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Vale, North Carolina, United States
History has a way of repeating itself, especially in the auto industry. When Jaguar was owned by Ford, the British brand attempted to field a competitor for the BMW 3 Series, called the X-Type. Based on the bones of a Ford Mondeo, it aped the styling of Jaguar's flagship model, the XJ, while borrowing liberally from the Ford parts bin. That was 2001.
Now, in 2013, Jaguar is planning a new 3 Series challenger based on the platform previewed by the C-X17 Concept, while Ford is attempting to take the latest Mondeo upmarket. The moves have both brands recognizing where, why, and how the X-Type failed. "It didn't look mature or powerful or anything. It was just a car," Jaguar's current head of advanced design, Julian Thomson, told PistonHeads. Basing the X-Type on a front-drive car while giving it styling that was meant for a rear-driver lead to proportions that "were plainly wrong," Thomson told PH. Ford's European head of quality, Gunnar Herrmann, added that the X-Type was "a fake Jaguar, because every piece I touch is Ford."
For what it's worth, the X-Type's successor in the segment will sport rear-drive, with plenty of input from Ian Callum. Thomson described the new model, which would challenge the 3 Series as having, "Big wheels right to the ends of the car, low bonnet, short overhangs, very low cabins." Sounds good to us.
The 2003 Ford F-Series Super Duty (shown above) introduced the 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel supplied by Navistar, and while that is an engine Ford would love to forget, it's now one step closer to putting that particular problem behind it. Automotive News is reporting that Ford has settled a class-action lawsuit brought on by problems with this engine that started right out of the gate and ultimately broke up the 30-year relationship between Ford and Navistar.
Owners and lessees of 2003-2007 Super Duty trucks and E-Series vans equipped with the 6.0-liter Power Stroke are eligible for deductible reimbursements of between $50 and $200 from the original five-year/100,000-mile engine warranty, while Ford is paying out as much as $825 for out-of-warranty engine repairs. These repairs may include the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler, EGR valve, oil cooler, fuel injectors and turbocharger, but are only covered if the components failed before six years or 135,000 miles.
In total, Ford has agreed to pay about 50 percent of the value of the repairs and deductibles paid by its customers who submit a claim before the end of this year, and $150,000 is going to the 16 named plaintiffs in the case; Navistar was not included in the lawsuit.
As a segment, fullsize vans are stealth-fighter invisible on most consumers' radar. Visit a dealership for any of the four brands that offer them and you'll be lucky to find even one on display. These are commercial vehicles primarily, even more so than pickup trucks. Vans are the shuttles for plumbers, caterers, carpenters, concrete layers, masons, electricians, florists and flooring, and a huge part of this country's productivity is accomplished using them. At the moment, Ford is the 800-pound gorilla in that room - fully 41 percent of commercial vehicles wear a Blue Oval. So when Ford announced three years ago it would be ditching its commercial bread-and-butter E-Series, it meant the Transit that would be replacing the Econoline had huge, 53-year-old shoes to fill.
We were still a bit nostalgic about Econoline vans going away until going directly from the Transit first drive in Kansas City to an E-350 airport shuttle. Climb up through the Econoline's tiny double doors and bang your head on the opening, crouch all the way to your seat then enjoy a loud, rattle-prone, creaky, harsh ride on beam-hard seats while struggling to see out the low windows. This is an experience nearly every traveler has had. By comparison, the Transits we'd just spent two days with were every bit of the four decades better they needed to be. It cannot be understated just how much better the Transit is in every single way. The load floor is barely more than knee high. There's a huge side door, and hitting your head on a door opening is nearly impossible. Stand up all the way if you're under six-foot, six-inches - no more half-hunching down the aisle. There are windows actually designed to be looked out of. The ride is buttery smooth, no booming vibration from un-restrained metal panels and no squeaks. Conversations can be held at normal levels rather than yelling over the roar of an ancient V8. The seats are comfortable. The AC is cold. There are cupholders.
Enough anecdote-laying, what's in a Transit? We're talking about a very fullsized unibody van that's enjoyed a 49-year history in Ye Olde Europe. This latest iteration is part of the "One Ford" initiative, so it was designed as a global offering from the get-go, eschewing the body-on-frame construction the E-Series has used since 1975. Instead, the Transit integrates a rigid ladder frame into an overall frame construction made of high-strength cold-rolled and boron steel. The suspension is a simple but well-tuned Macpherson strut array up front with a rear solid axle and leaf springs.