First drive: Ford Focus ST Mountune
Our hot hatch of the year gets a 24bhp and 30lb ft boost for £1275. Is it worth it?
Posted: 09 Sep 2013
What's this, then?
A Focus ST saloon or estate with a special £1275 Mountune pack that increases the turbo'd four cylinder's power from 247bhp to 271bhp and 265lb ft to 295lb ft. Because it's been given the nod by blue oval bosses, you keep your original warranty, too.
Huh. So what does that £1275 include?
There's a bigger intercooler, what Ford calls ‘unique engine calibration' (a custom ECU map), high-flow air filter and snazzy cast powder-coated alloy housing (it's £1225 if you get a silver one). Oh, and a little yellow badge on the boot.
You liked the Focus ST estate, didn't you?
Yes we did. Top Gear magazine crowned it 2012's Hot Hatch of the Year, then drove it around Russia for a bit.
So, has Mountune ruined it?
Quite the opposite. We're going to have to wait for a while for the unhinged RS - but in the meantime this is the fastest new Focus you can buy. And it's not fast in a constantly insane, exhausting sort of way - like the normal ST, there are two very different, very good cars conjoined in the Mountune wagon.
Conjoined, eh? Continue...
There's the estate car. The justice of the peace. It's inconspicuous. It rides impeccably. It'll reconcile with wives and the real world, happily swallowing shopping (it keeps the normal car's 476-litre boot capacity), offspring, and at 39.2mpg, (the same as the ST) not too much petrol.
Then there's the Mountune. The reckless brother that'll get from 0-62mph in less than six seconds (faster than a Ferrari 308 GTB, fact fans) and top out at 154mph. This guy's only ever a down-shift away.
But surely that extra power's made it torque steer more?
Well, yes. The 30lb ft boost and absence of any clever RevoKnuckle tech means torque steer is a bit more aggressive, especially lower down the rev range. But the compensating virtue is that you're not waiting till the engine's battering against the limiter for it to feel properly fast. In the original car there's a slight pause before you spin into the power band, but this builds progressively right from the get-go.
Has the extra pace made it wobblier through the corners too?
Because the spring rate and damper settings are sympathetic to daily driving - and, refreshingly, there aren't any stiffening Sport buttons you can't resist pressing - it does still pitch and roll mid-corner. But you can still exploit the power, which gives it a playful character compared with stiffer, more focused stuff like the Megane RS 265 or Vauxhall Astra GTC VXR. Despite the 26kg weight penalty, there's no discernable handling differences between the estate and hatch, either.
There's nothing specifically bad about the Mountune, though induction noise is a little more voluminous. It'd could be tedious if you're not into that sort of thing, but chances are, because you're reading this, you probably wouldn't mind. There are some frustrations with the Focus family in general though. The infotainment screen is tiny, there are too many buttons, and the controls are illogical.
So, should I buy one?
Live with an ST estate first, then decide if you need more power. The Mountune kit doesn't change the fundamental rightness of the standard car - we doubt Ford would have agreed to keep the warranty in tact if it did - but there is, quite simply, more of everything. And we mean that in the best possible way.