Ford is readying an ST performance version of its new Puma SUV, and our spy photographers have caught a prototype being put through its paces at the Nurburgring.
The Hyundai Kona N rival has shed some camouflage since we last saw it, revealing that it will feature a trapezoidal lower grille design, large-diameter performance-inspired alloy wheels shod in low-profile tyres, and the same wing-mounted headlight clusters as the standard model.
A prominent lower bodykit extends around the car from the splitter-style front bumper to a new rear bumper designed around a twin exhaust tailpipe - the same as that fitted to the Fiesta ST.
Official details of the model's drivetrain and chassis set-up are still yet to be confirmed, but images of the prototype raising a rear wheel under hard cornering show it will feature a stiffer suspension set-up in the same vein as the Fiesta ST. The big wheels appear to hide larger-diameter front brakes, too, while the Puma seems lower to the ground than the stock model.
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Ford global development boss Hau Thai-Tang told Autocar earlier this year that the Puma “would be a good place for us to look” in expanding the ST range beyond the Fiesta and Focus in Europe. The Puma ST is expected to share its key running gear, including a 197bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine, with the Fiesta ST.
An ST version of the Puma (as rendered below by Autocar) is unlikely to vary drastically from the ST Line version of the car, which was revealed back in April. But we can expect a bespoke chassis set-up, possibly including an optional limited-slip differential, selectable drive modes and a launch control function.
Thai-Tang said Ford is keen to continue leveraging its Ford Performance arm for road car development, but the company would not simply look to create an ST version of each car. In addition to its two European hot hatches, Ford also makes ST versions of its Edge and Explorer large SUVs.
“We look at creating STs by very objective measures to make sure it is credible as an ST,” said Thai-Tang. “Do we have the right building blocks [on which to base it]?”
A new Focus RS is also understood to be in development, but it’s unlikely to appear before 2022, after the Focus’s mid-life update.
“We have nothing to announce but we recognise the importance of that car,” said Thai-Tang.
It is understood that hybrid power is one consideration for the Focus RS. “We’ll see where we go,” Ford’s automotive president Joe Hinrichs said. “The world is changing on powertrain and propulsion. No hints, but there’s a lot to talk through.”
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