Fifteen seconds was all it took for me to get the approving nod. It’s a special nod that guys give to other guys when the nodder appreciates something that the noddee is driving. In this case it was the highly conspicuous bright orange Ford Focus XR5 Turbo. I had literally pulled out of the Ford dealership and up to a set of lights and said nodder nodded. Pride and manly camaraderie welled up inside me.
Being the noddee, you don’t want to have to then pull away in a vehicle that’s all show and no go (and especially not a car that’s all show but sounds like a sewing machine). I then performed an exemplary demonstration of noddee gratitude — it’s not about accelerating away as fast as possible or lingering and waiting; it’s about taking off with enough beans so that the nodder can appreciate both the engine’s tone and the car’s constrained and tamed aggression. Very complex is the psychology of nodding.
My restrained acceleration wasn’t satisfying for me though, because the best part of the Focus XR5 is the almost V8-like engine tone that roars when you unleash all the horses available, and from an inline five-cylinder turbo, no less. Filter out the slightly annoying turbo whistle and it’s like P Diddy has remixed an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA and an HSV GTS and won a Grammy with it. It’s a sonorous but determined anger that emanates from beneath the bonnet and I just never tired of burying the throttle and letting it wrap around to 6500rpm.
All this joy comes from a 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder mill that produces 222hp. This is sufficient to get the XR5 to 100kph in 6.5 seconds despite severely challenging the front tyres. The 225/40R18 Continental Sportcontact 2 tyres that wrap around very striking 18-inch mags have excellent grip encouraging you to push into the corners and then accelerate with vigour out of them again.
Which is a problem. The fuel economy isn’t exactly stellar to start with, and with the temptation to let the aural goodness of the engine wash into your ears, it’s worse. Ford even gives you a turbo boost gauge — one of three gauges in the dashboard (the others measure oil temperature and pressure) — so that you can be sure of just when the Focus is drinking like a darts player.
The power is transferred to the wheels via a six-speed gearbox. The gear change is positive and easy, though the throw is a little long. With a short-shift gear stick the slight problem of bumping your arm into the seat when changing to second, fourth or sixth would be solved.
The Recaro seats have orange highlights to match the body colour. They are exceptionally comfortable and supportive when pushing the Focus towards its safe mild understeer.
The Sony stereo is better than most Ford offerings. It features a CD player with MP3 compatibility, but you will certainly want to listen to the engine for fun anywhere other than in rush hour or motorway cruising.
In Europe the XR5 is called the ST, and this badging can still be seen on the engine. The XR5 is essentially a UK-spec car — its instruments are calibrated in miles per hour, the indicator stalk is on the left and the stereo controls are a on a stubby wand as opposed to on the steering wheel.
The bright orange colour (which my flatmate assures me is the colour of the second chakra – the sexual one), must bring a smile to the faces of the people of Great Britain, stuck as they are in the dreariness of constant drizzle. The fact that there are spare ones to send over here isn’t surprising, though as Ford obviously isn’t trying too hard to sell this amazing car — in fact, unless you specifically bring one in from the UK you can’t get one yet!
When you go to the Ford website, there isn’t even a price given, let alone any specifications. Ford’s response was that the Focus XR5 will be available second-quarter 2008 as part of a freshened model range (which will also include a Mondeo XR5 in April) and prices are to be confirmed. If you want more power you could use the XR5 as a stop-gap measure until the Focus RS arrives in 2009. If the Focus RS is even better than the Focus XR5, it’ll be one hell of a car.
Price: To be confirmed early 2008.
What we like
- Huge glovebox
- My second chakra tingled
What we don’t like
- Whistling turbo is annoying
- Needs a short shift kit
- Two-wheel drive = traction dramas
- Fuel economy
- Not much other cabin storage
Words and photos Darren Cottingham