Ford’s offerings at the Chicago Auto Show were varied to say the least. While the company’s entire range was on show, Ford was particularly keen to show off the newest vehicles.
Making one of its first appearances on the show circuit, Ford’s newest Focus hopes to finally consolidate the US and international versions of the car. The new third-generation Focus introduces the uprated suspension, brakes and underpinnings of the European-market Focus to the US model. Build quality has improved, as the interior now features an upgraded level of fit and finish.
However, what has been done to the interior pales in comparison to the changes in the car’s underpinnings. The chassis is stiffer, the engines are more powerful and the old five speed transmissions have been replaced with six-speed boxes. Ford also showed off their brand new electric variant of the Focus, aimed squarely at the Nissan Leaf. It’s certainly better looking than the oddly-proportioned Leaf.
Another Focus variant that’s new to the US show scene is the Focus-based C-Max people-carrier. A seven-seater aimed at the Mazda 5 (also made by Ford), the C-Max doesn’t exactly get hoons’ hearts racing, but if Ford decides to bring the 2.5 liter five cylinder turbo variant to the US, it might find a cult following.
More interestingly, the Mustang range has also been changed slightly. Minor trim level upgrades see the introduction of a new performance pack for the V6 Mustang, which adds track suspension, bigger brakes and bigger wheels. More significantly, Ford has also introduced the Boss 302, which packs a 444 horse version of the standard GT’s 5.0 liter V8, a number which the ‘Stang rattled off time and time again on the dynamometer in the middle of the Boss’ show display. The Boss also has uprated brakes, suspension and wheels that are specific to the Boss. These weren’t the only Mustangs on display at the show, though. Shelby also showed off their new GT350, in 625 horsepower tune.
Ford also hyped the release of their all-new Explorer, comparing its ride and NVH levels to SUVs costing nearly twice as much. What’s undeniable is that the car’s bolted together far better than the previous Explorers. Panel gaps are small, the interior is well-built and features nice soft-touch plastics and leather, and the cabin is quiet. In addition, the Explorer is capable both on and off the road, as a ride through Ford’s miniature obstacle course showed. The car’s Range Rover-style terrain management system makes it relatively simple to off-road in the Explorer as it showed through a small sand trap and by climbing a teeter-totter.
A mention for Ford’s new police vehicles is merited, as well. Based on the common platform underpinning the Taurus and the new Explorer, the various police interceptors offer a much-needed upgrade to the ancient Crown Victoria platform. Of particular note is the undercover interceptor, which is considerably stealthier thanthe current Crown Victoria, especially with the standard 22-inch wheels and the car’s hidden light bar. In essence, it’s tough to tell apart from a black SHO, and that will make it that much harder to pick out in traffic. Speeders be warned!