Okay, you say, so it’s an engine. Why should we expect you to get excited about a lump of machinery that basically just sits under a car’s bonnet, pushes us from A to B, and swallows petrol with unseemly gusto? Actually, if you’re toying with the idea of investing in a new Ford Focus ST, there are a number of good reasons why you should be interested in the attributes of this powerplant. Specifically, because it offers a significant improvement in fuel consumption (now do we have your attention?), delivers vigorous performance, contributes to better driving dynamics… you know, useful stuff.
Although South Africans will have to wait a while for the 1-litre version, it’s worth er… focusing on a few of its more compelling qualities, some of which are mirrored in the larger-capacity units. Ford’s groundbreaking powerplant has just three cylinders, with a total capacity of 1 litre. Yeah, we know… about the same as today’s superbikes. The fourth in the EcoBoost series, it’s equipped with a tiny turbocharger that spins up to an astonishing 248 000 r/min to deliver a powerful air-fuel charge, with very little lag when you floor the gas pedal at low rpm.
But that’s just for starters: it also features a glass-reinforced cam belt that runs in oil, a slightly offset crankshaft, a deliberately unbalanced flywheel and pulley (the reason for this is based on sound engineering principles that we’ll explain when we have the time and space), and a cast iron block. In short, this is a piece of engineering wizardry. Earlier this week, we tested a Focus equipped with the 1-litre EcoBoost engine on a variety of roads in Germany, emerging with a healthy respect for its flexibility, its formidable low-end torque and its willingness to accelerate from low revs with nary a protest.
Yesterday – freshly invigorated by a Sauvignon Blanc of Teutonic magnificence at the previous night’s dinner – we moved to the south of France for our first experience aboard the new Ford Focus ST, this one powered by a 2-litre EcoBoost engine producing a formidable 186 kW. In case you’re not technically inclined (in which case, what the hell are you doing here?), this translates into a 0-100 km/h dash within 6,5 seconds and a top speed of 248 km/h. Driven in anger, the engine sound is amazing – and yes, it was indeed “tuned” for optimal auditory pleasure (Ford actually organised clinics to determine the best sound from the engine, exhaust and air intake).
Twisties that delight and occasionally scare the driver, scenery that seriously challenges Cape Town’s crown, an engine that punches out plenty of power across a wide rev range, chassis and suspension dynamics that allow for driving on the edgy side of vigorous… what’s not to like? Oh, and did we forget to mention the picturesque mountainside villages, the road-hugging rock faces that threatened to surgically excise our wing mirrors, the grumpy old Frenchmen with bushy moustaches who appeared to survive on caffeine alone, and the pre-teen loonies who really believed they could go faster than us – two up on a bicycle, with legs dangling over the tarmac like outriggers?
* Full disclosure: the Focus ST 5-door will be launched in South Africa in November, to be followed “some time in 2013″ by the Focus EcoSport, powered by the 91 kW EcoBoost engine. Look out for a full report on the Focus ST and the EcoBoost engines in the August issue of PM.