- - Thursday, May 19, 2011

If a new Ford Focus with an eye-catching paint job, ground-hugging suspension, big wheels and tires and a tell-tale central rear double exhaust passes you on the autobahn or freeway, chances are you have seen one of the development prototypes for the all-new high-performance Focus ST launching next year.

In Europe and North America, Ford’s Team RS and SVT engineering teams are putting a fleet of around 60 pre-production prototypes through a punishing regime of testing and development to fine-tune the car’s driving dynamics and performance. The prototypes are based on standard new Focus vehicles and, in some cases, prior-generation Focus ST models.

“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 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, but can also be used every day.

“We’ve done all the engineering groundwork, and now we’re using some of the most demanding roads we can find in Europe and North America to validate and fine tune the performance and driving dynamics.”

The new Focus ST will be powered by a high-performance version of Ford’s new 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine, targeting an exhilarating 250 PS (246 hp), while still delivering significantly better fuel economy than the previous generation Focus ST sold in Europe.

“Fuel efficiency is a key leadership target for Ford Motor Company globally. We want to be class-leading even with a performance vehicle, so we’re working on getting the best possible blend of high performance and fuel economy from the new ST,” said Matthias Tonn, chief program engineer, Global Performance Products, Ford of Europe. Recently, the development team completed demanding cold weather testing in northern Europe, as well as exacting tests and exercises to refine steering performance.

“We’re sweating all the details - fine-tuning, testing, and fine tuning again many of the small but critical details to make sure it is worthy of the ST badge,” Tonn said.

“We will build upon and improve the ride, steering and handling strengths that defined the current European Focus ST.” With the new Focus ST, a key focal point for the Ford development team is to deliver an even more engaging driver experience, from its highly tuned Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system to unique, driver-orientated seats.

“The seats and seating position were very good in the previous Focus ST, but the new model is sleeker and the driver will sit lower. The new seats which will provide even more support,” Tonn said. The all-new Focus ST is Ford’s first global performance car, conceived under the One Ford strategy.

It brings the ST performance badge to North American and Asian customers for the first time. “For enthusiasts in North America and Asia who have asked why our compact performance models were not available to them, well, the wait is almost over,” Capito said. “The new Focus ST will offer exactly the same exciting driving experience wherever it’s on sale.”

“Like the Focus ST and RS models before it, the new Focus ST’s final set-up will be achieved after painstaking tuning on some of the most demanding roads we can find from California to the Nurburgring, and from high-speed German autobahns to classic British B-roads,” Capito added. “Keep your eyes open for our prototypes as we work on delivering a Focus ST driving experience that will delight performance car fans around the world.”

Fans of the new Focus ST can keep up to date with progress on the official Ford Focus Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/fordfocus.

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