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Second-generation Ford Focus RS shreds the front-drive rule book

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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What is it?

It’s hard to know where to start when describing the all-new 163mph, 301bhp Ford Focus RS. In simple terms this is the second generation of a car which cost Ford an awful lot of money at the beginning of this century, but that also did lots to restore the public’s faith in the RS brand.

What’s more, the new Ford Focus RS will turn a profit for the Blue Oval this time round – assuming Ford can find homes for the 8000 examples it intends to build over the next two years. How so? Because at last Ford has worked out a way of making the Focus RS on a regular Focus production line, a rather more economically sound method of production compared with the “I’ll build this bit, you build that bit, and maybe we’ll get someone else to fit that part before we paint it” construction technique of first-generation model.

The most controversial aspect of the car is its drivetrain, which remains front, not four-wheel drive. Ford’s engineers have developed and patented a system called the RevoKnuckle which, they claim, eradicates torque steer by keeping the kingpin offset angle very consistent, even under heavy load. And when you have 301bhp and a whopping 324lb ft on tap courtesy of a heavily modified version of the 2.5-litre turbo motor found in the Focus ST, this is crucial.

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.

Join the debate

Comments
118

22 February 2009

[quote Autocar]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”. [/quote] Hmm, ye cannae defeat the laws of physics, BMWs are the dog's knackers, blah blah blah etc.

22 February 2009

WOW well done Ford, always been a fan of fast Fords, I think they will have people queueing up round the showrooms if its as good as it sounds and may have to make more than 8000.

22 February 2009

Yup, Times Online have also confirmed it - this car is the complete dog's bollocks. At a stroke VWs, Subarus, BMers are left panting and for dead.

That blue oval has never been so deadly.

22 February 2009

[quote manicm]That blue oval has never been so deadly.[/quote] This may be true, but the blue oval doesn't have the class of some of its dynamically inferior competitors.

22 February 2009

[quote Dan McNeil]but the blue oval doesn't have the class of some of its dynamically inferior competitors[/quote]

This will change in good time, in my country Fords have never been as popular as now - I cannot believe the number of new Fiestas I'm seeing on the road and they're fairly expensive as well.

And I believe the next Focus is gonna blow the joke Mk6 Golf out of the water. For what it is the Mk6 pricing is downright arrogant of VW - there's only so far you can stretch 'class'.

22 February 2009

just a minor detail here, whats the top speed? its quoted as 163 at first then 155 in the first drive data.

22 February 2009

It's top speed is 163mph with no governor and when limited it is 155mph, just like most cars in Europe.

This is just another reason Ford will be OK without bailout money. They are making all the right moves. This car is a good move because it is small, powerful, fast, drives well and will raise the grade of the Focus (and Ford) brand in the public's eye. Not to mention it is a GREAT looking car. Well done Ford, well done.

22 February 2009

I wish Ford would sell this car in the US, but they have so cheapened our Focus, that no one would pay $30,000.00 for a souped up one. Ford makes good cars in Europe and still misreads the American market, the Fiesta we will get will only come with an automatic transmission, so it will be marketed to women only, I won't buy a 4 cylinder car with an automatic so the next car will be the new Mazda 3 with a 6 speed. I wish Ford would license the RevoKnuckle to the Mazda Speed 3 since we won't get the Focus RS, but Ford sold most of their stake in mazda and probably will not license the patent.

22 February 2009

Well done Ford.....the new Fords recent launched and the next generation will ask big questions of BMW and VW......for BMW will start and struggle and so will VW; I am not 100% convinced, but I think Seat may well be dropped (I will make my mind up in a couple of months).

Anyway it is great to see Ford coming with the right cars and right strategy at the right time.......its split mint perfect timings right across the board......BMW and VW are in a hole......the next two years for both BMW and VW are going to be proper serious....they have some massive questions to answer......BMW are starting to look seriously dodgy

But well done Ford!!.....its being said quite a lot these days!!

22 February 2009

White doesn't do it any favours in my eyes - I look forward to seeing it in the metal, in green or blue.

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