From £31,385
One of the fastest, most capable front-drive cars ever produced

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?

A last hurrah for the Ford Focus RS. Production ends this September – by which time 8000 will have been made, half of which will have been sold in the UK.

Some 500 of the last batch will be these – RS500 models, toting 345bhp instead of the regular 300, and 339lb ft instead of 325.

The increase is allowed by a new, larger capacity fuel pump, and a new downpipe on the exhaust. There’s new engine mapping too of course, but it isn’t a case of turning up the boost pressure. The RS already runs a bigger turbo than the ST and isn’t worked overly hard to deliver its 300bhp. Freeing up the fuelling and exhaust is enough to liberate the power and drop the 0-62mph time from 5.9 to 5.6sec.

The chassis remains unchanged, as do the brakes (albeit with red calipers) and there are minor interior detail changes – red stitching and a plaque on the dash. You might notice the matt black finish too – it’s a film applied by 3M over standard gloss black paint.

What’s it like?

Pretty flipping fast, unsurprisingly. But unlike, say, the Mitsubishi Evo FQ400, the RS500 hasn’t become perpetually manic. The engine mapping means that it retains the regular car’s low-speed character and civility.

When the RS500 does blow, though, by crikey it blows hard. You feel it most through the mid-range. There’s no discernable increase in the time it takes to spool up; the RS500 gets going like the regular RS, but gets going harder, and faster, for longer.

The regular RS already has astonishing ground-covering pace. The RS500 usefully shortens the time it takes to fling itself from one bend to the next.

Because torque has only been increased by four per cent, torque steer is prevalent only as it was before. Which means it’s there, but is manageable. The steering’s terrifically precise and accurate otherwise too.

On fresh tyres the RS500 is, just like the RS, wonderfully exploitable. It grips hard at the front to the extent that it’ll lift a rear wheel if you’re steady on the throttle. Alternatively, in faster corners, the rear can be coaxed into helping adjust the cornering line if you trail the brakes towards a corner with the ESP switched out.

From experience of Autocar’s former long-term RS, I know that on worn tyres the dynamics become more dominated by the available grip at the front as the rubber gradually loses its resistance to power. But if the RS is on new tyres, the Renaultsport Clio is the only other current production hot hatch that has the same level of exploitability and adjustability. And no other hatch shoves like an RS500.

Should I buy one?

Spot of bad news on that front. The RS500 sold out pretty much as soon as it was announced, even at £35,750, which sounds like quite a lot given the limited extent of the mechanical changes.

Still, there’s no shortage of demand – as I write speculators have put them up for auction at over £40,000. One thing’s for sure: at any price, the RS500 is one of the fastest, most capable front-drive cars ever produced.

Join the debate

Comments
47

15 May 2010

So what does the mount tune conversion cost?, is it a different beast all together? and which is better?, and regards the tyre issue, because there will be a tyre issue,how long do the tyre's last with care? and if they're spared no mercy?, because i'm sure we'd all like to know before we purchase one second hand in the future!, oh, and how much they'll likely cost?.

Peter Cavellini.

15 May 2010

The Mountune upgrade (which is what the RS500 has had applied to it) starts to sound very tempting for existing RS owners.

15 May 2010

I do like this, pure evil, I would just drive it around at night scaring people. Contrary to what a lot say the RS is not too chavtastic on the roads I see a few about and they don't stick out too much.

In my experience a good hot hatch will do a set of fronts in 6 months no trouble at all.

15 May 2010

This is mechanically identical to a Focus RS + Mountune pack (I think they'd like us to call it an MP350).

Tyre: mine are half worn after about 4,000 miles, which is no worse than my Clio Trophy's.

By the way, the review seems to offer two "prices as driven".

15 May 2010

Maybe it was meant to be £37,000 lol!

Peter Cavellini.

15 May 2010

[quote FriendlyFisherman] Contrary to what a lot say the RS is not too chavtastic on the roads I see a few about and they don't stick out too much. [/quote]

I saw a brand new RS in the vivid metallic green the other day, and I thought it looked pretty impressive, certainly no more 'chavtastic' than the bright orange S3's I see around. This RS500 will look lovely when they put the top coat on..

:o)

15 May 2010

[quote catnip]This RS500 will look lovely when they put the top coat on..[/quote] Lol My thoughts exactly. I spent a couple of hours this afternoon cleaning and polishing my Focus and it looks lovely. The RS 500 looks great at first, but it wouldn't take long for the finish to really irritate me.

mfe

16 May 2010

For me it's alot of extra money for a little more power and a nasty paint job ! Even the Mountune conversion looks expensive ! If it was my money I would go for a GGR 370 conversion or the SSC 385 conversion and buy some extra warranty :-)

16 May 2010

[quote Peter Cavellini]So what does the mount tune conversion cost?, is it a different beast all together? and which is better?, and regards the tyre issue, because there will be a tyre issue,how long do the tyre's last with care? and if they're spared no mercy?, because i'm sure we'd all like to know before we purchase one second hand in the future!, oh, and how much they'll likely cost?.[/quote] You don't put any punctuation marks after a question mark or exclamation . A capital letter follows a question mark or exclamation mark.

16 May 2010

well 36k for a ford focus with a beefed up volvo engine? this makes the 38k mugen civic type r look like a bargain! I know it's just my opininon but it looks hideous!

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