By Jim Kerr

There isn’t much in the automotive field that hasn’t been tried before. Front-wheel drive was used decades before it became popular in the 1980’s. CVT transmissions go back to the earliest days of automotive design. Sometimes however, there are some new ideas that come along that are innovative and creative. For 2008, Ford has introduced some new features that are practical and useful.

Ever lost a gas cap? Perhaps you have had the Check Engine light turn on because the gas cap was left loose. You won’t have those problems if you are driving a 2008 Ford Explorer. This is one of the first vehicles to incorporate a capless fuel filler. Simple to use, you only have to lift the gas door and push the pump nozzle into the filler neck. A spring-loaded flap pushes down and you are ready to fuel. No more gas caps to lose or rub against the paint on the fender. Another advantage is this system reduces evaporative emissions into the atmosphere. These types of systems have been used in racing and mid air fueling of aircraft, but this new simple design will likely make its way into many new vehicles.

Transporting various loads securely in a pickup truck in now easier with Ford’s F150 Cargo Management System. Dual-level rails are a factory installed option in the pickup box and a variety of adapters make it possible to conveniently haul many different items. One of the crossbar options has a plastic panel below it that separates the truck box front to rear. Slide the crossbar ahead to create a smaller area at the front and you can load many small loose objects and still have a longer load at the rear extending over the open tailgate. Additional crossbars can be fitted to the higher side rail so that they can slide over the bottom rail, for two-level loads, or there are even plastic storage boxes that clip into the rails for carrying small tools or ice and sodas. A strong handle on the storage boxes top permits carrying them while loaded. This looks like one of the most versatile rail systems to use, thanks to the dual level capability that allows one crossbar to slide beneath another.

Ever back up to hook on to a trailer? Several times? The rear-view camera system available on the 2008 Super Duty, F150, Expedition, Lincoln Mark LT and Navigator will make hooking up a breeze. Rear-view camera systems are not new, but there are a couple features on this system that are innovative. First of all, the display is located in the inside rear view mirror. It is natural to check the mirrors when backing up, and now the camera display is located in a convenient location. Shift to reverse and the display appears. Shift out of reverse and the mirror looks like any other mirror, with no hint of a concealed camera display. A dashed line on the display indicates the centre of the vehicle, so you can line up that trailer hitch accurately, while two outer lines indicate the edges of the vehicle. The outside lines are red at the rear end so you know exactly where the bumper of the vehicle is. The safety of being able to see directly behind the vehicle is another obvious advantage of any rear view mirror system.

Ambient interior lighting may not be a critical feature, but the ability to light up the footwells and cupholders in seven different colours will definitely personalize your vehicle. Available on the 2008 Focus, Mustang and Fusion, the system uses three different colour LEDs in variable intensity to produce seven colours. You can choose red, orange, blue, indigo, violet, green or yellow to match your vehicle, or change them with the push of a couple buttons to match your mood: innovative and fun!

The tailgate step on Ford’s SuperDuty series trucks is one of those features that you think should have been incorporated decades ago. To use it, lower the tailgate, pull the step out of the edge of the tailgate and drop it down. A pole raises automatically out of the tailgate to provide a handle as you step up. The step can support 350 pounds and makes climbing into the box of the truck so simple you won’t believe no one has had one before. Practical and simple, the tailgate step is one of many innovative features from Ford on the 2008 models.

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