2012 Ford Focus ST hot hatch unveiled in production form

September 13th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Fans of Ford’s performance offerings have something to celebrate this week with the official reveal of the new Focus ST. Known in NZ as the Focus XR5 Turbo, the new ST will debut in production guise at this week’s 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and in the lead up, details and images have reached the web.

While the production hot hatch isn’t a significant departure from its concept predecessor, what’s really interesting is the inclusion of a station wagon body in the Focus ST range. Sadly, this performance wagon won’t reach as many global markets as the hatch and will likely be a European only offering, so don’t expect to see any down here in NZ.

Both the hatch and wagon feature the same 2.0-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder under the bonnet with a power output of 186kW and a healthy 360Nm of max torque. The high-tech engine comes mated to a 6-speed manual that pushes grunt to the front wheels only. That’s a lot of power for the front treads to handle so Ford has worked hard to avoid torque-steer issues with its electronic power assisted steering and torque steer compensation system. Both systems work together to minimize the wheel-tugging effects often associated with high power front-wheel drivers. Continue reading “2012 Ford Focus ST hot hatch unveiled in production form” »

Solar Powered Motoring

August 28th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

Thanks to ticking a little box somewhere in a signup process that signified me as the kind of eco-conscious person who does not want to see our planet burn-up and die due to excessive use of envelopes, each week my power company sends me an e-statement detailing exactly how much further into electrical debt I and the currently Mrs Grimley have plunged. A neat little feature of this is a little graph which tracks our power consumption and lets us know by how much our usage has varied from the previous seven days; usually it’s no more than a couple of percent each way, so you can imagine my shock to find that this week we had outdone ourselves to the tune of 1057%.

After climbing off the floor and double checking I hadn’t been sent a report on the historical rate of inflation in Zimbabwe, I sat down and did a few calculations. Admittedly we were out of the country for a couple of days, but even with that taken into account things weren’t adding up until I remembered the heat pump.

Get in. Drive. Tama-nui-te-rā demands it.

Thanks to the Antarctic blast that swept the country and brought single figure temperatures to the inside of Grimley Towers, our usual strategy of simply adding more layers was abandoned in favour of the mechanical wonder that has sat patiently unused on our wall since we moved in last December. This was a good move in the sense that it allowed me to walk around in my stubbies and get full enjoyment from chilled beer, but in hindsight it would have been far better on the bank balance to find heat from other sources. Like shivering.

But it got me thinking that if it is so easy to unintentionally eat up beer money just by keeping warm, then it may not be a bad idea to investigate other aspects of our life that might be haemorrhaging dineros. Continue reading “Solar Powered Motoring” »

Lexus tops J.D. Power survey for 14th consecutive year

August 8th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

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Deterioration in vehicle quality during the first three years of ownership-determined by comparing long-term dependability rates to initial quality problem rates-strongly affects overall customer satisfaction as well as customer willingness to recommend their vehicle model, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS).

The study, which measures problems experienced by original owners of 3-year-old (2005 model year) vehicles, finds that, on average, customers report experiencing 75 percent more problems in the third year of ownership than during the first 90 days. Those models with the largest increase in problem levels show the most pronounced declines in satisfaction and the likelihood of owners to recommend their vehicle model. In addition, while no model has fewer reported problems in the third year of ownership compared with the first three months, those models that average less than 35 percent problem growth actually demonstrate improvement in overall satisfaction during the three-year period.

The study also finds that five of the top 10 problems reported industry-wide in the 2008 Vehicle Dependability Study were also among the top 10 most frequently reported problems in the 2005 Initial Quality Study, suggesting that the problems are identified by owners during the initial ownership period, but have not been rectified by automakers during the three-year ownership period.

The problems include:

* Excessive wind noise
* Noisy brakes
* Vehicle pulling to the left or right
* Issues with the instrument panel/dashboard
* Excessive window fogging

For a 14th consecutive year, Lexus ranks highest in vehicle dependability, improving by 25 problems per 100 vehicles since 2007 to achieve a score of 120 PP100. Following in the top five rankings are Mercury, Cadillac, Toyota and Acura, respectively.

In addition, Lexus garners six segment awards-the most of any nameplate in 2008-for the ES 330, GX 470, IS 300, LS 430, LX 470 and SC 430. Toyota follows with five segment awards for the Highlander, Prius, RAV4, Sequoia, and Tundra. Ford and Honda each capture two awards. Ford models receiving awards are the Crown Victoria and Ranger, while Honda earns awards for the Element and S2000. Models by Buick, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Mazda and Mercury each rank highest in one segment.

SAAB is the most improved brand in the study, although it continues to rank below the industry average. SAAB improves by 65 PP100 since 2007.

The study finds that long-term vehicle quality has improved by 5 percent industry-wide in 2008-with an overall decrease of 10 problems per 100 vehicles-compared with 2007. More than 60 percent of the 38 nameplates included in the study improve in 2008, compared with 2007. Among the 19 segments included in the study, the midsize premium MAV segment demonstrates the most improvement in 2008-36 PP100 fewer than in 2007. The compact car and midsize car segments also have much lower problem levels in 2008 than in 2007, and together account for more than one-half of the overall industry improvement.

The 2008 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 52,000 original owners of 2005 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded from January through April 2008.

Find more detailed findings on vehicle dependability as well as model photos and specs by reading an article and reviewing brand and segment dependability ratings at JDPower.com.