Thursday, October 14, 2010
Test-driving the 2011 Ford F-150 at the Michigan Proving Grounds. So what's that like?
You can read about the new Ford truck in my article on the Examiner. But honestly, you can read that kind of stuff anywhere. Here, I thought I'd tell you a little about the Ford Proving Grounds and what this type of event is like.
I'm occasionally invited to these things because I am the editor of the Automobile Red Book for my real job. We try to know as much about all the new cars and trucks as we can, because it helps us determine used pricing and future values when there is limited historic information to go by. I also write reviews and summaries that go in our books and on the website.
For this event, we were paired up with Ford's fleet customers. So naturally, Ford was working extra hard to highlight the best qualities of their new F-150 engines. And I have to say, they made a pretty compelling case.
Then, it was time to drive. First on the agenda was the trailer-towing portion of the day. New F-150s, Tundras, Rams, and Silverados were all hitched up to 6,500-lb trailers, and we were able to drive them through picturesque, rolling hills and turns to compare how they all handled the weight.
Next, they did a "fuel mileage challenge". We were supposed to drive through another course in F-150s equipped with the new 3.5-liter "Ecoboost" twin-turbocharged V6, and see who could get the best gas mileage. The driver with the highest gas mileage in the group would win a key chain. I did not get a key chain.
The Ford Michigan Proving Grounds is a very impressive place. For one thing, it is beautiful out there. Plenty of rolling hills and dense trees with colorful fall leaves line 3,880-acres of roads, test tracks, and testing facilities. They have everything from a five-mile oval track for high-speed testing to chatter bumps and off-road courses. If you want to abuse a vehicle, there are at least 100 ways to do it out there.
I've had the privilege of visiting the Ford Proving Grounds on a number of occasions over the past few years, and I always come away impressed. There are lots of very smart, friendly people working there. And being able to see how much work actually goes into developing the cars and trucks that we normally take for granted gives you a very different perspective. You can't leave that facility and not have a greater appreciation for your own car. It's all pretty amazing.