When Ford recently teased a host of vehicles that are set to arrive in the next two years, it may have slipped by you that these vehicles are helping the performance division follow through on an ambitious guarantee. Yes, we are just a couple years away from the year 2020. It not only sounds like the future, but it is the year that Ford Performance set as the finish line for 12 new vehicles before 2020.
You might recall that back in 2014 the Blue Oval consolidated its various performance divisions — Ford Racing, Special Vehicle Team, Team RS — under the Ford Performance umbrella. To coincide with that momentous announcement, the company promised to “deliver more than 12 new performance vehicles for global enthusiasts through 2020.”
Ford Performance has been working at a feverish pace to bring world-class, high-performance vehicles to market. — Jamal Hameedi
At the time, 12 new high-performance machines in six years, seemed like it might be tough to achieve, but thankfully, performance is selling, and Ford is capitalizing on this and the current popularity of SUVs to push toward its goal and grow its performance sales by a projected 71 percent by 2020.
“Ford also will grow its lineup of performance SUVs. Two additions to the Ford Performance lineup include the all-new Edge ST later this year, and an Explorer ST will soon follow,” the company said when it teased the Explorer ST. “These two new SUVs will help Ford Performance deliver on its promise of 12 new models by 2020, and will help extend the division’s growth, which has risen 81 percent in the last four years.”
Specialty ’Stangs Don’t Count
You might be wondering why we didn’t bring up cars like the 2019 Mustang Bullitt or 2019 California Special. These packages are undoubtedly cool, but don’t technically fall under the Ford Performance umbrella. In some parts of the world the Mustang is considered part of the performance family, but here in North America it is not, so these non-Shelby ’Stangs don’t add to the 12-count tally.
“Ford Performance has been working at a feverish pace to bring world-class, high-performance vehicles to market for all segments from the Fiesta ST to the F-150 and Ranger Raptors to the upcoming Shelby GT500,” Jamal Hameedi, former Ford Performance Chief Engineer, told us before he departed. “We are proud that we are closing in on our milestone of 12 by 2020 and are always looking at other ways to continue to expand and improve the Ford Performance brand.”
Before we break down the list, it’s important that a big part of Ford is being global, and that was part of consolidating all the performance brands under one umbrella. Ford Performance is a global entity, so not all of vehicles delivered or announced since December of 2014 are available in North America.
The first vehicle released under the Ford Performance banner kicked off this era in style. It was the abbreviated production run of 2015 Shelby GT350s. Of course, this 526-horsepower track star debuted technology, like its vaunted flat-plane crankshaft and then-optional MagneRide suspension, on the Mustang platform.
You might think this is cheating a bit, but we confirmed that the Shelby GT350R is indeed considered its own new model and counts toward the big-12 tally. Like its non-R-model cousin, the R debut some special technology on the Mustang. That was the availability of carbon-fiber wheels on a production pony. With stickier tires, lighter wheels and other tweaks, the GT350R definitely outperforms the base GT350 on the road course.
One of the most important vehicle introductions in recent memory was the original Raptor, and the latest EcoBoost version has only strengthened the position of Ford’s off-road superstar. Jim Farley, Ford president, Global Markets, said that Raptor outsold all of Porsche last year and that continued success of performance vehicles is music to enthusiasts’ ears.
While it was a limited run, the global nature of Ford Performance benefitted North American enthusiasts when the Focus RS was made available on this side of the pond for the first time. Packing all-wheel drive, 350 horsepower and cutting-edge Drift Mode tech, this hot hatch is an all-around performer to be reckoned with. Even though it is about to age out of production again, the Focus RS definitely counts toward the 12 new vehicles.
If we thought the idea of building 12 new performance vehicles in six years was ambitious, what about creating an all-new production supercar and its racing companion side by side in just over a year? Then having the race car win the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the anniversary of Ford’s Ferrari-slaying 1-2-3 finish? It’s definitely the stuff of movies, which is why Ford commissioned a documentary about it, but the 250-unit run of Ford GT supercars definitely makes this a legit new performance vehicle.
Here’s where things start to get interesting. Hot hatch fans were saddened to learn the universally adored Fiesta ST would not return to North America, but it didn’t go away all together. Instead, European enthusiasts will still get a new Fiesta ST replete with a new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine and some new electronic toys, like Launch Control. So, this is where making the promise global comes into play. The next Fiesta ST counts, even if you might not be able to buy one.
Here’s another one that might sting for North American enthusiasts — the Ranger Raptor. We still hold out hope that a version of this potent pickup will kick up sand here, but for now it is only available in Ford’s Asia-Pacific region, which includes Australia. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine backed by the 10-speed automatic transmission we know and love, the Ranger Raptor should deliver the capability you expect from the Raptor in a more compact package.
Now we are travelling into the future. The first part of Ford Performance’s recently announced SUV push is the Edge ST. Jim Farley promises that these people haulers will be legitimate performers and not some sort of appearance package like the Sport models of yore, so we look forward to seeing how this first true Ford Performance SUV follows through on the ST aesthetic.
We really don’t know much about the Explorer ST other than it will be based on the forthcoming coming new Explorer and like its Edge ST cousin, it should be a true performer. Ford Performance obviously has shown success making a big vehicle like the Raptor perform well. An ST won’t be that aggressive, but it should add some fun and street cred to this family truckster.
While numerous leaks have led us to believe that the forthcoming Shelby GT500, slated to arrive in 2019, will feature a 5.2-liter V8 topped by an Eaton 2650 supercharger, all that’s official are three things: It will be over 700 horsepower. It will be supercharged, and it will be “the most powerful street-legal production Ford ever.” That’s enough for us to go out on a limb and say this car will be awesome, and it is definitely a worthy new vehicle for this list.
So, that’s what we know is on the way. That means there are at least two more vehicles coming by 2020. It’s not clear if the electric, Mustang-inspired SUV would be considered a Ford Performance vehicle. Ford wasn’t even sure if it could get away with calling it Mach 1 in light of the ire it received from Mustang traditionalists that won’t have that brand ripped away from the Mustang. If it were a Ford Performance machine, it would mark a true shift that an electric vehicle was considered a Blue Oval hot rod.
The last one on the list is anyone’s guess. Could it be an R-model variant of an existing product or something brand new? Certainly we will learn more in the next couple years, but there might even be other vehicles as the original promise said more than 12 new performance vehicles, so suffice it to say it’s been a great run for Ford Performance fans.