2012 Ford Focus ST: Up Close

Ford’s daddy of all Focuses — the 247-horsepower Focus ST hatchback — hits dealerships in 2012, long after milder and more mpg-focused variants of the redesigned car have made their entrance. Imbued with a twin turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder, a reworked suspension and a trapezoidal grille so massive it could swallow entire swarms of insects, the ST tops off a Focus lineup that includes a hatchback and a sedan. 

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At the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, we checked it out. This is one mean-looking Focus, and it has its work cut out. From relatively refined to downright raucous, there’s a slew of hot hatches on the market.

With blacked-out cross-members and a piano-black honeycomb insert, the grille’s larger size functions to get more air to the engine’s intercoolers, said chief engineer Jim Hughes. It looks a lot like the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s grille, which is also larger for cooling purposes. Alas, a lot of states require front license plates, and there’s simply no good place to throw one here. The car on the show floor was European-spec; Hughes said the U.S. version will add a license plate bracket somewhere in the grille, though he admitted there’s no ideal location for it.

Smoked black taillights sit below a sizable roof spoiler. I like ‘em. They’re far better than the frosted-white alternative, which are overused these days.

Don’t let the spindly looking six-speed manual shifter fool you: It has short, precise throws. The show car’s interior featured a mix of lacquered black and carbon fiber patterns. Oil pressure, turbo boost and engine temp sit atop the dash, more or less in your line of sight. There’s a lot going on, and the whole of it could be too much for some.

The Recaro racing seats have plenty of lateral support, but the aggressive thigh bolsters could start to wear after a few hours behind the wheel. The high seatbacks virtually eliminate any forward visibility from the backseat, and the thick seats trim backseat legroom a few inches versus the standard Focus’ seats, which have large knee cutouts in back. Be ready to field complaints from the peanut gallery: The massive bolsters are also found in the rear seats, where they’re likely to be less appreciated.

The Recaros will be optional. What won’t be optional are the ST’s performance enhancements. A retooled suspension employs new stabilizer bars and more. It’s “much more than just different spring rates,” Hughes said. Ford’s RevoKnuckle suspension technology — integrated into the strut front suspension — allegedly mitigates torque steer, which threatens powerful front-drivers like the Focus ST. We’ve heard a dozen times of some magic bullet for torque steer, so we’ll have to drive one to believe it.

Ford will offer three different equipment packages on the ST, Hughes said, but there’s no word on pricing. We imagine the car will start considerably north of hatchback’s $22,765 Titanium edition, which tops things off currently.


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