MY FIRST experience of forced induction front-wheel drive didn’t come in the form of a Golf GTI, Saab 900 Turbo or even a Renaultsport Megane. No, that initial taste of a boosted bum-dragger was supplied by a fairly unlikely candidate: my friend’s SV11 Camry, which was supercharged in the most ghetto way imaginable.
A crude bracket fixed an Eaton M90 to the side of the head, the belt tensioned by a length of twisted rope. For some added spice the supercharger’s electric clutch was hooked up to the windscreen wiper relay, so if it was raining you not only had to deal with diabolically sketchy traction, but you had to do so with a screen full of water as well.
Its greatest party trick was also one of its last. A particularly spirited burnout managed to generate so much heat inside the differential that it welded the spider gears solid, locking both axles together. No longer a single-pegger, the Camry could now lay down a ferocious figure-eleven indefinitely or, as it turned out, until a tyre exploded.
Why am I telling you this? Because that poor, tortured Camry taught me two things: that forced induction was the Horny Goat Weed that turned mild-mannered metal into ’roided-up tyre shredders, and that high-powered front-drivers are always better when both wheels can lay the power down.
The Swift Sport is far more civilised than that Camry – I don’t have to choose between boost or windscreen wipers, for example – but even so there’s clearly a bit of animal in its power delivery. It’s not old-school laggy, which is no surprise given its engine is a very lightly warmed-over version of the Vitara Turbo unit, but even so it easily spins an inside wheel in a corner when the turbo spools up, and generates plenty of bushing-bashing axle tramp on a hard launch.
As I found out last month it’s nevertheless surprisingly quick around a race track, but even on the road the absence of a limited slip differential can be felt. The more time I spend at the wheel, the more strongly I feel that an LSD would allow the Swift Sport to put its best foot forward – quite literally.
Ford’s all-new Fiesta ST is coming early next year and for our market a mechanical LSD is standard. I’ve driven it in Europe both with the tricky diff and without, and the Fiesta is a proper weapon when it’s got the right hardware between its front wheels.
For the Swift to have any hope of keeping up with its Blue Oval rival next year, it’d need a similar treatment.