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2023 Ford Bronco Sport Review – A name to live up to

The new 2023 Ford Bronco Sport is not the new Ford Bronco, a faintly odd sentence you find yourself saying fairly frequently in parking lots and at traffic lights when you’re driving a bright red Badlands trim example. Blame until-now-untapped enthusiasm for the Bronco brand and the high profile resurrection of the nameplate this year – oh, and Ford’s massive “BRONCO” lettering across the grille – for that, and get used to some staring.

The “true” new 2023 Bronco arrives later this year, but to tide us over there’s the 2023 Bronco Sport with some of the styling, some of the cachet, and some of the off-road talent. At least, that’s Ford’s big pitch for what you could, cruelly, describe as an Escape crossover playing dress-up as a Weekend Warrior.

Certainly, the Bronco Sport and its Escape cousin share some guts. Ford’s C2 platform is underneath – meaning the baby-Bronco also has DNA in common with the Lincoln Corsair – and familiar engines are under the hood. You can have the Bronco Sport with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo three-cylinder engine with 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque, or step up to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder version with 245 hp and 275 lb-ft. Either way there’s an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The bad news is that, unlike with the Escape, there’s no hybrid engine option. The good news is that 4×4 AWD is standard on the Bronco Sport, rather than optional as on the crossover.

In fact there are two 4×4 systems. Most Bronco Sport models get a version of the Escape’s AWD with programming nudged in an off-road direction. The Badlands trim – that I reviewed – gets a twin-clutch rear differential, with torque vectoring and a differential lock. That can push all of the engine power to one of the rear wheels, should you find yourself in a particularly tricky situation.

My colleague Vincent had already been left impressed by just how capable the Bronco Sport actually is in off-road situations (much to, quite frankly, his surprise). Badlands trim gets a suspension lift – raising ground clearance from 7.9- to 8.8-inches – and boosted dampers, too, and adds Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl to the five drive modes – Normal, Sand, Slippery, Sport, and Eco – in Ford’s G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) terrain management system.

You access that with an easily-twiddled knob in the center console, surrounded by chunky buttons for the 4WD lock and other features. The whole Bronco Sport cabin keeps to that burly, glove-friendly off-road feel too. Knurled rubber knobs, big HVAC controls, and a generally clean layout add up to a dashboard with some personality. Sure, not all of the plastics are the same soft-touch that Ford has used judiciously, but it works well both aesthetically and practically, with no shortage of cubbies (with grippy rubber linings).

Indeed, the Bronco Sport is full of thoughtful features. The separately hinged rear-glass was useful for dropping in bags of shopping in tight parking lots while the front 180-degree camera, though intended to help you squeeze through perilous mountain passes, proved just as handy at avoiding curbs. Ford Co-Pilot360 is standard across the board, with pre-collision assist with automatic braking, lane-keeping, blind spot warnings, and auto high-beams. Upper trims get Trail Control, which is basically low-speed cruise control for off-roading, and adaptive cruise control with lane centering for the highway.

SYNC 3 supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with a wireless charging pad as standard, but I do wish Ford had used its newer SYNC 4 on the 8-inch touchscreen as that looks and operates more cleanly. You also get the FordPass Connect smartphone app, which allows for optional remote start, unlock/lock, and other features from your phone. A 10-speaker B&O audio system with subwoofer is optional.

The front seats are comfortable and well-padded, though Badlands trim keeps dual-zone climate control as an option. You do get studier fabrics and materials on it than some of the other, plusher Bronco Sport trims: the Badlands has rubberized flooring, a matching cargo floor, and tough velour seats that feel like they’d be easier to clean.

In the back, the Bronco Sport’s height means headroom isn’t an issue, but legroom feels tight. Rivals offer more space for your knees, and the useful zippered pouches in the seat-backs only eat into what you do get if you stuff them full. The 60/40 split bench lifts to reveal more storage or alternatively folds down, expanding the 32.4 cu-ft trunk to 65 cu-ft. The high roofline makes it big, flexible space, and there are hooks integrated around the edge to lash things down. Ford also offers various lights and outlets, including some built into the tailgate itself for those early morning or late night loading and unloading sessions.

The 2.0-liter EcoBoost may be familiar, but that’s no bad thing generally. Torque arrives rapidly, and leaves the little off-roader feeling perky and urgent around town. Highway cruising isn’t short on grunt either, though you hear more of the drivetrain than in rival crossovers. As for the suspension, that’s dialed in with the wilderness in mind – to avoid shaking your teeth out should you venture off asphalt – and, combined with fairly strong power-assistance on the steering, means that cornering can feel a little more remote than in some sportier alternatives.

Ford’s packaging means you can carry a pair of mountain bikes in the back, which is impressive. The 2,200 pound tow rating is less so, and the 21 mpg city / 26 mpg highway / 23 mpg combined economy ratings aren’t going to win the crossover any awards.

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2023 Ford Fusion Sport Review: Blue Oval Q Ship Cancels Mid

2023 Ford Fusion Sport Review: Blue Oval Q ship cancels mid-size family sedan boredom

The Q-ship is a time-honored tradition in the world of family sedans, and the new Ford Fusion Sport is the latest effort from a mainstream automaker to present buyers with an enormous motor stuffed under the hood of an unassuming commuter. Only this being 2023, that motor isn’t so much ‘big’ in size as it is in output, thanks to the Blue Oval’s overwhelming desire to turbocharge absolutely every single drivetrain its engineers can get their hands on.

The term itself – Q-ship – dates back to World War 2, when convoys crossing the Atlantic would scattered armed escorts disguised as standard freighters amongst their number in a bid to fool the submarine wolf packs that hunted them from the depths. The firepower packed by the Ford Fusion Sport is equally stealthy, with the only overt indications of its 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 being its black mesh grille and quad tailpipes.

This makes it the only car in its class to claim 325 horsepower and a thudding 380 lb-ft of torque while simultaneously going completely unnoticed. That is not to say that the Fusion is an anonymous car – the four-door’s pleasing lines place well alongside efforts like the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord – but they don’t suggest to the casual viewer (read: almost every mid-size sedan shopper) that its all-wheel drive setup can wallop the quarter mile in a mere 13.7 seconds.

That’s muscle car performance in a vehicle that remains fundamentally unchanged from more frugal-minded Fusions in most of the important areas. The vehicle’s cabin, lightly updated, features a roomy rear seat and pleasingly stuffed cloth-wrapped front buckets (although not overly bolstered), while the SYNC3 infotainment interface reigns supreme on the center stack. A six-speed automatic transmission remains standard with the Ford, with its programming updated to offer quicker shifts while in S or Sport mode, and paddle shifters are present should one grow impatient with its algorithms.

The biggest deviation from the standard Ford Fusion playbook outside of the engine compartment is the presence of ‘continuously controlled damping,’ an active suspension technology that has trickled down to Ford by way of Lincoln. The system keeps a dozen watchful electronic eyes on the tarmac and adjusts shock absorber response every two milliseconds in a bid to firm up the ride without sacrificing comfort in the process. It also incorporates something the brand’s engineers have labeled ‘pothole detection’ that attempts to lock a strut in its stiffest setting and allow the wheel to ‘glide’ over a crater in the road with more grace than the expected up-and-down motion.

Montreal’s shattered urban infrastructure contains more potholes per square inch than there are chocolate chips in a tollhouse cookie, and I half expected the Fusion Sport’s trick suspension to throw in the towel and default into safe mode after I had traveled only a half-mile or so. It didn’t – but nor did it seem to provide any real-world improvement over a standard adaptive suspension over chunks of missing asphalt. A more positive result was obtained in the comfort department, where the Ford’s character remained smooth and quiet at a wide range of speeds, even in its most aggressive Sport setting.

Much has been made of the Ford Fusion Sport’s big power numbers as compared to imported four-door fare, and it’s certainly true that at a starting price of just over $34,000, it outguns similarly-priced BMWs – or even much more expensive BMWs – as well as Audis and other Euro cronies. It’s also no exaggeration to say that the Fusion Sport is extremely quick in a straight line, shooting past 60-mph in just a tick over five seconds and offering respectable throttle response and excellent highway passing capabilities thanks to its ample reserves of low-end torque.

In any scenario other than a drag race, however, the analogy begins to stretch thin. The Fusion’s front-wheel drive chassis, while strong in its family car class, makes use of its all-wheel drive system to mitigate the torque steer inherent in its twin-turbo design rather than to significantly boost handling past the limits of its more modest bones. The adaptive shocks help, but don’t fundamentally dial-out the Ford’s understeer at the limit or numb steering, and the fake-sound engine noise that’s piped into the cabin when you hammer the gas is an all-too-common plague on the modern automotive scene that’s almost as egregious as car lashes or fake HID headlights.

The 2023 Ford Fusion Sport is not a sport sedan, in the same way big, unassuming Galaxie 500s outfitted with elephantine 390 and 427 cubic inch V8s weren’t sport sedans back when they hunted state turnpikes back in the 1960s. But they were fast, and so is the Fusion Sport. Ultimately, this is what Ford was aiming to achieve with the car in order to give loyal buyers weary of its four-cylinder-only options list something to get the blood boiling on straight stretches of highway. There’s certainly no arguing with the price, either, which checks in at less than a fully-loaded Fusion Platinum, providing a welcome and affordable niche for undercover drag racers intent on heaping embarrassment on unsuspecting left-lane hogs and kraut-rockets alike.

Cyber Sport Orbita Mouse Review

Cyber Sport Orbita Mouse review

It may look like Apple’s ill-fated puck mouse, but the Cyber Sport Orbita Mouse is a whole lot cleverer under its silicone skin.  Free-rotating for super convenient scrolling, the Orbita can be as simple as a new way to navigate webpages or as complex as a 3D controller.  SlashGear strapped on the crash helmets in preparation for some serious spinning.

For full unboxing and packaging details, check out the video unboxing; to summarize, your $98.50 gets you the Orbita mouse itself, the USB wireless receiver and charging dock, a neoprene carry pouch, user manual and software mini-CD.  Installation is straightforward, and in fact plug the Orbita in to any XP (or higher) or Mac (OS X 10.3.9 or later) computer and it’ll be recognized as a normal mouse.  The software CD has the configuration drivers, though, which let you tweak sensitivity, scroll speed and more; after installing, they require a system reboot.

Unlike a standard wireless mouse, there’s a little preparation required before you first use the Orbita.  Obvious it needs charging – approximately 3hrs in total – but the internal compass also needs calibrating.  To do so, you press the triangular button on top for 2 seconds, rotate the mouse 720-degrees in ten seconds while it beeps at you, and then press the button briefly again.  The Orbita beeps to let you know how you’re doing; frustratingly, the regular beeping as you rotate isn’t on every second, so you’ll have to count along.

After calibration – which only needs to be done once, unless you significantly change your location and confuse the compass – the Orbita needs orienting.  To do so, you position the mouse with the triangle button pointing to whatever direction you’d like to have considered “up”, and press it.  This can be done as often as you like, so casual web browsing sessions where you’re slumped across the desk can be oriented to a different direction to your upright work mode.

If all that sounds like hard work, don’t worry: it’s not.  In general, you grab the Orbita off its charging dock and start working.  Cyber Sport is coy about runtime from the battery, but given the mouse automatically goes to sleep after 5 minutes of inactivity I never needed to recharge it during the workday.

Cyber Sport have in effect given you everything from a basic scroll mouse replacement to a full 3D controller, with sensible enough defaults that, if the latter sounds too much like hard work, varying degrees of the former are easily played with out of the box. 

I’d thought this review would be pretty quick to churn out; let’s face it, most mouse assessments come down to where you fingers sit – and whether it’s comfortable – and whether the shape makes for accuracy and usability.  The Orbita scuppered my plans, simply because it took a while for my hand to adapt.  We’re so used to frantically scrolling with our cramping index-fingers, gripping onto the mouse for dear life, that relearning a lighter touch takes time.

The Orbita Mouse probably isn’t for gamers, but anyone who spends their time online, reading long documents or shuttling through multimedia editing should give it a try.  It’s not a cheap peripheral, but the capabilities Cyber Sport’s configuration software offer – if you’re willing to explore a little and spend some time setting up custom profiles – mean you’re getting much more than an odd-shaped mouse for your money.

The Cyber Sport Orbita Mouse is available now, from the company’s online store. 

2023 Ford Mustang Shelby Gt350 Review

2023 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Review – Trading ponies for stallions

The 2023 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 wasn’t designed to kick ass at the drag strip, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sitting in the right-hand lane of the closest 1320 waiting for the staging lights to clear. You see, yesterday’s lightning storm wiped out the lapping sessions I was scheduled to attend that evening, which left me scrambling to find a track on which to sample Ford’s all-new apex pony car.

Of course, as with the Boss 302, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350’s end result is about as far from the standard Mustang as you can get. The bones might be the same, but the similarities end there. Don’t think of the GT350 as the next evolution of the GT model’s brawny persona, but rather imagine it as a world-class sports car wrapped in Mustang sheet metal – and that’s an important distinction to make when trying to decide whether the Shelby GT350 might be for you. The coupe’s track credentials are impeccable, but they come at a price that will be exacted upon you each and every time you slip behind the wheel to commute to work in the morning.

This is far from a criticism of the car’s outstanding package. You see, Ford really didn’t cut any corners when assembling the chassis for the Mustang Shelby GT350, fitting it with aluminum suspension components where possible and also giving it the option of magnetically-adaptive shock absorbers, which is a first for the ‘stang. The car’s enormous 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are aided and abetted by six-piston Brembo brakes up front, an independent rear suspension out back, and an extremely aggressive alignment that highlights turn-in and provides excellent communication through the steering wheel.

All of that sauce, so delicious on the track, overpowers much of the Mustang’s flavor in day-to-day driving. Around town, even with the shocks set to their most supple, the Shelby GT350 remains overly eager to tell you about each and every striation in the pavement below, while on the highway the vehicle’s propensity to tramline will keep your arms active as you attempt to plot a relatively straight course.

Will some buyers be turned off by the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350’s aggressive character? Most certainly – but it really doesn’t matter. This is a car that wasn’t built for the masses, nor even for the traditional Mustang GT buyer, but rather for individuals seeking an out-of-the-box lap-turner, and who understand the compromises in comfort that come with that mission statement.

It’s also reasonably affordable. Pricing for the base 2023 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 starts at just under $50,000, with the GT350R adding $13k to that figure (and bringing with its such exotic accoutrements as carbon fibre wheels and Sport Cup 2 rubber). If you want the mag-ride suspension, or any number of other electronic goodies inside the car it will cost you extra – unless you wait for a 2023 model, which makes the current year’s Track package (including mag ride) standard and boosts the price floor by about the same amount it would have required to add it a la carte. It’s also a bit easier to configure the car how you’d want it if you’re patient enough to forgo the initial production run, as options are more logically grouped for second-year cars, and you also get the benefit of avoiding the at-times onerous dealer markup that’s occasionally been reported for the 2023 Shelby GT350.

The tree counts down and the Mustang to my left explodes out of the gate. I, on the other hand, have learned from earlier grudge matches this evening that it’s best to forgo launch control and instead rollout ever so slightly from the starting line prior to stomping hard on the power. Acceleration is linear at first and then once past 3,500 revs it gathers steam with gusto, shooting me towards my first shift point, upon which I’m still astonished to discover that second gear immediately pegs 6,000 on the car’s tach. I guide the transmission into fourth by the end of the run, a 12.8 second pass @ 114-mph to the 12.5 second performance of my rival.

I’ll take it. I’m not here to take any trophies home, and neither is anyone else. Tonight is about enjoying one of the best-sounding, and most attractively-styled Mustangs ever built, in the company of a gearhead crowd that is equally appreciative. Compliments abound from everyone who approaches me about the car, singling out everything from its intimidating aero package to its sleek profile to its tenorous tailpipes. Lap after lap of G-crushing fury might be the Shelby GT350’s raison d’etre, but it’s almost as exciting in 12-to-13-second increments as well.

2013 Ford Fusion Energi Test Drive: Ford Does Gamification

2013 Ford Fusion Energi test drive: Ford does gamification

Electric vehicles are becoming all the rage these days, and Ford is looking to make a dent in the market with their own offerings. They have a small variety of hybrid vehicles, but I ended up checking out the 2013 Fusion Energi and giving it a brief test ride around one of Ford’s test tracks at their headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. One of the big features that the company is touting is the inclusion of gamification, which aims to encourage drivers to drive more efficiently on the road by providing a drive score.

This was my first time behind the wheel of any kind of electric vehicle, so I was a bit nervous at the start, which is odd since there was nothing to really be nervous about. It mostly came down to the fact that I wasn’t sure what to expect out of an electric vehicle, but I came to find out the car handled almost exactly like a normal car does.

However, one of the most obvious differences is that the Fusion Energi can run off of a battery, so when you start the car up, there’s no cranking of the engine or the all-too-familar whirring noise of an idling vehicle. Instead, when you start it up, you’re treated with absolute silence, making you wonder if the car even turned on. Indeed, it did, and off I went.

Handling of the Fusion Energi wasn’t all too different from a traditional gas-guzzling vehicle, although the brakes were extremely touchy – something that I find to be the case for a lot of newer cars, especially from Ford. In this case, it’s partially down to the regenerative braking in the Fusion Energi, meaning that the kinectic energy caused by braking is converted and used to power other portions of the vehicle.

As for acceleration, it was pretty superb, and the lightest touch of the gas pedal sprung me forward a few miles-per-hour for every time I applied more pressure to the gas pedal. I didn’t get it up quite to highway speeds during my drive, but I felt that the Fusion Energi would be more than a good option for daily commutes at the least.

On the inside, you have a comfy interior, and the center console includes your usual set of controls, and the touch screen up top allows you to adjust a number of settings with the tap of a finger, as well as get turn-by-turn directions and all sorts of media options. The instrument panel also includes some digital displays as well, with one that shows you how much battery you have left, as well as your mileage.

This display also gives you your drive score and brake score during your drive. You have a brake score that gives you a score out of 100% that’s based on how efficient your braking was. For instance, taking your foot off the gas, coasting, and then slowly applying the brake until you come to a gentle stop will most likely score you in the high 90% range, while stopping suddenly and creating a whiplash effect will give you a very low brake score.

The drive score is an overall score based on your driving habits. It accounts for braking, acceleration, top speed, and even interior features that use up energy, such as the air conditioning. Drivers are more likely to earn a high score for accelerating and braking gently, as well as keeping their top speed at the speed limit. However, the overall drive score is much harder than getting a good brake score. I was able to earn the best brake score out of all the other test drivers that day, but I found that getting a good overall drive score was a lot harder than I anticipated.

Essentially, Ford is encouraging drivers to drive more efficiently on the road using this clever gamification system. It’s proven that human beings love statistics and having the best score, whether that’d be through video games are other forms of activities. Adding a video game-like experience to everyday tasks makes them not only more enjoyable and engaging, but it can also make you better at these activities by attempting to do the best job you can in order to score points and level up, so to speak.

Ford says that their new Fusion Energi can go up to 620 miles on a full charge and on a full tank of gas, with a rated fuel mileage of 100 MPGe. The price is where reality sinks in, however. The Fusion Energi starts just short of $39,000, but it’s on par with its competition, with the Chevy Volt also priced in the $39,000 range. Then again, the only question you need to ask yourself is if the higher cost is worth the investment, seeing as you won’t need to fill up the gas tank as often.

Ford Is Building The Mustang Mach

Ford is building the Mustang Mach-E a hands-free driving system

It’s part of Ford’s push to make sure that the new addition to the Mustang family is as tech-savvy as EV drivers have come to expect. With Tesla popularizing its Autopilot system, the ability for a car to take on some share of the highway driving is increasingly expected for new electrified vehicles.

However truly hands-free systems are still a comparative rarity. Autopilot, like most driver assistance systems, still expects the driver’s hands to be resting on the wheel. While you can move your hands away for a limited period of time – typically based on the speed of the road, among other factors – eventually the car will demand you return them.

In a welcome move, every trim of the 2023 Mustang Mach-E will launch with blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assistance as standard. They’re features that remain options on a number of more expensive cars; the Jaguar I-PACE, for example, doesn’t come with blind spot warnings as standard. However Ford has something more interesting in the pipeline.

It’s an attention-based system, which will eventually allow the Mustang Mach-E driver to take their hands on the wheel and rely on the EV to keep pace with traffic and stay centered in the lane. It uses a camera system built on top of the steering column, just below the speed display, which tracks where the driver is looking. As long as you’re paying sufficient attention to the road ahead, the Mach-E won’t insist on you actually holding the wheel.

Roam outside of the mapped area, and the system will turn off. You’ll be able to use regular adaptive cruise control, but not hands-free. Ford says that geofencing will expand over time, because of the fact that the Mustang Mach-E has OTA update support.

Indeed it’s that connectivity which will be used to turn on the system when it’s finally available. Ford will be installing the necessary hardware from day one – though it won’t be standard on all trims – then deploying the software to enable that hardware later.

“So all of the hardware for that technology will be in the car at the launch,” Dave Pericak, Director of Icons at Ford, confirms. “But we will then do is over the air update. We will enable that feature a little bit later as we finish our development of it.”

Ford is being upfront about the fact that this isn’t autonomous driving. “It’s not quite Level 3,” Pericak says, “it’s a little more than Level 2 with the standard definition of Level 2, but it’s not a Level 3.”

Initially, the Mustang Mach-E’s hands-free system won’t be able to do automatic lane changes. The driver will be responsible for changing lane themselves, at which point the system will re-engage. However, that’s something Ford is working on, and the OTA system means that future updates would be able to add that feature in at a later point.

The number of sensors Ford is building into the Mustang Mach-E is shaping up to be considerable. Right now it’s not confirming just how many there’ll be, but it did tell SlashGear that there’d be cameras, LIDAR, ultrasonic, and radar in the mix. The result is 360-degree awareness around the vehicle, though without knowing just what sensors have visibility in each place, we don’t know what sort of range that full coverage will encompass.

All the same, it’s a welcome move for Ford, which has faced criticism that its driver-assistance technology has lagged behind that of some of the automaker’s rivals. It’s unclear when, exactly, this hands-free driver assistance will be added to the Mustang Mach-E, but the fact that cars will be equipped with the necessary hardware at least from the outset is promising. Deliveries of the 2023 Mustang Mach-E will begin from late 2023, initially with the Premium and Launch Edition trims, with other versions – including the most powerful GT – arriving in the following nine months or so.

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