• Jun 29th 2007 at 6:06PM
  • 18
It's that time of year when all the carmakers want to show off their latest wares for the upcoming model year and Ford invited the media out to their Dearborn Development Center to try out some of what's new for 2008. Before we got a chance to actually hop in the vehicles and find out what's what, we had to sit through a couple of speeches.

First up was Group Vice President, North America Marketing, Sales and Service Cisco Codina with a rundown on Ford's marketing efforts. In spite of all Ford's struggles of late there are a few bright spots. The company's crossovers are flourishing as well as proliferating with the sales of the redesigned Escape up thirteen percent in June and the Edge recently moving into the top spot in it's category ahead of the Toyota Highlander. According to Cisco, the new Taurus has over 501 improvements compared to the Five Hundred. Five hundred of them came from the engineers with one coming from marketing in the form of a new name. So far response to the new Taurus seems positive with Automotive Leasing Group estimating that the Taurus will retain 49% of it's value after three years, up from a figure in the mid thirties for the old model.

Read on after the jump for the rest of what happened in Dearborn.

Next up was Derrick Kuzak, the Group Vice President, Global Product Development for Ford. Derrick gave us an outline of some of the product changes for 2008. Since Ford appears to be trailing behind the competition, particularly GM, in getting exciting new product to market, over the next couple of years they're pulling ahead some of the features which might normally be saved for furure models. For example, the F-150 is getting the new mid-box storage system in the final year of it's product cycle before a redesign for 2009. The F-150s are also getting an integrated cargo management system in the bed and a backup assist system that displays the output of a rear camera in the rearview mirror. Another feature that will be showing up in eleven models for 2008 and rolled out the rest of the lineup in the next couple of years is Ford Sync, which was also shown in Detroit.

Moving forward, Derrick said that Ford is speeding up its product development process and focusing on areas like better interior quality, reduced noise, and better overall quality. An example of the attention to detail is the notches on the upper surface of the new Taurus mirror housing. They provide an aesthetic design detail, but they also provide an aerodynamic improvement and reduce the wind noise from the mirror by four percent. Lots of efficiency improvements are coming as well. Ford will be putting their vehicles on a major diet after some recent vehicles have become decidedly porky, particularly the Edge.

Major powertrain improvements are also coming in the next couple of years with Twin-Force technology playing a major part, especially when mated to Powershift gearboxes. Powershift is Ford's name for dual clutch gearboxes like the Volkswagen DSG. Twin-Force first appeared in January under the hood of the Lincoln MKR concept with the twin turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5L V-6. Ford will be applying direct injection and turbos to a whole range of four and six-cylinder engines between now and 2011 to improve efficiency and make the output of smaller gas and flex-fuel engines match that of larger engines. Again this is the same pattern VW has taken with their TSI engines that can achieve up to 200hp form a 1.4L four cylinder. Kuzak says that Ford can approach the efficiency of diesels with the setup at a much lower cost, since they don't need the fancy exhaust after-treatment systems.

After Derrick was done, it was time to drive. Ford had four driving areas setup to evaluate different aspects of the vehicles. First up was an autocross course set up on the vehicle dynamics area. A mixed group of FWD and AWD Fusions, Milans and an MKZ were on hand for this event. Nearby were some F-150s to demonstrate the backup assist system.

After that it was off to the high-speed loop where a wider variety of cars and trucks, including the Lariat Limited and Harley-Davidson F-150s, were lined up alongside coupe and convertible Shelby GT Mustangs and both 2007 and 2008 Escapes and Mariners. For safety reasons, we were limited to 65mph on the loop. The older Escapes and Mariners were provided so that we could evaluate the improvements on the new models back to back.

Over at the steering and handling track, the F-150s were replaced by Edges and MKXs joining the V-6 and GT Mustangs and Escape and Mariner Hybrids. This track allowed us to experience a Sunday drive in the country with a variety of twists, turns and elevation changes. As you might expect, the topless Mustang was clearly the preferred ride for this event, although none of the vehicles embarrassed themselves. Of course that should be expected since they were designed and developed here.

Finally we hit the straightaway, claimed to be the straightest, flattest roadway in North America. Here Ford had the Taurus, Taurus X and Sable alongside their ancestors the Five Hundred, Montego and Freestyle. Ford also had some technology demonstrations for their Sync and Direct Fuel System. You might notice that the Ford Focus was not mentioned here. That's because there were none available to drive. Two 2008 Focuses were on static display with one being used for Sync demos so we'll have to wait for driving impressions. We'll have full reports and videos on how the individual vehicles performed over the next couple of days, so stay tuned.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Was there anything said about the Fusion hybrid? I thought they planned on introducing one in 2008...

      Did they say anything about how they were going to reduce the weight of their cars?
        • 8 Years Ago
        The Fusion and Milan hybrids are coming early next year and should be introduced at either the LA or Detroit Auto Shows. Apparently there is also an Edge hybrid coming at some point
      • 8 Years Ago
      Wouldn't that have been a good time to reveal the Bullitt?

      Or do they want to wait for some other random date when they have even less attention from the media.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Yeah, like 2008..the 40th anniversary of the movie "Bullitt"

        Sooooo random.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The 'stangs still going to have the snap-together, K-Mart interior? Still seems to look as boxy and plasticy as it normally looks - still going to handle like a cheap truck - why is this news?
        • 8 Years Ago

        Whatever dude. So many people rag on the Mustang interior, and it's actually pretty cool. So what if the plastic doesn't feel like a $60,000 Lexus? I mean seriously, this is one of the few cars from Ford that actually has some mean character, and the GT has a sound and aura that totally resonates "Americana" in a way that a WRX or GTI just can't.

        I'm considering a new car in the next year, and I really like the GTI and Mustang GT - and I'm honestly leaning toward the GTI slightly - but when I see people trash a pretty sweet ride, probably because they have a "I'm better than you, because you're driving some American made car, you aren't sophisticated and hip like I am in my VW or my Subaru", it makes me want to run full speed to the Ford dealer, and put down my $5,000 deposit. why? Because as much as I'm usually not bothered by what anyone thinks of me (I mean, seriously, why should anyone care that much about what 98% of the populace thinks of them?), I really don't know if I want to be at all associated at times with the foreign car "elite". Yes, I enjoy my wife's IS300 immensely, but I get a sense of being quietly innocent in my old GMC Jimmy, which gives me a wholesome feeling I really can't put my finger on. People my age who drive cars like Mustangs, but can probably afford something a little bit nicer, do it because they're more than likely a pretty bad ass person - it can be somewhat safe to assume that with the GTI owner, but with a Mustang owner that falls squarely in the VW demographic, but decides rawness and an American V8 wins the battle over somewhat softer leather and a higher quality plastic, you can pretty much bet on him or her being a pretty fucking radical human being. Like myself.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I have a 2006 Mustang convertable V6 that cost me 19k with a little over fifteen thousand miles on it. If you say it rides like a pick-up you are either just stupid, lying or ignorant! This car is a blast that turns heads and has everyone at my work wanting to drive it at lunch. For a car that costs between 16K and 35k new the interior has to cover a range that is to large. So many people have done what I have done and gotten leather, heated seats, dash trim, 18 inch GT rims/tires and things like DVD radios. Its no Lexus but thats not what I was looking for. I now have a little over 22k into it and it looks just like a GT, I am adding a Super Charger soon and it will have cost me a grand total of 26k for low 5's 0 to 60. What I am trying to say is that this car provides its owners cheap good looking fun that you can modify for pennies and it will last forever! Just don't beleive what some idiots say about how it drives and you
        will have the time of your life. So put the top down get a tan and count the smiles....... And if this dosn't work for you then take the bus............
        • 8 Years Ago
        Yes, a cheap truck that can hang with Nissan 350Zs and other sports cars. Yeah, it's slow. What a PIG!!!!

        And while the interior is slightly on the cheap side, it's lightyears ahead of the last Mustang and is better than some other vehicles out there...
        • 8 Years Ago
        Having driven both V6 and GT Mustang I can tell you one thing: GT is a blast but the inside kills me. The damn steering wheel obscures part of the speedometer. The plastic interior is just plain crap. The V6 had a completely crappy plastic shifter (automatic). It felt like a fisher-price toy, or one of those cheap PC shifter controls for racing games. The seats are comfortable, as long as you stay in the front buckets. The rear? Forget about it. It just feels so damn cheap inside, even on the GT.

        • 8 Years Ago
        Then what does that make Dodge interiors?
      • 8 Years Ago
      So many hoodscoops, yet not a single one that is functional. How very JC Whitney of the Ford boys...

      Next year, all GT and up Mustangs get spinners and underbody lighting.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I love that new Sable it by far the best looking large car that is being made right now. And what really makes it look so good is that its basically a big Milan when it comes to styling. I think Ford did a great thing by bringing back the Sable and Taurus
      • 8 Years Ago
      the direct inject turbo engines sound like a good move. interesting that ford would be willing to spend so much money on new features for one model year on the F150. i guess they dont mess around with the full size trucks. if only they had that level of attention to all their models.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I should have re-worded what I said. That whole box thing isnt a new idea. I have seen a few F-150s with it before but I am not sure if it is a dealer installed option or installed by an aftermarket company. Heck, you can get boxes like that on the Colorado. But I am sure this isnt costing Ford lots of money. Heck, they will already have the tooling (for the box) for the new F-150 in place. I am sure Ford will still make money off of it.

        But I do agree with what you said. Ford does have a way to go but they are definitely making footsteps. And I have a feeling Mullaly will be pushing Ford even harder.
        • 8 Years Ago
        That much attention? Have you been watching Ford for the last couple years? Granted the products may not be world class but they sure are a hell of lot better than what they produced a decade ago. Did you even read the article?

        Also, that box in the bed isn't new for the F-150. You have been able to get it for years. Not sure if dealers installed them or a third party did. So I doubt Ford spent millions on development.

        Anyways, it's good to hear future product plans. It seems like they have a lot more going under Mullaly than Bill.
        • 8 Years Ago
        the box is not "in the bed" it is between the bed and the cabin, absolutly no way that is aftermarket or dealer installed. and it is brand new for the f150 as is the cargo tiedown. it is unusual for a model in its last year to receive that much attention. keep in mind that its not the engineering work that costs all that much, its changing the assembly line to allow for the new options for one year. the cost to benifit cannot look good.

        ford products have seen improvements accross the board recently but they still have a way to go. interiors still need work and all the engines except the 3.5 need significant improvement to bring them up to where the competition was 5 years ago.

        a lot has been done but they have so much further to go. the f150 is the only model that has received the level of attention needed to keep it competative from year to year.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Ohhh bad mistake on those clear tail lights guys. At least here in the midwest where billybob has been driving around with the lense broken out of his tail lights. People well think its already falling apart. I know, I know, States that have inspections do not see this but around here, its a bad idea. Kinda like when VW did the Harlequin paint on the Golf years back.We already have those , they are ten year old cavaliers etc that have been pieced back together. Blue door, Red fender, Green hood, Yellow front bumper. what ever they could find that fit.
        • 8 Years Ago
        In a way I would have to agree with the clear lenses. But in all honesty, you would have to be either blind, drunk, dumb or whatever to think they were broken or were falling apart. And I, too, live in the Midwest. Personally, I think they are better than slapping some Plain Jane read housings on there...which everyone does. Also, I would like to have seen something like the Mitsu Galant's taillamps on there (clear but with gray surrounds).
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