Focus RS delivers performance

It looks the part. It may be based on the ubiquitous Ford Focus, but there is no mistaking the sporting aspirations of the RS.

Even in this sober blue the test car stood out. Goodness knows what the reaction to it would have been had it been in lime green!

As it was, on one of the very few occasions I parked the RS (I seemed to prefer driving it for some reason!), two young lads walked by. Oblivious to the fact that I was in earshot affixing the parking ticket to the car, they were debating in animated manner what colour “their” Focus RS would be! The one who wanted his RS in white seemed determined to win the argument.

This is not a car for shy, retiring types. I didn’t seem to attract hordes of boy racers trying to show me who was master (only one who was determined to get past to show me a clear pair of heels), but I know other testers who have had more unwelcome attention.

Ford Focus RS

The RS spec includes a purposeful front end with new skirts, air vents in the bonnet and that twin-bladed spoiler on the back. All this is not just for show. The new Focus RS is Ford’s fastest-ever European production car.

That performance comes from a turbocharged 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine that pumps out just over 300 bhp and 440Nm of torque. Mine were not the only eyebrows raised that the new Focus RS is not four-wheel-drive and that has fuelled some concerns about the ability of the front wheels to cope with all that power.

As fate would have it, the roads remained particularly wet and greasy throughout my time with the Focus RS, but I can tell you that (with the usual measure of common sense) it is indeed very controllable. You are certainly aware that the electronics are cutting in to moderate wheelspin and slip. Fight them and you will lose, work with them and the car will reward you.

As someone who has always preferred the handling of rear-wheel-drive or rear-biassed four wheel drive I was wondering if I would be disappointed with the RS. But this car simply increased my admiration for the suspension designing elite band of engineers. How they can produce a car that displays little of the feared power understeer, or torque steer, is just amazing.

Ford Focus RS

The technology achieving this includes a Quaife automatic torque biasing limited-slip differential, a crafty new design of front suspension which Ford have dubbed RevoKnuckle and a specially-developed ESP system with traction control. In addition, the RS has a wider track , upgraded drive-shafts, revised springs and dampers and retuned steering.

All that said, particularly in the greasy, slippery conditions, I would still much prefer four driven wheels to share the job of delivering the RS’s prodigious power output.

There is a glorious urgency about the RS performance. This is not a car you have coax to perform, you just let it do what it wants to do. There are huge reserves of performance on tap and seldom do you have to open the throttle more than half way to produce a seamless surge of power right through all six gears. Well, in reality, through three gears before you pop the RS into sixth when you reach cruising speed.

This makes the RS a great car for overtaking. A squeeze on the loud pedal whisks you past any slower vehicles and back to the safety of your own side of the road in a blink.

Acceleration 0-62 mph takes just 5.9 seconds, but it is that overtaking range performance that makes the RS so drivable The top speed is quoted at 163 mph.

I said “loud” pedal and, while the RS is not noisy, the soundtrack is everything you would expect from a performance car. The combination of performance, the right noise and a wonderfully balanced set of controls meant that the grin on my face was almost broader than the bonnet.

What is impressive is how well this car also does docile. You can putter along in busy traffic with none of the tantrums that you might expect from a caged sports hatch.

The only disappointment about the driving experience was my feeling that I would like to sit lower down in a performance car like this. The seats themselves are proper sports-style bucket seats that really hold you in place, without requiring the agility of a 10-year-old to get back out.

Other than that, the interior was an example of good design. I loved the nod at classic performance Fords with an array of three additional instruments (oil pressure, temperature and turbo) shyly recessed half hiding in the dashboard top.

Not surprisingly the ride is very firm and, dependent on the road surface, it can be a little jiggly. I think I am old enough that I would tire of this if this was my only car.

You don’t buy a car like the RS to worry unduly about fuel economy. The combined fuel consumption is quoted at 30.5 mpg. But in my real-time driving on a mixture of country roads and city streets, the trip computer gave me an average of just over 21 mpg. Carbon dioxide emissions are 225 g/km.

The price of the Ford Focus RS is £26,995. The test car had the £1500 luxury pack which added air condition, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, auto-dimming mirror, rear park distance sensor and camera, plus a touch-screen navigation system.
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