Ford has unveiled its new Ford ST at the Paris motor show.
The next generation car will arrive in 2012 and the firm says that customer feedback on the outgoing version of the car - one of the more subtle hot hatchbacks on the market - has persuaded it to create more extreme styling for the new version.
The choice of the ST model designation for the show car is likely to prove significant. Ford is said to be keen to rationalise the branding its high-performance variants, which have also been called XR and SVT in other markets.
As expected, the new ST uses a retuned version of Ford’s four-cylinder, turbocharged Ecoboost engine, now producing 247bhp.
That figure puts the Focus on a par with Renaultsport’s Mégane 250 and lifts it above the 223bhp of the old model, which was powered by a Volvo-derived, turbocharged five-pot.
However, its figure is likely to be topped by Vauxhall’s next-gen Astra VXR, which should have north of 280bhp when it arrives at the end of 2011.
Ford has yet to issue any details on the car’s transmission, but the show car appears to have a six-speed manual gearbox. A version of its Powershift dual-clutch set-up is likely to be offered as an option.
The new car’s styling takes the latest five-door Focus’s looks to extremes, with deep air intakes, side skirts and a roof spoiler.
Ford’s head of design, Martin Smith, told Autocar, “The new Focus ST is more of an overt performance car than its predecessor in response to customer feedback.
We knew that the Focus ST customer wanted something less subtle than the standard design, with a more sporty feel.”
The front of the new car is dominated by a gaping single-piece grille, in contrast to the two-piece item that will feature on regular next-gen Focuses.
It’s entirely black, apart from a small ST badge. Ford draws comparisons between the ‘blade’ front spoilers, which emerge from the centre of the front bumper and extend around the sides, and the rear end, which features sharp creases above the bumpers.
The firm also claims that the central exhaust has strong ‘kinetic’ design cues.
The show car’s paint colour, called “Tangerine Scream”, is an evolution of the bright orange that was the signature finish on the previous ST. It’s likely to be offered as a cost option on the new model.
Inside, the ST features sports seats with body-coloured inserts, a deeply cowled rev counter and speedometer, carbonfibre weave finish on much of the fascia, a ‘stitched leather’ effect at the top of the dash and, as a nod to the outgoing model, a trio of small dials - likely to be oil temperature, boost and battery charge - between the main instruments and the windscreen.
The chassis set-up will be a development of the new ‘global Focus’ floorpan. In particular, the new design attempts to adapt Ford’s ‘control blade’ rear suspension system for all markets, including the United States, where the car’s retail price will be lower.
Ford presently has no plans for a three-door Focus, although in a break from tradition, the hottest Focus will be available in the UK as an estate.
Buyers in continental Europe will also be able to choose it as a saloon, but that configuration will not make it to the British customers. In line with the outgoing model, it’s likely to be priced from around £20,000.
The ST is likely to remain the hottest next-gen Focus for at least 12 months. A new RS is under consideration, particularly since the new production methods introduced on the outgoing model allowed it to return a profit. But it’s so early in its development cycle that a debut before 2013 is unlikely.
Ford is said to be still considering possible powertrains for its hottest hatch, including a basic version of the front-drive/electric back axle solution that was revealed by Autocar last month. The system has been tested, according to senior sources, but it’s some way from receiving the green light for production.