Ford Focus RS sounds like thunder, goes like lightning
- Credit: Ford
Ford's Focus RS, is a technological masterpiece that is as forgiving as it is brutally fast and furious, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
Motorsport is a big part of Ford's heritage and a big seller for its road cars. When the Blue Oval specialists create a new RS (Rallye Sport) model it's not a case of will it be good but how good.
They've pulled out all the stops with the latest in a line of furiously fast Fords with the new Focus RS, the most extreme model since the Escort RS Cosworth. But while the latter was reared for rallying, this third-generation Focus RS was bred to deliver supercar performance and handling in a road car. It's a car you can poodle to the shops in and then unleash 350 horses and blast round the track with the back end sliding out in drift mode.
It's as easy as it is explosive to drive which flatters the abilities of ordinary drivers with a wealth of hi-tech driving aids and all-wheel drive to keep the awesome performance in check and the car on the straight and narrow.
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Looks the part
You're under no illusions this is a high-performance Ford with its big black grille like a huge mouth to gobble in air, a huge, high-rise rear spoiler and fat exhausts in the rear diffuser.
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Starting at £31,000, you can afford some options –19in black forged alloy wheels at £595 and blue painted Brembo brake callipers for £100 really set things off but I could live without the special Nitrous Blue body colour at £745.
Under the bonnet
The 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine is also used in the Mustang but Cosworth, long associated with Ford's racing programme, has worked its magic for stonking performance stonking. Put your foot down in any gear and the RS takes off accompanied by a wonderful engine soundtrack like an angry rumble of thunder. Lift off the throttle and it pops and crackles – no wonder I struggled to average 30mpg. It revs freely to the 6,800rpm limiter in the lower gears with a light at 5,900rpm indicating the best time to change up a gear.
But a whopping 440 Nm of torque – 470 on overboost for short blasts of acceleration – between 2,000 and 4,500rpm means this flexible firebrand will trickle along at 40mph in sixth gear, as docile as it is devilish.
How it drives
The ride is firm, but not unpleasantly so, with the adaptive damping in normal mode – press a button on the end of the indicator stalk and it switches to sport mode but it's better suited to a nice, smooth race track than British roads. On the track you can also use the drive system's track and drift modes – normal and sport are for road use - to alter the character of the drive system with, in the case of the latter, controlled rear-end oversteer.
Awesome handling sees the RS cornering so flatly and accurately, glued to the road, it's almost as though it is driven by thought control.
Huge braking power, led by 350mm ventilated front discs, and progressive pedal feel add to the RS's confidence-inspiring unshakeability.
The RS is brilliantly quick and controlled on cross-country routes but engine and tyre noise and the firm ride get wearing on long journeys.
Space and comfort
The Focus interior is boosted by blue highlight stitching on the trim and blue surrounds on the dials, three extra dials on top of the fascia for oil temperature and turbo and oil pressure, sporty steering wheel and pedals and chunky Recaro front seats which unfortunately eat into rear legroom.
The Focus boot isn't big to start with but, with the floor set higher to accommodate the four-wheel drive system, it has shrunk to 260 litres – less than many superminis. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold almost flat but you have to flip the cushions upright to free up the maximum 1,045 litres.
For £1,145 you can opt for race-style RS Recaro shell seats, which can accommodate a racing harness, but you sit rather high and, unlike the standard seats, can't lower them.
RS – two letters that say so much about a hot Ford and this Focus delivers on the promise. It's an extreme, niche high-performance hatch that's as easy as it is brilliant to drive and set to win iconic status.