5 Things you need to know about the 2020 Ford Focus ST

2020 Ford Focus ST

With the death of the RS, the 2020 Ford Focus ST is as hot as the Focus gets now, here are the 5 things you need to know about it.

Carries a big stick

The Ford Focus ST, like the Fiesta ST which launched here recently too, has arrived in Australia only a couple of years after it launched in Europe (2018). And, with the Focus RS now out of the picture, it’s as hot as the Focus gets.

And it’s pretty hot, the engine is a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol (the RS engine with some tweaks like a different turbo) making 206kW and 420Nm of torque (up from 360Nm). This is a good deal more grunt (up 22kW) than the old ST and puts both the Hyundai i30 N and Golf GTI to shame. It’ll get to 100km/h in around 5.7 seconds – the auto is a touch slower.

2020 Ford Focus ST

Other improvements over the old Focus ST include a unique exhaust system, optimised cooling and a bespoke air intake system. In addition, it borrows the anti-lag system from the Ford GT and F-150 Raptor. This works in either Sport or Track mode and according to the engineers, “Anti-lag keeps the throttle open when the driver lifts off the accelerator pedal, alleviating the reversal of air flow from the turbocharger to maintain compressor wheel speed and enabling boost pressure to build faster on demand”. Sounds good.

You can change your own gears

Yep, buyers will be able to choose from either a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters and, while this will be the quicker transmission, purists will likely go straight for the six-speed manual. For those thinking one will be cheaper than the other, nope, both are the same price. Interestingly, figures suggest 75 percent of Australians will plump for an auto model when one’s available in a lineup. Sigh.

Focus ST will get the Mustang’s rev-matching which blips the throttle when changing gear to match the engine speed to the gear being selected, maintaining momentum. Most of us who grew up driving stick, will know you blip the throttle before getting off the clutch to get the same response. Having used this system in the Mustang, I can tell you it’s a good one.

Ford said it hadn’t considered a dual-clutch transmission for the Focus ST as it wouldn’t have made business sense, given the global decision to use a torque converter style automatic. But, according to Ford Performance Europe boss, Stefan Muenzinger, the engineers made some improvements to the seven-speed auto which is actually an eight-speed unit with second gear locked out. He said the auto was just about as quick as a DSG on upshifts, losing out slightly on downshifts.

Driving modes to suit all roads

Focus ST offers Selectable Drive Modes, including Slippery, Normal, Sport and Track. These modes fiddle with the eLSD (which is a mechanical unit electrically controlled), CCD, EPAS, throttle mapping,

automatic transmission shift scheduling, electronic stability control (ESC), electronic sound enhancement (ESE) and climate settings. Sport mode can be accessed directly from a Sport button on the steering wheel.

Find yourself turning onto a race track, and Track is the mode you’ll want, this tightens up the steering (the steering setup is the same as the Fiesta ST) and throttle response, tells the eLSD you want maximum grip out of corners and tells the traction and stability control to relax a little.

2020 Ford Focus ST

On the question of whether the Focus ST should be an all-wheel drive like the RS, Stefan said, “this car doesn’t need all-wheel drive […] the eLSD, tuning and the tyres work so well. You would be surprised by the amount of traction offered in dry conditions”.

Will Ford go down Hyundai N’s road of offering a configurable driver setting? No. According to Stefan, “[there were] internal discussions on configurable modes […] but there are some downsides with that; we think you would lose the character of the individual modes. Trying to pick and choose, it might not work so well”.

Tweaked suspension to handle the ups and downs

The Focus ST retains the standard car’s spring settings but the damper stiffness has been increased by 20 percent at the front and 13 percent at the rear. It sits 10mm lower than a garden-variety Focus.

And, for the first time on a Focus in Australia, the ST boasts Continuous Controlled Damper (CCD)which monitors suspension, body, steering and braking inputs every two milliseconds to better performance across all road surfaces. Or so the theory goes.

And it gets better, see, the Focus ST has pothole detection, it’s not the first Ford with it but it is the first Focus to get it. This system is part of the CCD which when it detects a fast wheel movement on the rebound will tweak the compression damping to avoid the sensation of collapsing into the pothole. Clever.

Go to whoa quicker

Big brakes at the front and the rear and the brake boost function mean the Focus ST should have excellent braking. Even when being spanked on a track. According to Stefan, the Focus ST was honed on the Nurburgring in Germany and he reckons the stopping performance is impressive. “The brakes are nice and stable for race track use,” he said. Indeed, fade resistance has improved by four times compared to the old Focus ST. The tyres too help with grip and braking with Ford engaging Michelin to develop a bespoke set of tyres to suit the ST, these are Pilot Sport 4S tyres, with Ford Performance on the sidewall.

2020 Ford Focus ST

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.