For all you Ford performance enthusiasts who claim that Europe gets all the sophisticated good stuff, while we get watered-down versions here in the States, we herewith present the 2013 Ford Focus ST.

It's as thoroughly European as the debt crisis, but a lot more fun.

The jury might still be out on "One Ford" as an overall manufacturing strategy, but even if the only outcome was the arrival of a Eurospec ST in America, the plan will qualify as a homerun with performance drivers who have always craved the trick ST versions of many European Ford models but have found them impossible to get in the United States.

Having put the Focus ST through its paces on more than 250 miles of the most demanding French roads you are likely to see, we can attest to the Focus ST's stellar character, its good looks and its aplomb in any situation it finds itself. If secret agent could be a car, it would be a Ford Focus ST.

What do we like most about it? First, we would point out its performance-per-dollar ratio. The ST offers 252 turbocharged horsepower, a broad and flat torque curve, quick acceleration and remarkable grip all for under $25,000. Yes, you can add icing-on-the-cake goodies like Recaro seats and navigation and infotainment systems to up your overall bill, but even in fully loaded form the price won't exceed $30K. For a car that will vault from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, corner so well you won't know which wheels are driving it (the front), and haul a family of five or a load of lumber, that is serious value.

Ford has taken a proven platform and cleverly adapted it to performance-car standards without removing much of its utility and user-friendliness. That's a neat trick, but the platform seems infinitely adaptable since it also supports the Escape, C-Max and Kuga that are Ford mainstays in various corners of the world.

Ford engineers in the new ST performance team drew on European, American and Asian resources in a concerted way to spice-up an existing platform with engine, steering and suspension upgrades that went far beyond mere tuning. They changed what engineers refer to as "hard points" to give the suspension better geometry and better anti-roll bar attachment points, and they made ingenious modifications to the steering rack to give the steering a more precise feel, whatever the conditions.

Knowing that quick acceleration is the entry ticket to the automotive funhouse, they decided to let the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine go into "over-boost" mode for up to 15 seconds of hard-on-the-gas acceleration, too. Not something every executive team would sign off on, but Ford's Global Engineer VP Hau Thai-Tang said go right ahead, guys. That kind of "go-for-it" engineering crops up all over the Focus ST.

So what we have here might be the perfect performance car for these troubled times. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg, it'll deliver 30 mpg or so in real-world driving (if you can restrain your right foot every now and then), and it'll top 150 mph. This is a whole new kind of grocery-getter.


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