By bringing the 2012 Focus ST to the United States, Ford hopes to erase memories of the last Focus to wear the ST moniker: a plebeian ZX4 sedan with minor chassis modifications and a spoiler. The reintroduction of a high-performance Focus in the United States is Ford’s response to hosannas from devotees of the long-departed Focus SVT. Earlier this year, Ford displayed the range of Focus models at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, a marked improvement in styling and a jump in size over the outgoing Focus. The new ST is the first development from Ford’s Performance Vehicles department, headed by Jost Capito, the man responsible for tuning the first-generation Focus RS. Whereas the Focus SVT was available as either a three- or five-door hatchback, the 2012 Focus ST will be a five-door hatchback only.
Besides impressive performance capabilities, the Focus ST should have a blazing visual impact on the stand in Paris. Wearing bright Tangerine Scream orange paint, the ST has a gaping mesh grille with the letters “ST” stenciled into the bottom left-hand corner. Huge brakes with yellow calipers sit behind five-spoke wheels, and the exhaust exits through dual center pipes. An underbody kit gives the ST a lowered appearance.
A look inside reveals few changes to the dual-cowl dashboard, although a turbo boost gauge sits atop the center stack. “ST” is emblazoned on the steering wheel, which is trimmed in part with perforated leather, and on the shift knob for the six-speed manual transmission. Black leather with tangerine-colored piping is used on the seats, dash, and shift boot, as well as the door panels and the center console—a sign that Ford is getting serious about competing with higher-end sports cars. The model shown is also equipped with dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, parking sensors, a touch screen infotainment unit, and wireless internet, which we hope will translate to the U.S. market.
In Europe, the outgoing Focus ST was powered by a turbocharged five-cylinder engine. For the 2012 model, Ford is replacing the five-cylinder unit with its EcoBoost turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, tuned to send 247 horsepower through the front wheels. That’s an improvement of about 25 horsepower over the five-cylinder, and nearly 100 horsepower more than the naturally aspirated engine. Torque figures are not yet available , but we expect at least a modest increase over the outgoing ST’s 235 pound-feet. The model pictured is paired with a six-speed manual transmission, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Ford’s six-speed dual-clutch transmission as an option. With either setup, the new ST should beat its forebear’s 0-to-60 time of 6.8 seconds.
Like the rest of the new Focus lineup, the ST will arrive during 2011. With competitors such as the Subaru Impreza WRX and Volkswagen GTI showing no signs of relenting, the ST is a welcome and deserving addition to the more staid Focus models. But the new hot Focus will have to convince Americans that ST is no longer a trim package, but is really the second coming of the SVT.