The date was set! The time was set! We were headed to the track (parking lot) to try out the latest and greatest EcoBoost engines that Ford offered in a wide array of its vehicles.
Let me preface all of this by saying it was brutally cold out, the wind-chill was biblical and being that it was the end of March, no one was properly prepared. The reps that were in charge of the event were wearing wind breakers some had no hats or gloves. Same goes for the event, there were no tents sent up with heaters, there was free hot chocolate, and mine blew away after I sat it down on the table. Nonetheless, there was a bit of excitement in the air, even my friend, who is very little into cars was visibly excited, it was either that or early stages of hypothermia. Focus and Fiesta ST’s were launching drag racing style to the right, Mustangs were being tossed around some cones straight ahead, and F-150’s shredding tires to the left. It all looked extremely fun, but as we found out shortly after looks can be deceiving.
There are six different types of driving activities set up in this event, Trucks and SUV, Mustang Corse, Learn how to drive manual, drive a Transit Connect or Expedition, and ST launch. We started off with the trucks, on this course one can pilot an Escape, the brand new Edge, and F-150, as well as the competition, CR-V, Highlander, and Silverado, before each drive you had to listen to an instructor. These self proclaimed professional drivers, explained the layout of the course and gave a brief overview of the vehicles themselves. Now, something I want to make clear, every single one of these professional drivers, on several occasions, made it very clear to the public that they are entirely unbiased, that we as the consumers were to make our own determinations of the cars. However, during the presentation you heard things like “best in class MPG” and “other trucks I’ve driven aren’t as comfortable” further more the Silverado present was quipped with the 5.3 V8 Ecotech not the 4.3 V6 Ecotech, so clearly it would have worse gas millage than the 2.7 Ecoboost in the F-150 at the event, but who’s paying attention right? I drove the Silverado, upon starting I was scolded for putting the transmission in manual and turning the traction control off. The truck held its own on the course, after returning I was scolded some more for going faster than permitted and breaking on the rumble strips. The Mustang course was the same way. The slightest indication of spirited driving was looked upon as though we were kicking puppies. No dropping of the clutch, no setting the steering to sport, no traction control interference and no fun at all. What made matters worse, other than the brutal cold was the one lap rule. Allowing the patron to only drive the car once was a poor decision, how on earth does Ford or anyone else for that matter expect even a pro driver to be able to test out a car after driving it one time? That’s like asking someone to play Mozart after their first piano lesson, ridiculous. The icing on the cake was when I asked one of the instructors for an additional lap, seeing that there was no one in line for that event, I figured he would agree. His response summarized this whole event perfectly “It’s not about the people we also have to protect the cars”.
Ford attempted to offer an event where the general public would enjoy their turbocharged offerings, and evaluate them against the competition, an event where driving fast and breaking late is encouraged. In reality the event that they created showcased their marking ability above all else. This wasn’t an event where you can admire the handling and performance of the cars it was a mere publicity stunt, nothing more. Honestly more fun at your local dealer on a test drive. Ford Ecoboost Challenge failed.