The Blue Oval brand is bringing in only 315 cars, writes Paul Gover
AGENUINE pocket rocket has joined the Ford family. The new Focus RS is much more than a 2010 update of the outgoing Focus XR5 Turbo. It brings a sharp new edge thanks to everything from a 224kW— that is 300 horsepower — and special front suspension to giant 19-inch alloy wheels and a rallyinspired body kit.
The ultimate Focus is not cheap at $59,990, and it has only front-wheel drive, but Ford Australia has 315 cars and is expecting an early sellout, despite pitching the car against the rapid Volkswagen Golf GTi, RenaultSport Clio, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo and Subaru STi.
The Focus RS runs against the tide for the compact Ford because it is built in Germany, not in a value-driven Thai factory, and promises to give the Blue Oval brand something extra to sell alongside its XR Falcons and FPV hotrods.
‘‘RS is overt performance. We have it,’’ Ford Australia marketing and sales vice-president Beth Donovan says. ‘‘The enthusiasts are really what we’re after here. This is a product that’s driven by a customer desire.
‘‘Performance is not just about large cars. It’s also about small. We’ve been doing quite well with the XR5 Turbo and, in our mind, the RS is a natural extension of that.’’
Ford is not giving any performance figures, but it’s likely to make a 0-100km/h sprint in about six seconds with a top beyond 200km/h. That should give it the right sort of punch to rival the Evo and STi, even with the kermitgreen paint that’s the car’s signature colour.
THE RS is a very expensive Focus. It’s more than double the starting sticker for the range.
Even so, it shapes up as a good-value car thanks to a well-stacked list of standard equipment and its go-fast gear.
‘‘We’re bringing them on with everything on them. We’ve just got three paint colours, and half of them are green,’’ Donovan says.
A lot of the extra cost goes into the drivetrain, but Ford also loads the RS with Recaro sports seats, extra dials, a short-shift gear lever and a solid sound system.
THE real story on the RS is in the engine room and suspension. The five-cylinder turbo punches out 224kW, but it’s the 440Nm that does the heavy lifting and, coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox, makes it so quick.
It also helps that the RS package includes a special Quaife limited-slip differential.
There is also a wider track and much larger 336mm front discs, sharper steering and the giant alloys with specially developed 235x35 Continental tyres.
Ford claims a lot of extra work on everything from cooling to noise suppression, but really crows about the car’s RevoKnuckle front suspension.
It is designed to eliminate torque steer and, working with control-blade independent rear suspension, to give the RS plenty of grip and balance in every driving condition.
THE RS takes its lead from the World Rally Championship, where the Focus is the only serious rival to the dominant Citroen C4.
Even the Ultimate Green paintwork is a steal from the BP battle colours on the Focus WRC.
So the bodywork is pumped and pummeled, with flared guards, a deep front spoiler, twinplane rear wing and cooling vents on the bonnet.
It’s not a beauty, but — just like the Evo and STi — it shouts ‘‘I’m fast’’ to anyone that’s listening.
The cabin is racer-boy special, from the chunky wheel and alloy pedals to extra gauges and RS badging.
So it’s not for everyone, but Ford already knows it will have no trouble finding 315 fans.
THE RS is a go-fast car and that could signal trouble on the safety side, but Ford has worked to tame the car.
It has a predictable package of airbags, ESP stability control and ABS braking.
But the real key to safety in a car like this is the basic grip and balance.
The ESP can be switched off, but Ford recommends taking this risk only on a track.
And it says the Focus RS is just as fast around the Nurburgring track with the ESP fully activated.
Limited edition: the Ford Focus RS is rated as one of the best Fords this side of an FPV-badged vehicle.