Any car enthusiast has at least heard of the capabilities of the Ford Focus RS. 345 bhp, 440 Nm of torque and 0 – 100 km/hour in just 4.7 seconds from a 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine and a manual 6-speed transmission with AWD – All-Wheel Drive with dynamic torque vectoring. It’s not what you would describe as subtle. Now in its third generation, the all new Focus RS is better than ever and I would go as far as saying that having had the opportunity to spend some quality time with it I would regard it as one of the best hot hatches currently on the market. I don’t say this lightly considering several other models currently available would give it a good run for its money. I say it in the sense that as far as hot hatches go, the Focus RS appears to have it all.
It’s easy when you sit into a car for the first time to get caught up in all the glamour and noise and drive off the forecourt with a big smile on your face. The only way to really get to know a car though is to spend some time driving it. This goes for every car and not just this car. The benefit of being a motoring journalist is that we get to do that every single week and when that week entails driving something like the Ford Focus RS you end the week being very reluctant to hand the keys back.
We are quite thankful that the people at Ford have let the performance department loose on the new Focus RS. At first glance the new Focus RS has a striking sporty appearance. The body kit has a more muscular appearance than that of the Focus ST. Up front the air intakes have been increased in size with the front bumper finished with vast amounts of mesh. The rear spoiler might look oversized and unnecessary but it most definitely serves its purpose, which I will go into later. Meanwhile the Nitrous Blue paint catches the eye, not that the Focus RS needs to scream for attention.
Before you even sit into the RS you will notice the attention to detail which has been extended to this hot hatch. Whilst it is an optional extra, it is one that you should really splash out on. As you open the door you will notice the door protectors which prevent you from scraping your own paint work or somebody else’s for the matter as you manoeuvre the narrower parking spaces. You won’t even notice these working as you get in and out but they may just save you a few euro someday. Inside, Ford have made a few changes to the interior. Whilst the standard RS comes with RS branded Recaro front seats with leather side bolsters my test model was fitted with the optional RS Recaro full leather shell seats. Put simply these seats are top class. Whilst they will cost you an additional €2000 they are well worth it.
The RS also gets a new well-proportioned flat bottomed sports steering wheel along with alloy pedals. Positioned along the top of the dash towards the centre sits a bank of three additional gauges displaying oil temperature, oil pressure and boost pressure. The RS is also fitted with an 8inch touchscreen infotainment system which includes Ford’s SYNC2 technology. Another option which my test model was fitted with included SONY Navigation package which including the addition of Sat Nav adds a 10 speaker SONY sound system along with a subwoofer and rear view camera.
Two other features which you won’t be finding on your standard Focus are the inclusion of the dual mode damper controls and the drive mode selection. We’ll discuss these in a bit more detail shortly.
Interior space within the Focus RS is as you would expect from the iconic Focus with typical five door practicality. With the previously mentioned Recaro seats up front the rear is comprised of “Sculptured” 3 rear seats – 60/40 split back. Even with the inclusion of the rear differential and drivetrain underneath, space does not appear to be effected.
So now, down to the business end of the Ford Focus RS. Powered by a 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine and a manual 6-speed transmission with AWD which has an output of 345 bhp, 440 Nm of torque and 0 – 100 km/hour in just 4.7 seconds. The 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine is the same as that which features in the Ford Mustang which was launched in Ireland last year. This engine hasn’t merely been dropped straight in from the Mustang though. It has been redeveloped to produce the outputs above.
The Focus RS comes with 4 pre-set drive modes: Normal, Sport, Track or Drift. In normal everyday driving experiences, Normal and Sport modes are what should be selected. Track and Drift mode are meant to be reserved for the safe surrounds of a closed circuit. Normal mode ensures that all safety and comfort settings are set to suit everyday driving. Steering is light and manageable and the exhaust tone is muted slightly. Select Sport mode and the RS becomes more alive and enjoyable. Whilst the stability control and suspension setup remain the same as Normal mode, the exhaust note becomes sportier as does the engine sound while the steering becomes more weighted and responsive and the all-wheel drive setup becomes more engaged. Sport mode will most likely be the most commonly selected mode as it allows you begin to enjoy the RS as it was designed to be enjoyed.
There is a reason why Drift and Track modes are reserved for track use only. This is where the mix of engineering and technology come in to play. Select Drift mode and you can experience the joy of drifting a family hatchback in the confidence that the car will behave as you tell it to behave. Once engaged the Focus RS AWD system sends a large percentage of the available torque to the outermost rear wheel to induce a slide. This is where the smiles begin to get bigger and bigger as the drift continues! This is where the technology within the rear differential kicks in to maintain the slide as you continue to keep the throttle down and the RS pointing in the right direction. Strangely, when in Drift mode the RS returns the steering and suspension back to normal mode.
In Track mode, the RS switches all settings to sport and allows the Focus to unleash everything in the tank. Launch Control which is also standard on the Focus RS can also be utilised in Track or Drift mode.
Enough about the craziness of the RS in Drift and Track mode. Where it will spend most its time is Sport mode. Push the Focus RS along in Sport mode and you will get that pop of the exhaust burble as you change gear. Given the presence of AWD, cornering is never an issue and weight and feedback from the steering is second to none. As you sit inside being hugged by the Recaro seats you are left in no doubt that the Focus RS presents itself as being perfectly capable of anything that is thrown at it. Power delivery from the 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine won’t stick you to the back of the seat in normal daily situations but the it is the pairing of this engine with the 6-speed manual transmission which makes the Focus RS so engaging to drive. Located at the end of the indicator stalk you will find the suspension adjustment which allows you to switch between normal and stiff settings. Unless you are throwing the Focus RS around a track every day I would suggest keeping it in normal mode as the stiffer suspension on Irish roads will result in shaking the fillings out of your mouth!
What is unique about the Ford Focus RS is that it offers so much from within one package.
Engine Size 2.3 EcoBoost
Fuel Type Petrol
Acceleration (0 – 100 km/h) 4.7 seconds
Top Speed 266 km/h
CO2 emissions 175g/km
Road Tax €750
Base Price €52, 875
Price as per model tested €57, 125.