It’s the sunrise at Bondi Beach that blows me away, and not the prospect of seeing topless young ladies sprawled on that pristine strip of sand. First, Sydney in August is way too chilly, and the only people on the beach at the break of dawn are doing aerobic exercises. Second, I probably wouldn’t notice if there was any nudity, anyway. As the sun rises from behind the horizon, the sky explodes in a burst of color. And lined up under the crimson mist is a Ford Focus fleet, ready to be taken on a two-day road trip in and around the coast of New South Wales.
„Eat, Play, Drive Australia” is the name of this event, and unlike the usual ride-and-drive programs that we attend, we can go at our own pace and take in the sights at leisure. No fast convoys and no rushing to get to a destination at a certain time. It’s a format that is right up my alley, especially since I don’t want to be in the same group with rowdy drivers consumed by a need for speed. I’ve been pulled over by police for being mistaken as a speeder in the past, and this scenario is likely when all of you are driving the same model car.
Paranoid about being hauled into jail in a foreign country, I am also glad that we can choose our own routes. All my driving partner and I have to do is select the preset waypoints on the Ford SyncNavigation system and follow the directions. It’s hard to believe that not too long ago, we would have had to rely on a map or pace notes with kilometer readings to get around. Discovering Sydney is sure to be a breeze.
You’re probably expecting a strange twist to happen here, but no, there are no untoward incidents at all.
In fact, the entire drive is sublime. We start in the suburbs and end up by the coast, and after enjoying the view at La Perouse, it’s time to head into the mountains where the road is even more to my liking.
Royal National Park is a forest paradise with smooth asphalt that snakes on forever. This is perfect for the nimble Focus, which has always been a joy to drive when the going gets twisty. It must be the rally-bred genes that are still so evident in the current iteration of the car. I pop it into Manual mode, of course, and hold the gears at high revs through every corner. If you love driving, you will never tire of this.
After some tea by the side of a picturesque lake, followed by a barbecue lunch on Coledale Beach, there’s more great driving to Peppers Manor House, an opulent country home where we are to spend the night. We don’t hit the sack without first testing the hands-free parking feature of the Focus with all the windows blacked out, though. It’s handy, if you choose to use it.
The next day is a drive back to Bondi Beach, with stop overs at the Bendooley Estate,which has an excellent secondhand bookstore; the Burragorang Lookout, which overlooks a massive valley; Cafe 2773, which serves arguably the best burgers in Sydney; andthe Regatta Centerto experience the Focus in a racing environment. An adrenaline-filled wet slalom is the perfect way to cap the two-day driving adventure.
When it comes to cars, the Land Down Under is known for being big on displacement. That series called Formula 1?Just a bunch of silly dinky toys, say the Aussies. The V8 Supercars Championship is the premier racing series here, and where the real action is. It’s an endless battle between the Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore, and the entertainment value is unmatched. And then there are the guys who are into hardcore 4×4 rigs, ready to drive off into the Australian bush on a self-sustaining yet perilous adventure. Yup, Australians are big on cars.
“The Focus punches above its weight and can hold its own with ease”
But the Focus punches above its weight and can hold its own with ease. I have tokeep reminding myself that under the hood is al.S-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine. The power delivery could havefooledme into thinking that there’sbigger displacement at my disposal. Imagine, all 178hp and240Nm from a relatively small mill. Talk about shocking. It really is an enthusiast’s machine.
„We wanted to show how good the car really is, and that’s pretty much why we made this event,’’ shares Eddie Sleiman of Ford Motor Company Australia. He’s a man of few words, obviously, but his product speaks for itself. Pretty excellent that we have the same car available in the Philippines. I guess no matter where you are in the world, and no matter what the backdrop is, the Focus will always be right at home.