SVT Stand-in: New Ford Focus ZX4 ST retains performance character
By KEVIN A. WILSON/AUTOWEEK
Although Ford cancels the SVT Focus in the shift to a revamped 2005 range, it won't abandon the compact performance segment. Consider the ZX4 ST, a sport sedan using chassis bits-notably struts, shocks and rear disc brakes-from the SVT and the European ST170 models.
A new range of dohc Duratec fours replaces the old Zetecs in 2005 Focus models. In place of the base 136-hp 2.0-liter, ST employs a 2.3-liter making 151 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque. Focus chief engineer John Sidelko says his primary goal was refinement, and a short drive over a variety of roads near Ann Arbor, Michigan, demonstrates success. On its 16-inch Pirellis, the car handles well without any noteworthy sacrifices in comfort. Stopping is not quite up to SVT levels, but the brakes felt strong enough; linings that produce less dust address a big complaint among previous Focus owners. Shifter action is improved over the previous stock model, though this five-speed clearly isn't the crisp six-speed Getrag in the SVT.
Spoiler, body-color mirrors and grille denote ST. All '05 Foci have bigger front brakes, ST adds rear discs from SVT
Design has been refined as much as engineering. The new face matches the flagship Ford Five Hundred sedan, while the new instrument panel is almost enough to make anyone familiar with the previous Focus think this is an all-new car.
Overall, this ST doesn't have the "edge" of an SVT, but at a base price of $18,250 it is $1,125 cheaper than the SVT. Want more? When dealers get the STs later this month, they'll also get a greatly expanded catalog of Ford performance parts for Focus.