Drive Type: manual
Exterior Color: Blue
Interior Color: Black
Leesburg, Ohio, United States
Consumer Reports has released its 2014 Car Brand Report Cards, with Lexus again reigning at the top and doing so with the same industry-topping score of 79 that it registered in last year's Report Cards. This year, the institute credited its lineup for being "usually quiet, comfortable, and fuel-efficient," noting it's the only brand on the list "to achieve an excellent average overall reliability score." The Car Brand Report Cars list is meant to rank the best all-around vehicles based on CR testing and reliability results tallied by subscribers it surveyed. Each brand included must have sufficient test and reliability data for at least three models, a standard which left out 11 marques including Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche.
This 2014 Brand Report Cars edition is the first of a new format in which sub-brands have been broken out from their parent brands, with Acura using this year to move up the leaderboard into second place with a score of 75 for its "reliable, well-finished and somewhat sporty models." The top three was rounded out by Audi, climbing from eighth to third by scoring a 74 for "well-crafted interiors, nice handling and good gas mileage." Audi scored highest in the road-test portion, its improved reliability aiding its rise. The top nine was completed by Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz.
Ford and Jeep weighed in at the other end of the rankings, Jeep taking the lowest overall score in the road tests and hampered by "a mix of spotty reliability." Ford was sunk by reliability issues with its MyFord Touch infotainment system which consumers found troublesome enough to negate its cars earning "solid test scores" for being "very nice to drive." Perhaps the rumored switch from Microsoft to Blackberry's QNX for the next generation SYNC will help them out. Cadillac's score also took a hit for infotainment reasons after it was the leading US brand last year, the CUE system in the XTS dragging Cadillac to the bottom of all General Motors brands.
It seems that the hard winter in much of the country has been as rough on some Fords as it has on many people. The Blue Oval is recalling roughly 434,000 vehicles in two separate recalls, and one of them partially caused by the salt used to melt the snow on roads.
The first recall covers 385,750 2001-2004 Escape models in the Midwest, Northeast and Canada because a subframe could rust and eventually fail. This is partially due to the road salt used in those areas, and about 349,000 of the affected vehicles are in the US. To remedy the problem, dealers are installing a reinforcement cross brace on the frame to strengthen them. There has been one crash caused by the failure but no injuries. According to The Detroit News, this is not the first rust-related recall for Ford. It estimates the company has repaired over two million vehicles since 2010 for problems on vehicles related to the iron oxide, including the rear wheel wells of the Freestar minivan.
The second recall covers 48,950 2013-2014 Ford Fusion, Escape, C-MAX and Lincoln MKZ models because welds in their seatbacks don't meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards. The fault affects the front seats, and the sub-standard welds joining the setback to the recliner could increase the chance on injury. There have been no reported injuries or accidents caused by the problem, but there are 42,972 affected vehicles in the US and 4,744 in Canada.
As we reported earlier, the Chicago showing of this plucky Ford Fiesta ST GRC racer points to bigger and brighter days for Global RallyCross. For the upcoming season, you can expect to see Ken Block and Tanner Foust both driving the Ford racecar, and if last season's results are any indication, you can anticipate quite a few podium appearances, as well.
The Fiesta seen here was built by the Swedes at OlsbergsMSE, and will be driven in anger by Foust in 2013. Modifications are, as you'd expect, extensive, and include an engine, exhaust and braking upgrades, a racing style short-throw shifter and a limited-slip differential. As you can see, the car has been fully stripped out and caged for maximum speed and safety, too.
Refresh your memories with the details of the car, in the press releases below. And if you head out to the Chicago Auto Show this year, don't forget to drop by the Ford stand to have a look.