Monthly Archives: February 2017

Mustang Performance Packages

Ford’s performance accessory division, Ford Performance, is taking a good thing and making it better. New performance packages boost the power and torque of the 2015-17 Ford Mustang with the EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder and the GT with 5.0-liter V-8 engine. Each package is backed by a Ford Performance warranty when fitted by an authorized installer, plus the performance computer reprogramming is 50-state emissions-compliant.

Related: What’s the Best V-8 Muscle Car for 2016?

The Mustang EcoBoost gets perhaps the most notable increase for the money with its EcoBoost Performance Calibration Kit. For $699, the package includes a cold air intake with conical air filter and handheld programmer to increase horsepower from 310 horsepower to 335 hp, and torque from 320 pounds-feet to 390 pounds-feet. Ford notes bigger gains below its peak number of up to 100 hp at 6,000 rpm.

On the V-8 side, three available packages range from a performance calibration and drop-in air filter to borrowed components from the track-ready Shelby GT350 for increasing power. Beyond bigger numbers, manual-transmission GT Mustangs are calibrated to include a no-lift shift feature that allows drivers to keep the accelerator floored during shifting to maximize acceleration. The automatic transmission also receives updated performance calibration.

The GT’s Performance Calibration Power Pack 1 ($599) includes the performance-tuned calibration and a drop-in K&N performance air filter for gains of 13 hp and 16 pounds-feet of torque with 40 more pounds-feet at 1,500 rpm. The GT Cold Air Intake & Calibration Power Pack 2 is $949 and replaces the drop-in filter with a conical cold-air intake from the GT350, plus a larger 87-mm throttle body. With the included calibration, power is up 21 hp and 24 pounds-feet of torque.

The most-extreme GT package is Performance Intake & Calibration Power Pack 3. For $2,395, the third package adds a GT350 intake manifold to the second power package’s contents and boosts peak power 37 hp and 5 pounds-feet of torque to 472 hp and 405 pounds-feet of torque. Ford Performance says a mighty 60 hp is gained at the now-7,500-rpm redline, up from 7,000 rpm.

Change Engine Coolant Tips

For some vehicles, you’re advised to change the coolant every 30,000 miles. For others, changing the coolant isn’t even on the maintenance schedule.

For example, Hyundai says the coolant (what many refer to as “antifreeze”) in most of its models should be replaced after the first 60,000 miles, then every 30,000 miles after that. The interval is every 30,000 miles on some Mercedes-Benz models, but on others it’s 120,000 miles or 12 years. On still other Mercedes, it’s 150,000 miles or 15 years.


Some manufacturers recommend changing the coolant more often on vehicles subjected to “severe service,” such as frequent towing. The schedule for many Chevrolets, though, is to change it at 150,000 miles regardless of how the vehicle is driven.

Many service shops, though — including some at dealerships that sell cars with “lifetime” coolant — say you should do it more often than the maintenance schedule recommends, such as every 30,000 or 50,000 miles.

Here’s why: Most vehicles use long-life engine coolant (usually a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water) that for several years will provide protection against boiling in hot weather and freezing in cold weather, with little or no maintenance. Modern vehicles also have longer intervals between fluid changes of all types partly because environmental regulators have pressured automakers to reduce the amount of waste fluids that have to be disposed of or recycled.

Coolant can deteriorate over time and should be tested to see if it’s still good, as it can be hard to tell just by appearances. Even if testing shows the cooling and antifreeze protection are still adequate, antifreeze can become more acidic over time and lose its rust-inhibiting properties, causing corrosion.

Corrosion can damage the radiator, water pump, thermostat and other parts of the cooling system, so the coolant in a vehicle with more than about 50,000 miles should be tested periodically. That’s to look for signs of rust and to make sure it has sufficient cooling and boiling protection, even if the cooling system seems to be working properly. It can be checked with test strips that measure acidity, and with a hydrometer that measures freezing and boiling protection.

If the corrosion inhibitors have deteriorated, the coolant should be changed. The cooling system might also need to be flushed to remove contaminants no matter what the maintenance schedule calls for or how many miles are on the odometer. On the other hand, if testing shows the coolant is still doing its job and not allowing corrosion, changing it more often than what the manufacturer recommends could be a waste of money.


Honda Accord V 6 or Four Cylinder

Many mid-size sedans offer a more powerful engine instead of a base, economy-minded four cylinder. In the 2017 Honda Accord, a 278-horsepower V-6 replaces the standard 185-hp four-cylinder. You’re looking at a minimum $30,000 to get a V-6 because that engine is only available on higher-end trims. Is it worth it? We pitted the four-cylinder against the six-cylinder in fuel economy and acceleration tests to find out.

You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the six-cylinder is faster and the four-cylinder is more fuel-efficient. We compared the most-expensive four-cylinder EX-L with navigation and Honda Sensing, which stickered for $31,655, and a V-6 Touring that racked up the bill to $35,665. The big question, of course, is what do you get for the added cost? Much to our surprise, the V-6 proved to be more than just a little faster. Watch the video for more.

The most-extreme GT package is Performance Intake & Calibration Power Pack 3. For $2,395, the third package adds a GT350 intake manifold to the second power package’s contents and boosts peak power 37 hp and 5 pounds-feet of torque to 472 hp and 405 pounds-feet of torque. Ford Performance says a mighty 60 hp is gained at the now-7,500-rpm redline, up from 7,000 rpm.

Premium fuel of 91 octane or above is required on all four-cylinder or V-8 packages. Installing go-fast parts adds an inherent risk to the rest of the vehicle, but that’s less of a concern with the Ford Performance warranty, which covers potential breakage caused by the installed parts for 36 months or 36,000 miles from the original warranty start date. Beyond that, the original powertrain warranty of five years/60,000 miles covers parts not broken because of Ford Performance parts, but anything related to the installed parts isn’t covered. Click here for more details on Ford Performance’s warranty.

Smorgasbord of New Engines

In a move to change how its cars drive, Toyota announced wide-ranging plans to roll out new vehicle platforms and engines over the next five years. The automaker says it will offer its next generation of powertrains in at least 60 percent of the cars it sells in the U.S., Japan, Europe and China by 2021.

Related: GM Expands New Transmission Use for 2018

The automaker said it wants to make its cars “fun to drive” — a seemingly tall order for mainstays like the Corollaand Camry but something Toyota has indeed done with cars like the Scion FR-S-turned-Toyota 86 coupe. The automaker said its next drivetrains will improve performance by about 10 percent and gas mileage by about 20 percent versus the current crop. Across three continents, Toyota plans a massive rollout: 17 versions of nine engines, 10 versions of four transmissions and 10 versions of six hybrid systems by the end of 2021. The first of them arrives in 2017, Toyota said, but it’s unclear how many of those will come to the U.S. market.

Among the highlights:


New Four-Cylinder Engine

What changed: The next generation of Toyota’s larger four-cylinder engine has the same 2.5-liter displacement as the current four-cylinder, but Toyota will add direct injection and promises “ample torque at all speeds” and “one of the world’s best thermal efficiencies” — a technical term to measure how well an engine turns combusted fuel into energy output.

Where you might see it: The Camry and RAV4 both have port-injected 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines; both cars are likely candidates for the next 2.5-liter.

Why it matters: Rival automakers like Honda, Hyundai-Kia and Mazda have switched from port injection to direct injection in their mainstay engines, and the resulting benefits — more precise fuel metering to improve power and fuel efficiency — would be a welcome upgrade for Toyota shoppers.


New Transmissions

What changed: Toyota will develop eight- and 10-speed automatic transmissions with lower-friction components and compact packaging. The automaker promises ultra-quick gear changes with the 10-speed unit, and it separately mentioned a “new kind of continuously variable transmission.”

Where you might see it: The 2017 LC 500 coupe from its Lexus luxury division has a 10-speed automatic that Toyota says is the first of its kind in a luxury car. The automaker hinted that the 10-speed could end up in other rear-drive luxury cars, so it could show up in the next-generation LS or GS sedans.

Why it matters: Toyota already has eight-speed automatics in mainstream cars like the Highlander, but if the automaker replaces its six-speed automatic with the gearbox elsewhere — think Camry, RAV4 and the like — it could drive some mileage improvements. Still, we’ve observed in cars from Jaguar to Toyota that more gears can often hurt drivability, and fuel-efficiency gains can face diminishing returns as gear counts go ever higher. Toyota promises “lag-free and rhythmical acceleration that meets driver expectations, even in cases of sudden and heavy accelerator pedal use,” but the proof will be in the pudding.


Next-Generation Hybrid Systems

What changed: With a lot of pages taken from the fourth-generation Prius’ playbook, Toyota plans an “enhanced” 2.5-liter hybrid system for its mass-market hybrids and an overhauled higher-performance hybrid system for its rear-drive cars. Its plug-in-hybrid system, meanwhile, gets more power and a larger-capacity battery for EV ranges that could top 37 miles — but that’s in Japan test cycles, not U.S. EPA cycles.

Where you might see it: The current Avalon Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid and several Lexus hybrids have 2.5-liter-based systems, while the Lexus GS 450h and LS 600h employ rear-drive-based hybrid systems. Toyota’s overhaul could affect all of them.