Heavily modified, turbo-charged, and badged, my image of Ford Focus will always be the tough RS (Rallye Sport) WRC (World Rally Championship) edition which debuted in Monte Carlo Rally in 1999, a year after the road version first rolled out of the factory.
The machine, barreling through dust and mud and the kitchen sink with its 4-wheel drive on a 300 horsepower pull courtesy of a Ford 1998cc Pipo built l4 Duratec WRC engine, is just a picture of pure power and calculated carelessness.
It was my ride of choice in the virtual circuit of Colin McRae Rally 2005, a game I played in Nokia’s N-Gage phone console in between deadlines years back. Rightfully, the legendary race rally driver, the late Colin McRae (who lent his name to the game), steered Ford Focus in nine out of 44 top finishes from 1999 to 2010.
So imagine my geek’s giddiness to learn that my first (virginal) motoring assignment is to drive the all-new Ford Focus from Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City to the beach of Laiya, San Juan, Batangas last week.
Previously, the Ford Focus proved itself a frontrunner in fuel economy in the Philippines after traveling more than 900 kilometres on a single tank of fuel from Manila to Pangasinan City
last November 9.
The 2.0L Focus Titanium+ averaging an exceptional 19.89 km/liter while 1.6L Ford Focus Trend sedan posted 19.07 km/liter.
Witnessed by representatives from the Department of Energy, the tests involved the two vehicles, each commandeered by two Ford participants, a driver and a navigator.
Prior to the drive, the vehicles’ lift gate and fuel lid were checked and officially sealed. The cars were also set to normal driving conditions, wherein windows were closed at all times and the air conditioner was set and secured at speed “1” for the entire duration of the drive.
It was reported that the run posted average speeds between 60 and 80 kph depending on traffic conditions.
Heart of the matter
The heart of this feat is the completely new Duratec 2.0L Ti-VCT GDi engine that combines high-pressure gasoline direct injection (GDi) and twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) for enhanced performance and fuel efficiency.
Delivering 167.67 horsepower and 202 Nm of torque, the engine yields almost 20 percent more power than the previous 2.0L Focus, while delivering a significant improvement in fuel economy.
This 2.0L 4-cylinder engine comes with the latest 6-speed Ford PowerShift automatic transmission. A high-efficiency dual dry-clutch design, this advanced transmission is also offered with SelectShift Automatic functionality, allowing drivers to manually control gear selection.
Meanwhile, the 1.6L Duratec Ti-VCT version delivers up to 123.29 horsepower and 159 Nm of torque at outstanding fuel efficiency, which like its sibling comes in 6-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission.
Like the new Ford Escape, the Focus is equipped with an Active Grille Shutter system—which uses vents to automatically control airflow through the grille to the cooling system and engine—to significantly reduce drag and help reduce Focus wind noise at speed while contributing to improved fuel efficiency.
Focus also comes with EcoMode, a handy software application aimed at helping coach customers in the art of eco-driving—and then rewards those that practice more fuel-efficient driving skills with in-car kudos displayed on the instrument cluster. It’s like having the Kit from the famous TV series “Knight Rider” but with Dr. Phil’s persona and charisma on board,
To validate the numbers, Ford Philippines invited eight motoring journalists to participate in the 173-kilometer All-New Focus Fuel Economy Fun Run last November 13.
Four Ford Focus variants—two 2.0L sedans, a 1.6L sedan and a 1.6L hatchback—were raffled among us and by sheer luck, I got paired with Nic Calanoc, a cheery chap from C! Magazine, and we got the hatch.
After a brief introduction and small talks, Nic declared that we are not gunning for the leaderboard and the top prize—gift certificates to a plush buffet restaurant of some deluxe hotel.
“You should enjoy the car,” Nic said. “It’s your first motoring assignment and there’s no way for us to beat the 2.0L in highway driving.”
He’s probably right. Given the same textbook factors—wind, drag, incline, wear, driver’s skills (maintaining 2,000 rpm between 60 to 80 kph, coasting in neutral—oops, Ford cautioned us against the last), the 2.0L exerts less power, less fuel to maintain such speed.
And who was I to question his experience? Nic claimed they test-drive every featured vehicle in their publication for no less than 300 km. They also do Swiss flips, which involved rapidly swerving to opposite direction, leaving long, nasty, curvy tire marks on the concrete (he demonstrated it during our stopover in Batangas Port).
Focus on features
When I scooted into the driver’s seat, everything felt just right like my dream Focus ride should be—though of course, my benchmark was hours and hours of vicarious ride in N-Gage. The seat adjustments—rake, height, distance and recline—took a bit of practice to do, coming from my daily drive of an automatic Picanto.
The Focus also has two extra buttons just below the lock release on the shift lever for the SelectShift Automatic, enabling drivers to manually control gear selection when needed.
The highlight of the Focus driving experience remains the proprietary Ford SYNC, the stylish central console that dominates the dashboard. It allows driver and even passengers hands-free, voice-activated in-car connectivity by connecting any mobile phone or digital media player to the car Bluetooth and USB connection respectively. Settings are displayed in rectangle colored LCD display, slightly bigger than your wallet-size picture, reminiscent of, yes, Kit’s but decades apart.
The driver is able to make calls or play his or her favorite music via voice commands and a steering wheel-mounted control, all the time with eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Beat that Michael Knight.
We got a taste of this sweet tech when Mother Ship (a.k.a. Ford Philippines’ organizing committee) phoned in a trivia question through a smartphone they provided, together with a CB radio, toll fees organized in small Manila envelopes, a bag full of chips, cookies and drinks.
Amid all these thoughtful provisions bordering on pleasurable obsessive-compulsiveness, I asked Nic a very noob question: Are all fuel-economy fun runs like this?!
He said “nope,” adding that this one by Ford is probably the most organized he has attended recently. The last one he went to, organized by a Japanese carmaker, all the fleet—participants and organizers—had to wait for two hours, hungry and cranky, for two vehicles who got lost after a pee break.
Nic said this could have been averted if the organizer practiced the Lead Car, Sweep Car setup which can assure that no one is left behind. Periodic location checks and hazard warnings over the radio also help, and more importantly the (free) mobile smart phone access, which can also do wonders updating Facebook and Twitter statuses.
Then there’s the one, organized by a Chinese carmaker, which did not really take off at all since the service cars allegedly broke down completely near the showroom in Laguna.
Drum rolls, result
Car No. 3, a 2.0L sedan, composed of Top Gear’s Mikko David and Men’s Health Peejo Pilar, won the run with a fuel efficiency of 21.995 km/liter, followed by Car No. 1 (and you’ve
guessed it, the other 2.0) made up of Power Wheel’s Ira Panganiban and Manila Bulletin’s Iñigo Roces at 21.332 km/liter. Car No. 4, the 1.6L sedan by Carguide.ph’s Ulysses Ang and Philippine Star’s Manny Delos Reyes posted 17.556 km/liter for third place.
Nic and I were way down at 14.201 km/liter but the ironic thing was that we had a blast. We took the Focus for a countryside spin, ran it at the fastest speed (100 kph) within the lead car’s limit, did a little drifting, idled for 20 minutes, and still posted a fuel efficiency way beyond our expectations of eight to 10 km/liter.
We were so good in doing bad that we felt we were doing Ford a favor by providing real-world driving scenarios. We were the antiheroes, the scumbags, the morons, the equalizers, the ass.
And at the end of the day, if you average the results of this eco run, you will arrive at 18.771 km/liter, not too far from 19.89 km/liter posted last November 9. The difference: We just had more fun.
PHOTOS BY WALTER C. VILLA