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Remembering the great Ford Focus RS cars

2020-04-23 04:30

Lance Branquinho

ford focus rs500

Image: Ford

There is sad news from Europe, lamenting the probability that Ford will not produce a next-generation Focus RS. 

For fans of Ken Block and blue oval performance cars, this is disappointing, but it also allows us to celebrate the terrific legacy that Ford's Focus RS cars will leave. 

The original (2002)

With its multilink rear suspension design, Ford first-generation Focus platform could handle some additional power. The company's European engineers obliged by creating the original Focus RS. 

Distinguished by its five-spoke Oz alloy wheels, which at 18-inches in size were huge for a family hatchback of the time, the car established the reputation of Focus RS vehicles. It was powered by a turbocharged 2-litre engine, boosting 158kW, while Brembo brakes harmonised balanced the increase in performance. 


Which one of these Focus RS models were your absolute favourite, and why? Or, have you owned one of these models in SA? Email us your stories and photos and we'll publish it on Wheels24.


Inside the original Focus RS, there were Sparco bucket seats and trim inserts which matched the car's Imperial blue exterior paint finish. 

ford focus rs mk1

Image: Ford

The Green Machine (2009)  

Ford made its loyal Focus RS fans wait six years between the first- and second-generation cars. Enthusiasts were rewarded for their patience when the 2.5-litre five-cylinder Focus RS debuted. 

Although more substantial in size and featuring a huge rear spoiler and diffuser, the second-generation Focus RS was also properly quick for its time. Ford was boosting 221kW from its 2.5-litre engine, and the company's engineers were aware that torque-steer could ruin the Mk2 Focus RS's dynamic balance and make that 0-100km/h time of 5.9 seconds irrelevant. 

The solution was found in Quaife's helical limited-slip differential, which tamed the 440Nm worth of torque and made Ford's second-generation Focus RS the best handling front-wheel drive car in the world. 

Although it was available in three exterior colours, the signature hue was Ultimate Green. 

ford focus rs mk2

Image: Ford

RS500 (2011)

The most desirable of all Focus RS models was this limited-edition series. Only the most potent Ford performance cars had previously carried the RS500 badge, and when applied to the second-generation Focus RS, there was no dilution. 

Ford only built its Focus RS500s in one colour – a matte black – with contrasting red brake calipers and scarlet seats. 

With 15% more power, the RS500 was good for 257kW, making it a specific marker in the history of front-wheel drive performance cars. 

If you are a numerologist, Ford ran one of is Focus RS500 prototypes for 500 non-stop laps of the Nürburgring, to validate durability. They obviously also only built 500 of these, to ensure exclusivity. 

ford focus rs500

Image: Ford

The final chapter (2016)

Ford made significant changes between the second- and third-generation Focus RS. The most notable of these was the switch from a front- to all-wheel drive. 

Engineers had pushed the limits of what was achievable with front-wheel drive trick differential technology. The desire to match all-wheel drive rivals from Germany, made Ford purchase a GKN engineering twin-clutch four-wheel-drive system for the Focus RS  - and what a splendid technical choice that proved to be. 

During the Mk3 Focus RS's development, engineers accidentally discovered a function of the car's all-wheel drive system which could initiate drifting behaviour.

It proved popular amongst the technical team and was integrated into the final production car, as a selectable ESP function. 

FocusMK3_pos 2_ford

Image: Ford

Rarest of the rare: Focus RS50 Evo (2019)

The Evocation Focus RS was an incredibly rare special edition. It added some side graphics to Ford's third-generation Focus RS, but the other upgrades were notable too. 

A Mountune kit lowered the Focus RS50 Evo's ride height, and a larger diameter exhaust made it even louder. Forged pistons, an alloy intercooler and a reconfigured turbocharger, boosted engine output to 294kW. 

Two-piece alloy wheels and a composite rear spoiler completed the Focus RS50 Evo package, which was built as a heritage edition, commemorating five decades of European engineering, RS-badged Ford performance cars.

ford focus rs evo50

Image: Mountune

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