Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Ford of Kirkland Test Drive Event

It was a definite sign of the times over the weekend when I accidentally handed my passport to a Ford of Kirkland salesman in place of a valid driver’s license and was still allowed to test drive not four, but five of their vehicles. * 

Luckily, the dealership was sponsoring a test drive event for charity at a local high school. Anybody 18 years of age or older with proper documentation and a general air of competence was encouraged to take multiple spins in nearly a dozen fresh off the lot blue ovals. Also, there were free bagels and popsicles. 

First up:

FORD FUSION (2.5L Inline 4)

The first thing that struck me about this car was the bumper. Momentarily blinded by the sun's reflection off the handsomely crafted hood, I smashed my shin Nancy Kerrigan hard against the front of the car as Ford’s salesperson/human lo-jack device was handing me the keys. 

He paused, most likely considering whether the passport fandango that had occurred several moments earlier combined with my apparent inability to notice where the car began and ended might be an indication that I intended to navigate the Fusion solely by the vocal cues of the GPS and the taps of a cane out the window. 

But no, the drive went without incident and the Fusion proved to be about what you would expect from an economy sedan. That is to say, it drove like a big Focus. 

Likes: 27/34 mpg, starts at under 20k and doesn’t look like an economy sedan.

Dislikes: Definitely drives like an economy sedan. 


If there were one car at the event I could take home, this would be it. Ford’s self-proclaimed, “most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet” shocked me because it was actually fun to drive. Not just because it wasn’t gutless, or that it was supremely satisfying to drive about town getting thirty-four miles to the gallon in a small SUV, but because it had that special somethin’ that the Fusion didn’t: Charisma. 

Try it, you might like it. 

Likes: 10-year warranty on the batteries + Fun Factor 

Dislikes: Starts at $29,645. 


Ford of Kirkland thought it would be a good idea to throw a massively lifted F-350 Power Stroke Diesel into a mix of cars that were supposed to represent Ford’s new progressive lineup. Bringing the gargantuan diesel pickup along was like arriving at fat camp in an ice cream truck, but the crowd loved it and there was a twenty-minute line to take it for a drive around the block. 

Once my turn came, the true size of the 350 came into focus as I approached the cab. I’m 6 feet tall, and the top of the hood was a good six inches above my head. 

Fun? Yes. Practical? 

Yes, according to the ride-along that accompanied me on my monster excursion through the stratosphere. Sitting at roughly nine feet above the pavement as we rumbled along a 35mph stretch of road, I asked him jokingly what kind of mileage the beast was getting at the moment. 

“Good,” he retorted, “not bad, because it’s a diesel, diesels usually get better mileage than the gas powered cars.”

I let an awkward pause unfold as the sound of the whistling turbo charger and howl of the off-road tires hinted that my intelligence had just been insulted. 

“Well,” I asked, “Is there a way to check our mileage on the computer system?” 

Sure enough the command center screen had a function for that. 

8.6 mpg.

I pinned the accelerator to the floor to see what that kind of compensation there might be for such a gruesome figure. The turbo charger wound up, the transmission down shifted and a wonderful surge of torque thrust the Detroit dinosaur out of the hole and across half a lane of traffic. 

No matter. Several ant-like compacts darted out of the way as if it were old hat for them to be chased off the road by a teetering mass of noise and blinding chrome accents. 

We each knew our place. 

Likes: Completely ridiculous.

Dislikes: Could have been more ridiculous (Semi Stack Dual Exhaust?)


Ford’s Platinum package for the F-150 is mostly about an ultra-posh interior upgrade and noise dampening. For some reason the sales people let me take the luxury pickup out on my own to see just how quiet it could be. 

I nearly lost my mind; it was eerie quiet. 

Likes: It is quite luxurious.

Dislikes: Not sure if a Platinum package for an F-150 makes sense. Recording studio acoustics are weird and uncomfortable. 


For the grand finale, I got to take a spin in the Flex. You know, Ford’s crossover station wagon type of thing? It’s cool, it’s fun, it works. 

262hp gives it some respectable scoot and 17/24mpg isn’t bad either, considering the interior is lined with several rows of captain’s chairs that resemble first class seating in an airplane. With up to four optional sunroofs, it's easy to add to the atmosphere. 

For all the family guys out there this could be the best alternative to the dreaded minivan since the dreaded station wagon because the Flex really doesn’t fall into any sort of “whipped” category. Like the Escape, it’s fun to drive. Unfortunately, also like the Escape, it’s pricey. 

Likes: Anything but boring and decent mileage. Will haul people/cargo in style. 

Dislikes: Starts at $28,550, might be more car than most people would need.

*It should be noted that after sharing a chuckle over the passport, Ford of Kirkland did in fact check my driver's license. They're good people. 



The latest news, reviews and commentary about cars, trucks, and more, automotive technology and car culture