Saturday, July 30, 2011

Boys' Day Out

One of the advantages of living in a country like UAE, apart from its weather (oh you know it's not true) and especially in a region which is filled with love for cars and if you happen to be, whatever they call, a car enthusiast then rest assure the fact that you won't be disappointed. All you have to do is click 'Like' on Facebook of cars and automobile industry pages, mostly the local ones and keep an eye on the events on the internet, or better still, acquaint a friend that happens to cover up all these events, we call them 'motoring journalists'. One can safely bet on joining various motoring related pages on Facebook which would be more than enough.

The event or rather roadshow "Can a Car?" Drive kicked off on 28th of July, 2011, Thursday and lasted till Saturday evening. The Roadshow was organized by the Ford Company, giving a chance to it's potential customers in UAE a glimpse of some of their new entrants in to the market. Apart from that, it was also an event to let the car enthusiasts in UAE to drive some of their cars in the line up. The major attraction for people definitely would had been the new Ford Mustang GT 2011 that was given to participants to drive around an impressive race track at the Dubai Autodrome. There were two variants of the Mustang GT fire-breathing monster - one with a hard top and the other with a soft top - but both of them were, in essence, the same 5.0 liter V8, churning out no less than 410bhp.

Looking at the images, it must be said that a minor facelift did not botch the looks of the car and with more than enough power underneath the bonnet, one wouldn't be put off by that either.

The the event started with the registration of the usual details of the participants with the pretty attendant ladies and thereafter the course organisers from the Ford took the group that was eventually formed during the period, which normally consisted from four to six people.

We were asked to sit in one of the cars, that were either Ford Mustang 2011 or the new entrant in to the market, Ford Edge Sport 2012. The Mustang drivers were led by a Ford driver in the old Ford Edge, while the convoy of Edge Sport was led by Ford driver in a Ford Fusion around the Dubai Autodrome's race-track.

The drive around the circuit was in a way to give the drivers, that is us, the chance to experience the performance, ride quality and the overall feel of the car. The Mustangs and the Edge Sport followed obediently behind their respective leads cars around the circuit, at a speed limit of 140km/h (dictated by Autodrome). The drivers in the lead cars were constantly in our ears, through the walkie-talkies placed in our cars, with their instructions and directions. On the final straight a task was given to each of the driver in the 2 cars to overtake the one ahead of him/her. Both the drivers in the 2 cars would get the chance to overtake their fellow participant as they drive around the track for 2 laps. This was extremely exciting to do in the Mustang, because the driver got the opportunity to mash his/her foot deep into the carpet and listen to that spine-tingling noise of a V8 roaring, add to that the sensation of the shift down and the car lunging forward like an excited Mustang should. The Mustang's drive was a wee bit more comfortable than the drive in the Edge, which was noticeably harder and, in real life, would be uncomfortable also. However, the Edge Sport variant had a bigger engine than its predecessors – Ford Edge, which is still being made brand new that has a 3.5 liter V6 engine. This Edge Sport has a 3.7 liter V6 engine and nearly 310bhp. The looks were nice as well, predicting them to be very popular among the young drivers as opposed to the normal Edge which was a school-run-about for mums.

After the drive around the circuit in Mustangs and Edge Sports, we were summoned to the Ford's off-road expert, who apparently didn't had a clue how the rear air-con worked in the new Explorer but he certainly had all the basis covered in the off-roading department. He took us around the off-road course that happens to be just inside Dubai Autodrome in the all-new, striking than the outgone, Ford Explorer 2011.

The purpose for this off-road drive was that to test the car's brand-new Hill Assist System that has been installed in the new Explorer. The task to take the car up the steep, man-made hill was easy and, rather, less scaring. However, on the other side of the hill was a very steep drop at 45 degress which was, lets be honest, scary.

The SUV, with the system on, would climb smoothly up the hill and in fact would also allow the driver to stay still on the ascent for nearly 5 seconds, with the foot off the brake. The idea behind this is that if the driver is using only one foot to brake and accelerate, then he'll be assisted by the system to enjoy that luxury. At the peak of the hill, the off-road expert would ask us to stop the car and check if the Hill-Assist System is properly switched on so to avoid any uncalled for incidences. The real gimmickry of the system was evident when the SUV is getting off the hill, down the slope which turned out to be a test because the driver wasn't suppose to step on the brake as the system would brake as per the need of the situation for the driver. Apparently, according to the expert, if the driver brakes during the descent, it would effectively override the system and could cause some unknown problems. To understand the extent of how steep the slope was, you could smell the fragrance (Yes, for us it's a fragrance) of burnt rubber and brakes around that very spot; just goes to show how much the brakes were applied by the system to stop the car from rolling of the peak like a ball being pushed down from the hilltop.

The hill ascent and descent test turned out to be very exciting as well as a very useful insight to what technology has done to make driving safer and easier for its drivers.

After the off-road experience, Ford had arranged a nice Autocross race for and among the group of participants. The competition was a timed race around a wide piece of road within the Autodrome, with cleverly placed cones that had a series of slaloms, twisty bits and a dead-stop test for the drivers within a set of 4-cones, or otherwise a four-second penalty. The drivers first were taken around by the Ford drivers, teaching and advising on how and whats the best technique to go round the circuit quicker and then gave each of us a practice run before our timed-run. The cars provided to us were again, the all-new front wheel drive Ford Taurus that had a nice, meaty engine and a comfortable ride and plenty of storage spaces within the cabin. The engine specifications of the new Taurus were 3.5 liter with an exciting V6 to make it sound better. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of the competition, we couldn't arrange a video that could have helped illustrate our experience.

Overall, the joy of driving a V8 Mustang around the racetrack, the experience of the descent on a hill as steep as next to being perpendicular where the driver can see the road straight on which he is driving and then to add a bit of drama for their guest drivers with a timed-run around a self-made circuit, it all did make a worth-while exposure compared to our normal daily boring routines, where you turn on the ignition of your car, put in D (drive) and hurry off to your destination. This was different and that precisely is the reason one should participate in such events. 

Videos of the event:

Around the circuit in one of the Mustangs:

The convoy heading back to the pit with Mustangs and Edge Sport behind their lead cars:

The drive of the Explorer, from the outside:

The drive of the Explorer, from the inside:

The overtaking of the Ford Edge Sport on the final straight:

The overtaking of the Ford Mustang on the straight:

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