We take the Morego Focus ST350 for a spin, and fall in love!
Words: Nick Pics: Dan Pullen
One of the most common things that gets said to us when we meet our readers is that we must get to drive some awesome cars, and as much as we’d love to say yes, it’s all true. Sadly it isn’t…Yes we get the pick of the latest and greatest Fords, but with the recent lull in high-end performance models (hopefully soon to be rectified!), it’s been a while since a demo car has truly blown us away…Until now that is!
Morego may not be a name that you are familiar with, but it has been around for a while now and specialises in tuning modern petrol and diesel cars. The company is part of the Brodie Brittain Racing Power Products collective, which means over three decades of experience with race and high performance road engines, and it also hints at extreme levels of quality and a stunning end product, which is exactly what the Focus ST demonstrator has and is! Tuning the ST was always going to be a difficult thing to get right. The standard car is quiet(ish), comfortable and more of a sports-tourer than an angry, race-inspired car like its predecessor, the RS. Tuning the car without losing any of these characteristics would involve a lot of know-how and some clever ideas; and it just so happens that Neil McKay and Dave Brodie at Morego have plenty of both!
Aside from the change in colour of the original 18” ST alloys, you could actually be forgiven for thinking the ST350 was a standard car. Okay the Morego exhaust system has slightly larger tailpipes than standard, but it isn’t horrifically loud, and you really can’t tell things are not as Ford intended from the exhaust note alone. Climbing behind the wheel and heading out on to the open road, and again everything seems normal. The Focus drives like a standard model, the familiar engine rumble through the ‘sound symposer’ pipe is there as always, and the ride is as you’d expect. So what’s all the fuss about, and how does a standard driving car warrant a price tag of £11,500? (For the full conversion, including track day upgrade package). The answer comes when you depress the right hand pedal and hold on for dear life! The Focus ST, now commonly known as the ST225 takes its name from its 225bhp power output, and it’s the same story with Morego’s ST350… Yes that’s right, the stock, standard looking and driving ST actually boasts over 350bhp and 380lb/ft! Learning the power output raises a few questions… Firstly how has the power been found, followed by how does all that power transmit down to the road, but perhaps the two most important are how fast is it, and what’s it like to drive?!
The ST350 conversion is actually a lot less complex than you may think, and rather than huge amounts of bolt-on parts, it consists of a few carefully selected parts to make the most of what already lives under the bonnet. Morego offers the conversion as a complete tuning package, which means that as well as the engine work, you also get a suspension and brake upgrade and a full geometry setup, included in the price.
The main basis of the conversion is the turbocharger, which features larger compressor and turbine housings than the stock part, and the addition of a ball bearing core to aid spool up. The main dilemma with upgrading the I5 engine is the turbo manifold, which has the exhaust housing cast into it, meaning aftermarket turbos can’t easily be fitted. The only real option is an aftermarket unit which has been designed specifically, which is what Morego commissioned exhaust supremos Primary Design to manufacture. The part is of an extremely high standard and in keeping with the Morego design brief, can be fitted and removed from the cylinder head with no extra modification, so the engine can be returned to standard at any time. Internally the engine remains standard, with the head and cams perfectly capable of coping with the level of air flow required: “It’s extremely good,” Neil told us, “our testing has shown it to be sufficient for around 400bhp, although by that point you will need to upgrade the bottom end components as well.”
The conversion was fully tested and mapped on the in-house Superflow engine dyno. A full break down of the standard conversion can be seen below, but Morego has gone one better and added an upgrade option as well, which is what was fitted to the demo car we drove. Consisting of a large front-mount intercooler and torque biasing differential, the package is billed as a track day upgrade, but road cars will also gain a lot from it too. A full break down of the standard conversion can be seen below, but Morego has gone one better and added an upgrade option as well, which is what was fitted to the demo car we drove. Consisting of a large front-mount intercooler and torque biasing differential, the package is billed as a track day upgrade, but road cars will also gain a lot from it too.
THE ROAD TEST
Climbing behind the wheel of the ST350 for the first time was a slightly unnerving moment for two glaringly huge reasons. Firstly I was behind the wheel of a 350bhp front-wheel drive car on roads still coated with a fine layer of morning dew, and secondly, Neil McKay, owner and creator of the 350, was in the passenger seat. Pulling out on to the quiet Brackley roads, we headed to the photoshoot location and with the oil and water up to temperature, it was time to see what the ST was made of…
Cruising in sixth at around 50mph, I dropped to third and after ensuring I had a firm grip of the wheel, floored the throttle. The huge bang in the back I was expecting as the boost peaked didn’t come, nor did the savage wheel spin and horrendous torque steer. Instead the smooth and refined forward surge of the standard car remains, although obviously amplified considerably.
The huge torque figure makes itself known from way down in the rev range with over 300lb/ft available from 3000rpm onwards, again surging in nicely rather than having a massive spike, which is where the smooth power delivery and rather respectable traction is found, thanks to the lack of a massive smack of torque when the boost peaks.
It’s not just the low down grunt that impresses though; in a standard ST, power drops off quite early as the turbo runs out of legs, but the increased size of the blower in the Morego conversion means that the power is held all the way to the limiter, with peak horsepower recorded at 6400rpm. Peak torque is 4200rpm with over 300lb/ft retained until well after 6000rpm, ensuring you stay pinned in your seat until you dip the clutch and snatch the next gear, ready for the galloping horses to be unleashed again. After several acts of hooliganism and yet more amazement at both the Morego suspension improvements and the awesome ability of the standard discs and calipers when fitted with a set of decent pads, we slowed back down to a cruising speed, and the ST slipped back in to ‘standard’ mode.
Neil was keen to demonstrate the 350’s party trick though, the full 378lb/ft of torque! Cruising at 50-55mph in sixth on a disused section of tarmac, under Neil’s instruction I slowly depressed the throttle allowing the boost to build, rather than just jamming it into the carpet. By the time the throttle was pinned to the floor, I took my eyes off the road for a second to glance at the speedo, and almost did a double-take when I realised it was reading the wrong side (or right side, depends which way you look at it!) of 135mph! As before, I then backed back off the throttle and once again the ST returned to sedate daily runner-spec and we cruised back on to the road and headed back to the Morego headquarters.
As mentioned above, it’s been a while since we’ve driven a car that’s excited for all the right reasons, but the Morego ST350 has changed all that. It ticks all the right boxes, it’s fast, comfortable, feels like it’s a Ford conversion, and above all the clever chassis mods have ensured that the Focus can cope with its huge boost in power. Although initially concerned that the conversion was overpriced, after driving the demo vehicle – both at high speed and pootling around in traffic – we can confirm that although the price tag is high, you really do get a hell of a lot for your money.
Not only can the 350 be used as a very competent track/fast road car, it’s also perfectly up to commuting, or even doing the school run! Overall it’s a well thought out, well engineered and thoroughly enjoyable car. Can we keep it?!
At the time of going to press, we haven’t had a chance to performance test the ST for ourselves, but independent tests using the same GPS-based timing gear we use has recorded these results. We will be strapping our own gear on to the car in the near future, so watch this space for an update!
0-60 – 5.0sec
0-100 – 11.00sec
Hybrid ball bearing turbocharger complete with modified oil and water pipework Primary Design/Morego tubular turbo manifold, downpipe and full under car system.
Replacement induction pipe
Modified turbo outlet pipe
BBR carbon inlet system featuring ECU spacer andK&N panel filter
Upgraded high-flow fuel system
Modified breather system
Morego custom lowering springs
Morego modified front bottom suspension arms
Mintex 1144 front pads
Fitted Price: £7995 (£9394 including VAT)
TRACK DAY UPGRADE
Torque Biasing differential, Large front-mounted intercooler
Fitted Price: £1795 (£2109 including VAT)
FRONT MOUNT INTERCOOLER (included as part of Track Day package)
Fitted Price: £495 (£581 including VAT)
POWERGRIP LOWERING SPRINGS (Included as part of ST350 package)Including full geometry setup,Improves handling and reduces body roll
Fitted Price: £695 (£816 including VAT)
POWERGRIP LOWER ARMS (Included as part of ST350 package)Adjusted static camber to give 1.3/4 degrees of negative camber to help reduce understeer
Fitted Price: £495 (£581 including VAT)
WARRANTY Full warranty on fitted parts for up to three yearswith a maximum of 20k miles per year
Price: £150 (£176 including VAT)