See hidden discussions | Win great prizes | Get free support
Ford spent a lot of time building hype before it launched the Focus RS, not that it really needed to. The promise of a new RS is always enough to get the motoring press all giddy with excitement, let alone one with drift mode and a rabid turbocharged engine. Surely no car could actually live up to that much hype – could it? After a week behind the wheel, we finally have the answer.
Before we get into the Focus RS, it's worth taking a quick walk down memory lane. The two letters "RS" don't mean much in most cases, but painting them bright blue and putting them on the back of a small Ford is a surefire way to get any petrol head fired up. Fans of the old days of rallying – think Group B – will remember the RS200 Evolution, and car thieves from the mid-1980s will look fondly back on the Sierra RS500 Cosworth. Sure, the rear wing was stupid and the mechanicals didn't initially stand up to the rigors of touring car racing, but it still has a cult following.
The last Focus RS was a five-cylinder monster, putting power to the front wheels through a fiendishly complex RevoKnuckle suspension system. The Mk1 Focus RS blew its rivals away with a (then) whopping 212 hp (158 kW) from its turbocharged four-cylinder, too. The latest car comes from a line of legendary hot hatches. Maintaining pedigree like that is a seriously tough job, but the Ford reckons the latest, hottest Focus is up to the task.
On paper, the latest Focus RS has all the right moves to meet lofty expectations. Ford has raided the Mustang parts bin and slotted the turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder into the smaller, lighter Focus engine bay. But where the entry-level pony car gets just 310 hp (233 kW) and 432 Nm, it pumps out a much healthier 350 hp (261 kW) of power and 475 Nm of torque here. Boost jumps from 18 psi to 23.1 psi, and the Mustang turbo has been swapped for a low-inertia, twin-scroll unit with a bigger compressor wheel.
To make sure it can deal with the extra power, the engine gets a bigger intercooler and low-restriction intake manifold. Ford has also fitted cylinder liners of high-tensile cast iron and an uprated head gasket as well, just in case. Plenty of owners will want to track the RS, and those who stick purely to the road aren't likely to be gentle – so the engine internals are toughened accordingly. You also get a bit more noise in the Focus, along with an armada of pops and cracks when you lift off the gas in Sport Mode. Much of the noise isn't really, well, real – Ford augments the engine note through the speakers – but fake noise is better than no noise.
Forget about the engine for a second, though, because this is one of those cars defined by the way it handles. Power is put to the road through a GKN four-wheel drive system with borderline supernatural capabilities. It can send up to 70 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, and then 100 percent of that torque to an individual wheel. That's proper torque vectoring, tuned to cut down on understeer.