garbage or an extra drink?
Why are the memory seat buttons located where they cannot be reached with the drive door closed?
Excellent outward visibility (front and rear). The windows are amazing, you can really enjoy the drive and all the views beyond.

Very comfortable seats (better than the Chevy Tahoe).
The voice activated Sync system worked well. The more you use it the better it gets as it recognizes your voice and manner of speaking.
A rotary shift knob or steering column lever would free up a ton of space in the driver area for additional storage. The shift knob itself was cheap and plasticy feeling, another place where Lincoln could work on stepping up its luxury game.
Items in the drivers console were difficult to access due to the awkward placement of the USB and power jacks.
The steering wheel should be all leather.  The faux wood plastic on the top of the steering wheel feels cheap and cold.  Also, driving at 10 and 2 makes for uncomfortable double texture on the steering wheel.
Pedal height adjustment would be nice.
Plasticy feeling interior door release handles.

The rear console feels as if it is from the automotive dollar store.  The plastic feels as though it would crack instantly in extreme cold weather and I could imagine someone’s heel going right through it while getting into the vehicle.  Not up to a standard I’d expect of a Lincoln.
I was happy that Lincoln didn’t adopt the new turn signal stalk from the Explorer since I recall the lack of positive lock on the Explorer as one of my biggest dislikes of that vehicle.
Some Ford technology questionably absent from the $86k Lincoln such as: Adaptive Cruise Control, Park Assist, Forward Collision Monitoring, Heated steering wheel, Auto-door unlock by key fob, Foot sensor Lift gate opening, etc.
Cargo capacity in the rear seems it could be much larger than is actually provided.  The interior paneling encroaches on space needlessly. Again lots of wasted opportunity for useful storage.

Other thoughts:
I’d be interested in comparing the Navigator with an Expedition which is its mechanical twin to determine if my initial assessment that the Lincoln brand value has been way overestimated.  Are people really willing to pay $12,000+ for a Navigator over an Expedition?  I’m not sure I see the value. I agree, it is a lot to pay for a name when you end up with a vehicle that is majorly lacking in luxury features.
Here is an idea for a luxury feature to set Lincoln apart…Install a built in dash cam with a two minute buffer to record near misses or actual incidents (like an automotive black box);  for near misses, a button in the cabin to stop and save recordings could be used.  (Not that I had any in particular during my testing but just an idea)


Final Verdict:
Although I may seem a bit nit picky of this vehicle, I feel as though the Lincoln brand and price warrant this level of criticism and I genuinely feel as though Lincoln have not delivered a product that justify the cost. I see nothing in this vehicle that sets itself apart from any of its competitors.  So would I recommend this vehicle: I'm afraid not. I second that

Thank you to Ford for the opportunity to review this vehicle.I wish we had better things to say. It was a fun ride and a good size but fell short of expectations. As is likely obvious, all opinions are our own and do not reflect those of Ford of Canada.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Winter Driving Tips

Top Winter Driving Tips from Ford
Guest Post by Tyler Dubetz
To set some context, I have never attended a driving event such as the Ford winter driving event before, and I am not a professional driver or in the automotive industry.  But, being a typical male, I of course assume that I am the best driver on the road and would be a Formula One champ if only given the chance.  I drive a 2004 Subaru STi, which is a very capable car and handles great, but it does not have electronic stability control although it does have anti-lock brakes.  So I was really looking forward to seeing how the electronic stability control systems affected the handling of the vehicles.
Winter driving tips

The event put on by Ford was really well run in general.  It started out with some good generic winter driving advice – generic in the sense that it is applicable to all drivers and vehicles.  Certain things seemed pretty common sense to me but worth mentioning, such as leave extra space between vehicles, especially traveling up hill; simply moving over a few inches in your lane to get your tires on a fresh patch of road when approaching intersections where the traffic has worn in polished bobsled like tracks into the snow/ice; and to keep an emergency road-side kit in the car.  They stressed the importance of winter tires, which I am a big proponent of, but what was news to me was the explanation of how All-Weather tires achieve their winter rating by having a softer compound on the outermost layer only.  Therefore after a couple seasons, those All-Weathers are essentially now an All-Season and probably not up to the task of our Canadian winters.
Then the driving instructor got into some of the safety features on the new Fords such as electronic stability control (ESC) and anti-lock brakes (ABS).  They explained the basics of how these systems work, what to expect with them, and what to do to make the car go where you want it to.  While they were clearly focusing on their cars and products, it did not really have a ‘sales pitch’ feel to it and they specifically mentioned how these features are required on all cars manufactured after 2011.  I thought this was an honest and transparent touch to what I previously feared may have been a glorified sales pitch.
Winter driving tips

When we got to the course at Canada Olympic Park, they had a local Ford technician discuss some of the points to ensure your vehicle is winter ready, and then we moved on to the driving course.  They had two different models: the Fusion and the Escape, and four different driving instructors.  The quality of the instruction was really impressive, where I believe all of them are or were NASCAR drivers, and some are currently professional driving instructors as well.  Probably the main point of focus that all the instructors stressed was the importance of your vision and making a point of looking well in front of where you are going.
I started with the Fusion and followed the instructor’s comments to test out the car’s safety features – which actually felt surprisingly fast for the conditions and the tightness of the corners.  This definitely increased the ‘fun factor’, and testing out the safety features was a primary point of the event, but it showed that these safety systems likely wouldn’t be something that would kick in under regular driving conditions, just under severe situations.  When the ESC kicked in, it was rather seamless and worked great.  As long as you point the car where you wanted to go, the car made sure you went there or more specifically didn’t go somewhere else.  The ESC would selectively brake specific wheels to pull the car into the corner or maintain the direction you were trying to go.  So even if you went into a corner much faster than you should, the ESC could be vigorous enough to essentially bring the car to an almost-stop.  And that’s why I say it keeps you from going somewhere else – it’s not going to steer you through a corner at race car speeds but it is going to keep you within the lines even if it needs to slow you way down to do so.  My initial reaction was “well that’s not very fun”, but the point of the system in real-life use (as opposed to a snow covered closed-course) is not to have fun spinning the tires in the snow, but to keep you from hitting the ditch or worse.  It really was much more dramatic than I expected it to be, and it is a very interesting system.
Winter driving tips

The ABS was much more familiar to me, as I’ve driven several vehicles equipped with it.  There was only a couple of important points in my mind regarding the ABS – keep the pedal depressed (don’t pump it or anything like that) and you can still steer even with the ABS engaged, so once again, point the car where you want it to go.
The Escape was much the same as the Fusion, but with a little more weight, a little more power, and a higher centre of gravity, the stability systems felt a little less dramatic.  Almost like if you really pushed it to the limits you could get the back end to swing outside of the pylons, yet it always seemed to pull the vehicle back in the lane.  I wished I had a couple more laps to see if I truly could push it outside of the lanes, but really it still gave me the confidence that as long as I pointed the vehicle where I wanted to go, it would prevent me from getting too far off course.
I really appreciated the opportunity provided by Ford to test these features in an extreme winter driving situation, and was quite impressed by them.  However, whether I liked them or not is sort of a moot point if all new production vehicles are required to be equipped with them.  I would like the opportunity to have a similar test with other makes to see if there is much difference between various manufacturers’ implementation of ESC systems or if they are mostly the same.  I also wish I had the chance to take my car on the course to see how a capable car without ESC would fair on that course to really gain some perspective on how much impact these systems really do make when pushing a car to the limits.
Winter driving tips

Thank you to Tyler for attending this event on behalf of Ruff Ruminations and writing about it :D