Ford Focus RS: The best fast Ford of the modern era?

 

By Miles Downard

What’s this?

This is what you’d call a fast Ford. In fact as far as the ‘working man’s’ fast Ford’s go this is the fastest of the lot. It’s called the Ford Focus RS, a nameplate to which we are familiar but trust me, this is all new. And it’s b****y brilliant.

On the outside

The general Focus body shell is there, only with wider arches, a suitably big rear wing, bumps and bulges in the bonnet, a massive rear diffuser and a very mean looking front bumper. I think it looks great, harking back to the days Ford rallied the Focus in the World Rally Championship. There are some great colours too, especially the blue. The multispoke wheels are a doff of the cap to the original Focus RS and really suit the overall shape well, giving it a slightly retro look.

Read also: Ford Focus ST: sharper, more focused fun

On the inside

Once again there’s no mistaking the fact that it’s a Focus, only now there are boost and related gauges sat on top of the dashboard. An RS badge here and there, together with a brushed aluminium gear knob round things off. Oh, and some tremendous Recaro bucket seats. So serious are the seats that they actually having proper racing seat brackets. These seats are a no-cost option – and one I’d definitely spec myself. Just be aware that they do make entering and exiting the car a slight challenge.

One thing I must make mention of is the sheer volume inside the Focus RS cabin. Given that this thing performs up there with some serious sports car machinery, which I’ll get to in a minute, you’d imagine that it’s not very practical, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s space for five in perfect comfort with plenty of rear leg room, followed by a very practical boot.

Behind the wheel

This is the important bit, of course. Under the hood lies Ford’s 2.3 litre turbocharged four pot, the same unit as you’d find in the new Mustang. In this format however it’s good for 257kW and 440Nm. That’s a lot – translating to a 0-100km/h sprint of 4.7 seconds.

A lot of that mighty 0-100 sprint time is down to the Focus RS’s all wheel drive system. It’s a fairly trick setup, calibrated alongside the car’s electronic stability control, in particular the brake-based torque vectoring control system that works in parallel with the torque-vectoring AWD.

The driver can select four different drive modes – with Normal or Sport settings for on-road driving, and Track or a special Drift Mode. Each mode has specific settings for the AWD system, damper controls, ESC, steering and engine responses, and the exhaust valve.

Talk of the town is of course Drift Mode, which is a specially developed calibration for the AWD system that modifies the torque distribution to help the driver achieve controlled oversteer drifts. The amount of G force one can generate in drift mode is simply manic, but best left for the race track and/or skid pan.

The best part for me is the balance the Focus RS displays through corners. Most AWD cars tend to understeer, whereas the RS displays a rear-wheel-drive-type mid corner dynamic. It pitches in well and feels like you’re driving it on the back wheels, in doing so rotating the rear, rather than being tugged from the front. I’ve never driven a front engine AWD car like it.

Speaking of leaving for the circuit, the sport suspension is literally rock hard. I used it for about 20 seconds on the public roads and had to turn it off for fear of permanent spinal injuries.

Pricing

At R700,000 you’d think this isn’t really a ‘working man’s’ fast Ford. However those levels of performance are such that this RS competes up there with far more expensive machinery. The addition of Ford’s clever AWD system is a big bonus too.

Verdict

Safe to say I really like the Focus RS. Aside from everything I’ve mentioned above, it doesn’t have an air about it that says ‘look at how much money I have’, something that plagues a lot of its competition. Instead you get that warm nod of appreciation from other car people, because they know what a brilliant bit of kit you’ve got. That’s gold in motoring circles.

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