April 4, 2013
You probably want to blame us, the Edmunds editors, for our long-term 2013 Ford Focus ST's less-than-stellar fuel economy. Or maybe you think fault lies with the EPA's testing procedure. We've been averaging around 22 miles per gallon, which is below the EPA 23 mpg city rating, not to mention the 26 mpg combined rating.
Truth is, the blame lies solely with Ford. They're the ones who dropped such a fantastic turbo four-cylinder into the engine bay of the Focus ST. If a smile doesn't creep across your face every time you plow into the throttle, there's something wrong with you. Seriously, make an appointment to go see someone right now.
April 3, 2013
Edmunds recently began assigning letter grades to each and every vehicle it tests. Here's a link to the most recent batch of letter grades by vehicle segment. The 2013 Ford Focus ST, our very own long-term test vehicle, in fact, underwent the laborious process and emerged with an A. See the details here.
March 13, 2013
After spending a weekend with the Focus ST, let's just say I've developed a certain fondness for its quick reflexes and eager powertrain. There's never a dull moment with this thing. I drove to the drug store to buy a birthday card for my niece and the journey was like time spent on an amusement park ride.
March 11, 2013
I've flip-flopped on our 2013 Ford Focus ST over the last few days. When I first took the Focus ST home, I hated it. My introduction to it was in rush hour traffic and I knew that was a bad place to evaluate it, but I couldn't help it. The gear changes felt abrupt, the clutch felt too firm and the bolsters on the Recaro seats hurt my shoulders. In stop-and-go traffic, I was asking myself why I ever thought this car could be any good.
The next day it changed my mind completely.
February 13, 2013
On a recent Saturday, my husband and I drove the long-term 2013 Ford Focus ST to Escondido, California to see some friends. We cruised the interstate on the outbound trip and it wasn't shaping up to be much of an adventure for the Tangerine Scream hot hatch. There wouldn't be time for a run up Mount Palomar.
However, additional errands forced (yes, really, forced) me to detour onto some curvy back roads in northern San Diego County. And honestly, you can't help but have fun in the Focus ST.
January 22, 2013
A friend of mine is thinking about getting a new car this summer. So far his dream pick has been a used, 2011 Mustang GT (the first year with the new 5.0-liter V8). But he's always been a little hesitant given that he has a family. The Mustang's limited practicality, fuel bills and insurance would all be problematic.
So, I've been telling him that for pretty much the same money he could get a new 2013 Focus ST instead. Granted, the ST can't deliver the muscular, rear-drive thrills that a V8 pony car can. But for just about everything that's important to him, it'd be better. It's still very fun to drive, yet it's got four doors, a super useful hatchback area and an EPA highway estimate of 32 mpg.
I showed him our long-term Focus ST yesterday. He really liked it. I even told him it's just as cool as the Mustang, too, though in a different way. Of that, he wasn't so sure. But I'll let the ST sink it a little. I'll be curious to see what he ends up with.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,802 miles
January 17, 2013
If you're shopping for a performance hatchback and stuck with a major case of indecision, I can empathize. I'd have a hard time choosing, too.
December 26, 2012
One of the notable upgrades on the Focus ST model is this set of auxiliary gauges on the dash. You get oil pressure, boost pressure and oil temperature, gauges that are typically left off most new vehicles these days unless you go searching through a few menus.
It's understandable as these are gauges you must have in day-to-day driving, but on a performance car like this it's a different. Keeping an eye on your oil pressure and temperature is always a good habit if you're driving hard, especially in adverse conditions. Obviously, low oil pressure is a bad thing for any vehicle, but monitoring it daily on something that gets driven hard will keep you thinking about the oil's condition and give you an early heads up if anything is starting to turn south.
As far as the boost gauges go, it's just fun to watch.
Ed Hellwig, Editor @ 5,067 miles
December 24, 2012
It takes some time to build a story. For something like a Long-Term Introduction we need to buy the car, schedule and organize a photo shoot, write an introduction and then find a time where it makes sense to "go live."
Sometimes, however, we buy a car that's too hot to wait around for. This was the case with the 2013 Ford Focus ST. We had planned to buy one anyways, but when we found out they were for sale before Ford had one available for us to test, we jumped and snapped up our $29,185 Tangerine Scream beast in record pace. We broke it in as quickly as you can reasonably break in a car and then got it out to the test track.
We'd been waiting to see how this car would perform since the minute they announced it. Could you blame us for being excited?
The track-tested was posted a full three weeks before the official introduction. In case you missed it, here's our official track-test of our Long Term, 2013 Ford Focus ST.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 1,188 miles
December 20, 2012
Noticed that there is a bit more tire chunking in the aftermath of Kurt's autocross day with our 2013 Ford Focus ST than originally thought. If you look closely at this particular chunk, you can see the tire's steel and nylon carcass poking through. This tire is currently on the left rear, swapped from the front post-autocross.
Honestly, this isn't all that shocking. Autocrossing is very hard on tires, especially when said tires are unshaved and designed for the street.
Needless to say, we'll be ordering two new tires for the Focus ST ASAP.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 5,066 miles
December 19, 2012
Lay into the throttle in our long-term 2013 Ford Focus ST and you'll get a couple of surprises. The first is that, holy schnikes, this thing moves out. But you already knew that.
December 06, 2012
What all the fuss is about. After my first time driving the Focus ST, all I can say is, dang, it truly is a remarkably good performance machine.
Plenty of smooth, turbo power, the kind that makes you want to run through the gears again and again. And again.
A decent note from the exhaust. Superb handling with quick and precise steering (yet the ride is hardly harsh). Utterly fantastic Recaro sport seats with aggressive bolsters, yet they're plenty comfortable.
About the only thing to complain about so far
is that the pedal spacing for heel-and-toeing could be a bit better. You can definitely do it, but I didn't find it second nature, like in, say, the Scion FR-S. This is compounded by touchy brakes when only using a light application, for instance when coming up to a stoplight.
Otherwise, I'm loving this car. It makes any drive fun.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 4,657 miles.
December 06, 2012
There' no such thing as a free lunch, food swiped from other department' meetings excepted, and with charging around an auto-x course for a whole day, we knew the Focus ST was going to suffer some tire wear.
What did twelve runs through the cones do to our ST' tires? Click on through...
Since the course was mainly right turning, the left front tire took more of the wear than the right front. Since I kept the pushy, understeery nonsense to a minimum, the tires look about as Mark and I expected. There' wear on the shoulder blocks, but nothing' excessive.
December 03, 2012
At first I thought it was odd that our Focus ST didn't have any rubberized grip pads on the gas pedal. Not because you really need any help mashing the thing to the floor, but more for design continuity from one pedal to the other.
Then in the course of taking this picture I noticed that the pedal levers were a little different. The clutch and the gas are attached with flat plastic levers while the brake has a heavy steel lever.
Now I'm no Dan Edmunds, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the forces exerted on the brake pedal in a panic stop that dictates the steel lever. That said, I don't think I've seen such a setup before, so either Ford is ahead of the game or I haven't been paying attention.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds
December 02, 2012
Glad to see that Ford put a little effort (very little) into making this engine look special, it deserves it. Not only does this turbocharged 2.0-liter put out just over 250 horsepower, it does it in a way that makes it usable in almost any gear.
No need to wind it by the intake manifold to get it going. Peak torque arrives at around 3,000rpm and uh stays peaked. This is due to an overboost feature that cranks up the turbo boost for up to 15 seconds to keep the torque curve flat. It sounds gimmicky, but it works and works well.
Lots of turbocharged four cylinder engines have been claiming to deliver V6 power with four-cylinder mileage. So far, I'd say this engine delivers on that promise better than anything else I've driven.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds
November 30, 2012
When I last left you, Mark and I had used up six of our allotted twelve runs of the day. Predictably, the Focus ST had seen off the stock-tired Scion. However, Mark was now changing over to the trick rubber and I was getting that sinking feeling.
While Mark fiddled, I looked over the Focus. I decided to leave the tires pressures what they were as the outside tread hadn't suffered too much and messing around with that now might do more harm than good. I wasn't going to be happy unless I got into the 62 second range; not just because I thought that would be enough to beat Mark, but I had my own goals. Oh, and don't forget about the audience of experienced auto-x'ers.
Then, Mark went out and dropped the hammer. His first lap out was better than my fastest and he was only getting faster. Time to see if I could pull it together.
My first lap out was my new best. Still lagging behind Mark, I had just knocked .5 seconds off my time by not driving like an meat head. So that was my plan - drive less like a meat head.
Over the next three runs, my times dropped, albeit slowly, into the low 63'. The ST is a little complex. It' essentially a front wheel drive muscle car, so the power must be used judiciously or you'll just spin the tires, which just overheats them. The trick differential is also a little bit of an unknown to me. It works well enough, it' just not as predictable as a mechanical unit. This is only a trait you'll see in a situation like an auto-x, with lots of quick directional changes and varying throttle inputs.
And then there' the rear end. The car pivots very, very well. It' not often you drive a front wheel drive car capable of being set up for the exit of the corner before you get to the corner, but the ST let' you do it. The catch, naturally, is it responds quite a bit to very minor changes in throttle at higher speeds. There was a big sweeper on the back side of the course that, on my fastest runs, I was essentially counter-steering the ST through half the corner.
Cool, but tricky.
I walked over to Mark to talk to him about his times and his passenger, and through his huge grin (damn) he introduced me to Leonard - the novice coordinator for this region of the SCCA and a reader of Edmunds. He asked if he could ride along and see what the ST was all about. Anything for
free instruction our readers.
The run was smooth, but a bit manic as I fought to keep the back end where I needed it. I was afraid I'd made him car sick after the run, but thankfully he was fine and graciously offered advice about slightly different lines to benefit corner exit and overall tire management. Oh, and the most obvious piece of advice - look up more and don't get lost.
Unlike Mark, with only two runs left I wasn't able to capitalize on Leonard' advice and had to settle for the fast time you see below you, a 62.860. 1.8 seconds quicker than what I'd done previously, it just wasn't enough to stave off those fancy tires (the tires that the Focus hauled down there, mind you) and Mark' driving.
November 29, 2012
At the end of every run, you pull up and grab your time slip. These are my first six.
Now, where Mark went out to explore the course, and his Prius tires, on his first few runs, I just jumped into it and started driving. But, as Mark steadily improved throughout his first six runs, making the best he could out of the stock tires on the last lap, I kinda didn't.
I started out faster. A lot faster. But instead of trying to learn the second half of the course, the part where I wasn't shagging cones, I decided to charge the first half and figured the second half would just fall into place. Nnnnnnope!
I've decided to be brave and post one of my early runs. Click on through.
November 27, 2012
I arrived about ten minutes after Mark and the FR-S. I signed a waiver at the gate and slotted the Focus ST right alongside the Scion. Stepping out of the ST and looking at the Scion made plain my biggest fear - The ST is a whole lot more car that our FR-S. It' a big piece of meat. At least it' yellow.
I tapped Mark on the shoulder and pointed out every single other FR-S in the lot. There were about 60-something cars in total and at least 6 or them were Scions. Mark wasn't going to have anywhere to hide if he couldn't lay down a good time. I took some solace in being the only ST, or any non Mustang Ford in the lot, but I wasn't going to know if my time was any good or not. Beating Mark is one thing, but I kinda wanted to see how I handled the ST.
And then came the attention.
The car is yellow, I know, but before I knew it I had already talked to three people about the ST. They walked over and expressed interests ranging from the fuel economy to the size of the trunk. I offered up the car for their inspection and while every one of them were polite and appreciative of the chance to crawl around the car, they all ended the conversation with words I didn't need to hear, "I'll keep my eye on this thing. I can't wait to see how it does!" Great. Now I have an audience.
There was more of that as I brought the car through tech. Other inspectors and drivers walked over and poked their heads under the hood and peered into the fender wells to get a better look at it. I felt like tossing the keys to an instructor and letting them demo the car for the day, not to save what' left of my name, but instead to preserve the mystique of the car.
November 23, 2012
By the time you read this, The Focus ST and I will have already gone through tech and might very well be on course in our LT auto-x challenge-shoot-out-death-match, at California Speedway.
Mark jumped on the FR-S bandwagon and thinks that it will turn the better time in our highly unscientific testing. I, on the other hand, picked the Focus ST, just to be a pain in the ass.
I do have my reasons (it has a huge power advantage, a linear power delivery, a willing chassis and it' quick on it' feet), but I do have my reservations (it' front wheel drive, it' heavy, it' front wheel drive and it' heavy) with the ST but I'm going to give it my best.
My best, however, might be a bit lacking. See that fool in the photo above? Yeah, that' me auto-xing my old 1994 TransAm. At some point I thought that would be a good idea, too. I guess I never learn.
Stay tuned for the results.
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 3,855 miles
November 22, 2012
If you want HID headlights on your 2013 Ford Focus ST, you have to spring for the big-ticket Equipment Group 202A, which bundles them with the nav system, Sony audio and Recaro seats that our car already has as optional equipment.
Now, I'd never want to part with the Recaro seats, but if I could design my own, less expensive option package that included the HID headlights, I would so give up the Sony audio and nav system to have the HIDs, along with the extra-cost sunroof.
The standard halogen headlights don't throw much light in front of the car on the freeway (yeah, I know, this photo doesn't really illustrate that...it' here more just to show how dramatic the sky was while I was thinking about the underwhelming headlights). I haven't driven our Focus ST on a back road at night, yet, but I have a feeling the brights would be on the whole time if that ever comes to pass.
I will be glad for the day when the ability to see down the road clearly after dark ceases to be a luxury amenity. Who' with me?
November 22, 2012
It' no surprise that our long-term Focus ST has a special place in my heart. This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that A: Ford made it; and B: we bought one. But there are plenty of other vehicles that I'm thankful for as we near the end of 2012.
1987 Buick Grand National: What a time machine this is. Seriously, just when I thought there weren't any "barn finds" left, this thing comes along. It may not be all that fast, but it definitely hits my cool list.
2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged: Luxury and torque. That pretty much won me over.
2013 Scion FR-S: Lightweight, rear-drive, good looks and serious handling all at a respectable price.
I can't go into details on what' coming in, but trust me, 2013 looks to be epic for the long-term fleet.
Any guesses? And what cars are you thankful for?
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 3,733 miles
November 20, 2012
In all honesty, I don't understand the whole Black Friday mess. People standing in line for a so-called deal on something they probably don't need or getting trampled by the unwashed masses just does not compute. But you know what does work for me?
Kurt and I are taking the Focus ST and Scion FR-S to an autocross practice on Black Friday. Initially, Niebuhr thought the Focus would have the edge, since it has quite a bit more power. I disagree. I think the FR-S will paste the Focus because it' sending the power to the rear wheels and power isn't a primary concern when autocrossing.
What do you think? Which car will turn in the fastest time?
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 3,722 miles
November 15, 2012
I really like commuting to work in our 2013 Ford Focus ST. Great ride quality. Readily accessible torque for catching the holes in traffic. Easy clutch takeup. Problem is, I realized I was looking at the car as though it was nothing more than a really nice Focus with a little more power... it' just that easy to live with every day.
But I know it' more than a commuter car. Mark Takahashi told me. So earlier this week, I went out on a familiar back road to see for myself. And, man, is it ever a fun car.
November 13, 2012
This photo is by the Great Kurt Niebuhr.
Yesterday I took a fun drive in our long-term 2013 Ford Focus ST and took photos to help me remember it years from now when I'm too old and uncoordinated to drive. Unfortunately, my camera (and its SD card) and I are now 30 miles apart, so I'll have to tell you about it tomorrow.
Instead, I'll mention the hill holder clutch in our long-term Focus ST. This feature is quite common in the remaining manual-shift cars in the United States, and I knew our Focus would have it, because, well, the VW GTI has one. So I did a full, legal stop at a four-way stop on a moderately steep incline in the neighhborhood of my parents-in-law, declutched it, put the clutch pedal back in, and the car remained secure until I was underway in 1st gear. (Obviously, the above photo is not a depiction of that particular four-way stop.)
While a hill holder isn't essential, I think it' a nice feature to include in a car that' going to attract customers who may not be that experienced with a manual gearbox. Friendly conveniences like this can help make those first few months more pleasant... and ensure that said customers keep buying manual-shift cars, so that the automakers will keep building them!
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 3,481 miles
November 08, 2012
Please excuse the shaky photo, but this is what my commute looked like this morning: Dreadful bummer-to-bummer traffic. While so much has rightful praise has been heaped on our new Focus ST for its accessible performance (I think it' the GTI that VW refuses to build), the fact that we often drive in in conditions like the one pictured doesn't make me like it any less. In fact, I like it a bunch even as a commuter car.
For one thing, these seats (and most highly bolstered sport seats) are supremely comfortable. They remind me of seats in just about any Porsche 911 for their ability to support my whole frame without any "hot spots" so I'm rarely squirming to find a comfy position.
The clutch feel and action is outstanding even in stop-and-go traffic. There' just enough feel to know where the engagement point is and plenty of torque from the engine if you still manage to get it wrong. There' so much torque, in fact, that as long as the car is rolling, it'll happily pull its way along in second gear.
The same can be said of both the brake and throttle pedals, too: sufficient feel, intuitive action, and predictable response. It' remarkable how often and how wrong many manufacturers get these simple (but immensely important) things.
I know, not the most enthralling post, but it' worth noting that this performance-oriented car is also a very good commuter car as well.
Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 3,102 miles
November 07, 2012
The first time I drove our longterm 2013 Ford Focus ST, I coulda sworn it was a five-cylinder. It really is uncanny -- this 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder makes induction sounds that definitely ape those of an inline-5.
When you're at light throttle, the ST' engine is unobtrusive. Just a bit of smooth pattering and little more. Really civilized. Only when you give it some right foot does an electronically actuated valve open, allowing induction noise to filter into the cabin via an intake honkus. It sounds terrific, too.
And it turns out its five-cylinder sound effect was intentional -- Ford engineers wanted to replicate the sound of the five-cylinder engine of the previous-gen Focus ST in the new car. Mission accomplished -- the 5-cyl warble is unmistakable.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
November 05, 2012
I'm a rear wheel-drive guy, so it takes a damned good front wheel drive car to win me over. I have a short list of FWD cars I truly enjoy: Integra Type R, Mazdaspeed 3... hmm, not many others leap to mind....
Our longterm 2013 Ford Focus ST is securely on that list. It' refined, turns in like a shark, sounds great and is way punchier than I expected. It' rewarding to drive without being over the top in any way. Much as I enjoy the Speed3, it doesn't have this car' cohesiveness. And unlike the GTI (the car that inevitably ends up being compared to the Focus ST), you can turn the ST' stability control off...
Whether the ST would be a better car if it was rear wheel drive is an irrelevant musing; mental, uh, "self-stimulation". The Focus ST is real, it' good, and you owe it to yourself to drive one. Especially if you're a RWD snob like me.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
October 31, 2012
Athletic, fun, great looks. And the car' nice, too.
So I ran across this video and found myself creepily obsessed with the female driver. Turns out, it' Chrissie Beavis, a rally driver. Errr. Mah. Gerd!
October 24, 2012
With my precious cargo securely belted in, I took the direct route back home. The long drone of the 5 Freeway beckoned.
Taking the 5 Freeway back to L.A. is decidedly less interesting than the coast route. It' just a long straight haul through farmland and scrub brush. It did, however, point out one of the Focus' shortcomings: the Recaro seats' side bolstering and a small gas tank combined with a pessimistic fuel gauge.
I made it a good 12 hours behind the wheel before my shoulders started aching. They were aching because the shoulder wings of the seats push them forward slightly. Odds are, you'll never be in that position as long as I was. It was an easy fix, though; sit up straight and stretch a few times. Man card restored.
I figured that after I filled-up outside of Livermore, I should easily make it to the Grapevine. "Not so fast," said the low-fuel warning light. Between Bakersfield and the Grapevine I knew I had to stop. The light had been on for a while and the gauge was telling me things were getting serious. I stopped and filled up, but only 10.2 gallons went in. I easily had another 40-plus miles left. Oh well, better than running out and being even later for dinner.
There' something special about dropping into L.A. from the mountains. I know it' all in my head, but when I reach a certain point, I feel like I'm home again. Those last 90 miles or so were a piece of cake. I got back into my neighborhood right around 9:20 pm, and stopped by for some side dishes to go with my much-deserved feast.
October 24, 2012
Opus One. I made it to my mental halfway point. I was still behind my optimal schedule, so I had to make it quick.
I sprinted into the main reception area and was greeted by a friendly employee. She asked if I was here for a tour, and in a slightly winded response, I said, "Actually, I'm here to swing by just to pick up one bottle of Overture."
She smiled and said, "Well, that' just fine by us, too," handing me a pass to the tasting room.
I continued my sprint and squeezed through a group of people enjoying a tasting. As the sommelier rang up my purchase, one of the tasters asked, "Just in for that bottle? Any good?"
I replied, "I've had Overture in previous years and haven't been disappointed. It'll go great with dinner tonight."
"Cool," he said, "so you're a local?
"Nope," I said wryly,"I drove up from L.A," as I collected my bottle hand headed for the door.
He looked like he was trying to process that information, but I was probably halfway to the Focus before it finally hit him.
October 24, 2012
Basking in the afterglow of the twists and turns of Highway One and the beautiful scenery through Big Sur, my quest for dinner continued. I emerged from the rugged coastline and leisurely cruised into Carmel. Being so close to my spiritual home, I had to stop in, at least for a photo opportunity.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This is where the old me ended and the new me began twelve years ago. Shortly after getting into open-wheel racing, I abandoned my previous career to play with cars and bikes all day. I have it under good authority that this will be my final resting place when I take my final lap.
But that' not today. Nope, I'm on a mission, though I am late. I found myself about 40 minutes behind schedule. I pointed the car east out of Salinas to reconnect with the 101 freeway. The good news was, traffic was moving and I started making up some time.
Not knowing exactly how to get to Napa from here, I turned to the navigation system. Ruh-roh.
In the six-and-a-half hours I've been traveling, the only conversation I had would be with the Sync voice activation system. The female voice is pleasant enough, but she was not giving me what I needed (sigh story of my life, amiright, guys? Anyone? Fine, forget it).
I went through the destination selection process, but Sync wasn't recognizing "Opus One." That was my goal, by the way, to stop by Opus One to pick up a bottle of Overture to pair with my perfect steak. The problem might have been that I was searching in Napa, CA, but the winery isn't in Napa, it was in a city that was just on the tip of my tongue. Aww man, what is it? Think, Mark. Nothing.
Instead, I just had the destination set for some nondescript gas station in Napa. Once I got into town, I stopped to check where the winery was on my iPhone. SAINT HELENA! That' it! Sadly, Sync still couldnt find Opus One, so I selected the physical address instead. I was on my way.
Next update: 1:47 pm
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 451 miles
October 24, 2012
It seemed to take forever to get to my favorite stretch of Highway One. In reality, it took an hour from San Luis Obispo. The Highway Patrolman that I mentioned in the last post departed the route somewhere around San Simeon. And now, things get interesting.
Being that I was breaking-in the Focus ST, I couldn't exactly have too much fun. I had to keep the revs down below 4,000 rpm as much as possible and vary the engine and wheel speed on the highway.
I figured this car wouldn't be all that fun in the winding roads with turbo lag and torque steer. Again, I was wrong. Turbo lag is just memory above 2,500 and torque steer is managed by a sophisticated e-diff system. Short-shifting around 4,000 rpm was a bit of a bummer, as the engine felt like it could keep winding up for a while. That said, I found it easy to keep the revs in that sweet spot.
There are a few sharp turns that interrupt long sweepers and straights as you approach the fun part of Highway One. I went into the first couple of turns at a very conservative pace and the Focus tracked through with expected ease. Then I started turning in later and later, loading up g-forces to get a feel for what the car might do.
October 24, 2012
Just as the Moon dipped below the hills, the sun crept up behind me, replacing the inky blackness with a blue-grey hue. It was about this time that I started paying attention to the highway ride.
The Focus ST' ride isn't as stiff as other hot hatches. In fact, it' downright enjoyable. You still feel everything, but it never gets harsh or tiresome. It' also agreeably quiet, with a hint of road and wind noise entering the cabin. This was an initial concern of mine. What if it' as stiff as a shopping cart and loud as a leaf blower? You know, like my old Lotus? Not a chance, the Focus was as well-mannered as, well, a Focus.
I pulled into San Luis Obispo at 7:24 am. This is my usual stop. I can't count how many times I've filled up at this particular station. Then the memories came flooding back (cue the daydream transition). The road ahead and I have a lot of history together. It' the route I took to Laguna Seca when I started racing. It' the way I would take to the Monterey Historics every year. Along the way is my favorite weekend getaway. Heck, a seven-year relationship was forged on the next 110 miles. Good memories of an epic drive, but I digress.
I was going to take the coast route, Highway One. If it' early in the morning, I'll always choose the serpentine temptation of this road over the monotony of the 101. It' a bit of a detour, but well worth the extra time. Besides, I had plenty of time, or so I thought.
Right around Morro Beach, the two northbound lanes became one. The right lane was closed to cars and was filled with bicyclists. Don't these people realize that they put engines in those things now? Still, losing one lane didn't impact traffic too much. Not as much as the Highway Patrolman that got in front of me, that is.
October 24, 2012
As noted in the prologue, I was tasked with getting our new long-term Ford Focus ST over the break-in period. And so begins my journey...
I awoke at 3:28 am; two minutes before the alarm was set to go off. There was a mix of excitement and trepidation as I headed out the door. I wasn't worried that I didn't have it in me to complete the mission, no, I was nervous about writing the test drive the following week.
You see, I knew nothing about the car. Not a thing. Somehow, I never paid attention to the press the Focus ST was getting. Horsepower? Yah, I'm sure it' got that. Price? Ummmmm, twenty-ish? The same thing happened with the Scion FR-S. Perhaps I avoided information about it because I figured I'd be disappointed. I was wrong.
In stillness of my neighborhood (as still as it gets, anyway), I packed the car with the essentials: dry Cotto salami, energy drinks, beef jerky and camera equipment. I topped-off the tank with 87-octane, not knowing that 91 was recommended for peak performance. Then I zeroed-out the trip meters. There was already 110 miles on the odometer by that point, so I really only needed to add another 900 miles or so.
October 23, 2012
"Hey Takahashi," came a voice over the cubicle partition, "what're you doing this weekend?"
In my mind, the next thing I heard was, "I need you to fly to Italy to test the next Enzo at Fiorano," (I've been accused of being a real-life Walter Mitty many, many times).
"Nothing," I answered, "Whatcha got?"
"I need you to put some miles on a new long-termer," was the reply, "I want to be able to test it on Tuesday. Maybe drive it up north. Get a hotel room and expense it, but we'll need about 1,000 miles on it this weekend. Can you do it?"
Rule #8: The answer to "Can you do it?" is always "yes."
"I'm your man," I said.
"Great," said the voice behind the cubicle, "while you're at it, why don't you do the full test for IL."
Rad. This is also why rule #8 is so important.
So what do I do? Where should I go? Why the hell is there a raw steak pictured above?
In my mind (the same place that I'm testing the new Enzo), I needed more of a challenge than simply logging miles. A quest without challenges is merely a road trip, and a solo road trip is just plain boring. So I hatched a plan.
Friday, I would stop by my not-so-local butcher to pick up a dry-aged, bone-in ribeye. Early Saturday morning, I'd head north to Napa Valley to buy a bottle of wine to pair with the steak. The challenge is to get back in time for dinner on the same day.
A few of my colleagues thought this was a bad idea, considering the fatigue of being behind the wheel for so long. Others thought it was a great idea, and appropriate for my love of food and fun roads. I remained steadfast in my mission, plus, the places I like to stay up there are far too expensive.
So, starting tomorrow at 4am Pacific time, I'm going to start posting my adventure as if I were updating you in real time. Some of you may have followed that trek on Twitter, so this may not be news to you. For the rest, I hope you enjoy the ride. Oh, and follow me on Twitter.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 0 miles