UNASHAMEDLY BONKERS: The Ford Focus RS requires nothing but your full attention, as Wheels24's Charlen Raymond finds out. Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
Cape Town - Few hatchbacks evoke as much hype as the Ford Focus RS. From the way it looks to the way it drives, it stirs the senses deep within the soul. But it stirs the wallet even more!
But enough about my ailing bank balance. The Focus RS is like the emoticons you find on WhatsApp. There’s the grinning face for each time the exhaust burbles on overdrive, the sunglass-wearing face for when you’re attracting eyes in traffic, the purple devil when you activate Drift mode, and so the list can go on, and on.
But there’s more to this muscled-up Focus than a couple of avatars that became the norm for expressing feelings. This could possibly be one of Ford’s best RS-product by some margin.
And why wouldn’t it be? With 257kW/440Nm from its 2.3-litre engine and coupled to an all-wheel drive setup, this car is sure to make an impression.
Purposeful in design
Flaring wheel arches, a huge, gaping grille, an oversized rear wing, lower to the ground than the Focus ST… yes, the RS looks like a pocket rocket waiting to get its business underway.
Driven: Ford's potent Focus RS drifts into SA
The grille has been widened to allow for more air to enter the engine to support the already hardworking intercooler. On the edges of the front bumper two openings channel air to the front brakes for additional cooling. At the back a diffuser betters the airflow’s exit from underneath the car for better high-speed stability and that rear wing increases downforce.
Some might find the design over-the-top and would rather opt for something more subdued, but the RS is a super hatch and needs to look the part if it is to attract attention away from its real competition (read: Mercedes A45 AMG and Audi RS3).
Bar the Mustang, the Focus RS’s interior is very similar to all other Ford products. It’s familiar, to the point and devoid of frills. Everything is in their place and is easy to find and navigate around. Ford Sync takes a short while to get used to, but once familiarised it works a charm. Just sometimes the touchscreen requires a firmer touch. Atop the dashboard sits the gauges that have been taken from the Focus ST that show oil, water and turbo pressures.
Gallery: 2016 Ford Focus RS
Bucket seats provide proper support for front passengers and hug around the waist for a comfortable, yet sporty, seating position.
Hills and mountain passes
Normal mode provides a nice, compliant ride quality that is bearable for day-to-day driving. The car doesn’t jump around and for brief moments you can be forgiven for mistaking the RS for a normal Focus ST.
The best settings to tackle your favourite pieces of tarmac are Sport and Track, but the experience with both require an absolute involvement from the driver. The steering response and crisp turn-in the RS delivers is about as precise as jabs from professional martial artist Conor McGregor. The car weaves through and around bends with an exhilaration that dreams are made of. And that turbo gauge jumps under full acceleration and lifting like corn reaching maximum temperature!
READ: Hot hatch showdown - GTI Clubsport vs. Civic Type R vs. Focus RS
Sport and Track modes increase both throttle sensitivity and the exhaust’s burble. On the overdrive every lift and gear change is accompanied by loud snaps, crackles and pops that liberate smiles. But Track mode also fully deactivates the electronic stability control (ESC), which has a definite influence on the handling and driving characteristics of the car. But all driving modes allow for the ESC’s influence to be manually adjusted.
Track mode also offers an automatic 40% increase in suspension stiffness and can make ‘normal’ driving brutally unbearable and leave you and the car separated from each other. But activate the mode in the right conditions and there will be an appreciation for its hardness, its stiffness and the way of bringing car and driver together. The increase in suspension stiffness can be activated and deactivated for all modes by pressing a button on the right steering stalk.
The front wheels provide pinpoint precision as to where it is placed while power is channeled between the four corners for the best possible acceleration. Braking power comes from a set of Brembo calipers, but brake fade did not even come into the picture as the car endured a strenuous test of note!
No, I didn’t try Drift mode. It’s a damn scary setting that only needs to be operated in ultra-controlled conditions. I did, however, drift the RS at the launch, but that was because Ford SA set everything up for it in a controlled environment. But if you do have the balls to activate and explore this mode, know this: all the power is sent to the rear wheels, ALL electronic aids are deactivated and the RS will turn into ‘The Mask’ with some bizarre dancing moves.
WATCH: This is why amateurs shouldn't use the Focus RS' Drift Mode
Only 300 Focus RS units will be coming to SA, which makes this car an already rare find. It will go down in the echelons of automotive history as one of Ford’s finest exports, regardless of how it will be received by the motoring fraternity. This car is a rush: a head banger that backs down from no challenge and a brute that demands respect on the road. It can duly perform daily tasks, but needs to be rewarded with regular trips to your local fuel station.
But it is absolutely worth it!
Price: R699 900 (R709 410 with ALL options)