A few years ago, Ford brought all of its performance divisions from around the world under one umbrella. The result was Ford Performance, and its continually evolving lineup has been nothing short of spectacular. The Blue Oval — that pillar of Detroit that was selling Tempos, Aerostars, and Escorts just a generation ago — is now selling some of the finest performance cars in the world. Its cars are increasingly mentioned in the same breath as Ferrari and Porsche.
But that doesn’t mean Ford’s performance cars cost as much as those exotics. With one big exception (ahem, the GT), most of the performance lineup is reasonably affordable, from the entry-level Fiesta ST to the track-day assassin Shelby GT350R.
Much of this versatility is thanks to the turbocharged and highly versatile EcoBoost engines. Ford famously introduced the three-cylinder EcoBoost by bringing the engine block to the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show in a carry-on bag. These mills can be tuned for either economy or performance. For example, the same basic inline-four engine puts out 197 horsepower in the Fiesta ST, 310 horsepower in the Mustang EcoBoost, and 350 in the Focus RS.
So proving once and for all that power is not necessarily linked to displacement, here are 10 reasons why Ford’s performance lineup is world class in every way.
10. Taurus SHO
Since 2010, Ford’s biggest sport sedan has been gamely holding it down in the full-size segment. The original 1989 SHO (which stands for Super High Output) was a $20,000 sleeper car with a suspension designed by Ford’s elite SVT performance team. It put out 220 horsepower from its Yamaha-sourced V6. With a zero to 60 in under seven seconds, it was one of the fastest sedans of the era.
Today’s SHO has a 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 that puts out 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, and it posts a zero to 60 time in the mid-5 second range. Despite these impressive figures, the SHO cuts the lowest profile of any of Ford’s performance cars, due to its slow sales and aging design. Still, if you’re looking for a bona fide sleeper, few cars on the road do it better than the SHO.
9. Fusion Sport
The SHO may soon be a thing of the past, but the new Fusion Sport will definitely help soften the blow. Borrowing a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 from the F-15o and Edge crossover, the Sport has 325 horses and a whopping 380 pound-feet of torque going to all four wheels. Thanks to magnetic dampers, the midsize sedan is a real handler, too. It might not be the over-the-top ST version we’ve been clamoring for, but we’d be crazy to kick an all-wheel drive Fusion with a 5.1-second zero-to-60 time and more torque than an Audi A4 out of our garage.
8. Ford Focus ST
It might not look like it, but the Focus ST is a true muscle car. With a turbocharged inline-four EcoBoost mated to a six-speed manual transmission, a brilliantly updated suspension, and Recaro sport seats, the ST has 252 horsepower (275 with the dealer-installed Mountune performance upgrades) and a zero-to-60 time in the sub-7-second range. With the ST, Ford has taken a practical five-door hatch and turned it into a snarling overpowered track toy. Yes, the Focus RS is newer and more advanced, but as far as practical performance goes, the ST won’t leave you disappointed.
7. Ford Mustang EcoBoost
Remember how much uncertainty there was in 2014 when Ford began the rollout of the Mustang EcoBoost? Recall the fear that the four-cylinder car would be a throwback to the awful, wheezy, economy-minded I-4s of the ’70s? Well, in just over two years, Ford has more than made good on the latest four-banger ‘Stanger. With 310 horsepower, 320 pound-feet of torque, and a zero-to-60 time of just 5.2 seconds, the EcoBoost is truly a proper Mustang. Plus with its independent suspension and lighter engine in the nose, it’s proven to be a nimble corner-carver, too.
6. Ford Fiesta ST
It’s easy to forget what a revelation the Fiesta ST was when it was released in 2013. Ford’s smallest performance car ranks among Porsches, Corvettes, and Ferraris as one of the best driver’s cars in the world — and it can be yours for around $22,000. With its 1.6-liter inline-four mated to a big turbo putting out 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque (numbers jump to 227 horses and 250 pound-feet with the dealer-installed Mountune performance kit), a sweet-shifting six-speed manual transmission, and world-class handling that draws comparisons to the original BMW M3, the ST is a world-class corner carver for people on a budget. After five years of the current car, Ford has just unveiled the 2018 ST for the European market. Here’s hoping it comes our way sooner than later.
5. Mustang GT
As good as the EcoBoost is, the Mustang will always be synonymous with the V8 — particularly the 5.0-liter V8. And the 5.0-liter GT makes an argument for the best all-around production ‘Stang of all-time. With its 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque on tap, the GT rockets from zero to 60 in just 4.3 seconds. It can be had for under $38,000. A fully independent suspension (a first for the Mustang) makes it a real handler, too. A significantly revised ‘Stang is on the way for 2018. With some serious performance and handling upgrades, we expect the next GT to be even more impressive.
4. F-150 SVT Raptor
After an interminable two years off, the SVT Raptor is new for 2017 — and not a moment too soon. Now on the post-2015 F-150’s aluminum intensive diet, the Raptor has ditched the old cast-iron 6.2-liter V8 for a twin-turbo EcoBoost V6. The result is 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, a massive increase over the old eight-cylinder. But the leaner, meaner Raptor’s selling point is still its off-roading prowess. With hardcore Fox shocks and six distinct drive modes, the Raptor can tackle just about anything, anywhere — and tackle it quickly. Nearly eight years after its debut, Ford’s top truck is still in a class by itself.
3. 2016 Shelby GT350
The modern Shelby GT350 is the spiritual successor to the ’60s-era Shelby Mustang in almost every way. Starting with Ford’s already impressive sports car for the masses, the GT350 is a no-holds-barred track star. Sporting unique bodywork from the windshield forward, the GT350 is powered by the most powerful naturally aspirated engine Ford has ever built: the flat-plane crank “Voodoo” V8, which revs to over 8,000 rpm and puts out 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s also the GT350R, which ditches any creature comforts for weight savings and even more track-focused performance.
2. Focus RS
The Focus RS was one of the most anticipated new cars in years, and when it arrived in late 2016, it didn’t disappoint. With a 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four making 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, a fantastic six-speed manual transmission, and a torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, the RS is a world-class rally fighter that can be yours for under $40,000. And if you want to shred the tires in a hurry, it also has Drift Mode, which lets you do doughnuts and burnouts to your heart’s content.
1. Ford GT
Fun fact: Ford won the 24 Hours of Le Mans every year between 1966 and 1969 thanks to the GT40. For that car’s 50th anniversary, it launched the GT, which handily won Le Mans.
Luckily, unlike the original car, Ford is making 500 street-legal GTs for the world to enjoy. Thanks to its its track-bred aerodynamics and screaming 600 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 mounted amidships, the GT might have retro credibility. But it’s also one of the most thoroughly modern supercars on the planet.