FORD FOCUS XR5 TURBO

A WARBLING VOLO 2.5-LITRE FIVE-POT TURBO AND FUN HANALING CREATED ONE OF FORD’S BEST HOT HATCHES

WHAT

YOU’LL PAY

Prices for the XR5

Turbo range from

$7000 to $20,000

FOLLOWING ON FROM the success of the original Focus ST170 came the all-new XR5 Turbo of 2005, based around the second-generation version of Ford’s family-size hatch. And to make up for the fact that the MkII Focus was less of a looker than the first-gen (and to keep it ahead of any equivalent Golf GTI), this latest XR5 came with an impressive 166kW via a 20-valve turbocharged version of a Volvo-developed 2.5-litre five-cylinder powerplant.

Combine that with seriously tweaked suspension (featuring 15mm lower springs, firmed-up dampers and a thicker antiroll bar) and you had a Focus that could easily handle such power. In fact, thanks to the car’s superb chassis and the XR5’s quicker-than-standard steering rack, you had a hot hatch that went, cornered and steered phenomenally well. Yet it remained highly usable, almost laid-back when you needed it to be; and with three- or five-door body styles (three-door for overseas markets), it was even a practical choice.

ENGINE

IThe XR5’s 2522cc five-pot is a gem, giving this go-faster Focus a genuine top speed of 241km/h and a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 6.8 seconds. It also develops 320Nm of torque from as little as 1600rpm, making it a seriously responsive car even in standard spec – although it’s possible to extract even more power via various aftermarket options.

That doesn’t mean the engine is fault-free, with cars built before April 2008 sometimes suffering from cracked cylinder liners – and the only solution to that is a replacement engine.

The XR5 is prone to head-gasket failure, so any white ‘goo’ around the oil filler cap means you’re facing potential disaster.

If you’re buying a later car, however, there’s much less chance of this problem.

When test driving any XR5, keep an eye on the turbo boost gauge. If the car feels unresponsive and the boost gauge doesn’t move higher than a quarter, there’s a problem – although hopefully nothing more severe than the need for a new solenoid boost valve (a fairly cheap fix). If you hear a whistling noise from under the bonnet, this probably points to a failed diaphragm in the oil filter housing.

IN SPECS: FORD FOCUS XR5 TURBO

BODY 5-door, 5-seat hatch

DRIVETRAIN front-engine, front-wheel drive

ENGINE 2522cc inline-5, DOHC, 20v, turbo

POWER 166kW @ 6000rpm

TORQUE 320Nm @ 1600-4000rpm

TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual

WEIGHT 1392kg

WHY YOU WANT ONE

WITH its superb chassis offering class-leading handling and grip, the MkII Focus always had potential as a driver’ car. And with a five-cylinder turbocharged powerhouse from the crazy Swedes at Volvo installed, that was fulfilled.

Better known at the time as the ST globally, Ford Australia gave our example the XR5 badge to tie in with the local naming structure of its performance models. It joined the ranks of the baby Fiesta XR4 (naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four) and the traditional XR6, XR6 Turbo and XR8 nomenclature of the Aussie-made Falcons.

Still, few of the XR5’ contemporaries offer quite the same levels of power, torque and driver thrills in a big-capacity package. Yet, if the standard performance isn’ enough, there are options in the aftermarket world.

While the standard five-cylinder turbo was no slouch, TuneHouse offers a Stage 1 and 2 kit for your XR5 Turbo offering a 30kW and 60kW boost respectively. The Stage 2 kit includes upgrades to the filter, catalytic converter, exhaust system and adds a dump pipe. The package is also tuned on a dyno for optimal results.

03 OPTIONS YOU MAY CONSIDER

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI MKV

On the back of a few ponderous generations, VW brought the GTI back to life as a serious hot hatch for its fifth-gen car. The GTI’s turbo four delivers 147kW/280Nm with either a manual or DSG and it became the pragmatic performance hatch.

RENAULT SPORT MEGANE R26

Polarising styling aside, the Magane II spawned a performance variant that would pave the way for future models. Sadly we didn’t get the ‘Ring king R26R in Australia, but the Formula 1 themed R26 offered us a 169kW/310Nm tribute to Alonso’s title.

HSV ASTRA VXR

At the time it was a surprise to see the haloed HSV badge on something with half of eight cylinders, but the grunty, boosted four-pot cranked out a healthy 177kW/320Nm. Okay, it torque-steered somewhat, but it got to 100km/h in 6.4 seconds.

TRANSMISSION The six-speed manual gearbox used in the XR5 is a robust and reliable unit, although you should still check for any ‘crunching’ when engaging gear – just in case it’s led an exceptionally hard life and the synchromesh is suffering.

Of more concern is a slipping or worn clutch, as the XR5’s isn’t the most long-lasting – which explains why so many cars have been fitted with the more durable RS equivalent.

If you fancy doing this upgrade, you’ll also need the RS’s dual-mass flywheel, thrust bearing and slave cylinder. SUSPENSION The XR5’s uprated suspension lasts reasonably well, but can be prone to worn anti-roll bar drop-links up front (make sure you listen out for any tell-tale ‘clonks’ on uneven surfaces). A more common issue concerns the fluid-filled rear bushes for the front wishbones, which can split and leak even on lowmileage cars. Typical signs of this are uneven tyre wear and excessive torque steer.

Many XR5s have since been retro-fitted with polyurethane bushes for greater longevity and fewer repairs in the future. BODY & STRUCTURE You might think the XR5 isn’t old enough to be suffering from rot, but neglected cars can show early signs. Check the rear arches as well as the rear quarter panel where the bumper joins (the bumper can rub away the paint here).

The tailgate also sometimes leaks, so check for damp or surface rust in the boot.

Of more concern will be signs that the car has led a hard life or had a bump, so make sure you’re on the look-out for mismatched paintwork, evidence of body filler, poorly aligned panels and badly kerbed alloys.

BRAKES & STEERING There are few issues to report here, but you still need to apply the usual common sense.

Check for any leaks from the steering and listen for any obvious ‘knocks’ when turning lock to lock. Brake-wise you’ll obviously need to check that the discs and pads are all in good order, and that the anti-lock braking system is working as it should.

THE XR5 TURBO WAS A HOT HATCH THAT WENT, CORNERED AND STEERED PHENOMENALLY WELL

The brakes can handle more than the XR5’s 166kW, although some XR5 owners like even more stopping power. Mountune does stock the Alcon Big Brake Upgrade Kit (4kg lighter than standard and much more effective), but check prices and availability in Australia first.

INTERIOR & TRIM The XR5 Turbo came with body-hugging Recaro bucket seats and colour-coded highlights to match the hue of the exterior. Other than that it was largely the same as the standard Focus.

More important than trim specification, however, is trying to find an unmolested car that’s been well looked after. Is the upholstery showing signs of wear (especially the front seat bolsters), and are the carpets and steering wheel as unworn as you’d expect from the odometer reading? And do check the air-conditioning works.

The XR5’s interior generally wears well, so be suspicious if the car you’re inspecting looks like it’s had a tough time.