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November 21, 2012

Food, Fun, and the Ford Focus: Two Unique Fuel Eco Runs

Photos by Ulysses Ang and Ford Philippines

Fuel economy runs have become dime-a-dozen for us in the motoring media. Whenever there’s an invite for one of these things, we put on a game face, all for the glory of which team sips the least fuel. The strategies and techniques for becoming the ultimate fuel miser are well-known that there are no “trade secrets” to speak of. In short, give us a list of who’s going on a fuel economy run, and we can tell which team will win even before the start flag’s waved.

Sensing this predictability, Ford Philippines has come up with two unique fuel economy runs designed not just to test the mettle of its newest compact, the Focus, but to bring out hidden talents of some in the motoring press.

The first was entitled, “Ford Cook Off – Battle of the Sexes”. As the name suggests, this isn’t your average fuel economy run. It’s more like 50 percent Amazing Race and 50 percent Master Chef. Divided into teams based on gender, we flagged off from the Enderun Colleges at McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio in search of key ingredients that we’ll use on a mystery dish. Partnered with Christopher Kho of and Peejo Pilar of Men’s Health, we hurried in our red Focus 2.0 Sport+ and made our way to South Supermarket in Alabang. With Christopher behind the wheel, he coaxed the Focus to cruise at 70 km/h mindful of both the imposed two-hour time limit and the PowerShift’s shift point (less than 2,000 rpm). All the while, we set the Focus’s climate control to 27 degrees Celsius turning our car into a mobile sauna.

Upon reaching Alabang, there was a brief moment when our team mistook “Commerce Avenue” and “Corporate Avenue”. We ended up on Alabang-Zapote Road and had to squeeze through a hoard of jeepneys before finding South Supermarket. We collectively breathed a sigh of relief as we brought the necessary ingredients. We then received our next set of instructions through the Focus’s SYNC hands-free system which directed us back to the Shell station northbound on C5 to top up on Fuel Save Unleaded. With our chance of winning on the line, we navigated our way back while keeping our climate control at a not-so comfortable level. The trip was about 16 kilometers long, but considering we consumed less than two liters of fuel made for a mileage that’s close to 10 km/L, enough for the win.

Back at Enderun Colleges, Chef Thomas Wenger gave a short lecture on what we’re supposed to prepare. But after five minutes of seeing him slicing and dicing, he sounded more like the Swedish Chef in The Muppet Show—clearly, cooking isn’t our strong suit. Still, that didn’t prevent us from attempting a ratatouille with Cajun spiced shrimp and tuna. Though our dish looked like a winner, scoring well in presentation, we scored dead last in taste and that dragged our total score down. In the end, we placed third out of four teams with the ladies from Top Gear Philippines scoring the win in this contest.

In the week that followed, Ford embarked on a fuel economy run for the Focus with the Department of Energy (DOE) officially observing. With the fuel tanks filled to the brim, both the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter Focus models shuffled from Balintawak to Pangasinan passing through NLEX, SCTEX, Subic, Clark, and Tarlac. With the air conditioning on at speed ‘1’ for the entire duration and the tire pressure at the recommended 34 PSI, both Focus models logged more than 900 kilometers before the tanks ran dry. After the long journey, the Focus 2.0 Titanium+ averaged an exceptional 19.89 km/L (very close to the 21 km/L set by outgoing TDCi model) while the Focus 1.6 Trend did 19.07 km/L. Ford credits the remarkable economy to the Focus’s myriad of technology including Active Grille Shutter that reduces drag and the PowerShift dual-clutch automatic which is much more efficient than a conventional automatic.

The high levels of fuel efficiency demonstrated by the Focus tickled the imagination of Ford Philippines: can the motoring media beat these already impressive figures? This simple question kicked off the second fuel economy challenge in so many weeks starring Ford’s state-of-the-art compact. Only this time, there was no shopping, no chopping, and certainly no cooking; just a mystery contest that awaited us at the Acuatico Beach Resort in Laiya, San Juan, Batangas.

With just 8 participants split into four cars, this was a more hardcore fuel economy challenge than the previous one. Partnered with Manny Delos Reyes, we carried The Philippine Star banner battling out with fuel economy run veterans from other publications. Picking out the Focus 1.6 Trend, we knew we were at a slight disadvantage given the results of the DOE run a week ago. And so, with a route stretching some 174 kilometers, Manny and I agreed not to take this contest “too seriously” as to adversely affect our enjoyment of the Focus.

With our engines and fuel tanks sealed; our climate control set to ‘2’ and sealed, it was time to flag off. Upon reaching the highway, the Focus’s instantaneous fuel economy readout was our biggest ally. With Manny driving at a steady 70 to 80 km/h, the reading barely budged above 16.66 km/L. Despite not being equipped with cruise control (an advantage of those in the 2.0 models), we kept our speeds as steady as possible while overtaking a competitor or two on the four-lane stretch of SLEX. As we reached the first pit stop of this eco run: the Batangas Port, it was time to do a driver change.

From the Batangas Port, we made our way back to Lipa then to Rosario, and ultimately to San Juan. The two Focus 1.6 cars (the first to flag off from the pit stop) were hampered by a slow moving truck and then by two processions which ate through our stellar fuel economy readings. It dropped down to 15.15 km/L before eventually climbing back up to the final figure of 17.56 km/L. We thought these figures were pretty remarkable considering I managed just 15.65 km/L in purely freeway driving in the US but the eventual winners, Mikko David of Top Gear Philippines and Peejo Pilar shattered all expectations with their winning 21.99 km/L.

At the Acuatico Beach Resort, it was time for the mystery contest. Insteaad of chopping or cooking, it was an obstacle course this time where we had to park the Focus automatically using its Active Park Assist and try out its emergency braking Active City Stop before shooting hoops at predetermined stops on a basketball court. Sounds easy? Not for a bunch of motoring guys who aren’t at home on anything remotely physical. In fact, I was eventually crowned the winner after posting the second fastest time and just one basket. Believe me, we’re that bad.

After these past two weeks, it’s remarkable how Ford Philippines can put a unique twist into a familiar motoring exercise. Although I’ve discovered that I simply don’t have the knack for cooking or Jeremy Lin shooting skills, there’s one thing I did learn: there’s no reason to miss the old Focus TDCI. After putting the all-new Ford Focus to the fuel economy test the past two weeks, they’ve clearly come up with a car that gives you more power, a better drive, and fuel economy that matches a diesel. And that sounds like a winner in my book.

Additional Photos Courtesy: Ford Philippines Facebook

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