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2013 Ford Focus ST Review- The Eco Boost

Updated on November 28, 2012

The 2013 Ford Focus ST is a study in contradictions: a diminutive “sport compact” (the segment itself is a contradiction) with a big performance pedigree; the sure-footed, station wagonesque front-wheel drive, along with rear-wheel drive-style handling and performance; Euro-style poise and refinement, with an American nameplate; a quiet, relaxed note from the exhaust while cruising, and a blistering roar when standing on the pedal. But, perhaps the biggest contradiction of all—a Ford EcoBoost engine, that for the first time in the brand’s history delivers both the eco and the boost.

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The Focus achieves all of this subterfuge through the second letter in its badge—

“T” for “technologies.” And this little Volkswagen GTI killer is loaded with it. Starting with that aforementioned power-plant—the 2.0 liter turbo-4 packs an impressive 252 horsepower, with an astounding 270 foot-pounds of torque available pretty much right away, from 2000 revs on up. The torque curve here isn’t so much a curve, but a line.

The speedometer needle passes 60 in about 6 seconds here. All of that power is delivered to the front-wheel drive setup, and here’s really where the Focus ST’s tech begins to shine—and keep its driver safe by keeping the car stuck to the road. Using the state-of-the-art to conquer an ancient problem of the high-powered front wheeler, Ford’s Torque Vectoring Control System works against all of that oversteer hype. Where competition like the GTI and the Mazdaspeed3 get to be like petulant teenagers under power and through the turns, the Focus ST stays stuck to the road through a type of electronically-controlled, limited slip differential that politely brakes the inside wheels through the corners.

The Torque Steer Cancellation System even works to keep the wheel from kicking around in the driver’s hands to the point that, when it does start to fight back, the faint-of-heart would be wise to think they’ve pushed too far. But for those willing to push the ST past that point, they’ll still find the car still supple and controllable.

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The ST uses technology for far less high-minded-

The safety concerns and steps positively into braggadocio with the aforementioned exhaust note. Under power, the little 4-cylinder has no right to sound the way it does, and the gizmo responsible for this is what Ford calls an “Active Sound Symposer.” It’s essentially a valve, similar in effect to an after-market air intake, that opens during spirited driving making a sound that is at once awfully fun and terribly contrived. The good news here is that, under cruising conditions, the valve shuts, allowing the driver to once again hear his own thoughts.

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Perhaps the biggest technological innovation here, however, is the ability to turn all of this technology off.

Ready to see what the Focus ST can really do?

A switch essentially takes all of that traction controlling, stability retaining, torque vectoring gadgetry off the car. Not even the ST’s more sporting brethren, like the Golf R, allow that level of control. Be careful, though—all of the “fun” of an under-sized, over-powered front wheel drive car is on full display in this mode.

Continuing the contradictions, unlike its non-ST cousin, this Focus’ exterior styling is not at all sedate. If the gaping, shark mouth of a grille doesn’t tell you what’s up here, perhaps the pleasantly garish “tangerine scream” paint-job will. And, if not that, check out the Lamborghini-style, center-mounted exhaust pipe. The lowered suspension, 18-inch wheels, and full aero kit complete the “I’m special” image. This carries over to the inside of the car, where appointments are among the best seen in this segment. A dash top-mounted gauge pack gives the enthusiast a welcome look into the inner workings of the car from oil temperature to boost pressure. Even more clarified options, like almost-overly supportive Recaro seats and a Sony stereo are available at considerable cost.

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On the whole, the Ford Focus ST isn’t really a contradiction at all—it knows exactly what it is, and this fast little five-door achieves almost all of what it sets out to do.

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