Describing the Ford Motor Company as a fixture of the American automotive scene would be an understatement. Ford essentially invented the mass-produced automobile with the world’s first moving assembly line. One of America’s greatest automotive icons, the Mustang, is a Ford. America’s perennial best-selling vehicle for nearly 40 years running, the F-150 pickup, is a Ford. American engines have powered 13 Formula 1 championships and six outright wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race… and all of them were Fords.
The American automotive industry is currently undergoing massive changes — and so, consequently, is the Ford Motor Company. It is reorienting toward a future as a multifaceted mobility and tech firm, yet in the here and now, the Blue Oval has shorn its model tree of nearly everything but trucks and SUVs in search of present-day profitability.
So if you’re shopping for one today, what’s the best Ford vehicle to buy? It depends on what you’re looking for…and maybe whether you’re willing to wait for the Mustang Mach-E or the new Bronco. Here’s a quick, helpful guide to help you figure out what you need.
Want the best performance value? Get a Mustang GT
You can find greater precision and refinement in a sports car than the Ford Mustang has to offer, but the car has made major strides in recent years — so it’s nearly impossible to beat the Mustang GT as a value proposition. Ford will give you a 460-horsepower V8 and a six-speed manual transmission with which to wield it for less than $40,000. (Those with some extra cash to spend may wish to level up to the Bullitt edition, however.)
Want something fuel-efficient? Get a 2020 Fusion Plug-In Hybrid
The Ford Fusion sedan is soon to die, but it’s still available for the 2020 model year. The plug-in hybrid variant is currently Ford’s most fuel-efficient vehicle. It earns 42 mpg combined in city and highway driving, and also offers 26 miles of electric-only range in EV mode.
Want a family hauler? Get a Ford Expedition
The Ford Expedition is enormous, but it’s far from ogreish on the road. The latest generation lost weight, thanks to an aluminum body. It makes 375 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, routed through an excellent 10-speed transmission. It has a very usable third row of seats, can be outfitted to tow more than 9,000 pounds, yet can accelerate from 0-60 mph in the low six-second range. Fuel economy — about 20 mpg combined — is quite reasonable for a vehicle this size, as well.
Want the best all-around vehicle? Get a Ford F-150
The Ford F-150 is America’s best-selling vehicle by a wide margin. The reason for that: Ford offers proven quality, whether you’re buying a $30,000 work truck or a $70,000 luxury ride. Ford dragged the full-sized truck market into the 21st Century with the current-gen F-150, with its lighter aluminum-based construction and turbocharged V6s in place of V8s. Even bigger changes should be in store for 2021.
Want the best all-around vehicle under $30,000? Get a Ford Ranger
Ford brought the mid-cycle Ranger back to the U.S. for the 2019 model year. Some may be upset the Ranger Raptor did not come with it, or that there is no V6 option. But the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder and 10-speed transmission deliver a solid, capable truck, with 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Ford has been steadily adding off-road options to compete with the rest of the midsize segment.
Want to drive on a track? Get a Shelby GT500
Ford built the Shelby GT500 to embarrass supercars that cost three times the price. Mission accomplished. It’s the 760-hp monster you expect in a straight line, reaching 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and traveling a quarter-mile in 10.7 seconds. But besides being faster than its predecessor, it’s also refined and well-balanced in the corners. No manual transmission is available, but the modern tech makes it significantly easier to drive.
Want to (pretend to) run the Baja 1000? Get an F-150 Raptor
The F-150 Raptor is Ford’s off-road performance beast. Its 3.5-liter V6 puts out 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in a little more than five seconds. The Raptor gets Ford’s best off-road tech, Fox Racing shocks, and a special long-travel suspension. Sure, it’s freaking enormous, and complete overkill for the off-roading most people do. But being complete overkill is why it’s so popular.
Fine, you just want a crossover? Get a Ford Escape
The Ford Escape is all-new for 2020. Running on the Focus platform, it’s the de facto replacement for most of the Ford car lineup. There are four different engine options. You can equip a fairly decent one for around $30,000, making the Escape a competitive option in the compact SUV segment. It’s not exciting, but it’ll do what you need it to do.