WHAT IS IT
The most performance-focused, erm, Focus to date, the Ford Focus RS Limited Edition adds a clever mechanical limited-slip differential to help keep the turbo hot hatch’s front axle in check when putting its prodigious power output to the ground.
On top of that, it also makes standard the ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that were optional on the regular Focus RS, as well as a handful of cosmetic updates. Want one? We hope you like Nitrous Blue – it’s the only colour the Limited Edition comes in.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Ford says the new front differential, supplied by powertrain company Quaife, dramatically improves the Focus RS’ ability to maintain traction under hard acceleration, while also improving its stability under braking.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
For a $6000 premium over the cost of a regular Focus RS, the harder-core Limited Edition is a true performance bargain for track-day types. The benefits are slim to nil out on the street, but if you like to spend your weekends orbiting your circuit of choice, chasing the stopwatch in the never-ending quest to better your best laptime, the nifty differential and performance-oriented wheel and tyre package of the Focus RS Limited Edition will give you a solid edge.
Plus: Racecar feel in practical road car form-factor; drift mode is no gimmick; grippy tyres as standard fit; perfect for track days
Minus: High seating position; interior is nothing special;
THE WHEELS REVIEW
HOW do you make one of the best hot hatches even better? Ford’s Focus RS has won over the hearts of Wheels staffers and has won its fair share of comparison tests too, but even we will admit that there’s still a little room for improvement.
Enter the Focus RS Limited Edition. No, it doesn’t address our complaints about cabin quality or uncomfortably-high front seats, but the Limited Edition is no sticker-pack special.
Cosmetic enhancements are minimal and restricted to black-painted door mirrors, rear wing and roof, while rolling stock is upgraded to the previously-optional 19-inch forged alloys (which save 950g a corner) and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber. Power output remains at 257kW/440Nm from the RS’ 2.3-litre turbocharged Ecoboost four-pot, but it’s the Quaife mechanical limited slip differential located between its front driveshafts that makes the Limited Edition something special.
To demonstrate the diff's talents, Ford put us into both the standard Focus RS and the Limited Edition at Eastern Creek. Patchy weather and the fact the regular RS cars wore road-biased Michelin Pilot Super Sports instead of the Limited's Pilot Sport Cup 2s (which are optional on the boggo RS) made it hard to play spot-the-difference, but the extra traction under power in the LSD-equipped Limited was obvious.
Part of that comes down to the Limited's stickier rubber, of course. Even so, exiting a greasy turn two at the 'Creek revealed that the standard car preferred to push its nose wide as the throttle cracks open, while the Limited's front end would hook up - and even transition into easily-catchable oversteer if you sank your right foot a little deeper.
The Focus RS' surprisingly good balance (well, for a transverse-engined hatchback) appears to be more exploitable with the Quaife diff. It's adjustable under power, and with the clever AWD underpinnings able to send up to 70 percent of torque to the rear wheels (and apportion up to 100 percent of that to either the left or right wheels for agility-enhancing torque vectoring), the RS has the flexibility to be driven how you want.
And even though there are no changes to power output, torque output or the shape of the dyno chart for the Limited Edition, the RS' engine never fails to impress, . It’s got more than enough poke to provoke the tail sideways when the chassis electronics are dialled to their slippiest settings, even when the road is dry-ish. In a straight line it's a rocket.
Downsides? The extra grip impacts its driftability, with a skidpan exercise revealing the regular RS to be more willing to rotate during aggressive cone-chasing when Drift Mode is selected. With Drift Mode preferencing the rear axle, the benefits of the Quaife diff don't apply in this style of driving and the grip of the Sport Cups becomes a liability, not an advantage. Eager hoons take note.
But the real sad part is that the Limited Edition is effectively the Focus RS’ swangsong. From this point forward all Focus RS imports to Australia will be Limited Editions, and when the total allocation of 500 cars runs out, that's it. Finito. This is your last chance to nab what is arguably the most capable Ford hot hatch to date.
Is the extra impost justified? Absolutely - as long as you're the kind of person who prefers to spend their weekends hanging out at racetracks, driving hard and trimming down your laptimes. Those kinds of hardcore enthusiasts will appreciate the grip advantage offered by the Limited's LSD - everyone else will probably struggle to notice that it's there.