We came across this video the other day of the Ford EXP introduction. We were surprised because we certainly didn’t think anyone would ever fondly remember this thing. But we do remember the EXP very clearly… but certainly not fondly.
We never owned one… we never wanted to and we never would even imagine such a thing. But we did drive one once in the mid-eighties. This was in the fall of 1983 (the beginning of the 1984 model year). A brand new 1984 120 HP turbo EXP had just come in at the dealer (1.6 liters, DOHC, transverse 4 cylinder with 5-speed manual). The dealer’s owner, being a friend, tossed us the keys. We closely looked over the car – it was odd beyond belief. The styling appeared to want to imitate a car with pop-up headlamps… up! Perhaps the budget failed at the last-minute and the car was originally supposed to have pop-ups? We seem to remember a spy pic in AutoWeek of such a thing.
The EXP has a bit of an infamous history. Car & Driver and Road & Track entered matching EXPs against each other in the (in)famous 24 hour endurance race at Nelson Ledges. These were naturally aspirated cars – with all of ~90 HP! As we remember, both entries failed due to repeated front wheel bearing failure. The hot ticket, discovered too late for the event, was the European Escort Diesel bearing, and of course Ford of N.A. got cheap with their development budget. Seems to us that the entire line of Escorts have all had this issue. Ford apparently never got it right.
The test drive started well enough.. we started the car and remember a nice burble in the exhaust. When we took off, there was HUGE torque steer (far more than in the Rabbit GTI we had driven a few months before). It was all we could do to immediately let off the gas. One tire was spinning like mad… there was traction from (barely) only 1 side. If the EXP wasn’t already entirely pointless, it sure was once you drove it.
The handling, despite Michelin TRX tires, was also poor. The seats were a cheap version of the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe seats (Lear Siegler), the same cheap seats used in our own (and much-hated) 1983 Mustang GT. Again, in both ways, the GTI was far superior. When we finally got back to the dealer, one front tire was ruined (and not from me abusing it, all it did was spin the entire time) and the engine was very hot (Fords were as bad from over-heating in street driving as they are now).
All in all, a very very *very* poor effort by Ford.
Some time later, we did notice a somewhat better effort – but not by Ford. We were at a swap meet in Columbus when there was a huge exhaust and induction roar behind us. We turned around in came… an EXP! We walked over to talk to the driver… the car had been converted to RWD and it was powered by a BOSS 429 engine. Built for drag racing, it was nonetheless registered for the street (something you couldn’t get away with these days). Thsi same car was featured in Super Ford sometime later (you may be able to find that issue for reference).
The EXP evolved a bit over the years of its lifespan, eventually switching to the front end from the later Escort GT (circa 1986) along with its far better 1.9 liter “CVT” engine. That engine was the first Escort engine specifically designed for North America, and had decent torque and acceleration – especially in the even later high-output “GT” form. But, as is so typical from Ford, even that car never approached the far more serious Escorts in Europe – such as the 1982 Escort RS1600i.
Seems that Ford takes forever to learn, although today the North American Focus ST is identical in spec (although not options) around the entire world. Finally – after 30 years!
We’ve been closely watching the development at Cobb Tuning of their new lines of parts for the Ford Focus ST. How about 26% more horsepower, and 28% more torque?
You’ll note from the video that the parts are extremely well built and integrated into the Focus ST: no open filters (always a dumb idea), elimination of cats, or a droning exhaust. In other words, this is top-quality and very professional work. We’re very tempted to get a Focus ST and install these parts ourselves.
Motor Trend has already tested the new Focus ST against the MazdaSpeed3… and the ST won. But car buying is more than just numbers or styling – the unanswered question until you buy and begin to live with it is what the car would be like in ownership. Day-to-day driving, bad traffic, the occasional blasts down back country roads, cruising down the highway or even squirting the car from stoplight to stoplight. That’s the part that magazines almost never cover.
If you decide you can live with the styling of the Mazda3 family, you can certainly live with the engine and transmission. The engine is a nearly state-of-the-art turbocharged and direct injected 2.3 liter engine. You might literally say that the MazdaSpeed 2.3 was an EcoBoost engine before there was a Ford EcoBoost family. Not only is the engine a Ford engine design underneath, Ford owned the majority of Mazda when the engine was originally developed. But the biggest problem is torque steer, wildly absurd torque steer. In a chassis that was obviously never designed for this engine. Can you live with it… and if you choose the next-gen version of this same chassis – the Focus ST, can you live with the diminished torque steer that is still present in that car (and to one large degree or another, all front wheel drive cars?). Motor Trend set out to compare the two.
Yes, the older design looses again, and badly. We know that a new Mazda3 is coming very soon, spy pictures have shown a similarly sized vehicle being tested and we also know that the chassis is all-new. What we don’t know is if a MazdaSpeed engine will even be offered, and what we won’t be able to find out until that question is answered and a MazdaSpeed3 is delivered is if Mazda will tame some of it’s likely torque steer.
And, just in case Mazda decides not to offer such an engine again, here’s a link to our high-res image of the MazdaSpeed3 engine. Click on the image!
… taking orders next Thursday. The Cobb Tuning Stage 2 package consists of the Accessport tuning, the new intercooler, and a cold air intake. Results in 14% more HP and 15% more torque. 30 at the wheels on their dyno.
Can’t wait for the Focus RS in 2015? Focus ST not enough for you? fifteen52 has introduced its Focus ST project car at the Chicago Auto Show with extensive modifications to the engine, transmission and suspension. Among the vendors supplying parts are Ford from its upcoming line of ST parts; famous tuner Mountune provided engine components, and StopTech.
Fifteen52 Press Release and selected images follows:
Protected: Focus TrackSTer Goes To CAS
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 6, 2013 – Los Angeles-based automotive tuner fifteen52, via Project ST, will use the 2013 Chicago Auto Show to debut its Focus TrackSTer project build.
One of three different Focus ST builds, the TrackSTer is to be the first debut for the Project ST campaign. Project ST is a relationship between fifteen52, Ken Block and Ford. The project goal is to make today’s hot hatch king – the Ford Focus ST – even hotter.
fifteen52 is excited to bring the Focus TrackSTer to the Chicago Auto Show.
“Using the CAS venue to debut the TrackSTer is bound to be one of the main highlights for the Project ST campaign,” said Brad Beardow, fifteen52 co-owner. “Chicago, if not the entire Midwest, seems to have more than its fair share of hot-hatch enthusiasts, and there’s just something so right about coming to CAS – in the dead of winter – and unveiling the hottest Focus ST anyone’s seen so far.”
Since fifteen52 launched Project ST in the late summer of 2012, interest in the campaign has grown tremendously. Regular updates via the project-st.com website have captivated an ever larger group of enthusiasts, and as each of the three cars nears completion, fans throughout the country can look forward to seeing them in person as fifteen52 plans to bring the cars to a variety of 2013 events.
TrackSTer is a Focus ST that is destined to feel just as at home on a road course as on the way to a road course. Using only top-quality engine, transmission and suspension components, TrackSTer is designed to appeal to the hardcore performance enthusiast.
Inspired by Ford’s rich global history of small performance cars, fifteen52 has worked closely with Ford Racing to build a Focus ST that pays homage to such cars of the past, while also demonstrating just how far today’s Ford performance envelope can be pushed.
Said Project ST partner Ken Block, “Teaming up with fifteen52 for this project was an obvious choice for me. They’ve got a great understanding of what’s hot in the small car performance marketplace right now, both from the style perspective and from the performance end of things. With the TrackSTer, they’ve worked closely with both Ford Racing and Mountune to put together a potent package that blends on-road performance with on-track performance. I can’t wait to actually get this car out on a track and put it through the paces.”
fifteen52 has incorporated the best of the best in constructing the TrackSTer, and trips to the Ford Racing performance well have been numerous, to say the least. A partial list of incorporated parts that will soon be available to all Focus ST enthusiasts includes:
- Ford Racing short-throw shifter
- Ford Racing performance exhaust system
In addition to Ford Racing Performance Parts, components and partners from Ford Racing’s Focus race programs globally have lent their expertise, including:
- Mountune engine build (using forged rods and pistons)
- Mountune performance intercooler
- Mountune upgraded ECU
- Quaife limited-slip differential (developed for Focus ST-R)
- Centerforce custom clutch kit (developed for Focus ST-R)
- Four-piston front caliper front brakes (developed by StopTech for Focus ST-R)
- Fender flares from Chinese Touring Car Championship Focus
With such a vast array of race-tested quality performance parts at its disposal, along with access to Ford Racing data, expertise and global strategic relationships, fifteen52 believes it has built what is possibly the ultimate all-around Focus ST with the TrackSTer.
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About fifteen52: fifteen52 was founded in 1996. Originally known for bringing high-end Euro accessories to the US VW/Audi market, they quickly branched out into the high performance world as well. Builder of many high-profile project cars such as the VWvortex.com chronicled Project X Mk4 Jetta coupe series, fifteen52 has consistently been on the cutting edge of the Euro aftermarket scene. In the late 2000s fifteen52 began manufacturing their own line of wheels, with their most famous model, the Tarmac, making its way onto Ken Block’s HFHV Gymkhana FOUR and FIVE 650-hp Fiestas. By recently teaming up with Ford Racing and Ken Block for Project ST, fifteen52 is set to expand its reach even further into the automotive aftermarket scene. To learn more about these projects, and follow their progress, check out www.fifteen52projectST.com.
Autocar, in an interview with Barb Samardzich, vice president of product development for Ford Europe, reports that a new RS model is on the way, and is targeted for 2015. As previously believed, the powerplant is a new 2.3 liter EcoBoost, this time sporting 330HP. And the article also confirms that the powerplant will also be used in the upcoming 2015 Mustang, although likely with lower output.
Our take on this report: remember that nothing is announced, so nothing is sure. But given the unprecedented success of the new Focus, and especially the new ST, this is a logical follow-on. We also see the logic in creating the new and larger engine, which would also be especially of interest to Ford’s OEM division. That division has OEMed the basic EcoBoost 2 liter to Jaguar and Land Rover – two brands who need a more powerful engine than the current 2 liter. The Evoque especially needs more power (and a better transmission).
And of course we may not see the RS in North America. If that happens, there will be an outcry of Ford performance fans. We won’t take no for an answer, especially in these days of Alan Mulally’s “One Ford” strategy.
The same 2 liter EcoBoost is also used in the current Australian Falcon, where it is merely adequate. A slightly larger engine, which would make better torque without having to spin up as high to create as much boost, could also get better mileage. Per our 2015 Mustang prediction chart, we expect this engine in the Mustang to make 300 HP and 310 torque and to provide a dynamic driving experience with excellent low-end torque and a wide rev range. Coupled with less weight than the current car, start/stop (if the Feds make it applicable to the emissions test procedure), a better transmission, and updated electronics, the Mustang could get as much as 34 MPH on the highway rating. Yes, that is a big stretch, since it will be challenging to take significant weight (200+ pounds) out of what is merely an update to the current platform.
But back to the Focus ST. We like that car a lot, but when pressed by performance driving, we see room for improvement. It especially needs a mechanical limited slip differential, and it also needs Ford’s EvoKnuckle front suspension from the last Focus RS to mitigate torque steer. These two items are absolute requirements. Ideally, the car would also be AWD, but since Ford doesn’t have the basic architecture in variants of the Focus chassis, that isn’t possible. And a simple Haldex system doesn’t cut it in these days of sophisticated AWD systems and torque-proportioning differentials. Ford doesn’t have that kind of engineering, and the RS would be priced out of its class if Ford did.
Image 1: Ford RevoKnuckle
Image 2: Speculative rendering by Autocar magazine
Will Ford sell a worldwide-spec Focus RS in North America? Mark our words, we will buy one if they so. We’ve been teased by Ford before, more than once, and now that the capability to sell the RS is here we are expecting Ford to follow thru.
At the monthly Cobb Tuning First Thursday car show we inquired about tuning for the Ford Focus ST and found that just a week later the first product for the ST would hit the market. We heard there that their Stage 1 tuning product, delivered thru their AccessPORT hand-held programmer, could deliver as much as 16% more HP and 28 lb-ft of torque. And its an excellent improvement over the ST’s already potent 252 HP from its 2 liter EcoBoost engine (better output per liter than a MazdaSpeed3), and it’s even better 270 lb-ft of torque (ditto).
As part of the announcement, Cobb Tuning provided the following dyno graph… without numbers but stating the obvious. The numbers are a bit below the maximum stated above, but still excellent. And this is only Stage 1, without intake or exhaust changes.
The development car used by Cobb Tuning (a black Focus ST with the ST2 package and aftermarket HRE wheels) suggests that some other mods are in the works for the future. No official word on that… but given the degree of work they put into their 2011 SEMA Ford Focus (with all the usual Cobb Tuning parts such as intakes, shifter, and suspension parts), we’re looking forward to seeing further great things for the ST from Cobb in the future.
One of the features of the worldwide Focus St we don’t get in North America (the other is the optional red calipers and dark grey wheels) is the station wagon, er, “Estate” version of the car. It’s Europe only, at least until a financial justification could be made for bringing the tooling to the assembly line for North America. Lucky Europeans! Not only do they get this version of the worldwide ST, they also get a hatchback version of the Fusion (called Mondeo in Europe) and a 2-door version of the Fiesta ST.
We believe that Ford could make a case for the wagon version of the Focus in North America, especially given that the wagon version of the Mazda3 is the best-selling model of their lineup. And in the high-end of the market, just above the ST, the Audi 3 is only sold in “wagon” format and is also very popular (and handsome).
Top Gear recently drove the Estate and named it their “Hot Hatch” of the year. And no wonder – it’s a handsome car and we especially like the better-proportioned taillights and back-end:
Ford Press Release follows:
FORD FOCUS ST ESTATE DECLARED TOP GEAR’S HOT HATCH OF THE YEAR
Brentwood, Essex, 6 December, 2012 – Top Gear magazine has crowned the Ford Focus ST estate Hot Hatch of the Year in its January edition out today.
In reaching the verdict, Top Gear took the 250PS Ford Focus ST to Russia, where the roads in and around Moscow proved the hot hatch’s combination of everyday practicality with scintillating performance in all conditions – even the Russian winter.
“Despite knobbly winter tyres, this front-drive, estatey hatch with no mechanical diff simply won’t understeer,” wrote Top Gear’s Matthew Jones, who drove a Colorado Red example 300 miles between Red Square and Chekhov.
“This isn’t an official metric, but in mildly moist conditions it’ll corner until the passenger window gets smeared with a photographer’s face. The ST estate really is a car for every mood, journey and road.
“It’s a beautifully set up car, and when conditions allow, it’s nothing but breathy, with progressive acceleration, comfortable but pin-sharp steering, and incorrigible handling. And the estate gathers up the best bits of so many niches.”
On sale in both estate and five-door bodystyles since July, almost 1,600 have sold – representing five per cent of overall registrations for the Ford Focus, which is the UK’s second best-selling car behind the Ford Fiesta. Ford Focus ST outsells the Golf GTi by more than two to one.
The 154mph estate, capable of 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, is Ford’s first global performance car. Yet its turbo-charged, direct-injection 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine returns 39mpg while delivering CO2 emissions of 169g/km.
Mark Ovenden, Ford Britain managing director, said: “Our new and exciting Ford Focus ST estate breaks the hot hatch stereotype, which can mean compromising on space and everyday comfort. Top Gear recognised that the ST estate delivers on practicality and performance – as well as on price.”
The new Ford Focus ST range starts from £21,995 for a five-door and £23,095 for an estate.
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The Ford Focus ST is taking Europe (and North America) by storm in comparison tests. Not all the tests are of equals… in this case the ST goes up against the 276HP Astra and the 265HP Megane. In past years, the Focus RS would have been the right match for these cars… but since an RS model is out (yet?) the ST will have to do. And it does, despite less HP and more weight.
The Sweeney is a new movie based on a ’70s television show of the same name. The Sweeney is special squad of hardened police detectives in London, known as the Flying Squad, with officers who are empowered to use any method necessary, even illegal, to solve a crime. If you are Nick Clegg of the U.K. Liberal Democrats Party, you of course do not approve of this film.
The Sweeney was made with the help of Top Gear UK, which participated in the filming of a chase scene. Clarkson, May, and Hammond are credited as stunt drivers. And the Flying Squad is equipped with a Ford Focus ST. Shameless product promotion, or simply the best weapon for the job? We’ll choose the latter, since the impact the new ST is making worldwide has as its root the dynamic brilliance of the car.
The Sweeney premiers September 12, 2012 in the U.K.
Further reading: catch our reviews of over 150 films of interest to car enthusiasts here: CarMovieEnthusiast.com!
Ford Press Release:
ALL-NEW FORD FOCUS ST PREMIERES IN THE SWEENEY
BRENTWOOD, Essex, 3 September 2012 – Ford’s first global performance car takes centre stage this month with a starring role in new film blockbuster The Sweeney.
Premiered tonight in London, Flying Squad detectives Jack Regan (Ray Winstone) and George Carter (Ben Drew aka Plan B) lead a cast of crime-busting officers as they pursue London’s criminals in black Ford Focus ST high-performance hatchbacks.
On sale this month in five other colours including Tangerine Scream and Spirit Blue, the Ford Focus ST’s 2.0-litre 250PS EcoBoost engine and explosive acceleration ensure the film’s criminals struggle to make a clean getaway.
The Sweeney director and co-writer Nick Love, whose prior credits include The Football Factory and The Firm, said: “It was important for me to collaborate with Ford on The Sweeney as their legacy with the original TV show is so strong – they’re the perfect partner. I like the Ford Focus ST so much, I want one!”
The Ford Focus ST goes head to head with a Jaguar XFR on a high-octane chase scene in the film. The cars will again recreate their duel at CarFest North at Cholmondeley, Cheshire, this weekend after appearing at last month’s CarFest South.
Ford’s strong link with the 1970s Sweeney TV series saw Regan, Carter and their Flying Squad colleagues use a string of Ford Granadas, Consuls and Cortinas to make the streets of London a safer place.
Anthony Ireson, Ford Britain marketing director, said: “The new Focus ST is a hugely exciting car for Ford with terrific dynamic credibility. It will be a car for real driving enthusiasts, so Regan and Carter won’t be disappointed.”
The new Ford Focus ST five door is priced from £21,995, with a stylish estate body style debuting at £23,095. By the end of August, Ford dealers had taken over 450 orders for the Blue Oval’s latest performance car prior to it reaching their showrooms this month.
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