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Driven: Ford Focus RS

2010-08-30 07:42
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer FORD
Model Focus RS
Engine 2.5l 20V DOHC RS
Power 224 kW @ 6 500 r/min
Torque 440 Nm from 2 300 - 4 500 r/min
Transmission six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 5.9 seconds
Top Speed 263 km/h
Fuel Tank 62 l
Fuel Consumption 9.4 l/100 km
Steering Rack and pinion electro-hydraulic power steering
ABS with EBD, EBA, ESP, traction assist
Airbags front and side airbags
Tyres 235/35 ZR19 with tyre repair kit
Front Suspension Front Suspension - Independent MacPherson Struts with offset coil spring over gas filled damper units and lower L-arms. Anti-roll bar (24mm). Ford Re
Rear Suspension Rear Suspension - Independent Short-long Arms (SLA) Control Blade multi-link system mounted on reinforced sub-frame, gas-filled damper and anti-roll b
Service Intervals 15 000 km
Service Plan 5 year/90 000km
Warranty 4 year/120 000km
Price R479 000 - all sold out

Hailey Philander

Sixty Ford Focus RS units are being brought to South Africa. Every one has been sold, sight unseen. What’s so special, you ask? We drive the crazy 224kW front-wheel drive hatchback to find out.

The newest, most bad-ass, version of the humble Focus hatchback is quite something, I think, as we go hurtling along the back straight at Zwartkops race circuit and up the rump into a tight 180-degree right-hander. Hmm, I grin, flooring it in third before chucking the short-shift six-speed into fourth. Very nice indeed!

The swan song to the Ford Focus range has been on sale in Europe for around a year already so is making its way to South Africa just as the all-new Focus is being prepared for its Paris auto show debut. The new Focus, by the way, is pencilled for South African introduction in the second half of 2011.

However, for those who've been patiently waiting for what was referred to by Ford SA marketing manager Ben Pillay as “the ultimate performance car”, the wait is over. Focus RS is here.

Jost Capito and Co.

Under the guidance of Jost Capito, Mister RS and Ford’s director of global performance vehicles, the Focus RS – and 22nd iteration of the RS – was developed by the company’s European performance arm. And, as far as hot hatches go, this one is the business: figures of 224kW and 440Nm from a turbocharged, five-cylinder Duratec engine, 5.9sec for the 0-100km/h sprint, 263km/h top end. Magic.

Although based largely on the already hot Focus ST, the RS was developed to be uncompromisingly sporty and perfectly at home on the race track. Or, as Capito said via his video message delivered on the day: “The ST is like a dolphin, RS is like a shark." It has to be noted, though, that I’ve never seen a shark look quite as gaudy as the Ultimate Green colour, one of three giving the RS its distinctive looks.

And look different it does, although the blacked-out external mirrors, enormous air dam and in-your-face rear spoiler are probably most notable on Frozen White examples. That’s if the beefier stance, bigger bumpers and prominent RS badging on the grille and fenders don’t give it away first…

Of course all these go-faster embellishments and aerodynamic achievements are also another way to announce the RS team’s accomplishments. Despite this car’s ST base, the RS was designed to be durable enough to meet the higher performance demands of a discerning buyer likely to drive the wheels off it, given a chance.

This means the 2.5-litre Duratec engine familiar on Ford products has been dramatically rejigged for its application in the RS: revised pistons, bespoke camshafts, better cooling via a new intake system, a larger turbo boosting at 1.4 bar and, because it’s pointless driving a car that looks like shark but sounds like a trout, a sportier exhaust note.

In the RS, the changes to the turbocharged five translate into power that is delivered in a deliciously linear fashion and is seemingly instantly available whenever a gear is summoned via the new short-throw six-speed transmission, eliciting yet another roar while rushing towards the 7 000 r/min red line.

Innovation central

The RS’s body also sees a host of new additions to allow for the increased forces working upon it. Available as a three-door model only, the track is wider by 40 mm to make the hatchback sturdier. Also, how’s this: Ford wanted this RS to be all-wheel driven to benefit from the inherent grip and traction, but when engineers found the heavier system didn’t quite meet their expectations in other areas, they took another look at the existing front wheel drive system.

Yes, the Focus RS channels all 224 of its kilowatts over its front wheels. Ford set out to redefine the application of front wheel drive for performance cars and engineers intimately involved in the carmaker’s WRC team were responsible for the suspension, particularly at the front axle. RevoKnuckle is the result. Where regular suspension uses a one-piece knuckle design, the two-piece RevoKnuckle (while based on the standard McPherson system) has one part fixed to the strut and another rotates with the car’s steering.

Working via the RevoKnuckle system that keeps the camber constant when the front wheels are acting under duress, a limited slip differential drives torque to the wheels with the most grip. Torque steer is severely limited and steering is tight, utterly responsive and remarkably accurate for point and shoot antics.

Because they are important, massive 336 mm vented discs up front and 302 mm brakes at the rear are displayed behind the simple 19-inch alloy wheels. Brakes are linked to ABS and ESP systems tuned specifically for performance.

The RS is especially easy to drive as well and completely forgivable – well, on a track at least. We were, unfortunately unable to take the cars onto the public roads where they are likely to spend most of their time. However, the light clutch action experience should make daily trips in traffic slightly bearable and this car exhibited none of the twitchiness that may be expected from a car of this nature. It is possibly to drive it in a calm and quiet fashion, although after experiencing its liveliness, it’s unlikely you’d want to do that too often.

However, should you be planning to spend a lot of time in your car, the Recaros come with the requisite bolstering and are not so tight as to cut off circulation to your extremities while three gauges perched atop the dash indicate boost pressure and coolant temperatures. There’s just a right amount of carbon fibre and metallic splashes across the interior to avoid it looking tacky and the start button on the centre console is a neat touch. Along with the green and white mentioned earlier, Performance Blue, a shade familiar to ST fans, completes the RS’s signature palette.

The Ford Focus RS is an apt send off to the current Focus range, and considering it’s the first RS to be sold in South Africa in four decades, is bound to attract more than its fair share of attention. It’s warranted, though. This car is lower by 20 mm to the ST, super-slick, composed and great fun without (and perhaps sadly, to some) not intimidating its driver and striking the fear of deities into its passengers. And it’s designed to have the pistons driven out of it every day. How cool is that?

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