FORD is considering a high performance ST version of its Kuga SUV as part of an expanding push in the performance market.
The company’s European arm used the Geneva motor show to confirm a Kuga Sport would arrive soon, but an even more potent Kuga ST could be in the wings.
“You’ll see a Kuga Sport for the first time,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s executive vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa.
He said the company was open to a Kuga ST – which would compete with the Subaru Forester ST and upcoming Subaru Forester tS - but it would depend how the Kuga Sport was received.
“We’re going to start with the Sport version first and we’ll see how the reaction is.”
A Kuga ST could use the 183kW/345Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine from the Ford Focus ST (pictured below).
The potential Kuga ST is part of the company’s bold plan to grow its performance car footprint by 60 percent this year alone, with vehicles such as the Fiesta ST200 also important models.
Calling 2016 “the year of the RS” – referencing the new Ford Focus RS (pictured below) that is the pinnacle of Ford’s hot hatch performance – Farley said it was key to the brand’s global growth and profitability aspirations.
“When you talk to Ford performance customers they feel as strongly about the car as any BMW or Porsche customer,” he said. “We expect to see growth in our performance sales of 60 percent around the world this year.”
It’s not known if the Kuga Sport will be sold in Australia.
“It’s obviously an opportunity but at this stage we don’t know the details of the car, so it’s too early to comment,” a Ford Australia spokesman told Wheels.
Despite the performance push, Farley all but ruled out a Mondeo ST.
“That wouldn’t be our highest priority,” said Farley. “We have some sport performance versions but the ST is special; we have very special criteria.
“We really think that the ST line is for the core products in Europe. [Mondeo] is a larger vehicle for mostly fleets in Europe.”
Who do you think deserves to win the 2017 COTY title? Cast your vote for a chance to win $1,000.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.