Ford is a legendary car company. It’s perhaps best known as the first auto manufacturer to automate production with an assembly line, pay workers a so-called fair daily wage, and produce a vehicle for the mass-market everyday consumer. Today, it continues to stand apart from its American counterparts – for example, by avoiding bankruptcy in the 2008 financial collapse. As we continue into the 21st century, Ford is among the companies looking to offer a range of transportation services, rather than simply producing and selling cars.
What signs of Ford’s unique approach and personality do you see at dealerships today? Here are four ways that Ford stands out from the competition.
Ford may best be defined in the modern age as the first of the domestic brands to start producing cars with smaller turbocharged engines. The company’s suite of technologies is called EcoBoost. The name is meant to convey how smaller turbocharged engines, and the light weighting of the vehicles, can provide plenty of power while using less fuel (and therefore releasing fewer emissions).
The use of turbocharging has three main advantages. The first being that automakers want to keep engine costs down. If the cost of a powertrain can be reduced, car companies can invest more in safety, infotainment, and luxury features throughout the rest of the car.
The second reason to go with turbocharing is to offer higher fuel economy. Turbocharging brings back some of the oomph that’s lost when using smaller-displacement engines with fewer cylinders. As result, vehicles that used to rely on V6 power – at the expense of efficiency – can now be offered in a fuel-sipping four-cylinder variant without losing any power.
Torque is the last reason, and it also relates directly to fuel economy. Ford’s turbocharged engines perform better than naturally aspirated engines on the EPA’s fuel efficiency testing cycle. Low-end torque means quicker upshifts and better performance at the lower speeds that make up city driving.
In our rankings, Ford scores in the 8 to 9 range on performance with most of its turbocharged models. Reviewers frequently consider turbocharged engines to be sporty and fun.
Ford and Microsoft were pioneers in the area of car-based infotainment. Unfortunately, they suffered poor early reviews in the first-generation models, introduced in 2007. That’s the risk an innovator has to take. Automotive journalists criticized the Ford Sync system for not being intuitive and having quality issues.
Nearly a decade later, Ford’s third-generation Sync 3 system is earning high marks. Ford abandoned its partnership with Microsoft in favor of Blackberry – and the newest infotainment system from Ford is easier to use, it even integrates Apple Car Play and Android Auto. This improvement will allow users to use familiar Apple and Android interfaces directly on the dashboard display. Ford cars rate 7 or higher for interiors in the U.S. News rankings. We expect the average rating to continue to climb as the newest Sync system becomes standard across all Ford vehicles.
Hybrids and EVs
Would it surprise you to hear that Ford is the second-leading seller of affordable electric vehicles in the US? In addition to selling more plug-in hybrid models than Nissan and nearly as many as Chevrolet, the Ford Fusion Energi consistently outsold the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model X through the first half of 2016.
Ford offers conventional hybrids across its lineup, and its plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles, including the Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Focus Electric, are among the market’s best sellers. With low gas prices, sales of green cars have slowed down, but Ford’s expanding portfolio of high-mileage hybrids and models that can use grid-supplied electricity position the company as a leader for a growing segment.
Despite Ford’s multi-faceted approach to offering better fuel economy and exciting infotainment technology, the company has not neglected its strong tradition of producing high-horsepower muscle cars. Auto enthusiasts have been keeping tabs on Ford as it works on its next-generation GT supercar. At the same time, Ford continues to build Mustang variants with V8 engines – in addition to V6 and turbocharged four-cylinder engines.
Ford is not depriving its small cars of power either, as evidenced by hot-hatch ST and RS variants of the Focus and Fiesta. Coming this model year, the Ford Fusion Sport will be the most powerful affordable midsize sedan in the US market. It will also feature standard AWD, something Camry, Accord, Sonata, and Altima don’t offer.