The ever-popular mid-winter auto catch-up
summit daily auto writer
Every once in a while it’s good to take a moment to reflect on some of the changes in the auto business, plus some of the vehicles I may not have fully profiled. And I do this not only to keep my readership informed, but also because, frankly, nothing I can write about at this time seems to have anything to do with cars appropriate to Summit County’s seemingly endless winter … until Vail Resorts loans me a Bombardier snow-cat for a review. I’m working on that.
Beginning to appear at dealerships near you but still in very limited supply, the fast-tracked EcoBoost-equipped Ford F-150 truck is this year’s engineering revolution – though the fuel-saving, turbo technology employed is pretty similar to what foreign cars have rocked for so many years.
Ford’s direct-injected, twin-turbocharged V6 has shown up in a couple of smaller applications (Flex, the Taurus SHO) but this year marks the debut of the application that might make the motor live up to its name. And that’s because the 3.5-liter V6, drastically retuned and reconfigured for the truck application, generates as much horsepower (365 HP) and more torque (420 lb. ft.) as a regular, naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8, yet gets an official 22 mpg highway (and frequently more than 27 mpg on highway hauls, according to the Ford reps who demonstrated the truck to me).
Even in a bulky beast like the F-150, the new turbo engine provides a considerable kick in the pants and steady uphill hauling power (even in the four-wheel drive model), and the turbo setup will also help all of y’all at high altitude consistently achieve the power missing from regular air-sucking engines. There’s a slight cost difference (approximately $750) but, again, when gas starts creeping over the $4 mark, you’ll be smiling.
And for a vehicle you might comfortably be able to load into the back of that F-150, the sunnier months might see the High Country appearance of a couple of the extremely tiny (156 inches) but fun Mazda2. Over in Spain or Luxembourg or cruising around Mexico City, the micro-sized Mazda totally makes sense; in the United States, it makes the Ford Fiesta look like an Expedition, so driving is a matter of constant vigilance.
If you remove all the context of scale, Mazda2 is an excellent little machine, priced at just over $16,000 in its Touring guise. The little 1.5-liter four-cylinder seems incapable of actually burning any gasoline at all (it’s rated at 35 mpg highway), and despite only putting out 100 horses, I managed safe and steady highway speeds, though it’s a pretty high-revver at 75 mph.
Like the larger Fiesta and Mini Cooper (and who ever thought those would be considered larger vehicles), Mazda2 creates a mysterious vortex where it’s actually quite comfortable on the inside (the Mazda is a 5-door and has a real back seat and 28 cubic feet of storage space). Interior design is a clean, lower-cost variation on the style found in the 3 and about the only shortfall is the lack of a center armrest.
And it’s a pretty good handler, with the rear wheels practically flush with the bumper, a five-speed manual and extreme tossability. You do, however, have to pay very close attention to other drivers who California-roll through stop signs or merge onto the highway without looking, as she is very small indeed.
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