We talked to Ford about the future of performance SUVs.
Ford recently announced it would be killing off all non-SUV models, excluding the Mustang and Focus Active. In response to the news, the enthusiast community let out a shriek of pain when it realized this would soon mean the end of fun models like the Focus ST and RS. Ford doesn't want to abandon enthusiasts, which is why the recent reveal of the Edge ST is starting to make sense. Though they may not be quite as nice to drive as their hot hatchback predecessors, ST-branded SUVs are going to be a part of Ford's future.
We spoke to Dan Jones, SUV Communications Manager for Ford North America, to find out more about the future of performance SUVs. Though Jones wasn't able to confirm any future models, he did echo Ford's announcement that an "Explorer ST is coming in the next generation," which will likely differ from the all-electric SUV, rumored to be called the Mach 1. When asked if the all-electric SUV would share a platform with the new Explorer, Jones simply said "we'll have to wait and see." Given the importance of EVs in the market, Ford is playing this one close to the chest. At the very least, Ford will have two performance SUV models to take the place of its lost ST hatchbacks.
When asked about ST versions of the EcoSport or Escape, Jones said he could “only dream of having a performance version of every SUV.” While some enthusiasts may mourn the loss of models such as the Fiesta ST and Focus ST, Jones says the decision was “not just Ford, it’s an industry trend." Ford believes people crave a "higher up seating position with more utility, but don’t want to give up performance.” This is where models like the Edge ST should shine. Initially, we wondered why Ford decided to use the ST name on the Edge, while the most powerful Fusion Sport was never given the ST treatment.
Simply put, Ford “saw the need in Fusion for a sportier model, but the car wasn’t developed with an ST in mind. It wouldn’t have made sense, according to our data. With the Edge, it was decided early that an ST would work” Jones explained. Ford hopes models like the Edge ST and Explorer ST will attract buyers who are moving up from a Fiesta or Focus and attract new customers to the brand. We tossed in a suggestion for Ford to build an EcoSport ST, complete with the three-cylinder turbo and manual transmission out of the European Fiesta ST. While it seems unlikely, Jones told us to "never say never.”