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Ford Focus SVT Review - Men's Journal January 2002
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Ford Focus SVT Review - Men's Journal January 2002

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  • 1. NOTEBOO TEAM SPEED: The SVT Focus. sophistication. Even the base ZX3 hatchback rises above the econo-car morass with a supple ride, slop-free steering, and a predictability that borders on the telepathic. The genius of the SVT Focus is that it doesn't forsake the balance of the original in its quest for speed. The steering is still weighty and minutely adjustable. The ride is smooth and quick-witted. The car fairly snaps into turns. But now there's a six-speed gearbox from German manufacturer Getrag, fancy exhaust plumbing that lets the Focus keep its low-emissions- vehicle rating, and dinner-plate-size disc brakes front and rear. (The base Focus has ye olde drum brakes out back.) It also has stiffer springs and shocks, and fatter anti-roll bars. But the high point is its grunty 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine, which shrinks the Focus's zero-to-6o time by about two seconds and hums sweetly to its 7,zoo-rpm redline. Cosmetically, SVT loaded the Focus with stuff you won't find at Pep Boys: aluminum pedals, honeycomb-mesh inserts in the bumpers, and a few options, such as a subwoofer-equipped stereo. And it all gets massaged into place by an elite corps of engineers who charge less than $18,000 for their work. So if you think the Focus looks tame, know that it provides out- rageousness of another sort: unprecedented bang for the buck. 0 TRUCK TECH Reinventing the Wheels The new 4WD: rear wheels that turn right and left, not just around GENERAL MOTORS has just unveiled the most useful bit of truck technology since the gun rack. It's called Quadrasteer, and it can angle the back wheels as well as the fronts, fire-engine-style. At low speeds, the wheels astern turn opposite those abow, for tighter U-turns and easier parallel parking. At high speeds, the rear wheels steer in the same direc- tion as the fronts, for stability during lane changes or while being buffeted by passing semis. The system is currently under the bed of GMC's $44,000 Sierra Denali pickup (above), but in the year ahead, all four wheels will be cranking on more of GM's garden- variety pickups, with SUVs likely to follow soon. You may never execute a five-point turn again. — E.A. 2002 FORD SVT FOCUS Base price: s17,995 Engine: z.o-liter, DOHC in-line four Zero-60: 7.5 seconds (est.) EPA (citylhighway): zs mpg/ 34 mpg (est.) Ford Pulls a Fast OneBMW KEEPS a small asylum of From the Special horsepower-addled engineers on Vehicle Team comes hand for special occasions. The the newest, fastest, crew has a mandate to tweak wor- thy BMW products and market them under the sweetest bargain on M imprint (as in M3 and M5). Mercedes-Benz the road also retains an in-house tuner, AMG. Yet neither of these outfits distances the exalted from the off-the-shelf the way Ford's Special Vehicle Team does. SVT, for example, took the F-15o pickup and Dr. Frankensteined it into the 38o-horsepower, tire-chewing Lightning, known to its drivers as the "Frighfning." They also crafted the Mustang Cobra R, whose V-8 is good for 385 horsepower and as many dirty looks from the fuzz. Led by a hammer-tongued engineer named John Coletti, the team basi- cally creates one specially tuned vehicle per year. For 2002, to show what SVT is capable of, Coletti asked his boys to turn their attention away from the large-bore V-8 fuel swillers. It's not hard to imagine a bunker somewhere in the bowels of the Ford Motor Company, sweaty with engineers taking orders from their leader: "Okay, boys. We've done the Lightning." The assembled crew nods. "We've done the Mustang." The gathered pump their fists and whoop. "Now it's on to the Focus!" One guy claps, by mistake. The Focus is Ford's entry-level car, per- ceived by many as the funky-looking replace- ment for the unloved Escort. Coletti, however, knows differently. "The Focus is a great car," he says, "waiting to be even greater." Under its $12,000 commuter's cloak lurks a roadster's CARS BY EDDIE ALTERMAN MEN'S JOURNAL JANUARY 2002