Ford Focus RS 2016 Review
Source: Feann Torr (carsales.com.au)
2016 Ford Focus RS
International Launch Review
Forget everything you thought you knew about hot hatches, because the Ford Focus RS does things that have never been done before. Powered by a 257kW/440Nm turbocharged engine and featuring a brilliant new AWD system, Ford's new hero hatch makes you feel
like a driving deity. Arriving in Australia mid2016 for $50,990 (plus onrod costs), the Focus RS sets a new benchmark in the hot hatch genre. Yep, it's off chops.
As the turbo huffs, the engine pumps hard, steering wheel cranked over, I guide the Ford Focus RS through a smooth, tight corner for the first time, the foothills of Valencia a beatific backdrop. Approaching the apex I throw caution to the wind and give it everything, the muscular 257kW turbo engine's gravelly war cry intensifying.
Pulse rate rapidly increasing, I expect understeer, lots of it – the car is in pitbull attack mode, like and I realise that I'm dealing with a unique, innovative machine. It punches out of the corner with incredible speed and I can feel, with magnificent clarity, the clever allwheel drive system doing something magical. It's being proactive, virtually reading my mind.
It's at this moment a shiver runs down my spine. It's almost spiritual, such is the cars fluidity.
This is new, this is different, this is verging on epic! It's almost like the first time I tried a salted caramel treat at a fancy restaurant. So I do it again, and again, gorging on the sensations.
After an hour of hard driving, I'm sold. I want this car. Now.
This isn’t just a great hot hatch, it's one of the best performance cars yet. You can read about how the AWD technowizardry and rearwheel torque vectoring works in our Ford Focus RS tech piece, suffice to say it's to hot hatches what salt is to caramel.
Driving on public roads, the Ford Focus RS is so utterly progressive in the way it motivates, and especially the way it corners, that driving it fast – blisteringly fast – comes naturally. The way the car blasts out of corners is so very, very different to any of its rivals and this is what makes it so
And get this, one Ford Performance engineer told us the car can "theoretically" shunt up to 100 per cent torque to the rear axle, not 70 per cent as previously stated. And I believe it.
Communication through the steering wheel is excellent and grip levels from the 235/35 ZR19 Michelin Pilot Super Sports is excellent yet there's enough power – and virtually no turbo lag – from the brawny 2.3litre engine to encourage gradual oversteer.
And it's all so utterly accessible.
After countless sharp corners and various experiments with steering lock and throttle input leave me agog, the road opens up to long uphill straight and it's time to focus on the engine. First thought? God's teeth it's got mumbo!
Even though the sixspeed manual could do with a little more precision, flicking through the gears rapidly is easy, the exhaust barking and snarling especially loudly between shifts. The Golf R and Subaru WRX STI ain't got nothin' on this, largely because of the way the forty 257kW/440Nm fourcylinder EcoBoost engine delivers power to the ground so proactively.
This new donk has been borrowed from the Mustang, but like that bloke at the gym with no neck it's been hitting the steroids with a vengeance, with a bigger twinscroll turbo developing 1.6 bar (23 psi), a new airbox and a specially machined cylinder head. It's then turned 90degrees and given a much louder voice, which helps develop a deeper connection between car and driver.
From low revs the engine is responsive and by 3000rpm its on song, a fat wad of torque propelling it forward with a level of vehemence matched only by Donald Trump telling the world how much of Manhattan he owns.
It's so tractable you can leave it in third gear and still fang around corners at warp speed.
By 5000rpm the beefy fourstroke fourpot is pushing past its 440Nm peak, momentarily tapping into 'overboost' mode, where extended fullthrottle application spikes output to 470Nm. Gravy!
Then as 6000rpm arrives the full 257kW hits and the scenery begins to blur, as the engine spins onwards – and eagerly – to its 6800rpm rev limit when you wring its neck.
Then, snap another gear and the party keeps going. Addictive? Like watching videos of people falling over on Youtube. While eating salted caramel.
Ford's first fourwheel drive hottie since the Escort RS models of the 1990s rips from 0100km/h in just 4.7sec, faster than the Subaru WRX STI and Volkswagen Golf R. It also has a top speed of around 265km/h. For the record it cruises very nicely at 180km/h.
Slowing this WRCinspired missile from extreme speeds are big 350mm front brake discs mated to fourpiston Brembo calipers. The sizable anchors provide the Focus RS with premium stoppingpower, the brakes so powerful the Focus RS will cock its leg and take a pee on a corner apex. It adds a huge amount of confidence to have so much deceleration feel and stomp, allowing you to plunge ever deeper into tight corners.
Tyrone Johnson, the chief engineer at Ford Performance Europe, explained the three major pillars of the Focus RS were the engine, AWD system and brakes, and the latter certainly live up to expectation in this performance purebred.
Driven on unfamiliar public roads, the Ford Focus RS is satisfying beyond description. There simply aren't enough superlatives to describe how engaging and progressive and addictive it is to drive this car the way it's meant to be driven – hard and fast.
But it's not beyond reproach. Despite having dualmode adaptive suspension, even the softer setting is pretty stiff and the roads we blatted down in Spain were of an exceptionally good quality. Ergo, it'll be interesting to see how it corners on dodgy, crumbly Aussie roads and how it rides over potholed crud.
The interior is a bit of let down too. The important parts are great; steering wheel, pedals, tight Recaro seats. But some of the interior dash plastics look and feel cheap and the dotmatrix heating/cooling display is dated.
It's also heavy for a car of this size, the AWD system adding around 60kg, taking kerb weight to 1575kg. But you wouldn’t know it because the Focus RS blasts from pointtopoint like Lebron James.
Like my great Uncle George, bless his soul, it likes a drink too. The trip computer reading was 25.8L/100km after an intense blast through the hills then a freeway cruise, the car slurping down an entire 52litre tank of fuel after just 180km. Then again, it was driven with purpose.
The Germanmade Ford Focus RS is one of the most anticipated car launches of 2016 and it exceeds expectation. I was expecting a fast, controllable and perhaps slightly raw beast, not unlike its frontdrive predecessor. But what I experienced was nextlevel brilliance, a car that shines in so many ways.
Production of the Ford Focus RS used to be limited in number. It used to be front drive. And it used to cost a fair bit of cash... Not any more.
That it's now a fulltime model, has an epic torquevectoring 4WD system and an engine that sounds like it was transplanted from a race car, you really feel like a driving God when hammering this car. It may not be as fast as the MercedesAMG A45 for example, but it's a more involving car to drive, no question.
And priced from $50,990? It's going to redefine the term 'waiting list' in Australia just as it redefines what a performance car can do when it arrives here around midyear.
All this, and we're yet to try the 'drift mode' and fang it on the race track. Stay tuned for that one, it should be lark.
Quite simply, the Ford Focus RS represents a paradigm shift, elevating driver involvement and power delivery in performance cars to new levels. This is not only the best hot hatch ever made, it's quite possibly the best performance car ever made. To quote myself, "it's off chops, mate".
2016 Ford Focus RS pricing and specifications:
Price: $50,990 (plus onroad costs)
Engine: 2.3litre fourcylinder turbopetrol
Transmission: Sixspeed manual
Fuel: 25.8L/100km (as tested)
Safety Rating: Fivestar Euro NCAP