Recently I had several friends pick up Focus STs, and me being the go-to-guy when it comes to the Fiesta ST, they asked me for my input on what some of the best mods are for the Focus ST – you know, things to help make the car better right off the bat. This isn’t how to get to Stage III, but an explanation of what’ll give you the best bang for the buck and make the car BETTER TO LIVE WITH.
The Ford Focus ST is a potent performer from the get go – with 252 HP on tap on gobs of torque, it’s a missile of a hot hatch to begin with. But with a few mods, your Focus ST will go from speedy to being a downright musclehatch. Yeah, that’s a weird one, but full bolt on Focus ST’s regularly lay down 280 HP at the wheels (stock is rated in CRANK hp) and nearly 400 lb/ft of torque. That’s a HELL of a lot of twist.
Achieving those numbers is surprisingly easy – in this article we’ll cover some easy, bang-for-the-buck ways to get more out of your Focus ST Performance and generally improve your driving experience behind the wheel of your ST. Check it out.
First step is going to be a Cobb Tuning AccessPORT and COBB high flow air filter. Cobb’s open top design lets the car breathe more than it does stock, and lets you hear a lot more turbo noise – which is FUN. 😀
The COBB AccessPORT instantly unlocks a ton of additional torque, making the car much more fun to drive, even before you start upgrading any actual physical parts. (We run an AccessPORT on the Project Fiesta ST along with custom tuning to give the car maximum power) The AccessPORT installs new software onto your Focus ST’s ECU for superior engine performance and offers such cool perks as on-the-fly map switching, allowing you to instantaneously switch between their Economy mapping and full Performance mapping to save fuel on longer freeway jaunts while still leaving you with the power you need should you need to pass or something without stopping to change maps.
Here are some common beginner questions about the AccessPORT and ECU-remap style tuning:
Does the AccessPORT need to be left connected once installed?
Can I install an AccessPORT on more than one Focus ST at a time?
No. You can’t “Share”. It’s designed not to. Once it’s installed on your car, it’s MARRIED to ONLY that car, until you completely “UNINSTALL” the AccessPORT tuning from the car.
Can I get a custom tune on my AccessPORT?
After installing my AccessPORT, my distance to empty and mpg counters are all weird. Is this normal?
Yes. It’s just like any other factory flash reset, the averages will be wonky for a few days while the ECU collects new average data.
I just installed my AccessPORT and my Focus ST is only making 8psi of boost and feels slower than stock. Do I have a boost leak?
NO – or at least, there’s a 99% chance that it’s not a boost leak. Odds are, You’re in Economy mode, press Cruise Control CAN/RES and Cruise Control + or – to change to the normal, full performance map. If you hear a real loud HISSING or Kazoo-like noise too, then yeah, you might have a boost leak.
There are a few other tuning options for the Focus ST besides the AccessPORT and while it’s my personal preference for tuning EcoBoost cars, it’s worth saying it’s not the only option – the SCT X4 Flash Tuner for Focus ST offer similar gains, and for those on a tight budget, the Turbo Transformer Performance Module for Focus ST is also available for less than half of an AccessPORT, offering a modest but noticeable gain in power and torque without reflashing the ECU by manipulating sensor input.
The COBB Air Filter and Intake System compliment each other, and use the same filter either way, so even if you buy the intake later on, you can just keep the extra Air Filter as a replacement for when the original COBB one gets dirty – but that said you don’t need to have the intake tube straight away. If you like your intake louder, you can also leave the airbox lid off for more intake noise, but I prefer to leave it in place.
Rumor has it, the OEM Focus ST intake section behind the airbox is pretty efficient, but one of the tricks that we used on our Fiesta ST (the “FREE” intake mod) – cutting a inside the interior of the front bumper so that the “inlet tubes” that feed the OEM airbox are drawing air from a cool air source. The Ford Racing Intake Tube for Focus ST includes a template that tells you where to cut, so we have to imagine that the Focus ST benefits the same way the Fiesta ST does by opening up the tube feeding the Focus ST’s airbox.
Of the intakes on the Market right now for the Focus ST, we happen to like the Injen SP Intake For Focus ST
And for those of you who hate the sound symposer, Cobb offers a Symposer delete for Focus ST for just $45 that omits the Symposer while keeping the system sealed nice.
So after the COBB AccessPORT itself, there are two other simple mods that will dramatically improve the feel of the car and how it is to actually drive the car. Specifically, we want to address two key problems with the Focus ST – first is that “BANG” noise you sometimes hear when shifting quickly in lower gears, like 1-3.
Have you noticed that your Focus ST struggles with wheel hop and harsh shifts, and the bounciness between gears? Ever shifted quickly only to be rewarded with a sharp jolt? This simple part corrects the problem.
That nasty bang is caused by excess play in the overly soft stock “Rear Motor Mount”, which is actually a “Roll Resistor” that restricts engine movement. By keeping the engine more firmly secured, the bang noise goes away, more power gets to the ground and handling is smoother and more predictable because the engine isn’t jumping around the bay like a bucking bronco. Available for $159, and with less than an hour needed to install it, the Cobb Rear Motor Mount for Focus ST will really improve your driving experience.
After the Rear Motor Mount for Focus ST, the next “easy” mod that adds a lot to the car is ludicrously simple, but makes driving worlds more comfortable.
This mod is also available for the Fiesta ST and is one of our most popular items, proving to be a big hit with Automobile Magazine and TheSmokingTire after fitting their ST’s with this part – what are we talking about?
The Active Shift Designs Accelerator Pedal Lift Spacer for Focus ST – designed and manufactured by a Focus ST Owner and Enthusiast who was annoyed by the fact that the deeply set accelerator pedal made it really hard to heel toe, and made driving kind of uncomfortable as your ankles are forced to make some unusual movements to compensate.
The ASD Pedal Lift Spacer for Focus ST brings the Gas, Clutch and Brake pedals all flush with each other, making heel toe possible and every day driving generally more comfortable. And at just $54.99, this is one of the least expensive mods you can do. It simply installs under the accelerator pedal module to bring it further out.
After that, let’s talk about the handling performance of the Focus ST.
How can I make my Focus ST handle better?
Easy answer? Springs and Sway Bars.
Our friends over at Hotchkis Suspension have some Sway Bars coming to market very soon for the Focus ST, and this picture of two Focus ST’s at the same point on the track on the same day illustrates the difference that the sways make in a crystal clear way – once released, they’ll be available here, and having seen the improvement the Hotchkis sways made on cars tested at Willow Springs over numerous sessions, we’re definitely believers in what Hotchkis has coming down the pipe for the FoST and FiST later this year.
So if you’re on a budget, and you don’t want to drop the cash for a set of BC Racing Coilovers for Focus ST like Yves did – a set of Lowering Springs for Focus ST are a great way to do it.
This 2013 Focus ST is sitting on a set of Eibach Sportline Springs for Focus ST, which unfortunately are only available for 2013 models. Sportlines offer some of the most aggressive drop of any of the springs available for the Focus ST, and as such ride more harshly than the Pro-Kit.
The Focus ST above is fitted with STEEDA Sway Bars & Springs, available here – but any sway bars are going to afford you most of the benefits of getting sways. COBB Springs for Focus ST paired with Eibach Front & Rear Sway Bars for Focus ST will sharpen the handling of your FoST even further and help curtail some of the suspension’s natural bad behaviors and offers the same sort of benefits as the STEEDA setup seen here, and would also be comparable to Eibach’s Pro-Plus Spring + Sway Bar Kit for Focus ST. For springs, you also have the option of Eibach Pro-Kit or Eibach Sportline (it’s important you get the right YEAR springs for your Focus ST – 13 is different from 14 for the Springs themselves – if getting coilovers or sways only, this doesn’t matter.), Vogtland Springs for Focus ST for those who are seeking better ride quality/comfort and H&R Sport Springs or Swift Sport Springs for Focus ST if you’re more track oriented.
Of course, should you want to go with Coilovers, which are a great choice, BC Coilovers for Focus ST are a great option, offering 30-way adjustability, and at $1000 flat, it’s one heck of a tempting use for that tax return – of course, for a few hundred more, you also have the option of H&R Street Performance or RSS Club Sport Coilovers for Focus ST and KW V3 Coilovers for Focus ST – the cadillac of available Coilover options for the Focus ST – will set you back about $2200, which though it sounds like a lot, is actually a pretty good price as far as KW V3’s go.
One of the biggest gains you’ll have on your Focus ST is the Intercooler – though the Intercooler itself does not “make” horsepower, it DOES support your engine running more aggressive tuning, and a cooler incoming aircharge, which thereby allows your engine to achieve its maximum horsepower/torque potential – the name of the game is consistency, pull after pull. While you can do 1 pull at full power with a stock FMIC, you do a few WOT pulls and the car’s FMIC quickly becomes overwhelmed and starts getting heatsoaked – where it is just hot and no longer effectively cooling the aircharge. The stock FMIC is undersized, and those stupid electronic shutters literally do nothing for the car, open or closed – it makes ZERO difference in economy, all it does is obstruct intercooler airflow. Even if you don’t have an FMIC upgrade, it’s probably best if you delete that active shutter piece of junk from your FoST for the sake of better cooling.
What’s more, here’s one key fact: YOU CAN’T GO STAGE II OR III without the FMIC. That’s all there is to it.
There are several options available, we happen to like the COBB FMIC + Chargepipe Set for Focus ST as it’s one of the larger cores around, is a direct bolt on style install and is a quality piece, but alternately there are options like the STEEDA FMIC seen here or the Forge Motorsport Intercooler/Chargepipe Set – any FMIC upgrade for your Focus ST is going to be a huge improvement. Before you get all hot and heavy about a pricey exhaust system, consider upgrading the FMIC first.
Since we’ve already covered the AP, RMM and FMIC, now we can talk about a favorite topic of Focus ST owners – Exhaust. First, I need to tell you this up front – the Focus ST exhaust system is one of the lowest HP-per-dollar parts you can buy for the car – meaning you don’t get much power at all for the money from ANY catback system or resonator delete or muffler delete or whatever – anything after the downpipe really doesn’t make much of a difference in terms of HP – less than 20whp – keep in mind a proper performance catback will deliver the gains advertised whereas an exhaust fabbed by some random muffler shop could potentially cause issues and will not perform as well. So when you buy an exhaust, buy for the SOUND you want. Listen to multiple exhaust clips to determine what sound level is right for you.
Jason went with a custom-fabricated exhaust system with a Magnaflow muffler.
Steve Eller has had the Cobb Catback Exhaust on his Focus ST for a year now and still loves it. Check out his review here.
MBRP Offers an excellent Cat-Back for the Focus ST, which sounds great – check out this video we shot to capture the sound, which is good for a +18whp and +16wtq gain.
If you prefer the JDM/tuner look and sound, Injen Technology Catback for Focus ST might just be the perfect choice for you and yields 17whp and 15wtq, as proven on Injen’s dyno.
If you’re looking for something more exclusive, the Remus Cat-Back Exhaust for Focus ST offers an aggressive look but with a mild yet throaty, “German” exhaust note more characteristic of Euro exhaust systems than those typically made for Domestic vehicles. We have many exhaust options for Focus ST available, check out the full selection here.
After the FMIC, the next biggest gain to be had for your Focus ST is the downpipe. None of the Downpipes currently on the market for the Focus ST are smog legal or CARB approved for CA, but most catted downpipes are 49-state legal – of course, check your local laws. We offer the COBB Catted Downpipe for Focus ST as well as the MBRP Catted Downpipe for Focus ST, which features a sports catalyst. Both will set you back between $400-600, but will free up the better part of 20whp and quite a bit of torque.
So those are some of the best mods for the Focus ST and what I think will help you get the most out of your FoST in your daily life and on the track – this isn’t a “how to get to Stage III” (more on that later) – but rather, a general guide- we hope this information’s been helpful to you guys.
THE OTHER BEST MOD FOR FOCUS ST – THE DRIVER MOD!!
It doesn’t matter how much power your Focus ST makes if you drive like crap. I don’t care how good you think you are, even if you’re a SCCA regional Champion, you’re gonna have a hell of a lot of fun, so you owe it to yourself to make the trip.
If you’ve bought your ST within the last YEAR, did you know that you get a FREE Two Day Racing School clinic at Ford Racing School at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah?
While getting to Utah and where you stay there is up to you, Ford pays 100% of your tuition for the school, feeds you dinner Day 1 and feeds you breakfast, Lunch and Snacks Day 2. Sign up for FREE ST Octane Academy Racing School For ALL NEW FOCUS ST BUYERS HERE. You can take a spouse or friend with you for an extra $495, but they won’t get to drive any of the schools Focus ST’s or Fiesta ST’s so I don’t feel like it’s worth the $495. The racing school teaches you how to do E-brake tricks as well as teaching you how to get around the track using the fastest line possible, and on your instructor hot-lap ridealong, you’ll see how stupid fast the car can be around the track with a pro at the wheel. I’m a reasonably quick driver, and the pros at the Octane Academy took turns a good 10-15mph faster than I do – it’s one of the few times I’ve actually been scared with someone else driving.
Anyways, I promise you you’ll come back from Octane Academy with a big stupid grin, Octane Academy Attendee exclusive ST badges and be MUCH FASTER with your car back home. One of the guys in my STOA class happened to be a SCCA regional champion, and he recommends it even if you’re a regular autocrosser. Beyond coming back a faster driver, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun – see for yourself, check out our blog about it here for the Hoonigan Reception and HERE for Race Day at Ford Racing School.
Be sure to join us at our next monthly Ford ST/EcoBoost meet Saturday April 25th 11a-1pm, we’ll be hosting a ST Performance Clinic and have two big manufacturers of ST Parts out to show off their goodies and talk ST performance. We hope to see you there at 1721 E Lambert Rd Unit C, La Habra CA. ALL FORDS WELCOME.
Going to Fabulous Fords Forever Sunday April 19th? We’ll be there too, with our Project Fiesta ST and Michael Heintz’ BOSS 302 Mustang on display. See you there!
Need parts for your Fiesta ST, Focus ST or Mustang? Talk to the Mod Experts, call 714-582-3330 or stop by the shop to place your order. Need something installed? We can do that too! From lighting to intercoolers to coilovers, we can install just about any bolt on mod at the Mod Auto shop.
I’ll see you there with my ST! All are welcome, whether or not you’re an ST. Don’t be a stranger!
Story & Photos by Nick Gregson