OffBeat

Ford unveils “overclocked” turbocharger in 2013 Focus ST

The 2013 Focus ST has an "overclocked" turbocharger that gives it 15 extra seconds of boost power

Similar to the way that hardcore PC enthusiasts overclock their CPUs to squeeze out extra performance, Ford is preparing a car with an “overclocked” turbocharger.

The 2013 Ford Focus ST will have a turbo that provides extra power for longer than normal, giving drivers up to 15 seconds of extra power for passing cars, accelerating quickly to highway speeds, laying rubber, or otherwise impressing people in the passenger seat.

Turbos work by forcing extra air into the combustion mixture, by using a very high-speed turbine. Because this turbine spins so quickly (150,000-200,000 RPM), it can burn out if it runs too long. As a result, most turbos are designed to add an extra boost of power when it’s most needed, then bleed off extra power before the turbine melts. In most cars, that happens between 3,000 and 4,500 RP (the rotational speed of the engine, not the turbo).

With the Focus ST, by contrast, the turbo remains engaged, even beyond 4,500 RPM — but only for 15 seconds at a time.

“The turbo itself is specified for sustained, high output performance, but they’ve programmed the ECU — the car’s equivalent to the CPU — to dial in more boost past 3,000 RPM to give it that extra something,” said Lisa Schoder, engineer and Focus ST Marketing Manager, in a press release from Ford.

Car enthusiasts have been accomplishing similar things themselves on turbocharged cars for years. This is done by installing custom ECUs (or reprogramming the stock ECU) in order to play with the power curve and extend the range at which the turbocharger engages, a technique also known as “chipping” the car. However, that runs the risk of damaging the turbo (or the engine itself) — and it plays havoc with emissions, too.

“This is a factory-overclocked car,” Ford spokesman Chris Terry told VentureBeat. “But unlike these homespun things, the cooling system is very, very robust. Ford expects people to drive the hell out of these things and not have them blow up.”

The Focus ST is aimed at performance enthusiasts in other ways. With a top speed of 150 mph, it not only offers turbocharged acceleration, but high speeds and sports car handling. That’s pretty good for a four-door sedan.

Although the car won’t be available until August, Ford is accepting pre-orders today. Adding a little extra incentive for the geeky, overclocking, gadget-loving crowd, Ford will throw in a GoPro HD Hero2 camera for the first 1,000 people to place an order. The Focus ST will also be on display at the upcoming E3 video game convention in Los Angeles, June 4-7. VentureBeat’s games crew will be providing tons of news from E3, so watch this space for more updates.