2018 Ford EcoSport

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As the decline of the sedan in the American market continues, automakers are scrambling to meet the demand for the fastest growing segment, the small SUV (AKA, CUV). Honda has the HR-V, Toyota has the CH-R, Chevy has the Traxx, and even Buick has the Encore, to name a few. One of the last car makers to offer a smaller SUV is Ford. They plan to fix that for 2018 with the EcoSport.

The first thing you notice about the EcoSport is its Ford-ness. The front is unmistakably Ford, with a version of the grill that’s found on most of Ford’s product line these days. That rear, however, is unlike almost everything currently for sale…it’s not the looks, it’s the rear hatch that is actually a side-hinged door. That door is hinged on the Driver’s side (in the US) and is quite large, the better for garages that have height issues according to Ford. Other than that big door, EcoSport keeps the family resemblance to the Escape, just a bit smaller.

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As with any new launch, EcoSport comes with a bevy of tech features that should keep all those millennials out there satiated for at least a four-hour road trip. One of the more interesting upgrades is an available B&O Play (by HARMAN) premium audio system. If you’ve ever heard their speakers then you know that this is a very good thing. There’s also Ford’s ubiquitous SYNC, currently in version 3, SiriusXM, and also Apple Car Play and Android Auto viewable on the standard 4.2-inch touch screen or the available 8-inch touchscreen!

Ford EcoSport

Powering EcoSport is a couple of smallish inline engines; a 1.0-liter EcoBoost® (123 horsepower/125 lb.-ft. of Torque) three-cylinder with Auto Start-Stop is standard with six-speed automatic transmission. Then there’s the available 2.0-liter Ti-VCT (166 horsepower/149 lb.-ft. of torque) four-cylinder with Auto Start-Stop which comes standard with all-wheel drive. The EPA expects EcoSport to get 27 city and 29 highway on the 1.0-liter. As of this writing, mileage figures for the 2.0-liter are not available but shouldn’t be too far off the 1.0-liter.

There are four EcoSport models to choose from in 2018. Here are the starting prices for each trim level: S ($19,995), SE ($22,905), Titanium ($25,740), and SES ($26,740)

 Thanks for reading!

…See you down the road!

 

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Let’s Talk About Cars…

2011-Honda-Element-SUV-LX-4dr-Front-wheel-Drive-Photo-7It’s the eve of 2014 and we’ve had some form of motorized personal transportation for well over 100 years. They are intertwined in our lives, economy and hearts. They are fashion, extensions of our personalities, a means of transportation and a safe place. In essence, cars and trucks and minivans are the most multifaceted possession we acquire and also the second most expensive purchase most of us will ever make.

Like most other inanimate objects we give cars a lot of credit for having their own personalities and other human-like traits. The funny thing is they really do have differences that set them all apart. Idiosyncrasies like turning the key a certain way to get the car to start or closing a door a certain way.

elementThe funnest thing for me is to drive different cars. They all drive just a bit differently and each one does have a distinct “personality”.

I recently got the chance to drive the 2013 Ford Fusion SE and it was nice to drive a regular car! My daily driver is a Honda Element and it’s a great vehicle that rides up high. Jumping into a car’s driver seat is like a whole new experience.

Ford-Fusion-2013-widescreen-02One little thing that always weighs on my mind when driving most Fords, the automatic dimming mirrors. I see a use for some people but I like to see everything behind me not a darkened blob of lights.

The reason I was prompted to write this post was getting back into the Element after 6 days with the Fusion. It was refreshing to step up into the vehicle rather than down and to see over traffic rather than struggling to see past the vehicle in front of me.

2013 Ford FusionThe differences between the vehicles are many and vast starting with the tech in each…they both have satellite radio but the Element has a subwoofer; the Fusion has a touch screen and automatic climate control and Bluetooth connectivity but the Element can be sprayed out with a hose and will haul three mountain bikes with ease.

The moral of the story is there are a lot of choices in the automotive world and many more interesting ways for us to get around now more than ever.

2015 Ford Mustang

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For the last 50 years, the Ford Mustang has been an iconic trendsetter  in the automotive marketplace. There were a few years in the 1970s where it was an also-ran but most cars back then fell victim to the fashion faux pas that we see today.

Fast forward 30 years and we get a new, freshened Mustang with more aggressive styling and a more muscular demeanor than in recent years. The front end has a more integrated feel from side to side and the headlights flow into the quarter panels in a most pleasing way. The whole car looks more aerodynamic and has that “going fast while standing still” look that makes pony cars so desirable.

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The rear end is more fastback than in recent years and the tilt of the tail lights hearkens back to late-60’s models but is still modern and totally sexy. The character lines running along the sides, top and bottom, give Mustang a more chiseled, muscular and lean look that tells you this car can handle itself.

as with any new offering, expect more power and better fuel economy with this new Mustang, including a new 300+ horsepower EcoBoost four-cylinder and a 420-horsepower V8 for the GT.

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The interior is more flowing as well, with less angles and a softer look.

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Focus ST Gets Some Needed Focus

2013 Ford Focus ST (7)Ford is on a roll with its current lineup and the hits just keep coming. Take the Focus, you can get it in a sedan, hatchback or wagon and it looks the part of a sporty vehicle with flared fenders, cool wheels and an aggressive look. Add to those looks a blacked-out grill, monochromatic exterior colors and a big rear wing and you’ve got a recipe for a hot hatch posed to take on the likes of the VW GTI, MazdaSpeed3 and Honda Civic Si.

2013 Ford Focus ST (8)ST, which stands for Sport Technologies, packs a peach of an engine; a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four cylinder with 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque; all of which is due to high-pressure direct injection, low-inertia turbo charging and variable cam timing. Coupled with a six-speed manual, Ford expects the ST to 23 city and 32 highway miles per gallon.

2013 Ford Focus ST (6)As a five-door only, ST encompasses comfort and sport in a compact design that is made to enthrall the driver while still having the ability to pick up the kids from school and a bunch of groceries from the supermarket.

Like most of the newest sports cars today, Focus ST had the pleasure of cutting its teeth on the Nürburgring. It should handle with the best of the sport-compact class, maybe even better than most since this ST is based on the European version which is historically a great handler.

Good looks, great handling and a sweet engine makes for a righteous ride for any discerning automobile lover.

Highlights From The 2012 NAIAS

Here are some highlights from the 2012 North American International Auto Show. In this group you will find, in no particular order, the Acura NSX and ILX concepts; Cadillac ATS; Chevy Code 30R, Miray and Tru 40S concepts as well as a Hot Wheels Camaro; Dodge Dart; Ford Escape and Fusion; Honda Accord Coupe in a gorgeous red; Hyundai Genesis Coupe; Maserati Kubang; Smart for-us; Subaru BRZ and Tesla Model S.

Enjoy!

Update

On the heels of my last post that highlighted how Ford and GM need to bring their newest, most curvaceous small trucks to the US.

Well, read all about how GM is bringing that sweet Colorado, along with a couple of other cool cars to the US, here.

Here’s another couple of Retro Reviews:


2007 GMC Yukon

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Redesigned Big Ute Is Easy On The Eyes And Pocketbook

by James E. Bryson

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or hiding in a Pakistani cave, you know by now that gasoline will never again cost less than $2 a gallon and that hybrids are selling like hotcakes, for a niche market. You also know that the worst vehicles for fuel economy are big, heavy SUVs and ultra-high-performance sports cars.

Enter the 2007 GMC Yukon.

If you were a GMC engineer/designer and you had to come up with a new model that could make or break your brand you might redesign the Yukon with few hard angles and many organic shapes to make the new truck stand out and add a gas-saving feature to the 5.3-liter V8 that shuts down 4 cylinders while cruising on level surfaces, where not a lot of power is needed to keep the rig moving.

Redesigning the Yukon must have been a difficult task indeed, since the styling of the previous model was new at least five years ago and there is so much stellar competition out there. What the stylists and designers delivered was handsome, taut lines with wraparound fascias front and rear and nary a plastic add-on in sight. The design team should be commended for putting a handsome and sleek SUV of this size on the road.

One industry-wide accepted measure of build quality is the size of the gaps between the doors and the hood and fenders. We were quite impressed and a bit surprised with the small gap widths all around the Yukon. We kept marveling at the lengths the engineers must have gone to to get those lines in line, so to speak.

The new front fascia has a more refined look with a sloping grill and integrated bumper that looks like it is all one piece, because it is. This huge difference compared to the old vehicle is like night and day. The new truck looks like it was made from one piece of metal and plastic that belies its frugal price, at least in the vehicle we drove.

That high-quality look and feel followed through to the interior.

What surprised us most upon taking delivery of our test vehicle was the cloth interior. Not only was it cloth (can’t emphasize that enough) but the seating surfaces were top notch. Not since the mid-90s, to our recollection, has the General been able to put a seat out that was this comfortable and supportive.

After a few days driving the Gray Dane around, we decided to head out to wine country; so the tank was topped off and we noticed we got 19 miles per gallon in mixed driving. Considering the shear heft of the Yukon, that ain’t half bad. We also like watching the display switch from V8 to V4 and back as we drove around. And remember, don’t try this at home, we are trained professionals (or so we like to think).

Driving through rolling hills and reducing radius curves show that the Yukon has come a long way since the beginning of the SUV craze. It’s no GTO or Saturn Sky, but the Yukon gets going pretty good and there’s not a trace of wallow or too much body roll-like SUVs of old.

Switchgear is top-notch. All have a soft, tactile feel and soft detents that give this base-model truck a classy, luxurious feel.

One really neat feature is the lighted visible detent on the climate controls. During the day it is a mild-mannered dark spot on the bright chrome-like dial, telling you where your blower and output is set at. By night, it is a cool blue showman, ready for the next gig and willing to give it all for a great performance.

One gripe we have about SUVs in general that this Yukon was without was a third row of seats. There are certain vehicles, like the Yukon XL and Suburban, that can do with the extra seating capacity without infringing too much on cargo space. Our tester did without this “convenience” and we were much appreciative to have the space t haul whatever we wanted without worrying about where to store those extra seats.

Our two-wheel-drive Yukon tester stickered at $34.690, including $875 for delivery, with no chargeable options. Included on the standard feature list was the 5.3-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation) and flex-fuel capability, four-speed automatic transmission, dual front airbags with passenger sensor, OnStar, Stabilitrak stability control/four-wheel ABS, remote keyless entry, 17-inch aluminum wheels, power heated outside mirrors, AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio, auto dimming mirror with temperature and compass and driver information center, to name just a few.

For the dough, we got a capable vehicle with towing and hauling ability matched by only a few other vehicles in a stylishly handsome body and newfound fuel frugality. Add to that the flexibility of using an ethanol blend and you have a smart package that should appeal to the eco-friendly among us as well as the staid SUV driver that wouldn’t have it any other way.


2007 Chevrolet Tahoe

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New Tahoe Is Grand In Size And Price

by James E. Bryson

Pulling out all the stops on redesigning its fleet of cars and trucks, Chevrolet is making it clear that it will not lose any more ground (nee, market share) to any and all of its rivals by bringing more new product to life this year. We got a chance to spend a week with the all-new 2007 Tahoe and what a ride it is.

Redesigned from the ground up, the Tahoe now has rounded lines and tight seems where it had angular surfaces and plastic cladding to hide behind for the last 10 years or so, it seems.

What the designers and stylists have done is give the old girl a much-needed facelift and tummy tuck. The lines have been smoothed out and the muscles are showing, not bad for a vehicle that can trace its lines to the 1930s.

In stark contrast to the ’07 GMC Yukon we recently drove, the Tahoe we were given to test was tops of the line with four-wheel-drive, leather captains chairs all around and three rows of seats, making this one a seven-passenger. While this is close to what you might get with a Suburban, the space behind that third row is not very useful, where the extra inches the ‘Burb carries goes directly to the cargo area, making it much more efficient at carrying all those people and their stuff.

And don’t misunderstand, the Tahoe is no slouch at carrying seven passengers, as long as the rearmost row is full of little people and they don’t need silly things like clothes and toiletries.

The new look features clean lines and softer styling, while keeping a similar look from years past; think of it as an evolution not revolution.

Up front, the grill is given the now-standard Chevy treatment of a strong crossbar with integrated Chevy bowtie, tying the design with the other Chevy products. Also, the domed hood and aggressive angles of the headlight clusters give the new Tahoe a snarl that seems to say “get of my way or I’ll roll over you.”

As with the Yukon, gaps are controlled and smaller, giving truck a more quality, carved-from-one-piece-of-metal look. Add to that the all-black luggage rack and running boards and the Tahoe seems to be moving uptown, with interior accoutrements to back that assumption up.

Speaking of the interior, the four captains chairs are comfy and make long rides something to look forward to. Heated seats are always good and these were well bolstered and much better than the bench in the Yukon.

The new dash design is quite handsome and the materials were the best we’ve seen in a Chevy truck. Everything also felt very familiar, like they updated the look and feel, but didn’t stray far from the previous design. Again, evolution.

One thing we found particularly neat was the rain-sensing wipers. These systems have been around for a few years but we weren’t expecting it to show up on a Chevy, let alone a Tahoe. We figured it out on a day when the rain was spotty. We turned on the wipers to get the windshield clear and wondered why they didn’t keep running every minute or so (as we had set the intermittent interval for). Then, a few raindrops and the wipers sprang to life! How glorious it felt to not have to keep adjusting the timing, or to turn the wipers on when a little rain fell. Talk about a home run for “America’s brand”.

And speaking of rain, that same day, as we were out and about in a heavy downpour, we actually got the big Tahoe into a four-wheel drift by hitting the go-pedal a bit too hard and inducing wheelspin. The only non-fun part was the intervention of the traction control system, which we immediately shut off for some more good times.

Handling for such a big vehicle is always in question and the Tahoe answers by giving good feedback through the controls and keeping most body motions to a minimum, as the laws of physics will allow. Wit that said, this new truck with its improved structure with fully boxed frame, wider front and rear tracks and a lower center of gravity handles like a vehicle half its size. We found ourselves driving hard a fast through areas we would never had thought to do in the old Tahoe, which brought us to the conclusion that it’s a little big for rallying but what a blast it might be out there!

Power is good enough to get you moving to highway speeds without too much fuss (5.3-liter V8, 320 horsepower/335 lb.-ft. of torque), just not good enough to push you deep into your seat. But with gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon, it’s good to know that the Tahoe we drove, with Active Fuel Management that shuts down four cylinders when at cruising speed, should save trips to the gas man, just not as many as we’d like. The EPA rates the 5.3 in our test Tahoe at 15 city and 21 highway, compared with 14 city and 18 highway for last year’s model.

Pricing on the Tahoe is in the stratosphere for non-luxury SUVs, but you do get a lot for what you pay. The base price on our four-wheel-drive LT was $37,665.00, which included such niceties as four-wheel antilock disc brakes, the flex-fuel 5.3-liter V8 with active fuel management 17-inch aluminum wheels, a review mirror with autodimming, compass and outside temperature, tow package, luggage rack and heated outside mirrors.

Add to the lofty price our options (LT3 equipment group ($3650)—leather bucket seats; 12-way power seats for driver and front passenger; radio with MP3-capable six-disc changer, Bose speakers and XM; power adjustable pedals; head curtain side airbags; rear parking assist; outside power folding mirrors with auto-dimming and turn signals and triple-zone climate controls.); three-passenger third row seating ($860); second row bucket seats ($490) with heat ($200); power liftgate ($350); P265/70R17 all-season tires ($125); rain-sensing wipers ($95) and a destination charge of $875.00 and the as-tested price for our loaded Tahoe was $44,605.00. Whew!

If you’re looking for a solid truck-based SUV to haul/tow/wreak havoc, the Tahoe is your stead, and the saddle is comfortable enough to keep you going long after the ride is through.

New Cars Galore!!

10MARN_C19141_HRIt’s always fun to travel. And when you get visitors from another place, that is almost as much fun.

We had some visitors from the Detroit area and they brought their new 2010 Mercury Mariner.

Let’s pause a moment to lament the death of Mercury…

I just want to say how sad I am that another storied nameplate was sent to the great automotive junkyard. Mercury, in my opinion, served a purpose for the Ford Motor Company. It was a nice little stepping stone between Ford and Lincoln. Yes, it was mostly filled with rebadged Fords, but the engineers at Mercury shined a little magic on their cars, adding enough differentiation to them, in suspension settings and noise-deadening materials, that even “common folk” (those not in the car biz) notice the differences. 10MARN_C17520_HR

Back to the matter at hand…

When I first drove an Escape, many years ago it seems, I was impressed with how much it felt like just a tall car. (You can read the full review at the end of this post.) Like that Escape, the 2010 Mariner has the driving dynamics like your average sedan, with a bit more body roll but not as much as with a truck-based SUV. The fit, finish, materials and look of the interior are top-notch, with little or no missteps perceived, and all of the switches are well-placed and intuitive to use.

On the road, their four-cylinder equipped model got to highway speed easy enough but it ain’t gonna win no stoplight races. Which is not to say that the four-banger in the Mariner won’t get you into trouble. Just don’t bet your title on a race with anything other than a lawn mower.

10MARN_VOGA_C17527_HRAround town, Mariner has enough pickup to keep up with traffic, with 171 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque, and a six-speed automatic transmission to keep the engine in its sweet spot even longer.

Of course, a really important selling point to any vehicle these days is economy and the four-cylinder Mariner gets around 20 city and 28 highway…your mileage will vary.

On the “How Cool Is That” front, all 2010 mariners have an integrated blind spot mirror…basically a convex addition to each side mirror to help you identify vehicles in the blind spots most people complain about.

If the mariner is an American vehicle done right, then the second car I want to talk about is one done not-so-right.

2011 Chevrolet Impala LTZI flew to Florida to see my Dad a few weeks ago and ended up renting a 2010 Chevrolet Impala. I’ve driven Impalas before but for some reason this one turned me off. I’m not sure if it was the spongy brakes or sluggish acceleration.

A bit about the acceleration…When I say sluggish, I mean I had to prod it worse than a half-dead mule to get it to motivate down the highway, or from a stoplight. At least the Impala cruised well at speed, with little need to modulate the gas pedal. And this phenomena was not due to a lack of power as the Impala has at least 200+ horsepower…no, I didn’t check to see which engine the rental had but one can only assume it was the lesser 3.5-liter and not the bigger 3.9-liter V6.

2011 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

The spongy brakes are nothing new to GM and the car never failed to stop nor did the brakes show any signs of fading when stopping from highway speeds to pay the toll on the stupid Florida Toll road I had to travel.

Other than those two little bits, the current Impala is a fine car but definitely outclassed by the competition, both from Ford (have you seen the current Taurus??) and Chrysler (Charger!!) (I know, right?!) and especially by the imports like the Hyundai Sonata or Nissan Altima.

2011 Chevrolet Impala LTZI did like the highway ride and the fit, finish and materials were of good quality. And, thankfully, the current Impala uses the new-ish style of windshield wipers and the gold standard of washers, the hood-mounted nozzles!!!! YAY!!!!!! (see below Retro Review for a little explanation)

We can only hope that Chevy puts some interesting-ness into the Impala to make it more like the Malibu, and hopefully get the sales increase enjoyed by the Malibu.


RETRO REVIEW!!!!!!

2004 Chevy Impala SS

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Impala SS Lives up to the Legend on Today’s Terms

by James E. Bryson

Out in the African savanna, the fleet-footed impala, a member of the antelope family, makes life difficult for its predators who might be shopping for their next meal. To get away from the feeding zone, the impala explodes into stampede at the first sign of danger, zigzagging to confuse the predators. For out in the wild, the impala is sought by lions, leopards, cheetahs and other such meat-eaters.

Here in America, our own Impala, of the Chevrolet family, was sought out by different breeds during the Muscle Car heyday like the Mustang, Road Runner and Barracuda.
Today, most of those other breeds are long gone and the rest, Mustang for instance, have moved on to other game, like snake hunting (Viper, anyone?) or ship hunting (can you say Corvette?).

No, the Impala of today’s world is more of a family car with four doors, room for five, and a huge trunk to boot. It has a tried-and-true V6 (either 3.4- or 3.8-liter) and solid construction for long lasting durability.

There isn’t much to dislike about the styling of the 2004 Impala, as long as you’re not buying the car for that reason. It’s a bit boxy, but not as terrible as, say, the Aztec or any AMC sedans from the 70s

Fortunately for us, though, we got to drive the new SS version of the Impala, and let us say that having a fast sedan with good handling characteristics really makes the smiles shine through.

The heart of this Impala beats with a supercharged version of the 3.8-liter Series II V6 that has powered GM vehicles for more than five decades in one form or another. It doesn’t have that "techie" sound of a dual overhead cam engine but its horsepower (240), torque (280 lb.-ft.) and fuel economy (18 city/ 28 highway) make it the perfect choice for this sedan.

Mated to a smooth-shifting heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission, this Impala got going like its animal brethren. Though it didn’t exactly explode off the starting line, it did get the pulse racing and left us with a feeling that there was more there than we expected.

Surprisingly, we found the SS to handle better than expected in the twisties as well. A four-wheel independent suspension with struts all around, stiffer spring rates front and rear and stabilizer bar increases of 4 mm front and 2.5 mm rear make for more sport and a greater "fun factor" with the SS designation, compared to the plebian Impala.

Out on our test loop through some hills and twisty/curvy roads, we found the SS to be a natural at handling speed and direction changes easily. The only downside was the apparent heaviness of the car that could be felt more on quick changes, with body lean but not much tire squeal, if any.The most fun we’ve found with the SS is getting on a highway…hit the gas and hang on. Don’t be surprised when you look at the speedo and find yourself doing 80 before you make the end of the ramp.

As with most "performance" packages these days, different looks help set the car apart from other plebian rides. The SS is no different.

Outside, there is a new decklid spoiler that replaces the wing of the LS model and body colored appliqué surrounding the tail lamps. There’s also a nifty looking wheel/tire package with 17-inch "diamond cut" wheels and P235/55R17 tires, body colored side molding (also found on the LS version), dual chromed exhaust tips and fog lamps…all included. Oh, and don’t forget to get the black paint (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Inside, there’s "SS" embroidered on the seats, on the doors and in the floor mats. There are also "SS" plaques in strategic locations. Other touches include a comprehensive gauge cluster (with boost gauge) and taught leather upholstery on all seating surfaces.

The Impala’s interior is a very nice place to spend a trip in. Once we got the eight-way adjustable seat configured and steering wheel at the angle we like, we found the seating position to be more true than on other GM cars and comfortable for long jaunts down the highway.

The controls for everything from the radio (redundant on the wheel) to the climate system fell easily to hand. They also felt more upscale and didn’t show a lot of nicks and scratches.

Of course, this car isn’t as cool looking as the previous generation SS, which was basically a Caprice with monochromatic paint, cool five-spoke wheels and a Corvette motor. This SS is much more just an extension of the Impala line rather than a stand-alone like the last one was.

Now for the bad news…

We were a bit disappointed that the front fascia wasn’t at all different from the regular Impala. We felt it would have had a more powerful impact with even a simple grill redesign.

Also, the seat heater on the driver’s side did not heat the seat evenly, leaving cold thighs and hot buns.

And let us not forget the worst GM invention ever: washer fluid that sprays out of the wiper blades. Come on GM, there’s a reason why no other manufacturer uses this technique…it doesn’t work. We found the system to be sub-par at cleaning dirty windows and thought the streaks left were a hindrance to an enjoyable driving experience.

Not a whole lot of bad stuff, but it had to be said.

On price, we saved this last bit for last like usual, but this time we really didn’t want to mention it. You see, cars get more expensive with each passing year and the Impala is no exception.

Our car’s base price (which included most of the good stuff like the supercharged engine, wheels and tires, four-wheel antilock discs, leather seats and power driver’s seat and floor shifter and center console) was a high $27,335.00.

Add in options like the $1425 SS preferred group (cargo net, 200 watt premium sound system with CD and steering wheel controls, heated outside mirrors and auto dimming rear view mirror, driver info center and OnStar.), the $445 comfort seating package (power passenger seat, heated seats for driver and passenger), a $350 driver side-impact airbag and $325 for XM and you get a grand total (including the obligatory destination charge of $660) of $30,540.00. The SS is a bit pricey but not too stratospheric considering the performance gains and other niceties.

It is a car Darth Vader wouldn’t mind being seen in.

Here is that Retro Review of the early 2000s Ford Escape. It’s in picture format because I got a virus a few years ago and it wiped out the review files I had:

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Thanks for stopping by and spending some time here!