Curbside Classic Visits The 2018 New York International Auto Show, Part 7: Ford And Lincoln

Ford’s North American division is doing quite well. The aluminum F-150 continues to dominate the full size pick up truck segment. And the Transit commercial van lineup successfully took over for the E-Series. Unfortunately the company is facing great adversity internationally. But like any good American, I will ignore global events and focus solely on this side of the pond. Or I’ll just cover what I saw when I went to New York.

What would Ford be without the F-150? They certainly wouldn’t be as healthy of a company as they are now. The truck accounts for a huge portion of Dearborn’s profits. Which is why the company updates it as often as it can. And for 2018 the F-150 received a mild refresh. Aside from the usual cosmetic updates, the truck can now be equipped with two new engines. The first is a 3.3 liter unit that replaces the 3.5 with virtually the same output. This is the base engine and so far it has yet to be available on other Ford products. It also doesn’t come equipped with the new 10 speed transmission, presumably to keep costs down.

And for the first time ever there is an available diesel option for customers. With 250 horsepower and 440 Ib-ft of torque, the oil burner is up to the task of handling the tasks thrown at it, but its place in the lineup is complicated. You can get the 3.5 liter EcoBoost for a lot less than the diesel, as the Power Stroke costs $4,000. And its got more torque too. But some people just have to own a diesel, and fortunately for them it seems like the one in the F-150 returns decent fuel economy numbers: 25 mpg highway, 20 city, and 22 combined for the 4X4 Super Crew, which is the most popular configuration.

Ford hasn’t really needed the diesel to move units. In fact, the truck already has what it needs: premium materials for the discerning buyer who wants all the luxury of a German sedan without any of the pretentiousness. If you drop over $60,000 for a truck you can get it with blue leather!

And the 2018 refresh might be partially responsible for the truck breaking the all-time-high sales record that it set in 2004. It’s looking increasingly likely that this year may be the F-150’s best yet.

Ford’s other work vehicles sell in much smaller numbers than the F-150 but still help the company’s bottom line. This Transit Connect is the 2019 model, and as you can see, the refreshed van gets a grille inspired by the Fusion. It also gets standard automatic braking. More importantly, the van gets Ford’s new eight speed automatic transmission.

Some of you may have wondered where this new transmission came from given the deal inked between GM and Ford to share transmission technology. A lot of publications assumed the companies developed the two transmissions mutually, but what really happened is that Ford agreed to develop their ten speed automatic on their own while GM did the same with their nine speed, and then they traded.

In another twist, Ford decided not to use GM’s nine speed unit. But that’s not entirely true.  It turns out that Ford felt nine forward gears were unnecessary and instead opted to chop a gear off to save weight and money. Their decision to alter the nine speed was sound, because the Buick Envision equipped with the nine speed actually gets one less mile per gallon on the EPA highway cycle when compared with the obsolete six speed. We’ll probably be hearing about how the new eight speed performs in the near future due to the impending launch of the refreshed Edge and the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus.

Ford will also use the Transit Connect to debut a new turbodiesel engine and a new label to go along with it. The 1.5 liter engine will not belong to the Power Stroke family. Instead, Ford is creating the EcoBlue brand, and presumably it won’t be the last time we see it on a Blue Oval product. Horsepower figures aren’t available yet, but the new unit makes 125 horsepower and 221 Ib-ft torque in the EcoSport. Diesels have never been popular in America, and after VW’s cheating scandal it really seemed like they were going to go extinct, but they haven’t. Kind of strange, isn’t it?

And that diesel is going to be standard equipment on the short wheelbase wagon models, which is also weird. But wait, there’s more! Ford is explicitly marketing the wagon to baby boomers who don’t need something like a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna in their garage. With a starting price that will likely exceed $27k, the Connect Wagon will cost as much as an Escape with 4WD and also be withing spitting distance of a base Edge. And its platform mate C-MAX, which could easily get to this price range with a few options, had largely the same mission but never resonated with customers once gas prices fell. I’m sure the Transit Connect will have a noteworthy payload capacity, but will it be enough?

Like the Transit and Transit Connect, the Ranger developed a substantial international presence before arriving in North America. And this particular mid size pickup is essentially the poster child for how lower gases prices have changed the American automotive market.

Standard on all Ranger variants is the 2.3 liter EcoBoost inline four cylinder and the aforementioned ten speed automatic. That engine is standard on the Mustang and optional on the Explorer and Lincoln MKC. I suspect the Ranger will boast an output similar to that of the Explorer, where the engine makes 280 horsepower and 310 Ib-ft of torque. That would put it ahead of both the Tacoma and Colorado in terms of torque, and even with the Toyota in horsepower. Ford likely wants the Ranger to return decent fuel economy numbers too, and in the Explorer the engine gets an EPA rating of 26 mpg highway. With less weight and four more forward gears, it would be surprising if the truck got anything less than 30 mpg highway. Then again, its not like anyone is buying these things for how well they sip fuel, so it probably only matters for Ford and their CAFE numbers.

This particular Ranger appears to be an XLT or Lariat model with the FX4 package. Like the F-150, the Ranger’s first three trim levels are XL, XLT, and Lariat. The STX and FX4 packages, which used to be stand alone trims on the F-150, also appear, with the latter being available on any 4X4 model.

The Ranger also mimics its larger sibling with the availability of an appearance package emphasizing chrome. This trim is more suitable for the treacherous roads that surround your local Lowe’s or Chipotle, although I’m sure you’ll find more off-road oriented Rangers at both.

Overall, I’d say the Ranger is a good looking truck that will win over a number of people. Just how many people is the question. Is the Ranger going to resonate with F-150 customers looking to downsize? Explorer owners looking for something different? Perhaps Tacoma and Colorado buyers ready for something different? Who knows. We probably won’t get a feel for how the Ranger is received in the marketplace until at least a year from now.

Like the Ranger, the EcoSport is a vehicle that has been on sale outside of North America for quite some time. And it’s now widely available stateside as well. With the initial rollout of the subcompact crossover complete, we can now evaluate how the EcoSport is doing in the marketplace. And the answer is that its doing pretty well. With a June sales total of 6,756 units, Ford’s smallest crossover is already outselling the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, and Toyota C-HR. It’s already surpassed the C-MAX’s sales figure for all of 2017. If the EcoSport keeps up its momentum it will easily overtake the Fiesta by the end of the year.

The EcoSport received mixed reviews upon its debut earlier this year. It was praised by some for its ride, handling, appearance, and features while being damned by others for the same reasons. And those opinions even came from different voices within the same organization. It seems the EcoSport is a polarizing vehicle.

This picture was taken at last year’s show. It may even be the same exact EcoSport that was at the 2018 display.

I can understand critics who dislike the EcoSport because of its design. It’s certainly not the best looking subcompact crossover out there. Everything in front of the C pillar looks like it was designed for a bigger crossover, and the transition from that area to the back isn’t the smoothest. That being said, the rest of the EcoSport is a reasonable facsimile of its larger brethren, which helps make it look tougher than its size would suggest.

From the 2017 auto show.

Why does the EcoSport resonate with crossover buyers? Perhaps its greatest weakness is also its greatest strength. At 161 inches, the crossover is significantly shorter than the competition, to the tune of at least five inches. In urban environments that is a huge advantage when looking for parking. And with similar dimensions to the competition in  terms of width and cargo room, there isn’t a huge penalty for choosing the Ford over something else.

I suspect buyers like the EcoSport for another reason as well. When Ford created the Escape, they made it two inches taller than its bigger sibling, the Explorer. The first EcoSport was similarly tall. And that hasn’t changed for the newer model. At 65 inches, Ford’s subcompact is the second tallest in the segment, behind only the Jeep Renegade. Overall, I’d say the EcoSport is a decent entry in the segment precisely because of its dimensions. While five inches may make a big difference in certain areas of life, I think the EcoSport ultimately reinforces the idea that length isn’t what everyone wants or needs.

Obviously exterior measurements aren’t the only thing customers evaluate when considering a new vehicle. As far as the interior goes, its a decent place to spend time. The pieces drivers normally interact with, like the HVAC controls, steering wheel, and infotainment system, are high quality. Other bits, like the dash where the passenger airbag resides and lower section of the doors, are considerably less premium. Although the worst offender is the seats. The SES model at the show was equipped with partial leather seats. While the cloth on those seats felt great, the leather reminded me of the plastic-like leather on the fourth generation Taurus. If I were in the market for an EcoSport, I’d probably opt for full cloth seating or the perforated leather on the Titanium model. And how does the Ford fare against the competition in regards to its interior? Its substantially better than the Kicks, on par with the Rogue Sport (Qashqai), and slightly behind the Kona. The Honda HR-V stands above all of them.

I’ve probably spent too much digital ink writing about the EcoSport, but before I move on I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the quality of the “floating screen.” It’s great, and punches far above its weight. You cannot move the system if you push and pull on it from the sides. And in case you want to label me as being biased towards Ford, its worth noting that I abused all the floating screens I came across at the show, and none of them even remotely budged. Seems like all the automakers did their homework before incorporating the aesthetic into their vehicles.

Ford definitely refreshed the EcoSport by borrowing elements from its bigger siblings, the Escape and the Edge. Ford’s mid size crossover gets a refresh for the 2019 model year that takes it beyond the style it brought to the segment in 2014. The 3.5 liter V6 gets axed in favor of the 2.0 EcoBoost, which is now mated to the new eight speed transmission, while the 2.7 liter EcoBoost V6 continues to be equipped on the dedicated performance model. In terms of safety, the Edge gains Ford’s new Co-Pilot 360 package of driver assistance goodies. That means automatic braking, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, lane keeping, and automatic high beams are standard on every Edge, and by extension every future Ford that comes equipped with the system.

The biggest news regarding the refreshed Edge is that it joins the ST club. Automotive oriented blogging websites flipped out when Ford announced the Edge ST, and that was before the company revealed its plan to dump most of its car lineup. Personally, I think the Edge ST is an incredibly smart move by Ford, as it allows current ST owners with growing families to stay in the brand and own of a vehicle that both parents can enjoy.

Technically, the Edge already had a performance trim level in the Sport. From experience I can tell you that other Ford models with the Sport moniker really only feel different because of the upgraded engine and the bigger tires, not because of the suspension. So I think Ford has some room to work its magic and give customers a dedicated performance crossover.

In addition to the upgraded suspension, the Edge ST will also come standard with larger brakes, and the 2.7 liter EcoBoost V6 gets an output boost for a total of 335 horsepower and 380 Ib-ft of torque. Motor Trend tested a 2015 Ford Edge Sport and achieved 0-60 in 5.7 seconds. With two extra gears, more power, and more aggressive shift programming, Motor Trend and other publications will probably be able to get the new model much closer to an even five seconds.

As previously mentioned, I don’t really think ST owners should be upset about the Edge ST and the upcoming Explorer ST. As millennials age they’re going to want bigger vehicles to support their families and crossovers are probably what they’d purchase to replace their Focus or Fiesta ST. And since Ford is keeping the Focus alive in America, its pretty likely that the next generation Focus ST will make its way to North America as well.

Will the Expedition ever receive a performance trim? Probably not. But given its mechanical similarities to the F-150, Ford probably wouldn’t have to do much to create an Expedition Raptor. If I were CEO I’d explore the option. And probably bankrupt the company with my other decisions.

I wrote about the current Expedition last year but didn’t get the chance to sit in it. Having experienced the interior of the Platinum model, I can safely say that it is very high quality, and a huge improvement over its predecessor.

Another Ford vehicle that isn’t as mysterious as it was last year is the refreshed Mustang. For the 2018 model year, the pony car got the usual exterior tweaks, dropped the V6, and gained the 10 speed automatic.

The 2019 model year also sees the addition of the Bullitt model. I think it goes without saying that all Bullitt Mustangs are cool.

And this one may be the best yet. Although its certainly not cheap. The limited edition Mustang starts at around $46,500 and tops out above the $50k mark.

But the exclusivity you get might be worth it.

With production of the Fusion sedan ending in the near future, you could argue that the 2019 Fusion will also be a limited edition vehicle. I don’t think most people expected the Fusion to be cancelled, which is why it was truly shocking when Ford announced it back in April. Fortunately, the car will live on as an Outback competitor after the sedan stops being produced, which is very welcome news.

Was the Fusion ever going to truly go away? I might be going into tin-foil hat territory here, but when the news broke about the car’s supposed resurrection, I was a bit skeptical. Why would Ford announce its death in April only to reverse course a short time afterward? My suspicion is that the wagon was always planned, but originally going to be called the Mondeo, which is what its called in Europe. The only evidence I have is Ford’s April announcement that while they were going to cancel their sedans, they would explore “white space” vehicles to fill future gaps in their lineup.

Is this experimental Fusion also a reason why the mid size is sticking around? The Fusion and the MKZ are apparently very popular with self-driving tech companies because of the way their drive-by-wire systems operate. Ford can build the sedan for fleets and make the wagon on the same line, as its rumored that the wagon will just use an updated version of the CD4 platform. Or maybe I’m just a lunatic and all this speculation was a huge waste of energy.

Rant over. Let’s get back to the 2019 model. Despite getting a refresh for the 2017 model year, Ford opted to again tweak the car both out front and in the back. Every Fusion also gets the new Co-Pilot 360 safety system standard. There are also quite a few changes within the lineup: the 2.5 liter four cylinder will only be available on the S trim, while Sync 3 becomes standard on the SE, along with the 1.5 EcoBoost. A new SEL trim level will allow shoppers to get leather on a Fusion without going all the way up to the Titanium model. Previously the SE trim level operated almost like an a la carte menu. That seems to no longer be the case. Curiously, you’ll still be able to order an SE with the 2.0 EcoBoost, only this time it will come exclusively with all wheel drive. I guess that combination was popular enough to keep alive. These changes are probably meant to keep the Fusion as profitable as possible before the car gets reincarnated as a wagon. I’m excited to see what it’ll look like.

Like the Expedition, the Lincoln Navigator is now available at a local dealer near you. Which means anyone at the auto show could poke, prod, caress, or abuse the floor models Lincoln brought to New York. The Lincoln received some truly superlative reviews last year, so my expectations regarding its interior were sky high.

Side note: Doesn’t it look like the guy peering into the Navigator’s window just time traveled to the show from 1978? It’s pretty incredible how the punk aesthetic has endured over the years. And NYC was one of the epicenters of the movement from early on. If he did arrive from the late 70’s he’d probably be listening to The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. In the 80’s The Clash and the Violent Femmes would be in rotation. And the 90’s brought Green Day, Bad Religion, Rancid, and NOFX into the mix. More contemporary artists like Sleater-Kinney, The Strokes, Against Me, and Rise Against would probably be what he’s into if he’s from the modern era.

Wait a second, is that a cell phone in his hand? There goes my theory! Although he could be from the future, right? Maybe the cell phone is what he uses to time travel! And he’s disguised his iPhone 15 BFG 9000 as a contemporary model so the timeline doesn’t get disturbed! What a thoughtful dude.

I didn’t get a chance to ask the time-traveling punk how he felt about the Navigator’s interior, so I’ll just offer my own opinion: it’s fantastic. Right up there with Mercedes in terms of quality. I’m not joking. Seems like the Continental was Lincoln’s warm up, and now we’re getting the main act.

This is the real deal folks. It’s also the interior that changed my opinion on the floating screen motif. Note how Lincoln designed the dash around the screen to be less imposing. They wouldn’t have been able to do that with a more traditional design.

That height drop off really helps the cockpit feel smaller than it is. And those push button gear selectors help save space while looking like something straight out of the 60’s. I wonder if our time traveling friend noticed them.

How many  vehicle interiors feature a center console that doesn’t connect to the dash? I can’t think of any others off the top of my head. It’s definitely an interesting design choice.

Here are the rear audio controls that are built into the middle seat of the second row. A variation of that four inch screen is used on entry level Ford products. Lincoln could easily just used the same look for the Navigator, but its pretty clear they developed their own setup, which was a good move.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of modern Lincoln vehicles is their seat design. Nothing else in the industry looks like those things. And they’re comfortable too.

The new Navigator truly competes with its American, German, and Japanese competition. It’s also resonating with customers, as retail sales are up by triple digits. And the average transaction price has increased to $25,600 more than the previous model. I’d say Lincoln has a winner on its hands.

Speaking of winners, its likely the Aviator will also be a hit for Lincoln. Lincoln calls this a “preview,” and as we’ve learned with this type of concept vehicle, the production Aviator will look almost exactly like what you’re seeing in the above picture.

The Aviator will debut Ford’s CD6 platform. Rumors point to the new architecture being a modular, unibody setup for mid size vehicles and up. The platform is designed for front, rear, and all wheel drive applications. Expect the Aviator to use a rear wheel drive setup.

As for powertrains, the Lincoln will most likely be equipped with Ford’s 10 speed automatic. Engines? Lincoln’s web page for the Aviator just lists “twin-turbocharged engine and plug-in hybrid technology.” That probably means at least one of the EcoBoost V6 engines is getting electrified. I suspect it will either be the 2.7 liter or the 3.0 variant currently in the Continental and MKZ.

This interior pic, taken from Lincoln’s website, clearly shows their designers want the Aviator to be a mini Navigator. Nothing wrong with that. It also looks to be the polar opposite of the MKT, which is a vehicle that has approximately 8 fans worldwide.

I also failed to get a side profile shot of the Lincoln, so here’s an Aviator with some smoke around it. It’s a pretty spectacular design that was easily best in show.

The MKX is dead. Long live the MKX! Wait, no. Lincoln’s old naming scheme deserved to be put out to pasture. Now we have the Nautilus, which is a superior name by default.

Aside from the cosmetic changes and the new name, the Nautilus drops the 3.7 liter V6 for the EcoBoost 2.0 liter four cylinder. The 2.7 liter EcoBoost is still available, and all variants of the Nautilus will come equipped with the new eight speed automatic.

The MKC is dead! Long live the…nope. Lincoln gave the MKC a facelift but did not opt to rename the compact crossover. That’s probably because its replacement is right around the corner. The Corsair will apparently arrive some time next year, which is a bit ahead of schedule. Anyway, what the MKC gains is the new corporate grille and some safety tech like automatic braking. Steady as she goes for Lincoln’s best selling model! At least until next year.

Ford typically doesn’t have a swag display at the show, so I’ll have to conclude part 7 with two shots of some things Lincoln had at their display. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Thank you for reading this ultra long section. Part eight will be a much lighter affair.

Related Reading:

CC Visits The 2018 NY International Auto Show, Part 1: GM and Nissan

Part 2: European Luxury Brands

Part 3: Subaru, Volvo, Lexus, Acura, Genesis, Mazda, and Revero

Part 4: FCA and Volkswagen

Part 5: Hyundai and Kia

Part 6: Honda and Toyota