The Escort was top three best selling car in America during its entire lifespan, they served their purpose well and if it wasn't for the valve eating 1.9 their reputation would be better. The Tempo was way ahead of its time in 1984, but like everything Ford had in the 80s, it was long in the tooth by 1994 when they got rid of it. The AWD Tempos were really pretty technologically advanced. The Taurus and Sable looked like nothing else on the road. The Probe handled better than damn near any other front wheel drive car short of the 4WS Prelude, it just wasn't a Mustang. Ford had the opportunity to take these decent platforms and make them really great but they just let them languish and all of the 80s R&D was for nothing.
The Bronco II was a great truck, my dad put 110,000 trouble free miles on one before trading it in on my F-150. The only reason they were tipsy was because they put P215 tires on the damn thing. After my dad pulled those off and put on 31"s it widened the footprint and was WAY more stable. The tiny tires were a Ford screw up, should have had LT235 tires at least. It would have saved lives.
You're making excuses for them. The problem was the bronco II didn't
have proper tires speced for them. should
have had proper tires, would
have saved lives is meaningless after the fact. Same goes for the Explorer/Firestone debacle. It was a bad design, period.
If you appreciate well engineered cars, you really shouldn't be defending the Escort and Tempo. I grew up with them, hell my dad even had a first gen Escort as a company car for a few years, supplementing his (well engineered)Jetta GLI. The interior quality and materials of the 'scort sucked, everything could easily be pulled clean off by a very young me
, had a dreadful power/per (awful)noise ratio coming from the agricultural 1.9 under the hood, and had awful handling and ride quality. Ford even abandoned the "world car" notion by the gen II and based it atop a Mazda platform it seemed so hopeless. Ford Europe meanwhile actually made it into something respectable, if not downright legendary through its lifespan. Ford America gave us the frog eye EXP....yeah....
Compared to a 80s VW or Honda, the Escort's shortcomings are just amplified. The Tempo experience wasn't much better, they at least (comparably)had some guts in the HSC, even though it was just a 30 year old Falcon 6 with 2 cylinders lopped off(great engineering!). But as you said, it languished too long on that awful stretched Gen I Escort platform and had equally bad quality(yes, personal experience) AWD can't save that fact, especially since nobody wanted it or needed it. I'm not going to look at those piles through bright colored glasses with the memories I and plenty of others have had with them. I remember thinking my Mom's 85 Jetta seemed like a Mercedes Benz compared to the morning carpools to school in the 92ish tempo I rode in every day.
Don't get me wrong, I love the Don Peterson era for Ford. That was a time where many people in the company cared about product and for the first time in decades had aspirations higher than matching GM. But some things slipped through the cracks and those cars were undoubtedly them.