All entries for Tuesday 26 December 2006

December 26, 2006

Sofia: nearly three months in

So it’s been nearly three months now since I picked Sofia (my gorgeous Focus ST-2) up from the dealers with 16 miles on the clock. For anyone considering one, I thought I’d write my own little update on how I’m finding the car now that I have covered nearly 4,300 miles in it.

Firstly, running costs. These are a mixed bag. I’m fussy about servicing – the handbook recommends a 12,500 mile service – but I’ve had the oil dropped at 3,000 miles and will do so again at 6,500, then have services at 10,000 and subsequent 10,000 mile intervals with an oil change every 5,000. Madness, some of you are thinking with your shiny new German stuff that costs an arm and a leg to service. Well I’ll let you in on a little secret – this costs peanuts. The labour for changing the oil (which is billed as a flat 0.4 hours) comes to £18.80 at my local Ford-approved garage (warranty intact!) and the oil and filter come to less than £25 (admittedly because I get these at Priveledge discount) but even outside of that you’d be looking at less than £70 a pop for an oil change, which is pretty reasonable compared to say a BMW M3 which can easily cost over £1,000 for a service. Servicing then, is reasonable. Insurance too wasn’t as much of a shock as I was expecting – for a 22 year old professional with two years no claims, IAM qualified, kept on a driveway in a safe location and covering 15,000 social and commuting miles a year, this came to £1120 fully comp with Directline, which wasn’t too bad I thought considering. Other running costs though are steep – I’ve averaged 25.6 MPG from Shell V-Power with a big mix of urban, motorway and country road driving. On the motorways at a cruise I reckon I’m bettering 30 MPG, but then I reckon it’s down to about 13 MPG or so when really giving it the beans on a countryside blast. Tyre wear too is high (although to be expected). At 3000 miles the tyres were down to 4mm outside and 5mm centre at the front, and an extra mm all round at the back. The tyres themselves I’ve been very pleased with – Continental Sport Contact 2’s – the grip is great in dry or wet weather, and if you turn the intrusive ESP off then you’re not struggling for grip most of the time, which is impressive given the power going through the front. I don’t know if I should make a switch to Michelin’s next time, as these are supposed to last longer – will have to decide in a couple of months when I need a new set. In any case, as the tyres are 225/40 R18’s, they aren’t cheap… Well over £100 each even through online retailers such as Factor in tyres before buying – on cars like these they make a significant part of the running costs.

The car itself I’ve found to be utterly excellent. Now I’m getting more comfortable with it I’m finding the limits of what it can do, so as opposed to feeling like something completely glued to the road I can now take it fast enough and drive it hard enough through the bends to make it interesting. It handles brilliantly, although grip in the wet under full acceleration is noticably lacking, with the wheel moving about in your hands as the front grabs grip where it can.

In terms of raw power, I’ve been finding the standard engine to be brutally quick but lacking that extra few percent to make it feel like a high performance engine. My plan remains to get a Bluefin engine management chip for this; I’d like other things like a cold air induction system and freeflow cat/exhaust system, but I’m shying away from such things due to warranty invalidation as well as things like enlarged exhausts melting bumpers (which has happened to others); so for now it will just be Bluefin on the mechanical modification front. I may look into fitting the Haldex four wheel drive system if grip becomes much more of a problem than it currently is. I’ve done just about all the cosmetic modifications that I want to now – a few finishing touches here and there as well as some decent aftermarket mudflaps (Ford don’t sell any for the ST) and some white side-stripes for Christmas (I think these are subtle enough to look classy yet add to the look of the car, despite protestations from my sister that they look “chavvy”). So just saving pennies for Bluefin now.

Next stop: Silverstone, full GP circuit, 31st January!

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