2013 Shelby Focus ST, the maddest puppy in town: Motoramic Drives
When the 2013 Shelby Focus ST revealed its menacing face at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, one colossal question remained: “$40k for a Focus?” What made it worse was that, at the time, no engine upgrade was available, making the $14,995 premium on top of the regular Focus ST purely about improved handling and aesthetical madness.
Now, however, an engine upgrade is available. The original ST pumps out 252 hp, but Shelby’s overdue renovation boosts the turbocharged 2.0-liter to 275 hp - a rather stout figure for a front-wheel drive hatchback. But when I turned up at the Shelby American headquarters in Las Vegas, company president, John Luft, informed me that the Shelby Focus ST now boasts over 300 hp, and I would be the first (non-employee) to sample its eager bite.
In fact, the motor upgrade had only been completed the night before I arrived, and the folks at Shelby were intrigued to learn my thoughts: “Here are the keys,” said Luft. “If you’re not back by 3.30pm, I’ll know it’s gotten the better of you,” he laughed.
“Either that, or I enjoyed myself so much I drove it back home to Indianapolis,” I jokingly replied -- although I won’t pretend the thought didn’t cross my mind.
Exiting the building, the embellished Focus gleamed in the parking lot. There was no mistaking it, dressed in traditional Shelby blue and white and boasting rally-like numbers and decals; “98” represents the late Carroll Shelby’s number. The huge Shelby/Borla twin-exhaust, sporty hood vents and sleek carbon-fiber rear wing, made the petit “pocket-rocket” look like Popeye ingesting copious amounts of spinach. While it might be too “boy-racer” for some, it garners serious attention from many.
The term “pocket-rocket” was often thrown around during my trip. It’s worth remembering that, while a tuned Focus may seem decidedly un-Shelby, Carroll had a distinct appetite for the hot-hatch; in 1986 he took the Dodge Omni and turned it into the notorious Shelby GLHS. After Carroll Shelby’s death, almost one year ago to the day, Shelby American returned to the former chicken farmer’s roots, offering the Shelby Focus ST and the incredible 575 hp Shelby Raptor.
“We’ve had many people write to us saying how Carroll would be turning in his grave if he knew we were tuning hatchbacks and trucks,” Luft told me. “It’s crazy, because Carroll loved to tune vehicles like this.”
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Climbing behind the wheel, Shelby logos festooned the cabin. A touch of a button brought all 300 horses to life, evoking a sound like a provoked T-Rex feasting upon Jeff Goldblum.
Accelerating out of the parking lot, the first thought through my head was: “Man, this thing’s fast,” as I witnessed the traction control light flicker wildly throughout third gear. A few milliseconds after enjoying the hooligan-esque sensations, the vicious tug of the steering wheel became apparent; with stiffer motor mounts, Shelby claims to have tamed the Focus’s torque-steer by 50 percent -- adding 50 hp did, however, do plenty to eradicate those improvements. The borderline silly power is derived from intercooler, turbo, and exhaust modifications. As Luft told me: “Stock motors, no matter how good they are from the factory, always provide plenty for us to tweak.”