ONES AND ZEROES strung together in the right order is at least partly why the Ford Focus RS won the $50K-$100K class, the calibration of its brilliant all-wheel drive system helping it cross the line in a blistering 1:38.4sec – just 0.1sec off the Mercedes-AMG A45, itself a car almost made for the track.
And, it must be said, a car more than $27,000 more expensive than Ford’s all-wheel drive hero, meaning for the price of an A45, hardcore Blue Oval hot hatch fans would need a double garage for both their Focus RS and their Fiesta ST.
Really. In the final reckoning, it was this combination of laptime talent, and being the cheapest car of the $50K-$100K crop, that hoisted the 257kW, 2.3-litre twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder Focus RS to the top step of the class podium. And what’s more, it could have been even faster.
Our 0-100km/h time of 5.06 seconds was way off Ford’s 4.7sec claim, which, Ford says, requires both launch control of the manual, all-wheel drive RS, and a flat-shift from first to second. Stepping off the clutch close to the limiter is about as mechanically unsympathetic as we’re able to get, we’re afraid.
And so, in a drag race across the quarter mile of all our $50K-$100K competitors, the Focus RS would end up an unremarkable fifth. Still, its 13.31sec quarter at 171.04km/h will hardly have you checking your watch. In perfect circumstances, this is a 12-second car.
Fifth is also where the Focus RS finished in the power competitions such as 0-400m and lap V-max, but with a 34.22m effort 100-0km/h it clawed back time under brakes – thanks to those huge 350mm front four-pot monoblock Brembos – and mid-corner speed.
A lot of mid-corner speed. It’s just as well the Focus RS comes with cossetting Recaro sports seats because this is one car that absolutely wouldn’t work with a bench. Its turn four apex speed of 96.29km/h smoked the $50K-$100K all-comers, as did its 73.94km/h apex speed through the slower turn 10.
And our Magnetic grey test car wasn’t even fitted with Ford’s optional Performance Wheel Pack, which comes with the Tarzan Grip-spec Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The Focus RS owes a lot to its tricky all-wheel drive system, which can send up to 70 per cent of torque to the rear axle, and then 100 per cent of that to either left or right wheel.
In slower corners, the computer sends grunt to the outside rear wheel to more quickly pivot the RS and “virtually eliminate understeer”, says Ford. On track, you’re able to pick up the throttle earlier and earlier, the Focus RS just tightening its line as it greedily gathers speed.
But it’s important to point out that the Focus RS has not won here because it’s the cheapest car in its class. Nor because of that lap time. Both these things helped, but it would tell a certain story if a glance at the judges’ panel revealed a string of “8th” place votes.
As you may have noticed, the opposite is true. This is a fun car on a racetrack. It gives you what you want; lots of grip, direct and fast steering, strong and resilient brakes, good power and actual cornering ability and talent.
The Focus RS feels to be very pleased to find itself on a race circuit. And it very much passes this on to the nut holding the wheel. The Focus RS even provides value in ways that we’ve not measured. This is not a one-dimensional handling car; it can be a different car for you at many track days if you so wish.
Hunting apexes with the horns out and the timing gear equipped, chasing down a PB? This is your car. Throwing times out the window and backing the car in on the brake every corner, or practising your lift-off oversteer shenanigans? There’s another track day sorted.
Power oversteering? Okay, so you won’t want to enter it at the local drift competition – even with the largely gimmicky Drift Mode – but you can hang the tail out on the throttle out of corners.
In terms of multiple driving experiences in the one car, there aren’t many machines like the Focus RS. (If only its handbrake was a little tighter, then you could do a motorkhana in it as well...) The bigger question is, of course, how the Focus RS fares when all 16 cars are thrown together to fight for outright honours.
We’ll find out soon enough.
Engine: 2261cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 257kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 440Nm @ 2000-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 5.06sec (5th)
0-400m: 13.31sec @ 171.04km/h (5th)
Lap Time: 1:38.4sec (4th)
Bang Index: 135.2
Bucks Index: 132.8
BFYB Index: 134.2
Warren Luff says
“It really lives up to expectation. It’s a car that you can have a lot of fun with; you can really point the back of the car and get the nose of it into an apex. The RS does everything you want. On a fun-factor scale it’s 10 out of 10.
The brakes are good, but if you do multiple laps you can see some fade. The engine and gearing, etc, just works.
For me personally, maybe the seating position is probably not quite to my liking, but it really does tick the boxes in so many aspects and it’s so much fun at Winton.”
David Morley - 1st: "A cult car from the moment it was announced. Deservedly so”
Dylan Campbell - 1st: “I could do a dozen track days in this car without getting bored”
Louis Cordony - 1st: “Grip, grunt, and razor-sharp chassis mean no apex is safe”
Tim Robson - 1st: “Clinically, brutally fast... but boy, do you need to be in the mood”
PUTTING all the data aside, of the eight $50K-$100K cars, if we, the judges, were forced to grab one car to do 10 laps and that was it – in a car, on a track, for the rest of our lives – we’d take the Focus RS.
Admittedly, this breakout is somewhat redundant. Its purpose is to give a big-ups to the car that perhaps didn’t set the strip or track on fire, and so finished in a lowly position as a result, but put a big fat grin on our faces regardless.
Well, the Focus RS was still fast, and it won its class, and yet it is still the car we’d all take for One Last Bash. Meanwhile, the A45 collected the second most points of the judges in this class for sheer subjectivity, while the SS-V Redline Ute came a close third.
The 304kW hay hauler is not the sharpest instrument in this lot, but by god, is it the most honest and eager to please. It sounds fantastic, has plenty of grunt, brakes that stand up to us muppets on a track and, if you’ve got the skills to pay the bills, will go sideways with almost ridiculous ease.
The poor Caterham was our least favourite $50K-$100K car, even pipped by the Mini...
|BFYB ENTRANT||BANG INDEX||BUCK INDEX||BFYB SCORE|
|1. Ford Focus RS||135.2||132.8||134.2|
|2. SS-V Redline||122.4||123.8||123.0|
|3. BMW M140i||128.5||104.3||118.8|
|4. Merc-AMG A45||139.1||86.5||118.1|
|5. Audi A4||125.1||65.8||101.4|
|6. Alfa Giulia Veloce||76.3||94.1||83.4|
|7. JCW Clubman||50.4||125.6||80.5|
|8. Caterham 275||22.9||105.8||56.0|
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