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Model: Model A
Sun City, California, United States
It's a fairly well known fact that removing weight from a car is essentially a panacea for many of the modern automobiles problems. Does it handle like crap? Remove weight. Underpowered? Don't add power; trim the fat. Need to improve fuel economy? It's diet time.
Actually executing a major weight reduction program, though, much like with human beings, is no easy task. Unlike you or I, where motivation is the issue, the prohibitive measure in trimming a car's waistline is money. Lightweight materials are expensive, with carbon fiber and carbon-fiber reinforced plastic still primarily in the domain of higher end vehicles. Even aluminum construction, pioneered on a mass-produced level by Audi and Jaguar, is only now starting to make its way into the mainstream, thanks to the upcoming Ford F-150.
With this concept, though, Ford is attempting to show that a mass-produced, lightweight vehicle isn't too far off. This is the Lightweight Concept, and while it may look like a Fusion, it weighs as much as a Fiesta. For reference, the lightest Fusion available to the public is the 3,323-pound, 2.5-liter model with a manual transmission. A manually equipped, 1.6-liter Fiesta, meanwhile, is just 2,537 pounds.
Consumer Reports has taken aim at at small-displacement, forced-induction engines, saying the powerplants don't manage to deliver on automaker fuel economy claims. Manufacturers have long held that smaller, turbocharged engines pack all power of their larger displacement cousins with significantly better fuel economy, but the research organization says that despite scoring high EPA economy numbers, the engines are no better than conventional drivetrains in both categories. Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, says the forced induction options "are often slower and less fuel efficient than larger four and six-cylinder engines."
Specifically, CR calls out the new Ford Fusion equipped with the automaker's Ecoboost 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The institute's researchers found the engine, which is a $795 option over the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder, fails to match competitors in acceleration and served up 25 miles per gallon in testing, putting the sedan dead last among other midsize options.
The Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Sonata Turbo and Ford Escape 2.0T all got dinged for the same troubles, though Consumer Reports has found the turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the BMW 328i does deliver on its promises. You can check out the full press release below. You can also read the full study on the Consumer Reports site, or scroll down for a short video recap.
Ford has given the F-150 a dramatic makeover for 2015, switching to an aluminum body that helps reduce weight by about 700 pounds. Because the truck is dramatically different, Ford also had to change the way it makes the F-150, so we went inside its sprawling factory in Dearborn, MI, this week to see the Blue Oval's new manufacturing techniques in action.
The company has added 850 jobs at the site and upgraded its stamping and tool and die facilities. The body shop is also modernized, and it has been fitted with 500 new robots that join the structures together. The first 2015 F-150 rolled off the line on Tuesday, and the trucks will begin arriving in dealerships in December. Get a closer look at the F-150's unique assembly process in our video.