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Clutch in. Fourth goes into third. Clutch out. Full on the accelerator and… the world goes quiet in anticipation in the Ford Focus ST. Ah, I’ve made a mistake of dropping the revs below and the turbo needs to recharge itself – 1,750 rpm is needed to get full 350 Nm of twist out of the engine. It feels like an eternity.

The engine is a 2.0 litre EcoBoost, force-fed to give the ST more muscle – 247 hp gets summoned when the engine turns 5,500 revolutions per minute. The all-aluminium engine is said to be lighter by approximately 25 kg and offer improved efficiency compared to a naturally-aspirated V6.

More important are the performance figures: 6.5 seconds breaks the 0-100 km/h beam, and it reaches 248 km/h. Drive it as how the Focus ST should be driven and fuel economy becomes a foreign concept. Pace it unnaturally moderate and it’ll return 9.0l/100km combined. My numbers are much higher.

This review originally ran in Issue #1 of Driven+ Magazine. Download Driven+ Magazine from the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.

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Just then, 16 pounds per square inch of air is shoved into the four cylinders, creating its own mini suns; short-lived, but the energy they give is no less potent. Inertia becomes force that takes a sledgehammer to the chest, pushing me deeper into the padding of the Recaros.

The steering pulls to one side, quickly corrected, but it is an act that shouldn’t need to be executed in the first place. Given the amount of horses and torque dropped into the front wheels, this torque steer comes as no surprise. There is no mechanical differential to temper the raw force going into the wheels, except for the torque vectoring control that’s better suited for fast cornering. At least it saves weight.

But listen to that sound. It’s properly loud. Not so much like a wail of a banshee but of something more animalistic. Pressure the pedal and the noise reverberates outside as well as inside. Notes from the exhaust and intake valves are channeled into the cabin through a newly-enhanced sound symposer. It appeals to something primal within, inspiring the predator inside to chase down prey.

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Redline, third is dropped to grab fourth. The engine speed is well aligned now that no lag needs to be endured. Ford made sure that the ST remains a fire-breathing machine by overclocking the turbo, 15 seconds at a time, so the engine gets more torque between 3,000 to 4,500 rpm. At this level, the acceleration is potent and the speed will come in strong. Getting the speedo’s needle to point east-southeast is a task accomplished too easily.

Disc brakes, especially the large front ones, are assigned to bring the needle back to sanity so the corners, no matter how bent, can be taken. Suspension is made up of Macpherson struts in the front, mated to Ford’s Control Blade in the rear.

The Focus ST runs on an even plane, flushed to the tarmac underneath it. It is stable and the 18-inch rubbers extend the grip levels further. The steering, in spite of its electronic assistance, has enough chatter to communicate when that level is about to be breached. Usually, it’s the front that breaks loose first as a result of going into a corner too hot.

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At this point, the torque vectoring control takes over, applying the right amount of brake to the appropriate wheel to keep the car going into the intended direction. That’s the general idea at least. In practice, it makes the car go from understeer to oversteer and back to understeer. It can’t decide which.

Best results still come from tempering speed because once everything is in equilibrium, the ST can shoot from one apex to another without ending up face first in a tree. Steering response is immediate and smart enough to know that a little bit of input means a lot at high speeds.

The ride is especially hard throughout. Faults on the road are absorbed into the chassis, transferred into the seats before transmitting the message into the nervous system. But it’s never bone shaking or hints at becoming a bother, except when the road conditions deteriorate.

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The seats do make a significant difference, if it fits. No worries with the rear bench, it’s the front Recaro seats that are generously bolstered with thick and strong padding. Which makes it a tight squeeze for those who are already naturally well-padded at the torso and thighs. But it grips with a solid firmness, so the body does not get thrown around when the ST swings hard into a corner.

Once in, the seats bends the arm forward while instincts take over to hold that meaty, four-spoked button-invaded, ST badge-wearing steering wheel. One more detail that sets this dashboard apart from the ones found in normal Focuses is a small cluster of three gauges on the middle of the dashboard, facing the driver.

The trio reads water temperature, boost and oil pressure measurements, and they can be a lot handier if not for their size. You get the feeling that larger gauges will increase its street-cred even more. At least the front passenger can enjoy the needle of the boost meter swinging wildly about.

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Still, the Focus ST is a magnet for second glances and head-turns. It is in the case of the test mule – Tangerine Scream, it is called, and under the sunlight the ST shines like large piece of Garnet.

Tour the body and you’ll know why this car is a strained-neck inducer. Some hate it, but I’m a fan of Ford’s new design direction. The rear and sides are what’s available on the regular third-generation Focus, albeit with added look-fast bits on the body and bigger wheels. It’s the front that makes the difference. Or rather, it’s that huge gap of a grille that invoke the emotions; it makes the Focus ST look fierce and fast even when it isn’t moving.

No, the Ford Focus ST isn’t a subtle thing. You’re almost guaranteed to get stares in it and not all of them will be flattering ones. What you are guaranteed of are slaps on the back from your mates at the mamak for having such a car. Questions will inevitably drift from car to you, the owner, as well as requests of giving your deprived audience a taste of its speed. For the Focus ST is a car for the enthusiast, and it is only they who will pay the respect that this car is due. Cool?

This review originally ran in Issue #1 of Driven+ Magazine. Download Driven+ Magazine from the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.

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