Press Preview: Ford EcoBoost Challenge Event in Scottsdale, Arizona

Odometer (Legend):  533,309


Odometer (ILX):  124,160



There’s nothing like the smell of burning rubber on a Friday morning to get your day started.  I fully enjoyed ripping through the gears in a couple of the auto industry’s favorite “hot hatch” cars on a closed course last week

Ford rolled out the blue carpet for us at a media-only event on Friday as part of its 17-city “EcoBoost Challenge” tour.  I attended along with about 20 other members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA).  The venue was WestWorld, on the north end of town in Scottsdale.  It’s the same location where the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction takes place every January.  Some Ford folks kicked off the day with a little background on Ford’s current product lineup and the layout of the event.  Brandt Coultas from the Dearborn, Michigan plant was in attendance.  I’d already met him previously at a Ford F-150 preview event about a year ago.


Since 2009, Ford’s EcoBoost lineup of engines have made a name for themselves for being powerful yet fuel efficient.  They are all characterized by being turbocharged and utilizing direct injection.  More from Wiki:

Engines equipped with EcoBoost technology are designed to deliver power and torque consistent with those of larger engine displacement while achieving approximately 20% better fuel efficiency and 15% reduced green house emissions than these same engines.

As a matter of fact, when Ford’s representative Tania started talking about the available Mustang powertrains, she ranked the 4-cylinder EcoBoost as a higher performance car than the V6 model.  See how the power compares across the three available motors?

  • EcoBoost 4 cylinder:  310 horsepower
  • V6:  300 horsepower
  • V8:  435 horsepower

Ford’s Mustang test drive lap was way too short.  Even after having completed it twice in a row, I still had probably only driven the car 1/2 mile.  The “acceleration straightaway” was barely long enough to get me through first gear and starting into second before I had to mash the brakes for the first left corner.  But, that corner was a lot of fun – and so was the slalom section through a couple of cones.  My yellow EcoBoost Mustang 6-speed handled really well.  I also found the power very impressive for a 4 cylinder.


The next event was a “Reaction Time Challenge” on a separate course, equipped with all “ST” models.  I talked awhile back about my first driving experience in a Fiesta ST, which in that case was in a normal, on-road setting instead of a closed track.  Steve Lynch who I recently paired up with for a scenic mountain drive was my nemesis at the start line.  Each of us were equipped with the same vehicle.  The goal here was not to beat any specific lap time but rather to achieve the best reaction time once the light turned green.


We were instructed to rev the tach to 3,000 RPM for take-off, and I followed those instructions to a T.  The Fiesta spun its wheels just momentarily on take-off but got a grip quickly and I was on my way.  Steve and I blasted in parallel through first gear to the red flag at the end of the very short runway, then clamped down on the brakes.  A digital readout displayed our respective reaction times.  My personal best was a .43 and I think Steve was somewhere in the 5’s.  Following that straight section, there was a curvy section lined with orange cones and then another slalom.  The Fiesta is very light on its feet and I had a blast tossing it around.  The surprising part was that the larger Focus ST actually didn’t feel nearly as fun.  Steve and I agreed on that.  Each of us took two laps in each car.

As some of my readers may know, my younger brother Payton is the driver for the H&S Motorsports race team.  I felt so proud of my reaction time that I sent him a text message.  He had to quickly squash my arrogance by telling me he’d achieved a reaction time of .051 in a diesel-powered Ford Lightning pickup truck.  That’s a near-perfect time!  I guess I have some practicing to do before I race against him.


(Random video of my brother kicking butt at some drag races)

Being front-wheel-drive, the Fiestas and Focuses (Foci?) handled vastly differently than the RWD Mustang, but I actually preferred them.  I applaud Ford for continuing to cater to customers who demand “fun” in the car that they drive.  I also appreciate that Ford continues offering a stick shift so readily in so much of its lineup.  One of the events at the track day was “Shift Phobia” where first-timers and new drivers could give stick-shifting a try who hadn’t done it before.

It was a great day on the track with Ford, and I definitely gained a greater appreciation for the capability of the EcoBoost lineup of engines.  Ford says that over 4 million EcoBoost-powered vehicles have been sold to date, and that number will certainly continue to grow at a rapid pace.  A remarkable 79% of the new aluminum-bodied F-150 models sold in the Phoenix area have been EcoBoost-equipped (the national average is 60%).  Knowing what I know now, I’m not surprised.  It’s a great formula and the proof is in the performance.

Many thanks to Ford for inviting PAPA to participate at the event!


Tania giving us the lay of the land (track)


My 4-cyl Mustang test car


Behind the wheel of a Fiesta ST 6-speed


Having a post-lap recap conversation with Steve


Some of the vehicles awaiting punishment on the Reaction Time Challenge


Focus ST.  I love this color.


Bonus Material:

On Saturday, I took the NSX on a “Supercar Saturday” drive with about 50 other cars.  We did about 200 miles – looping up to Roosevelt Lake and then into Globe for lunch, before heading back to Phoenix.  Here’s some cool drone footage.  See if you can spot my car.



4 Responses to “Press Preview: Ford EcoBoost Challenge Event in Scottsdale, Arizona”

  1. This looks like a lot of fun! I’m a little surprised you preferred the Fiesta and Focus to the Mustang, but then again, others have felt the same way. Ford did a great job with the new Mustang, but it’s still a rather long, heavy car. That’s not fun in the corners, or in urban traffic and parking situations. Have a good week!

    • Thanks Brad. Yeah for some reason I just felt more comfortable in the FWD cars rather than the Mustang. I think visibility was a lot better.

  2. interesting to hear your take on the new Fords. Hopefully soon you’ll get an invite to track test some muscle cars!!

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