Duke’s Drive is all about my experiences with driving new vehicles. It truly is a privilege to be able to drive a brand new vehicle for a week and share my thoughts with you. It is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly, or for granted. I know the pains of wanting to test-drive a vehicle you’re interested in buying, and it’s not an enjoyable experience. These are the stories of my experiences.
Ford has been on quite a roll lately, including the announcement of the Focus RS. What’s not to love in a 350 hp hatchback with all-wheel drive, a manual transmission and a drift mode? Probably the price. Though the sticker starts at a reasonable $35,000, a few options will put it over the 40 marker quickly. Plus, if it ends up being a limited release, dealers may spike the price further. Want that same formula but for a little less dinero? Welcome to the Ford Focus ST.
Let’s get right to it: this Focus is stupid fun. There’s no way it should be possible for a FWD car with four doors and a hatch to be this exhilarating. Does it make much power? Depends on your perspective, but running 252 hp is plenty when it’s going straight to the front wheels. The turbocharger spools up quickly, which along with razor sharp handling, makes for an ideal canyon carver. Though it still amazes me, you can actually wring oversteer and mid-corner drifts from the ST. Not what you’d typically expect when the front wheels are doing all the work.
Far as the numbers go, 0-60 happens in 6.3 seconds with the 1/4 mile over in 14.9. Not mind-blowing numbers but perfectly respectable. Remember, this five door starts at $25,300. Plus, and this is the genuine truth, it feels substantially faster than the number sheet suggests. The ST is equally athletic while clipping apexes and blasting up highway on-ramps, not exactly typical of a car in this price range.
Moving inside, the interior has a few items I immediately enjoyed. First up, Ford SYNC has continued to improve, still one of my favorite infotainment systems available. It’s also hard to beat having a factory boost gauge. Although, if we’re going to nitpick, it’d be nice if it featured more readings than 0, 15 and 30 PSI. Especially if you’re going to tune your car, being able to accurately tell which PSI you’re running is pretty critical.
There were only a few other items I felt could use some improvement. The hugely bolstered seats feel great at first, but quickly can cause some lower back pains and leg cramps. I’m not sure who the seats were designed for, but it doesn’t seem to fit the majority of the population. I received comments along those lines from anyone who spent quality time in the passenger seat. The ride is also on the harsh side, but unlike the seats, that’s something you expect from a sports car. Certainly not a deal breaker.
The absolute second the warranty goes, pick up a handheld tuner for your ST. As capable as this engine is from the factory, it’s begging to have boost dialed up ever so slightly. In my Mustang EcoBoost review, I mentioned COBB’s Accessport, which is also designed for the ST. Not only can it safely add horsepower, but features like launch control and integrated gauges are well worth the cash. The are plenty of other handheld tuners available, so do some basic research and see which best fits your needs.
Aftermarket seats would also help to extract further potential. The stock items are sporty but there are dozens of highly respected seat manufacturers who make equally grippy but far more comfortable chairs. Not only will your back thank you, but you’ll be that much more confident diving into corners at speed.
Lastly, I’d recommend picking up a true boost gauge. The factory one is a fun toy, but with no precise readings it’s difficult to tell exactly what boost levels you’re running. Not awesome if you plan on modifying your ST. Some handheld tuners (as mentioned above) do offer integrated gauges, but it’s advantageous to have a hardwired one that’s always ready.
No matter what environment you throw at it, the Focus ST exudes fun driving. A highly responsive engine, strong power delivery and laser-focus steering make any trip worth having. All in a five-door hatch that is both road trip and track day ready. Looking at the sticker, my Tangerine Scream (amazing name) tester came out to barely over $30,000. Highlight options included the paint ($595), navigation ($795) and 18-inch painted wheels ($495).
Getting this much car at such a price point is a hugely compelling argument. If I was in the market, there would be a Focus ST sitting in my driveway very, very quickly. In fact, only one real question remains: is the RS worth the significant premium? I greatly look forward to bringing you that take in the future.