The Ford Focus RS is the ridiculously powerful hatchback Europe has been teasing us with for years. But now the heavens smile upon the U.S. and will grace us with Ford’s craziest family car. Except now the RS is a driftmobile with all-wheel drive. What do you need to know before you buy a Focus RS? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in the our Buyer’s Guide.
The Volkswagen Golf R is a bit of a “Renaissance Car.” It’s an excellent all-rounder that has all-wheel drive for snowy days, a spacious hatchback configuration to fit all your stuff and 2.2 kids, good fuel efficiency, sharp looks, a reasonable price and kick-ass handling. It’s such a great formula, yet it’s a rare one in today’s U.S. automotive landscape.
Now Ford is plugging some numbers into that very formula; namely, the numbers 350 and four. The former representing the horsepower and torque values of the new 2016 Focus RS, and the latter standing for how many wheels get fed those juicy 350 ponies. With those inputs into that excellent equation, we can only hope Ford winds up with the right answer.
But this isn’t Ford’s first exam. They have a rich history of racing the “fast all-wheel drive economy car” formula. Their Escort and Sierra RS Cosworth twins, for example, brought much more expensive cars to their knees, as Patrick George states in his article:
Built for touring car racing as well as the street, the Sierra RS Cosworth was a giant-slayer, a kickass turbocharged performance machine with a signature massive wing...Its successor was the rally focused Escort Cosworth, which was developed in the late 80s but sold in the early 90s. It featured all-wheel drive, more delicious turbocharged power, and yet another ridiculously great wing.
All the good stuff from those cars–the “all-wheel drive,” “delicious turbocharged power,” and “massive wing”–are making their way to the U.S., as Europe will serve up a nice big helping of Focus RS goodness to us yanks for 2016.
Thank you, automotive gods.
In his review, Mate Petrany said the Focus RS was God In Hatchback Form. Needless to say, we like it.
The RS is super easy to use in everyday traffic despite its rather huge turning circle. The clutch is light, the steering is just as it should be and the gearbox is a one finger exercise. The noise is there in the background, but the ride is very forgiving in normal mode, and all this makes the RS a true daily driver alternative. A fast one.
Once you get it up to speed outside the city and start playing with the driving modes, it will get louder and harder on the bumps, but also remain very well balanced without much understeer or oversteer thanks to all that torque vectoring. The turbo makes the RS pull alright at low rpms, but once you hit the sweet spot, it’ll accelerate out of the corners like only an all-wheel drive car can, and since its brakes won’t ever die on you, there’s no reason not to hit the next ones faster than advised. Those clever gears under the floor will take care of the situation without killing the fun. You’ll rev it just for the pops.
Built in Germany, the Focus RS is not just some economy car with a big engine; it promises to behave like a thoroughbred sports car on the track, while offering the practicality and fuel economy of a hatchback.
Europe has had a Focus RS hot-hatch since 2002. That first version made about 200 horsepower, which it sent to the front-wheel wheels. Its successor came around in 2009 and made around 300 horses. And while the second generation Focus RS also routed the power to the wrong wheels, it had a fancy limited slip differential and a suspension that included a “RevoKnuckle,” which helped reduce torque-steer.
But the new 2016 model is a big deal, not just because it’s a global model shared by both Europe and the U.S., but because it’s all-wheel drive. In the U.S., the Focus RS is completely new and slots above the ST as the Focus’s ultra-performance variant. Sure, it sits on the same bones as its sporty front-wheel drive counterpart, but changes to the powertrain, drivetrain and suspension promise to put the RS in another performance universe.
A 350 horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four spins all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission and a fancy GKN all-wheel drive system with “dynamic torque vectoring” that can send up to 70% of engine torque to the rear wheels. That rear-biased all-wheel drive system includes a brake-based torque vectoring system up front and a clutch-based torque vectoring setup in the back.
And then there’s “drift mode,” which ensures a large rearward power bias to allow for “controlled oversteer.” We like the sound of that.
There are lots of big-names on the RS’s spec sheet. Brakes are Brembos, seats are from Recaro and tires are either Michelin Pilot Super Sports or Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s. All that results in a drift-monster that can handle like a champion, rocket to 60 MPH in 4.7 seconds and get to a top speed of 165 MPH.
That’s quick, but don’t think the RS is just for die-hard experienced performance drivers. Though it doesn’t come with an automatic transmission option, the manual gets a stall recovery feature, which helps drivers get the car back up to speed if their left foot gets overwhelmed or confused with clutch-duty.
So, there’s lots of good tech under the RS’s sheetmetal, and we enjoyed every second of driving one.
The Focus RS uses the same 2.3-liter turbo inline-four as the Mustang, except they’ve upgraded it with a new twin-scroll turbo, exhaust, intake, high-flow head, stronger cylinder liners and new oil cooler. To keep the engine performing at ten tenths, Ford’s jammed an enormous radiator and intercooler behind that big front grille.
The engine, with premium fuel, makes 350 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 350 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 revs. That power gets routed to a six-speed manual transmission an then to all four wheels via a GKN torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system.
All those components work together to get the little hatchback from zero to 60 MPH in 4.7 seconds.
EngineMax Horsepower (hp)Max Torque (lb-ft)2.3L Turbo I4350 @ 6000 rpm350 @ 3200 rpm
Ford hasn’t yet released fuel economy figures for the Focus RS, but expect city mileage close to the low 20s and highway mileage in the high 20s.
_2.3-liter Turbo I46-Speed manualNot Yet Rated
The standard RS costs $35,730 plus an $875 destination fee, bringing you to $36,605. That base RS comes well equipped, too. You get partial-leather Recaro seats, a six-speed manual, SYNC 3 infotainment system with eight-inch display, a 10-speaker audio system, dual-zone climate control, 19-inch painted alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires, a rearview camera and HID automatic headlamps.
Ford put quite a lot of work into keeping the RS’ price at a reasonable level, so it’s tempting to buy a base car and laugh at those who spent a fortune on a Golf R. Having said that, the optional $695 Nitrous Blue paint is a nice punch in the face of boredom, and the $1,990 Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2 tires and black forged alloys are awesome if you plan to hit the track with your RS more than once.
Of course, if you live somewhere that gets lots of snow, the $1,995 winter wheel and tire package might be a better investment, especially if you want to keep up with those Subaru STIs in the woods.
Regardless of your wheel and tire choice, at $39,300 after destination, the Focus RS is a lot of firepower for your money.
MSRP: $35,730 Top Speed: 165MPH
Acceleration: 4.7s to 60 MPG: TBD
Engines: 2.3L Turbo I4 Max Horsepower/Torque: 350 hp/350 lb-ft
Curb Weight: NA IIHS Safety Rating: Top Safety Pick
Transmissions: 6-speed manual Drivetrain Layout: Front Engine, AWD
Photo credit: Ford
Last Updated: Feb 7, 2016