The Ford Motor Company is bringing the 3rd generation Ford Focus ST to North American, making it their first global performance car. The Focus ST “integrates a collection of advanced and sport-oriented technologies” previously only available to European drivers. It will be available late 2012 and pre-orders are being taken now.
Ford has embarked on a five city United States tour to introduce the Focus ST to the public. The tour has already made stops in New York City, Washington DC, and Foxborough, Massachusetts. The last two stops are in San Francisco on August 4th and Los Angeles on August 11th. Visit Focus ST Performance Academy Tour to learn about how to register to test drive the Focus ST at the last two stops. I had the opportunity to go to the stop at Foxborough, Massachusetts the day before it was open to the general public to test drive the Focus ST.
Before I tell you about my test drive experiences, let me tell you more about the Focus ST. The price for the Focus ST starts at $24,495 and goes up to a $30,355 for the fully loaded version. I heard rumors of the gas mileage being around 32 to 34 mpg. Ford has not given fuel economy figures yet.
The Focus ST is powered by a turbocharged direct-injection 2.0L EcoBoost engine coupled to a six-speed manual transmission (no automatic for this car). This combination offers peak torque of 270 lb.-ft. and 252 hp (using premium gas) at approximately 2500 rpm. It also features a special turbo overboost function which allows utilizing the maximum torque from 3,000 rpm to 4,500 rpm for up to 15 seconds, then the engine control unit (ECU) dials back pressure. The engine’s redline is at 6500 rpms. Ford says it should hit 62 miles per hour in about 6.5 seconds with top speed listed as 155 mph.
The six-speed manual transmission has defined gates with short throws. Unlike other six-speed transmissions, only the sixth gear is considered an overdrive.
The ST has extended rocker panels highlighting the lowered chassis and the flared wheel arches that are filled by the new 18-inch alloy rims on 235/40YR18 Goodyear Eagle F1 high-performance asymmetrical rubber tires. Superior braking as you enter the corners is achieved through the high-performance12.6 inch front and 10.7 inch rear disc brakes.
The Focus ST high-performance exhaust system ends with a central dual-pipe design below the rear bumper. The Focus ST is equipped with the “Active Sound Symposer” system which pipes internal engine noise into the interior through a sound tube. The system uses an electronically controlled butterfly valve that opens wider under hard acceleration and closes when at steady speeds, resulting in more engine noise when you want it and less when you do not.
Ford incorporated several unique sport suspension and handling enhancements, such as:
Torque Vectoring Control: Designed to give you enhanced handling on winding roads; the variable-ratio steering rack varies the sensitive as appropriate for straight-aways or corners. The traction control software within the Torque Vectoring Control is basically an electronic limited-slip differential which will reduce power to the front wheel that is losing traction.
Electric power-assisted steering (EPAS): Torque steer compensation allows you to accelerate while maintaining traction on roads with uneven surfaces. “The system detects the torque steer that those conditions can create and counteracts the effect to help you feel in complete control.”
On the inside there is an instrument cluster containing ST sport gauges for monitoring turbo boost, oil pressure, and oil temperature levels. The voice-activated SYNC® with MyFord uses voice commands and touch controls on the steering wheel, so you can control the vehicle’s systems while keeping your hands on the wheels and eyes on the road.
The standard colors are Ingot Silver Metallic, Oxford White, Performance Blue, Race Red, and Tuxedo Black Metallic. The Tangerine Scream color is available for an additional cost.
The Focus ST is available with three different packages: ST, ST2, and ST3. The ST is the base version and has all the performance and handling features available on package.
The ST2 package adds the following to the ST:
- Sony® Audio System with 10 speakers (including subwoofer)
- 8” display screen and MyFord Touch
- Dual zone electronic automatic temperature control
- HD Radio™SiriusXM Satellite Radio with 6 month subscription
- Recaro® partial leather seats
The ST3 package adds the following to the ST:
- Voice-activated navigation system
- Sony Audio w/ SYNC with MyFord Touch
- Recaro® heated leather seats
- Rear armrest
- High intensity discharge headlights
- Cornering lamps
- LED signature lighting
- Ambient Lighting
- Overhead console
- Heated exterior mirrors
Now that you know more about the Ford Focus ST, I will continue with my test drive experience.
As we pulled into the parking lot at Gillette Stadium, I noticed that there were two unique driving courses set up and immediately thought this could be fun. The courses were designed to be a small scale version of a touring race course. This makes sense as I believe the Focus ST would feel right at home on a touring race course. I will tell you now; I had a blast driving the Focus ST around the driving courses that Ford had created in the parking lot.
The academy starts off with a 15 minute presentation from Jonathan (active race car driver) telling us some of the basic driving techniques to use while taking the Focus ST around the different courses. He also gave us an overview of the car and how its features will be in play during the runs through the courses.
After his presentation, we took to the car for a few practice laps on the secondary course to familiarize ourselves with the car and how it handled. I was fortunate to be able to take several runs on the course as we were there the day before it was open to the general public.
I was surprised and amazed by not having to downshift through any of the tight corners encountered on the course. I stayed in second gear through the entire course. There was no jerking or bucking indicating to down shift when the rpms had dropped way off, down to approximately 1500, due to hard braking for the corners. It had plenty of acceleration at the low rpms in second gear due to the wide power band.
Now that I was familiar with the car and handling, I moved over to the primary course to put the car through its paces for time. The primary course was similar to the secondary one but was a little longer in overall distance with a couple tighter turns and a longer straight away.
In my opinion, the Focus ST handled exceptionally well as I sped around the course. With all the sport and handling features working together even a non-professional race car driver like me had no problem controlling the car through the curves and tight corners. I did not notice any significant torque steer with hard acceleration coming out of a corner. The brakes responded quickly and did not fade after several runs through the course. The car performed the same on each and every lap I took.
After I finished driving, I chatted with Lisa Schoder, head of marketing for the Focus ST, for a few minutes. I asked her if the cars I just drove were exactly as the ones that will be coming off the assembly line and she said they are except maybe for a few minor cosmetic changes that would not affect performance. Ford recommends using gasoline with a 91 octane rating, so I was wondering the impact of using a lower rated gas and Lisa responded by saying “that the current mileage rating is based on using 91 and that mileage may be impacted by using a lower rated gas.” I was more concerned about losing turbo boost and she implied that there should not be any lost using a lower octane gas. However, horsepower may be a little less if using gas with less than a 91 octane rating.
The Focus ST was fun to drive with plenty of power to spare. An open road drive would have given a broader perspective on the overall performance and comfort, but from the time I spent in it I believe it would be a great everyday car. The Recaro front seats were comfortable and are built to keep you in the seat as you whip around curves and corners. The back seat will fit two adults comfortably. The trunk area was surprisingly large and has enough room to hold three mid-size suitcases or several bags of groceries. I can envision driving the Focus ST on a daily basis and then taking it to amateur touring course races on the weekends to unleash the performance within it.