Ford’s com­pact cross­over em­ploys the Fi­esta ST’s en­gine and some chas­sis trick­ery.

Hot com­pact cross­over em­ploys Fi­esta ST’s en­gine and ar­ray of chas­sis trick­ery, writes Felix Page

Bangkok Post - - BUSINESS -

Ford has bol­stered its lineup of per­for­mance mod­els with the ad­di­tion of the Puma ST, the brand’s first Euro­pean-mar­ket SUV to gain a ded­i­cated per­for­mance range-top­per. Priced from £28,495 and avail­able to or­der now, the hot Puma is the fourth en­try into the ST range in Europe, join­ing sim­i­larly con­ceived ver­sions of the Fo­cus hatch­back, Fo­cus es­tate and Fi­esta su­per­mini, and is sig­nif­i­cantly re­worked from the stan­dard Puma that went on sale ear­lier this year.

The mild-hy­brid 1.0-litre three-cylin­der turbo petrol en­gine has been swapped out for the 1.5-litre turbo unit used in the Fi­esta ST . Power out­put is un­changed at 197bhp – 46bhp more than made by the most po­tent Puma cur­rently avail­able. How­ever, torque has been boosted from 214lb ft to 236lb ft, giv­ing more lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tion and en­abling the larger and 96kg-heav­ier Puma ST to match the Fi­esta ST’s 0-62mph time of 6.7sec.

As in the Fi­esta ST, the all-alu­minium en­gine sends its re­serves to the front axle via a six-speed man­ual gearbox.

It’s equipped with a ra­dial-ax­ial tur­bocharger and in­te­grated ex­haust man­i­fold for re­duced lag, twin-in­de­pen­dent vari­able cam tim­ing and roll-re­strict­ing en­gine mounts de­signed to im­prove re­fine­ment and cor­ner­ing per­for­mance.

While the Puma ST goes with­out the stan­dard Puma’s mild-hy­brid sys­tem, cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion func­tion­al­ity can shut down an un­needed cylin­der in as lit­tle as 14 mil­lisec­onds, help­ing to save fuel when coast­ing or cruis­ing.

The Fi­esta ST’s ac­tive ex­haust valve tech­nol­ogy also fea­tures, but it has been tuned to of­fer a “more com­posed cruis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence”, mean­ing the Puma ST is roughly one deci­bel qui­eter.

In what Ford is call­ing a first for the hot cross­over seg­ment, the Puma ST also gains a me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, which works along­side a torque-vec­tor­ing sys­tem to min­imise un­der­steer and op­ti­mise grip. Fur­ther dy­namic up­grades come in the form of new ‘force-vec­tor­ing springs’ that im­prove lat­eral stiff­ness at the rear, a rear twist beam that’s 50% stiffer than on the stan­dard car and new anti-roll bars at both ends.

The steer­ing has been up­rated, too, mak­ing it nearly 25% quicker than on the stan­dard Puma, while the front brake discs are 17% larger for im­proved stop­ping per­for­mance.

Like the stan­dard Puma, the Puma ST of­fers Nor­mal, Eco and Sport driv­ing modes, but it swaps the Slip­pery and Trail func­tions for a hard­core Track mode, in which the trac­tion con­trol is dis­abled, the sta­bil­ity con­trol does min­i­mal in­ter­ven­tion and all sys­tems are tuned for “the fastest pos­si­ble lap times” and “the purest driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence”. An op­tional per­for­mance pack, cost­ing £950, brings a launch con­trol func­tion that im­proves re­sponse off the line and comes with its own ded­i­cated graph­i­cal dis­play in the in­stru­ment clus­ter. Like its Fo­cus and Fi­esta sib­lings, the Puma ST fea­tures only sub­tle visual clues to its per­for­mance as­pi­ra­tions. At the front, there’s a newfrontsp­lit­ter that bears the brand­ing of the Ford Per­for­mance divi­sion and is said to im­prove front-end down­force by al­most 80%, plus a re­vised lower grille that im­proves cool­ing.

The rear end gains a new colour-con­trast­ing dif­fuser that houses twin tailpipes, and the pack­age is rounded off with a set of be­spoke 19in al­loy wheels wrapped in spe­cially de­vel­oped Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport 4S per­for­mance tyres. The roof, grille, side trims, wing mir­rors and roof spoiler of the Puma ST are all fin­ished in gloss-black as stan­dard, while the body can be painted in a new, model-ex­clu­sive Mean Green shade.

The in­te­rior is largely fa­mil­iar from the stan­dard Puma, but ST-branded Re­caro sports seats in the front, be­spoke tread­plates, a flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel and an ST gear­knob set it apart. A wire­less smart­phone charger, heated wind­screen, front and rear park­ing sen­sors and

smart­phone mir­ror­ing are all equipped as stan­dard.

Mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the rear sus­pen­sion sys­tem haven’t af­fected the Puma’s trade­mark Me­gabox stor­age cubby, which still of­fers 80 litres of hid­den space un­der the boot floor.

Cus­tomer de­liv­er­ies are set to get un­der­way be­fore the end of this year, with ef­fi­ciency fig­ures due to be pub­lished closer to the on-sale date.

WHAT NEXT FOR FORD PER­FOR­MANCE?

Ford’s per­for­mance of­fer­ing in Europe now com­prises hot ver­sions of the Fi­esta, Fo­cus and Puma along­side 2.3-litre and 5.0-litre ver­sions of the Mus­tang and the hard­core Ranger Rap­tor pick-up truck (the GT su­peris car now re­stricted to the US).

We know there won’t be a RS ver­sion of the Fo­cus, due to emis­sions con­cerns, and a Kuga ST is ex­tremely un­likely, but that’s not to say the fast Ford is an en­dan­gered species.

The brand’s Euro­pean de­sign chief, Mu­rat Gueler, pre­vi­ously told Autocar the new Mus­tang Mach-E SUV could spawn a range of elec­tric per­for­mance cars un­der the Mus­tang ban­ner. “The Mus­tang and the Porsche 911 are the most fa­mous sports cars on the planet,” he said. “Mus­tang is a big name­plate, and it’s about time we ap­plied elec­tri­fi­ca­tion to it.” Cer­tainly, the 1399bhp Mach-E 1400 pro­to­type and 1381bhp Mus­tang Co­bra Jet 1400 drag car sug­gest the Per­for­mance divi­sion is in­ves­ti­gat­ing what can be achieved with an elec­tric pow­er­train. As for com­bus­tion cars, we will likely see facelifted ver­sions of the Fi­esta ST and Fo­cus ST fol­low­ing up­dates to the stan­dard mod­els, while the Mus­tang it­self is set to make the land­mark shift to hy­bridised V8 power in 2022. It will re­main on sale in Europe fol­low­ing the global suc­cess of the cur­rent S550 gen­er­a­tion.

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All sys­tems are tuned for the fastest pos­si­ble lap times and the purest driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

In what Ford is call­ing a first, the Puma ST gains a me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, which works along­side a torque-vec­tor­ing sys­tem to min­imise un­der­steer and op­ti­mise grip.

The rear end gains a new colour­con­trast­ing dif­fuser that houses twin tailpipes.

The steer­ing has been up­rated mak­ing it nearly 25% quicker than the stan­dard Puma.

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