Originally Posted by SCRAPPYDO
Well I just happen to test drive one of these this weekend… And an hour later, I test drove an STI. Just for the back to back impressions…
Here are my thoughts below. But for reference, here are my comparison data points:
2013 Golf R – 20 minute test drive
2006 STI – 3 years of daily driving and autocross
2011 WRX – 1.5 years of daily driving and 2 track days
2013 STI – 15 minute test drive
From a walk around the Focus ST is a nice cohesive design. Everything looks well panned and one line flows into the next. The whole car has a ready to play look to it.
The wheels are beefy 235/40’s which means this car has lots of rubber working all the time. They are also quite sticky. Goodyear Eagle F1’s are not half hearted tires. The brakes look quite at home behind the 18” wheels. The hatch opens with a nice electrically sensitive switch (like the current WRX and unlike a 2008 MS3) All the panels seem to fit well and the doors feel robust. Lets talk about the doors, and the rest of the interior while we are at it. The doors feel substantial and have a nice heft to them. They also close with a good thunk. Not as good as a VW, but a little better than a Subaru. The door cards have a nice two tone palette. And the sides of the door as well as the elbow rest have a padded cloth insert, very nice touch Ford. The window and door switches are nice to the touch and have a good mechanical precision to them and feel like they could last decades. Then we get to the seats. The car I drove was an ST2 package with the cloth covered recaros. They are quite enviting. The car I drove was red and the cloth seats were very nice to the touch and felt very well made. Thankfully they did not have the large acreage of RED cloth in the seats, that the tangerine press cars seem to love to flaunt in front of the cameras. How did the seats feel. This is where it gets tricky. I am 5’10” at 190 lbs. I wear 34 waist jeans. So take my words with as much weight as you are similar to me. The seats are good, and very adjustable. In fact the height adjustability is plain comical. I could go from the floor, to my head hitting the sunroof. Easily 5 inches of adjustment. I felt the seat to be very comfortable everywhere BUT the sides of my stomach. I did feel like I was sitting on it, and not IN it despite the cavernous bolsters. Granted I have put on 15 lbs since my wife got pregnant (sympathy weight maybe?), but this seat was a tiny bit snug. Could I live with it? I will get back to that. For now let’s move on.
The steering wheel is easily placed and has a wonderful leather on it. The perforations and stitching feel very good in the hand, and the diameter is sure to please for many many miles. The buttons located on the wheel are clear and it has very understated but clearly legible controls in the 4 and 8 o'clock positions beneath the horizontal spoke. It would be cake to drive this car fast and not be distracted by buttons. The gauges are very nice to look at, and are clearly legible. I like the ford racing font chosen for the numbers. The screen in between the pods is Stunningly clear and crisp, as was the navigation screen in the center stack. I kept thinking of the quality of my ipad resolution and it is close. The blacks are black and the colors just pop off of the screen. The touch interface is about spot on. This was in the middle of the day as well.
So the exterior is great, the Steering wheel is fantastic as well. I like the design and layout of the car inside and out, as it feels like a modern car. But how is it to drive?
I drove it for about 15 minutes. Though city streets, and some freeway, and a few bends and twisties.
Clutch take out is about in the middle of the pedal (which are all aluminum pseudo racing style like the WRX), and engagement is smooth and light. Two things are apparent right from the first 10 seconds of driving the car. It responds immediately to steering inputs, and the brakes come on as strong as any STI I have ever driven with little pedal travel. The brakes are strong, MS3 strong, STI strong. I feel I could barrel toward a brick wall and hit the brakes when I could read ACME and still stop. Put a resounding check in that box. The steering is of course more subjective to everybody. My recent drive of the Golf R generated many grimaces when I had to turn the wheel. The feel in this car is much much better. If you have ever driven a MS3 or STI you know the car seems to act on every movement of the wheel and it does so with an immediacy that makes you want to get your superman cape out of the closet and start doing amazing things. The steering the Focus ST is ALMOST this good. It felt familiar and trust worthy. By almost I mean it was 95% of the instantaneous feel of the MS3 and my 2006 STI and the 2013 STI I drove as well. The steering wheel commands the wheels with absolute authority. What about shifting gears? The shifter is a great piece of kit. It is smoother than an STI shifter, but is nicely weighted and feels perfect in your hand. It is welcomes your hand each and everytime I reached for it. Upshifts and downshifts were easy to make and rev matching was cake as well. Something the MS3 was not good at since it had a bit a of lazy drive by wire system.
The ride quality was not up the smooth ride of stock WRX. The STI and Focus ST are actually very close in ride comfort over bumps and straight line cruising. The ST is a tad rough over rough pavement, but not in an overly annoying way like a tuner car is. There is some good damping going on the ST. I remember my MS3 being about as rough at times. So, it could be a daily driver, but realize that you will feel lots of the road imperfections. That helps out with steering feel, no doubt, but you will know you are driving a car with corning prowess built into it.
So back to the seats…While I was driving the car, I noticed all I cared about was the great engine note and the great steering and brakes and shifter. I did not even notice the seats, which is good. When I came to a stop, I realized how snug I was being held in place. On a track, this would be considered perfect. Not sure about daily use for my body frame. Two things you should be aware of. The rear seat leg room is not generous. It is on the tight side of average. The hatch area while deep is not that wide. The subwoofer uses up a bit of room. I am not sure I could put my huge baby stroller in the back. But it might fit.
The focus ST is a real car that deserves some serious consideration. The general spot on driving feel and amazing brakes and shifter and you have a car that comes across as a baby Border Collie that wants to play ALL DAY LONG and with a smile on his face. I think the Focus ST is destined to be a hit. Combine all that with the enormous Ford Racing department that I predict will sell a gaggle of ST parts in the near future you have a car that is amazing out of the box with the possibility of factory back performance add ons.
I say Bravo Ford.
The amazing amount of positive reviews of this car would seem to indicate this is not just another A to B means of transportation that in fact the gearheads at Ford have created something inherently good and very special. This is a very driver focused car and deserves to be on your short list of cars that can put a big stupid grin on your face.