The Truth About Cars » focus st The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:37:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » focus st Review: 2014 Ford Focus ST (With Video) Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:00:42 +0000 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior

Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result is the polar opposite of a pony car.


Click here to view the embedded video.


For 2014, the American hot hatch shopper is spoiled for choice. There are a whopping two options: the 2014 Ford Focus ST and the 2014 Volkswagen GTI. If you’re patient enough, VW plans on releasing a new GTI for the 2015 model year and the Mazda rumor mill is rife with 2015 Mazdaspeed3 assumptions. I must therefore rule the Focus ST the most attractive hot hatch in America and put the comparatively boring GTI in last place, or second. However you want to look at it. For performance duty Ford takes the already handsome Focus, lowers it by nearly half an inch and swaps in some new wheels, a front bumper, tweaked spoiler, rear valance and exhaust tips. If you haven’t noticed by now, there is no sedan variant of the Focus ST. Sorry America.

Although the parts list is short, I found the transformation impressive. I haven’t warmed to the Euro nose that the current generation Focus wears while the ST’s more conventional single grille look manages to be both more grown up and more aggressive when compared to the donor car. (Don’t worry, you can get your Focus in colors other than “Tangerine Scream”.) The ST shares hoods with the lesser Focuses (Foci?) there is an oddly large gap between the hood and front bumper that is so uniform (and is on every ST model I have seen) that it must be intentional, however distracting. The reason is that the regular model’s hood doesn’t mate directly with anything as it is styled to be the upper part of the front grille. I have a feeling that if and when the Mazdaspeed3 lands, it will take the crown as I find the Mazda3 the most attractive entry in the compact hatchback segment.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-005


Like the Volkswagen GTI, the first thing you will notice about the Focus when you hop inside will be the very European color palate. In other words, black. The soft injection moulded dashboard combines with the black headliner, black carpets and predominantly black upholstery to create a very Germanic interior. All Focus models sport a double-bump style dashboard with the infotainment positioned in a prominent position and the ST trim tops off the binnacle with standard gauges for oil temperature, oil pressure and turbo boost.  This is the same cabin that European shoppers get with one exception: the Recaro seats aren’t standard on our side of the pond. Neither is that 8-inch touchscreen.

Although the ST starts at $23,625 my realistic base price jumps to $25,845 by adding the “ST2″ package which I consider essential. This package adds the 8-inch screen, automatic climate control and the Recaro seats that you see in all the photos and reviews of the Focus ST. The base seats lack the aggressive bolstering or the exceptional comfort of the half-leather Recaro thrones. ST2 shoppers can opt for two-tone seats (as seen in our tester) in blue, yellow or black-on-black. Checking the ST3 box brings the ST up to $28,000 and adds completely leather faced seats (black only), seat heaters, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and standard navigation software.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-004

During my week with the ST I put over 1,100 miles on the Tangerine Scream including a 650 mile road trip. The Recaro thrones proved to be supportive, comfortable and superior to the GTI’s seats for long road trips. Unfortunately the rear passengers weren’t as happy since the Focus has a fairly cramped rear seat. Adding the Recaro seats to the Focus seems to drop the rear seat room by a hair as well making the Focus a great deal tighter than the GTI despite the Focus being the longer car by six inches. Where do those inches go? Some of them are consumed by the Ford’s longer nose, but plenty can be found in the ST’s 50% larger cargo hold.

Since I mentioned the Mustang earlier, that tight rear seat is one of the main reasons you’d select a Focus ST over a V6 ‘Stang. Despite being smaller than a GTI, the ST offers two extra doors, three more inches of leg room and a 5th seat belt. In addition to the added passenger room the Focus also boasts 10 more cubic feet of widget storage in the back.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-002


Base ST shoppers get basic entertainment to go with their basic seating. All STs come standard with a 6-speaker audio system sporting a 4.2-inch color LCD, SYNC voice commands and a sea of buttons. The unit is housed in the same binnacle as the 8-inch system so there’s plenty of blank space to remind you that you didn’t pony up for the MyFord Touch system. The ST3 package that is my realistic base for the ST solves this by removing the button bank and inserting the screen you see above. Bundled with the resistive touchscreen is an upgraded 10-speaker Sony speaker system with a subwoofer and a center channel. Sound quality in the 6-speaker system was disappointing while the Sony system impressed. One thing to know if that the Sony system tends to have exaggerated treble and bass tuning by default but it is adjustable.

This is about the time when I usually comment on MyFord Touch being somewhat sluggish and suggest that the competition has an acceptable alternative. The alternative however is Volkswagen’s ancient infotainment lineup. All GTIs share the same 8-speaker sound system that slots between Ford’s base and up-level system in both speaker count and sound quality but everything else pales in comparison. The GTI has no SYNC-like voice command system in any model and the base GTI doesn’t even get a color LCD in the cabin. The Driver’s Edition GTI gets VW’s low-cost navigation unit which, when compared to MyFord Touch, is like taking a Palm Pilot to an iPad fight. Hopefully VW will up their game for 2015, but more than likely Ford’s only real infotainment competition will come from Mazda’s slick MazdaConnect system.

2014 Ford Focus ST Engine-002


The last Focus ST was powered by Volvo, a logical choice since Volvo’s S40 and Ford’s Focus were cousins to begin with. This generation Focus is 100% Ford. Instead of the oddly-alluring 2.5L five-cylinder, we get a 252 horsepower tune of Ford’s 2.0L EcoBoost engine cranking out 270 lb-ft of torque. (There is a bit of confusion on the HP numbers, in the video I mention Ford’s initial numbers of 247 HP and 266 lb-ft which was later updated to 252/270. Apparently running 87 octane gasoline in your ST will yield 247 while 93 will get you 252.) This is the same four-cylinder turbo used in the Ford Edge and Taurus except that the boost has been cranked up and it is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. (As far as we can tell this is no longer the Volvo M66 transmission manufactured by Getrag.)


Compared to the VW, the Focus is 52 ponies more powerful and serves up 63 more lb-ft while the Mustang V6 beats the Focus by 48 horsepower and 10 lb-ft. As you would assume with numbers like that, the Mustang is faster t0 60, but thanks to the turbocharger on the Focus the difference in our testing was just 1/10th of a second and is more down to driver skill and traction than vehicle output. The VW on the other hand can’t makeup for the power deficit by being 100lbs lighter and was 3/10ths slower.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-006

The big difference between a Mustang and a hot hatch is of course which wheels are getting the power. Because the ST funnels all its power through the front wheels, torque steer is a genuine concern. Rather than limit engine power in 1st and 2nd like Mazda did with the old Mazdaspeed3, or use a limited slip differential like Honda uses on occasion, Ford decided to program the electric power steering to compensate. Coupled with the EPAS system is a stability control system programmed to torque vector power across the front using the car’s large front brakes. The system works passably well but not as well as the Ford’s “Revo Kunckle” which they use on their larger cars. Due mostly to the greater output, torque steer in the ST is more pronounced than in the GTI, but much less noticeable than in the old Mazda. I’ve always found mild torque steer in a fast front-driver an entertaining phenomenon so it never bothered me.

Helping the steering tendencies is a variable ratio steering rack that uses a quick 1.8 turns lock to lock vs 2.1 in the GTI, 2.8 in the standard Focus and 3.1 in the V6 ‘Stang. Thanks to the ratio the ST feels very nimble and eager to change direction. Unless you need to U-turn of course which is when you will discover that this tiny hatch has a nearly 40-foot turning radius.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-009

Thanks to a light 3,200 pound curb weight (100lbs heavier than the VW but 300lbs lighter than a V6 Mustang), 235-width Eagle F1 Asymmetric tires and a well tuned suspension, the Focus ST sticks to the road like glue. TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad to confirm or deny the Mustang trouncing Gs the plucky hatch can pull, but after a week making passengers sick on winging mountain roads I’m a believer. What makes the Focus more impressive is how neutral the car feels despite being a front-heavy front-driver. It’s more lively, less civilized but more rewarding to drive than the GTI. The V6 ‘Stang does give you rear-wheel- drive dynamics and more shove in a straight line, but I’d be willing to bet I’d be faster around a track in the Focus ST.

What surprised me about the Focus the most however was how livable it is. The suspension is firm but never harsh and my spine didn’t revolt on a 5 hour drive to Los Angeles. Cabin noise was high at 76 dB but that’s not far from the last Golf I measured and average for the economy car segment. Thanks to an active noise generator that opens a valve to pipe sound into the cabin from when at full throttle, normal driving happens without the incessant droning of a Fiat Abarth. While the Tangerine Scream paint job and yellow trimmed seats scream “boy racer”, the truth is the Focus is quite the grown up. With a starting price some $1,300 less than a GTI the Focus delivers a solid value proposition. Fully loaded the difference narrows to less than a grand in cash but more than $3,000 when you factor in the Ford’s greater feature content. While I’m sure that 2015 will bring a VW GTI with more refinement and an improved interior, VW has confirmed the ST will still be the horsepower champion and likely the value leader as well. Compared to that RWD Ford on the lot, the pony car is less expensive but less practical as well. For the cost difference between the Mustang and the ST, you could buy all manner of performance mods for your pony to compete with the ST, but I have a feeling I’d still buy the Focus. For 2014 Ford’s hot hatch is without a doubt the hottest hatch on sale in America, but with Volkswagen planning on sending their 290HP Golf R to the USA and Ford’s own high-power Focus RS rumored, things are just starting to warm up.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3

0-60: 5.95

1/4 Mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 98.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 25.7 MPG over 1210 Miles

Sound Level at 50 MPH: 76.4 dB


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New Face of 2015 Ford Focus Revealed Mon, 06 Jan 2014 15:07:00 +0000 2015 Ford Focus

Three years ago, Ford unveiled the third-generation Focus to the excitement of American enthusiasts who thought the second-generation model lacked “zazz,” to say the least. Come 2015, the Focus will have a new face, and that’s only the beginning.

Debuting at the Geneva Auto Show in March, the 2015 Focus not only has a new, more Aston-Martinesque mouth — bringing it in line with the Fiesta and Fusion — but also a reshaped hood, front spoiler, and rear bumper. Inside, the “mobile phone”-inspired morass of buttons on the current model will soon be replaced by a more sensible, conventional layout featuring updated climate controls.

For the big gun of the collection, the Focus ST is expected to have more aggressive bodywork than the rest of the Focus lineup, along with improvements to the suspension and steering for sharper handling.

Under the hood, however, engine options will be carried-over into the 2015 model year, ranging from the 1-liter EcoBoost pumping out a minimum of 98 horsepower at the low-end, to the 247-horsepower 2-liter monster under the ST. Russian, Chinese and Brazilian markets will see 1.5-liter gasoline and diesel compliance engines as part of their engine choices.

Green enthusiasts will be pleased to know that plug-in variant (in the vein of the C-Max Energi) is in the offing; thus, expect a similar total output of 192 horsepower from its combined electric/gasoline power with 20 miles of electric-only travel. The all-electric Focus will still be available, as well.

The price of admission should more or less hold for 2015, so expect to pay anywhere from around $17,000 to $35,000 depending on model of choice

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Here’s One We Did Elsewhere Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:26:21 +0000 Focus_ST-34

As winter approaches, the TireRack and the other big rubber-retailers will start beating the drum for snow tires. You know that snow tires work in the snow. But I’m sure that none, I mean, many of you have wondered how they work on a racetrack.

Road&Track was kind enough to let me do something that no sane individual would do: spend an afternoon driving the notoriously tire-hungry Focus ST around Putnam Park on snow tires. Over the course of the entire day, I was able to render a few thousand dollars’ worth of Goodyears and Dunlops unfit for resale. I also discovered what the on-track gap is between the best summer-focused tires and their cold-weather counterparts. Check it out here.

Since this is TTAC, however, and we don’t necessarily believe in fluffing the mags even if I’m the one who wrote the story, I’ll tell you the conclusion: there was just 2.2 seconds a lap difference between them. But I know you want to see the pictures of the trashed-looking tires in the slideshow, and see where Vodka McBigbra peeled the “N” off the “DNR” on my helmet, so off you go!

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Capsule Review: 2007 Ford Focus ZX4 ST “Spec Focus” Mon, 18 Oct 2010 02:49:31 +0000

TTAC tested the street version of this car a few years ago: check it out for a classic example of mid-RF-era TTAC reviews, complete with withering attention to interior-quality issues and not-so-gentle comments regarding the unwillingness of the average automaker to purchase a Ford.

At the time, the Focus sold for about fifteen grand. That was for the street car. How much does a racing Focus cost? The answer: One dollar. The answer is also $2500. And $6000. And $25,000. Confused yet?

The success of the Spec Miata racing class, both in the eager-to-embrace-it NASA and hideously-reluctant SCCA, was a pointed lesson to manufacturers struggling to build enthusiast bases for their cheap-and-cheerful cars. A few more spec street-car classes were spontaneously spawned from owner interest: the SE-R Cup, Spec Neon, and Spec E30 (BMW) classes all managed to get off the ground and running with little or no manufacturer help.

The Spec Focus class, on the other hand, was a deliberate creation of a few well-known Ford engineers and marketroids. A couple of so-called “dollar cars” were signed over to Leo Capaldi Racing, which had previously campaigned a Focus in Speed World Challenge competition. “Dollar cars” are cars which cannot be sold to the public for some reason. Normally they are crushed; VW, for instance, crushed the Phaetons by its reps to travel the country and train mechanics on Phaeton service. They might as well have crushed it before sending it out, if the quality of Phaeton service I received is any indication of said training program, but I digress.

Capaldi built the cars to a very high standard, finishing the cage and preparation almost to a Grand-Am Cup level — which, as we will later see, wasn’t the greatest idea. The coin-operated people at NASA were easily persuaded to carve out a separate class for the three Foci to race, and thus Spec Focus was born.

Ford engineers did a lot of homework to ensure that the four major Focus variants — 2.0 Zetec, 2.0 Zetec SVT, 2.0 Duratec, and 2.3 Duratec — would all produce about the same power with the permitted parts. A rather modest National Championship was held in 2006 among the rental cars, with a Ford SVT engineer thrown in to make sure there were enough competitors to round out a podium.

In 2007, two private competitors built their own Spec Foci and all of a sudden it was a five-car class. I joined Spec Focus as a renter, paying between $2500 and $3500 a weekend to drive the red ZX4 sedan. It was a complete arrive-and-drive program for me; I just showed up, paid, and was given a well-prepared car. When necessarily, Capaldi himself suited up to give me some competition. Just watching him race was worth the money; a lifetime racing in murderous Detroit kart classes and Speed WC had taught him every trick in the book and then some.

With Capaldi’s guidance and coaching from a variety of reasonably distinguished fellows, I obliterated the lap records set by the 2006 champion and prepared to cruise to a nearly uncontested 2007 National Championship. The private cars weren’t even close to Capaldi’s rent-a-racers; at one Mid-Ohio race I ran a 1:45.6 while the fastest private car ran 1:51. To put this in perspective, a reasonably-skilled “HPDE 3″ driver in a completely stock 911 GT3 or Corvette Z06 might expect to run a 1:43. These weren’t slow cars; although they only made 170hp or so at the wheels, grippy Toyo RA-1 tires and high-quality Multimatic suspension made them quick in the turns.

What’s a Focus race car like to drive? Well, it likes to roll:

My driving style was different from everyone else’s in the class; I have a particular touch for loading up an outside sidewall and I ended up deflating a tire during a race from bead separation under conditions worse than pictured above. (As a result, Ford changed the tire spec for 2008.) This was not a car for the faint of heart or stomach to race; although the handling was very safe, there was a lot of motion in the car. On the plus side, it had ABS, which absolves a multitude of driving sins.

Most importantly, however, a Spec Focus is a race car. That means: no interior trim anywhere, very loud inside, no rubber or slop in the bushings, full cage, deep seat, limited visibility. It actually feels a lot more like a conventional racer than a Spec Miata, which is not as obviously transformed in its journey from street car to race car.

During the 2007 National Championship itself I made a mistake going into the first turn, dropping into third place, and then kicked another driver into the dirt making up the time. Although I set fast lap of the race, I was demoted down to the third step of the podium in the disciplinary session afterwards. Including damages, entry fees, and incidentals, that was a $6000 weekend. Had I totaled the car, I would have had to write Leo a $25,000 check. When people asked me why I raced an economy car, I always replied,

“Because it’s only slightly more expensive than leasing a Murcielago.”

Despite the obvious merits of the cars, private racers have been slow in coming. I suspect it’s because racing against a fully-prepared team like Capaldi Racing is tough enough for other pro teams. For a guy with an open-deck trailer and a $300 Craftsman toolset, it’s even tougher. No private Spec Focus racer has experienced significant success.

My experience as a rent-a-driver convinced me that I could run my own team, and I was more or less correct. The Neon I built for a total of $9500 the next year was slightly faster than Capaldi’s Focus rentals and far ahead of the private Foci. I had the satisfaction of lapping one of my most outspoken critics in the Focus community during a 2008 race. Later on in the season, one of the Spec Focus drivers and I came together in a collision that totaled my Neon and put the other driver on the Life Flight, but that’s a story for another time. Eighteen months later, everybody’s friends. Things happen in racing. It isn’t World of Warcraft; temper can cost lives.

Capaldi Racing can still put you behind the wheel of a Spec Focus; click for details. The class hasn’t had a lot of subscription in 2010, but it’s a solid way to get started in your race career. The conventional wisdom is that it’s better to start in a large class like Spec Miata, but I found that having a relatively small number of in-class cars at every race allowed me to, ah, focus on getting my personal act together as a driver and racer. It might be the right choice for you, as well.

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This Is The 2012 Ford Focus ST Wed, 15 Sep 2010 04:01:28 +0000

We received this information only a few hours before the embargo, and there isn’t a lot of it. This is supposed to be the “Global” 2012 Ford Focus ST. How global? How fast? What exactly are those brakes? Read on.

Rather than retype the press release and claim it as our own work, we’ll just copy the relevant section in said press release for you to read:

At Paris, Ford is delivering on that promise by revealing an early preview model of the exciting next-generation Ford Focus ST. Targeted for launch in all global markets from early 2012, the all-new Ford Focus ST will be Ford’s first high-performance model developed under its global Performance Vehicles strategy.

The new range-topping Focus – which features a unique 250PS version of the 2.0-litre Ford EcoBoost engine – will be completely true to Ford’s ST heritage, offering driving enthusiasts an intoxicating cocktail of exhilarating performance and handling accompanied by an addictive sound.

Visitors to the Paris display also cannot fail to notice the show car’s highly distinctive sports exterior, which is finished in ‘Tangerine Scream’, a dramatic new body colour that reflects the new ST’s exciting and energetic character.


250 horses from the two-liter EcoBoost should be a walk in the park, since it’s already boosted nearly that high for the Edge and Explorer. No word on whether that’s coupled to the “PowerShift” dual-clutch transmission that we have on the Fiesta now. I’ve raced the Ford Spec Focus cars that have about 210hp at the crank, using the standard Ford five-speed Focus transmission, so that’s a possibility as well. SVT Foci of the first generation (ST170 overseas) had six-speeders.

In Europe, “ST” is not the most hardcore Focus. There’s usually an “RS” above it. Don’t look for that rather expensive model to show up in the States, though.

The last question: What are those brakes? They’re clearly meant to look like ATE opposed-piston calipers, but I suspect they are sliding-caliper big brakes as found on the Audi S5. After three hours looking at the “cutout” surrounding the ATE logo on the high-res variant of these pics, I believe it’s a large-diameter slider. We will see tomorrow if I’m correct.

I’m excited about this one: with the departure of the better-than-you’d-think Cobalt SS and wayyyy-better-than-you’d-think Neon SRT-4, it’s time for Ford to carry the domestic compact performance flag for a while.

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