Get my drift?

Ford’s hot five-door grabs at­ten­tion, grips and goes hard

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK - WITH PAUL GOVER

EV­ERY­ONE who sees me driv­ing the Ford Fo­cus RS asks the same ques­tion.

“Have you tried the drift mode?”

So, to get that out of the way, I have not. And I won’t. Be­cause I don’t need to do it.

Most peo­ple who buy a Fo­cus RS will try it once for them­selves, per­haps a cou­ple of times more to im­press their friends, but it’s re­ally a gim­mick for peo­ple in coun­tries like Bri­tain where week­end track laps are nor­mal for fast car fun.

There are far more im­por­tant things to think about with the lat­est RS, which is drop­ping into the hot hatch scene as the most likely ri­val to the Subaru STI, Re­nault Me­gane RS and a bunch of oth­ers.

It’s also the car I’m ex­pect­ing to take up the slack left by the death of the Mit­subishi Lancer Evo. So here we go.

The new RS is a five-door hatch from just on $51,000, which makes it costly for the com­pact class but a bar­gain for a car with 257kW/440Nm and a claimed sub-five-sec­ond sprint time to 100km/h.

It’s just about lineball on price with the STI from Subaru, which is no ac­ci­dent as Ford Aus­tralia knows al­ready that fast car fans will pay that money for the ri­val.

It’s nowhere near as out­ra­geous as the pre­vi­ous RS in 2010, which looked plain evil and nasty, but this one has the bonus of rear doors. Ford says all the body mods, from the gi­ant air in­take in the nose to brake ducts and aero parts, are there for a real rea­son and not just to make the car turn heads.

For me, it’s a lit­tle un­der­done

but I can ap­pre­ci­ate the up­grade to all-wheel drive and the rest of the me­chan­i­cals, in­clud­ing the six-speed man­ual gear­box, 2.3litre turbo, gi­ant Brembo brakes, 18-inch al­loys with sticky Miche­lin tyres and Re­caro sports buck­ets in the front.

There are some short­cuts on the safety front, as the RS misses fea­tures from the lowerorder Fo­cus mod­els — auto safety brak­ing, blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing and rear traf­fic alert — and there is a smaller boot than the lesser ST as well as no spare of any sort.

RS shop­pers, I reckon, will be more in­ter­ested in launch con­trol, a gear­box they can shift them­selves, satnav, eight-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen and bixenon lights.

There is also the multi-mode op­er­a­tion to tweak the en­gine man­age­ment, ad­just the dampers and un­lock drift mode.

ON THE ROAD

The new RS is not as dra­matic as I ex­pect. It looks tough but not tricked up or wicked.

The Re­caro seats are set far too high to al­low me to feel prop­erly con­nected to the car. Gear ra­tios are a bit hit-and­miss which means some­times it’s not revving enough and other times it’s revving too hard in cor­ners.

Ford has made mis­takes in the past with its dou­ble-clutch auto, as I know from com­plaints from own­ers, but a qual­ity item with pad­dle-shifters would be bet­ter in a car like this.

Do I sound un­der­whelmed? Sorry.

The RS is truly quick — the torque surges to all four cor­ners from lit­tle more than idle. It re­ally ramps up power as I ap­proach the red-line. You would have to pay a lot more to get a car that’s not much quicker.

The han­dling is sharp, it grips in any cor­ner at any­thing short of silly speed and the brakes are great.

It’s also good that it can carry five peo­ple, with rear doors that end the tor­ture test re­quired for ac­cess to the back of the of the pre­vi­ous RS, and the fuel econ­omy can be pretty good un­less you’re be­ing bad.

The sound­track doesn’t have the pop-bang-blurt silli­ness of the Mercedes A45 AMG, although a bit of stealth is al­ways good, and it has an out­ra­geously mas­sive turn­ing cir­cle to min­imise stress on the front axles.

But, as I re­turn to my favourite river-val­ley driv­ing road, the fun comes and I have a gi­ant smile. The all-wheel drive set-up is hi-tech, with torque vec­tor­ing to en­sure the grip­pi­est wheel gets the most go, in­clud­ing twin clutch packs to do the lim­ited-slip work in the back end.

I’m driv­ing in Sport mode and it’s great, with in­stant re­sponse from the en­gine. I avoid the Track set­ting which turns the ad­justable dampers rock hard and ef­fec­tively use­less on this un­du­lat­ing road.

THE TICK

As much as I like the Fo­cus RS, I’m not in love with it. It hits hard but it doesn’t hit me hard enough.

I run an im­promptu pop­u­lar­ity poll, to dis­cover oth­ers feel the same. Ea­ger Richard: “I like the look of it, and the idea but I don’t think I could live with one.”. Grumpy Ray: “It’s a bit of fun but I’m get­ting a Mus­tang.” Hon­est Ben: “Wow. Can I try the drift mode?”

It’s a split vote but only a grinch would deny The Tick to this car.

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