All we can say is ‘wow’.
This three-letter word sums up our impressions of the new XR5 Turbo’s effortless performance, ride/handling, interior, style and price. Stickered at just AUD$35,990, this is a real rip-snorter!
Let’s get straight into it - the best bit of the XR5T is its Volvo-sourced engine which just oozes torque from every bore. We have the Car Gods to thank that the Focus’ engine bay is big enough to accept this 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine which offers up-to-the minute variable intake and exhaust cam timing and an air-to-air intercooled KKK turbocharger running a mild 0.65 Bar (9.5 psi) boost. Give the XR5T just a couple of millimetres of throttle movement and, from about 1500 rpm, there’s an unexpected wave of torque that you can either ride out to around 6000 or use to short-shift the sweet six-speed gearbox.
With a massive 320Nm spread from 1400 to 4000 rpm, the XR5T can punch away from traffic lights with V8-like effortlessness and, in many instances, there’s the flexibility to drive with any one of three different gears. This makes the car extremely forgiving in traffic and easy to keep on the boil when going hard.
But how does it go?
With 166kW at 6000 rpm and a substantial 1442kg kerb mass, the XR5T is quick – real-world quick – but it won’t set any new records. With a relatively gentle launch, the XR5T reaches 100 km/h in the low 8s with a necessary change into third gear – performance falls away slightly towards the engine’s 6500+ rpm red zone. Give it a bootful and the five-cylinder engine has a rorty induction snarl and a sexy exhaust note.
A major upside to the engine’s remarkable tractability is fuel consumption. Short-shift and use sixth gear for anything more than a 60 km/h cruise and the XR5T is just sipping fuel. Across a wide variety of driving conditions we averaged 9.8 litres per 100km and at one point we saw high 7s on the trip computer. High octane fuel is required to keep the turbocharged five-cylinder happy.
So the XR5 Turbo has a magnificent engine – but does it have the other credentials required in a true hot hatch?
The new Focus body is substantially stiffer than the superseded model and the turbo model receives a comprehensive suspension make-over. There are firmer and lower springs, upgraded swaybars and front dampers, a front strut brace, firmer bushes and revised geometry. With all this tightening it’s no surprise the XR5 Turbo has a very firm ride. On normal road surfaces it rides quite well but driving over deep manhole covers can bring a disconcerting crash-bang. Interestingly, this is mainly noise from the 40-series rubber and there isn’t a lot of vibration that makes its way into the cabin. So, yes, the ride is acceptable – but it wouldn’t want to be any firmer.
On a smooth road, the XR5T handles with great fluidity. The standard 245/40 18 Continental SportContact 2s ensure plenty of grip and it’s easy to enjoy the combination of accurate steering (the XR5T has an 8 percent quicker ratio on-centre), minimal weight transfer and quick response to driver input. There is a bias toward understeer but it’s quickly pulled back with a mid-corner throttle lift – the rear-end squirms a bit but refuses to step out. Interestingly, the standard Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system is calibrated to allow quite a bit of slip-slide before intervention. On a smooth road at least. Not surprisingly, the high-torque engine does cause some reaction through the steering wheel but it’s nothing a wrist flex can’t overcome. There’s also some tramp when launching hard but the traction control quickly puts an end to it.
On B-grade country roads, the car remains quick and controllable but you’ve got to step up your attention. The tyres follow ruts and, on one occasion, the DSC stepped in w-a-y prematurely. This happened when pouring on power while turning over a gradual bump – the stability control completely shut down power and abruptly pulled the car into line before it had any chance go wayward. In any case, the DSC can be switched off.
No worries with the brakes. The XR5T benefits from bigger 320 x 28mm front discs with upgraded calipers working in conjunction with bread-and-butter Focus 280mm rear discs. ABS, EBD and Brake Assist also come standard. The brakes are very responsive, resistant to fade and don’t cover those attractive 18 inch wheels in dust.
The Focus interior has a quality feel and distinctive Euro style. There’s a roomy load area and good interior space although the XR5T’s all-black roof lining contributes to a sombre ambience. But there can be no complaining about the equipment list. There are comfortable Recaro front seats, a thick-rimmed leather wheel, an extra instrument pod (containing boost, oil pressure and oil temperature), brushed aluminium highlights, XR5 Turbo scuff panels and a Sony six-stack CD with a strong bias toward doof-doof style bass. There are six airbags, plenty of storage pockets, a big glovebox, an easy to use trip computer – the list goes on. All that’s missing are cruise control and climate control.
The ‘smooth as’ Focus is a good looking car even in base guise and the muscled-up XR5T doesn’t fail to attract attention. Even with our test car’s relatively bland grey paint, its distinctive 18 inch wheels, aggressive front-end, ‘venturi effect’ rear bumper with dual exhaust outlets and large spoiler attracted a lot of second glances. And, despite the lowered springs, we were never embarrassed by a lack of ground clearance. But the forward-swept C-pillars impair rear visibility.
So what’s not to like about this car?
Well, its front-wheel-drive chassis is kept busy coping with the output of the turbocharged five-cylinder, the ride could be a tad more compliant (perhaps a step back to 17 inch wheels would suffice) and we’d like the engine to spin more like a 2-litre. But, heck, this is a winner every way we look at it.
The Ford Focus XR5 Turbo was provided for this test by Ford Australia. www.ford.com.au