I test drove two very different vehicles made by Ford in November. One was practical the other an outlandish personal toy.

The Ford Focus RS is a crazy slot car disguised as a hatchback. At almost $50,000 it is not a little pedestrian runabout designed to get you to No Frills and back. One setting on the RS defines its personality. It’s called Drift Mode. If you do not spend a lot of time scrolling through You Tube, then you have missed the storyline on the Focus RS . It is often seen in a cloud of smoke in a four-wheel sideways drift, with rubber peeling off the tires as the driver enjoys a high more often induced by drugs. The Focus RS is for that part of the brain called “Run Away to the Circus.”

You need to know that the Focus comes with race car style seats so form fitting you must go on the Shouldice diet before you can fit in to them. Should you choose the manual version, you will love it. The shifter is silky, the throws short, and execution is crisp. With 350 horsepower it is ready to leave most posers in the dust.

Sadly, so much of our driving is done in the grimmest of settings-city roads that are ravaged by winter, defaced by construction, and unlikely to see repaving in most of our lifetimes. That’s why there is a drive setting called “Normal”. It takes a some of the sting out of cruising on city roads.

For the Focus photo op I chose a location at 357 Barton Street East, in front of a new restaurant called The Heather. It gave me an excuse to go inside and meet Chef Matt Cowan.  “I feel at home here,” Cowan told me as we looked at the blue as anti-freeze Focus parked outside. Cowan packed up his apron, and his knives and left the culinary pit in Toronto to stretch out in Hamilton. He knows Barton is a gamble but it’s affordable. The restaurant is charming and fresh, the menu inventive, but rooted in Canada. “I’m not doing Scandinavian here.” He has nothing but good things to say about Hamilton, his neighbours on Barton, the City, his landlord-all good. He even charmed a by law guy into not writing a ticket for my parking infraction with the Focus. The bylaw officer gave Cowan the thumbs up for his “Passed Inspection” sign in the window. Good vibes abound at The Heather, check it out.

From the frolicking Focus I moved on to a week test drive in the small SUV, the 2017 Ford Escape.  It was a delight and a surprise. Usually on a first drive I make a list in my head of all the things I don’t like, with the Escape it was the opposite. The ride is comfortable not mushy, the brakes firm, the steering has excellent feel, visibility is good, its quiet in the cabin, and the 245 horsepower produced by the 4-cylinder engine is suited to the size and heft of the Escape. On a leisurely drive to Guelph I was impressed by how well the Escape tracks. It stays in its lane with little steering input and feels competent and solid.

It does all the practical stuff, we put eight-foot lengths of lumber in it, firewood and what not, and it was all easy peasy. My $35,749 tester was also loaded with advanced technology, including a My Key function that allows a parent to program a key for any kids driving the car. Texts can be blocked, speed limit set, and audio muted until seat belts are done up.  Most of the tech is activated via a touch screen that works pretty well, but is a little clumsy to use from the passenger seat.

The Ford Escape is a good choice for those looking for practicality bundled with a

sophisticated driving experience. The Focus RS is  for thrill seekers looking for an escape from the mundane.

Written by: Kathy Renwald

Providing a fresh perspective for Hamilton and Burlington

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