By on November 30, 2016

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-006

Tommy writes:

I love reading your columns, and have a question that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. for seven years, about half of that time without a car. I’m planning on getting a raise soon, and with that, I’d like to buy a car. And not just any car, but an adult car that I can rely on to start when I need it, and not constantly have to wrench on the little things that break.

For so long now, I have wanted nothing more than a Focus ST. Everything I’ve read about them just screams to my inner child, and at 29, I think I can still listen to him because I’m not expecting a family any time soon.

However, when I think subjectively about my past preferences in cars, I realize that I’ve often found a whole lot of joy in big lazy road trip cars. For example, I inherited my late grandfather’s 1988 Crown Vic, drove it for 5 years, and absolutely loved every mile. I also just rented a 2016 Taurus Limited that was very comfortable for an eight-hour drive, and I loved the power.

I also owned a 1997 BMW 328is manual that was an absolute blast, and I loved the manual transmission, but at times found it a bit jarring and uncomfortable on city roads. The drive was worth it though, but it was a two door, and totally unusable for any more than one passenger.

So, if you were me, wanting a fairly responsible and reliable car in the $20,000-25,000 range, new or used, that can occasionally be used to comfortably drive four people some distance, do you have any interesting thoughts other than a FoST? Because man oh man, that FoST is calling my name, but I would probably do well to consider other options first.

Hey, Tommy, thanks for writing. I have a sneaking suspicion that you haven’t driven a Focus ST yet, because — I hate to break it to you — the Focus ST isn’t a comfortable car. Like, not at all. While it’s not as rough as its little brother, the Fiesta ST, it’s still a stiffly sprung car with uncomfortable seats. I’m 5’8 and 175 lbs, and I don’t fit into Focus ST Recaros. The Focus RS has the seats from the Boss 302 instead, because people pretty much hate riding in the FoST. Finally, if you thought your E36 was jarring, you’re going to find the Focus ST downright teeth-rattling.

You also mentioned liking the power of the Taurus (which is odd to me, because I feel like the Taurus is gutless), and while the FoST has decent power, it’s really a bit more of a momentum car. If you want grunt along with your comfort, I just don’t think the Focus is for you.

So what would be for you? Well, why not a Mustang? Oddly, the Mustang is a actually a little more comfortable to ride in than a Focus is, and the back seat really doesn’t have any less room. You can get a lot of pony for $25K, too — new V6s and EcoBoosts can be had all day long, and 2011-14 GTs can be had, too.

But the real answer is a Chrysler 300. No, you can’t have a stick, but in the DC area, that might be a positive. All the comfort you want, all the power, plenty of room for four adults, and the Pentastar engine is dead reliable. If you liked the Taurus, you’ll love the 300. It’s much, much better.

Here’s an update from Michael, who wrote to us about his Edge quandary. I think you’ll enjoy hearing from him!

Bark, thanks muchly for taking the time to answer my questions and make me a little smarter on modern engine tech.  And thanks to all your readers who took the time to read my rambling analysis of the choices, make sense of it all, then provide honest feedback.  Far from being an inane consideration, there’s nothing so expensive as buying the wrong vehicle for your wants/needs and trading earlier than you otherwise would.

The Sport is on order. As some noted, I definitely try to be the most practical person possible. So I definitely avoided the optional larger wheels, though most on the lot have them. Your readers really did come up with great suggestions. One of the first vehicles I considered was a Ridgeline or Colorado/Canyon.  People seem to especially like the Ridgeline for its ability to do truck tasks without feeling “truck-like.” Those are always possibilities for the next purchase, should the Edge pass my wife to replace her ’07 Saturn Vue.

I expected the MKX as a recommendation and really like it. The only reason it became a second choice for us was between the two of us we wanted all the bells and whistles. The MKX is a great value as a base model, but becomes more expensive than the equivalent Edge when adding in all the options. At some point the budget kicked in to say we’ll be happy enough with the Ford.

In the end, the choice became easier once I realized that while the 2.0T is a fine base engine if we were looking at an SEL, we wanted enough options that the cost of stepping up the engine wasn’t much.  I realized I drive the above-mentioned Vue (four-cylinder, front-wheel drive) with my foot to the floor all the time, so figured I’d be into the turbo all the time if I went that way, negating any fuel economy benefit.  The 3.5-liter would’ve been more than adequate.  At the end of the day, if this vehicle is a decade-long purchase like the last couple I’ve had, I’m not going to notice the cost difference in either purchase price or fuel over that time frame.

Thanks again to you and all the commenters!

Mike E

See? We really are changing lives here with Ask Bark, so keep sending those questions to me at [email protected] and we’ll keep answering them, together.

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74 Comments on “Ask Bark: To Focus ST or Not (Plus An Update!)...”

  • avatar

    I recently drove a FoST and didn’t think it was that horrible in terms of comfort, but I’m driving a beat BMW so my sense of comfort may be a bit off. I for one LOVED the seats, that was actually the main attraction. I have a little less mass going than the author but am similarly sized and they fit like a glove. I liked the thick rimmed steering wheel and the comfortable shifter knob.
    What I was surprised by is that it didn’t feel as fast as I thought it would be. I’m sure some tuning might fix it.
    I will very likely be going to pick up a used Taurus SHO after work today. For similar money I get a lot more bang for my buck, the only thing missing is a manual transmission. For cooled seats and a pair of snails, I can go without.

    • 0 avatar

      SHO depreciation curve makes them attractive even with very few miles on them.

      Current automotive tastes being what they are the Explorer is the only vehicle on that platform that gets any love.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t mind a used SHO, or an MKS Ecoboost.

      • 0 avatar

        The second biggest problem for the SHO is that it’s 202 inches long. In my book, that is huge. And the MKS is 206 inches… 4 more inches of plastic crap. I liked it, but it won’t fit comfortably in my garage.

        The worst problem for both cars is that (I think) the heavy depreciation will continue. I think you’ll lose A LOT off a used SHO in 1 year. Until people wise up and stop with this SUV insanity, I think sedan prices will continue to plummet.

        • 0 avatar

          Some of us buy sedans and use them up so we care not two shakes about resale. :-)

          As far as length goes, well I don’t have a garage to worry about at the moment and house hunting will include a tape measure.

          Some of us like big vehicles and some don’t, I will not judge you for your preferences.

          • 0 avatar

            Our other car is a Navigator L. Anything seems small by comparison and that monster still fits in the garage (barely).

          • 0 avatar

            OP here. Thanks for the suggestion! I have ALWAYS loved the current SHO, but alas, it’s just too much money for a used 2013-current, and I don’t really want the 2010-2012 that much. Also, all the used models in my area have a lot of miles on them. If I’m going to spend $20-25k on a vehicle, I will probably stick with a FoST, or look into something different. City life does make a Taurus feel 2x bigger than otherwise.

    • 0 avatar

      Question for SHO (or any Taurus owners) – do people slow down in traffic when you’re behind them, assuming you’re in an unmarked police car?

      Serious question. Dig the SHO, but everyone braking as soon as I get behind them is the exact opposite of what I want. Sounds awful to be honest.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        Don’t get a black one.

        I’ve driven my fair share of SHOs and Explorer Sports. I haven’t had issues with people slowing down because they thought I was a police officer. I have an issue with driving too fast though.

  • avatar

    When I looked at the mustang and there basically is no leg room for the back seat passengers. While I agree that it would fit the bill for a no-kid person I would say that it wouldn’t be a good car if you needed to put adult size passengers back there.

    You could always rent a car when you need to do the long road trips.

    For an “adult” car, I would say the gti is more adult than a fost.

    • 0 avatar

      People always throw out renting as an option, but in my experience it’s a PITA. For example I think both the Avis and Budget by me close at 6. I leave work at about 5 and it takes me 40 minutes to get to either one. Plus while rentals are cheap here (~$30 a day for something like a Corolla), I’m pretty sure they’re not in the DC area; plus getting to and from the rental place will probably be a nightmare.

      Hell I had a 350Z with nobody else but my wife and a 15lb dachshund, and I sold it in part because it was such a PITA to live with due to the general lack of space. I imagine DC has pretty beat up roads too, which don’t compute with a stiff riding car.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, Tommy’s describing a GTI. Fun, adult car with great interior, FANTASTIC back seat room.

      • 0 avatar

        OP here! Yes, I totally agree with sportyaccordy: renting IS “always an option”, but in reality, it adds a solid 45+ minutes to the front and back end of a trip because of having to pick up and drop off the car. Not to mention that the added stress of driving a car that’s not mine removes some of the pressure.

        And GTIs are awesome cars, but I used to work at a VW dealership, and the amount of problems I’d see on brand new or <1000 mile VWs was just such a huge turnoff for me. Not saying I'd never go back to VW, but I'm not a fan of the idea of one of those unless I'm well within warranty coverage.

  • avatar

    If you 300 isn’t your cup of tea then a used Infiniti G37 sedan might work here. 2 year old Q50 (same car different name) lease returns are starting to come in.

  • avatar

    The 300 seems good after a weekend rental but, even if the engine/transmission is reliable, the LX cars are built with all the care of a 1994 Grand Prix.

    He seems to like Fords so I suggest looking at a Fusion Sport, used SHO, or a used 3.7L Lincoln.

    And there is always the ubiquitous 2/3-Series lease.

  • avatar

    Mustang V6, why not.
    Dodge Challenger V6. Cheap, RWD, 8 speed auto. Manly.
    And of course: Camry V6.

    • 0 avatar

      A Dodge Challenger is “Manly”? On what merits? King of the trailer park?
      Any car that is rated as one of the lowest in customer satisfaction and lowest initial quality shouldn’t be called “Manly”. That’s just sad.

      • 0 avatar

        Men aren’t always easy to live with, but can be worth the trouble, if that’s what you’re into.

        I’m not saying buying a Challenger makes you gay, because that would be stupid. You aren’t dating the car, but you do live with it daily. Challenger is a brute, its muscular and sinister looking, a bad boy/dark-but-intriguing persona. These are not feminine qualities.

        Obviously the Camry was intended on being the feminine choice. Especially in a world where the Fusion Sport now resides.

        Equating a V-6 Camry to a FoST is like saying a Chevy Equinox and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon are reasonably comparable alternatives to each other. One is a purpose-built badass, the other is more at home in the pick-up line at the Elementary school at 2:45pm, M-F.
        OP was far more interested in the former, considering his choices.

        • 0 avatar

          Man, what a world, where a 270 hp, 14 second 1/4 mile family sedan is “feminine”.

          For what it’s worth, Car and Driver tested the Fusion Sport and is estimating it to be about a half second faster 0-60 and the same or slower 1/4 mile than an Accord or Camry V6.

          We’ll see I guess.

          • 0 avatar

            “the same or slower 1/4 mile than an Accord or Camry V6”

            Where did you see that? Because everything I’ve seen shows the Ford as KOTH.

            13.7 for the Fusion

            13.8 for the Fusion

            14.3 – 14.6 for the Camry and Accord.



          • 0 avatar

            I’ve driven both a 2017 Fusion Sport and a 2017 Accord V6. The Sport is noticeably faster based on the old seat of the pants meter. However I bought a 2017 Accord EX-L V6 over the Fusion Sport. The reasoning behind that is the Sport gets abysmal fuel economy, requires 93 octane for full power, and the AWD system will probably end up being more costly to maintain/repair over the 10-15 years I plan on keeping the car. Plus if I want to go faster than the Accord I have two cars that are quicker sitting in the garage. That’s why, to me, the Accord won out.

      • 0 avatar

        FCA in general has some issues, but Challengers pretty consistently have one of the highest satisfaction ratings. They’ve scored between 87 and 91 on consumer reports owner satisfaction survey since 2009 and came in 1st in class and 2nd overall a couple times.

        so more simply general blind dodge hate.

        • 0 avatar

          I guess I haven’t kept up with the Fusion sport articles, I only read the initial first drive.

          The 2014 Camrys were 14.1 @ 100 mph per C&D.

          You’d think adding TWO TURBOS would net more than a half second advantage and at least a higher 1/4 mile trap speed.

          For having 50 more hp and over 100 lbs-ft more torque than the Camry or Accord, you’d think the Fusion would’ve been faster than it is.

          Personally, I don’t think the 1/2 second (or less depending on the year of Camry) is worth all of the extra turbo hardware.

          • 0 avatar

            Nobody’s buying these things for their damned 1/4 mile times. The Fusion Sport is a full second faster to 60, that’s where the added power went.

            *snerk* trap times of a Fusion and a Camry. Talk about absolutely pointless bench racing.

          • 0 avatar

            For JimZ:

            Depending on which times you’re looking at, the Fusion Sport not a full second quicker than a Camry or Accord V6.

            The quickest published time for a Camry V6 is 5.8 seconds 0-60, both C&D and MT. The quickest time for a Fusion Sport is 5.1 seconds.

            We’re not talking a Chevy Spark vs. a Dodge Viper here.

            Grandma, rolling stealth in her 2014.5 V6 Camry XLE, with it’s cheesy chrome grill, catches a Fusion Sport off guard at the stoplight.

            Granny gets the hole shot. Fusion Sport suddenly has it’s hands full trying keep pace with a friggin’ CAMRY.

            Feelings are hurt.

          • 0 avatar

            “with a friggin’ CAMRY”

            Who cares? The other car is a Ford Fusion. They are all in a similar competitive/price class. The Fusion Sport isn’t meant as a Hellcat or M5 contender.

            Your entire scenario is bizarre, and public road stoplight racing is hella lame in general, but it is weapons-grade dorky if its Fusion Sport vs Camry V6.

          • 0 avatar

            For Alja:

            “Who cares? The other car is a Ford Fusion”

            Clearly you care, because you’re posting links to articles with Ford Fusion 1/4 mile times. That’s really dorky, who cares about drag times for a Ford Fusion.

            My point is that the gains are incremental for all the work they did.

            Maybe it’s because the Fusion is pulling around an extra Honda Fit compared to the Camry and Accord.

          • 0 avatar

            Haha. You are the one that brought it up in the first place. Correcting your statement was just internet OCD/autism in action.

            I’m under no delusion that my TTAC posts are awesome, but that doesn’t make the idea of Fusion Sport and Camry XLE duking it out ‘Fast & Furious’ style any less of an eye-roller.

            “who cares about drag times for a Ford Fusion.”

            Apparently V6 Camry owners and people with a spectrum disorder.

          • 0 avatar

            @ ajla:
            Duty Calls!

      • 0 avatar

        Speaking as a well-educated single adult male who owns his own home not located in a trailer park and also owns a new 2016 Challenger, I’d say you’re full of it on the customer satisfaction statement for the car. See Mr Icky’s response regarding consumer reports satisfaction ratings.

        I love my Challenger – it puts a smile on my face every day. My car has the stiffer suspension setup (Super Track Pak in Dodge parlance) and still rides extremely well on the battered roads here in the Detroit metro area. I couldn’t be more pleased with the amazing ride/handling balance engineered into this car.

        For the OP, if transporting 4 people is an occasional need, I second Bark’s recommendation of a 300, or if you want something with suspension tuning biased a bit firmer, a Charger might fit the bill.

        I will say that even though the 300/Charger/Challenger seats are all based on the same “bones”, you sit “on” the 300 seats, not “in” them like the Dodge duo. In other words, I don’t find the 300 seats particularly comfortable (exception: 300S with the more aggressive seats) vs. the ones in the Charger/Challenger which are supremely comfortable. Of course seat comfort can be deeply personal and radically different from one person to another.

        Overall the “L” cars (300, Charger, Challenger) have long been a bright spot for Chrysler in terms of overall reliability and customer satisfaction, in spite of what most of the haters on here say.

        • 0 avatar

          OP here. Thanks for all the thoughts. At the risk of sounding SUPER biased here, I’m probably staying pretty far from anything from Toyota. Yea, their V6 is fast, but everything built around the V6 is…well, it’s generally an FWD Camry, or something very similar. Nah, I’ll pass on that.

          I’m more partial to the Charger than the 300, but they are both very nice cars. I’d just want the 8-speed if I were getting one, and I’m not confident that those are in my budget. TBD though.

          • 0 avatar

            Also, any thought on a 2012ish Ford Fusion Sport? 265 hp is nothing to laugh at in general. I realize it’s only “sporty” at best, but it’s definitely got some power and practicality in spades.

  • avatar

    Worth noting: the Recaros in the FoST are an option. The standard seats are the ones from the basic Focus, which are excellent as far as I’m concerned. That won’t cure the FoST’s hard ride, but it’ll fix the seating issue.

    But if the goal here is a performance compact, I’d take a VW GTI over a FoST if ride comfort was the ultimate deciding factor.

    Tommy might also consider a Kia Forte5 with the turbo option – not quite as quick as a FoST or GTI, but there’s still plenty of power, there’s a ton of equipment, and it’s less hard-edged.

    But a used 300 feels like a bad bet to me.

    • 0 avatar

      Couldn’t agree more in that last line.

      I don’t get the hate for the Taurus, if my parent’s 2012 is any indication, they’re well built and reliable. The 3.5L and 6F are a good combination. And, yes, in comparison with a 1989 Crown Vic, it will feel more powerful. It is. Its a lot quicker than their former 2008 Grand Marquis by a long shot, and about a 5 mpg improvement in average MPG, more than that when its all highway (road trips, same place they drove the MGM).

      • 0 avatar

        OP here. Thanks for the input!

        @FreedMike, have you had extensive experience with the seats? I get the impression that FoST seat opinions are VERY subjective to the users. I’m 6’1″ and generally built athletically. I sat in the Recaros once for a bit of time and don’t have any memories good or bad, but they seemed fine. What do you think of the base ST1 seats? Should I consider those?

        @JohnTaurus, I COMPLETELY agree with you. The Taurus that I drove for 8 hours to and from NY was very pleasant. I was impressed with the power delivery, and got like 25mpg round trip. I’ve driven a variety of cars, though not that many brand new competitors, but the Taurus was definitely nicer than most. I didn’t love the bathtub feeling, but I could see out pretty well.

    • 0 avatar

      Since we’re going anecdotal here, my parents had an excellent experience with their 2006 300, and are having a similarly good experience with their 2013 300C. The ’06 car only ever needed 2 repairs: a module that made the adjustable pedals work (warranty), and the transmission electrical connector O-rings (also warranty). Leaky O-rings were a known issue with all versions of the Mercedes NAG1/A580 trans, including the ones used on Mercedes vehicles. That’s it.

      The 2013 car has had zero issues so far, nor do I expect any quite frankly.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Chrysler 300 in DC? At every stoplight there will be people trying to get into your car thinking you are their Uber.

    • 0 avatar

      Hahaha that was my very first thought when I read that. THe 300 is a very nice car, but I’d have to go with bright red or something so people don’t think I’m picking them up.

  • avatar

    Due to how much Ford’s knocking off the FoST, it might not be a bad idea to look into a lease. It’s what I’m thinking about doing.

    • 0 avatar

      Residuals are ugly on any Focus, so I’d be surprised if you got a decent deal. But I’d be interested in knowing…

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know, if you’re hoping to keep the car, a lease might not be a bad thing. Especially if you want to see if it’s the right car for you.

        • 0 avatar

          If that’s the case, then I’d be aiming at a low-APR or zero interest buy.

          • 0 avatar

            OP here. I’m new to car buying, so I’m not totally familiar with what you’re talking about here. But yes, I could currently pick up a brand new 2016 FoST for solidly $3k+ under MSRP. $22k would get me an ST2, which is right in the sweet spot, as far as I’m concerned.

  • avatar

    “The Focus RS has the seats from the Boss 302 instead, because people pretty much hate riding in the FoST.”

    Wha? Every Focus RS I’ve seen has had Recaros which appear, aside from stitching, to be the same as the Focus ST’s (which are also virtually the same as the FiST’s); every Boss I’ve seen has had fixed-headrest seats which look similar to the currently available Mustang Recaros.




    You’ve owned both RS and Boss, so I’m confused.

    (Full disclosure, I find the FiST Recaros to be among the most comfortable car seats I’ve ever used, and I’m a bit larger than Bark in all dimensions. Never had better road trip seats. The ride quality is terrible in both STs, no argument there.)

  • avatar

    When I test drove FoST I really liked the ride. It was really well damped with BMW-like roundness to sharp impacts. The GY F1 summer tires seemed like a good match to the chassis. I bet it would ride like a limo with more touring-oriented rubber like Pirelly P7 or Michelin Primacy MXM4.

    I am extremely sensitive to ride quality, too. Most cars I test drive get a failing grade in ride quality.

    As far as advice for the OP, I would recommend a Mercedes SLK350 with manual transmission. Low mileage ones (20-25k miles) are around $20k. Amazing car for a young person with no kids!

  • avatar

    I’ve test driven a few Focus ST’s, and find the ride perfectly acceptable, even on less-than-perfect pavement. In fact, I think it rides about as well as my 2010 TSX, and it probably has less road noise. Check out the Edmunds review, in which they say the ST’s relatively decent ride is a plus:

    So, I wouldn’t reject it on that basis without spending some meaningful time behind the wheel. The same goes for the Recaros in the ST2 and ST3 (the base ST1 doesn’t have them). They are definitely tight, and very uncomfortable for some folks, but some owners say they break in and become more comfortable over time. They are definitely more supportive than the base seats, so I’d probably get them hoping they would break in.

    For me, living in downtown Philly, the real issue with the Focus ST is its huge turning circle. That could be a huge PITA at times. My dad’s C-Max has the same issue, and it bugs him even though he lives in the ‘burbs.

    Overall, however, I think the Focus ST is fantastic, and probably what I’d buy today despite the issues.

  • avatar

    I have the ST2 package Focus ST (recaros and upgraded A/V system, but no moonroof or nav) which I picked up new in February of this year and have put about 4K miles on so far. For comparison purposes, I replaced a 2012 GTI (base model 4 door with DSG) with the FoST.

    Ride quality is fine at least in well-maintained Central Texas. The car is a bit stiffer than the GTI but has less road noise at toll-road speeds.

    Interior room is slightly smaller than the GTI – the back seats have slightly less legroom/headroom, and the rear cargo area is a bit smaller (and the parcel-shelf thing is harder to remove and replace than the part in the GTI, which is an annoyance when I am taking my dog with me.) On the other hand, the FoST is a lot quieter with the shelf removed vs. the GTI, which saw a big increase in road noise without the shelf.

    I am a big guy (6′ 220lbs) and I find the seats totally comfortable for short and long trips, although I can’t have a holstered pistol on me or wear a bulky jacket while driving as the seats are tight. I haven’t had a ton of passengers in the front seats since getting the car, but about half of them have said the seats are the most uncomfortable thing ever, and half really liked them. Test drive strongly recommended if you are thinking about getting them :)

    Fuel economy is similar to the GTI (25MPG in mixed driving, 30 on road trips.) The FoST feel significantly quicker than the GTI and has a better engine note. I like the interior appointments better although the GTI has a certain German minimalist charm of its own. Good stock (Sony) sound system.

    If you have kids, it’s a heck of a lot easier to get them in and out of a 4 door FoST than a Mustang.

    • 0 avatar

      Dorrin writes: “I have the ST2 package Focus ST (recaros and upgraded A/V system, but no moonroof or nav) which I picked up new in February of this year and have put about 4K miles on so far. For comparison purposes, I replaced a 2012 GTI (base model 4 door with DSG) with the FoST.”

      However your 2012 GTI would have been the previous Mk 6. The current Mk 7 Golf platform is all new and a big step up in almost every respect. In particular the GTI’s optional DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control), with its variable ride settings, is the perfect answer for someone potentially interested in the FoST but concerned about its lack of ride comfort and general refinement.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for your input @Dorrin. I haven’t driven a newer GTI than an ’08 model, and that was long enough ago to make it a difficult comparison. However, I do remember very much enjoying the GTI.

        I’ll be 100% honest here though, I’m a big Ford guy, and having worked at a VW dealership for a few years, I got pretty burnt out on them. Also, they just seem SO German in their demeanor that I have a tough time feeling emotionally compelled to drive them. Probably worth a test drive though, should I go the Hot Hatch route.

        @NeilM, good point about the Mk6 vs 7. I’ve heard very good things about the 7, but similarly, it’s still more “mature” than an FoST, and Imm not sure if that’s quite what I want. TBD.

  • avatar

    OP sounds a bit like me. I love a big floaty barge just as much as a I like FoST, for different reasons of course.
    The FoST is a great car, but the ride is quite firm.

    I think a lightly used Taurus SHO is perfect. Its quick, comfortable for four, has good dealer support and parts availability, all at a very attractive price.

    Might also look at the LX cars. (300, Charger, Challenger) but then you would get FCA cooties. eww.

  • avatar

    At 5’9″ 175 I fit just fine in the Focus ST Recaros, but they were ROCK hard and the bottom cushion is oddly angled, so on long drives they get really old.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Avalon Touring? Current-gen styles can be had for 20-25 (example

    They’re great, fatigue-free road-trippers and the 2GR V-6 throws down enough grunt to make the drive entertaining.

  • avatar

    Pontiac G8, or GTO if you’d rather have a coupe. Older, but reliable and relatively common parts availability. Well in your price range and have some collectible value to boot.

    Otherwise, I’d check out the Dodge Charger/Challenger options.

    These cars are fast, comfortable, solid interstate flyers and sturdy enough to stand up to the streets of Metro DC — no small issue.

  • avatar

    At 7000 miles into a 2016 poverty-spec ST-1, I can recommend it without (too many) reservations. Beefs: standard seat is OK, but needs more (any) lumbar support. I hope to fix this. Fuel tank is adorably tiny, thus a fairly short range. Standard radio is not satellite-ready (c’mon, Ford!). That’s the list. It’s extremely strong, smooth, pretty quiet at highway cruising speeds, and decently economical for the power. It’s really easy to drive and I like the electric steering nearly as much as the hydraulic setup in my previous Focus SVT. Maybe better, even. Ride quality really isn’t as bad as I originally thought it would be; some break-in miles and adjusting the tires to the lower European setting (a bit less than 35 psi) has made it quite tolerable, even pleasant. Not the magic carpet my SVT and the ZX3 before that were, but the suspension settings suit the car. So: yes.

    • 0 avatar

      Great point about the steering. The Focus ST has the only electrically-assisted steering I’ve tried that I actually like, and that’s a huge reason I’d buy one. I can tolerate the steering in my TSX with decent tires, but the ST’s system is much better.

      I’m looking forward to the upcoming Civic Si, but Honda doesn’t have a good track record for steering feel, so I doubt the Si will beat the FoST in that respect.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Here in the Land of Shiny New Expensive Cars (metro D.C.)he should look at CPO luxury makes. A CPO Mercedes C class or; screw it, a Wrangler for D.C. streets. Go in the snow also helps with the Wrangler.

    • 0 avatar

      I think a CPO luxury make is entirely predictable for the region though. Based on the guys description I’d say GTI and done, but that’s predictable too. But it sounds like he wants something slightly different. I understand ppls recommendation of 300, but that’s kind of predictable too, from a different direction.

  • avatar
    Orangecar Blackheart

    I was in this same spot 6 months ago. LOVED the idea of either ST car, preferred the Focus for its slight size advantage.

    Drove them both, in both seat styles…. and hated the seats. I’m 6′, 220, and the regular seats had me almost falling out in corners, and the base audio is trash. But the Recaros fit like I imagine a corset would fit a 220 lb man.

    I tried a GTI but it really didn’t do anything for me. Zero emotion. I looked at the Golf R (The dealer had one on the lot unsold!) and I couldn’t even get them to take the wrap off of it so I could see how it felt to sit in it, so I vacated the premises because seriously – screw VW if a 35k hatchback is unobtainium to them.

    Went back to Ford to see if I could sit in an RS (they also had one) and instead ended up driving a couple Mustangs while it was out on another test drive – well, I never did try that RS because I was sold on that Ecoboost Mustang before I even got it really warmed up.

    Sure, no real backseat, but it’s got plenty of power, is more comfortable than a pony car has any right to be, and was under $30k completely loaded. 6 months later, zero regrets – and no, I don’t miss not having a V8, I’ve never hit a pedestrian, and I have loved every sideways minute.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for your thoughts on this. I’m probably 25-30 lbs less than you, but about the same height. I think the seats would be fine in an ST for me based on VERY limited experience.

      I’ve ALWAYS wanted a Mustang, but after owning a BMW 328is coupe for a couple years, I found it wildly inconvenient for driving places with any friends. Living in DC, not many of my friends own cars, but we like to do big group outings to WV or other fun places. Seats are always at a premium, and I’d like a car that can contribute in a meaningful way, hence the hot hatch focus I’ve got.

      Also, I’m glad to hear someone speak with actual excitement about the ecoboost in the Mustang. I’ve always thought the blind hatred people have towards it is pretty unnecessary.

  • avatar

    If a 300 is on the table-and I do think that it’s a great suggestion-then Tommy should also check out the Hyundai Genesis/Genesis G80. I recently ditched my Infiniti G37x because the harsh ride was starting to grate on me. The 300 and Genesis were both on my shortlist. I ended up getting a leftover 2016 Genesis. For someone who liked a Crown Vic, either the 300 or Genesis will check all the right boxes. But, comparing 300 vs Genesis, to me the Genesis felt more tightly put together, better fit and finish, and better ride quality. And just a higher overall level of refinement. (If you set badge appeal aside and are willing to sacrifice a bit on interior design/materials quality it compares quite favorably to its German competition) But if the styling, and bold American swagger appeals, then the 300 is a fine car.

    I forget the trim levels, but I got a 2016 Genesis with the 3.8 v6 and every option package except the highest one. Zero down, only 1st month payment at signing, 12k mi/yr lease was $425/mo. Equivalent G80 would have been about $125’ish/mo more.

  • avatar

    The focus st gets such a bad wrap and is super underrated. I’ve been driving a 2013 focus st st3 for the past two years and absolutely love it. Every time I drive it, I have a huge smile on my face and think to myself man I LOVE this car. The boost comes on fast, torque is great, it pulls hard in freaking sixth gear. People complain about the ride but it’s a hot hatch. The handling is direct and you always feel connected to the road. Sure it’s a bit rough, but much smoother than an FR-S. It also has four seats and a big trunk. This is the ultimate daily driver for someone who wants something fast but also a family car. Buy it, you won’t regret it.

  • avatar

    Hmm. almost 30 years old wants a sporty newish car where you can row your own gears around the 25k range with rear legroom for friends. Seems his only choices are a GTI or a WRX in comparasion to focus st.

  • avatar

    A manual in DC? No….just….NO.

    After a 4.5 hour bumper-to-bumper, steady 3 MPH crawl home in an ice storm in my old Accord Coupe with a stick, I’ll never own another manual again, until I leave this god-forsaken traffic Hell.

    • 0 avatar

      OP here. Fortunately, I live right in the heart of DC, so this car would mostly only be used for quick trips to Costco, or Getting TFO out of the city for longer trips. I always travel outside of commute times, so manuals have never posed a serious issue for me.

      If I had to commute, I’d have a VERY different checklist.

  • avatar

    @Bark :

    Focus RS seats are NOT the seat from the Boss 302, or any Mustang.

    the design is common between ST and RS, with the RS getting slightly more bolster and different trim covers. being produced in Germany, the RS seat is from a different vendor than the US Focus ST. word from people on the development team is that while the Europe-sourced seats are supposed to be the same, they always felt a little bit different, for unclear reasons.

    I’ve not found the Recaros to be an issue in either car comfort-wise, perhaps because I’m taller and the narrowness of the bolsters doesn’t intrude on my frame (5″ taller, but only 15lbs heavier than you). they’re definitely an acquired taste and to be sampled prior to buying a car with(out) them. the Europe-only shell seats for the RS are sublime, but not for US unfortunately, due to certification/crash testing costs.

    The re-tuned suspension in the Fiesta ST for 2016 is more compliant without losing any significant limit handling capability. you should try one out.

    for an ST, Fiesta is always the answer to me, even smaller/cheaper feeling – it is honest about being small/cheap, where the Focus is smaller inside than the exterior dimensions promise and I find the seating position never works for me.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Put me in for another vote on the 300/Charger/Challenger. I own a 2014 base model I bought last year from the dealer with 24,000 miles on it for 22,500, I’m almost at 60,000 and haven’t had a single issue with it. It looks and sounds mean as hell and pulls hard, but it rides nice and soft. Winter traction is surprisingly really good.

  • avatar

    a very good point. I haven’t driven the MkVII; my decision to go with the FoST was based on 3 factors:

    1) pricing – thanks to Ford’s promotional ‘Xplan pricing’ I was able to factory order my ST2 FoST for slightly less than a base GTI 4 door with DSG. Getting an equivalently upgraded GTI would have been about $3-$5K more expensive (it’s hard to do a direct compare across the two,) about halfway to jumping up to a Golf R or Focus RS.
    2) the FoST is non-trivially faster, especially in real-world driving applications.
    3) the GTI, although not unreliable, had a couple of small irritating problems over a well-cared for, 4-year and 45K mile ownership, one of which the dealership was never able to resolve. Also, the DSG had a very expensive regular required maintenance that made me concerned about the long-term durability of the DSG system. Yes, you can get a GTI with a manual (and the VW manual is very good) but from my perspective, the DSG was one of the main selling points of the GTI and a big part of why I bought it over a WRX back in 2012.

  • avatar

    Bark, thanks so much for posting this! I appreciate the answer and input, and will continue to consider. I’m still a month or two out from really digging into the purchasing process, but I’m paying attention everywhere.

    I have actually driven a FoST, but it was at a Ford demonstration event in a parking lot at FedEx field, and I was pretty focused on the driving, so the ride never factored in much.

    I’m 6’1″ and just under 200lbs, so highly bolstered seats have never caused an issue for me. The Recaros felt pretty decent for the short amount of time I was in them, but I’m open to the base seats as well if they are better for long term. I’ve just heard such conflicting reports on the Recaros, shifting back and forth between “Best ever!” and “Avoid the Recaros”, so it may just be something I need to try on a longer test drive.

    And the BMW I had, I should have clarified, was a 140k miles with pretty bad suspension. It was stiff, but beyond that, the struts were all pretty shot, and the wheels were way too big for the car, so the rubber was hilariously bad at absorbing any of the jolts and vibrations from the winter-ruined roads. So It was far from a “BMW ride” that we all expect.

    Thanks to everyone for responding in the comments as well! I’ve gleaned a lot, and will respond where necessary.

  • avatar

    I had a FoST 3 for three years and put 78000 miles on it. The Recaro seats were an excellent fit for me and were comfortable for 3 hour drives. The leather did not hold up very well BTW. I never found the ride objectionable but it is hard and the quick steering rack can be tiring on long highway drives. I had zero issues with the ST. I traded the ST for a new AWD Rallye Charger (the Rallye is the sport pack) and all around, the Charger is a much better car to live with. Believe it or not, at 9/10ths, I think it’s just as much fun to drive on the road. It’s now got over 36000 miles on it, is like it was when I picked it up and I always look forward to driving it. I would buy another one.

  • avatar

    Just bought a used 2014 Focus ST3 about 3 weeks ago. Car had about 19,000 miles when I bought it and I’ve put about 1000 miles on it with some short city commuting and long highway trips. A few thoughts that might help you:

    1. The seats are very subjective but if you were fine with them on the test drive, I think you’ll be fine in general. I’m 6’2″ and about 210 lbs. Most of my fat is around the front, the beer gut I’m constantly working on. The seats were a huge concern for me when I went to test drive. Turns out I fit pretty well. However, they can get a bit tiring after about two hours on the highway. They squeeze your thighs very tightly. However, they also slowly will wear into your body shape, eventually fitting you like a glove. My much smaller girlfriend (about a foot shorter and half the weight, at most) absolutely loves them.

    2. For me, the ride is fine. Yes, its stiff, but the heavily bolstered Recaros soak up a lot of the rougher ride. Its never crashy or harsh and generally its a good highway companion. The extra sophistication (and head room) is what sold me on the FoST rather than a FiST. However, its certainly not a purebred highway cruiser. Surface changes and expansion joints can really jostle you around.

    3. Its quiet on the highway. It really settles down well. Its certainly quieter than my 2006 Mercury Milan I owned previously.

    4. Its a riot to drive. I doubt you need me to tell you this. Go read any of the countless reviews of the car online. I’m still a novice at performance driving but the turbo is great fun, the brakes are solid and confidence-inspiring, and the transmission is a great companion.

    5. In a more subdued color (mine is black), no one notices you. Its a great sleeper car. Only car people understand or care what it is. To most people, its just a boring focus with a weird exhaust and funny face. For me, this is a good thing. However, YMMV.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for all the detailed feedback! I’m still really stuck on the idea of a Focus ST. I think I need to go test drive one on public roads with an ST2 level seat to see if I can deal with the sharp ride and heavy bolstering of seats. However, I’ve heard more good about the ride and seats than bad, so I may be OK.

  • avatar

    You need a Golf R or GTI.

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