At the gates to an un-named mansion
above:- country lane near Berrima NSW
above 4 photos:- Settlers Inn (1834) Berrima NSW
Vineyards in and around NSW southern Highlands NSW near Berrima
automated parking (on top model)
I took the Focus Sport to lunch at the Settlers Inn Berrima. Oh how we laughed!
Buying a car is all about buying a lifestyle. Sometimes it’s about the lifestyle you have and sometimes it’s about the lifestyle you wish you had. You’ll remember we drove the Titanium with its self-parking and radar guided cruise control, and the rocket-powered ST with its rock hard seating and mug-lair paint job. Both were wonderful and proved Ford’s well-deserved reputation for giving us a well-made, well designed, sensibly priced hatch that you’re not ashamed to be seen in.
It’s with this in mind that I decided on a midweek escape to the country. The Southern Highlands are a mere hop skip and a jump from Sydney CBD. Sadly you have to negotiate one the worst tunnels in the country, the nefarious M5 east. It’s filthy air belies the fact that there was rigorous planning and deft execution which left us with a freeway and tunnel filled to capacity from day 1. Is it any wonder that people dislike the road and its problem-prone tunnel so much? I sat in the tunnel, as so many people do, but this time I didn’t care. It worried me not that once again I was trapped in an underground car park masquerading as a traffic tunnel because I was leaving it, and the city, and heading into the countryside.
As I emerged from the exit I breathed a sigh of relief because I was leaving the foul stench behind and heading into some of the most beautiful countryside it’s possible to experience. It’s the kind that makes you want to roll down the window and breathe deeply. My midweek getaway happened on one of the coldest mornings yet this winter so there would be no actual rolling down of windows and I’d have to content myself with imagining what it would be like. The M5 turned into the Hume Highway and the temperature continued its downward fall, so I was ever so glad to be cocooned in my comfortable hatch.
Thus far the road had been smooth and at 110 the Focus felt like it was gliding along on a limo-like cloud of satisfaction. That’s the thing about the Sport, the ride is cloudlike without sacrificing handling. In fact it makes me wonder why Ford made the Titanium so hard and the ST like sitting on bricks. The seats are more comfy too. In fact the package is, at $26,460, the best value around. Sure the dash layout lacks the subtlety and elegance of the Golf VII and the buttons are confusing and far too plentiful, but it’s a matter of personal preference. I don’t mind it at all and in fact the Golf could use a bit more splash, but I digress.
My main reason, apart from a strong desire to desert Sydney for a few hours, was to test the Focus in the real world, the bit outside a capital city. The Focus ate the kilometres and the further I drove the more I felt I’d picked the right car for my trip. I fancied something stylish and classy without being OTT or brutish.
My plan was to head towards Bowral down the old Hume Hwy and to stop at the visitors centre, just like a tourist. And so I did. The girls therein gave me pamphlets and brochures and offered advice galore. It was as though they hadn’t seen another human in years. There were lookouts and old houses and gardens all demanding to be noticed but the day was about driving so I asked about some twisty roads. They seemed stumped. They directed my to the wineries open at this time of year. Do I look like an old drunk? On second thoughts don’t answer that.
With my maps tucked under my arm I headed back to the car but I’m sure the temp had dropped another few degrees. To make matters worse the wind was whipping my scarf into a frenzy and it was flopping about like a wet chook. I turned the key (yes no push button start in this model) and headed towards Berrima. As I entered the village a few minutes later I saw a sign that said “pop 400” and giggled as I imagined 3 towns the size of Berrima whose residents could fit in my apartment complex with room to spare! It put things into perspective?
I pulled into the side street where a sign saying “Bakehouse Café” proudly proclaimed “we are open” but they weren’t. The same could be said of most of the other places in town. I saw the pub had lunch on from 12 so that gave me an hour to explore, so I cut across country to Mossvale. There isn’t much to see there though. It’s too big to be a quaint country town and too small to be interesting so I found a few dirt roads to explore.
One narrow dirt lane ended at a huge gate with an impressive avenue of ancient trees standing to attention. Just back a little way was another lane leading to the back gate of a winery blocked by an old dray with an enormous old wine barrel on it. If only my camera hadn’t been left home charging! Apple execs should be shot for claiming their Iphone 5 can replace a proper camera, but I snapped off a couple of shots anyway, aren’t they pretty?
The outside temp had dropped to 5°c but the auto climate control scarcely noticed. The cabin was a toastie 20. I only got out to snap a few shots but without getting the coat out of the back seat the snaps were quick ones. This dirt road was quite a good one despite the fact that it hadn’t been graded since the Whitlam administration. It gave me the chance to whisk the Focus along at a brisk rate. The suspension is so sorted that even those nasty old rutted corners presented not so much as a blip on her radar.
I admit my pervious favourite is the stunning Focus St, but the ride is so hard that there is no way you’d want to take it down any of these unsealed tracks. It would ruin your dental work, slip at least 3 discs, and ruin what’s left of your liver. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great car, but the ST is very unforgiving and best left to the billiard-table-smooth highways.
There is something very satisfying about looking in the rearview mirror and seeing a cloud of dust flying up behind you. I was passing a field of the most beautiful green I’ve ever seen and it simply begged me to stop and admire it. Just as I did, an alpaca moseyed along the side of the track, and right up to my window. I had to push her gently out of the way to extricate myself from the Focus, but not before I had grabbed an apple I’d bought for morning tea. It was half eaten but the alpaca didn’t seem to mind. I wandered over to the paddock fence and she followed. I crossed my arms on the top bar and put my chin on top and took in the beauteous view. To my surprise the Alpaca came up beside me and put her head on my shoulder. Who knew they were so unbearably cute? She stayed with me for a little while but it was so cold, even with a thick coat on, so back to the car I went. Needless to say my new friend was most put out as I drove off. I thought she was going to open the passenger’s door and jump in! It was most presumptuous of her. When was the last time an alpaca wandered up to your car window in Sydney? What a magnificent day this was turning into.
A funny thing had happened, I realised I was having the perfect day. The Focus was a delight and the weather, though brisk, was bracing and invigorating. I had spent more than an hour on that little jaunt so back across country I went. This time I used the GPS which thankfully knew all about my newfound dirt lanes. As if it were possible, I passed even more gorgeous cottages sitting pretty as pictures in the deep green landscape. The focus begged to be pushed harder. The chassis is so well sorted that an average driver would have a great deal of trouble noticing they’ve left the tarmac. If the safety gear was working, I certainly didn’t notice it. Reports of the traction control being intrusive are greatly exaggerated.
I popped out onto the Old Hume just shy of Berrima and in just a few minutes was pulling into the car park of the old Settlers Inn. It’s a solid sandstone Georgian building dating back to within 50 years of Australia being settled. A time before Ipads and internet required fires for heating, and that’s exactly where I plonked myself to make some notes on my trip so far. The bar, replete with pressed metal ceilings, sandstone walls and thick beams which actually support the floor above, felt familiar and homey. Above all it was warm. The fire which had been doing this job for nearly 200 years crackled cheerfully in the background. It’s a pleasing backtrack to a winter’s day.
I allowed myself a small brandy to fend off the cold. My sainted great aunt always took brandy for medicinal purposes, and the barman was awfully cute, and very helpful. Some regulars cycled through the bar after whetting their whistles and all had tales to tell of local events and things I simply had to see. Berrima turns out to be a beautiful and friendly town. It’s such a shame lunch is only served in the bistro, a modern addition at the rear. Still, it overlooks the garden and even with the windows shut against the cold I could hear the birds singing. I enjoyed a warming lunch of lamb shanks and mash. I felt totally sated as once again I jumped into the saddle. Imagine how many stage coaches had stopped at the very same place. Imagine how many sexy leather clad horsemen had stood in the very same spot.
I found some more pretty tree-lined lanes to explore, all the while with my favourite playlist on the Sony. Something peculiar had happened, a press vehicle felt vaguely like my very own car. I stopped at the bottom of a hill with rows of grape vines stretching into the distance to take some photos. It was here that I thought it would be churlish of me not to mention a few points about the dash. I’ve said already how busy the dash and steering wheel are, and so it is. But that is not to say the function is in any way diminished. It works perfectly but looks cluttered, like my mind.
After a few more pics I got back on the road for home. On the way down I used the 6 speed auto in “sport” mode on the highway, and got around 9.3 L/100k. That’s way too much these days but was necessary on those lanes once I reached Berrima. The trip back got an astounding 4.7 L/100k. Who’d have thought S mode would have such a cataclysmic effect on the fuel consumption. It’s worth noting that at least on the highway there is no appreciable difference in performance between the two modes. The tank is a sensation over 50L so on the highway you could expect to have enough in the tank to get from Sydney to either Brisvegas or the even less exciting Melbourne. Since the Focus drinks only the best, the trip would take 80 bucks or so out of your wallet. It would be even less if you took a couple of chaps along for the ride.
For $26,460 drive away (for the manual), I find it hard think how the opposition will cope. Only the superb Gold VII comes close and its interior is much classier. I don’t think I’d want to have to make the choice.
I’ll just finish by saying that I would buy this Focus with my own money and it’s a choice I very much doubt that I’d regret.
2.0L Duratec GDI
Max power output ISO (kW/rpm) 1
Max torque ISO (Nm/rpm) 2
Price SPECIAL:-$26.640 (manual)