The chassis has been stiffened by approximately 30 per cent and there are bigger driveshafts, a much wider track, lower ride height and a faster steering rack.
What's it like?
In the raw the RS looks like a proper thug-mobile. From its gaping grille to its 19in wheels and tyres and enormous wing, the RS leaves you in no doubt about its intentions.
The big question, of course, is whether Ford really has managed to develop a front suspension system that enables the RS to deploy its 301bhp and 324lb ft without feeling like an unguided Exocet missile. And we’re glad to report that the answer is a resounding, faintly befuddled “you bet”.
What happens when you select second gear and give it full beans in the RS frankly feels like some form of miracle, because even on a rough or wet surface the car takes off without drama, feeling for all the world as if it is four, not two-wheel drive. Considering how much raw thrust there is – Ford claims 0-60mph in 5.9sec, 0-100mph in 14sec dead and a top speed of 163mph – it’s quite weird to begin with. You even wonder whether they’re fibbing about how many wheels are being driven.
In the event this is just one of many tricks which the extraordinary new Focus RS has up its sleeve. What we are talking about is a car that really does shred the rule book on front-wheel-drive dynamics, but one that’s also civilised and well mannered enough to live with every day.
And when you do go for it, do not expect to be disappointed. Even with as little as 1800rpm showing it goes, and goes hard, in all of the first five gears. In sixth you need to wait until just over 2000rpm before the whirlwind of torque begins to blow you, and then throw you, towards the horizon.
If anything the Focus RS feels faster than the raw numbers suggest, partly because of the huge wallop of torque so low down, but also because of the noise. It really is a key part in the transformation from relatively humble ST to altogether more meaningful RS. The same can’t quite be said about the gearchange, unfortunately, which is shorter and sharper than the ST’s but not short or sharp enough to do the rest of the drivetrain justice.
On the other hand, the chassis more than makes up for this most minor of issues. With the previous RS Ford may have dropped a whoopsy on the finance front, but it also made one of the sharpest handling front-wheel-drive cars there has ever been. It has gone at least one, if not two steps better this time round.
The way the RS puts its grunt down is truly incredible, but beyond that it’s also a lovely car to hussle along a good road. The steering is just delicious in the way it telegraphs so clearly what’s happening beneath the fat Continental front tyres. Yet it’s what happens at the other end of the car that provides you with the biggest confidence booster. The way in which the car neither under nor oversteers, but just hangs on is, well, breathtaking.
Should I buy one?
In a word, yes. Remortgage the house, rob a bank, sell yourself, sell your own grandmother, just do whatever it takes to put an RS on your drive. Because it really is one of those cars.