One of the benefits of running a successful online publication like Auto Trends Magazine is that I can preview and drive numerous vehicles before or just as they go on the market. A recent call from Ford Motor Company fixed my handling of the 2012 battery-electric version of the Ford Focus, a compact car that goes on sale in the summer of 2011.
This vehicle will be important for two big reasons: It will replace the current American model with the European derivative, offering an updated, more attractive and more fuel efficient package. It will also allow customers to buy an electric car if they choose, although the gasoline version that produces 40 mpg on the highway may be sufficient for most drivers.
What was special about the 2012 Focus BEV? Well, it was the same car produced for the Jay Leno Show as part of the television personality’s bid to showcase green cars. This specially developed prototype is based on the Focus SVT, a car sold in Europe and considered by some to be the sportiest and fastest compact car on the market.
But that was just the exterior of the vehicle: Beneath the Focus BEV featured an honest lithium-ion battery pack, exactly like the one you’ll find in production versions of this car. This particular prototype performed just as well as a production car, without any of the usual screeching, rattling, and unfinished compartments apparent.
Opening the door and sliding into the driver’s seat was exciting. Recaro seats were standard, though Ford hasn’t said whether production models will offer this option or the beautiful exterior paint scheme. Remember, this was a “show” car meant to appear on Leno’s show and nothing else. Still, the seats were fabulous, setting the tone for my trip.
The Ford Focus BEV has a push button start, which means all you have to do is push a button and the car comes to life. There is no roar from the engine telling you the car is running, but the dashboard lights up, telling you to go ahead and put a gear in gear.
Silently, I exited the parking space at North Carolina State University and proceeded through the parking lot and onto the local roads. This was a limited trip, covering two huge blocks, with a total trip less than a mile long. However, it was long enough that I could appreciate the quiet ride. Not making noise seemed strange at first, even the tires were among the quietest I had ever ridden.
Going back to the parking lot got me thinking: electric cars offer a lot of torque. Naturally, I stepped on the gas pedal and suddenly the car sped forward without hesitation. Yes, this car has power and a lot, I did not miss the internal combustion engine one iota.
A car preview is just that – a brief introduction to a particular model. Certainly a longer trip over several hours, preferably days, would be best and that time will come next year. Meanwhile, the Focus BEV is a promising vehicle, one of many new electric cars to hit the market in 2011.