What is it?
It wasn’t so long ago that the largest amount of power you could put through the front wheels was considered to be around 250bhp. Yet my abiding memory of the Cupra Leon 300 (no prizes for guessing how much power it has) from Best Affordable Driver’s Car in July is that it felt rapid but mostly ordinary.
The Cupra isn’t the only one to put huge power through the front axle with no great difficulty, either. The recently departed Honda Civic Type R had 316bhp, while the Renault Mégane RS and Hyundai i30 N get close.
But those are cars developed from the factory to have big power. It’s another story entirely when you boost a car after the fact. So what happens when you massage the turbocharger on the Ford Fiesta ST to take it from 197bhp to approximately 285bhp? Here to help us find out is Turbo Technics’ new S285 conversion.
If you haven’t heard of Turbo Technics, they’ve done this sort of thing before. Working at Garrett in the 1970s, Geoff Kershaw was instrumental in the development of the turbo engine in the Saab 99 before he struck out on his own and started Turbo Technics in 1981. Since then, the firm has offered turbo kits for various cars, from the Ford Capri to the Nissan Figaro and the Volkswagen Golf R (easily capable of 550bhp, apparently) – although a lot of their business comes from turbo refurbishment and turbocharger-balancing machines.
The S285 uses a so-called hybrid turbo. There are no batteries involved; it’s not that kind of hybrid. Instead, Turbo Technics takes the standard turbo and guts most of it, uprating the shafts, compressor wheels and bearings and modifying the housing to optimise the shape for power, rather than efficiency.
The internals reportedly take the extra power with little complaint, although Kershaw admits that there will always be some trade-off in the longevity of some components. While internal upgrades aren’t essential, some supporting modifications are. An ECU tune, an uprated intercooler, an induction kit and a freer-flowing exhaust ensure the turbo’s increased potency isn't wasted.