Seven steps to the Focus RS from Ford’s genre-defining race and rally cars for the road
19 July 2017

Ford Escort RS1600 (1970)

Ford in Germany takes credit for the very first RS models but the car to set the standard for everything Rallye Sport has come to stand for is the Escort RS1600. Inspired by the earlier Escort Twin Cam, the RS1600 fitted a more modern Cosworth-designed engine celebrated since by its ‘BDA’ designation. Dominant in rallying and on track, motorsport success for the RS1600 ensured demand for the road versions was intense, setting the scene for generations of RS product to follow, including the latest Focus RS.

Key innovation: Cosworth tuned twin-cam engine

Ford Escort RS2000 (1975)

The commercial and competition success of the Escort RS1600 inspired various evolutions of the hot Escort, including the Mexico, the RS1800 and the 2.0-litre RS2000. A simpler car than the RS1600, the RS2000 gained cult status with the arrival of the distinctive ‘droop snoot’ front grille and the powerful, torquey engine behind it. Both immediately set it apart from the rest of the Escort range, ensuring iconic status among ’70s fast car fans.   

Key innovation: Unique RS styling to set it apart from the rest of the range

Ford Escort RS Turbo (1984)

Turbocharging came to the range in the super-exotic Group B RS200 rally car, this technology making it to the mainstream line-up in the shape of the Escort RS Turbo. A pure ’80s classic, the RS Turbo combined turbocharged performance with ground breaking chassis technology to put the power to the road. With its bodykit, Recaro seats and unapologetically sporty looks the influence on the modern-day Focus RS is clear.

Key innovation: Turbocharging

Ford Sierra RS Cosworth (1985)Hot on the heels of the Escort RS Turbo came another stone-cold ’80s classic, the legendary ‘whaletail’ Sierra RS Cosworth. The wild looks and extreme on-road performance made it the definitive performance car of its era, a reputation matched with incredible performances in touring car racing from Europe to Australia. Coveted by enthusiasts and collectors to this day, the RS Cosworth’s dominance on road and track make it a true legend.

Key innovation: Track-inspired aerodynamics

Ford Escort RS Cosworth (1992)

Where the Sierra Cosworth dominated on the circuit the Escort RS Cosworth, which actually shared much of its mechanical underpinnings, is a pure rally car in the true Rallye Sport tradition.  Things have moved on since the ’70s though – turbocharging, four-wheel drive and wings were very much de rigueur and Ford had to build near-identical roadgoing versions to satisfy the rallying regulations of the time. And with four-wheel drive having already returned to the RS range, in the form of the Sierra Sapphire Cosworth, the technology further expands and develops into a defining feature of the new hot Focus...

Key innovation: Four-wheel drive

Ford Focus RS Mk2 (2009)

The first Focus RS of 2002 follows the pattern established by the Escort RS Turbo, further enhanced with a wishlist of motorsport derived components. For the second-generation Focus RS things got a lot more serious, with a much more potent look, a muscular and charismatic 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine and further ground-breaking technology like the ‘RevoKnuckle’ front suspension. This and the power of the engine gave the Focus RS breathtaking performance and earned it a passionate following among RS enthusiasts, characteristics carried through to the new Focus RS in fine style!

Key innovation: RevoKnuckle suspension

Ford Focus RS (2015)

Take all the power, performance, technology and heritage described in these scene-setting Ford specials, condense it into one package and what do you get? The Focus RS! It’s got the looks to set it apart from other Focus models, it’s got the unbelieveable performance advantage derived from years of turbocharged experience and can deliver that power in the most effective way possible thanks to rally-derived technology like the innovative Ford Performance All-Wheel-Drive system. The RS legend lives on in fine style!

Key innovation: Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with Drift Mode

Our Verdict

Ford Focus RS

Is Ford’s new AWD mega-hatch Focus RS as special as we first thought? And can it beat off stiff competition from the Volkswagen Golf R and Mercedes-AMG A45?

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