“Welcome, would you like a cocktail?” There’s a Best Western on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Across the street at the Andaz Hotel, attractive young hostess greet prestigious members of the automotive press in the lobby with vodka drinks, prepared with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.
An hour before flight 237 departed from SeaTac Airport at 7:10 am, the Travel Security Administration greeted me with the notification that I’d need to dispose of two eight-ounce cans of Red Bull before passing through their terrible carnival of mistrust.
Sixteen ounces of crazy later, I exposed myself to a stranger in an x-ray machine and sat sweating conspicuously at the flight gate.
Peanuts, bathroom, peanuts, bathroom and we were at LAX. A Ford Flex hurried me to a catered lunch close by. At the front entryway, I signed a waiver, was given a nametag and an I-Pod touch.
“It’ll come in handy later on,” Ford said.
There was just enough time to savor a second pulled-pork slider with chipotle mayonnaise before one of Ford’s lovely communication ladies asked the press people to board a massive touring bus parked outside. Onboard the monster people mover monitors dropped down from the overhead compartments as we lumbered from the luncheon parking lot.
Ford’s tour guide stood up and braced himself on the back of the driver’s seat. He asked we turn on our I-Pods and pay close attention to the interactive video on the LCD screens; the special film contained important information on the new Focus that wasn’t to be missed. Furthermore, we were going to be quizzed on the information as we traveled. Whichever passenger logged the most correct answers into their I-Pod during the trip was promised a massive Internet television conceived by Google (the first of its kind).
Our video host was an American Olympic gold medalist skier. Twenty peppy minutes later the entire bus was educated on torque vectoring, kinetic design form language and a number of other key points that would enrich our media coverage of the event. Around this time we arrived at a glistening stretch of parking lot that ran along the pacific coastline. Several dozen 2012 Ford Focuses were parked smartly in a uniform row with their rear bumpers to the ocean.
(See video in new videos)
I was filled with emotions. But why? This mini fleet of Focuses was positioned to go head to head with the likes of Toyota Corolla, a car that conjured up unfortunate personal memories of several regrettable ex-girlfriends. Could the new Focus really be much different?
As my eyes adjusted to the near blinding sun, I noticed that at the front of the Focus, where the old nose used to be, a predominant intake grill now dominated the front end of the car; it looked hungry. A double take and several clarifying twitches of my lazy eye brought me to the realization that this was the very same style of grill that could be found rolling around on the new Fiesta.
Intrigued, I consulted my press release to see if the black beehive was for show or go:
“The all-new Focus features new active grille shutters to block airflow through the cooling system when not required. In addition to an aerodynamic improvement at higher speeds, active grille shutters reduce underhood temperatures at low speeds, increasing thermal efficiency.”
Beyond the grill, the rest of the Focus appeared to have shed any resemblance to an “economy” car, as if the word was synonymous with “boring.” Once again I consulted the trusty release to explain what had happen to the Focus of yore:
“Both new Focus bodystyles share a sporty character, marking the next evolution of Ford’s acclaimed kinetic design form language. With its striking front end, sleek profile, dramatic rising beltline and athletic stance, the new Focus offers a rewarding experience for drivers.”
She looked good, but I had reservations as to whether the driving experience would be rewarding or merely induce flashbacks of puttering to a dog-park in a Corolla with a yappy lap dog tethered to an armrest in the back seat.
Ford seemed confident a good time would be had by all: Our driving instructions had us mapped out on a 120 mile round trip through the winding turns of Mulholland Drive and a slew of other infamously enjoyable roads that cut into the hills and valleys of the region.
The phrase “drive it like it’s not yours” couldn’t be questioned in a situation like this.
Stay Tuned (Video included)
Note from the Author:
Due to my pesky day job, I was unable to finish a series of blogs on “MotorSpaceNW’s Holiday Trip to Fordneyland.” The two cars that I was given a sneak peak to, but was unable to detail as promised were the 2012 Ford Focus all electric model and a concept called the Vertrek – Sorry for the delay. Below are links to articles on both new vehicles from Jalopnik and Motor Trend:
Focus Electric Will Kick The Chevy Volt’s Ass (http://tinyurl.com/4qqv4hs)
First Look: Ford Vertrek Concept (http://tinyurl.com/4vhb8v2)
Follow team Seattle as they compete in Focus Rally America here:
And on Hulu.