Curbside Classic Visits The 2019 New York International Auto Show, Part 1: Ford, Lincoln, And Rivian

Welcome curbivores, to another year of New York auto show coverage! My trek to the Javits Center took place on April 25th, 2019. Fitting, as it marked the one year anniversary of Ford’s earth shaking announcement that it was backing away from passenger cars. Ford and Rivian also announced a tie up the day before my trip. There really is no mystery as to why part one is structured the way it is, so strap yourselves in and get ready to see some cars!

Obviously the new 2020 Explorer was featured prominently in Ford’s section. It’s also worth noting the extra attention to detail Ford put into their display this year. They’re certainly not alone in this regard, as you’ll see in future posts, but they did a great job at making their area feel unique, with literal shipping containers forming a border around their space. In this case one of those containers also had an Explorer in it.

The new Explorer looks quite a bit like the current model. Surprised? Don’t be. The nearly dead nameplate went from forgotten relic to segment leader with its fifth generation, and nearly ten years after its debut it’s still selling extremely well. Ford isn’t going to radically alter what works. And they don’t really need to, as they did a great job with the exterior design of the fifth generation. Then again, I don’t think any generation of Explorer has looked bad.

You may have noticed something else was off with the previous picture. Your instincts were correct. Ford decided to chop an Explorer in half to show everyone its guts.

More specifically, they opted to cut up an Explorer Hybrid to show off its packaging. As you can see, the battery will sit underneath the second row passenger seat. It’s going to be connected to the Ford 3.3 liter V6 that is used in the base F-150. And it will also use a modified version of the ten speed automatic found in the regular Explorer. It will be available with all wheel drive.

No word on fuel efficiency numbers, but the hybrid will have a combined rating of “at least” 24 mpg, which would put it five miles per gallon ahead of the current all wheel drive model. In terms of output, Ford is claiming 318 total horsepower for the unit, which is eighteen more horsepower than the gasoline model, which will come standard with the 2.3 liter EcoBoost four cylinder. The only thing curious about the hybrid is its lack of availability in anything but the Limited trim. I suspect that is due to a special variant of the Explorer that Ford wants to get out right at launch.

A lot of people were baffled as to why Ford would switch the Explorer back to a rear wheel drive platform. I think it makes a lot of sense for the company. It makes the Explorer more attractive to law enforcement, who probably prefer rear wheel drive vehicles. And it also allows the Explorer to share powertrain components with the other rear wheel drive vehicles in its lineup, most notably the F-150. The Explorer gets the 2.3 turbo and the ten speed automatic from the Ranger for its standard engine, after all. And the 3.0 EcoBoost V6 is just a variant of the 2.7 liter V6, which is currently the most popular engine choice in the F-150 lineup.

Oddly enough, that is not the standard engine for the Police Interceptor Utility. It’s the Hybrid AWD system that will be the standard powertrain. It seems Ford is positioning the police variant to be something of a triple threat: fuel efficient, all weather capable, and with lots of horsepower to boot. I imagine the new model will be popular with municipalities if it gets good EPA ratings, and if it doesn’t spew carbon monoxide into the cabin.

For 2020 the Explorer Sport bites the dust to make way for the ST. The performance model will gain the 3.0 EcoBoost V6 that currently sees duty in the Lincoln MKZ and Continental. It will have the same output too, with 400 horses and 400 Ib-ft of torque. I assume the ST will run 0-60 in the low five seconds due to the ten speed automatic.

It really seems like Ford has an Explorer for everyone. It’d be hard to imagine a scenario where Ford loses the top spot to something else, especially given the growth in interior dimensions due to a six inch wheelbase stretch compared to the 2019 model.

Remember when I said that Ford made more of an effort with its display this year? In addition to the shipping containers, they also had a quasi theater area for some sort of show for the 2020 Escape, complete with bleacher seats. I didn’t stick around for the show, because I assumed it was just the usual pomp and circumstance that generally surrounds a new model.

It was very interesting to see how different automakers approached the redesigns of their popular crossovers. It seems like all the manufacturers are either focusing more on street oriented designs or gravitating towards an off road aesthetic. Ford opted for the former with the Escape, but the latter with the Explorer.

And why shouldn’t they? It’s an attractive design that could feasibly attract Focus and Fusion owners. It should also be fuel efficient. The base engine is a 1.5 EcoBoost three cylinder with 180 horsepower and 177 Ib-ft of torque. That is one more horsepower than the 1.5 EcoBoost four that is available in the current model, and the weight savings, combined with a cylinder deactivation mode, should help the Escape sip gas. The other gasoline engine is the 2.0 EcoBoost four, which carries over from the current Escape with basically the same output: 250 horsepower and 275 Ib-ft of torque. The 2.0 will be AWD only.

The big news is the return of the hybrid model, complete with AWD. The regular hybrid will pair a 1.1 kilowatt-hour battery with Ford’s 2.5 liter four cylinder. Two electric motors and a planetary gearset essentially give the hybrid system a continuously variable transmission. The hybrid powertrain is all new.

The regular hybrid’s battery sits under the passenger seat and is about the size of a briefcase. The plug-in hybrid will have a 14.4 kWh battery that obviously takes up more space, apparently enough to prevent the model from having AWD. Output for the regular hybrid stands at 198 horsepower while the plug-in is rated at 209. No EPA figures are available yet, but Ford claims it should get around 38 mpg combined, which is competitive with the Rogue and RAV4 hybrid models.

I didn’t get a clear pic of the interior, so I grabbed this screenshot from Ford’s website. Overall, I’d say it’s a substantial upgrade over the current model, and with an optional head-up display and sliding rear seats, it should make a compelling choice for those looking for a compact crossover with some verve.

The 2020 Ford Mustang also gets some notable additions. First up is the High Performance package, which is equipped on the above Twister Orange Mustang. Basically, Ford tweaked the EcoBoost 2.3 four to work more like it does in the Focus RS. It gains twenty more horsepower and a whole bunch of modifications to make peak torque arrive at a lower RPM. The Mustang also gets some suspension upgrades as well, with the option to further upgrade it with the EcoBoost Handling package. That package adds a Torsen limited slip differential, MagneRide dampers, and wider tires, along with a few other things.

The High Performance Package also gets a quad exhaust setup. If I were in the market for a Mustang, I’d probably get this one. I just don’t have the need for all the horsepower in the GT, especially since this model has a 0-60 time of about 4.5 seconds.

Of course there is also the Shelby GT500 to talk about. With a claimed output of over 700 horsepower, the GT500 will be plenty fast, with power coming from Ford’s 5.2 liter cross-plane V8 with a supercharger strapped to it.

But perhaps the biggest news is the exclusion of a manual transmission. In its place is a Tremec seven speed dual clutch transmission, which is all new and apparently designed specifically for the GT500. Purists may cry foul, but that gear box will probably contribute to the Shelby achieving some impressive drag strip times.

For the first time ever Ford followed its competitors by banishing its trucks to the lower level, with some exceptions. The outlier was this Ranger, which looks suspiciously like a Raptor. Ford is either trolling those who want one or previewing a future Raptor. There is a Ranger Raptor available overseas, so the odds of it happening are better than none.

Ford also had this Ranger hoisted up for people to gawk at.

And the GT made another appearance at the show, complete with Gulf livery.

I’m pretty much required to post this, right?

I’ll cap off the Ford section with the 2019 Ford Fusion Energi. You won’t see the Fiesta, Focus, or Taurus at the show anymore, but the Fusion sedan still makes an appearance, at least until it morphs into an Outback fighter, which is something I hope is still happening.

Ford debuted the 2020 Escape in early April, presumably to give its Lincoln platform mate some breathing room to debut in New York. Say goodbye to the MKC and hello to the Corsair! With the MKT going fleet only and the probable demise of the MKZ, Lincoln’s lineup will soon completely excise the horrible alphabet soup names. More luxury automakers need to follow suit.

Aside from the switch to actual names, Lincoln’s reputation has risen based on the buzz surrounding their newer vehicles. The Continental and Navigator were part of the first wave, and the Corsair and Aviator will be the second. Which one will outsell the other? Hard to say, but they will both be popular.

That’s because Lincoln’s designers wisely decided to let the Navigator aesthetic trickle down to its other utility vehicles. On the Corsair, the design takes it to a whole different plane of existence when compared to its Ford equivalent. Even with the Aviator and Navigator you can see a bit of the commonalities shared with their Blue Oval counterparts. Not here. I think that might be due to the size of the Corsair. It looks huge for a compact crossover, close to the Nautilus in size. Obviously that is not the case, but Lincoln did a great job at making the Corsair look substantial.

The Corsair will ride on the all new C2 platform, which the 2020 Escape will also use. And it does retain a bit of the rear end of the MKC, complete with the clamshell design of the rear hatch. Oddly enough, the powertrain options are perhaps the least interesting bits. The Corsair will keep the two EcoBoost four engines that currently see duty in the 2019 MKC, which are the 2.0 and 2.3 turbos. The 2.3 will actually see a five horsepower decrease to 280, but that is still more than most of the competition, and the new eight speed automatic will most likely result in a better performing vehicle.

The Corsair also has its own unique multi link rear suspension, which should help it stand out from the Escape. In addition, the crossover will have the “phone as key” option, which will be similar to Tesla’s system in that it negates the need for any type of fob.

This is about the best shot I could get of the interior. But if you’re familiar with the interior of the Navigator you’ve basically already seen it. I assume the quality will be similar to its bigger sibling as well, which should put it at the top of its class.

The 2020 Corsair is pretty much guaranteed to be a hit for Lincoln in both the United States and China. And Lincoln seems to be betting that it will, as the crossover will bear the distinction of being the first Lincoln to be built in China.

The Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7 should be looking over their shoulder, as the Aviator is set to shake up the three row luxury crossover segment in a big way. It’s got dynamic styling and some compelling features that will no doubt attract new buyers to the brand.

The all new Aviator shares its platform with the Explorer, and its standard engine is the 3.0 liter twin turbo that is available on the Explorer ST. Here it also makes 400 horsepower and 400 Ib-ft of torque, mated to the ten speed automatic. The Aviator will also use this engine with a plug-in hybrid model that will boast 450 horsepower and an eye popping 600 Ib-ft of torque. Obviously that setup will be all wheel drive only.

The interior looks just as superb as the one inside the Navigator.

Pricing is extremely competitive. At $52, 195, it comes in substantially lower than the 329 horsepower V6 Audi Q7, which starts at $60, 945. It also undercuts the XC90 with its optional 319 horsepower four cylinder engine by about $5,000. It’s not even worth mentioning the Cadillac XT6 because I had a chance to sit in one at the show and it doesn’t stand a chance against the Lincoln.

I’d say it’s likely that the Aviator will print money for Lincoln. The only problem I can see is the Chicago plant not having enough capacity to meet demand, as it will be busy building the Explorer.

Lincoln’s Continental Coach Door Edition also made an appearance at the show. Unlike Paul, I don’t think this is a stupid gimmick made out of desperation. It’s simply a nice tribute to the Continental of yore. Besides, they sold out of all of them immediately.

Aside from some rear seat specific accouterments, this is basically a Black Label Continental with every option checked. Not really a bad thing, especially given its status as an 80th anniversary tribute to the nameplate. I’m curious if we’ll see another generation.

The final leg of part one takes us to Rivian. In fact, it’s this company that made me choose to write about Ford and Lincoln first and so soon after actually going to the show. That’s due to Ford’s $500 million investment in the company. This is potentially a seminal moment in the history of both companies, and it further ensures that Rivian will actually be able to deliver the vehicles it’s promised.

It’s pretty obvious why Ford decided to hitch their wagon to Rivian. Their skateboard platform contains four electric motors that are able to send 147 kilowatts to each wheel. The three batteries available on both the R1S and R1T will be 105 kWh, 135 kWh, and 180 kWh, which will result in a total range of 200+, 300+, and 400+ miles, respectively. These are all seriously impressive specs.

The partnership will eventually produce a Ford branded vehicle. But the Blue Oval will apparently see the benefits of their partnership almost immediately, as the tie up apparently enables Ford to launch their future EV crossover more quickly then planned and for less money. It’s unclear exactly what kind of vehicle Ford will develop from Rivian’s platform, but I’ll just take a shot in the dark by saying it’ll be some type of electric Bronco or Wrangler.

Ford basically scored a coup against GM, who wanted exclusivity if they were to partner up with Rivian. Regardless, CEO RJ Scaringe stated that while the company will seek out partnerships with other organizations in the future, it’s presently focused on strengthening its existing relationships. Basically, that means Rivian is going to help Amazon and Ford do whatever they’re setting out to do. Ford basically got partial exclusivity without asking for it. I imagine this immensely benefits Ford, because Amazon obviously doesn’t have any experience building electric vehicles. Ford probably has a bright future in electric delivery vehicles is what I’m trying to say.

And what exactly does Rivian get out of the deal? Access to Ford’s dealer network. Why set up an entire sales and service distribution model when your corporate partner already has one? I’d be stunned if Rivian does anything differently than deliver its models at select Ford and Lincoln dealers.

Will the R1T be a truly disruptive truck, or just some toy for the wealthy to tool around in? Even if it’s the latter, Rivian has built a pretty incredible vehicle. And the benefits of the electric platform are immediately apparent once you take a look at the packaging. Pickup trucks have large beds but otherwise cargo space is at a premium. With the R1T, buyers will get a trunk. How cool is that?

There’s also this neat pass through, which can hold golf clubs or guns or some equipment. And the doors are designed to hold your body weight, so they double as steps that allow owners to access the bed.

The R1T will boast an 11,000 pound towing capacity and a 1700 Ib payload rating. I briefly talked to a Rivian spokeswoman who was clad in a green shirt just like the dude in the above picture. It was a refreshing departure from all the spokespeople decked out in very expensive formal wear. Anyway, she said using the R1T to its full capacity will reduce the range by half. I was kind of surprised they’re even divulging that information now, but you heard it here first. 200 miles (with the top tier battery) for heavy towing and hauling isn’t bad at all.

And in case you didn’t know, every Rivian you see is the exact form that customers will receive. These are not concept cars.

Feast your eyes on the platform that is poised to make history for both Ford and Rivian.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about seeing Rivian in person was the fact that there was no mystery. The vehicles look exactly like they do in the pictures. Given the state of electric vehicle startups, that is actually a good thing.

I’ll conclude part one with the view a person received when walking inside a fake support beam that Rivian constructed near its display. It seems the company kept a nice symbol for their sky high aspirations close by when they were in New York. I don’t blame them.

Related Reading:

Curbside Classic Visits The Hudson Valley Auto Show, Part 2 – go here if you want to read about my thoughts on the 2019 Ranger

Ford’s $500 million investment in Rivian to yield new electric vehicle” by Micheal Martinez, Automotive News