FORD FOCUS RS REWRITES THE RULE BOOK
EVERY once in a while comes along a car that changes the rules, a car that sets new parameters and redefines what you previously thought was possible.
This is what the new Ford Focus RS achieves, ripping up the rule book for front wheel drive performance hatchbacks and raising the bar beyond the reach of anything else in its class. To get near its blend of grip, grunt and handling you need either four wheel drive or something wearing an exotic badge and costing an awful lot more.
We knew it was going to be good because Ford has some of the best chassis tuning engineers in the business but this good? That, I admit, was a surprise.
The basics are this. From its turbo engine it delivers 300 bhp and a healthy dose of torque which is available over an extraordinarily wide rev range. That’s one of is secrets.
The power is fed through its front axle and conventional wisdom would have it that this much power would result in terminal torque steer, something which afflicted this car’s predecessor. However, thanks to a radical piece of front suspension design now patented called the RevoKnuckle, the torque steer is decoupled and the effects is magical. Give the engine full beans while still having quite a lot of steering lock on, such as when powering out of a tight bend for example, and while there is still a slight trace of that tugging feel through the wheel, the RS just grips and goes.
There is no other front wheel drive production car in the world today that behaves as well as the Focus. In this regard it has just rewritten the rules.
With 300 bhp and that fat slug of torque the RS is enormously quick and its performance is coupled to a superb soundtrack, a really deep and forceful rumble from its guts.
But there’s more to the RS’s repertoire than merely going fast because to my mind its crowning glory is the level of communication between car and driver, something which elevates this car far above four-wheel drive rivals from Subaru or Mitsubishi.
This car talks to you in a way that is rare in the motoring world. In a tight wet right hand bend I could feel the inside rear tyre starting to pick up as the car rolled, the back end wanting to slide and then the front tyres’ grip limits as we accelerated out. I’m talking fractions here but the link through the steering and the messages the chassis transmits are unpolluted. It’s as if the tyres are hard-wired into your nervous system. For a sensitive driver listening to what’s going on underneath them, the RS is sublime.
The combination of power, grip, agility and handling and the communication provide the confidence to dig into the Ford’s reserves, to explore its limits secure in the knowledge that it will telegraph its intentions to you before anything nasty happens as you push its envelope.
It is a stunning performance car, as quick across country in real world driving conditions as any exotica and yet it is very composed and usable around town, at slow speeds and on our worn out road surfaces.
As an all-rounder it takes some beating.
The bad news well, Ford has already sold half the 4.500 allocation for the UK and I don’t think it will be long before the rest go.