As you might remember, last month I posted an editorial story about the current state of Nissan; a brand which was one of the greatest enthusiast marques, but is now a shell of its former self – at least in the eyes of many who love cars. But it’s not all doom and gloom out there, and I wanted to follow that story up with one about a car company I think is doing it right – Ford.
Let’s get this out of the way: I drive a 2015 Ford Mustang so that might make me biased. Or maybe it just means I’ve put my money where my mouth is? One thing’s for certain though, I’m certainly a dyed in the wool blue oval guy.
Yeah, I’ve owned a couple Fords in the past, but I’ve also owned just about everything else; from Nissans to VWs to Chevys. But when it comes to being a car lover in general, there’s just no denying how impressive Ford’s current line-up is. In fact, I’m not sure if there’s ever been another brand that’s offered so many different kinds of exciting vehicles at one time. Maybe Toyota or the aforementioned Nissan at the height of their early ’90s glory?
Today, just about every company makes a couple of great enthusiast vehicles, but in 2016 Ford makes at least eight of them, with possibly more on the way. But what really makes Ford’s current line-up so impressive is that it makes cool vehicles in so many different segments and in so many different price ranges. So let’s start at the bottom and work our way up through the current FoMoCo range to find evidence that Ford is the new king of car-guy cred.
First up we’ve got the Fiesta – a small European-style compact hatchback that’s just about as cheap as a new car can get. But even in its base form the Fiesta is an intriguing machine. That’s because it comes with a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost motor that is surprisingly fun, while delivering hybrid-like fuel economy. And being turbocharged, you can bet there’s plenty of aftermarket potential there.
In fact, Ford itself has used the 1.0 turbo as the power plant for its Formula EcoBoost project – a lightweight racer which sports a 200 horsepower version of the turbo three-banger.
Then we get to the Fiesta ST – a car which has earned near universal praise for being one of the best hot hatchbacks of all time. With 197 turbocharged horsepower and a tweaked suspension setup in a very compact platform, it’s not surprising.
I’ve had the chance to ring out Fiesta STs on a couple of occasions, and I can legitimately say it’s one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven. If you haven’t, go drive one. Best of all though, the Fiesta ST is priced at a level that nearly every new car buyer can afford – something other manufactures seem to have forgotten when it comes to building performance cars.
Stepping up a class we get to the Focus ST – a car that delivers the same front-wheel drive fun of the Fiesta, but in a slightly larger and more powerful package.
And in certain markets you can even get a Focus ST Estate. What’s not to like about a station wagon with a potent 250-plus horsepower turbo four-cylinder engine, a manual gearbox and big brakes?!
And that’s before we even get to the now-available-in-America Focus RS. Already an established legend in Europe, the new RS has come with the Subaru STI and other rally-bred cars firmly in its sights.
It’s a a 345 horsepower, all-wheel drive hatchback that has an actual ‘drift mode’ setting and stickers for about 37 grand. What more really needs to be said? ‘Thank you, Ford’, perhaps?
And while it’s not quite an ST or RS model, Ford just unveiled a new version of its Fusion sedan that will include a 325 horsepower EcoBoost V6 with all-wheel-drive. Remember, this is a car that competes with Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys…
Now we get to the Mustang – the one with an independent rear suspension, a vastly improved interior and more refinement than ever. Even in base model V6 form, there’s a ton of bang for your buck.
Sitting above the V6 is the 2.3-liter EcoBoost model, which I’m quite familiar with being an owner. For about 25 grand you can get yourself a very fun, rear-wheel drive coupé that handles well, gets great gas mileage and has a ton of aftermarket potential. I’ve called it the S16 Silvia that Nissan won’t build.
Need a V8 in your life? No problem, Ford will happily sell you a Mustang GT with a 5.0 Coyote under the hood. And with 435 horsepower on tap for a little over 30 grand, you’re looking at one of the best performance buys anywhere.
Next up we get to a car that in my opinion is one of the most incredible automobiles available at any price point. The Mustang GT350 is a bargain at its 50 thousand dollar MSRP.
That’s because the 540hp GT350 not only delivers the numbers, it does so in a very exotic way. Not with forced induction, but with a 5.2-liter, naturally aspirated flat-plane crank V8 that sounds unreal as it screams to its 8,200rpm redline.
Not enough for you? Try the track-focused GT350R with its carbon fiber wheels and other upgrades. It’s about as hardcore a production car as you’ll find these days. It’s also likely that at some point in the near future Ford will release an even more powerful version of the Mustang to take the place of the old GT500. I’d expect it to rival the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat in terms of power output.
Stepping in a totally different direction we have the Ford Raptor – a groundbreaking pickup that’s a legit off-roader right out of the box.
While the first-gen Raptor was a massive success, the new version might be even better with its lightweight chassis, EcoBoost V6 and 10-speed gearbox. I’m not an off-road guy, but the appeal is undeniable.
And sitting atop all of this we have the halo car – the Ford GT. It’s one of the most exotic American cars of all time and a legitimate competitor to Europe’s greatest.
Sure, there’s the 650 horsepower engine, the exotic goodies and all that, but just look at it. No wonder nearly all of them are already spoken for, even with a $400,000 price tag. God Bless America.
And this all without getting into Ford’s motorsport efforts, which include everything from Cobra Jet Mustang drag specials to rallycross and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Is there anything the line-up is lacking? Actually, yes. I’ve long wondered why Ford hasn’t built a rear-wheel drive sport sedan to compete with the likes of BMW, Infiniti, and Cadillac. Channeling the spirit of the recently departed Aussie Falcon, Ford could base it on the current Mustang platform, add some doors and throw any number of motors under the hood.
And then there’s Lincoln. The brand has been struggling to find a direction, and it’d be awesome to see some legit high performance luxury sedans to go up against Cadillac’s awesome ATS-V and CTS-V. Some day perhaps? Lincoln recently debuted the new Continental and that at least seems like a step in the right direction.
Is building cars for enthusiasts risky? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure Ford has the right idea here. It’s managed to the find the perfect balance between mainstream success and building exciting and interesting models for people who love cars. Naysayers might argue that it’s too expensive to make enthusiast cars these days, but maybe someone forgot to tell Ford?
With ever-increasing government regulations threatening the existence of performance machines, who knows if this is the beginning or the peak of something great, so let’s just enjoy it while we can.
While there will always be those who dislike a brand for whatever reason, I think we should all tip our caps to Ford for doing so much cool stuff lately. Hopefully more car companies will follow its lead – I’m looking at you Nissan, Toyota and so many others…
Images Courtesy of Ford Media
I agree! FORD has been doing great off late. Regrading taking on the 5 series. I guess FORD should work on the Taurus..step it up a notch and plonk the 5.0 cayote in the SHO trim and put it up next to the M5?
A restyled Taurus on an enlarged s550 (current mustang, RWD) chassis would be excellent. Unfortunately, Ford's about ready to axe the ol' bull here in the states. Hopefully Lincoln goes RWD biased soon with the next Conti and MKZ models. *fingers crossed*
I really wish Ford had re-thought the rear end of the new GT, the 2005 Model apart from the A pillar visibility was perfect...
@Speedhunters We think you're pretty swell too
Ford is definitely killing it right now. My first car was a 2008 ford fusion se with sport package and a modest 160hp 2.3L duratec i4. Being a midsized American sedan, it had surprisingly nimble characteristics from the factory and was mountune, steeda and cosworth friendly. I was impressed
Later, I got a 2012 fusion sport awd with a 263hp 3.5L duratec v6 that made me a diehard fan of ford's bread & butter people mover. It was basically an improved version of the taurus sho from the 80s-90s.
The guy that bought it from me has custom 2.75" headers, borla catback and itb's on it making 330ish whp and goddammit I'm jealous. The sound... oh, god, the sound...
Safe to say the 2017 fusion sport is my next car. I just test drove an edge sport and f150 ecoboost 2.7 just to see what the new engine is all about and that thing is definitely underrated. Ford is lowballing us with the official numbers. That things gonna be a sleeper for sure.
And you're forgetting one... In Europe they make the best looking and best handling (good enough to shame many saloons...) minivan - the S-Max. Go and check it.
It's a bliss, you can have a single car, big enough for all your kids, and still have fun driving.
@PauloRebordao Yep, some of them have the same motor in it as a Focus ST, or at least the older ST model anyway. Silly quick for a van.
@PauloRebordao Would like to see that in the US.
Man, that'd be awesome here in the states. @Mike Garrett, how about the new Transits? A couple businesses use them as transport vehicles here with minimal cosmetics like Wheels & Drop, color matched to their logo. They kinda look like badass bread trucks.
I just recently when to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with some of my friends and afterwards we were talking about if we had 100,000 to spend there what we would buy. I chose a GT350 and a Forcus RS. Never thought i would ever choose two Fords but their cars are just cool and exciting right now. And this is coming from a hardcore Japanese guy.
@rv_zenki Well said!
Honestly, I am incredibly proud of how Ford has been getting along lately. The Fiesta ST with it's very clever suspension set up that makes it a blast to drive, the Focus RS headstrong plunge into the AWD hothatch market, the Mustang's intelligent step away from the horsepower wars and realizing the potential of chassis balancing - and even having the balls to opt for a turbocharged four-banger, and the GT is just a thing of vision. Always I've had the blue oval in my corner when it comes to the USDM, but never have I been this enthusiastic about the brand before. Best part is, it's not just pining for the European Ford that we never get over here - the Escorts and the Sierras.
@90nissanS13@my350z I'm clearly no expert, and my own experience with the machine is limited - but everything I have heard has been praise for it's balance and poise. "Clever suspension" might be a bit of a misnomer, as it comes across as something truly unique from conventional suspension geometries. It was merely an addage that Ford is placing this kind of balance in a primary focus of their cars, and that the Fiesta ST is a prime example of finding that balance.
Okay, fair enough. I took a look at the suspension after reading your comment. All i saw was a torsion beam rear with a mcpherson strut up front. I had to ask for your elaboration. Honda has used this on some of their "sport" hatches and it didn't impress many. It's good to see Ford doing so well at this level.
No doubt that the current Ford line up looks very strong. I'm still hanging on for a Fiesta RS to get added to the line up, that's the car that will cause me to defect from Subaru!
@tbtstt If it's anything like the ST it would be amazing.
Take a look at the Aussie Falcon XR6 turbo and F6 models. 4.0 litre, in line with a large turbo bolted to it. Guys here are running 1000hp ones and the reg and daily driven!! Great motor, easy power and only for the Australian/NZ market.
@APtattoos Ford needs to do a lux'd up Mustang with a Lincoln badge, but only with the turbo-i4 and the ttv6 to distinguish it a bit more from the Mustang.
@APtattoos So a Mustang?
Tell me about it. Already pre-ordered a Sport, but I'd kill for that thing to be rwd or at least rear-biased awd.
I love the Fiesta ST, and may be looking to pick one up soon second hand (still waiting to see how the ST cars wear over time).
And the Ford GT is incredible, you just don't realize until you see it in person how crazy cool it is. Right behind the doors are these wicked flying buttresses that go from the rear roofline to the rear haunches, and make this insane pseudo wing aero look... that you can put both your arms through. Yeah, it's that big a design feature, and you have to really look for it to appreciate it.
@MTDatsun I agree completely. The GT looks simply insane in person. P1/LaFerrari levels of cool.
Not a fan of most Fords (especially design wise) but I can't argue with their performance line up... Ford is successfully doing what most manufacturers are saying is not worth the investment.
The 80's Ford motto really hits the spot, "Have you driven a Ford lately?"
Yet I would be happier if Shelby Mustangs made it overseas.
@Wout I can guarantee that no money was paid for this. Unless you count the car payment I send for my Mustang every month ;)
Yes I applaude ford for doing all the performance and enthusiast cars, but personally I think ford have gone to shit to me. I just don't like anything they're doing nowadays. But hey, that's just me.
Says the mitsubishi guy lmao, now there's a company that has been going to shit for a LONG time. Funny thing is i just don't like anything mitsubishi has done either, as do most people
@LukeEVOVIII To each their own.
I know man tell me about it! Personally I don't think the new Outlander is a bad looking car really. But that is probably the only new car in the world I like atm
@Speedhunters You're so right! But Damn, a Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost costs 60 grand in euro's in the netherlands.. A Fiesta 100hp EcoBoost 19000
In belgium the ecoboost mustang is 35K ish, you guys just get stupid taxation, isn't a subaru wrx sti just as expensive as an bmw m4 over there too?
@Limesmack I just checked the price for the lowest spec EcoBoost Mustang here in Denmark.
With the current exchange rate, it goes for a little over 76K Euro.
And that's after we just had a 30% reduction in registration tax. FML.
No xr6 turbo or xr8? I believe you can still buy them new for now and yeah they are oz only but the xr6 turbo was a big hit down here for all the years it existed along with the fpv versions.
To say Ford makes eight enthusiast vehicles and then list Fiestas as one of these is reaching imo just because it has a turbo doesn't make it anything great. I don't get it. Maybe it is cool in the UK where young people like Citroens and Vauxhalls but I just don't get it. I personally think an enthusiast vehicle is one that is designed with performance and handling in mind with a true gearbox and looks to go with it, rather than something that is designed with economy and efficiency in mind that just happens to have a turbo because it's the efficient trend amongst manufacturers in 2016.
However I can agree with the rest of the cases you make for the other vehicles, just I wish not to deal with anything FWD or automatic. Oh and I want to add that the #1 rugby team in the world New Zealand's All Blacks get a free Ford each due to sponsorship. I just wish one got a Mustang, they usually pick out a Falcon or Explorer! -.-'
@John Key NZ in what way is the Fiesta ST not an enthusiast vehicle?
The fiesta ST is a proper enthusiast car though. No denying that, but I agree with the regular fiesta, not anywhere close to an enthusiast car
@John Key NZ Enthusiasts come in all ages and with all kinds of budgets. The Fiesta has the best tuned chasis in it's class and it's mated to a peppy turbo motor. It perfect for an enthusiast's first car or for someone in the inner city where you can exploit it's chuckability and compact size to your advantage :)