I've been waiting to drive the Ford Focus RS for some time.
As is the case with a number of press vehicles, the demand for this vehicle has been high. Everyone who reviews and writes about cars wants to drive the newest entry in the Ford Performance lineup, including yours truly.
Those who have been following TWPC may recall I was originally supposed to drive Focus RS back in late August, but had to reschedule for this week because the car was double-booked. Not a huge problem, as these things sometimes happen, but man I was excited when my turn finally came this week.
I was stoked.
And as it turns out, I had good reason to be excited- the Focus RS is a marvellous vehicle.
As I alluded to on Monday, the Focus RS is all about performance. I often say a car performs well despite not being a track car (or track beast, more accurately), but this is one car that really IS designed for track use, yet can also ably perform as a daily driver.
While I have yet to experience its track prowess, I can attest to how it performs as a daily driver, a role for which it is surprisingly well suited.
More on that later, but first a bit on the performance credentials.
Powering the Focus RS is a 2.3-litre EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine that produces 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft. of torque, mated to six-speed manual transmission that drives all four wheels.
The all-wheel drive system comes with Dynamic Torque Vectoring (basically a fancy name for sending torque to different wheels in order to improve traction), and can be dialled to deliver up to 70 percent torque to the real wheels. Further, 100 percent of that 70 percent can be sent to either rear wheel depending on the driving situation in order to improve the car's rotation through cornering and overall handling ability.
Have I mentioned how much I want to track this car yet?
The chassis features an independent front and rear suspension with adjustable damping via a drive mode button on the centre console that can switch the RS settings between normal, sport, track and drift.
Yes, this car has a drift mode which gives it the ability to perform four-wheel drifts through cornering, while limiting understeer and achieving lateral acceleration of up to 1.0 g. As I said, the Focus RS is designed to be a track car first and these credentials are proof positive.
In the looks department, Ford has managed to make the Focus RS look distinctive from its performance-oriented ST sibling with rally-inspired styling touches including an inverted trapezoidal grille with a large lower air intake, front splitter, rear diffuser with large twin exhaust outlets and a hatch-mounted spoiler with RS stamped on either side. Even the Brembo brake calipers are colour-matched!
It's available in four colours, including Nitrous Blue (a $995 option) shown on our test car, a shade which has a way of acting as a beacon for every enthusiast car owner in a five-kilometre radius.
Inside, the RS is reminiscent of the ST when it comes to the details. The badging, exposed stitching (steering wheel, gear shift knob and emergency brake handle), firmly-bolstered, Alcantara-covered Recaro sport seats and performance gauge cluster borrows heavily from the ST, yet seems to suit the performance character of the RS perfectly.
Ford has taken pains to make the RS a well-stocked, value-laden proposition despite its hefty price tag and it seems to me they have succeeded.
There is a ton of power in reserve with the Focus RS, a reality that became clear on my daily commute to the office. What's nice about having all that extra power, however, is that it's easy to manage.
The car is a blast to drive hard, but is also quite content to bump along at posted speed limits, with driving dynamics that make it feel like a garden variety Focus. The exhaust emits a pleasing bass rumble under acceleration, but cabin noise is otherwise well-suppressed and the ride isn't too harsh, particularly in normal mode. I could drive this car every day, in all seasons without growing tired of its knife-edged performance character. I can't honestly say that about many performance cars, most of which are best enjoyed in small doses.
Also of note, Ford of Canada has elected to offer the Focus RS one way, which has made it more costly than the tiered, check-box option strategy being employed in the U.S., but considering the content on offer for the price (which includes a set of mounted and balanced Michelin winter tires) the decision is defensible when our long, cold winters are taken into account.
In sum, the Focus RS is a pricey small car, but it's a delight to drive at any speed, comes loaded with equipment including Ford's slick SYNC 3 infotainment system, heated seats, steering wheel and mirrors, and is handsomely styled to boot.
Next week: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG
SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Ford Focus RS
BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $47,969 / $50,664 (incl. $1,600 destination)
ENGINE: 2.3L Ti-VCT EcoBoost 4-cylinder
HORSEPOWER: 350 hp @ 6,000 rpm
TORQUE: 350 lb-ft. @ 3,200 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 1,599 kg
CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 12.1 / 9.3 / 10.8
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000
ALTERNATIVES: Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG, Subaru WRX STI, Volkswagen Golf R
Photography by Lee Bailie