Just Car Blog
|Future Cars: 2019 Ford Focus ST Brings Back The Styling Magic||
Ford’s original Focus was a breath of fresh air when launched upon the motoring world back in 1998. As a replacement for the Escort, its radical styling and fantastic handling was a big middle finger to the small car main-players of the late 1990’s.
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|Road Test: Ford Focus 1.6 Trend||
The Ford Focus has always had an interesting history in South Africa – Ford aficionados were always impressed by its interesting looks and good engines. The VW and Toyota faithful – not so much. There was just not enough to make these buyers sit up and notice.
But Ford had a long hard look at what the Germans and Japanese were doing in this space, and decided to change their current lineup with somewhat better options and the new SYNC systems.
The new Focus does away with the strange rear lights that ran down the sides of the rear window of the old model, and replaces them with new lights which are arguably just as strange. The sides of the car sport very hunkered down curves and you do get the feeling that all the models are made to almost remind you of the ST.
The model I drove was very striking in Candy Red. The Focus becomes a real looker once you fit the Option Pack – it gets nice ST-esque 17 inch mags, a much better styling kit, and chrome trim on the foglamps and grille. You might get a few GTI drivers challenging you at a red light though because they think you are driving an ST.
The Focus interior continues Ford’s new button and gadget heavy interior. Whereas other brands these days are trying to minimize the number of buttons on the dash, Ford is clearly heading the other way. The sound system and steering wheel is very button heavy.
The steering wheel might be confusing to some – there are two control pads on each side, left controls the left display in the car, the right controls the right instrument cluster display.
The Option Pack also improves the interior with great looking black leather seats with gray stitching, a leather steering wheel and gear knob. It is clearly meant for people who do not only want a car that drives well, but want some decent toys as well. You get automatic headlamps, windscreen wipers and auto-dipping rear view mirror.
Even though the button heavy interior might initimidate some, I could not find fault with either fit or finish. Ford has clearly payed attention to what brands like VW has been doing with their interior, and decided it would be the area they would focus on. The plastics are first rate, and there was not a single rattle or creak. I especially liked the steering wheel – it felt incredibly solid, with a very good looking silver finish which did not feel cheap as is often the case.
On a critical point – I did find some of the cubby placement odd. Not a lack of space, just the layout. For a car that focusses so much on decent in-car tech, I found it strange that I could not find a place to position my smartphone flat down.
Ford’s signature blue lighting looks great in this car, and the displays and controls were all perfectly legible, even in direct sunlight.
First off – voice control for in car sound systems is nothing new, but it has traditionally been fitted to cars that are far more expensive than the Focus. In most cases voice recognition is typically found as part of high-end optional navigation systems. The Focus comes standard with SYNC technology, which was developed in partnership with Microsoft. The Focus is one of the first Ford models to be fitted with SYNC in South Africa. The system does not come with navigation, but you do get the idea that Ford is wizening up to the fact that most people these days use navigation software on their smartphones, and the system simply routes navigation commands through the speakers.
The big news with Sync is voice control. You can connect your phone via Bluetooth or USB – with Bluetooth you have the advantage of leaving your phone in your pocket, and music and phone calls get sent through the sound system. But you want to connect to USB if you want to see the real magic of SYNC. You simply pull the voice command paddle on the steering wheel, and then the system can recognize more than 150 commands. There is also constant audio feedback, which can get a little irritating – but you can set it so that she is not too chatty.
This voice control system works independently from your phone, so it needs to sync your contacts and music, and index them as such. I was super impressed by the voice recognition – it did not get a single song, artist or album wrong, and the phone dialing was equally amazing. It understood Afrikaans and Xhosa names without any issue, which I found incredible, especially if you have dealt with other voice control systems like Siri.
I tested the system with a Nokia Lumia 820 and Apple iPhone 5. Both worked very well, but the iPhone 5 did not want to send text messages to the SYNC system. I suspect that issue lies with Apple though… One other thing I did not like was the placement of the USB port, which is found in the glovebox. While its great for keeping your iPod out of vision, charging your phone means dangling the cable from the glovebox, which is not very elegant.
While I got the Focus purely to try out the Sync, what is the car like to drive? Pretty great. I got hold of the low end 1.6 model which has 92kw and 159Nm on tap. While it might not sound like much, there is something about the steering and gear changing that really tempts you to take this car and drive it hard. The handling is well suited to this car, but I did get some understeer on some windier roads. Ford ships all local Focus models with Torque Vectoring Control which keeps excessive understeer at bay, and luckily the Michelins on those 17 inch wheels do provide great grip.
The engine is very silent and refined with everyday driving, but in typical Ford fashion it does rumble a little when you rev it hard. Even though the eco monitor might tell you to change gears early, the power band sits above 4000 rpm. But drive the car hard and the gear change indicator disappears.
After driving this model it became clear to me that the Focus is able to handle a lot more power – sure, it might need a limited slip differential for handling the power through the front wheels, but it is a great car to drive. It’s as if the Focus was developed with the vision of becoming the ST, and now I am more eager than ever to try one out.
The Focus 1.6 Trend was a great car to drive and I believe Ford SA is on the right track by fitting SYNC to most of the new models, including upcoming Fiestas. The SYNC system works very well – and even though it might sport a big screen or navigation, the voice recognition is amongst the best I have used.
Even in this 1.6 guise, the car retains its Ford “power” ambitions – its engine is peaky and excellent to drive. I could not find fault in the handling either. The interior is where Ford has clearly improved a lot, and the plastics and finish was amongst the best of any car I have seen in this segment.
I believe the Focus is an excellent competitor in this segment. At R236 000, the model I drove is pretty good value for money, but that Option Pack is a must have.
|Ford Focus RS Model to Return||
Ford is said to be planning more vehicles for the near future. Among them is a new Focus RS Model. The model would have a turbo-charged 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine with 350 PS (257 kW/345 hp) to 380 PS (279 kW/ 375 hp).
The car would be staying with its front-wheel drive strategy. The new RS will continue to deploy the ‘Revoknuckle’ suspension that allowed Ford to put 224 kW through the front wheels without creating excessive torque steer.
Rumors that talked about the new RS being an all-wheel drive by adopting electric motors to power the rear axle have however been denied.
The current RS’s Volvo-sourced 2.5 liter five-cylinder turbo engine has the potential for an upgrade and Ford is trying to get more out of it. The Focus RS is hoped to be launched in 2013.
|Ford’s Focus ST Begins Prototype Testing||
By the end of this year’s One Lap of America, I was already starting to think about running the event next year. None of my current cars would be ideal, so I began thinking about the perfect car for a first year competitor. Brock Yates, Jr., who organizes the event, was enthusiastic about the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works, but their reliability record isn’t quite as good as Trabant’s. The Mazdaspeed3 would be a valid choice, since it offers decent power, reasonable handling, good cargo capacity and a low price. Still, some Mazdaspeed3 variants on the event ran into mechanical problems when pushed hard, and I simply can’t get past the ugly seat fabric. Then it hit me: the ideal car to run One Lap of America as a first time entrant will be the Ford Focus ST.
Here’s the good news: as these pictures show, the Focus ST is now undergoing real-world testing in Europe and in North America. Some sixty test mules are currently being flogged to the point of failure, simply to see what breaks first. Equally important, the data captured will be used to fine-tune the car’s performance, handling and driving dynamics. There’s a lot riding on the launch of the Focus ST, since it represents Ford’s first global performance car; get it right, and it paves the way for future vehicles. Get it wrong, and you’ll end up with inventory that dealers can’t move.
Just in case you need a reminder, the Focus ST will have a 2.0-liter Ecoboost four, good for 246 horsepower. To maximize both performance and steering feel, the car will come equipped with Ford’s EPAS Electric Power Assist Steering, and will use brake based torque-vectoring to emulate the effects of a limited slip differential. If early footage of base Focus models on the track is any indication, the Focus ST will be quite impressive despite it’s front engine, front drive architecture.
Here’s the down side: no one knows when the Focus ST will hit the market, or even what the price point will be. There’s speculation that it will start under $30k, and I’ve heard some people say “early 2012” for an arrival date. If I’m going to be driving one in next year’s One Lap, it’s got to be in dealerships no later than March of 2012, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
|Porsche China & North America Production Facilities to Kick Off Soon||
Following realization that Porsche’s current assembly plants in Zuffenhausen, near Stuttgart, and Leipzig are too small to meet their high demands, the company is now looking to start production from North America and China. The plan is aimed at hitting the predicted global sales of 200,000 units.
The company believes that building Porsches from North America or China wouldn’t break the tradition since earlier they had given the production of Boxster to Valmet contract manufacturers in Finland.
Porsche is also expected to open a customer centre in China and a test track in Shanghai close to a Formula One track. The company’s dealers in China would be increased from 35 to 85 and then possibly to 100.
It is expected that, during this year itself, Porsche would make a decision on whether to start production from North America or Asia. Porsche might start building their upcoming SUV Cajun in a Volkswagen factory in China.
Apparently the same factory builds the Audi Q5 (SUV). The previous Karmann factory in Osnabrueck, Germany – now acquired by VW – will be used to boost the production of Boxster and Cayman. VW will use the plant to manufacture Golf Cabriolet.
Porsche is merging with VW, making it VW group’s 10th brand along with the likes of Audi AG, Bentley, Bugatti , Lamborghini, Skoda etc. This happened after VW obtained 49.9% of Porsche Automobil Holding SE’s carmaking unit when Porsche last year failed in a bid to takeover VW.
|New Ford Focus ST Debuts in Paris||
American auto manufacturer Ford will display its new 2012 Ford Focus ST in the upcoming Paris Auto Show in the month of October. The new model will feature a new EcoBoost engine that is likely to be similar to the 2.5-liter turbocharged engines present in existing Ford models such as the Galaxy, S-Max and Mondeo.
The EcoBoost unit in the next Focus ST could provide as much as 300 bhp of power and will employ the torque vectoring technology created by Ford to channel that power to the front wheels of the car and to help the car grip the road as much as possible.
The new Focus ST will also be capable of bursting from 0 to 100 kmph speeds in a matter of 6 seconds and has a maximum speed of 250 kmph (155 mph). It will also be more fuel efficient than the existing Focus ST model and is expected to release in 2011, after the Europe launch of the hatchback and wagon variant of the Ford Focus in April 2011.