November 18, 2017, 11:04 am
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Riding executive class, premium economy, special cargo


Malaya Motoring Staff

Ford Everest: Executive class carrier

PILOTS settle in their plane’s cockpit full of confidence. They know that behind their own skills are the almost infallible technologies that allow them to circumnavigate the world with little human intervention.

I think I was quite close to that feeling when I drove the Ford Everest Titanium edition. The midsize, seven seater battled for market space with the Mitsubishi Montero Sport and the Toyota Fortuner, the same way as Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier make planes.

The first thing that grabbed my attention with the Everest was the layout of the controls. Very much airplane-like and confusing without first consulting a manual. But intuition leads one to the entertainment panel and the digital bits on the instrument cluster. As I usually do, I read the manual like a pilot would read the flight log and discovered all the adaptive and almost self-driving technology.

Starting with Active Park Assist. It is a sort of autopilot for parking, and makes short work of parallel parking in a vehicle with such as long fuselage, err, body. A flick of a switch and the Everest can parallel park itself. This is not new Ford technology, as the Focus already has it. But to see two tons of airplane, I mean, SUV parking itself with the electric motor of the Electronic Power Steering Assist whizzing to pivot the front wheels left and right in between two cars is something else. 

Then there is Adaptive Cruise Control, which practically keeps my lead foot off the gas on the 24 kilometer stretch of the South Expressway. I discovered this feature to be eerie at first, because once set, the car could truly drive itself. On the side of the instrument panel various indicators show lane departure, speed and so on, much like a Boeing 737 would do it. 

If the Active Park Assist is the autopilot of parking, Adaptive Cruise Control is the autopilot of driving. Simply find a reference vehicle in front, push the conveniently located steering wheel controls to activate the feature, a pre-set distance keeps the margins between you and the car infront of you safe. But you can set it too—but it won’t allow you to tailgate—about 2 cars apart will be the distance. Once set the car’s CPU takes over. 

Does it work?

Let’s just say, I have been made a better driver with it. It accelerates back to cruising speed once after gently braking when car in front slows down. With my foot off the accelerator there is a bit of hesitation. But just for a while. Trust in the Everest’s brains provides the ultimate connection between man and machine. The Everest did not fail.

I won’t make any comparisons with the Fortuner and Montero. In the way each car was designed and built, it is obvious that the only real comparison chart will be the seven seats and the ride height. In the very subjective looks department all I can say it that it does not have the robotic lines of the Japanese marques which is a plus point for me. None of that “waterfall” tail light or the “shark edge” nose. Just a utilitarian beauty, the kind I think of when I say Scarlett Johannsen or Angelina Jolie, yes that kind. Strong with no soft spots, except inside.

And those soft spots are all measured in comfort.

The plush interiors take good care of the passengers. Upfront the cabin is pilot perfect and the passenger benches, including I must say, the third row seats, are first class. The last row, like any of the midsized SUVs, (except the Isuzu Mu-X, which is another story) are not designed for taller adults, but will still comfortably sit the average Filipino nicely. 

The impressive interiors is because of well placed accents and a Steve Jobs-like minimalism. Except not in white or silver. The plush leather seats and door trims, the thin chrome strips, and more granite versus woody feel is premium. Most of the buttons are clustered on the column stalks or are part of the push buttons on the infotainment systems that does Bluetooth, runs DVDs are operates a navigation system which needs a prompting to operate. 

On a common road (meaning cracks, compression joints and holes) the suspension does great work of soaking up the crater-like potholes. Drive it up on 4x4 mode with real craters, and the Everest shows its prowess. That prove the well thought of suspension and the solid ladder frame chassis. If you compare this Everest to just one generation down, the improvements in the ride are pretty obvious. And the tallness provide excellent visibility with little blind spots—simply because there are more squared of corners to have more glass space. 

And yes that panoramic sunroof. Oh yes. 

It solves not only claustrophobia but also gives the excuse to view the stars—something airplanes only give though a tiny monitor infront of your business class seat. There Spotify is available using either the Apple CarPlay system or the Bluetooth to an Android device. 

It runs on a five-cylinder (yes five, don’t ask me about the firing order just now)turbodiesel that churns out 197hp and 470Nm at just below the speed of an electric fan at setting “3.” I am unsure of how it manages this but the power delivery is quick and precise. Some hesitation was noticed as the engine communicates with the transmission, but that is all gone when the roads open up. One can quickly get a speeding ticket in this SUV when one is careless. Just set cruise control to prevent going all the way to LTO in Lipa, Batangas to claim a confiscated license and pay a penalty.

Piloting the Everest for only four days (two of which were spent picking up and delivering back the vehicle) didn’t provide enough time for better inputs. 

But the first impressions truly last—it is comfortable, safe, capable, safe, predictable and safe. - (Raymond G.B. Tribdino)
 
Ford Ecosport: Riding premium economy 

THERE is something wrong with people who associate one’s economy class ticket with bad food and lousy seats. Airlines these days, realizing that the bulk of their dollars come from the sheer volume of passengers provide better services and options. One of those options is called premium economy, a mid-level category for those who want to pay a little more for better value.

Ditto to the Ford EcoSport.

Found in a category that is not quite hatchback and not quite SUV, we just know it as a mini-crossover, but with not real slot to put it in with the current local classifications. But it is not alone in that segment. It is lumped together with the Honda B-RV and the Toyota Avanza. And just on that note the Ecosport is the most SUV-ish of the bunch. The tall stance—literally a Ford Fiesta on steroids is the biggest and most obvious advantage of the EcoSport.

I tested the EcoSport mostly around Manila with a brief 102-kilometer Laguna Loop drive to pick up rambutan from our editor’s house in San Pablo, Laguna. As I did this, I also visited all of San Pablo’s seven lakes in about 2 hours—with the overacting traffic in this tiny city. Five of the 7 lakes were just within stone’s throw of each other, but provided a testing ground for the EcoSport’s pseudo SUV stance. Though none of it was actually gnarly off-road stuff, it felt like it.

Under the EcoSport’s short hood it a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost. In other countries the car came with a 1000 cc. turbo engine with only three cylinders which happily reminded me of my Daihatsu Charade. Known as the “Giant Killer, the Charade defeated bigger, faster cars in rallys all over the world, I wonder it this little happy car do it. 

Now that 1.5- four-cylinder engine kicks out 110 PS at 6300 rpm and peaks the torque at 142 Nm at 4500 rpm. Not bad at all. Mate that to a six-speed automatic gearbox on the “Black” version of the Trend A/T and it delivers.

Sometimes though there is a lag—that moment when the transmission had not replied well to the engine’s urgings. But leave the gearbox on “S” mode and it becomes more consistent and responsive.

As I previously said the EcoSportis more off-roader-y than the urbanite B-RV and the people hauling Avanza. But that 200mm road height also contributes to body roll.  Still, the ride is balanced. The solid chassis and safe-zoned body structure has a reassuringly solid feel. 

Premium economy means more selections of seats and movies, better food and drinks.

The unique layout that is neither sporty nor luxurious is actually quite appealing. There are very few buttons to confound the driver. But the many bottle holders, a  drawer beneath the front passenger seat, ample center console space and generous boot space makes it one of the best, 200mm tall, pseudo SUVs around.

Along the potholed roads to Palaqpaquin Lake, the EcoSport’s underpinnings flexed and followed the contours of the road and terrain, with more than enough grunt to push it through the corners. 

Ford EcoSport owners seem to be more female than male, but that is an unqualified, personal comment after I interviewed several owners of the car. I was just an observation based on what I saw one morning in an Alabang parking lot. EcoSport upon EcoSport parked around me with women alighting from the car. Is this the intended target market, mothers, young ladies? 

If this is the intended audience I think Ford got many things right, the space, the set-up, that huge side opening rear tailgate and the wide opening doors is for soccer moms, and up and coming women managers. I say this because the women in my life just loved it—without once calling it “cute.”

It is just how premium economy is positioned to women—more space, better value. Since it is impressively roomy and pretty versatile, women of substance will enjoy it. (Gregory E. Bautista)
 
Ford Ranger: Special cargo hauler
FORD RANGER: Special cargo hauler

CARGO hauling is a term that has no beauty, no romance in it. 

Blame the forwarding companies to have out such a stoic message to it. It now seems so unglamorous, without considering a time when parcels, delivered door to door created friendships and relationships that lasted lifetimes.

This statement was said in the light of the fact that pickup trucks these days are far from the utilitarian ones I grew up with. It only used to be the Nissans that hauled, in single and double cabs, but always with a diesel.  Today, these none utilitarian haulers have transformed into active lifestyle vehicles that will usually travel with no load on the cargo bed.

On the occasion that something filled that space, it would be bikes or motorcycles, or a tow hitch with a jet ski being pulled. 

Ford’s Ranger is no different. 

Although the full line up of the model includes a cab and chassis for simple hauling purposes, sales seems to come from the more stylish and muscular range with such niceties as voice command and an 8-inch touch screen LCD.

If the Ranger Wildtrack, the variant we tested was like a list of self driving technologies usually reported in the information technology pages.

Let me list it down and describe how I used all these driver-assistive features. Starting with Lane Keeping Alert and Lane Departure Warningboth which kept me safe of a once sleepy drive from the North back to Manila. The Lane Keeping Aid worked with the Adaptive Cruise Control which in turn came with Collision Warning and Forward Alert, which by every measure of it is solid proof that in the not so distant future, our cars will be driving for us. 

And like the Focus and Everest’s self-parking functions, the Ranger’s Parking Assist helped me be a better driver and faster in parallel parking. While in the actual drive theElectronic Stability Program, Hill Climb Assist, Hill Descent Control, Adaptive Load Control, and Emergency Brake Assistance made for better driving in most conditions.

An example of this “most conditions” is the rainy drive I took exploring the new road that will finally link the shoreline towns of Lobo to Laiya both in Batangas. 

The turbocharged 2.2L DuratorqTDCi diesel with the 6-speed AT did short work of the many rough patches of road made bearable by the 280mm ground clearance. But when the road became rough, the 28-degree approach and 25-degree departure cleared the fallen rocks from the carved limestone cliffs and slippery sections made more slippery because of the mud. With 4x4 engaged, the mud and muck were overcome as the engine’s peak power of 160 PS is achieved at 3200 rpm, with maximum torque of 385 Nm available between 1600 – 2500 rpm.

There is a 5-speed MT or 6-speed MT on other variants but the top-spec Ranger Wildtrak 4x4 offers a turbocharged 3.2L variant in either 6-speed MT or 6-speed AT.

If we are talking about special cargo handling then we mean cargo space. For this Wildtrack it is 1,549 mm long, 1,560 mm wide and 511 mm tall.  To many the length is more important so as to load up mountain bikes or off-road motorcycles. The dimensions though, indicate that the Ranger is the biggest in its class for cargo space with a payload of up to 1,300 kilograms. 

Inside it has the fancy two-tone seats made of a mix of fabric. It is very sporty and very easy to maintain. It also now has the Sync 3 infotainment system that is more intuitive. The best feature, which allowed me to survive a long stay at a gas station in the middle of nowhere to type this very story is that 230-volt inverter with a plug popping out of the center console. Truly great execution. Aside from the many power outlets—all the way to the bed.

We will all have a difficult time sorting out in our heads how this special cargo carrier goes. Anything that goes into that cargo space now becomes marked with “special” and get the extra care and oomph only the Wildtrak can deliver. (Desmond G.E. Tribdino)
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