The Los Angeles Auto Show is now underway, and the eyes of the international car industry are focused on the west coast. It’s one of a few spots on the yearly calendar when foreign and domestic automakers march out their latest models and concepts of the future for the press and an eager collection of car lovers.
Ford got a jump on the big event this year by importing a squadron of journalists to the company’s Dearborn, Mich. facility to get a sneak peek at Ford’s 2013 concept cars before they made the long trek from the midwest to the LA Convention Center.
Front and center were the future editions of the Ford Focus ST, the Escape and the Flex.
The concept Focus ST looks to continue the racing and performance pedigree of Ford’s self-proclaimed “Global DNA.” Henry Ford himself was a racer, and Ford likes to bleed at least the ambition of higher performance into each of its cars. The new Focus ST will arrive in 2013 with a six-speed manual tethered to an EcoBoost 2.0 liter engine producing what Ford promises to be at least 250 hp and 250 ft. lb. of torque.
Its bold redesign also reinvents the Focus ST visually, improving its grill lines and vents to announce its new performance standards to the world.
The new 2013 Ford Escape concept moves Ford fully into the crossover end of the SUV market with a vehicle easily picked out of a crowd with its squat, powerful frame. The Escape will serve up a choice of two EcoBoost engines – a 2.0 liter, four cylinder model and a 1.6 liter four-cylinder. The Ford Escape will be the first engine to offer the 1.6 V4.
At first glance, the idea of a four cylinder power plant powering a small SUV might seem a bit of a reach, but the V6 EcoBoost already available in the F-150 provides ample power. I’ve driven the EcoBoost F-150 and found the capabilities to be comparable to any V8 truck competing with it.
The Escape’s four cylinder EcoBoost combines fuel injection and turbocharging with a six-speed Ford SelectShift automatic transmission – promising 230 hp and 30 mpg.
Finally, the Escape is the first Ford vehicle to boast gesture-based controls. The rear tailgate opens with a sensor under the rear bumper. As long as the key fob is in your pocket, a simple kick in the air underneath the car smoothly opens the rear door.
With the new Flex concept, Ford is using a marketing strategy rarely used with any major product – deliberately separating it from the rest of the Ford line. It seems that Ford believes prospective buyers are independent – proud of owning a Flex, but maybe not so hot to advertise their domestic SUV. The classic blue oval badge is nowhere to be found on the vehicle, with “Flex” spread across the grill in wide letters.
It’s not the first time Ford separated one of its makes from the family. You’ve heard of that obscure sports car, the Mustang? It’s galloping horse logo is iconic, but Ford doesn’t advertise its company name anywhere on the car.
Aside from this stroke of independence, the new Flex builds on its predecessor’s easily identifiable lines – firm angles reminiscent of a classic Land Rover and reduced height that barely qualifies as SUV altitude.
The Flex’s former base 3.5 liter, V6 engine has evolved with twin independent variable cam timing for 2013, increasing engine capacity by 20% to 285 bhp.
Once these accessible Ford models were out in the open, all that remained for Ford to reveal was the 2013 Mustang. That redesign is not a concept, but a lock for production and the auto industry waits to see if Ford can back up its promise of producing an affordable super car.
Photo credit – John Scott Lewinski & Ford