Behold the Howmet TX, a 350bhp gas-turbine powered rarity
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Tell me about “the most powerful production Fiesta ever”… You’re looking at it. The Fiesta ST200. The name reflects its power output in PS. It has 10 percent more power and 20 percent more torque than the regular ST. But hang on, if you use high-octane fuel, the regular car has 10-second overboost, so doesn’t it make 200-odd bhp for short periods anyway? True, but this one also has more overboost, 15 seconds of it. That’s 215PS (212bhp) and 236lb ft when it has its dander up. Try to imagine a circumstance when you have the throttle pinned for 15 uninterrupted seconds except on an autobahn. If you lift for so much as a gearshift, the clock starts again. So it’s a 212bhp engine, end of. But that’s the same as the Mountune Fiesta ST that you guys ran as a long-term test car… It is, but the ST200 has another trick. The final drive is shorter. That’s equivalent to another six percent punch in each gear. Though you have to shift up sooner. OK, I’ll stop quibbling. It’s the quickest Fiesta. So how does that feel? Lively. Second gear is pretty hectic, and by 55mph you’ve hit the strict 6500 limiter and shifted to third. Now that’s a useful gear, short enough to really punch this lightweight through a series of bends or an overtake. Even at low revs, lag isn’t irksome. Ford says acceleration to 62mph is 0.2 seconds quicker than the standard ST, at 6.7 seconds. That feels realistic. Flooring the throttle at even fairly gentle speed is confirmed by a chesty roar. That’s because noise from the induction (front) side of the engine is piped back to the bulkhead. It sounds a bit louder versus the ST because the ST200 engine is passing more air. It’s worth saying that the extra power isn’t just from a chip change. There’s an extra intake pipe from the front grille to the filter, so it can gulp the air it needs for more combustion. And since you’ll be using the gearbox a bit more, we can happily report it’s a quick, short-throw little shift.
A bit quicker then. Nothing the chassis can’t manage, I guess. Or have they breathed on that too? A slightly strange one, this. The ST200 does have a different set-up than the ST when it was launched. The rear springs and anti-roll bar are softer, but the torsion beam stiffer to bring back the roll stiffness. The dampers and front anti-roll bar are adjusted to suit. And front roll stiffness too. Plus slight electronic recalibration of the electric power steering, But when the engineers went to the factory last year and said ‘build this for the ST200’ the factory told them they could stick their stiffer torsion beam where the sun don’t shine. Too much logistical complexity for a short run of cars. The engineers’ answer was to give all STs the set-up designed for the ST200, so if you have an ST built since late summer 2015, that’s what you’ll have. So what’s it like? Brilliant. Maybe a little more precise and controllable than the original, which was already at the top of the little-hatch pile. I reckon there’s more steering feel too. Always welcome. It’s a fabulously biddable little thing. Towards the end of a tight bend you get a little kiss as the inside rear wheel drops back onto the road after a brief mid-air dangle. The front tyres will have been digging hard, urging you around the arc, thanks in part to torque vectoring. You can trim the angle with the throttle, lifting to bring the nose in and nudge the tail out. Chuck it, tuck it, adjust it, trust it. It’s always on your side, always talking to you. Remarkably free of torque-steer too, despite the extra twist coming down the driveshafts. On poor roads or quick bumpy corners, you also realise Ford is masterful at damping, checking the motions promptly but comfortably. OK, what else has happened to make it an ST200? Cosmetics. Old Henry himself comes to mind: any colour you like as long as it’s ‘storm grey’. It sits on machined black wheels cradling red brake calipers. You also get a grey-themed rather than red-upholstered cabin. Meaning grey for the Recaros, with silver stitching. They’re still mounted too high, by the way. Still, we like the exterior-interior colour combo very much. Plus you get illuminated scuff plates and two-tone silver/black seatbelts, which must be worth half a second a lap. The spec is at ST-3 level: navigation and so on. Is it a limited edition? Nope. But you’ll need to be quick because this generation of Fiesta dies next year. We’ve been assured there’ll be an ST version of the next gen, by the way, so that’s all good. Why wouldn’t they replace it when the ST has sold so well? They’ve shifted over 30,000 in Europe. Two-thirds of those have been in Britain. So not quite the collectors’ item that other end-of-line hot Fords have been? Er, no. And so we come to the question of whether it’s worth it. It’s £22,745. That’s £3k above an ST-3. It’s only a fiver below a Focus ST. Now, we’re never ones to say no to extra performance, and the ST200’s third-gear poke is really quite A Thing. But everything else is cosmetic. It just serves to highlight what a brilliant car, and extraordinary bargain, the standard ST is. More than ever in fact because it has the ST200’s chassis mods. So anyone who buys the ST should certainly be grateful the ST200 exists.