Ford “Power of Choice” Event – May 1, 2012

I went to the local “Power of Choice” event put on by Ford. It was a bit of a marketing gig in terms of their current hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric drivetrains, and that caught some of my attention – but I was more interested in what they brought into town for us to drive.

First I drove the new Escape, powered by the 2.0 Litre EcoBoost. That engine, which I already checked out in my Explorer EcoBoost review, has no business being relegated to so few vehicles, and left me duly impressed. It’s competitive on every level. Not to mention the lovely styling, inside and out, of the new Escape. It’s a great package. It drove well, with ample torque and smooth power delivery. Great ride, lively handling for a crossover and well thought-out details and an impressive level of tech throughout – not to mention competitive pricing. The Escape has been a perennial best-seller for Ford, and I can’t imagine they have anything less than a winner on their hands with the new one. Oh, and did I mention best-in-class fuel economy?

It was the second drive that really got me amped up. Because it was something completely different. I got to take a plug-in electric Focus out on the town. There’s something unsettling about a car that simply doesn’t make a sound. Hybrids give you a taste when you turn them on, but eventually you’ve got those reassuring engine noises happening. Not here. This car is silent, except for an electric whine when you really step on it, but you’ve got to be listening very carefully to even hear it. Essentially, the car package is familiar and builds on a very nice car as it is. I spent some time with a Focus and loved it! There are small, subtle differences – a plug-in just ahead of the driver’s door, with a ring that lights when you open the door – to remind you to charge your ride. Efficiency coaching tools available on a dash screen, helping you accelerate, coast and brake as efficiently as possible – IF you want the help.

What surprised me (although it shouldn’t have) is how remarkably unremarkable this car was to drive – it’s just a normal ride. Power delivery was ultra-smooth, and as there isn’t really a gearbox, it just simply builds momentum in a very linear fashion. It’s faster than it seems, because you’re waiting for a rev sound to build to a crescendo, and you’re somewhat disappointed when it doesn’t, but then you look down, and you’ve handily hit 100 km/h. Range, under super ideal circumstances, is 160 km, but you can safely expect 100 km in almost any case. The only thing I didn’t get excited about was the regenerative braking feel, but I’ve gotten used to it from the hybrids I’ve driven. A small price to pay for the equivalent of 100 mpg fuel economy.

I didn’t get to drive it, but they also brought a hand-built pre-production new generation Fusion Hybrid (1 of 7 in existence), and I couldn’t help but be stunned by the looks – again. I love this car’s looks. There’s a whole lotta Aston Martin circa a-few-James-Bond-movies-ago styling in the grille, but it works wonderfully here, and this car will be a hit. It’s a looker.

Oh, and although I didn’t get to drive it either, there was a handsome SHO sitting there, silently confident with 365 HP lurking under the hood. Want. Badly. Funny how I get more and more excited by large, fast sedans as I approach the time in my life where I’ll get back into diapers and have someone feed me again.

There was a presentation too, about Ford’s focus on sustainability and efficiency, and their 30 year plan to reduce their global carbon footprint. If you look past the marketing, there’s actually a company that seems earnest about making a difference, and doing it realistically. Also, there was significant talk about how much carbon is coming out of our tailpipes (his words, not mine) and I couldn’t help but wonder how he knew I had chili for lunch.

Anyway, I came away very impressed with the two vehicles I drove, and even though they were pre-production mules, they were rock solid and a good indicator of what the future will hold when you stroll into your local Ford showroom. Looking forward to it, Ford!

A fun little get-together made even better by seeing familiar faces and meeting new people.

Thanks to Focus Communications, Ford and all the people that were involved putting this event together.