Ford’s tsunami

The Blue Oval brand is bring­ing in only 315 cars, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

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.

Value

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.

Technology

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.

De­sign

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.

Safety

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.

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