16 cars in 5 hours. That was the number of cars and time allotted to ride, drive and test them at the Ford, Mazda and Volvo 2010 Model Reveal. An 8 mile loop on So Cal Freeways did give one the chance at least get a feel for the cars and identify those I want to spend more time with on some of the fun roads to drive in the LA Area.
We were asked to drive a variety of cars from the basic transportation variety to all out fun sporty cars. The one request by Octavio Navarro of Ford was to keep in mind “would I buy this car, would I recommend it to a friend”. I actually came across several that I’d do that just with. Very easy task for me as I am actually finally looking at getting to retire the “dad car”.
Hands down winner for me was the 2010 Mazda 3s Grand Touring. Just plain fun to drive, an engine that begs you to wind it up and go and handling to match the capabilities. Driving aside I loved the new grill. It is part of the whole “Nagare” design theory in Mazda these days. For me that grill is a giant grin to close in on another car with a “neener neener neener” attitude as you run past them during your commute. This car, even with the stick is fun and easy to drive, even in our bump and go traffic. Add in its green factors and its actually a responsible car. It scored a very respectable 9/10 on its smog score and 7/10 on its EPA Global warming score.
For more of the new cars heading our way and my first drive impressions you need to make the jump.
The next hands down favorite in the fun to drive category turned out to be another Mazda. Mazda 6i Grand Touring had the same engine as the Mazda 3 but had slightly less power than the Mazda 3s. Not enough to make a difference, what you did notice is that the added bulk of the Mazda 6i didn’t really slow the car down. Completely loaded with a very user friendly navigation system it stickered in at a smidge under 30K.
It certainly was a car with a high-fun-to-drive factor. My niggle lies with the long take up clutch, certainly too long for quick gear changes which doesn’t really fit the “zoom zoom” as well as the Mazda 3. But if you need the room, especially trunk room (Mazda claims it is the largest in the class) this could well factor highly in the decision process.
Rounding off my favorite 3 had to be the Volvo c30. It has been a favorite since it launched a few years ago and certainly has the “want now” factor for me. The problem lies in that my commute is 20 feet door to door and I still need capacity for 3 in the back seat several times a week with kid errands. Bummer for me, but for the person wanting the perfect commute car that isn’t just an appliance this should be high on the list. The “R Type” Volvo provided was equipped with the turbocharged 5 cylinder engine that snarled when appropriate and settled in to a near silent cruise. Handling and ride were nicely balanced with the nod towards comfort when cruising. All I can say is “want” and would love to take it for a run behind Chatsworth Lake to get a real feel for how well it will handle in real life.
When I got the invite to the event I was hoping to see the new 2010 Taurus and Ford came through. They actually did one better and offered up an SHO model equipped with the new 3.5L Ecoboost v6. What a car.
Never in recent memory have I been in a big Ford that was made for great handling and a solid yet comfortable ride. The power-train was an even bigger surprise in that it is quick off the line fast, capable of hyper-legal speeds before you even get off the on-ramp onto the freeway. It just begged to be run hard and fast. Promised EPA numbers for the car are expected to be in the low 20’s which is a marked improvement over the Crown Vic it is replacing as the crown jewel at the top of the line up. Loved the car and see it doing well in the market now that gas prices have stabilized again . My hunch is that the large performance car fans currently at Pontiac will be moving over to the SHO now that that line has been killed by GM.
Another pleasant surprise was from Ford who provided a prototype 2011 Fiesta for our photo’ing and tire kicking. This is one of those “why can’t we have it here cars” that I saw when we were last in London.
It is a subcompact with an amazing amount of room due in large part to its high roofline. My understanding is that when they bring it here little will be done to change its European flavor. I’d take one to replace my little compact buzz-bomb as it is the perfect size for darting around LA without worrying if you’ll find a space big enough to park it. Performance is promised to be best in class as it will be equipped with 4cyl “ecoboost” engine. Should gas shoot up again its projected EPA numbers in the 30’s should make it even more appealing to us. I’ve been promised access to a press version in a couple of weeks for photo and driving. Anyone care to meet up and check it out with me?
The last vehicle that I spent a lot of time with a factory rep with was the Volvo XC60. I’m a car guy and just don’t get the whole suv/minivan/cross-over thingy’s. The XC60 intrigued the hell out of me largely due to all of the safety engineering and goodies on the vehicle.
I wrote about “City Safety” last fall and it continues to impress me. It is available on the 2010 XC60. In short should your attention be elsewhere in slow traffic that suddenly stops the car will stop itself to prevent you rear ending someone. Add in the host of roll over protection (In Sweden a car has to be pass the moose test, IE swerve to avoid one without crashing) and you have another Volvo that sets the safety bar for a class of vehicles.
Compared to some of the other cross-overs I have been in recently this was the most car like in both driving and riding. It didn’t have that lethargic something big dragging behind me while turning,bouncy too softly sprung ride, nor did it have that lumbering tire thump of others. In short it was the more enjoyable ride/drive in the class that I have had to date. The one I had the pleasure of driving was also equipped with all the bells and whistles available on the machine. City Safety aside, the one option that I really liked was the “Bliss” or blind spot monitor that let you know if there was someone in your blind spot with a warning lamp glowing brightly near the outside mirror.
Those with the need for the capacity of one of these vehicles should take a close look at the XC60 at is certainly class competitive if not setting the bar in terms of safety engineering.
As always the pics are all by me. They do get bigger with a click. You can also find more of the raw images on my flickr in the SHO, Mazda 3, Mazda 6, Fiesta, Volvo c30, and XC60 sets. For added grins check out the Lincoln “C” Concept set as well.