Not al­ways a star at trac­tion

Boosty Suzie some­times strug­gles to lay power to pave­ment

Wheels (Australia) - - Showroom - TONY O’KANE

MY FIRST experience of forced in­duc­tion front-wheel drive didn’t come in the form of a Golf GTI, Saab 900 Turbo or even a Re­nault­sport Me­gane. No, that ini­tial taste of a boosted bum-drag­ger was supplied by a fairly un­likely can­di­date: my friend’s SV11 Camry, which was su­per­charged in the most ghetto way imag­in­able. A crude bracket fixed an Ea­ton M90 to the side of the head, the belt ten­sioned by a length of twisted rope. For some added spice the su­per­charger’s elec­tric clutch was hooked up to the wind­screen wiper re­lay, so if it was rain­ing you not only had to deal with di­a­bol­i­cally sketchy trac­tion, but you had to do so with a screen full of wa­ter as well. Its great­est party trick was also one of its last. A par­tic­u­larly spir­ited burnout man­aged to gen­er­ate so much heat in­side the dif­fer­en­tial that it welded the spi­der gears solid, lock­ing both axles to­gether. No longer a sin­gle-peg­ger, the Camry could now lay down a fe­ro­cious fig­ure-eleven in­def­i­nitely or, as it turned out, un­til a tyre ex­ploded. Why am I telling you this? Be­cause that poor, tor­tured Camry taught me two things: that forced in­duc­tion was the Horny Goat Weed that turned mild-man­nered metal into ’roided-up tyre shred­ders, and that high-pow­ered front-drivers are al­ways bet­ter when both wheels can lay the power down.

The Swift Sport is far more civilised than that Camry – I don’t have to choose be­tween boost or wind­screen wipers, for ex­am­ple – but even so there’s clearly a bit of an­i­mal in its power de­liv­ery. It’s not old-school laggy, which is no sur­prise given its en­gine is a very lightly warmed-over ver­sion of the Vi­tara Turbo unit, but even so it eas­ily spins an in­side wheel in a cor­ner when the turbo spools up, and gen­er­ates plenty of bush­ing­bash­ing axle tramp on a hard launch.

As I found out last month it’s nev­er­the­less sur­pris­ingly quick around a race track, but even on the road the ab­sence of a limited slip dif­fer­en­tial can be felt. The more time I spend at the wheel, the more strongly I feel that an LSD would al­low the Swift Sport to put its best foot for­ward – quite lit­er­ally. Ford’s all­new Fi­esta ST is com­ing early next year and for our mar­ket a me­chan­i­cal LSD is stan­dard. I’ve driven it in Europe both with the tricky diff and with­out, and the Fi­esta is a proper weapon when it’s got the right hard­ware be­tween its front wheels.

For the Swift to have any hope of keep­ing up with its Blue Oval ri­val next year, it’d need a sim­i­lar treat­ment.

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