When Ford announced the Focus ST back in early 2011, many Americans were skeptical about whether or not the car would really come state side. We have seen plenty of hot hatches from the blue oval blasting on roads outside of the U.S. so getting one here would be a big deal (we are still wiping tears away about the Ford Focus RS not being sold in the US).
But alas! The ST is here and promises to bring turbocharged performance to a vehicle that doesn’t have a galloping horse on it. To make sure the public gets a chance to enjoy the car, Ford set into motion this summer the Ford Performance Academy. Giving people the opportunity to drive the Focus ST in a closed course environment. We had a chance to experience the academy during its stop at Dodger Stadium this past scorching Los Angeles weekend.
Arriving on the location, we expected to hear the throaty scream of engine revs and tires getting loose. Surprisingly this was not the case. The car turned out to be rather quite and very poised through the corners. Considering the car is powered by a 2.0L EcoBoost turbocharged engine producing 256hp and 276 lb-ft we expected more of a ruckus to be made.
Two driving clinics were set up, with the first clinic taking you through the rules of the day and expectations of the car. Each course was designed to stay in second gear, no matter how hard you try to find third – trust us we tried very hard.
Inside the cockpit the gauge cluster is tight and dead center to the driver with Recaro bucket seats holding you firmly in place providing plenty of lower back comfort. The throws in the gearbox are short and precise; the clutch, however, is fairly aggressive for a streetcar. This made staging the car at the starting line entertaining to watch as new manual transmission drivers lunged their way into place.
Once you get through your two laps of driving school, you then enter the line for two timed laps. Fastest of the day was set at 32.500 seconds – soon to be broken by a gentleman in front of me setting 32.210.
While thrashing through the timed course we did experience a ‘police shuffle’ effect when we came around the first corner of our timed lap, throwing it into the apex and inadvertently turning on the radio, activating the wipers and flashing the brights. The remainder of the lap was conducted trying to figure out how to turn everything off.
The course is larger than the familiarization clinic, with sweeping corners, double apexes along with a hairpin thrown in for good measure. Aside from finger fumbling our way round the first lap our second lap was clocked at 34.010, which worked out to a B- amongst the days racers.
Miraculously, the Focus ST has arrived and judging by the excitement as drivers exited the car, Americans can finally enjoy a performance American hatchback. The question remains, will this car answer the demand Americans have had for a domestic hot hatch? Naturally, our suggestion would be for an AWD 300hp RS version… just as a suggestion.