The ST220 takes the highly accomplished, but very underrated, Ford Mondeo to new levels with its 3,0-litre V6, which will be in South Africa early next year. CAR engineer Peter Palm goes for a drive.

When Ford SA informed us, during a media briefing a few months ago, that they were planning to put the F (for Fun) back into Ford, we knew that the hot hatch ST170 was on its way to challenge the GTIs, GSis and RSis. But when we arrived at the Swartkops raceway, more mouthwatering models were lined up for a taste of things to come.

Let us kick-off with the Mondeo ST220.

This newcomer takes the highly accomplished, but very underrated, Mondeo to new levels with its 3,0-litre Duratec, quad-cam, 24 valve transverse V6 developing 166 kW at 6 150 r/min and 280 N.m of torque at 4 900 r/min. All this coupled to a six-speed Getrag gearbox.

For the visual picture, a sporty body kit and 18-inch wheels give the refined Mondeo a presence guaranteed to attract attention from all petrolheads. Not to forget the parting shot, featuring dual tailpipes. The driving experience remains refined but was a joy to hussle around the track.

Expect this model to reach a dealer near you in February 2004. Yes, you do have to wait, but speaking of waiting, we now get a chance to use that all advertising cliché “wait, there’s more”!

Moving over to the Focus range, Ford have decided to offer the 1,8 TDCi, which, as you can gather from the title, has a 1,8-litre turbo-charged diesel mill under the bonnet. Specs of this engine are 86 kW at a low 3 800 r/min and 250 N.m of torque at 1850 r/min. An unusual feature, reminiscent of the Lancia Thema turbo of the 1980’s, is an “overboost” facility, which boosts torque output to 280 N.m for a limited time for maximum acceleration.

The quiet engine as well as the smoothness, even at idle, was very impressive. Around the track it was the least agile, suffering from understeer and lots of tyre squeal, probably due to the heavier engine up front. Bear in mind, though, that harrying a turbodiesel around a race track is not exactly a common pastime. This model will hit our shores (hopefully not literally as with the Sealand Express) in November of this year.

Other Focus models available at the track were the 2,0-litre Trend (R181 885, four or five door, 96 kW and 178 N.m) and the new 1,6-litre ambiente (R149 960, four or five door, 74 kW and 145 N.m)

And now for the good and bad news! The star of the show was an imported RS model generating 158 kW at 5 500 r/min from its turbo-charged 2,0-litre, 16 valve engine with 310 N.m of torque at 3 500 r/min. The looks speak for themselves and special features include 325 mm, four-pot Brembo brakes hiding behind O.Z. alloy wheels and Sparco racing seats, smartly finished in Alcantara and leather.

Expected performance was quoted as zero to 100km/h in 6,7 seconds with a top speed of 232 km/h. A gear change indicator light warns you when to change up a gear. The handling and performance was excellent with a very forgiving nature.

It was difficult get into trouble but then the Ford marshals were also very nervous, encouraging us to “keep it on the black” and remember to use the third lap as a “cooling down” period, so we (sort of) tried not to upset them too much. So what’s the bad news? Well, the RS will not be coming to South Africa, or at least that’s the situation at present.