Monday, June 29, 2009

2010 Ford Taurus: Review & Pictures

After some odd renaming of the brand, Ford finally has settled on a new design for the Ford Taurus sedan. And it looks like a real winner, per Road and Track:

Soft springs and heavy dampers absorb Michigan's ever-present potholes nicely, yet allow for crisp corner entry. Roll control is good, but if you push too hard there's a benign transition into moderate understeer that is wholly predictable. With higher cornering speeds come a proportional amount of body roll, but thankfully not as much as might be expected. The improvement is related to revised rear suspension that moves the shocks farther outboard for a better motion ratio that's now 1:1 as opposed to the previous car's 0.6:1.

Gripes are minor. The shift paddles feel plasticky, as if they were supplied by Mattel. And the standard wheels of the top-of-the-line Limited model are not alloys; they are steel wheels with plastic chrome cladding.


If this Ford Taurus is anywhere nearly as successful as the Fusion has been in the mid-size segment, we'll finally have a great American 6-cylinder car that people want to buy over a foreign counterpart. Many drivers will chime in that they have been loyal to American brands even despite the awful cars coming out of Detroit for decades now, but I'm talking about mainstream appeal for, of all things, a Ford Taurus that was thought to be dead years ago.

If I were in the market for a new car, I'd run to a Ford dealership and test thing out to see if it's as good as the review indicates. Judging by the brand new 2008 Ford Edge that a relative of mine recently purchased, all I can say is, Ford is on the right track. And yes, there definitely is a correlation between their recent success and not taking any bailout money.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wow, I Miss Royal Ford

I live in the Boston area and the only use I've had for the Boston Globe (the hard copy) in recent years has been to read the automotive section. I always enjoyed Royal Ford's weekly column in the Globe. He struck a great balance between giving important information to everyday drivers when reviewing a vehicle, but also pointed out some of the more specialized aspects of the car for enthusiasts. Sure, he'd take the occasional jab at German companies for higher prices and higher expected maintenance costs in some cases, but the banter was always playful and he also gave a nod to the excellent way those cars drove. He is a journalist to be respected.

In complete contract to Mr. Ford is Sherrice Gilbash. Let me start by saying I think she fits in wonderfully for the website she writes for - The articles she writes are clearly geared toward Moms who are shopping for a grocery-getter but maybe with some niceties attached that Moms can appreciate - and surely, even some Dads.

But some of her articles have shown up in the Boston Globe lately, front and center in the automotive section where Royal Ford's (and then journalists') used to reside - and strangely, they have not been republished on Even reviews by folks will show up on the website a day or so after the review is published in the paper. Not so with those written by Sherrice. Not too important, but odd and of note.

Here are some of the bits and pieces published in the Boston Globe recently:

For the 2009 Volkswagen CC 3.6L 4Motion review:

From the outside, the CC is incredibly smooth-looking — think stilettos and a black mini dress. This car turns heads and even gets people to point; that’s something I usually discourage my kids from doing, but in this case I told them it was a compliment. I started feeling guilty for being in sweats with no makeup when I was driving the CC.

Combine that punchy power with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive, and the CC proves you can look sporty and sexy and still plow through the snow like it’s nobody’s business. Too cool!

Stilettos, black mini dress, sexy, and the full sentence (?) "Too cool!". Again, clearly geared toward a female demographic, and that's fine for, but for the Globe?

Here's more from her 2009 Audi A4 quattro review:

From the outside, the A4 has an incredible presence. It exudes style and sets the tone for the complete image of what and who an Audi driver is. I certainly wanted to be seen in the A4. For me, it was like wanting to be seen on that one day each month when I actually do my hair and makeup to pick the kids up from school. Darn it, I worked hard on my look and I want to reap the rewards of recognition!

This car may carry carpool by day, but by night — look out! My husband and I enjoyed a night out on the town while I had the A4. Getting ready, we felt as if we had to dress to the car’s level of class — definitely strappy heels with this one! As we hid the booster seats in the trunk, we glanced at each other with glee and said, “No kids!”

Sherrice goes on and on about the snack space given in the A4's rear armrest too. She focuses on what the driver should be in relation to this car instead of taking this car on a track and seeing what it can actually accomplish, and how it compares to its rivals and current technology in the marketplace. Honestly, anyone halfway familiar with German cars will surely find the armrest storage feature useful, but a little nod in that direction is all that's needed - not paragraphs worth of praise. An Audi is something you want to drive, and again, while her articles are useful for readers of, I'm not sure why The Boston Globe switched from Royal Ford's more technically oriented articles with still a dash of his excellent, witty personality, to just about anyone on the internet who reviews cars. Maybe they'll ask me to write a review for them next?

By the way, there doesn't appear to be an official Royal Ford website, so here I'm linking to the closest thing I found in Google...enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Supreme Court Delays Sale of Chrysler

The sale of the core Chrysler business to Fiat is at the heart of Barack Obama's plans to save the automaker from liquidation, something which the administration's lawyers argued is inevitable if the Italians walk away. Under the terms of the agreement, the deal must be completed by 15 June.

Fiat will emerge with management control and with an initial 20 per cent ownership of Chrysler under the deal, hammered out ahead of the bankruptcy filing at the end of March. A union-run healthcare trust will own most of the company, while unsecured bondholders will get only a sliver. Mr Obama condemned hedge funds holding the bonds for refusing to sign up to the deal, but a trio of Indiana state pension funds continued to try to block it.

They lost in bankruptcy court, and in an appeals court ruling last Friday, but were given permission to pursue the matter at the Supreme Court. They argued that the interests of unsecured bondholders had illegally been placed behind those of the union.


The Obama spin here is laughable: Chrysler is being sold because, since 1979, it has needed bailout after bailout & is in the business of providing pensions to former and current workers, instead of making great cars people want.

While I definitely want to see Fiat & Alfa vehicles sold here as soon as possible, I didn't know the majority shareholder of the new entity would be a union-run healthcare trust. This spells trouble, and this is exactly why Fiat refuses to put up any of their own cash to be part of this deal: because even Fiat knows subsidizing healthcare pensions and union corruption with their own money coming into this deal means that money disappears and is never heard from again.

Much as I hate to see the union be any part of this, I still want Ginsberg to finally let Chrysler die - in part, at least - and allow Fiat to take control to send the message that American car companies need to be more like Ford if they want to survive.

UPDATE 6/11/2009: It appears Chrysler is finally going to die, for the most part, as Fiat has been approved to take over all of Chrysler's assets. Let's hope this leads to a rebadging of the brand to Fiat and Chrysler finally dies a decent death, as should have happened in 1979.