It was a year ago that Ford teased us with the Focus ST concept but judging by the pictures below the production-ready version of the new fast Focus has barely changed – with one notable exception. Ford have decided to add an estate version to the range, something that’s not been available since the Mk1 Focus offered a big-booted version of the ST170.
Little else has changed from that earlier concept. As previously announced the new Focus ST is powered by a 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine with power now confirmed at 247bhp and a torque output of 360Nm.
While the engine may have dropped a cylinder and lost 500cc from the old Volvo-sourced 2.5-litre engine both the performance and fuel economy are improved. Ford are claiming that the new ST is over 20% more economical than before, but that’s not hard to imagine – the old ST liked to drink. A lot.
One less obvious method of reducing the Focus’s thirst has been to play with ratios of the manual six-speed gearbox. The first five gears are closely stacked to give better acceleration while the sixth gear is longer for relaxed and economical cruising. With plenty of torque on offer the ST should be responsive enough to cope with low revs in top gear.
One area of concern in the new car is the soundtrack. The loss of that charismatic five-cylinder engine has given Ford’s engineers a bit of a headache, but they are promising that the new engine will give just as much entertainment.
The Focus has always had a good chassis, despite putting on a few pounds over the years. The ST benefits from a number of changes over the standard Mk3 Focus with uprated shocks and absorbers and a 10mm reduced ride height promising sharper and more precise handling.
What I’m not sure about is the new Ford Sport Steering System. This is a variable ratio steering rack that is designed to increase the agility of the Focus ST on winding roads yet still inspire high-speed confidence. The steering becomes less sensitive when driving in a straight line but the sensitivity increases during cornering. It’s difficult to know how natural this will feel, but Jost Capito and his team know their stuff.
As well as the new steering there is also the Torque Steer Compensation (TSC) system. In theory this will allow you to pin the throttle to the floor and not feel like you’re wrestling an enraged ferret in a sack. Will it work, or will it be yet another computer-controlled Nanny hampering rapid progress?
That’s not all, there are a few other computer-controlled systems working hard to control the power and torque. There’s a new 3-stage ESP system, allowing you to partially or completely disengage the system, while the Enhanced Dynamic Cornering Control (EDCC), Enhanced Torque Vectoring Control and Cornering Under Steer Control will try their best to keep you and your Focus ST on the tarmac.
On top of the new Focus’s standard interior kit the first of the three trim levels (ST1, ST2 and ST3) adds Recaro sports seats and keyless start, moving up to dual-zone climate control and automatic headlamp control, auto-dimming rear view mirror and automatic wipers on the ST2. The top-spec ST3 adds heated leather Recaros in the front with a leather Recaro bench at the back, while bi-xenon headlights will aid rapid night-time driving.
Prices and performance figures have yet to be announced, but there’s plenty of time yet as the Focus ST does not launch until 2012.