Ford Taking Orders for Hot Focus ST

Ask the average North American car guy what comes to mind about what high performance cars Ford builds, the Mustang and Taurus SHO will come to mind, and he’ll stop there. Soon, the Ford Focus ST will be joining that group. In Europe, Ford has been building (and racing) performance versions of their small, mainstream four cylinder cars for decades. Finally, North America gets a taste of what we’ve been missing all this time.

One glance at the Focus ST and you immediately know this is no ordinary grocery getter. Apart from the aggressive aero, standard 18″s, lowered ride height, beefier brakes and sport suspension, the Focus ST has the grunt to match the look. Motivation comes in the form of a 2.0L EcoBoost four, cranking out 252hp and 270 lb. ft. of torque. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available, and I am happy about that. Posers, stay home. If a car like the Focus ST appeals to you, but you could not be bothered to learn how to work three pedals and a gearshift together, you don’t deserve to get to play.

The 2013 Ford Focus ST has a starting price of $23,700USD, plus $795 destination. The ST will be available only as a five-door hatchback. If you feel like building your own Focus ST, click here for the link to Ford’s site. Even going with the priciest option package with goodies like HD Radio, Recaro seats with leather, sunroof and navigation, the ST still comes in under $30 grand. To put that into perspective, the VW Golf R four door with similar power and features will run you over $6,000 extra.

Ford is now taking orders for the Focus ST. It’s been a long, long wait to see such a car from Ford here in North America. To reward us for our patience, the first 1,000 people to place an order will be rewarded with a GoPro HD Hero2 Motorsports Edition camera pack. That shows Ford understands the buyer of the Focus ST completely-the fact that high quality photography is a passion for many here at The Garage is living proof. Stay tuned for more Focus ST news and updates.

Review: 2012 Ford Focus

Back in my college days, I took a class where I lived in London, UK. Sure, I loved living in London, but I’m a car guy and wanted to take a day trip, via car. I was handed they keys to a rental Ford Escort. This was the mid-1990’s, so I really had no expectations of the car, given the Escort us North Americans were being served. I could not believe it-this was a class-leading, no-excuses compact that was comfortable, sporty, and a Ford! I thought Ford was out of their minds for not selling this car stateside instead of the lousy ‘domestic’ Escort.

Thankfully, in 1999 we met the Focus, a ‘global’ Ford that was well-received, and offered the tasteful styling, quality interior and sporty nature that reminded me of the Escort in the UK. But in 2005, it happened again. Ford rolled out a new Focus for the rest of the world that was met with critical acclaim. But we never got that car. Instead, we received a warmed-over version of the old car. Asked why we were stuck with an old Focus while the rest of the world gets the new improved model, Ford said something to the effect that it would cost too much to make here. Meanwhile, the now-dated Focus slid to the bottom of comparison tests, and then I started noticing rebates. Ford had again allowed itself to fall behind in the compact car market in North America. Again.

Good news-that changes in 2012 with the all-new Focus. That’s right, in North America we are no longer being served the equivalent of warmed-up leftovers, this is the same Focus our friends across the pond will be driving. This is a part of Ford’s “One Ford” plan, which streamlines the company’s global operations to offer a more coherent product portfolio and reduce costs. First evidence here in North America was the Ford Fiesta, now the Focus, and next the Fusion.

But back to the Focus. One look at the 2012 Focus and you instantly forget about the car it replaces. The car’s exterior has a heavy European influence, but what impressed me most was the Focus looks more like it was built for a purpose and not a price. Ford designers have proven a compact car can be practical yet offer a classy, upscale appearance as well. Our Ingot Silver five door hatchback didn’t get any stares, but during my week with the Focus I appreciated its sophisticated wrapper.

Climbing into a Focus, the immediate impression is that I’ve climbed into a larger, more expensive Fiesta. The seats were fairly comfortable, but I wouldn’t have minded greater thigh support. I particularly liked the comfortable, meaty steering wheel. Our Focus was pretty easy to get accustomed to, the controls straightforward, but what impressed me most were the quality of the materials, which are at the top of its class. We put the Focus to the test, a 500+ mile round trip from Connecticut to Pennsylvania with my wife and 5-year old son. The hatchback easily swallowed up all our luggage for the weekend. For us, the interior of the Focus showed no serious flaws. However, with the driver’s seat set for my 6’1″ frame, hopping into the rear seat behind me offered very tight quarters.

Presently, all Ford Focus’ share the same engine, a 2.0L direct injected four cylinder rated at 160hp (there is also an EV Focus). Lower trim levels come standard with a five-speed manual, with the option of a six-speed dual clutch automated manual, while higher trims get the auto only. Some buyers may be disappointed to see that despite the automated manual, Ford is not offering shift paddles. My guess is Ford did enough focus groups (no pun intended) that most buyers could care less. Despite a considerable horsepower advantage over most of its rivals, the Focus never felt any faster from my seat of the pants impression. EPA fuel economy ratings of 27/37 MPG city/highway are respectable, but just short of the Hyundai Elantra and Chevy Eco Cruze which have cracked the 40 MPG barrier. The Focus was at perfect ease chewing up the interstate, fairly quiet at cruising speed with a firm but comfortable ride and decent steering feel.

The Focus is available as a four door sedan or five door hatchback. The sedan is priced less, but offers less cargo room. For the hatchback, our test car was the SEL model, the middle of the line. Standard on the SEL was ambient interior lighting, cruise/audio controls on the steering wheel, Ford’s SYNC voice activated technology for audio/phone and other controls, universal garage door opener, fog lights and AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio. Our test car added the Winter Package (heated seats, heated mirrors with approach lighting) and 17″ alloy wheels. Including delivery, our Focus SEL rang in at $22,755USD. It bears mentioning that Ford offers an options list on the Focus that tops that of any other compact in terms of tech and luxury, but I suspect the majority of Focus buyers will spec out their cars closer to what we drove.

With the new Focus, Ford has rededicated itself to selling not just competent, but leading compact cars in North America. Its combination of slick styling, top of the class interior quality and tight ride make the 2012 Ford Focus a must-see for anyone in the market for a compact car. Ford realized a hashed over, old design can no longer cut it here, and by building the new, global Focus here has shown Ford is fully committed to not simply compete, but to lead the market.

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Gymkhana 3 viewed from the other cameras

Since attending Camp4, my appreciation for Ken Block’s car control skills has shot through the roof. Even though many drivers have never done a burnt out (and probably shouldn’t) it is something that pretty much anyone in any car can do in the right conditions. What Block does with a car is far beyond your average burnout! Doing a burnout and navigating a precision course with all 4 wheels constantly spinning requires accuracy, patience and skill. This guy is the Baryshnikov of the motorsport world!

In Gym3, Block uses an old world high bank super speedway to create a gigantic half pipe. Instead of riding a skateboard, he’s riding the beastly Focus you see above. In the video after the break, we get to see some of the other camera angles that the producers chose not to show in the original. Very cool stuff!
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Ken Block’s ultimate birthday cake

We don’t usually make a habit of celebrating birthdays here in The Garage, but super hoon Ken Block’s birthday cake is just too cool to pass up. Friends surprised Block with the edible Ford in Miami a few days ago. Will someone PLEASE make me a cake like this for my next b-day?

Officially official: Ken Block teams up with Ford

Back in October, we reported the rumour that Ken Block was planning a new jump. This one would be even more exciting than Travis Pastrana’s New Year’s jump. Block would launch his WRX off Subaru’s ship & transform the black & white bomb into a Ford Fiesta and land on Ford’s ship!

An exciting concept, but we’re talking about Ken Block, not Chriss Angel. The real truth is still pretty cool though.

Ford’s quest for world domination is just as strong as Block’s, so the partnership makes sense. As of today, the rumour is now fact. Ken Block & sponsor Monster Energy are dropping Subaru like a hot potato and heading to the Ford camp. This move will see Block enter events around the world, including the WRC in time.

The marketing folks are spinning their magic to make all of these pieces fall into place. Now its up to Block to pull the rabbit out of the hat!

Press release after the break
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Ken Block and Monster Energy set to switch from Subaru to Ford

block subaru tall pines 08

We all have fun watching Ken Block wreak havoc at airports, docklands and logging roads and I’m sure he has about 10 times as much fun doing it but let’s not forget there is something larger at stake here. Namely, cubic money. As any racer will tell you, playing in a car (or cars) of that magnitude costs big money and big money has to be replenished or you don’t get to play any more.

To that end, Block needs to sell shoes, hats and tee shirts. He also needs to sell more than a few cans of Monster Energy drink. Oh yes, selling the odd car here and there would help too. The conundrum here is that while Subaru enjoys the spotlight block’s antics place on their brand, they seem content to remain a niche brand and the WRX models are a niche within that niche. Given that the best way for KB to sell more DC and Monster products is to go to the world stage, Block has had his eyes set on the WRC series for some time now. Not only does it offer him more challenge as a driver, but it offers exposure to the world outside of North America. Trouble is that Subaru have backed out of the WRC. Time to find a new manufacturer, one who is hungry to sell a car that is destined to be sold world wide.

Enter Ford.

If you recall, Ford has made motorsports an integral part of their resurrection plan. Mustang models for grass roots road and drag racing and Euro Focus models in X-Games and Pikes peak bring the Ford name to a new, youthful audience. They have also been winning just about everything they have entered. Perhaps the time has come for Ford to return to the top of the WRC heap with a rally star who is a household name in North America instead of small town Europe.

And so it seems that Ken Block and former Subaru driver Chris Atkinson are close to a deal which would see the Monster Energy Drink World Rally Team compete in roughly half of next year’s World Rally Cup in a 2009 spec Ford Focus. Speculation is that the 2011 season will see the team campaign the new Ford Fiesta on the full calendar.

Looks like we might start seeing WRC on TV here in North America again soon!

Source autosport via Autoblog