FREESTYLE FRENZY IN THE DESERT

It’s not every day that we get to visit India to preview a new car. However with the grace of Ford Motor Company India and GO Automobiles Nepal we got a chance to participate in the global ‘Go Freestyle’ event which was held at Jaipur, for the media launch of the much-anticipated Ford Freestyle. The all new Ford Freestyle is a CUV (Compact Utility Vehicle) which is based on the Figo hatchback but with an aggressive styling, bolder design and more equipment. We aren’t totally alien to these events though, before this, we at Autolife have been fortunate enough to be invited by Ford Motor Company India and GO Automobiles Nepal twice before this event. One was for the media event of the EcoSport held at Park Hyatt, Goa and the other being the Ford Aspire event at Trident, Udaipur. This time around, our stay was at the Marriott Jaipur. With being able to attend the ‘Go Freestyle’ event and having driven the Freestyle, here we present you with the highlights of both the event as well as the all new CUV from Ford.

After a delayed flight and a memorable 5-hour drive from Delhi to the majestic city of Jaipur, we found ourselves at the venue in the evening of 5th April with three other media colleagues from Kantipur, The Himalayan Times and Nepal Travels. We checked into our rooms at the hotel and after a quick refreshment, everyone was called in for an extensive technical briefing on the Ford Freestyle at the lawn of the luxurious Marriott.A revolutionary product calls for an equally revolutionary unveiling. To start off, we must say that this event was nothing like the usual press release. The evening started with an icebreaker session where all the media people and Ford customers were made to play the Djembe, led and helped by the professionals. This was something to lighten up the mood for everyone and with an icebreaker like this all of us forgot all of our hassles.

After the icebreaker session, the event continued with presentations from Ford India’s Managing Director, Mr. Anurag Mehrotra who briefed us about the all new Ford Freestyle and Mr. Manish Tikekar Director- Product Programs who explained the entire design language and the design philosophy applied to the Freestyle. They say that it’s always best to hear from a person who knows best and that’s what these presentations were all about. Everything about the Freestyle, from the first in class intelligent technology, Active Rollover Prevention (ARP), Ford’s in-car infotainment system and SYNC 3 with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, was passionately explained with captivating audio/visual aid that these explanations were so well detailed that left the audience without any questions.The media briefing was followed by a lavish cocktail reception, with the executive members of the Ford team mingling with the invitees over drinks, snacks and dinner. Over this conversation the Ford India team were quite eager to know about how the Ford Freestyle would perform in our ultra-competitive Nepali market. Now having learned everything there was to know about the Freestyle, we called it a night, looking forward to tomorrow’s test drive session.The next day, two journalists were allotted one Ford Freestyle each, with the drive route and designated driver for each route clearly marked by the organizers. The cars were numbered serially and we had to drive accordingly in a convoy, with a Ford EcoSport as the Pilot car setting the pace up front. The 106 km drive from Marriott Jaipur to Sambhar Lake took us through a variety of terrains from traffic logged city roads, bumpy patches, fast two lane highways and narrow village routes giving us an ample amount of opportunity to get a feel of the car in various conditions. Once we reached the Sambhar Lake we got to experience the slushy sands which was extremely new to us. The Freestyle felt very easy to drive with the SUV like towering view from the inside and the peppy ready-to-move three-cylinder 1.2L TiVCT petrol engine from the Dragon series on offer producing 96 PS of power and a 120 Nm of torque. Though the 96 PS might not sound like much but considering a car of this proportion and it being powered by a 1.2 liter three cylinder engine the power it churns out seems pretty impressive.The handling was pretty light and responsive which made the car feel very nimble to zip through tight spaces. 190mm of ground clearance, which is claimed to be the best in class, comes in really handy while tackling bad patches of roads. Ford has made sure to put safety on the top of the priority with first in class features like the ARP system; EPAS (Electronic Power Assisted Steering) and the hill launch assist.

The ARP system works with Electronic Stability Control and applies brakes on relevant wheels to decrease engine torque and help prevent any potential rollover situations. The EPAS system is what give the steering a very light feeling that helps in the nimble nature of the car. While the hill launch assist makes sure that when you are stopped in an inclined angle you won’t roll back we trying to go up. The electronics will make sure that you don’t roll back while trying to go up. The titanium + model features up to 6 airbags, with the inclusion on TCS (Traction Control System), ABS (Antilock Braking System) and EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution).From our experience, we are pretty sure that the Freestyle will not only set a new benchmark in its segment, but will stand as a strong alternative for similarly priced cars in other segments too. Considering that the Nepali market is more inclined into buying CUVs, who would not want to have this crossover at a reasonable price! Now we can’t wait for it to launch in Nepal and put it through its paces on our roads for a detailed review.

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