We get behind the wheel of the much anticipated and truly fabulous 2016 Ford Focus RS writes Aimee Woods
What is it? The legendary RS brand has returned with a cracker in the form of the highly anticipated third-generation Ford Focus RS, a high performance hatchback. It is the first RS model to be distributed to markets around the world. It’s defining features include All Wheel Drive (AWD), Dynamic Torque Vectoring, Launch Control and four different driving modes capable of transforming the driver’s experience. Its 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine is the fastest in RS history boasting 345bhp and capable of 100kmh in just 4.7 seconds along with a top speed of 266km/h (which it has no problem reaching).
First Impressions of the Focus RS? It is difficult to take your eyes away from the stunning metallic powder blue RS with outstanding 19inch alloys and stylish body kit, which is more than worthy of sporting the RS badge. The front of the car is defined by the stark black grille and splitter guaranteed to entice any petrol head into the nearest rally stage available. The rear of the car features a rather dominating diffuser, twin exhausts and a rear roof spoiler, all of which are designed to enhance the aerodynamics and cooling functions while adding to the dramatic exterior.
What about the overall look? Function meets fashion without compromising the typical Ford Focus style. Too flashy? It remains a 5 door car and it’s available in the milder mannered gun metal colour which will turn less heads, until you hit the throttle.
And inside? It’s unlikely that any interior would discourage the buyer away from the RS but thankfully, there’s not much need for concern. The Recaro sport seats are as comfortable as they are contemporary and the entire interior is decorated with the trendy blue RS trim. Both spacious and sporty. The flat-bottom leather steering wheel and metal pedals also add a sense of occasion to the RS without compromising on the practicality.
And behind the wheel? The RS deserves every ounce of praise that it has received, behind the wheel is where one really starts to fall hard for the hot hatchback. The thought of four different driving modes in one road car has a lot to live up to. Undoubtedly, I approached with some scepticism with my own track and rallying experience – surely this can’t have it all. It features Normal, Sport, Drift and Track. We had the opportunity to try it for ourselves using each of the above modes in their intended environments.
Focus RS on the open road? With its 5 doors and spacious interior, it is a logical car for everyday driving, perhaps dare I say family life. Normal mode makes for a gentle drive, less exhaust noise and softer suspension. The unique modes affect the 6 primary controls – All Wheel Drive, steering, dampers, engine (throttle output), ESC and exhaust. It is a struggle to accept the term “normal” as appropriate for this mode as it is still an RS with almost 350bhp. When we brought the RS on to the steep mountainous landscape of Valencia, we selected “Sport Mode”. With miles of countryside ahead we were in a prime position to open up and feel the torque and power on offer. Sport mode increases the throttle response and exhaust noise (the engine popping is not superficial), stiffens the steering wheel (for more confidence at higher speeds) and All Wheel Drive is tuned for maximum traction. There is a noticeable shift in these responses and the driver really feels secure to make full use of the 2.3 EcoBoost engine. The car welcomes acceleration both in and out of the corners with the new technology developed by Ford virtually eliminating any sign of understeer.
Focus RS on the Track? On track, the RS discredits almost every cynic within just one corner. Before selecting the appropriate mode, the RS features “driver assist” which enables the driver to use handy functions such as “Hill Start Assist” and “City Stop”. On track, the driver can use “launch control”. Anyone can look and feel exactly like a racing driver with this function as the car takes off like a speeding bullet with little effort required. Once “Track Mode” is selected the traction control is eased, the ESC allows faster/harder driving without interruption and the stiffer damper setting. The exceptional power of the RS is distributed between the four wheels (All Wheel Drive technology) to ensure that even with reduced traction control the car is easily managed, very responsive and encourages even higher speeds. The RS is happy to plunge into tight corners at high speeds with the incredible responsiveness from the steering and no sign of the understeer expected from a normal front wheel drive Ford Focus. It almosts behaves like a rear wheel drive with maximum grip and traction. The brakes are exceptional and it’s difficult to compare them to any road car. I have become very well adept at throwing cars off the track at high speeds but this one proved a challenge. A stunning performance from the Focus RS and it is easy to forget that this car can be driven home, no trailors necessary.
Both impressive and fun the “Drift Mode” brings out the inner child in everyone. The boring bit – in this mode the dampers are softened, All Wheel Drive technology reduces the traction for power sliding, increased power to the rear wheels and where possible sends the torque to the outside. It also locks the rear axle when in a perfect slide to assist the driver. The steering becomes lighter to ensure that even the most inexperienced driver can drift with ease whether wet or dry. It is impossible not to grin throughout the entire experience.
These modes are certainly not just a gimmick or toy to enhance the steering wheel display, they have an authentic effect upon the performance, comfort and the handling of the car. This RS has managed to combine the passions of petrol heads with everyday practicality into one mighty machine. It is hard to make comparisons between the Ford Focus RS and any other similar model on the road. It’s suspected competitors will include the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R which are less expensive but not as much fun. The technology and performance on offer are stunning and at a budget price if compared to any supercar.
How Much? It will arrive in the UK in April 2016 and will be offered in one series. The AWD Focus RS 5 door, 2.3 litre EcoBoost petrol with a 6-speed transmission has a price tag starting at £29,995. ( CO2: 175g/km and Economy: 7.71/100kms)
Any Options? Standard equipment includes 19in multi-spoke alloy wheels, 350mm ventilated front disc brakes, RS rear spoiler, twin-pipe high-performance exhaust, Bi-Xenon headlamps, Recaro front seats, dual-zone electronic temperature control, heated windscreen and washer jets and Thatcham Category 1 alarm. There is an optional Luxury Pack that adds power-fold door mirrors, rear parking sensors, Ford KeyFree System, cruise control and privacy glass and also you can opt for Ford SYNC2 navigation and premium sound system.
3 Words to describe the Focus RS: Innovative; Impressive; Entertaining
Watch the video of Aimee testing the car at the track session in Valencia
9th February 2016