Our review of the all-new Ford Focus RS lands this afternoon, so until then, why not refresh yourself on the last Focus to wear the RS badge.
First published in the February 2011 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
It was all meant to end in a torque-steering arm wrestle at the first corner, every fearful touch on the throttle sending the little green monster wider into the weeds. Few of us expected the front-drive Focus RS to handle 440Nm without seriously compromising cornering integrity. In fact, it did so with alacrity and finesse, forcing the panel to recalibrate long-standing preconceptions about the limitations of FWD performance. This most focused Focus eviscerated the You Yangs ride and handling course like no other north-paw before it. Sadly, one came soon after that would tarnish the Focus’s shine considerably.
The Focus RS is all about performance and the theatre of performance. The way its 224kW turbocharged five-pot pulls from everywhere, screams almost to redline and then burps and farts on overrun is just brilliant. Then there’s the WRC-inspired Revoknuckle front suspension and Quaife differential, which manage the effusive engine’s output without damaging front-end clarity or cohesion.
The Ford Focus RS is fast; it’s a raw rush of adrenaline that has few manners and makes no apologies for ignoring little things like NVH and ride comfort. Judges loved the Focus’s undiluted animalism. “As raw as tuna sashimi,” said Carey. “But not everyone likes raw fish.” And even piscatorial aficionados don’t want it for every meal. This fabulously fast Focus is just too focused. And fundamentally flawed. There’s the superficial. The external bodykit is polarising but at least it’s convincing. Inside, flashes of carbonfibre and various other mismatched surfaces blend like fridge magnets on the everyday Focus lurking beneath. The driver’s seat is too high and can’t be adjusted without a spanner. The instrument dials are small, the numerals even smaller, and there’s no cruise control … in a $60,000 car.
The Focus’s ride is a kidney pulveriser. No argument that the chassis set-up delivers during a blood-rushing blast, but it's far less tolerable on roads not paved for racing. And the turning circle brings more backing and shunting than a trainyard. We loved the tyre grip in the dry, but braking performance in the wet was poor. Even the far-from-impressive Porsche Cayenne SUV stopped shorter, and it weighs almost a tonne more than the Focus’s 1492kg.
When time came to judge, the Focus RS struggled against all criteria bar one: function, and then only against the performance subset. But the Focus’s biggest problem at COTY 2010 wasn't the criteria, it was the Renault Megane RS250 Cup, which did almost everything the Focus did, rode better, had better NVH, and a more convincing interior, and – even in top-spec Trophée form – was a whopping $12K cheaper. Against the criteria, that gap was simply too cavernous to bridge.
The Ford Focus RS has the most powerful version of Volvo’s five-cylinder VVT turbo also found in the Focus XR5, Volvo C30, S40, V50 and C70. The aluminium in-line engine block is part of Volvo’s Modular engine family that traces its roots back to 1990 when it debuted as the 960 sedan’s 3.0-litre straight six.
“I love the theatre of this car” - Byron Mathioudakis
“The muscle car of hot hatches” - Bill Thomas
“Cheap origins can’t be disguised”- Peter Robinson
Type: 3-door hatch, 4 seats
Track (f/r): 1586/1587mm
Cargo capacity: 385L
Layout: front engine (east-west) FWD
Engines: 2.5-litre 5cyl turbo (224kW/440Nm)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Suspension: front struts, lower L-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar rear multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Brakes: ventilated discs (f); solid discs (r)
Spare: n/a (sealant kit)
ADR81 test consumption: 10.4L/100km
Minimum fuel grade: 95 RON (unleaded)
Greenhouse emissions: 246g/km CO2
Emission standard: Euro 5
Driver aids: ABS, BA, EBD, TC, ESC
Seatbelts: front pre-tensioners/load limiters
Front airbags: Yes
Side airbags: No
Curtain airbags: Yes
Knee airbags: No
Crash rating: five star (NCAP)
3-year retained value: 50.5%
Service interval: 12 months/ 20,000km