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Old 11-28-2005, 07:28 PM   #1
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Edmunds review - EURO Focus ST

This Made-for-Europe ST Would Be Mighty Fine in the U.S.
By: Alistair Weaver

Date Posted 11-28-2005

Ford is making a habit of this. Three years ago, U.S. buyers were denied access to the road-racer Focus RS despite its stunning reviews in the Euro press, and now, it seems, you're to be deprived of the 2006 Ford Focus ST. Based on the second-generation Focus, which made its European debut last year, the ST is another product of Team RS, the skunk works outfit led by former Sauber Formula One boss, Jost Capito.

According to Capito's vision, the ST (or Sports Technologies) models will deliver refined everyday performance, while the RS (or Rally Sport) tag will be reserved for extreme, enthusiast-only machines. However, Ford's RS models are loss-leaders, and projects that lose money aren't well received in Detroit. Consequently, plans to produce European Focus RS models have been shelved, seriously compromising the team's aspirations. Thus, for the time being at least, the ST models must serve as the ultimate expression of Ford's mainstream range for front-drive fun.

Nice Body, Shame About the Face
The original Focus was one of the most dramatic and successful designs in Ford's history, so it's a shame that its replacement is so conservative. Europe's second-generation Focus is utterly inoffensive, but the flair and vivacity have gone, especially from the front. A bold body kit and, on our test car, a lurid orange paint job go someway toward righting the wrong, but the new ST lacks the sheer bravado of the old RS, or the understated sophistication of its main European rival, the latest-generation Volkswagen Golf GTi.

At least matters improve inside. The quality of the fixtures and fittings increased dramatically from Focus 1 to 2, and the ST builds on this. Funky two-tone Recaro seats are standard fit, a chunky three-spoke steering wheel is introduced, and a new instrument pod tops the fascia. The latter features dials for the turbo boost, oil pressure and oil temperature, all of which are welcome. From the driver seat this car feels good, although it would feel even better if the driver seat could be lowered by 2 or 3 inches — blame safety legislation for that.

It's a Volvo — Sort of
The Focus ST's engine is plundered from an unlikely source: Volvo. The turbocharged, 2,522cc five-cylinder is a subtly reworked version of the lump found in the S40 T5. Here, it musters 223 horsepower, which is 11 hp more than the old Focus RS and a full 53 hp more than the previous-generation Focus ST170. But while the power output is impressive, it's the torque that really catches the eye — the peak output of 236 pound-feet is available all the way from 1,600 to 4,000 rpm. That's 30 lb-ft more than the (197-hp) Golf GTi can manage.

While the outputs are little changed from the Volvo, Team RS's engineers have been to work on the acoustics. The intake has been tuned to give the distinctive five-cylinder timbre a deep bass edge. It sounds great and thoroughly in keeping with the ST's "refined performance" aspirations.

The ST is also genuinely quick. Subjective impressions on road and track suggest little reason to quibble with Ford's claim of zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and 150 mph flat out. Thanks to that wave of torque, it's also impressively flexible, and the Volvo-sourced six-speed manual gearbox has a nice, positive action. The uprated brakes — with 12.8-by-1.1-inch ventilated discs at the front — are well up to the task of reining in any enthusiastic excesses.

There's no question that this car goes harder and faster than the Golf GTi.

Nice Chassis, Shame About the Steering
Even the entry-level Focus is a good drive, but the setup has been comprehensively overhauled for the ST. An additional crossmember between the MacPherson struts at the front has provided additional stiffness, and the whole car has been lowered by 0.6 inch. The front and rear springs have been uprated by 30 percent, the rear antiroll bar is 5-percent larger than before, and the dampers have been recalibrated.

The result is a step change in the Focus' personality. The ST's body rolls little and there are oodles of grip from the 225/40R18 Continental SportContact 2 tires. It's also very predictable — in the words of Ford's chassis guru, Graham Mace, the ST has been set up to "sort itself out." Even an abrupt lift at the limit will do no more than encourage the tail out by a degree or two, and you have to be a complete hooligan to get the car seriously out of shape. Torque steer and wheel spin are also impressively well suppressed. It all makes the slightly overenthusiastic stability control system seem superfluous.

The Focus ST also rides well. Whereas the old RS demanded total commitment even if you were cruising to the mall, the ST is refined and comfortable enough to play the role of GT. Your mother would like it, which is a good or bad thing depending on your point of view.

There's no denying that the ST is massively capable and faster point-to-point than the Golf, but enthusiasts will miss the ultimate sharpness and adjustability of the old RS. The ST is not a car you grab by the scruff of its neck. RS fans will also miss the crisp feedback of the old car's hydraulically assisted power steering. The second-generation Focus uses an electrohydraulic system, and although it's nicely linear in response, it's too muted for our liking. You can change the weighting from standard and Sport using the column stalks, but this doesn't alter the feedback.

In the U.K., the Focus ST starts at £17,495 ($30,611), which is £2,500 ($4,374) less than VW's entry-level Mk V Golf GTi. That makes the ST look good, especially when you consider how much quicker it is. It might not quite have the iconic image or understated class of the Golf, but for many owners, its speed and dynamics will be ample compensation.

The 2006 Ford Focus ST is not an RS in drag, and for some enthusiasts it will be a little too refined and sophisticated for its own good. Ford must be careful that it doesn't waste its RS heritage — there's a new generation of European enthusiasts too young to remember hero cars such as the Sierra RS Cosworth. But there will also be another band of keen drivers who appreciate the everyday practicalities and subtleties of the ST. It's also impossible to deny that this car's blend of performance, comfort and high-speed refinement would make it a great tool in the U.S. North America is missing out, and somebody should complain.


Title says it all...



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Old 11-28-2005, 08:18 PM   #2
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'You'd have to be a complete hooligan to get the car seriously out of shape'

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Old 11-28-2005, 09:41 PM   #3
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the Euro ST is beautiful...i love it, i love the dual exhaust, the orange color, and that amazing interior, oh and you cant forget about that turbocharged 5.....its from volvo so you know your getting something reliable too. Of course...its never going to come here, so im just going to have to settle on its cousin the Mazdaspeed3 when it comes out.
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Old 11-28-2005, 09:50 PM   #4
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ah, these things just make me sad.
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cruisin' low n' slow
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Old 11-28-2005, 09:58 PM   #5
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American car companies lost their way, Chrysler has been smart enough after the merger with Daimler to bring the sex back into cars in the US, look where it got them. You'd think Ford and GM would wise up. Well, at least GM has Saturn. Ford has . . . Volvo?
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Old 11-28-2005, 10:04 PM   #6
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thanks for whoever edited the post

And BTW did ppl notice similarities in stylin between the 05 US and EURO MK2?

- MK2 still has our old antenna
- the foglights have identical styling
- notice the "molded top grille" identcal idea to 06 SAP.
- now the european foci have the ugly US gas door witout the remote release.
- a while ago I noticed something else as well... but you know hw does antenna make this any car similar to our ...

Last edited by igor; 11-28-2005 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 11-28-2005, 10:04 PM   #7
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God, that is a beautiful car. That might seriously change Ford's image with the younger crowd if they were to introduce that here.
"The condition of man . . . is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.” - Thomas Hobbes
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Old 11-28-2005, 10:09 PM   #8
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Somone should complain it says in the article.

Why not write ford an email about it like I did. :)
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Old 11-28-2005, 10:15 PM   #9
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Re: Edmunds reviws EURO Focus ST .... link inside

Originally posted by igor It's also impossible to deny that this car's blend of performance, comfort and high-speed refinement would make it a great tool in the U.S. North America is missing out, and somebody should complain.[/B]
Count me in!
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Old 11-28-2005, 10:19 PM   #10
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I like it, but i wish the front grill was a little larger. If it ever came over i'm sure the body kits would be made for new ones.
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