2012 Focus 5-Door Autocross Review
Ran my first Autocross with my 2012 Focus 5-Door Titanium, Red Candy (red ones go faster). I do not have the Titanium handling package. I just bought the car and could not get the wheels and tires in time so I ran on the factory 17" wheels and Continental all-weather tires it came with. I had 500 miles on the clock when I got to the event. I plan to run in STF this year, though I plan to get a small "u" to put at the end when I order the magnets, just 'cause.
As it is a Titanium it is a Select-Shift auto. Yes, I agree manual is better for autocross, but I could not have a manual and the creature comforts and I went with the options. I was actually very happy with the Select-Shift. I would start out in S1 and it would jump to S2 once I hit redline and stayed there just fine. Don't recall seeing S3. If I slowed for a big corner I could drop it to S1. If you let me design the car I would have made the whole shift lever the +/- lever like in most cars, but the +/- button was not really a problem for me. I frequently used the Select-Shift on the street so my hand fell to the button every time naturally. If I had to do it again I would still get the Select-Shift.
Sat was a Test and Tune event. Your heat runs for 50 min, get as many runs as you can. Think I got about 8 runs. I did try one run with traction control on, just to see what it was like. I actually liked it. I could throw it around corners and the car would pivot without sliding, even on the non-performance tires. When I got back to grid there was a strong smell of brakes so I turned it back off and left it off. A note about that. I am a computer tech and the computer system in MyFordTouch equipped Focus makes me grin every time I sit in the car, but having to scroll through menus to get to the screen to turn off the traction control only to have it turn back on every time you shut the car off is a real pain. If I turn it off, leave it off! I know most cars turn it back on, but those cars are also wrong and most cars it's just a button you press.
My driving style is best described as "excessive". I tend to use too much gas, too much brake, and too much steering. I am always working on getting slower and smoother which I know is quicker. At first the car was convinced I was an idiot (I am not arguing) and kept helping. I would hit a turn too fast, forget my training and yank the wheel to the right and slam on the brakes, only to find I was unable to press on the pedal. The car had applied the brakes already. That bugged me a little, how I am supposed to drive fast if the car got in the way. As I learned the car, and remembered my training, and got back the skills I lost from our winter break the car stopped helping, because it no longer needed to.
Sunday was an actual autocross. I was in the last heat and as I watched the other drivers I set myself a goal of 75 seconds. I hit that on my third run. My fourth run was a 74, but I hit a cone. I am confident good tires would have helped me by 2 seconds. The steeting and braking were spot on. The acceleration was peppy, but not excessive so I could simply floor it anytime the wheel was close to straight. The Select-Shift, as I said, behaved perfectly. I have a long list of vehicles on my autocross resume, 89 Taurus SHO, Saturn SC, Camaro Z28, Mustang GT, Corvette, S10 Xtreme, Mercedes SLK32 AMG and others. The Focus was the easiest to drive of any car I have competed in. It was very predictable and well mannered. I could keep one foot on the gas, and one on the brake. I could keep the RPMs up, turn the wheel and when I tapped the brake the car would simply pivot.
I loved the idea of Torque Vectoring when I read about it. Sadly there is no light to tell me when it is working, but I did notice that when cornering sharply at speed the car did not spin the inside front tire like most other FWDs I have driven tended to do. Not sure if that was the TV engaged or some other wizz-bang gizmo but it felt like it had limited slip and I liked it!
In the end I won the STF class! But was the only one in it, so there is that to consider. If I look at other classes I could have run in HStock. I would have taken second there, 2 seconds behind a Mazda 3 on Hankook Ventus R-S3 tires. I was less than a second behind the FStock winning Camaro. We have a local class we called STO4 which is a 4 cylinder on ST legal tires, open to any mods. A catch all class. Of 8 I would have placed 3rd. Less than 2 seconds behind a very modified Honda Del Sol and .7 seconds behind the second place Honda Civic SI with light mods on Dunlop autocross tires. Not bad for a stock Focus on 500 treadwear all-season tires.
I had a lot of compliments on the car. Several people asked to sit in it, and I think I sold one to an older gentleman who asked a ton of questions. The biggest compliments were the people that told me, "I never thought the Focus would be so fast!".
I plan to get a set of Hankook Ventus R-S3 tires on 18x7.5 wheels. I plan to get a beefier rear sway bar. I will keep an eye on Koni's site for when they release the adjustable shocks for the 12 Focus. Maybe some stiffer lowering springs.
If your thinking about a 2012 or newer Focus for Autocross I would highly recommend it. If you ask the drivers of the WRXs, Nissan 350Z, Corvette, Mustang and others that I beat today I am sure they will agree Ford did a pretty good job with this one.
Last edited by Techpriest; 04-04-2012 at 06:54 AM.