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Sharper Focus

A Ford Focus XR5 Turbo with some effective bolt-ons

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • One of Australia's first modified XR5 Turbos
  • Effective bolt-on mods - with dyno graphs to prove it
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It’s happened already. Less than six months after the Australian release of the Ford Focus XR5 Turbo we’re starting to see modified examples. Leigh X’s ‘Electric Orange’ XR5T is probably the most developed in the country – and it’s got the dyno graphs to back it up!

Leigh picked up this XR5 Turbo when the business lease on his Falcon XR6 Turbo came to an end.

“I wanted something that would be a bit cheaper on petrol and after I read a review on the XR5 Turbo I went into a dealership. I bought one there and then,” Leigh says.

This turned out to be a very wise move. Not surprisingly, the XR5 Turbo is selling a storm and we’re told there’s now a waiting list for buyers; Leigh bypassed all this when he offered to purchase the dealer’s demo car on the spot.

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According to Leigh, the standard XR5 Turbo went well but not quite as hard as its big brother Falcon. And that’s where some aftermarket tuning changed the balance of power.

Leigh’s first mod was a Bluefin flash tuning module from SuperChips in the UK. This increases turbo boost pressure and alters engine fuel delivery and ignition timing. Leigh also points out there’s a handset that can be used to burn the factory program back into the ECU when it comes time for a dealer service. The Bluefin tune gave substantially improved torque throughout the rev range together with a noticeable increase in top-end power. Not bad, considering everything remained stock under the bonnet.

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Some further research on UK web forums taught Leigh that one of the next areas for modification is the standard intercooler. The stock item was then hauled out to make space for a Radtec replacement ‘cooler which was fitted in conjunction with a high performance air intake system. The new intake is a Graham Goode Racing kit from the UK. All modification was performed by Nizpro in Melbourne.

Leigh says the upgrade intercooler and air intake gave a similar power gain to that achieved with the Bluefin retune. We’re now talking performance similar to Leigh’s departed XR6 Turbo – which had the advantage of having an engine almost twice the size...

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By this time, Simon Gischus from Nizpro had suggested to Leigh it’d be a good idea to upgrade the exhaust system. No problem. An off-the-shelf Graham Goode mandrel bent pipe was purchased to connect the turbine outlet to a high-flow cat converter. From the back of the cat converter, Nizpro fabricated a custom 3 inch exhaust that employs a straight-through centre resonator and a large body rear muffler. This photo shows how the exit pipe from the muffler is divided to give dual tips. The exhaust is very refined though Leigh says there is some drone when engine braking down hills.

So how much power are we talking about?

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This dyno graph compares the standard car (plotted in blue) versus the tweaked version (plotted in red). As you can see, standard output is 138kW at the wheels while the modifications have upped the ante to 161kW at the wheels. That’s a 17 percent top-end gain along with a massive mid-range torque improvement - in fact, there's a power gain of over 30 per cent in the mid-range!

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Simon from Nizpro suggests any further power increase would probably mean upgrading the relatively small factory turbocharger – though this would be difficult, given the turbine housing is cast as part of the exhaust manifold.

According to Leigh, his tweaked XR5 Turbo has much improved pulling power and a sportier sound – in addition the bass note of the exhaust, the turbo can be heard more clearly and there’s a tough induction howl. Leigh has also downloaded a slightly more aggressive tune into the Bluefin module. The new tune is optimised for XR5Ts with upgraded intercooler, intake and exhaust. There’s no official power figure for this latest mod but Leigh says the engine is more responsive and torquey.

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The XR5 Turbo is a pretty attractive machine in standard form (it has 18 inch wheels, a body kit and the usual ‘smooth-as’ Focus styling) but Leigh’s attracts more than a parting glance thanks to its eye-catching Electric Orange paint. The only body alteration is fitment of an aftermarket electric sunroof.

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That Electric Orange paint also brings matching orange interior trim highlights which really lift the cabin. The XR5T cabin is already decked-out with Recaro seats, a grippy steering wheel and extra gauges – all Leigh’s added is a Harman Kardon i-Pod interface unit which is mounted near the base of the driver’s side A-pillar.

“The car is pretty cool now as it is,” Leigh says.

“It would definitely see off my old XR6 Turbo yet it can still carry four adults with comfort and return pretty decent fuel consumption.

“Probably the only thing I’d like to play around with a bit more is the tune. But it doesn’t really need any more power. Even now it does torque steer a fair bit – you need to think about what you’re doing.”

Yep, you can be assured this is a quick car.

Bring on more of ‘em!


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