Ford Focus ST Tuning Guide – The Focus ST is without doubt one of the best drivers hot hatches out there at the moment. The Golf is a little to controlled and insulated the new Civic Type-R lacks the torque and the power of the Focus ST. It does what Ford does best, it gives the working man an honestly fast car at a reasonable price. But like all standard cars there have been compromises made to make it more acceptable to more people and of course to make it cheaper to make. And that may be fine, but for the truly committed driver, the driver that goes out on the road just for the thrill of driving there are some performance upgrades out there that can really transform the Focus ST and make it realise its full potential without affecting the cars reliability or its everyday usefulness. If your more of an A to B driver look away now because your not going to be interested in this article at all.
Focus ST Tuning Guide – Wheels
A simple and effective upgrade this but not necessarily the cheapest. Alloy wheels are primarily fitted to improve the looks of a car but their original purpose was to cut weight. A genuine lightweight set of alloy wheels will give the car a massive benefit in all areas. Better braking, faster cornering, more grip, faster acceleration, a more comfortable ride, that’s right, a more comfortable ride. Why? the answer is simple, lighter wheel allow the suspension to work as it should i.e. follow the contours of the road and the lighter the wheel the easier it is for the suspension to do this. A big heavy wheel means the suspension has to overcome the inertia of the wheel to follow the road, the lighter the wheel the faster the suspension can respond. The side benefit of this upgrade is that you can even use the original tyres, assuming they have enough tread!
Focus ST Tuning Guide – Suspension
Suspension is one area where car manufacturer really like to save their money, They can make a damper that gives 90% of the performance for 50% of the life of a quality aftermarket dampers. Obviously the newer the car the less noticeable the difference will be if you fit a set of uprated dampers but coilovers have to be the ultimate solution for the demanding driver. Looking at a set of uprated dampers first. They should be from a quality manufacturer such as Bilstein, Koni or Spax, a cheap damper is a false economy. Uprated dampers will give better body control in every aspect of a cars performance with little detriment to comfort and will give better performance for longer. Dampers wear out gradually meaning you don’t tend to notice the performance getting worse. Quality dampers will last longer giving you more performance more of the time. Ideally uprated dampers should be fitted with a set of high quality sport springs such as H&R, Apex or Eibach. Sports spring lower the ride height for improved looks and also reduce roll in cornering and dive and pitch under braking and acceleration.
The next step from fixed suspension is fully adjustable coil overs. These allow the driver to have the suspension as hard or as soft as he or she wants. i.e. you don’t have to be compromised by the damping rate that the manufacturer “thinks” you would like. Adjustable suspension also allows you to tailor the car for different circumstances from the morning to commute to a track day. Reputable coil over manufacturers include KW, Bilstein, H&R and Eibach
Thicker anti-roll bars can also be a worthwhile option especially if you have fitted wider and/or grippier tyres than the original tyres. Anti-roll bars do exactly what they say on the tin, they reduce roll while have little if no effect or reducing ride comfort. Roll-bar kits can be bought from H&R and Eibach
Focus ST Tuning Guide – Exhaust
This is an area where car manufacturer have been making big strides in recent times. No longer can you bolt on a cat back exhaust system to a normally aspirated car and expect a 10% power increase. Turbo cars however are a different story. The Focus ST like all modern turbocharged cars respond well to a cat back system but for the maximum benefit a turbo-back system should be fitted along with a higher flowing sports cat. This modification is another win win situation, the turbo will spin up faster giving faster throttle response, there will be less stress on the turbo as more heat will be drawn away by the exhaust and there will be less exhaust back pressure in the manifold reducing emissions and it also gives the turbo easier life as it doesn’t have to push the air so hard to get it into the combustion chamber. Cars with MAF sensors like theFocus STwill automatically tune themselves to the increased air flow making a remap unnecessary. The most respected manufacturer of Ford exhaust we know is Mongoose and they make a complete turbo-back system with a high flow sports cat.
Focus ST Tuning – Intercooler
Another area where car manufacturers have upped their game in recent years. Modern intercoolers are much bigger than they used to be and are also much better placed to take advantage of cold air. But there are always gain to be made here with the use of more expensive high quality materials such as aluminium. Aluminium conducts heat away from the charge air faster than steel making it one of the better choices for an intercooler. Forge Motorsport and Pace Products both make a high quality intercooler for this car. Again this modification is a win win situation, reduced intake temperatures mean less stress on engine components and more power and like the situation with exhausts the Focus ST MAF sensor will automatically compensate fuelling requirement to match the increased air flow.
Focus ST Tuning – Chassis
Modern cars are much stiffer than their counterparts from 10 or even 5 years ago but there are always improvements that can be made. Chassis stiffening will in most cases make a noticeable difference to the car making it feel more responsive and give it increased grip levels. Strut bars have a bit a tainted reputation in recent years with people primarily fitting them for cosmetic purposes and although they do undoubtedly make the engine bay look nicer the real benefits come when driving the car. A manufacturer of very high quality strut bars is Wiechers Sport ofGermany
Focus ST Tuning – Air Filters
The subject of fitting a performance air filter or induction kit is coming under more scrutiny these days. Before people would just take is as read that if you fit an induction kit you will get 2 or a 5% increase in power. While the power gains make be up for debate 9 times out 10 a quality induction kit will increase throttle response and in our opinion they are worth it solely for that. Quality filters for theFocus STare made by K&N, Green & Pipercross.
Focus ST Tuning – Brakes
The common weak link with most Fords is the brakes. The discs on theFocus STare plenty large enough for most power outputs so we would say fitting a set of uprated pads and fluid will be enough to transform the standard brakes capabilities. Performance brakes pads can be sourced from EBC & Ferodo brake fluid (DOT5.1) can be had from Motul, Castrol among others.
Focus ST Tuning – Chips/Re-flashed ECUs
A more and more common upgrade for modern turbos cars. Power increases come from solely increasing the boost pressure of the turbo. This can lead to impressive increases in power and torque. The problem with the chips/programs is that they are very rarely matched to work with the exact parts you have fitted to your car. We don’t doubt you will get the power increase as quoted but if you have fitted a freer flowing exhaust for example you may not be getting the maximum benefits from a one-size-fits-all chip/program. However companies like Code Red and Collins Performance Engineering have made their own programs which are designed to work with the parts that they manufacture ensuring the program will be more suited to the modifications you have on your car. While they will never be perfect as they are still to a certain extent a one-size-fits-all package they do have and advantage of being tuned to specific upgrades but the difference between the base performance of different engines will vary. Still, they are step forward from a totally generic program.
Focus ST Tuning – Body Kits
A controversial subject this. Body kits have probably been tarred with the biggest brush going. Its all down to personal taste but a carefully selected body kit, in our opinion will always lift the appearance of the car they are fitted to.
Related Focus ST Links
Focus ST Tuning – Insurance
Getting insurance for a modified car will always be a bit more difficult than for standard cars. StrikeEngine has created a site dedicated to drivers looking for the best possible deal of their modified car insurance and it also includes links to clubs where you can see what other people have done to get the best deal. Luckily the car insurance sector is ultra competitive in the UK so you should have plenty of options