Carbon dioxide emissions have a lot to answer for. They’re heating up the planet, damaging ecosystems and causing sea levels to rise. On a less existential level, they have also denied us a new Focus RS. For fast Ford fans, that’s another cruel blow.
When I attended the launch of the current Focus ST in 2019, there were whispers that a hotter RS model was in the works. However, Ford’s need to reduce its fleet-average CO2 emissions – or face heavy fines from the EU – meant the RS would have required a bespoke hybrid powertrain. In the end, the car simply wasn’t cost-effective.
Making Fords go faster
Helpfully, long-established tuning company Mountune is here to fill the void. Mountune’s history with Ford stretches back to the mid-1980s, and modified versions of the Escort RS Turbo and Sierra RS Cosworth. The Essex-based firm also worked closely with Ford Motorsport, supplying engines for Group A Sierras and Colin McRae’s Focus WRC rally car.
Mountune almost went bust during the pandemic, but has been bought back by its founder, David Mountain. Now the company has returned to doing what it does best: making Fords go faster.
The new Focus ST M365 is a case in point. If you’re lamenting the loss of a Mk4 RS, it’s certainly the next best thing.
In fact, the 2.3-litre Ecoboost ‘four’ in the standard ST is essentially the same engine found in the Mk3 Focus RS, albeit detuned from 350-375hp to 280hp. Clearly some wriggle-room for Mountune to work its magic, then – and so it proves.
Boost for the Ecoboost
The M365 upgrades unleash 30 percent more power for a grand total of (you guessed it) 365hp. The key difference versus the RS is that all the extra oomph goes through the front wheels.
The complete kit costs a modest £2,792 and includes a remapped ECU, sports catalyst and three-inch exhaust system, plus freer-flowing air and particulate filters. Torque also gets a boost, up from 310 to 413lb ft, which means a Porsche Boxster-baiting 0-62mph time of around 5.0 seconds. On a dry road, at least.
Fortunately, warm and dry roads are in abundance on the day I visit Mountune HQ. After a short tour of the workshop – where engines are assembled for the Ford Focus touring cars run by Motorbase Performance in the BTCC – I’m handed the keys to the M365.
It looks quite unassuming in white, with just a pair of black side stripes, a rear spoiler and 19-inch OZ Racing alloy wheels. A standard ST in its signature Orange Fury hue would turn more heads.
A standard ST doesn’t go like this, though. You need a delicate right foot in first and second gears or the front wheels will scrabble for traction, the ESC light flashing furiously on the dashboard. However, once you’re into third gear, the M365 feels genuinely RS-quick. There’s very little lag: just a relentless hit of frenzied acceleration, underscored by an angry blare from the carbon-tipped tailpipes.
Focus plays Golf
Mountune’s demonstrator has 25mm lowering springs and uprated brake pads, which both help the Focus feel more, er, focused. That said, the ST already had a very able chassis, with eager steering, taut damping and tenacious cornering grip. It feels more measured and mature than the smaller Fiesta ST, but still makes a Volkswagen Golf R seem dull.
Perhaps the main stumbling block is that Mountune’s work is no longer covered by a Ford warranty. Given that the engine isn’t tuned beyond its output in the Mk3 RS, though, one hopes the upgrades won’t impact reliability too much.
I fancy an M365 version of the Focus ST estate, as the ultimate family Ford. Now that really does feel like a USP.
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research
PRICE: £34,960 + £2,792 upgrade kit
TORQUE: 413lb ft
0-62MPH: 5.0sec (est.)
TOP SPEED: 155mph+
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A