Monday, June 10, 2013

End of Summer: The Ford Focus Summer Fun Drive in Bohol

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Summer, with its highly predictable weather, is always the best time for a road trip with friends. And all it takes for the perfect getaway is two key ingredients: a great destination and an equally great car to match. Once these ingredients blend together, you’ve got a recipe for fun, “Summer Fun” to be exact. Just a couple of days ago, Ford flew a bunch of summer-wary motoring journalists down to Bohol to get their final dose of the summer sun.

As soon as the group touched down at the Tagbilaran Airport, a draw lots system determined both car assignments and driver-navigator pairings. Whatever the luck of the draw, each team would be driving the new Ford Focus—the smartest compact car in the market today. For the Ford Focus Summer Fun Drive, six Focus models were made available, representing key variants from the 1.6 Trend sedan to the 2.0 Sport+ hatchback. Stephanie Asi of Top Gear Philippines and yours truly composed Team 2.0 Sport+. As everyone settled in, a crackle from the two-way radio revealed the convoy’s first destination: Ford Bohol.

Just a short fifteen minute drive from the airport, the group arrived at one of the newest dealerships in the Ford Philippines network. Ford Bohol may be modestly sized compared to dealers in Metro Manila, but it carries the unique Brand@Retail II concept on its sleeve. It showed in the use of Ford’s signature bold blue color motif on the showroom walls as well as the general feeling of airiness and space. Ford Bohol’s officers led by dealer principal Brian Chua welcomed the group and he revealed that the dealership is still in “soft opening” with a grand opening slated sometime in July. After the introductions, Ford Philippines’s AVP for Communications Anika Salceda-Wycoco welcomed the group and revealed that the objective of this drive is purely to have fun: no fuel economy runs, no Facebook ‘like’ contests, no photo competitions. And with that, it was time to saddle up.

From Ford Bohol, it was another short drive to the group’s first destination: lunch! It’s served with a twist though—on-board a river cruise on the Loboc River. The Loboc River Cruise is perhaps a bit too touristy, but it’s a must-do for Bohol first-timers. The river itself is touted as one of the cleanest in the Philippines and together with the scrumptious buffet of local delicacies, it made for a unique experience which the strong afternoon rain failed to dampen. After lunch, it was time for a driver change and some time to get re-acquainted with the Focus.

In the most important seat in the car, it’s clear that the Ford Focus is designed with the enthusiast driver in mind. The seats are extremely supportive with great bolstering and hip support. And with an adjustable lumbar, it makes for a comfortable driving experience. Aside from the seats, the Focus also offers nice and highly legible instrumentation with a full-color LCD screen nestled between the tachometer and speedometer. The three-spoke steering wheel offers tilt/telescopic adjustment and its full range of steering wheel controls as well as Ford SYNC lessens driver distractions from fiddling with controls too much.

The third stop was at the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary—one of the few places where you can view the world’s second smallest primate up close. After filing up SD cards with photos of the cute critters, it was time to head over to Bohol’s most recognizable tourist attraction: Chocolate Hills. Made of limestone, these hills turn brown during the dry summer months, hence the name. In route to the Chocolate Hills, the convoy first drove through the Mayacabac Man-Made Forest for a quick group photo. From there, on the twisty mountain roads, the Focus showed off its handling prowess with its highly rigid body, four-wheel independent suspension, and Torque Vectoring Control. Combined with a 170 horsepower 2.0-liter motor and Power Shift dual clutch transmission, it made short work of anything the road network threw at it from newly paved highways to rough gravel-like patches. It was a smooth and confident performer all day long. The Chocolate Hills stop was just for another photo op, but the 214 steps up the observation deck made for some good exercise (just ask Ardie Lopez of C! Magazine).

The final stop of the day was the Hinagdanan Cave, a cave located on Panglao Island known for its natural lighted cavern, deep lagoon (swimming not advised), and many large stalactites and stalagmites. The cave itself isn’t too big—just 100 meters long, but is filled with many beautiful rock formations. It made for a nice photography subject if only your camera can handle the relative low light surroundings and constant lens fog-ups. And after a long day’s drive, it was finally time to check in at the Blue Water Panglao Resort for some much needed R&R.

With strong, intermittent rains dispersed throughout the day of the event, it’s quite clear that the Ford Focus Summer Fun Drive capped off an amazing summer for those in the motoring beat. Though the trip itself was quite short, it was a truly fun-filled and memorable experience with interesting sights and sounds—quite like the cars the group drove in. Summer is officially over, but with cars such as the Ford Focus, the fun continues whatever the weather, whatever the destination. Indeed, this is one car that’s designed to go further.

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