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Breathless in Bohol

In searing sun, in pouring rain, Ford Focus is a driver’s delight

By: Jason K. Ang, June 18th, 2013 10:07 PM

THE CHOCOLATE Hills are alive with the sight of a fast Focus.

The last gasp is often the sweetest.

As the summer season drew to a close, with ominous rainclouds on the horizon, we got a final full dose of sun, sand and steering wheel amid the beautiful sights of Bohol. Our vehicles for the weekend: the stimulating Ford Focus, in sedan and hatchback guise, with 1.6 or 2.0 gasoline engines. As we exited the small and efficient Tagbilaran airport, they were lined up, ready to traverse the island with gusto. The Focus looks eager to get moving, with its dynamic lines looking good on the sedan, and exceptional on the hatchback.

Out of a fishbowl, we drew the key to a 1.6-liter sedan. Its 373-liter trunk would have made quick work of swallowing several full-sized suitcases, never mind our cabin-sized luggage. Settling into the passenger seat, we drove the short distance from the airport to the newly-opened Ford Bohol.

UNDER the canopy of the Mayacabac manmade forest: Focus and friends

The gleaming dealership had just been constructed following the new Ford retail branding first seen last year. The Bohol dealership embodies the brand’s strengths: quality, green, safe and smart. Under managing director Kris Lyndon Go, the new dealership spearheads Ford’s expansion in Bohol and in the region.

Next stop was the bank of the Loboc River, where we boarded a cruise boat. Loboc River is reputed to be the cleanest  in the Philippines. Indeed, the breeze coming from the river was refreshing, and cool, thanks to a gentle rain that quickly became a downpour. The water reportedly would have been clear to the bottom, if not for the sediment caused by the rain. Instead, the river was a vibrant green. Lights were mounted on the river bank, to be activated during nighttime cruises.

Back in the Focus, it was now my turn to be in the driver’s seat. As expected, the Focus cockpit is easy to get comfortable in, with a supportive seat, and tilt-telescopic steering wheel. Gauges and steering wheel have a distinctive design, with organic-looking shapes enhanced by blue backlighting. The available Ford Sync system makes control of secondary features such as audio and Bluetooth telephone easy and intuitive, via voice command.

FORD Focus’ sophisticated suspension makes easy work of Bohol’s twisty roads.

Enough power

The 1.6-liter engine produces 125 ps (123.29 horsepower) and 159 Newton-meter, enough to keep the Focus within the fast-moving convoy with a little urging from our right foot. The six-speed dual-clutch Power Shift transmission offers seamless shifts once the car gets moving from standstill, with no interruption in the power delivery.

With the roads still slick from the downpour, the Focus felt confident in treacherous conditions. The 2-liter variants offer electric power steering that feels precise, with the Focus’ trademark Control Blade multilink rear suspension. The top hatchback variant features a sport setup that offers even better control. To help keep the car pointed where the driver intends, Focus has torque vectoring, which can selectively brake the inside wheel to deliver more torque to the outside wheel, which has more traction.

THE FORD Focus fleet crosses the bridge from Bohol to Panglao island.

Naturally, we had to see two of the island’s world famous sights, the palm-sized tarsier, and the Chocolate Hills, which really do look good enough to eat. As the tarsier is known to survive only in its natural habitat, we viewed them at the edge of a forest. The carnivorous animal’s huge eyes and “Exorcist” neck-twisting ability have to be seen. Just outside of the tarsier habitat is the striking man-made Mayacabac forest. The thousands of towering mahogany trees form a lush green canopy stretching high above the road.

Also interesting was the Hinagdanan cave, a natural cavern with a lagoon. Stalactites and stalagmites combine with the sunlight filtering in through the cave’s roof to make an eerily serene setting. The cave was reportedly used by local residents as a hiding place during World War II.

Switching to a 2-liter sedan, we immediately appreciated the power of the gasoline direct-injection four-cylinder. Horses get bumped up to 170 ps (167.67 HP) and torque to 202 Nm. The Powershift dual-clutch makes the most of each, with quick, nearly imperceptible shifts.

With all of our driving done in the relatively uncluttered countryside, we were unable to try out one of the Focus’ electronic wizards, the self-steering parallel parking.

The Focus is a naturally fast car, and we relished its handling on the tight switchback roads that were prevalent on the island. One advantage of the Focus is that its razor-sharp handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. The ride is supple, with rough roads being filtered out quite efficiently. The highly-rigid body, reinforced with high-strength steel, is an excellent platform for the sophisticated suspension.

The soothing pools and rooms of Bluewater Panglao beckoned. A kayak race would be awaiting us the next morning. But for that moment, we were content to catch our breath. Knowing that we would have some seat time with the Focus the following day made sure that our pulse rate stayed just a little bit quicker.

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