Ford decided to capitalize on strong sales of its mainstream Focus and Mondeo models by launching high-performance versions.
The Focus ST170 and Mondeo ST220 will challenge rivals such as the Honda Civic Type-R and Volkswagen Passat 4Motion.
'The heart of the Focus ST170 is in its engine, six-speed Getrag gearbox and specially-tuned chassis,' said Steve Brenton, chief program engineer.
Ford boosted its 2.0-liter engine to 170hp from the 130hp offered in the standard version. For the chassis, Ford adjusted the spring rates, added stiffer bushings and bigger dampers while stiffening the steering rates.
Ventilated disc brakes bring the ST170 from 100kph to zero in 36 meters.
'That's supercar territory,' Brenton said.
Ford will use understated advertising to market the ST170. The slogan will be, 'Control yourself.'
In the UK, the ST170 will cost £15,995 as a three-door and £16,495 as a five-door (E26,110 and E26,926). The station wagon is unpriced.
The high-performance Focus gets to 100kph in less than eight seconds and has a top speed of 215kph. But the Mondeo ST220 does even better, getting to 100kph in less than seven seconds. Its top speed is 243kph.
Ford wants to improve the Mondeo's image with the ST220. In some markets, the Mondeo is regarded as a salesman's car.
'We wanted to create a performance derivative with truly executive style,' said Jurgen Gagstatter, Mondeo chief program engineer.
The ST220's 3.0-liter engine has lightweight camshafts, redesigned intake manifold and head gaskets, larger radiator and water pump, and two close-coupled catalysts.
The high-performance Mondeo gets a close-ratio, five-speed transmission. Traction control equipment and antilock brakes are standard.
The ST220 will be available in four-door, five-door and station wagon versions. Pricing will be close to the Volkswagen Passat 4Motion, which costs £21,940 in the UK.
* Ford creates Special Vehicle Engineering unit, see Page 6.