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2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition long-term review: Part 1

By Dylan Campbell, 26 Jan 2018 Reviews

2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition long term review Part 1

Cup-tyre-shod, WRC-inspired hot hatch arrives at MOTOR

WE’VE ALL met or know someone who is a ‘small doses’ individual.

Often they’re a total laugh-out-loud riot to hang out with, a larrikin, a trouble-maker, someone who knows how to have fun. But you can only take so much of them before you start feeling frazzled and need some time away. Like, five weeks. Lest you become a danger to their safety.

In our experience so far, the Ford Focus RS could be described as a ‘small doses’ car. That’s not to say it’s unbearable – it’s perfectly comfortable in its own right, with nice interior materials, air conditioning, a decent stereo and all the mod-cons you could want. But relative to its hot-hatch rivals, it’s a bit more, err, focused.

Those eye-candy Recaros (standard in Australia; optional overseas), while superbly supportive, feel thinly padded compared to a VW Golf R’s front seats. And the ride, while fine 80 per cent of the time, makes a Honda Civic Type R feel like an Audi A8. Of the circa-$50K hot-hatch crowd, it’s the Focus RS that comes closest to ‘weekend toy’ status.

Fortunately, ‘toy’ is nothing but a huge compliment, because this car is FUN. For your $50,990 you get one of the most beguiling handling cars this side of $100K. As one of the most talented cornering gadgets Ford has ever made, you truly have to go shopping in Stuttgart to find another car that offers as many racetrack entertainment options as the Focus RS.

In a way, it’s almost three cars in one, dishing up stability and lateral grip like a Golf R if you so wish; liveliness and playfulness in the rear, like the recently farewelled Renault Sport Megane; or actual power oversteer out of second-gear corners, like a BMW M140i, if you wish to release your inner Ken Block.

As you probably well know, having read about the Focus RS in MOTOR many times now, Ford’s hot hatch owes its cornering magic to a trick all-wheel drive system that can send up to 70 per cent of the 2.3-litre twin-scroll turbo inline-four’s grunt to the rear axle, and then, thanks to electrically controlled clutches, up to 100 per cent of that to either rear wheel as the computer sees fit.

The ones and zeroes in this thing’s computer could presumably encircle the earth many times over – but with the handling only ever feeling spookily good (unless you are power oversteering, which can feel a bit artificial), it’s testament to the Focus RS’s all-wheel drive calibration.

Of course, it was this same crushingly effective system that helped the Focus RS become our 2017 Bang For Your Bucks champion (with a 1:38.4sec Winton lap). That, and its acceleration (0-100km/h 5.06sec; 0-400m 13.31sec) thanks to launch control, 257kW and 440Nm. And, of course, it’s cracking $50,990 price.

Having only experienced the Focus RS in reasonably small doses, we wondered if the ‘best enjoyed on weekends’ tag was undeserved. We see plenty on the roads during the week, after all. And so we asked Ford, nicely, if we could have one for a few months, and Ford said yes.

Ford also said, you can only have the $56,990 Limited Edition model. We weren’t going to say no, but it’s even more of a Saturday-Sunday proposition than the ‘base’ RS, with standard forged 19s and 235/35 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres (a $3500 option on the normal RS) – and the same rubber you’ll find on a Porsche 911 GT3. A declaration that this car is very much made for the track.

That, and it also has a Quaife helical front limited slip diff. As it has the same adaptive dampers, seats and big Brembo brakes (four-piston 350mm front, single-piston 302mm rear) as the $50,990 version, we should get a good sense what the Focus RS – base or not – is to live with.

More MOTOR long-term reviews

Naturally, we’ll also head to the track to assess the difference the diff and the tyres make. And how will those same Cup2 tyres wear when put to daily use? Will the blue interior bits date too quickly? Will the head gasket blow? (A controversial Focus RS topic that we will investigate.) A four-month ‘dose’ should be big enough. And if we’re really honest, we can’t wait.

This is Clever

Want to firm or soften your RS’s dampers depending on the corner of the track? Us neither, but you could, and easily, if you wanted to

MONTH ONE

Claimed combined consumption: 7.7L/100km
Claimed 0-100km/h: 4.7sec 
Duration: 4 months

Like: Michelin Cup2 tyres standard? Oh yes...
Dislike: ...they cost how much?

Read more of our 2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition long-term review