By Rob Beintema,
Metroland Media/Wheelstalk.com -
They call it “stealing the limelight”.
Which pretty well describes what happened when Ford Canada introduced the new 2013 Ford Focus ST at a recent Mustang event.
Mustangs, new Boss 302 models, even Shelby GT500s were waiting in pit lane for high-speed lapping at Calabogie Motorpark and there I stood, with my back to the track, distracted in the parking lot and strolling circles around the new Focus ST.
Blame it on the Tangerine Scream Tri-Coat colour of this new hot hatchback from Ford.
Blame it on the hunkered down, lowered stance, the gape-mouthed grille and angular lines, all of the boy racer styling cues from LED-topped HID headlamps up front to the big spoiler and funky centered dual exhaust in back.
And blame it on the promise of a 252 hp turbocharged EcoBoost engine with overboost, mated to a six-speed manual tranny, putting power to the road through big 18-inch “Y”-spoked wheels.
This is a first for Canada and the U.S.
Europe has had ST versions of the Focus since 2005 and Canadian journalists have been whining about it ever since.
When Ford decided to produce a truly global Focus a few years ago, they blended the creative efforts of North America’s SVT team with Europe’s RS designers into a new Ford Global Performance Vehicles group, bringing the Sport Technologies (ST) badge to customers worldwide for the first time.
The 2013 Focus ST comes to Canada in a five-door hatchback layout. Europe gets a wagon as well, so prepare for a little more whining, especially from our Quebec counterparts.
But there won’t be any crying about engine power.
The ST harnesses a 2.0-litre Ford EcoBoost four-cylinder, a turbocharged motor originally designed to boost both power and fuel efficiency. This is really its first debut as a high performance mill and, making 252 hp and 270 lb/ft of torque, this latest model offers almost twice the power of the original ST.
The engine includes an overboost feature.
When the driver needs an extra burst of acceleration, say to complete a pass, the ST engine can automatically spin the turbocharger to even higher rpms for up to 15 seconds at time. The result is up to 7.4 percent more output in the heart of the torque curve between 3,000 – 4,500 rpm.
It’s sort of like hitting the turbo-boost button in a video racing game. But for real.
Stab the starter and the engine erupts with a delightfully wicked snarl.
The previous-generation European Focus ST was acclaimed for its unique five-cylinder engine sound so Ford sound engineers worked hard to build in the same kind or robust tone from this new four-cylinder model. Part of this process is the reworking of the famed sound symposer, first found on the previous Focus ST and subsequently employed on European Focus RS and RS500 models.
And half the fun of driving this car is the interplay of sound from front and back – the constant moan from the centred hexagonal dual exhausts countered by the grittier snarls from under the hood.
That duet puts a smile on your face whether you’re cruising slowly through town or blasting down a straightaway.
Ford has not determined fuel economy ratings with this engine configuration yet and the ST comes mated only to a six-speed manual Durashift transmission.
If you are bothered by either of those factors, you are shopping in the wrong Focus aisle, buddy.
Ford was not about to subject two rare pre-production models to the tender mercies of hooligan journalists on a racetrack but I managed to snag the Tangerine Scream version for a run through the quiet country highways around Calabogie.
First gear gets you rolling quickly and you are up to highway speed by the time you hit the limits of second. I might wish for shorter throws but the stick shifts sweetly enough through the cogs.
Third gear will take you up in the vicinity of 150 km/h, the kind of speed to make local Smokies swoon but, no Officer, I am not prepared to swear to that statement.
To give you an idea of the car’s character, it will cruise quite sedately at about 2500 rpm at highway speed. Each downshift will bump the engine spin up by 500 rpm segments, with a bigger jump in third gear, up to about 4500 rpm.
And that worked out to be the sweet spot for me, downshifting from sixth to third to make a pass, often just playing between second and third gears through the twisty bits of that smooth country highway, feeling the rhythm and letting the engine sing, radio off, just absorbing the sound of engine and exhaust.
Power without control is nothing, so the ST strokes Ford’s “C” platform with a lowered chassis, sport suspension, bigger brakes and an electric power-assisted sport steering (EPAS) system aided by Ford’s torque steer compensation to handle power put to the road through front-wheel-drive.
An enhanced Electronic Stability Control (ESC) offers three mode settings – “Normal” for every day all weather driving, “Sport” for more driver control or “Off” for track or autocross competition.
Inside, the Focus ST is snugly comfortable, well loaded with dash top extra gauges and a wealth of equipment and amenities.
Ford of Canada decided to package their version with an almost all-inclusive list of standard equipment, covering everything from full-leather heated Recaro sport seats to heated mirrors, ambient lighting, cornering lamps and more for $29,999.
A Tech Package adds MyFord Touch, dual-zone climate control and a SONY-branded audio system with Sirius for $30,999.
The only stand-alone options are Navigation ($700), Moonroof ($1,200).
The ST is available in Performance Blue, Race Red, Oxford White, Tuxedo Black and Ingot Silver and the signature Tangerine Scream Tri-Coat paint job adds $300.
Expect the 2013 Ford Focus ST later this summer.
And expect them to sell like hotcakes.
Ford Focus ST 2013 at a glance
BODY STYLE: five-door performance hatchback.
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front wheel drive.
ENGINE: 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged direct injection four cylinder with overboost (252 hp, 270 lb/ft)
TRANSMISSION: six-speed Durashift manual only
FUEL ECONOMY: TBD.
PRICE: $29,999; Tech Package $30,999; plus $1,500 freight and PDI.
WEB SITE: www.ford.ca