|Crashing the new Ford C-Max|
As a person who views a car as a necessary evil - tons of flying metal that people are lucky to get out of alive - I was puzzled about my invitation to test-drive Ford’s new family car, the C-Max. But I was prepared to give it a try, since I had never been to Belgium before.
The journey from Brussels station to the hotel was spent in the company of some total petrolheads who were as confused as I was by my presence on the trip. They were discussing things like retuned dampers and new shock absorber valve designs. I was thinking about the hotel pool and whether Belgian gin & tonic was any good. It gave me plenty of time to reflect seriously on what I had let myself in for.
When we arrived at the hotel a friendly Ford executive greeted me at the hotel with an extended hand; I extended a fist (which he politely shook) so that he wouldn’t know about my sweaty palms. Another manager came up to me and I accidentally shook his hand twice, and it was only when I went in for a third hand-shake that he politely told me to stop shaking his hand.
Having finished with the handshakes, it was time for dinner. Buoyed by two gin and tonics, I decided to share my thoughts. I asked if Ford still had an unexciting reputation; announced that Fords were for the older, less cool driver; and said that the one great car they have produced is the Ford Corvette. (Someone pointed out that Ford didn’t make the Corvette). Next I got quite shirty about the fact that the Capri had been discontinued and asked what they planned to do about it. Then I decided to take photos of my dinner and put them on Facebook.
|Journalist doing a RoboCop impression|
When morning arrived I spent some time trying to work out if I could slip back to the Eurostar without anyone noticing. Unfortunately I had no idea whereabouts in Belgium we were, so I had no choice but to go to the test track and hope I wouldn’t make too much of an idiot of myself.
At the test track's safety zone, I got to wear a pregnancy suit, which I put on back to front. Then the safety man told me lots of important things about child safety in cars which I found highly reassuring.
It was time to do the actual test-drive, and it turned out that things have come on quite a long way since the Capri. I got behind the wheel, pressed a button on the dashboard, and not only did the car find a suitable parking spot, it also parked the car! All I had to do was use the foot pedals, while the steering wheel took on a mind of its own. I felt like I was in Knightrider or something.
Unlike my current people carrier, which turns into a giant ice skate if there are more than about five rain drops on the road, the C-Max can be safely rally-driven to within an inch of its life. And the back seats have this crazy water-repellent covering which liquids sort of float above, like something out of a sci-fi film. My only concern with that feature was that my kids would start deliberately pouring juice all over the back seat, just to watch these futuristic globules appear on the surface.
I also learnt that Ford isn’t an aged company producing boring cars, quite the opposite. The Ford employees are young, and good-looking, and cool, the environment is buzzing and exciting. And the managers also don’t seem to mind too much if you accidentally test-drive one of their cars into the back of another car when testing the automatic braking system.
I still don’t really like cars, but fair play to them, Ford are producing some pretty impressive cars.