The Fiesta and the Freeway

With an SR71 Blackbird

Hitherto, I have avoided using the Fiesta for longer journeys. Perhaps we have needed the three rows of the Durango. On my own, I love using the Mustang, and more recently the Mercedes for longer drives. But a recent family campaign into Southern California demanded Air Conditioning, nixing the Durango, and reliability, which I couldn’t promise in the Mercedes. I have used the Merc for family weekends away before but changed my mind at 8 pm one Sunday night when about to begin a six-hour drive home after a busy weekend away. I revised my roll the dice attitude to reliability and decided I didn’t want to tempt fate using a car with visible rust on every body panel for long family excursions in future. Hence Fiesta. I mean, how bad could it be?

Well, l5 for sixteen hours, plus LA traffic, and its frenetic nature wore on me. It is fine cruising. It has cruise control, which works well. But throw heavy traffic at it, and suddenly it needs rowing up and down the gearbox to keep pace with the traffic in the left-hand lane. Add a rough surface – and lord knows LA’s concrete freeways have plenty of that – and it needs continual steering input and tramlines under braking. It’s like listening to Motorhead; the best thing ever for a bit, but intense, and so at a certain point you’ve had enough and yearn for something less abrasive. Even if you’re keen for more, your passengers won’t be. This is the Hyde, darkside personality of the car. The side that can live with much higher horsepower cars on circuits like Spa and the Nurburgring. Around town, driven slowly, the clean-living but oh-so-dull Jekyll bipolar opposite character chaffes at me, altogether too reminiscent of a poverty spec Focus l drove a few years ago. A bloke on a Gixxer passed us on the freeway, and I realized that the Fiesta ST is like a Gixxer and a rental car combined, with nothing in between, none of the breadth and depth of character that l love so unexpectedly about the Mercedes.

*bangs head on table wishing had never bothered with Fiesta or E55 and instead had had a new six speed Chevy SS, in green*

Update: I felt the Fiesta redeemed itself, at least somewhat, on two recent trips. One took us from Copperopolis to Atwood, on the most amazing quiet, sun-baked open roads. Here it was sublime; a Porsche might perform better at Spa, but on the road, the Fiesta allows full enjoyment at much lower speeds. Truly, a magnificent drive that ended in a visit to a remarkable air museum/warplane graveyard, where we saw, amongst other things, the fastest plane ever, the Blackbird SR71. The second was a family road trip to the Ironstone Concours. Although small, the car is fine for a family of three. The drive again took us along Highway 4, all the way up into the Gold Country. On these winding roads, which have the pace, variety, and entertainment of British A-roads, the Fiesta is poetry, the handling neutral and never understeery even on the very ragged edge of adhesion. Overall, it’s just so, so nice. I recently listened to Richard “Sniff Petrol” Porter, script writer for Jeremy Clarkson, discuss how much he misses driving a small car with a manual transmission, and how pure their character is, and how hoonable they are, and it was the Fiesta at speed I was thinking of. He’s right, for sure, but he has forgotten how tiring that character is to live with every day, especially if the alternative is a Mercedes.