Sleeker, Smarter and Safer
When it comes to innovation, Ford has always been at the forefront in the automobile industry. Aside from producing cars that are visually appealing, the car company continuously produces vehicles that are not only fun to drive, safe and efficient but technologically advance as well.
Ford has made it a point to always listen to customers’ suggestions so that they can provide them with products that they truly want. Engineers constantly develop new technologies that will make the driving experience safer, efficient and stress-free.
Recently, we were able to sample Ford’s latest advancements in car technologies through the introduction of the refreshed but much energized 2016 Ford Focus in Adelaide, Australia. Ford’s Asia-Pacific Engineering Center is situated in Australia, making the regional introduction in Adelaide very appropriate.
The ride and drive event was carefully selected to go around Australia’s wine country in the outskirts of beautiful Adelaide Hills. The route was meticulously plotted to go around and across the Mount Lofty Ranges that were full of lush greens and vineyards.
We arrived a full day ahead of the actual ride and drive activity but the new Focus was already showcased outside the hotel we were billeted—affording us a preview of what was to come.
Starting with the exterior changes, the new Ford Focus looks much more athletic as it sports a new hood that sweeps toward the redesigned trapezoidal grille. It has a revised set of headlamps, fog lamps and tail lamps, as well as a modified hatchback and rear spoiler design that is said to enhance aerodynamics.
Inside, the new Ford Focus received a new modern but simpler styling. Designers paid particular attention to customer feedback and provided the new Focus with a more intuitive interior with fewer controls and switches. The instrument panel on the new Focus has been simplified and as a result, now has a much cleaner layout that allows drivers to effortlessly control the vehicle’s features.
With less controls, Ford engineers were also able to provide more storage options for its passengers. Up front, an adjustable console fits a variety of bottles and cups and can simultaneously hold a 1-liter water bottle and a 400-milliliter cup.
Sound deadening materials – including sound-insulating windshield glass, thicker side-window glass, thicker carpets, increased insulation in the door trims, and improved engine insulation – were used extensively to improve the quietness inside the cabin. In fact, the engine’s sound could barely be heard inside the cabin forcing Ford engineers to hook-up a synthesized sound-generator with the car’s audio system to replicate engine growls at high revs.
“Our design team worked on creating a more emotional design that is more athletic, toned and refined,” said Andrew Collinson, exterior design manager, Ford Asia Pacific. “On the interior, customers told us that they wanted greater simplicity in the cabin design, with fewer buttons – but without a loss in function.”
Efficient and powerful engine
A new 1.5-liter four-cylinder Ecoboost engine power’s the new Focus. The new 1.5-liter power plant produces a maximum power of 180 PS (170 horsepower) and 240 Newton-meters of torque, which is considerably more than its 2.0-liter predecessor. But even though the new engine provides more power, fuel efficiency is said to be 6.0-percent better and it gives off less emissions.
The Ecoboost engine, which has a much lighter aluminum engine block, provides optimum performance through turbocharging and other new-technologies that makes use of high-pressure direct fuel injection and twin-independent variable cam timing.
The new engine also features a new cylinder head design with improved cooling and an integrated exhaust manifold improves efficiency by delivering a more efficient feed of air into the engine and helping it to operate at optimal temperatures. By minimizing the distance exhaust gases travel from the cylinders to the turbocharger, the integrated manifold also reduces turbo lag for rapid torque delivery. A reprogrammed engine control system helps to ensure high levels of engine refinement, quietness and performance.
Ford did away with its dual-clutch transmission and mated the 1.5-liter Ecoboost engine to a new modern, lightweight and efficient six-speed automatic transmission that provides extremely smooth shifting.
The suspension system was also tuned to provide exceptional handling even in the undulating Adelaide-Lobethal Road. Thanks to the carefully tuned suspension and shock absorbers, driving the Focus through the tight twists and turn of the Adelaide Hills gave the car a feeling of being firmly connected to the road.
Complementing the tuned suspension is Ford’s Enhanced Transitional Stability (ETS) system. This system monitors vehicle speed and the driver’s steering input, which predicts a loss of grip before it actually happens. If a potential loss of grip is detected, the system activates the vehicle’s Electronic Stability Program to reduce engine torque and apply individual-wheel braking to help keep the vehicle on track. We took turns driving the Focus on the roads of Adelaide, where the cars are driven on the left side of the road. My co-driver had a tough time adjusting to the condition and would compensate by veering away (left) from the center-line of the two-lane road—forcing the left wheels to fall-off the road and drive over slippery ground. The experience was very unnerving, at first, but when I felt the ETS worked repeatedly, I became less concerned about spinning out and just worried about our side-view mirror hitting the road barriers or parked cars along the road.
Ford also refined the Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) system on the new Focus. The tuned EPAS further improves the driving experience with more precise steering and lower effort, which provided excellent feedback to the driver.
Advanced driver-assist technology
The new Focus features a myriad of cutting-edge technology to help drivers stay connected and in control.
The new Focus is equipped with Sync 2, which offers a smarter and safer way to stay connected. Drivers can operate the car’s airconditioning and audio system with natural voice commands. A centrally placed, high resolution, 8-inch touchscreen puts even more control at the driver’s fingertips, with color-coded corners for easy menu navigation.
Parking in and out of parking slots, be it parallel or perpendicular, has been made easier with the new Focus – thanks to the Enhanced Active Park Assist. Once activated and while driving at 30 kilometers per hour or less, the system scans for available parking spaces alongside other cars. When it finds one, the system takes control of the car’s steering to guide the vehicle into the space while the driver controls the shifting, braking and acceleration.
The Perpendicular Park Assist uses two new ultrasonic sensors on the rear of the car, which also enables Park-Out Assist. Park-Out Assist takes the stress out of exiting a parallel parking space by taking control of the steering while the driver operates the brake and accelerator.
The best new-technology feature on the 2016 Focus is the Active City Stop (ACS) system. While driving up to 50 kph, the system can help to mitigate low-speed collisions by automatically engaging the brakes. Using a windshield-mounted sensor to detect braking, slower-moving or stationary vehicles in front, the system pre-charges the brakes if the car is approaching a vehicle in front too quickly. If the driver fails to take action, the system reduces engine torque and automatically applies the brakes to reduce the impact of a collision.
The new Focus even allows owners to encourage safe driving when they are not behind the wheel with Ford mykey. Owners can program a spare key to reduce the maximum speed of the vehicle, give an earlier low-fuel warning, limit the volume of the in-car entertainment or even disable it completely if the seatbelt is not fastened. The technology can provide reassurance to owners when lending their car to less experienced drivers.
New technologies that make cars smarter and safer are now becoming standard option in popular consumer cars. Ford, being one of the pioneering car manufacturers that tirelessly turn ideas into reality, has become a leader in providing these smarter and life-saving technologies available in most, if not all of their vehicles. But even with all the technologies available, Ford made sure not to take away any of the Focus’ driving dynamics and maintain its “fun to drive” attitude.