The latest Ford Focus RS doesn’t have to shy from comparisons with its competitors, that’s what we can reveal already. The Focus RS is one of the five Ford Performance cars which range from the Fiesta ST up to the Ford GT. We were invited to experience the mid-range Focus RS in Valencia recently.
The Focus RS will be manufactured for the world market in the Ford plant in Saarlouis, Germany. From there it will be shipped out to 42 different countries. Development work has taken place in collaboration with RallyCross Star and drift legend Ken Block.
To start with, lets to a brief look at the specs of the car. The 2016 Ford Focus RS is powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder 2.3 litre engine that it shares with the Ford Mustang. It is the fastest RS model in history and produces 350 hp and a maximum torque of 440 Nm in a range from 2000 – 4500 rpm.
0 – 100 k/h is achieved in 4.7 seconds which is not a bad figure, considering that the Focus RS will only come with a modified 6-speed manual gearbox. It does however benefit from a launch control mode which helps control acceleration and enables the RS to achieve these figures by using the turbochargers’ overboost for maximum acceleration. The feature is quite unique for a manual gearbox and works very well as we experienced first hand.
The exterior of the car has received a dramatic redesign. The optimised front grille mesh has 85% free cross section compared to 56% on the Focus ST to improve air intake. The rear now has a large diffuser to decrease drag and a unique roof spoiler to decrease lift. There isn’t a single design element without function as Tyrone Johnson, Vehicle Engineering Manager of Ford Performance told us.
The Focus RS is equipped with an advanced all-wheel-drive system ensuring maximum grip under all conditions. The torque-vectoring-awd system distributes the 350 hp and 440 Nm of torque so that the car accelerates with maximum grip or pulls out of corners with maximum traction. A dedicated control system monitors the vehicle sensors 100 times per second and acts accordingly. About 70% of torque reaches the rear axle and if necessary up to 100% can be directed to one single wheel. With the newly developed awd system the car can be controlled easily at the limits.
The 2016 Ford Focus RS is the first Focus to implement different driving modes – Normal, Sport, Track and Drift – which can be chosen with the touch of a button. The four different modes change six different parameters including awd settings, dampers, exhaust noise and engine/throttle response.
While in normal setting, the car can be comfortably driven over long stretches on the highway with increased suspension comfort and reduced exhaust noise. As soon as you switch to sport setting, the exhaust note changes its character immediately and the famous pops, burbles and bang noises known from other manufacturers appear when stepping off the gas at around 5,000 rpm. The throttle is more responsive and the awd system already distributes more power to the respective wheel in corners.
The other two settings, Track and Drift are made especially for use on closed roads and race tracks. While in track mode all parameters are set for fastest laptimes and the fastest way through corners, in drift mode the awd system directs as much power as possible to the outer rear wheel to help induce oversteer and the beginning of a drift in the easiest possible way. As soon as the car is going sideways torque is sent to both rear wheels so the drift can be controlled with the throttle alone. Damper and steering settings are back to normal parameters to enable smooth and controlled load changes.
The drive modes help create a car that is suitable for comfortable everyday driving as well as very dynamic driving on a racetrack. The newly implemented Drift mode is a lot of fun and makes you feel like Ken Block at times.
So how does the latest Focus RS drive? We came to Valencia and could enjoy the car’s dynamic handling on the twisty roads of the Spanish outback on some empty b-roads. We loved the engine noises and exhaust sounds under these conditions while whizzing through the narrow roads on maximum grip Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. The car felt very quick and well-balanced as we did not experience much understeer or oversteer.
The next day on the Valencia racetrack confirmed our feeling. With proper use of the throttle the car could be forced to come into oversteer easily with a big cloud of smoke ascending behind us. Same with drifts, if you know a little about what you are doing, then the car can be very easily be put sideways when in Drift mode.
The Focus RS starts at 40,000 Euro (including 19% VAT for Germany). The four main competitors to the Focus RS in this higly competitive segment are the Audi RS3, BMW M2, Mercedes-AMG A45 and the VW Golf R. The Golf R with 300 hp and 380 Nm of torque is the most affordable AWD option starting at around 30,000 Euro in Germany. The second generation Audi RS3 is powered by a 2.5 litre twin-turbo 5-cylinder producing 367 hp and 465 Nm.
The BMW M2 will soon be available for test drives and we should have a comparison on that shortly. With 370 hp, manual gearbox and RWD only, the M2 is a hot contender to rival the Focus RS in terms of being the most fun to drive. The A 45 AMG is a bit faster with 31 extra hp and also features a very effective AWD system. Is it worth the 11,500 Euro extra? That’s up for you to decide.
The 2016 Ford Focus RS is a great successor with much improvement over the previous model and with considerable increases in power and performance. While retaining its modest pricing, the car manages to be a fun ride with an advanced awd system and unique options such as its drift mode. We think the exterior upgrades look amazing and loved both the blue and grey colors on our test cars. It is a worthy member of the five Ford Performance cars and if you get a chance to drive one, make sure to give it a try.
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