by Adam Lynton
By its own admission, the Ford Black Edition "isn't for the average person." A study the blue oval made into the connection between car color choice and buyers' personality revealed that black and red were popular with both men and woman, and that combinations of the two colors would appeal to "thrill seekers" and adrenaline junkies. The perfect car then, to accompany us on our recent Nurburgring and Spa-Francorchamps adventure.
Three days spent driving Porsches and BMWs on two of the world's most challenging and best-known circuits was punctuated with drives in the Focus Black Edition to and from our respective German and Belgium homes. The journey began in Brussels, where Ford Belgium kindly arranged for us to pick up its special edition after working hours. The Race Red accents, applied to the mirror caps, front aerofoil, roof and honeycomb grille surround, made it easy to spot the Panther Black Focus in a darkened garage. From there it was a three-hour, 170-mile drive to Nurburg, where we arrived at the stroke of midnight in anticipation of a 7.30 am appointment with the Green Hell.
Beneath the Black's bold exterior complete with stylish 18-inch black alloys, is a Zetec S chassis, beautifully balanced, and precise, albeit lacking the feedback of a premium setup. Despite its dynamic design, the Focus is still just a $30,000 family hatch after all. But one that comes powered by a 1.5-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder turbo gasoline engine rated at 150 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, and mated exclusively to a six-speed manual. A 180-hp variant is also on offer, but Ford suspects young millennials will be more than content with less poke. And they'd be right. Delivering a nice growl once 2,000 rpms are surpassed and revving all the way to 6,000 rpm, the Focus ate up Belgium's highways.
Despite getting some used to, the Sync 2 infotainment system via the eight-inch color touchscreen display kept me suitably updated of my progress. The supple suspension made for a smooth ride, while the cabin was a comfortable place to be, with bolstered seats that came heated as part of a Winter Pack, and enhanced no less by a leather steering wheel (also heated) and gearshift, contrast red stitching, stainless-steel pedals and aluminum gear knob. Quiet and refined on the highway, the Focus Black liked to be revved hard, and once we crossed the well-lit roads of Belgium into the pitch-black dark of western Germany, I was able to appreciate the responsive chassis on the winding roads approaching the Ring.
The Black edition Focus boasts a 10 percent stiffer and lower suspension, tuned shocks and a front anti-roll bar. And the sportier chassis setup was belt felt on the twisting roads. The Focus loved being thrown into the corners and stayed nice and level throughout. And as long as I stayed on the throttle, it pulled away sharply ready for its next maneuver. The larger wheels meant large bumps were more acutely felt inside, but compared to other models in its class, the Focus is easily the top pick for those that enjoy driving but also want a competent highway cruiser which is also practical around town.
As a daily driver in the quaint Belgian town of Malmedy, our base for two days driving in Spa, the Focus was ideal. A deviation onto a rocky trail courtesy of the ill-informed sat-nav proved the Focus to be a decent little offroader too. Fuel economy is rated at 51.4 mpg (Ford says the 180-hp unit delivers the same number), which equated to something like 400 miles for a tank of gas. Given the level of performance, that's impressive efficiency. Sporty looks are matched by a sporty enough drive and more than adequate performance on the road, and we suspect quite a few Europeans will be handing over some additional Euros to drive home this special edition over the stock Focus.