Sorry for the delay folks, but I am pleased to report my second installment for the Go Further With Ford trend conference. In case you missed it, The Garage was chosen from an elite group of bloggers to attend this year’s Go Further With Ford event. Day one consisted of a series of interesting panel discussions which provided a glimpse of where Ford is headed.
For Day Two, Ford drove us to Dearborn proving grounds-the test track. Just to be there was a thrill. The cars you buy from the dealer are tested and fine-tuned right here. You get a sense of the seriousness of the facility with a control tower, much like an airport, overseeing all track activity.
As a car guy with some, but limited race track experience, my hopes of being unleashed on the proving grounds were dashed. Which I can understand. As a car guy, I was in the minority here, with bloggers representing subjects from the environment, fashion, parenting, etc. Ford would be nuts to let them loose.
But to keep things fun and interesting, we had to complete four tasks. My first challenge was to autocross the all-new 2013 Ford Escape. Our bogey time was 38 seconds, with a two second leeway. Ford’s intent was for us to push the Escape hard, which I did. I just made the cut, and have the I Love Pandora t-shirt to prove it. In my 40 seconds of driving it, the Escape was nimble and quick off it’s feet, but look for a full, proper review in the future. In fact, the new Escape will be in my driveway for Labor Day weekend.
Next up was the 2013 Ford Mustang GT. We had three choices. You could drive a Mustang with an automatic. You could drive a Mustang with a manual. You could be driven by a pro driver in a Mustang Boss 302. I’ll lay out the conversation:
Ford: “Mr. Williams, do you want to be driven on the course by a driver?”
Me: “No, thank you, I would prefer to drive myself.”
Ford: “Manual or automatic?”
It was a brief stint, but the Mustang GT was a hell of a ride. I never got higher than third gear on the course Ford provided us. While I’ll always prefer driving myself, I have to say the drivers Ford had on hand to give rides on the Boss 302 ‘Stang put on one hell of a show. Full-on power slides and burning rubber was the order of the day for the Boss cars.
And from brute-force muscle car Ford takes me to the new Focus EV for a drive. On a short road course the Focus EV has buckets of torque, rides just as well as the conventional Focus The Garage tested, but what impressed me most was it’s greater range over the Nissan Leaf. I have been to events where EV’s were present, and there was always a desperation to keep a car plugged in. Not so with the Focus. The car simply kept plugging along.
My next challenge was to experience Ford’s latest technology. I tag-teamed another fellow. His task was to run to a Ford Escape, sync his phone and make a call. Once done, he passes a baton to me where I have to use a Ford Flex to park itself. I confess, I have had cars with this technology but was too fearful to use it. Under the eyes of Ford, I had to, and by golly, it worked. All it took was simply line up near a parking space, and the Flex uses its sensors to ‘find’ the opening. With nothing more than simple brake modulation, the Flex, by golly, parked itself. My task complete, I hand the baton back to my teammate, who samples another nifty Ford technology with the Escape. With a key on you, all it takes is a swipe of your foot to open and close the rear liftgate. Ingenious stuff for when you’re carrying a child or groceries. Yes, it was silly, but a fun way to sample the latest technology available in Ford vehicles.
Last event was an offroad romp in a 2012 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. With a mighty 6.2L V-8 belting out 411hp, the Raptor is the ultimate truck for a muscle car fan. No, we would not be able to drive them-instead members of the Ford SVT team would take us out on Ford’s off-road course, and positively punish and beat the living snot out of the Raptor. Yes, there were some slow, and extreme angle off-roading that would match any Land Rover, but the emphasis was on the brutal power of the Raptor, as we drifted in a cloud of dust, its V-8 wailing as we pounded the truck. This was no burst of the throttle, dog and pony show. No. I had to wear a race helmet. By the time my ride was over, hanging on for dear life, my camera, cell phone, and car keys had been thrown from my pockets throughout the Raptor’s interior. In other words, way harder than I ever would have driven it. When I asked the driver after a long morning of punishing the Raptor if it was getting tiring, he simply replied ‘Hey, any other day I’d be sitting in a cubicle!’
After a catered lunch and some formalities, that pretty much closed out Go Further With Ford for 2012. Leaving Ford’s proving grounds, I looked on as cars continued to race around the track, the new Fusion more than any other car. For a moment I thought ‘This car is ready for production’, but in reality development and fine-tuning never stops. And I did a double take when I saw a car I’d never seen before with no badges whatsoever as it made its way to the track as we pulled out. Hmmm….
With a couple hours to spare at the Detroit Airport, I contemplated the Go Further event. It was my second trip to Dearborn this year, having been in Detroit for the global reveal of the Fusion. There were fewer of us then, and a pronounced international presence. This time around, with about 250 of us who mostly seemed to be American. As a car guy, again, it was interesting to be hosted by a car company with a group of people who have nothing to do with cars. If that doesn’t make sense to you, hear me out. Ford is using social media to promote its product, and as a fellow blogger told me, not all car buyers seek out automotive media outlets to learn about cars, and he is absolutely right.
In the span of two days Ford not only showed the technology they have now, but are fully prepared for a car market that is changing, and by all accounts Ford seems ready for it. Exhausting, yes, but extremely informative and entertaining. It was an honor to be Ford’s guest, and receive a front row seat to where the company is headed. It was a pleasure sharing the experience with you.
Ford Motor Company paid my airfare, hotel room and meals for this media event, but I was not compensated monetarily.