Back in 2006, Ford released the mercurial Focus XR5, matching European sports suspension and steering and a powerful 2.0-litre engine with a lightweight body.
The latest outgrowth of that is the new Focus ST and it brings a power output of 94kW/litre to the pocket-rocket gang. It's built in eight countries, with the Aussie versions made in Germany.
Ford's biggest noise on this, and in fact on all other products, is the Microsoft-based Ford Synch connectivity system.
The ST's EcoBoost turbo four- cylinder engine from the Mondeo and Falcon produces 20 per cent more power than the previous car while using 20 per cent less fuel.
Ford's David Katic emphasised the technology theme of marketing plans for the fast Focus.
"With Ford Synch we package an extensive suite of driver aids and comforts. Active park assist, adaptive cruise control and active city stop are all part of Ford's new emphasis," he said.
He noted that the Focus was the beneficiary of Ford's sponsorship of runaway TV hit The Voice, with a 50 per cent increase in Google searches for the car.
Even Ford's own website recorded a 46 per cent increase in inquiries. As a result Ford has blitzed its sales targets for the car, with deliveries up a third despite supply shortages.
The Focus ST is the first global performance car from the Ford camp and apart from the left and right-hand-drive variants, it is sold without change across 40 countries.
Key features include a streamlined underbody designed to give the least possible interference to airflow under the car. Recaro seats front and rear make it clear this is a sports version, although I think if you're a candidate for The Biggest Loser you'll have trouble squeezing between the shoulder supports.
But what the ST is all about is the driving. The engineers have done their best work on the driving dynamics, but with 184kW of power heading to the front wheels, under hard acceleration - particularly when the road had a varying surface - the front started to squirm as the electronics fought to split the power evenly between the drive wheels.
It wasn't unpleasant, and certainly not dangerous, but you needed to anticipate it. When the car was ripping around twisty mountain roads, the system seemed less intrusive.
There are three modes to the electronic stability control - normal, sport, and off, for the drivers who like their road experience unplugged.
The ST has a chassis that is 10mm lower than the standard car and the steering system is a blindingly simple variable ratio set-up from Ford Sport, which tightens the steering as you wind on more lock.
Now that the aural experience of driving is so important, Ford has engineered a stimulating roar from the engine on full throttle. It includes an active sound suppressor on the intake system.
Although the Ford guys made a big point of highlighting the dual centre exhaust, it's only one pipe with two outlets from the muffler.At $38,290, the ST is not only great value as a performance package, it drives and feels like it's a generation ahead of its Japanese competitors.
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