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.
MOTOR Exclusive: 2020 Ford Focus RS preview
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.
No short stints on Long-term reviews
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