The term “mixed bag” has been rattling around in my head these past 2 weeks, ever since I traded in the first new car I ever bought for a road legal speed boat. “Mixed emotions” in that while I thoroughly enjoy my new 6.4 liter V8, an upgrade in power, I feel like I have downgraded some ways from things I had taken for granted in my little ST. Let me talk about my 2016 Focus ST in retrospect for a moment after owning it for over 3 years.
I bought my ST with 8 miles on the odometer. I paid $28k before taxes. Prior to this, I was driving a 2004 Silverado pickup, so transitioning to a small Euro-Ford was jarring. I’m a tall boy and twisting into the small car was difficult at first, but I quickly learned how to jump in and out well enough that I didn’t notice my audible groans every time I entered and exited the car. Once I was in the car, I found the Recaro bolstered seats were actually very comfortable. I liked the feel of the clutch, the (real) carbon fiber accent trim was tasteful, and the transmission was notchy. The 9 speaker Sony sound system with a sub woofer in the rear was excellent. But still, the car needed some massaging to be just right.
Stock, the Focus ST is quiet. At first I chopped off the mid-pipe resonator, and while that initially pleased me, I eventually upgraded to a Borla catback exhaust. That, coupled with a 50/50 blow off valve, and she sounded MEAN. Listen for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Sd2MyqWLaM
I installed a Cobb short shift plate and reduced the throw of my stick by 40%. That was major. I had it tuned by Stratified and the ST awoke even more with power everywhere. It wasn’t lacking power anywhere for the size of the car. The tune also gave me “flat foot shifting” that allowed me to clutch-in while keeping my right foot on the acceleration. I beat out cars that were legitimately faster than me just because the driver couldn’t shift as fast as I could. But I knew where my Focus stood on the power poll. A similarly modified GTI was faster, a WRX could launch better with its AWD, and Mazdaspeed3’s just had more displacement. The ST was a gnarly little dog that wanted to bite everyone, and it took a lot of restraint not to embarrass myself when others wanted to “play”.
The biggest downside to the ST in the 3 years I owned it was the size. It is a compact car. And on longer drives my body would ache. The door sill where I rested my elbow was hard and would cause discomfort. The space where my legs went was cramped. The Recaro seats, while comfortable at first, became restrictive after some time on the road. The small gas tank meant that I would need to refill more often, though I would learn to enjoy those moments when I could get out and stretch. The car also had an abysmal u-turn radius, making city driving sometimes difficult. All of these discomforts aside, I loved this car. She was my first 4 wheeled investment, and I will fight for my baby.
Then I saw this. https://i.imgur.com/UD1flWp.jpg
So I traded in my 2016 Ford Focus ST for a 2016 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack Shaker.
I wasn’t even planning on trading in my Focus. Honestly, total impulse buy. I was at the dealership buying a new work van when the salesman asked me if I wanted to test drive a Scat Pack for fun. I test drove one and was amazed, so I asked what they had used. In their lot, not sitting for even 24 hours yet, was this white Scat Pack with the “Shaker” package. A 2016 with only 5,000 miles. An older gentleman had bought the car, detailed it every day, and almost never drove it before he traded it in on a new Jeep. I’ve talked to the previous owner, he claims to never have taken it faster than 90 mph, and I believe that. I was able to negotiate the price down to the low $30k range, which is a good deal on this car. I’m sure the salesman was having a great day, 2 car sales in a row.
So now I have upgraded from 252 stock horsepower from a turbo in the Ford, to 485hp naturally aspirated in the Dodge. I’ve seen claims that Dodge sandbags the horsepower ratings for their cars and the 392 cubic inch engine makes something closer to 500hp, but I wouldn’t know. I haven’t put it on a dyno and the car is completely stock. And Even stock this car is maddening. It makes me wonder how insane it’s 700HP bigger brother is. This is such a disjointed experience from what the ST offered. The Challenger is not nimble. The challenger is not small. The challenger is not fuel efficient. No, what the Challenger IS, is raw.
This is the fastest car I’ve ever driven. It accelerates from 0-60 in the low 4’s when using the launch control. When you aren’t using launch, the back wheels are begging to cut traction and leave 2 wide black tire marks down the road behind you. Once you catch traction it throws you into the back of your seat and doesn’t stop accelerating. On my ST the only option for a transmission was a 6 speed manual. My Scat Pack is an automatic. Now, I am a manual enthusiast through and through. In my opinion a standard transmission is key to any enthusiast car and I will die on that hill. But regrettably this 8 speed auto is good. Real good. Push the shifter to the left and the car goes into a mode where shifts are managed by paddles on the steering wheel. Thankfully the transmission doesn’t think it is smarter than you; It will hold at redline until you shift up, it will lug the engine until you shift down. And the shifts are quick.
People will joke that these cars are land yachts and I have to agree. While it does corner better than I would expect a 4,000lb+ car too, she ain’t no sport car. If you preach “slow car fast”, you should try driving one of these because any speed cornering feels too fast. Although I have started to feel like a king of the road while driving this car. It’s large and absorbs all the bumps while being mean and loud. The Shaker package adds the cold air intake in the middle of the hood, and it’s cool to see it move around and “shake” with the engine.
The interior is a mix of good and bad. Leather A/C and heated seats are gifts from the automotive Gods, and I am grateful that the previous owner spec’d this one out to have them. It’s also so wide inside I have room to spread way out while driving. I feel like I’m driving a 500hp couch. The infotainment is.. passable. I would be much happier if it had Android Auto, but apparently that was an upgrade for ’17 models and newer. The real low-light for the interior is the sound system. It’s a cheap 6 speaker system that rattles the doors with any amount of bass and the sound is hollow. As an audiophile this really pisses me off, my Focus sounded so much better. I’d argue that I have a 8 speaker 392-watt sound system under the hood of this car, and yeah I enjoy that roar, but not being able to rock out like I could in my ST hurts.
Other ways the Focus ST was better would be visibility. Looking out the rear both cars sucked equally, but sitting in the Challenger it’s quickly apparent just how wide the B and C pillars are. You could lose the entire state of Wyoming behind those things. To make things worse, the mirrors on the Dodge are postage stamp sized. They look good from looking at the car on the outside, but you can’t see anything in those things. Merging in between lanes is a lot more stressful than I am used to. The scat pack doesn’t even get any safety features such as blind spot monitoring, so I’m on my own out there.
Cheap, fast, luxury; You can only pick 2. When you buy this car, you are really only buying one thing. The engine. Everything else comes second, and the Chally isn’t a luxury car. The few niceties that are optioned out on this car are welcome, but they are almost completely offset by the laughably cheap parts also in here. **It is comfortable though**, so I will give it that. My Focus ST was less comfortable, but the quality was higher.
I’m not sure what the next few years will hold for me and the 392. I already miss my ST, but I don’t regret my new purchase. With a car that can hit 180+ mph I don’t think I will be bored anytime soon. I’ll see you guys on the road.