- 360bhp and still front-wheel drive
- Software and hardware changes
- Needs to be fed 97 RON or higher
Look past its familiar features and you’ll find the Ford Focus ST is something of an outlier in the hot hatch marketplace. Where most manufacturers are happy with 2.0-litres or less augmented by a turbocharger, Ford decided to fit the 2.3-litre lump previously found in the Ford Mustang and Focus RS.
Not that you’d know looking at the peak power, unlike the Audi RS3 – the other big cube hot hatch – the ST’s 276bhp is starting to look a little limp amongst 300bhp plus rivals. However, we already know the ST is running a fairly mild tune of this engine, with Ford fiddler Mountune offering 325bhp with just a new panel air filter and software reflash.
If that’s not enough, you need the M365 kit. You’ll need that panel filter plus a girthier downpipe and freer-flowing gasoline particulate filter together with a few different lines of code for the ECU. Together they unleash 360bhp and a wrist worrying 413Ib ft to the front tyres.
Isn’t that a lot in a front-wheel drive car?
It’s certainly more than any production front-driver, but let’s not jump to conclusions. The Honda Civic Type R deploys its 316bhp with ruthless efficiency after all, so what’s another 44bhp?. The tuning certainly doesn’t upset its manners when you’re just mooching around, although the uprated clutch of our test car certainly gives your left leg a workout. Thankfully Mountune says the standard item copes with the M365 kit just fine.
Press a little harder and you’ll find the engine requires a moment to get going after which it pulls strongly from 2000rpm. Pass 3000rpm and things really get moving, with the Focus feeling indecently quick on a twisting B road as you approach 6000rpm. It’s certainly no peakier than the stock ST with there being little benefit to chasing the redline. Instead, it just feels more muscular everywhere in the rev range.
It likes to flex, too. Under hard acceleration it’ll hunt the road’s camber with lashings of torque steer, giving you plenty to do on undulating country roads. The engine’s tractability means wheelspin can be avoided, but it’ll happily bonfire its front tyres if you’re clumsy with your throttle inputs.
Sounds like a handful, what’s it like in the bends?
Our test car rode on 25mm lowering springs from Mountune which certainly firm things up, yet don’t affect the natural balance of the ST. For those that find the locked-down feel of so many hot hatches out there a bit boring, that’s good news.
Indeed, the entry phase of a corner is much the same as before. You can play neat and tidy or encourage the tail to get involved and a pleasingly predictable and entertaining manner. The stiffer springs might bring a bit more crispness on turn-in, but it’s not worth the stiff-limbed way it deals with lumps and bumps.
Get back on the power and the limited-slip diff aids traction and helps tighten your line up to a point. If you’re greedy with the power you’ll either have the traction control cutting power or rubber smeared into the road.
Mountune Ford Focus ST M365: verdict
If we’re being honest, the M365 is a bit much. While traction is less of an issue as speeds increase, your concern quickly turns to your licence instead. It is undeniably exciting though, especially once you get up into third gear where wheelspin is unlikely to cause an issue in the dry.
It’s also perfectly liveable on a day-to-day basis, proving no grumpier than an untuned ST. Well, the engine tune is. We’d certainly pass on the uprated springs due to the uncompromising ride on battered roads and the heavy uprated clutch.