- Introduction: The Focused RS
- Update 1: On the shopping run
- Update 2: The champions' lane
- Update 3: Showtime
- Update 4: Getting a grip
- Update 5: The track element
- Update 6: Conclusion
Introduction: The Focused RS
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.
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.
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?
Update 1: On the shopping run
Few cars combine thrills and utility quite like the Focus RS
THE FORD Focus RS Limited Edition is like a dog that’s halfway between little puppy and full grown. It wants to have fun all the time.
And when you no longer want to play tug-of-war with a footy sock or throw the ball for the umpteenth time, it’s straining at the leash, impatient to run around some more. In this creature’s universe, when you’re not sprinting and snorting and running amok, you’re switched off, biding time until the next max-energy assault.
In the modern hot hatch universe, none are as cheeky, fun or exciting as the new Ford Focus RS. Particularly this one, the Limited Edition, with track-spec Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and a limited-slip front differential.
Plainly it has long departed the original design brief of the Focus itself. It certainly feels like it has, as we are learning after Month Two with our new all-wheel drive, WRC-infused long-term weapon.
Having now driven the car properly on the mean streets of Melbourne for two months, we are still trying to decide whether or not this is a car we could live with on a daily basis. It’s almost like an electric car in that it has a very short range, but of comfort to the user rather than distance.
How far that range is depends on your tolerance to the Focus RS’s very sporting suspension and supportive yet unapologetically thinly-padded Recaros. And, in the Limited Edition’s case, the 19-inch Cup 2 tyres, which talk to you in great detail about the road surface. Even when perhaps you’re not in a listening mood.
And mood could be the best way to describe living with the Focus RS Limited Edition. Unlike some of its more mature hot hatch rivals, the Focus RS comes with just one mood.
If you’re anything like me, your mood is much more likely to align with that of the RS on a Saturday or Sunday than Monday to Friday. Of course, when you and the Focus RS are on the same frequency, any sacrifices to liveability are well rewarded. No other hot hatch drives like it.
While its 257kW/440Nm, 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine is obviously heavily turbocharged, power and torque are strong, as is the all-wheel drive traction. The Focus RS emits a rorty four-cylinder note, the highlight of which is the pops and occasional backfire on upshifts. You will have confusing urges to fang through the nearest forest.
While the Focus RS feels as tall as it is wide – a sensation not helped by a high-ish seating position – the handling is mega.
With a bit of temperature in the tyres, punted hard through a few corners, you will have the thought, ‘wow’. The grip is satisfying, but so is the feedback and the feel of the tyre on the road – which does wonders for confidence. And when driving fast, confidence is the difference between a car feeling exciting or scary.
Back in daily life, the Focus RS is a welcome companion for other reasons. While I have been disappointed in myself to have had the thought, after a very long day driving a desk, that I wished I was piloting something more comfortable home than the Cup-tyre shod RS, I have found myself grateful for its practical ability.
In one week, I was able to pick up my elderly grandparents without even thinking twice if the RS would be suitable, access to the second row easy thanks to generous door openings. That weekend, the Focus’s boot, rear seats folded down (they don’t go flat), swallowed up an enormous cardboard box without any problems.
There’s something very reassuring about having the Focus RS and knowing it can do these things if you need it to.
In the coming updates, we’ll continue to explore the Focus RS as a daily proposition, but our sense for now is that it depends on the driver. If I owned it, I would regularly fantasise about the comparatively blissful, long stroke-feeling ride of a VW Golf R or Honda Civic Type R.
By my report card, the Focus RS Limited Edition gets a C+ for comfort and an A for practicality. From next month, we will get stuck into the areas in which we know the Focus RS is A+.
Fuel Consumption this Month: 12.1L/100km
Average Fuel Consumption: 12.1L/100km
Distance this Month: 400km
Liked: It wants to have fun, all the time
Disliked: It wants to have fun, ALL THE TIME
Update 2: The champions' lane
The Focus RS meets 2018's Performance Car of the Year
SPOILT ROTTEN, you are. If the mattress is bulging with fifty large, and you’re craving a compact, V8-harassing hot hatch, you have so much choice.
From the base, manual sweetheart VW Golf GTI, right up to the warbling, 911-frightening Audi RS3 end of the spectrum, lovers of hot hatches have never had such a smorgasbord of variety. There’s literally something for everyone.
If you’re the kind of guy or gal who owns a helmet, knows a racetrack PB to at least one decimal place and once spent more than $500 on a pair of brake pads, the two cars pictured here would probably take your fancy.
In the blue corner, our long-term test car, the rally-inspired, 257kW/440Nm all-wheel drive Ford Focus RS Limited Edition, complete with sticky cup tyres and front limited slip diff. And in the inky black corner, our reigning and still-sinking-in Performance Car of the Year winner, the 228kW/400Nm, red-Honda-badged, front-drive Civic Type R.
Of all the hot hatches you can currently get, these are two of the top picks. And as the Type R missed out on our hot hatch comparison this issue, by virtue of only having a pair rather than quartet of driveshafts, we thought we should throw it up against our winner in the world’s briefest comparison test.
From the outset, these are two remarkably different cars – in looks and philosophy. For me, it’s the Focus RS that would give the sorest neck, looking back every time I’ve locked the car up.
To these eyes, Ford has done the better job with the styling, even if the front end can look a little insect-y from angles. I think the rear wing is just enough mongrel. And I love the black wheels on the brilliant, bright Nitrous Blue.
If I did get a Civic Type R, it’d be in black, which does a better job of hiding some, err, ‘challenging’ styling. Front three quarter? I love the Type R’s fat, menacing stance. Rear three quarter? The rear bar looks a little over-styled to me. And the rear wing just looks like a giant chunk of purposeless plastic.
Getting into the cars, the Civic has the superior seating position by a fair margin. Those attractive red seats strike a fantastic balance between support and comfort, and you sit low and ‘in’ the car, the dash and window-line ensconcing you, with a seating position more like a large rear-drive sedan than pokey compact hatchback.
You feel high and more ‘exposed’ in the Focus RS by comparison, with the window-line much lower. The hard-shell Recaro seats are supportive, yet thinly padded, like they’re made out of tensed muscles rather than cushions.
The Civic Type R is a much more comfortable machine. It shades the Focus RS for daily driveability and refinement, with a remarkably compliant ride that makes the Focus feel like its dampers are stuck in Sport mode.
The Civic also has a slightly nicer interior than the Focus RS, although Ford’s ‘SYNC3’ infotainment system is miles better than the Civic’s ‘HondaLink’. And all over the Focus interior are thoughtful ergonomic touches, whereas the Civic has numerous ergonomic annoyances.
That said, the Civic Type R’s controls are much nicer to use than the Focus’s. The manual gearshift is a well-oiled, precise, mechanical joy, like it was made by Remington or Smith & Wesson. It makes the Focus’s gearshift feel functional, longer in throw, and rubbery.
The Civic also has superior steering, clutch and brake feel. Up a twisty road, the Focus RS is exciting, fun and incredibly fast – particularly this one on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres which have huge grip.
By comparison, the Civic Type R feels precise, planted and more serious – and provided you’re not on a road full of first-gear hairpins, just as fast as the Focus. The Civic’s engine sounds better, a hard-edged, almost atmo thrash at higher rpm, more natural than the Focus RS’s fruity, slightly fake engine note. Although the Focus’s WRC-esque tailpipe pops and backfires are a total laugh.
If we had a racetrack for the day and could pick just one car, it would be the Focus RS. But if we were forced to drive just one for the next three years, it’d be the Civic Type R.
Fuel Consumption this Month: 14.1L/100km
Average Fuel Consumption: 13.8L/100km
Distance this Month: 1829km
Liked: More of a hoot than a Civic Type R
Disliked: Not as comfortable as a Civic Type R
Update 3: Showtime
Our RS is put into action as a video workhorse
TWO CORNERS at the Haunted Hills hillclimb circuit converge into one, as one configuration of the track meets another.
Entering his left hander is Warren Luff, sideways, in a Subaru BRZ, at probably 60 or 70km/h. And entering the other, my right-hander, at a similar speed, is yours truly, in our Ford Focus RS Limited Edition long-termer.
There’s a video camera suction-cupped to the bonnet and my job is to tuck in behind Luffy as he drifts past to capture it for video. Get the timing wrong, or anything wrong, and we’ll be making two tricky phone calls to separate car companies. Get it right, and we’ve just nailed an epic shot.
We’re at Haunted Hills experimenting with a video for Bridgestone. Basically, they love our recent video efforts (which you should too, at our YouTube channel), and so asked if we could help get the message out about their RE003 and RE-71R patterns.
We offered to put Luffy in a rear-drive something, on Bridgestone tyres, and have him show off around a racetrack – which we hope people will enjoy. They said sounds great. And so here we are. (The video, as well, will be out soon.)
It meant we needed a car in which to chase Luffy, and it turned out a hot hatch with 257kW on sticky tyres (that weren’t Bridgestones, mind you) was ideal. Aside from its flat bonnet being perfect for a suction cup camera mount, and it being fast enough to keep up with Luffy Jnr in a sideways BRZ, the RS’s tenacious front end in particular proved its worth during our shooting, where we could tighten the line mid-corner to capture a slightly better shot of the broadside BRZ only metres in front of us.
At the end of filming, with the crew packing up, Luffy on his way back to the airport and an empty Haunted Hills shrugging its shoulders at us, there was no resisting heading out onto the tight, twisty track to try the Focus RS. The undulating hillclimb circuit proved instructive as we tried Ford’s front-diff-equipped RS LE.
Once you’re a little used to the high seating position, the first thing you notice when pushing the RS on a tighter track is the grip on offer from the 235mm (F/R) Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. They are mega.
As you build temperature into the rubber, the Focus RS loses understeer from its vocabulary as your sides are squished against the Recaro’s supportive side bolsters. The ABS also starts to disappear further and further down the travel of the brake pedal with tyre temp, letting you brake later with seemingly every new corner.
Traction is incredibly strong and you can pick the throttle up very quickly, the computers and torque vectoring smarts working to maintain the RS’s line despite your hamfisted efforts to push it wide (there’s a little bit of torque steer). And, truthfully, there is so much all-wheel drive traction on this rubber, it is actually tricky to know how much of a difference the LE-only front limited-slip differential is making.
Operating-temp Cup 2 tyres turn the RS into a seriously fast little car. Brought back to Haunted Hills for a hillclimb competition, it would doubtless frighten many other older, would-be-faster machines.
When it came time for some oversteer shots, my already meagre skills were left feeling even more inadequate as I tried every trick I knew in an attempt to defeat the velcro-like rear tyres. Alas, it was I who was ultimately defeated, the stubborn rear end needing serious speed and serious technique to unstick, at which point we were talking only a few degrees of white-knuckle corrective lock.
The base car, on the less grippy Pilot Super Sports, will happily and accurately lift-off oversteer into corners or on the brake. It will also power oversteer a fraction if, in a tight corner with half a turn of steering lock on, you boot it, where it will give you a quarter turn back the other way as it hangs the tail out. It does feel a little artificial, but still fun. And, fortunately, still possible even on warmed up Cup 2s.
And that’s one thing that’s obvious about the RS in attempting all this: it’s fun. Properly fun. It exists to entertain you. While, sure, its playfulness is at the slight cost of overall comfort, it’s worth it. And on these tyres – or presumably any track-focused rubber – it’s a proper little weapon.
Four updates in, are we enjoying living with the Focus RS LE? Yes.
Once you know what you’re in for before getting in to drive it, it brings a bit of fun to the morning and evening commutes. The gearshift – functional and notchy when we first got the car – is becoming a bit looser and nicer to use with more kilometres.
The ride is a bit bumpy and occasionally crashy, but is okay most of the time. In fact, we’ve noticed a suppleness and sophistication to the damping at freeway speeds which has even drawn unsolicited compliments from non-car-people passengers.
The firm Recaro seats? You’ll be squirming in them over long distances, but appreciate them on a track. Which is where we’re heading next month – a proper one.
2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition Pros & Cons
Three things we're falling for:
1 - It’s fast and fun
2 - 5-door practicality
3 - Looks cool
Three things we're not fond of:
1 - Big turning circle
2 - Sitting quite high
3 - Bland-ish interior
Update 4: Getting a grip
New rubber makes for a softer but more fun Focus RS
One of the most satisfying roads in the entire eastern half of Australia is only 103km as the crow flies from Melbourne’s CBD.
The Eildon-Jamieson Road, as it’s unassumingly known, is about 2.5 hours’ drive from central Melbourne and it’s a sleepy Sunday morning as we turn on to this treed-in, 66km dream squiggle of mostly second- and third-gear, front-tyre-killing corners.
It’s raining lightly, it’s foggy, and stringy tree bark debris litters the road, sometimes looking like fallen branches. But we’re feeling good about things, because we’re in an all-wheel drive hot hatch with advanced chassis electronics, a front limited-slip differential, oodles of turbocharged mid-range torque and we’ve, err, removed the track-focused Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres.
Let’s talk tyres (no, stay with me!) as they make a huge difference to the Focus RS driving and ownership experience. As our test car is the Limited Edition, it comes with standard 19-inch forged wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres.
This package is also optional on the standard RS, but if you found yourself requiring a new set of boots then you might be glad to hear that a set of replacement Cup2s is actually, in our opinion, not the way to go for the road.
With the standard Cup2s nearing their treadwear indicators after admittedly quite a hard 9000km, we took Falken up on its offer to try the new FK510 ultra-high performance rubber on the 235/35 R19-shod RS. Although we only fitted the Falkens to review them, it proved an illuminating exercise in the context of the Focus RS itself, as well.
The difference in ride quality between the FK510s and Cup2s was instantly noticeable. Gone was the sensation that the RS was wearing inflatable versions of the rollers on Fred Flinstone’s footmobile, the hard edge replaced with a new, less punishing lower-speed suppleness.
We’re not saying the FK510s transformed the RS into a Mercedes-Maybach, but the ride was definitely improved, and the road noise quieter. And suddenly, we could imagine ourselves driving the RS to work and back everyday. This was a brand new thought.
Of course, a lot of this has to do with the Cup2s wanting a fairly high 41/38psi front/rear cold than any special merit on the FK510’s part, as any UHP tyre would presumably have the same effect.
And given the seats are still firm and the dampers only half work below 70km/h – meaning there’s still an element of you tolerating the ride at low speeds – the new tyres have us also wondering if the Focus RS works better on a UHP rather than Cup2 tyre when enjoying the car on the road.
More grip doesn’t automatically improve a car, and the Cup2 almost has too much for the RS’s chassis on a twisty road, such that all you’re really doing is leaning into a huge, blunt wall of purchase and making it harder for yourself to experience the full talent of that brilliant RS all-wheel drive chassis.
As we found on a damp, treacherous, lonely Eildon-Jamieson Road (which is best included in an epic Victorian high-country multi-day driving tour), it seems less is more when it comes to grip in the RS – on the road, at least.
With a UHP tyre, the limit of the front tyres is more achievable, which is more exciting; the rear is livened up and more eager for a play. You can expend the available front grip such that you can feel the brake torque vectoring at work, and have more fun in the RS at lower speeds. (And presumably it’s better for Drift Mode, although we honestly rarely get the urge to use it.)
And the RS is mega on this damp, twisty road. While in these somewhat sketchy conditions we are happy to leave the rear tyres alone and enjoy the front end instead, it’s interesting as well to play a game of How Early Can I Pick Up The Throttle.
There’s a sweet spot – or curve – of throttle application that you can trace where the RS puts its power down and holds or even tightens its line, but get greedy and it’s possible to push the front wide. Does the fitment of a front limited-slip differential make the LE feel a bit too ‘front-driven’? You’d have to drive it back-to-back with a normal RS to really notice, but possibly.
The RS is also underrated as a gadget for getting from one Aussie country town to another. The damping gets better the faster you go, lending the RS incredible high-speed stability for a hot hatch. It would feel very comfortable at 130km/h on a typical Aussie country road.
Our time with the Focus RS is almost up and the softer 19-inch UHP tyres have turned a fling into potential marriage material. It’s going to be hard to give it back.
2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition Pros & Cons
Three things we're falling for:
1 - High-speed damping
2 - That front end
3 - Wet weather talent
Three things we're not fond of:
1 - Breathless top-end
2 - Meh gearshift
3 - Dated interior
Update 5: The track element
Focus RS Limited Edition finds its natural habitat at Phillip Island
If you've bought a Ford Focus RS, you have to get it on a track. There aren’t many new performance models out there with brakes that can reasonably withstand a track beating, that have properly supportive seats, or simply have the ability to be both properly fast and fun at the same time.
If you don’t take your Focus RS to a track, you’ve paid for a lot of capability that you’re just not using. And you’re bouncing around on those firm springs not enjoying the reward for doing so.
This month, we took our Focus RS Limited Edition long termer to the fastest track-day circuit in Australia, Phillip Island. In fact, we took two identical Focus RS Limited Editions along, our long-termer on a test set of Falken FK510s, and an identical car – including almost the same mileage – on the stock Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber.
The purpose of this was mostly practical as we couldn’t fit Cup 2 tyres on our long-termer in time for the track day. But if you’re wondering why there are two sets of number plates in some of these shots, that’s why.
From a long-term test perspective, the ring-in RS LE twin had copped even more of a beating than our normal lifer, as it had come straight from our Bang For Your Bucks testing at Winton to our track-day foray at Phillip Island.
And having done possibly 30-50 hard laps of Winton, it must be said, it didn’t exactly feel like it, the brakes still feeling surprisingly healthy, which is a feat an alarming amount of other performance models can’t manage. Some with carbon ceramics.
During the day, and helped by cooler ambient temperatures, the RS remained happy, engine temps always under control even after consecutive hard laps. There is something almost Porsche-like about the RS’s ability to go around and around and around, taking out its rage on its tyres, all the while enjoying a drink. A big drink.
Yes, bring jerry cans to your track day with your RS, as one tank vaporised in just two 20-minute sessions, the trip computer showing over 25L/100km.
The RS also uniformly devours tyres in a way we’ve seen of only a few cars. The Falkens were looking a little sad after just one session and the Cup 2s? See below. Although credit to Michelin, after a hundred or so kays of normal road driving, the Cups do return to a much healthier appearance.
Around Phillip Island, the RS LE was, well, in its element. Satisfyingly fast – showing 230km/h at the end of pit straight right at the top of fifth gear – it also showed off an impressive stability, able to be held flat through Stoner Corner (T3) and the Hayshed (T8) after short-shifting into fifth gear, with only a brief lift required as it tucked into T12 on to the pit straight, to start all over again.
Normally the habitat of taller-geared supercars, the little RS hot hatch felt at home at the Island, a few short-ish gear ratios aside.
The enjoyment on offer from the RS would change from corner to corner. Around the Southern Loop (T2) and the late apex Siberia (T4), the tenacious Cup tyres accepted increasingly ambitious entry speeds, squishing you into the supportive Recaro side bolsters – enormously fun.
But in the slowest corners the RS LE could be a bit of a chore, like Honda (T4) and the T10 hairpin, with average brake pedal feel and a manual gearbox that sometimes made it almost deliberately hard to find a lower gear. A precision instrument it is not.
Fortunately, rocketing back out of the tighter corners was a thrill thanks to the traction on offer from the front-diff equipped all-wheel drive system.
Other gripes included actively having to stop myself slouching down in the driver’s seat as I struggled to get used to the high-ish seating position. And bring your own timing gear – for such a great car on track, it’s curious the RS doesn’t have an in-built lap timer. Lucky we took one along; Scotty recorded a best lap of 1:52.2 on the skaty Falkens. Fresh Cups could be worth at least another 1.5sec.
So, is the Focus RS Limited Edition a bit addictive on track? You bet. To not take it on one would be like buying a boat and leaving it on the trailer.
2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition Pros & Cons
Three things we're falling for:
1 - Resilient brakes
2 - Tricky AWD system
3 - Supportive seats
Three things we're not fond of:
1 - Appetite for fuel
2 - Appetite for tyres
3 - Average gearshift
Update 6: Conclusion
We farewell our heavily turbocharged track-day hero
Six months and 10,875km later, it was with a tear that we returned ARA-949 to Ford, ‘our’ Nitrous Blue Focus RS Limited Edition – and the MOTOR garage is worse off for not having this car in it. Would we buy one if we had the chance? Yes, yes and yes.
The Focus RS is a bit of a toy, sure, and you wouldn’t put up with it every day if you never intended to use all the fantastic performance it has on offer.
But if you did, it’s easy enough to live with on a daily basis, provided you are accepting of a few personality ‘quirks’. For example, the turning circle is appalling; the relatively small, 51L fuel tank means you are constantly filling up; there is no full-size spare; the urban ride will either feel too firm, or fine, depending on your reference point, and personal preference.
And you have to keep an eye on the oil level – and perhaps the coolant, anxiously, if you haven’t yet taken Ford up on its offer to replace the head gasket, after a litany of failures around the world due to fitting the wrong one in the factory. And there have been other catastrophic RS power unit failures like cracked blocks, necessitating whole engine replacements.
Fortunately, we have had zero problems with our RS in the time we’ve had it. And those 10,875 kilometres at MOTOR might very well be equivalent to, ahem, 30,000 kilometres in the hands of a doting, merciful owner.
We have loved most kilometres in the car. Tellingly, our best times have been on a racetrack – and it would be criminal for an owner not to take their RS on a track, as they’ve purchased one of the best handling cars this side of a Porsche Cayman. Really.
Sure, the controls are far more Ford- than Porsche-like, but that’s fine, it’s a Focus after all. What is more enjoyable are the many ways you can drive an RS on track – enjoying the enormous grip of the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s and just going fast. Or throwing caution to the wind and flinging the thing in backwards, which it’ll happily do as well.
We initially thought Drift Mode was a gimmick, but then we discovered, as a secondary step, you need to also fully deactivate ESC after engaging Drift Mode, and then it works properly, making the RS a bonafide riot.
It isn’t ‘rear-drive mode’, but get the rear sliding and floor it and it’ll slew sideways with all four wheels spinning. If you can arrive at the apex already sideways, you will laugh as hard as you’ve ever laughed in a car before.
One of the main takeaways of the RS is that it’s hugely fun. Its ability to put a smile on your face is up there, for me, with anything else I’ve driven, from rear-drive atmo V10 Lambos to 515kW 911 GT2 RSs to Subaru BRZs – you name it. It has a totally different box of tricks to these cars, of course, but fun is fun, further enhanced by its hilarious exhaust pops and bangs.
Interestingly, very few times did I think to myself, ‘thank god this car has a front limited slip differential’, as is the main attraction of the LE. The traction of the base RS is so strong, you’d probably have to drive them back-to-back, in very specific circumstances, to notice any significant difference. Associate Editor Newman reckons it feels a little more front-driven, and less playful, than the standard car.
If we owned a Focus RS, drove it daily, and intended to track it regularly, we’d buy another set of wheels and fit them with our track tyre of choice, and then fit something like a Michelin Pilot Sport 4S for road use.
While the grip on offer from the standard Cup 2s is delicious, there’s almost too much for the road, and taking a little bit away unshackles the RS’s brilliant chassis, letting it dance more easily at lower speeds. Plus, getting off the Cup 2’s reinforced sidewalls improves the ride. And Cup 2s are not cheap...
We’d also investigate some lowered seat rails from UK mob JCR Developments. Dropping the otherwise quite high ‘shell’ Recaros either 20mm or 55mm “transforms” the car, or so say many happy owners.
We’ll miss our Focus RS Limited Edition. It stirs up your inner hoon like few other cars. It’s a good, practical car, but an even better hot hatch – a brilliant one, actually, fast and fun, a future classic.
2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition Pros & Cons
Three things we're falling for:
1 - Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun
2 - The looks, the grunt
3 - Epic chassis & AWD
Three things we're not fond of:
1 - Dated, bland interior
2 - You sit too high
3 - Fuel, oil, tyre bills
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2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo review
A super sedan for those who dare to be different, but is it nuts enough?
Bentley Continental GT V8 Convertible review
Bentley's bent-eight drop-top has a few tricks up its luxurious sleeves
Three supercoupes battle it out in a half-million dollar showdown
The Lang Lang proving grounds host a three-way supercoupe face-off but which sub-$200k GT is the last one standing?