I just renewed my driver’s license. This one won’t have my 25 year old face on it, but the 31 year old model… I’m emotionally distraught (not really, but I’m faking it.). I’m using that as an excuse to have a guilty pleasure.
I have two kids, two car seats, a double stroller, and a spouse to fit in the car. I drive a large SUV, but I have an affinity for hot hatchbacks. I love the little things. I don’t know where this passion comes from. Maybe it’s because I’m not small (6’4”, 195lbs.) and that I’ve spent most of my life driving trucks or SUVs. Maybe it’s the same reason as why people love puppies; they’re small, cute, vulnerable, and cuddly.
I almost bought a hot hatch last week. The Ford Focus ST has been in Europe for a couple of years and now it’s in the States. Ford is building them in Michigan and I want one.
Base Price: $23,700
As Tested: $28,690
Engine: 2.0L EcoBoost (turbo-charged) 4 cylinder, 252hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
Curb Weight: 3250 lbs.
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
MPG Rating: 23 city/32 hwy
The Focus ST has one hundred more horsepower than the other gas powered Foci. The extra horsepower is immediately noticeable. The power is sufficient to achieve ludicrous speed (If you get this reference, make sure you come back and read more. If not, go watch Spaceballs.). The car weighs only 3250 lbs., which is 300 more than a regular Focus and very reasonable for a modern sports car. The ST has anti-torque steer technology which means the extra horsepower isn’t pulling you sideways. The power pulls you through all of the gears. This car wants to do 100mph (allegedly). The weight and extra power come together to make an agile, nimble, and athletic car. Since driving it, I’ve wished that I’ve actually bought it three or four times over the last week.
I love manual transmissions (#Savethemanuals). It’s mainly because I love to drive, and I love feeling like I’m a part of the driving experience. This transmission epitomizes all of the reasons why I’m fond of a manual gearbox. The shifts are smooth and mechanical. I love the GTI’s gearbox and the ST’s is better. I just wished the rest of the American market would share my love of manual transmissions. And station wagons, but this is American and you are free to not like fun things.
Winding up the transmission is fantastic. On long straights, it feels like I’ve been teleported into the YouTube in-car footage from track days. The open road, high rpms, and the engine all come together to make a great driving experience. The ST really moves between 3,000 and 6,000 rpms. Peak horsepower is achieved at 5,500 rpm. I drove this car repeatedly to redline. The gearbox responded wonderfully. It wanted to be driven hard. The power was smoothly applied throughout the gears. This is the kind of car that when you buy one, you’ll be counting down the hours at work till you get to drive it again.
The Turbo blow-off noise is brilliant. It isn’t overly loud, but it is audible. I had dreams about it after driving. Gunning the engine turns to cooing when you shift. Combining the sound of the engine with the turbo blow-off noise makes the ST sound wonderful. I had my ST on a rainy day, but left the windows down the whole time. I loved the symphony of the turbo, motor, and exhaust.
The ST’s Recaro seats are going to be restrictive for a lot of ‘Mericans. We’re an obese country and I would lose weight if it meant I would fit in these seats better. The driver’s seat only moves up/down, forward/back, and reclines. There is no lumbar adjustment. The seat did a superb job of holding me in place while I was driving the ST hard. The seats gave me a feeling that actually made me more confident in the car. For long road trips, I’d suggest more of a GT car. After a couple of hours in the Focus ST your back would be reminding you that there isn’t lumbar support. The bolsters on the seat would be consistently reminding you that they are doing their job too. The ride of the ST is very good. For a car that is setup to handle, the suspension is normally way too firm, but not so with the ST. Compared to the Mini Coupe S that I drove last year, which was overly firm, the ST rides like a dream.
This particular Focus ST had the package to upgrade to the FordMyTouch by Sony for $4,000. You do get other options like HID headlamps, but you have to buy the whole package. The MyFordTouch is a system that I’ve had quite a bit of experience with. The sensitivity of the touch screen can be infuriating. Ford did recently upgrade its OS for all of their customers, but the system as a whole can have the same frustrations. I’d save the $4000 and get a base ST for $24,000, that’s one thousand less than a FR-S and 50 horsepower more…
Overall, it isn’t the faster car I’ve driven, but the ST is in the Top 5 of “Cars I had the Most Fun In.” It is great as a daily driver. Its performance characteristics outweigh its quirks. The MyTouch is only irritating when it’s on, but some analog buttons couldn’t hurt. The noise this car makes when you’re whipping it is great. You don’t sound like someone who put some loud exhaust on their Civic LX. The ST sounds great, drives great, and should be considered in any new car search.
I saw the ST I drove recently. Someone bought it. Sad face for me, but amazing for them.
Thank you to Olathe Ford (www.olatheford.com) for trusting me to borrow their ST.