What do you get if you add SVT to RS? Letters, more letters and 'ST', apparently. Not RSSVT, SVRTS or whatever else - but ST. This latest acronym (because what the car industry really needs is another acronym - I could just tell them all to F-O personally), I’m told, stands for “Sporting Technology”. I’m also told that this latest ST was a joint effort between the guys at Ford’s Team RS in Europe, and the SVT blokes in Dearborn who’ve been responsible for the madcap RS500 and a host of Mustangs respectively. "Cool", I thought. It’s gotta be good though, there’d be an almighty uproar if the Americans had blunted the sharpest tool in Ford’s arsenal. When the MK3 Focus debuted, us motoring hacks were all a bit concerned, some even hacked off *cough*. After all, previous Focuses had been dynamic benchmarks, shaming cars twice or even thrice the price. Fortunately for us all, the latest one is still pretty good. Sure, it’s lost some of the dynamism of previous models, and the electronically assisted steering has robbed a fraction of feel from the rack, but by and large, it’s still firmly in the upper echelons of the five-door hatch class. In fact, the groundbreaking 1.0-litre three-cylinder has just won Engine Of The Year. So, VW, stick that in your exhaust and smoke it... Team CT hasn’t yet been able to get behind the wheel of an ST - my age meant that even when I found this “Tangerine Scream” example straddling my driveway the other evening, and the keys on my coffee table, I wasn’t able to take it out for a blast. Therefore, I had to settle for the next best thing. A passenger ride. This specific, 7,000 mile-old German-registered ST (the very same car you see in these press shots) had only the other day returned from the good ol’ US-of-A, where it’d just completed a mammoth 3,500 mile road-trip at the hands of another motoring mag (keep your eyes peeled over the next couple of weeks for that one). Freshly valeted, even in the fading light of a British summer’s eve’ it was brighter that a TOWIE cast-member’s tan. I quite liked it actually; it makes a difference from the sea of greys, blacks, silvers and whites that dominate our road-network. Ford’s colour-pallet in general, at least on the other side of the Atlantic, is just as exciting. The Mustang, for example, is available in “Gotta Have It Green” (think “fluorescent lime” and you get the idea) or “School Bus Yellow” (it’s exactly as it sounds). I’m not sure whether it was the colour, but I’m told that in traffic the ST causes quite a stir. It really was a case of “out come the camera-phones”. Aside from the contentious, gaping-grill, the ST’s actually quite subtle (at least it would be in any other colour). Inside too they’ve not gone overboard on the ST badging. The Recaros are especially excellent, squeezing you in all the right places and holding you tight even through speedy, swooping bends. As we nosed out of our road, my driver (my Father, in case you’re interested) proceeded to purposefully prod the aluminum accelerator pedal, and at once the Focus took off like scalded cat. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine is shared with larger cars in the company’s range, like the Mondeo and S-Max, but in the ST, it’s been tuned to deliver 247bhp and a brawny 265lb ft of torque. Power peaks at around the 5500rpm mark, but that torque figure affords the ST a persuasive surge of acceleration regardless of where the tach’ is pointing. The noise was especially entertaining - purists were concerned that the five-cylinder warble that defined the MK2 would be lost in switching to a turbocharged four-pot - but they’ve nothing to worry about. Ford spent months refining the ST’s exhaust note - even engineering a sound-symposer that relays the engine sound directly from the intake into the cabin in their pursuit of a sufficiently roughty tone. A fruity exhaust note isn’t the system’s only benefit though; at cruising speed, engine noise can be isolated from the cabin making the ST an excellent motorway mile-muncher and completely civilized around town. Now, as I’ve said - I wasn’t allowed behind the chunky steering-wheel of the ST, so what follows is a rough approximation of the car’s dynamic credentials from an observer's perspective. In an effort to make the ST just as good to drive as they’d promised, Ford has employed a host of electronic systems and driver aids. The new “EPAS” system (damn, more bloody acronyms - this one stands for “Electronically Power Assisted Steering”) is unique to the ST and is designed to make the car more responsive in the bends, but not at the expense of twitchy-ness in a straight line. It counters torque-steer too using “TSC” (aaargh! This one’s “Torque Steer Compensation”) software, rather than a mechanical diff. “TVC” (“Torque Vectoring Control” - this is getting tedious now…) is present in the ST, as it is in the normal Focus, as is a fettled switchable “ESP” system (you know that one, right?). All I know is that from the passenger's seat at least, the ST felt planted, agile and grippy. The speed with which we were able to round the corners of our twisty Essex test-route was astounding. We’ve put everything from MK2 STs, to Aston Martin V8 Vantages, and new Shelby Mustangs down that road, and the ST felt a helluva lot more accessible (perhaps even exciting?) than any of ‘em and on the road, accessibility is surely the point. Is there really any sense in having a million bhp if you can’t even look at the throttle without the fuzz locking you up for 17 years? Having said that, the ST’s turn of speed is surprising more than anything. Because you needn't explore the exciting side of the tach’ to go quickly - thanks to the meaty torque afforded by the turbo - you’ll find yourself travelling at alarmingly illegal speeds all too quickly, and all too often. Equally, if not more impressive than the ST’s turn of speed, is its ride and suspension geometry. The ST sits on uprated shocks and springs, so it rides 10mm lower on its standard fit 18in Y-spoke alloys. You’d think, therefore, that it’d be rock solid, right? Wrong, because it’s very good indeed. It’s firm, but not jarring, nor uncomfortable even on notoriously bumpy Essex roads. It feels like the type of car you could jump in, and emerge 500 miles later no more the worse for wear. The ST’s available to order now, and deliveries should start in September. Starting at a little under £22k, the ST is very keenly priced in comparison to some of its (all be it more powerful) rivals. But you know what? It’s all the car you may ever need; the back seats fold down, and it’ll even do nearly 40mpg (not ours, it was reading 29 before we set off). We’ll try and get a drive in one soon, but in the meantime, I’m completely sold. What do you think of the new Focus ST? Hit us up in the comments below, on Twitter, or on Facebook.
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