Mustang parts under the new Lincoln Aviator mean good things for Ford

01-2019-lincoln-aviator-ny-1.jpgAs we mentioned, underneath the new Lincoln Aviator “concept” there appears to be an independent rear suspension lifted right from the Ford Mustang parts bin. And while it’s pretty cool on its face that Mustang rear-drive platform bits are being reused in the broader Ford universe, what this means for the next Explorer could be really cool.

A quick caveat: The Aviator here in New York is very close to the production version, but it’s not technically a production car. It looks hand-built, with temporary exhaust and some show-car touches. The suspension underneath looks exactly like a Mustang’s, but the actual production Aviator will almost certainly use beefier components with the same basic design and geometry, since the Aviator will be much heavier than the smaller Mustang. That being said, we’re fairly confident that even at this early stage, the Mustang-derived suspension seen in New York is a preview of what’ll be under the production Aviator.

Furthermore, Ford won’t say it, but based on what we’re seeing on Aviator, it’s a safe bet that Ford will utilize the Aviator platform for the next Explorer. That would enable the economies of scale necessary to produce a brand new rear-drive-based SUV platform in the first place. It also means that the Explorer should be available without AWD — and given the stable of powerful EcoBoost engines, and the competent 10-speed automatic in the parts bin, a rear-drive Explorer has a shot at being a decent driver. Aviator wouldn’t go rear-drive-based if driving dynamics weren’t important; Explorer should inherit these priorities.

2019 Lincoln Aviator

More evidence: The Explorer spy shots we saw back in February sure share the Aviator’s general proportions. Even back then, before Aviator was revealed, we were hypothesizing that an EcoBoost 3.5-liter-powered version could boast as much as 400 horsepower, if the Expedition’s tune were adopted. Suddenly, the Explorer seems very interesting.

So, an EcoBoost, rear-drive Explorer sure sounds like something Ford Performance would be interested in, right? We knew an Explorer ST is coming, but with 365-400 horsepower potential and a chassis designed with dynamics in mind, it doesn’t seem like as much of a stretch as the Edge ST. And a performance-oriented AWD system is a possibility, too. That’s an area where Ford has been gathering experience at a rapid pace.

What do we not expect from a new Explorer? A V8. If you have visions of a Coyote-powered Explorer, a sort of four-door V8 Mustang, you shouldn’t hold your breath. Look at Ford’s Ranger strategy: a single EcoBoost powertrain. Ford’s so heavily invested in EcoBoost that putting a V8 in the Explorer, however possible, doesn’t mesh with the overarching strategy. Expect a range of EcoBoost four- and six-cylinder engines, similar to what are available in the current Explorer. After all, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine already does longitudinally-oriented duty in the Mustang, so why not the Explorer, too?

To be clear, this is all just informed speculation based on Ford’s existing strategies, what we’ve gleaned from the Aviator preview, and Ford Performance’s recently articulated expansion of the ST line. But our confidence in a rear-drive-based Explorer is high, and an ST version is also more likely than not. This should make you excited, because anything that injects some excitement in the mainstream SUV space is exciting to us.

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Ford Baby Bronco comes alive in these exclusive renderings

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Ford is brining the Bronco back in 2020. And, as part of its larger mission to take the fight to Jeep directly, the Baby Bronco will compete with Jeep’s smaller offerings, like the Renegade and even, to a lesser degree, the Subaru Crosstrek. But what will it look like? Ford released a dark teaser image when it announced the Baby Bronco, and we put our artist to the task of bringing it into the light.

Blending contemporary Ford styling cues found on other crossovers, like the Escape and EcoSport, with what we saw in the teaser, gives us an idea of what to expect from the Baby Bronco. More rugged aspects, like the front skid plate and recovery hooks, communicate the crossover’s offroad intentions, as do the aggressive tires, body cladding, and short overhangs.

There’s a lot we can gather just from the vehicle’s size, class, and probable competitors. The Renegade is almost certainly what Ford will benchmark for the Baby Bronco, especially because it sits in that sliver of daylight between EcoSport and Escape. And EcoSport, despite the bodycladding, isn’t capable of anything beyond the lightest dirt-road duty. We expect the Baby Bronco, despite being built on a car-like unibody architecture with a transversely-mounted engine, to have the kind of scrambling capabilities to mix it up with the Renegade.

It’d make sense for Ford’s Escape to get larger in its next generation, so size will probably be close to the contemporary Escape. That means it could be similar in size to the current Jeep Compass, while lining up in the market with the slightly smaller Renegade. The EcoBoost 2.0-liter engine recently offered in the Escape is a good fit as at least one of two possible engines. Less likely but still possible is the new three-cylinder that sees duty overseas. This could be a great vehicle to introduce and federalize that “Dragon” I3 with, as it’ll likely sell in enough volume to absorb the costs associated with federalizing it.

While there’s a Trailhawk version of the Renegade, and Ford is quite openly trying to occupy the offroading space, don’t expect to be chasing Wranglers up rocky gullies in the Baby Bronco. We expect a light-duty all-wheel-drive system with some traction and software tricks to do a semblance of legitimate offroading, but nothing like a real low-range transfer case or true locking differentials. That said, the ability to lock the center differential to provide some extra traction by forcing a more balanced front-rear power split is certainly possible. We also expect independent suspension front and rear. The 6-speed automatic used in the Escape is likely to show up in the Baby Bronco, unless Ford develops a transaxle with more gears to slot below its recent 10-speed unit.

We’re using reasoned guesses here as to what the Baby Bronco will look like, based on the market, Ford’s parts inventory, the current lineup, and the competition. Ford might pull a number on us and switch up the target market for the Baby Bronco, adding or removing size or capability. We’ll know more when there’s a production preview concept to look at.

But we think Ford is smart to target the Renegade, which has moved around 8,000 units a month on average over the last year or so. If anything, Ford’s late to the party, which might prompt them to invest in wilder styling or unique features to stimulate interest. We can’t wait to see what the finished product will look like.

[Source: Autoblog]

Ford releases teaser video of 2019 Focus

For the past few months, we have seen brightly camouflaged Ford Focus test mules. The light disguise has shown us that the car has been reaching readiness for quite a while now, and the official release date is now just a week away. This short teaser video released by Ford Europe’s YouTube channel gives us a look at the details of the upcoming new-generation Focus.

The details on the video car match the blue car caught at a video shoot in mid-February in Portugal, down to the wheels. Maybe it’s the blue, maybe it’s something about the rear, but the Focus design seems to have taken a couple of steps in the direction of the Subaru Impreza hatchback. The size will be somewhat similar to the outgoing car, but the rear legroom is expected to grow.

The original first-generation Focus debuted 20 years ago, and the car arrived in the U.S. market in late 1999. Later iterations have kept the formula largely similar, but the new, fourth-generation car has to accomplish quite a few things: the quality, especially in the interior, is reportedly moving upmarket, while production of cars sold in the U.S. is moving to China to save Ford some factory tooling costs. In addition to a four-door sedan version, which has also been spotted testing, U.S. customers can probably expect a full-electric version of the new car thanks to a new platform that makes it easier for Ford to produce EVs.

[Source: Autoblog]

Mustang pierces the Colorado Rockies on I-70 at 150 mph

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A few days ago we told you about the driver of a Dodge Hellcat who got busted after hitting 160 mph in Indiana. Such excessive speeders sometimes get caught, sometimes get killed, and sometimes … they actually get away. In today’s take-it-to-the-track news, Colorado troopers spotted a Mustang doing 140 mph at 12:30 a.m. Friday morning on I-70 around Glenwood Springs.

At 140 mph, good luck reading a license plate, and speed and darkness made for a vague description otherwise: dark color and older model. We don’t know if that means 1960s or something older in the new generation. We do know that not every Mustang could make or safely handle that kind of speed.

The Mustang was on a stretch west of town where the speed limit drops as the highway curves along the Colorado River. But when the troopers hit their lights and sirens, the driver sped up, to 150.

“They tried to catch up. They weren’t doing it,” Colorado State Patrol spokesman Trooper Gary Cooper said. “They couldn’t get close enough.”

The troopers called off the chase, which Cooper credited with saving the Mustang driver’s life. His luck goes far beyond eluding the officers.

“It’s extremely reckless, especially with people who haven’t been trained to drive at those speeds,” Cooper said. Brakes fade, tires blow — the ways to die in that situation are myriad. “I’ve seen a deer total a car before.”

Honda Civic Type R not enough for you? Hondata’s Type R tune is here

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From time to time, we tell you about the latest tuning package from the folks at Hondata, such as the one that makes your turbo Civic more powerful than a Civic Si, or the one that shuts up critics who say the Si isn’t powerful enough, or the one that winds up your 2018 Accord with more torque than a Type R. We’ve told you what it’s like to drive these tunes. And all of that has been building up to this: Hondata on Thursday released its tune of the Honda Civic Type R itself.

For starters, a reminder that a stock Type R is specified as making 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

Hondata’s FlashPro kit costs $695, and for that sum you get the following gains:

  • With 91 octane gasoline: 33 hp, 39 lb-ft.
  • With 93 octane: 47 hp, 72 lb-ft.
  • With E25 (25 percent ethanol): 58 hp, 78 lb-ft.

Here’s a dynamometer graph showing a stock Type R vs. a car programmed with the 93-octane tune. Note that the stock Type R’s output was better than advertised. So that puts total output of the Hondata-flashed car at 364 horsepower and 404 pound-feet.

[Source: Autoblog]

Would you pay $17 a month to give your older Ford connectivity?

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When it was first introduced in 2007, there was nothing like the original Ford Sync system, since it allowed car owners to connect and use a portable device better than anything that came before it. And because it was a brought-in/tethered and software-based system, Sync leveraged a device’s connectivity and was easily updated.

It took competitors awhile to catch up: Toyota Entune wasn’t available until 2011, and Chevy MyLink didn’t roll out until 2012. But now Ford is the one playing catchup since it stuck with the brought-in strategy while most other automakers were quicker to add connectivity via an embedded cellular modem.

Ford initially installed 2G/3G modems in its small fleet of electric and plug-in electric vehicles starting in 2012 so that owners could keep tabs on charging. Embedded connectivity came to Lincoln in 2014, and Ford began adding onboard 4G LTE via Sync Connect to select cars starting with the Escape in 2015.

To get more cars connected more quickly, last week the automaker rolled out its FordPass SmartLink solution that plugs into the OBD port of 2010 to 2017 model year vehicles. This lets owners retroactively get onboard Wi-Fi, set up a “geo-fence” to keep tabs on a car’s location, receive vehicle health reports and allows remote engine starting and door locking/unlocking using a smartphone app, among other features.

But to connect older Ford vehicles will cost owners $16.99 a month for two years, not including installation. Ford throws in 1 GB of data or a 30-day trial, whichever comes first, after which owners have to add the vehicle to their Verizon shared data plan, which supplies connectivity for SmartLink, or establish a new account. (Disclosure: Autoblog is owned by Verizon.)

By comparison, GM’s 4G LTE data plans start at $10 a month for 200 MB and goes up to $30 for 3 GB, and owners can also add a car to an AT&T shared-data plan. But OnStar doesn’t have a separate monthly subscription for the embedded modem or an installation charge, and standard features via the RemoteLink Mobile App are free for the first five years of ownership. FCA’s Uconnect Access service also uses an embedded modem to provide similar telematics features for $20 per month following a free one-year trial, while a la carte in-car Wi-Fi is offered for $10 per day, $20 per week or $35 per month.

OnStar quietly shuttered its aftermarket For My Vehicle (FMV) system two years after introduction because not enough people wanted to pay $299 a year to add the service to existing vehicles. There is an appetite for embedded connectivity — and data — but among new car buyers.

A GM spokesperson told me that from 2016 to 2017, data usage by the company’s car owners increased nearly 300 percent, from 6.8 million GB to 20.3 million GB. “In general, the vehicle connectivity trend is heating up,” Mark Boyadjis, a principal analyst and manager of Automotive User Experience at IHS Markit, told me. “We estimate that by 2022, 87 percent of U.S. vehicles sold will be equipped with telematics.”

Boyadjis added that IHS Markit research shows that 30 percent of new car shoppers are willing to pay extra for telematics services. “But we also know that a majority of respondents are increasingly expecting these features to come standard on their vehicle,” he said.

Which makes me wonder whether they want to add it to older vehicles. And whether Ford’s attempt to play catchup can attract enough existing vehicle owners willing pay to get their cars connected.

Boyadjis admits he’s on the fence. “I have a 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback,” he said. But looking at two-year contract of around $400 not including installation, he’s not sure if the features justify the costs.

“The remote start and lock/unlock from my phone would be nice, as would the vehicle health report feature, since my car is beyond 70,000 miles now,” he added. “While I am intrigued about the prospect of gaining these new services for my vehicle, I’m unsure if I will pull the trigger. We’ll see.”

[Source: Autoblog]

Motorcycle cop tickets a self-driving car in San Francisco

Now here’s a genuine novelty: In San Francisco, a motorcycle cop pulled over an autonomous vehicle and issued it a ticket. The future has arrived.

But the reason — police said it failed to yield to a pedestrian at a crosswalk — probably shouldn’t be taken lightly, coming a day after a self-driving car operated by Uber Technologies Inc. struck and killed a woman walking her bicycle across the road March 18 in Tempe, Ariz. Cruise Automation, the operator of the ticketed self-driving car, says the vehicle did nothing wrong. The story was first reported by CBS affiliate KPIX-TV.

Cruise tells the station that its onboard data shows the pedestrian was 10.8 feet away from the car when it began driving in autonomous mode down Harrison Street at 14th Street. The officer pulled the car over shortly after it began accelerating and ticketed the human test driver.

“Safety is our priority in testing our self-driving vehicles,” Cruise said in a statement. “California law requires the vehicle to yield the right of way to pedestrians, allowing them to proceed undisturbed and unhurried without fear of interference of their safe passage through an intersection. Our data indicates that’s what happened here.” It tells the station the human test driver did everything right but is responsible for the citation.

General Motors purchased San Francisco-based Cruise in 2016 to boost its efforts to develop self-driving vehicles. GM is seeking federal approval for a fully autonomous car that lacks a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal to join its first commercial ride-sharing fleet in 2019, and it recently announced plans to build the car, which is based on a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle, at a plant near Detroit.

Meanwhile, investigators and autonomous-vehicle equipment suppliers are still trying to figure out what went wrong in the self-driving Uber fatal crash. Uber and the family of Elaine Herzberg, the woman killed in the accident, have reached a settlement in the case.

The latest incident won’t help convince a wary public about the safety of our increasingly inevitable self-driving future. It also makes us wonder: What happens when an officer tries to pull over a completely self-driving car that doesn’t have a passenger inside of it? On that front, time will certainly tell.

[Source: Autoblog]