We're looking forward to getting our hands on the ST variant of the Ford Focus, and why not? We Americans have had no choice but to sit back and watch while our overseas comrades got to have all the fun behind the wheel of high-performance Focii, which made the hot hatchbacks the forbidden fruit we tend to crave.
Ford promises that the U.S. will finally have a chance at the next-generation ST, which should supply at least 246 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque courtesy an EcoBoost 2.0-liter mill. The only problem is that the high-pot Focus ST is still a year away, but that doesn't mean we won't see test mules traveling the highways and test tracks around the world.
Ford tells us they have 60 ST models testing everywhere from California to Germany's Nürburgring. The testers may look like last-generation ST or more pedestrian current-gen Focus models, but the big wheels, low profile and double exhaust passes will show that the mules are anything but ordinary.
Matthias Tonn, who heads performance engineering at Ford of Europe, says that the testing is needed to make the next ST shine, adding that engineers are "fine-tuning, testing, and fine tuning again many of the small but critical details to make sure it is worthy of the ST badge."
And just because the ST will be a performance hatch doesn't mean Ford isn't keenly focused on fuel economy as well. Tonn says the goal is to produce class-leading fuel economy even with a performance variant. Mixing fuel efficiency and performance is no easy task, but Ford is banking on a thrifty EcoBoost engine and fuel-saving technology like a finely tuned Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system to do the trick.
While the Focus ST is still a way away from production, Ford provided some "spy photos" of an ST mule during testing in Germany, which you can peruse in our high-res image gallery. Hit the jump to read over the Ford press release.
New Ford Focus ST on Track: Prototype Testing Underway from California Freeways to German Nürburgring
• Development of Ford's sporty new Focus ST is on track as engineers put prototypes through punishing regime to hone performance and driving dynamics
• New 2.0-litre EcoBoost-powered Focus ST targets both 250 PS (246 hp) and impressive fuel economy
• Focus ST, Ford's first global performance car, goes on sale next year
COLOGNE, Germany, May 11, 2011 – If a new Ford Focus with an eye-catching paint job, ground-hugging suspension, big wheels and tyres 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 uniq ue, 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 Nürburgring, 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.