IF YOU'RE A PETROLHEAD, YOU'RE PROBABLY NO STRANGER TO THROWING A FEW PERFORMANCE TWEAKS AT YOUR RIDE.
Whether paying a workshop to slap on a bigger turbo or you’re mechanically adept enough to spin a few wrenches in your own garage, there’s a special kind of satisfaction that comes from modifying a car to make it faster.
But while most will have few qualms about turning up the heat on a slightly older car, the need to preserve a factory warranty tends to override the urge to modify something newer. Here’s where Mountune come in.
Mount-what? UK-based Mountune has made a name for itself as the go-to tuning house for Euro-market Ford performance cars, and the company has now found its way into local showrooms with Ford Australia’s blessing.
We spent a week at the wheel of a Focus ST equipped with Mountune’s MP275 performance package to get a handle on its performance. It’s wickedly quick and worth the spend, but there are some issues...
Vehicle Style: Small 5-door performance hatchback
Price: $43,125 (plus on-roads) - base car costs $38,990, Mountune MP275 package costs $4135
Engine/trans: 202kW/400Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: N/A | tested: 13.4 l/100km
Ford began offering the Mountune MP275 package for the Focus ST in February this year, adding $4135 to the retail cost of the base car (for a total of $43,125) and taking outputs to 202kW and 400Nm.
Consisting of a higher-capacity intercooler, a high-flow air filter, new intercooler piping and a retuned ECU, the Focus ST Mountune kit is more than a simple software re-flash.
It’s all bolted on at an authorised Ford service department, and can be applied to either brand-new or used Focus STs.
If installed as a retro-fit, it’s warranted for the remainder of the car’s new car warranty or 12 months/20,000km (whichever is longer). But if installed from new it’s covered under the car’s full 3-year/100,000km warranty. Peace of mind AND more power? Sign us up.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3/5
- Standard equipment: Keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone climate control, leather/cloth upholstery, Recaro front seats, cruise control, reverse parking camera, trip computer, Mountune badging.
- Infotainment: Sync2 with 8-inch colour touchscreen, satellite navigation, voice control, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, USB/RCA audio inputs, CD/AM/FM headunit
- Luggage capacity: 316 litres minimum
What’s different in here? Not a whole lot. The Mountune upgrade concentrates on the bits in the engine bay, so the cabin is indistinguishable from that of a regular ol’ Focus ST.
And it’s starting to show its age. The 7-inch colour touchscreen for the SYNC2 infotainment system is a big step up from the puny screen that the Focus ST debuted with, but it’s still a touch clunky when it comes to voice recognition and screen response.
It’s also on the cusp of being superseded by Ford’s new and improved SYNC3 software.
The Recaro-designed seats give outstanding lateral support, but bigger folks might find them a bit ‘pinchy’ around the midsection. It’s also a struggle to get comfortable behind the wheel - the front seats are mounted too high and force you into a less-than-sporty upright posture.
We do like the trio of performance gauges that sprout from the top of the dash - one each for oil temperature, boost pressure and oil pressure - and the hexagon-embossed cloth and leather upholstery looks and feels great.
It’s just a shame that, ergonomically speaking, the Focus ST comes up short.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 202kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol engine inline four
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent multi-link rear.
- Brakes: Front 320mm, rear 271mm. Sliding calipers
By cramming more air and more fuel into its inline four, the Mountune-enhanced Ford 2.0 litre turbo wallops out a huge 202kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
To put that into perspective, a Volkswagen Scirocco R makes just 188kW and 330Nm from its turbocharged 2.0 litre powerplant. With the same displacement, the Nurburgring-slaying Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R produces 201kW and 360Nm.
In fact, you have to look toward the Holden Astra VXR if you want a car with comparable oomph. The VXR is properly hot, and sends a scorching 206kW and 400Nm through its front wheels - the most power and torque of any front-drive car currently on sale in Australia.
Curiously, the VXR is also just $1000 more than a bone-stock Ford Focus ST. Suddenly the Mountune kit loses some of its sheen.
But get it on the road, open the taps and the Mountune launches forth with vigor. With 60Nm more peak torque than normal it delivers a massive shove in the back that easily puts a standard Focus ST in the shade.
All of that thrust is best enjoyed from a rolling start though, and preferably in a straight(ish) line.
The Mountune upgrade is a power-adder only - the six-speed FWD driveline and suspension is unchanged, and if you try and deploy all of its grunt from a standstill you’ll just get axle tramp, wheelspin and torque steer, while the traction control light transforms into a disco strobe.
Those Mountune bits - and the extra power and torque they bring - just serve to highlight one of the Focus ST’s more glaring shortcomings - its lack of a proper limited slip differential.
It’s a slight annoyance in the standard car, but properly frustrating in the ST Mountune. Add one, and traction under power will surely be transformed.
That said, it’s still ridiculously rapid for a front-driver. Mountune reckons the Focus ST kit shaves around half a second off the 0-100km/h run, which makes it capable of laying down a sub-six second time. A Scirocco R wouldn’t be able to touch it.
And if you’re cautious with the throttle, it’s still a joy in corners. It’s a well-honed hot hatch chassis beneath the Focus ST, with superb balance that allows you to tuck the nose in tighter with a judicious lift of the throttle on corner entry.
Driven well, it’ll rival cars like the Subaru WRX for point-to-point speed. The challenge lies in ensuring all of the Mountune’s bountiful power and torque don’t overwhelm the front tyres, and thus curb your pace.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.17 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control (switchable), traction control (switchable), ABS, EBD, brake assist, hill start assist and a reversing camera are standard on the Focus ST.
Passengers are protected by six airbags: front, front side and full-length curtain.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s no real like-for-like competitor for the Focus ST Mountune given no other manufacturer is brave enough to back a third-party aftermarket power modification.
That said, in terms of cars with similar pricetags and/or similar performance stats, there are a number of key rivals.
The Astra VXR packs the most power, but is getting on, and it shows in the interior. The Peugeot GTI is a delight, beautifully trimmed, rapid and refined.
The Renault wears the maddest, baddest hat; its focus is track-like performance and handling (and can be a bit raw on the road), and the Scirocco is typically Volkswagen - quick, beautifully balanced and trimmed to perfection.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
That Ford is able to offer such a substantial aftermarket power-up for the Focus ST while still preserving its warranty is admirable, and the effect those extra kilowatts and Newtons have on the car is profound.
The Focus ST Mountune is Popeye after a can of spinach, it’s Roger Ramjet with a couple of Proton Pills in his stomach. It’s a steroid infusion for the Focus ST and we love what it does to what was already a pretty stout engine.
But it’s a shame Mountune didn’t take a more holistic approach with this package. Power is useless without the ability to control it, and the lack of a proper LSD between the front wheels is the Focus ST Mountune’s only major mechanical shortcoming.