When Shelby American President John Luft stopped by Motor Trend headquarters and offered us a quick drive in the production version of the all-new 2013 Shelby Focus ST sporting the complete Shelby kit, we couldn’t say no. Our tester came in Oxford White with the Azure Blue Shelby Competition graphics package – just one of the three graphics package, which also includes Checkered Flag Splash and Shelby Traditional stripes – as well as the optional Ford Recaro seats reskinned by Katzkin with Shelby embroidery.
Before our drive, Luft spoke with us about the pocket rocket’s updates revealing the much anticipated power gains as well as Shelby American’s future sans Caroll Shelby. A Borla cat back exhaust and computer reflash brings the power up about 25 hp for a total of 275 hp. While more power can be found inside the turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-banger, Shelby felt sending too much power to the front wheels would ruin their balanced approach to the end package. Although the stock Focus ST is one of the best handling high-performance front-drivers available, stiffer motor mounts along with Shelby/Ford Racing suspension and a wheel and tire upgrade work to counter act torque steer. A Shelby/Wilwood front brake package and drilled rear rotors and a short-throw shifter are also part of the performance upgrades.
Cosmetic changes include the aforementioned graphics package as well as 2013 Mustang GT-style hood vents, Shelby branded hydrocarbon engine cover, rear hatch applique, and rear wing. Inside, a numbered Shelby dash plaque sits in front of the short-throw shifter, while the Recaro seats feature white inserts and Shelby embroidery.
Although the 25-hp engine bump doesn’t sound like much, our quick drive reveals a noticeable surge in midrange torque, which quickly turns into ultra-legal speeds. While the stock Focus ST does a remarkable job at squelching torque steer, the Shelby’s motor mounts and revised suspension geometry dial out even more torque steer without abandoning the front-drive charm. Crisp shifts are supplied by the new shifter and while the clutch feels like stock. There is some vibration upon initial take up at low rpm, likely related to the stiffer motor mounts. The Borla exhaust is aggressive on acceleration and pops when letting off the throttle, but is otherwise quiet at steady speeds. During normal driving, the Shelby rides as well as the stock Focus ST. While our test drive was limited to local streets around the office and a quick stop for photos, the Michelin Pilot Super Sports and Wilwood brakes provided confidence in enthusiastic driving.
With a $15,000 premium over the standard Focus ST, the price quickly approaches $40,000, putting it in the realm of the rear-drive BMW 328i and all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX STI. Luft says the Shelby Focus ST is aimed at younger buyers who want an exclusive car, though current Shelby owners can order a Focus ST with the Traditional Stripes graphic package to match their Mustang. During our short drive, a couple guys in a Porsche 911 Carrera asked if it was the new Shelby and told us to open it up when the light turned green. Maybe the Shelby Focus ST will bring a whole new buyer to the brand after all.
Speaking of new buyers, Luft suggested that Shelby is prepared to appeal to a whole new audience to replace those they might lose when the all-new Mustang breaks from its retro skin. Though Luft hasn’t seen the new Mustang yet, once the company sees the direction Ford is taking it, they will know what direction they will take the next generation of Shelby Mustangs. Luft also hinted at an all-new type of Shelby vehicle that will be revealed at the upcoming New York auto show. Stay tuned.
By Jason Udy