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.
Geek Speak: Focus RS Drift Mode
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.
No quick flings on MOTOR long-term reviews
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