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Ford Focus ST (2012) development pictures

Wed, 11 May 2011

It’s been over six months since Ford unveiled the Focus ST concept at the 2010 Paris motor show, and with the production ST’s launch looming large for early 2012, the Blue Oval has started its PR push. These are the first shots of prototype STs testing at Ford’s Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium.

So what do we know about the new Ford Focus ST?

That it’ll look very different from this mule – production STs will feature a huge, Audi-esque, one-piece front grille. However, look closely at this camouflaged and you’ll still spot new sills, a discreet rear spoiler, and a suitably lower stance thanks to ST-spec suspension. Not visible in these two shots is the new central exhaust, which Ford of Europe’s head of exterior design Stefan Lamm and his team forced through the engineering process.

Hiding behind that big grille will be Ford’s latest 2.0-litre turbocharged and direct-injected Ecoboost engine. The Blue Oval’s engineers are aiming for 247bhp and 266lb ft, up from the old ST’s 222bhp and 236lb ft. 'It’s fundamentally built on the Mondeo’s 240PS engine,' Ford of Europe’s powertrain development boss Andrew Fraser admitted to CAR. 'But there are changes, to the turbocharger, the intercooler, the intake system, and the exhaust – just subtle enhancements to ensure less restrictive induction and reduced back pressure. And the most important thing is there has been lots of engine calibration'. 

And coming out of the central exhaust will be a lot less CO2 than produced by the outgoing ST. 'We're aiming for [mpg in] the mid-30s,' revealed Fraser. 'And somewhere south of 180g/km. Those are 20% improvements'.

A six-speed manual gearbox will be the only transmission option, power will go to the front wheels, and we hear an estate version is under consideration as well.

So far, so good…

Yes, but the new ST will be an ST under the skin: the trick Revo-Knuckle front suspension and mechanical differential from the Focus RS are off limits. Instead, 247bhp and 266lb ft will be controlled via the torque vectoring system that’s standard on every Focus and uses the front brakes to distribute power accordingly.

Matthias Ton, chief program engineer for Ford's global performance products, promises the new ST will improve on the old car's ride, handling and steering. The latter is particularly important, as every new Focus features electric power steering, which notoriously offers less feedback than a conventional hydraulic set-up. The most recent part of the Focus ST's development schedule has seen it undergoing cold weather testing in northern Europe, with a specific focus on the steering.

There are currently 60 pre-production ST prototypes being put through their paces in Europe and North America by Ford's Team RS and SVT engineers, on everything from famous Californian driving roads, the Nurburgring, German autobahns and good old British B-roads.

'The new Focus ST is eagerly awaited around the world, which is appropriate as this is our first global performance model,' said Jost Capito, Ford’s famous director of global performance vehicles. 'It must live up to Ford’s reputation for producing affordable yet exciting and sporty versions of its smaller cars that reward and delight enthusiast drivers'.

By Ben Pulman