Ford Focus XR5 Turbo - Future Classic

By: Guy Allen, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Ford, Unique Cars archives

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Ford's fiery XR5 Turbo lit a match under the local hot hatch market


Ford Focus XR5 Turbo

Ford’s Focus series – which is a very broad range of cars – had not really got on the local radar all that effectively prior to the launch of this car. Sure the commuters did okay, but the performance versions? Not so much. Which is a shame, as the ST170 predecessor to this little rocket scored respectable reviews. However the simple adoption of a name which meant something to the local market changed everything.

In local parlance, it was little brother to the well-accepted XR6 and XR8 Falcons and a step up from the baby of the family, the Fiesta XR4. You could order the Focus in some lairy colours - orange was definitely a favourite.


Handling was a real highlight with these things, particularly when pressing on

Something that Ford didn’t necessarily shout from the rooftops during the 2005 launch was that it enjoyed the services of a Volvo-developed engine, an oddball five-cylinder. That quirky spec may well have been a marketing advantage for the niche it was playing in.

| Read next: 2020 Ford Focus review

In any case the 2.5lt turbocharged screamer developed a healthy 166kW at 6000rpm (there were more powerful versions offered in RS variants) and was matched to a six-speed manual transmission. That was enough to have the car slip into 240km/h territory while developing a riotous growl from the engine when it was on full song.


Bright colours suited the sparkling performance of this series

There was enough low and mid-range in the tuning to make it an amiable enough platform in traffic. The factory claimed there was a healthy 320Nm on tap as early as 1600rpm. Sink the right slipper to wake it up and the character changed noticeably as the revs climbed. Over 3500 you got a very different note from the 20-valve powerplant along with a willingness to be worked hard.

| Read next: 2017 Ford Focus ST review

Australian cars were bolted together in Germany and quickly developed a reputation for being superb handling packages. Around town the ride was on the firm side – perhaps not ideal – but open road speeds were enough to see that smooth out nicely. And the whole plot held together well when pressing on through a set of a corners.


The chassis changes for this model were significant, with a quicker steering rack, 15mm lower springs, stiffer damping rates and a heftier anti-roll bar spec.

Sinking the right boot and turning the steering would do the typical front-drive thing of going a little dead, but otherwise it earned a solid reputation for providing good feedback. That lot was backed up by a powerful set of stoppers.

| Buying used: Ford Focus ST170

Inside it was a mixed bag. Good features included Recaro seats, nice controls and a flash pedal set. However the interior colour scheme bordered on plain. You did however get a good set of gauges, including a neat little trio for engine temp, oil pressure and turbo pressure. Strangely enough there was no cruise control. Not the end of the world, but an annoying omission in the days (even back then) of proliferating speed traps.


So, is it all sweetness and light? Not quite. There were reports of the odd cracked cylinder liners on early examples (most often when owners wound up wastegates or went in for other stress-inducing engine mods), and they can eat head gaskets. Cam belt change intervals are 100,000km and it’s imperative this is done.

| Read next: 2012 Ford Focus ST review

This is one of those cars that owners are very likely have taken out for a good old thrash at some time in its history, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as it’s been looked after. Really interrogating the service and upgrade history will be as important as checking out the car itself.


Five-cylinder engine may have seemed an odd choice, but it worked a treat

There are numerous mods available, including engine tunes, clutch replacements and suspension upgrades. The latter is often focused on replacing the fluid bushes with solid units in the front end, which are known to fail simply through age. Much of this need not spell disaster – just a good reason to walk in with your eyes open. The up side is these things are a bit special and there is a band of enthusiast owners out there who really look after them.

Back in 2005, they were priced at  $35,990 – a substantial amount of money. It was probably a bit hard to justify for a ‘mere’ compact hatch, but if you looked at them as an imported performance car, the sticker price made a whole lot more sense.


Euro ST of that year shared the same trim

Asking prices these days are pretty broad, at around $10-20k. What you need to weigh up is whether a well-kept low-miler is worth the extra money. Usually it is. Get it right and you’ll have a very capable and entertaining car without spending an absolute fortune. And, long term, they should retain interest for enthusiasts looking for the next collectible.


From Unique Cars #442, July 2020

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