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 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
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.
Base price: s17,995
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