Focus ST3 test Drive
The perfect car for a family man that likes torque steering into the kerb
I spotted a rather nice Focus ST3 at a local car dealer the other day. It doesn't tick all my boxes, namely it's missing a sunroof and AWD, but it seemed a good deal. I was all for having a drive, but my wife, father-in-law and sister-in-law's chappie convinced me otherwise. The car in question was a exclusive colour called 'Tangerine Scream'
Focus ST3 in Tangerine Scream
Now I thought it looked quite fun and daring. My father-in-law thought I'd get hoards of idiots queuing up to challenge me and my sister-in-law's chap said it looked 'right Del Boy'. Then proceeded to ask if you got a Burberry Cap with it.
Upon reflection, I decided YES. They are right. Yellow is a fun colour, however being pulled over by the police purely because you have a car in a colour that's only one down on the 'Barry Boy' scale from Burberry Tartan... Well, that's not fun. I have to say, if I was plod, sitting on a flyover, looking down the motorway and I saw here a silver X-Type and a Tangerine Scream Focus ST cruising in the middle lane - well I think I know which car my instinct would be to point the speed gun at.
So yes, I wrote off the 'Barry Boy' esque Tangerine Scream one, BUT I found another in a rather nice deep metallic blue! I even went to take it for a test drive.
Focus ST3 in Metallic Blue
What did I think? Well, it was actually a fairly practical, very comfortable family car. It feels high-spec. YES there are some cheap plastics about the cabin, but there was enough leather and ST3 touches to outweigh them - at least for me.
It's even got a decent boot, though the back seats don't fold down well because of the extra bolstering, but it should be practical enough for 99% of my needs.
What was it like to drive? Well, surprisingly civilised. It had a firm, but comfortable ride. Certainly forgiving enough for me. It was quiet and purry at low revs and gave a nice grunty growl when you opened up the taps. It felt rather like my X-Type to drive in fact. (Except it felt 12 years newer and less 'Falling to bits') It had a bit more low down torque and pulled nicely through the range. It handled great!
On paper they are a similar weight and power. The Ford has 247 BHP and my X-Type has 231 BHP. HOWEVER, I fear a few horses may have escaped from my X-Type over the last 12 years. With my Dashcommand ODB app setup and connected, I have only ever registered it as using 192 BHP. I know it's not as accurate as a rolling road, but I feel like this is a reasonable estimate for how many horses have galloped off into the sunset since 2005.
There was of course a significant problem. FWD vs AWD.
The Jaguar doesn't really need any care or skill to drive. You just turn the wheel and slap your foot down and it goes where you want it to. The Ford, in a straight line at the right speed and in the right gear and... Well... You slap your foot down and it immediately tries to torque steer into the kerb. I admit it's better than the old 250 BHP modified Escorts of the early 1990's, which were basically torque steering permanently and either idling or going fill pelt and nothing in between. However it was nowhere near as effortless as the Jag.
All things considered, I AM seriously thinking about the Ford. It was fun, it was sensible, it's £100 less tax than the Jag. It's just a pity it's so violently torque-steery. I must admit I WANTED it to torque-steer so I could feel what it was like. Trying to get a 250 BHP FWD Hot Hatch to torque-steer with my wife in the back and the salesman in the passenger seat was a slightly disconcerting experience, but I managed it! That was on the straight, applying a squirt of power through a corner could be even worse.
I suspect it would be fine, however I'd really have to invest in a set of rims and winter shoes for it. Am I going to go for it? I don' t know. It's a lot of money, it's £10,000 off the new price for a less than 1 year old car, but I really didn't want spend the asking.
Plus there's the added disadvantage that buying a car now would ruin my chances of doing a 'Car Shopping with 3 internationally renowned Motoring Journalists' film I have in mind for the creative partnership competition on DriveTribe. I doubt I'll win, but it would be a great project and you never know, maybe between them, Clarkson, May and Hammond could actually come up with a sensible suggestion of what to swap the X-Type for!
Although having said that, they maybe wouldn't! Hammond would suggest a motorbike, May would want me to get a 'boring as wall-papering' Fiat Panda and Clarkson would suggest re-mortgaging and getting an Aston... It'd be a fun film though!
Still... The search goes on! Back to the Autotrader! Once more into the breach my friends!
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