Here on Flux Auto we cover a lot of high performance cars from Detroit’s Big 3 that have caused many people to say that the new Golden Age of Muscle Cars is here. While that may be true, advances in automotive engineering have benefited all genres of performance cars. One of the most popular segments among enthusiasts are the Hot Hatches thanks to their strong combination of fun, practicality and low cost of owning and operating. We could even say that we might be approaching a new Golden Age for the Hot Hatch with the recent focus on high tech turbocharged engines, lightweight and optimized interior space thanks to slow economies all around the world. It could also be said that it’s a new Golden Age of Hot Hatches simply because there is a viable alternative to the perennial king of the genre, the Volkswagen GTi. Carlos Lago puts the new 2.0 liter turbocharged Ford Focus ST up against the top of the line VW Golf R. Ford has really raised the bar for front wheel drive chassis balance in the ST which brings us to another Golden Age that we’re in and the funky title to this video.
As it turns out, the Volkswagen has an intrusive stability control system that can’t be turned off. There’s no getting around the the system slowing the car down as you try to find its limits. That’s right folks, we are in the Golden Age of electronic nannies in cars. Instead of learning how to be better drivers, the world has demanded that automakers add complex electronic systems to cars in attempt to make them idiotproof. Well don’t worry because Carlos thought of a way to keep the otherwise interesting comparison going. The Volkswagen Golf R gets substituted out for Motor Trend’s long-term test Subaru BRZ for the track driving portion. Randy Pobst takes them both around the Horse Thief Mile at Willow Springs to see how they perform at their limits. The BRZ and the Focus ST are actually pretty close in price which makes this a relevant power vs. balance comparison for weekend warriors shopping for entry level performance cars.
I’m posting this video from Jay Leno’s Garage as a counter-point to Motor Trend’s review of the awesome Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE from this morning. Jay gets to go over the finer details of what all was changed on the Boss 302 Laguna Seca edition with the Mustang head engineer Dave Pericak. As I mentioned in the 1LE video, I really enjoy the fact that GM and Ford took the time to give real suspension tuning and chassis balance to their core muscle cars. Keep the naturally aspirated engine response, cram as huge of a wheel and tire package as you can under the fenders and change the spring and damper rates so the cars have some agility. The term muscle car doesn’t have to mean settling for handling compromises for straight line speed. The 1LE and the Boss 302 are proof.
This is the story of one of the cars featured at SEMA this year. It’s a 1969 Ford Mustang built by Bodie Stroud. The car is probably the most extreme definition of a resto-mod. Stroud cut out the Mustang’s unibody frame for a separate air-spring chassis. Under the hood is an ultra-rare aluminum 494 cubic inch V8 that Ford originally built for Mario Andretti’s Can-Am car in 1969. Only 10 of these engines were ever built and they never saw competition because they made too much power for the Can-Am cars at 777 horsepower. The rest of the body was modified to look somewhat like the funny car drag racers of the same era.
It’s looking like Ford has built something special with their new Focus ST. All of the reviews I’ve read so far have picked the ST over the standard benchmark of the hot hatch class, the Volkswagen GTI. The new Focus has a 2.0 liter direct injection EcoBoost engine that puts out 250 horsepower and 26 mpg combined. With a base MSRP of $23,700, the new ST achieves a phenomenal balance of sportiness, practicality and frugality that defines all hot hatches. Chris Harris’s latest video puts the Ford Focus ST up against a couple of Europe’s best hot hatch offerings, the Renaultsport Megane RS and the Vauxhall Astra VXR. He mentions that the test is a little unfair to the Focus because the other two cars are halo models more appropriate for the Focus RS. It ultimately works out for the ST because it manages to hold it’s own while punching above its weight class. The review starts out with seeing how the cars perform on British B-Roads and then ends with a lap around a pretty technical track. All of the driving was down in wet conditions.
The most useful bit of footage is watching Harris throw the cars around the track. All three cars dance around the turns without ever pushing into understeer which is a prominent problem with high power front wheel drive cars. The overall chassis balance on all the cars is well done with “mobile rear axles.” The key to great front wheel drive grip is a stiff rear anti-roll bar. This lifts the inside rear wheel on corner entry which drives the outside front wheel into the tarmac giving it a bit more grip and preventing dreaded understeer. You can really see this working in the Focus ST since it has more of a daily driver soft suspension when compared to the other two track focused cars. I’d say the Focus ST is the Ford product that I’d be most likely to buy new until they come out with a Mustang with the 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6.
Popular Mechanics gives us an inside look at LCW Automotive Corporation as they add a 120 inch stretch to a Lincoln MKT Towncar to turn it into a Premiere Limousine. Think of it as a 20 minute episode of How It’s Made. They go pretty in-depth talking about how they get the cars from Ford ready to be cut and stretched. The new floor is steel, the side panels are bolted on aircraft aluminum and the roof is a fiberglass and foam composite. The whole process takes 45 days, adds 800 pounds of steel and 4,000 feet of wiring to the original car.