Get my drift?
Ford’s hot five-door grabs attention, grips and goes hard
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.
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.