From a great bloodline comes excellence
THIS is the Muhammad Ali of hatchbacks — there is simply no purer way to describe Ford’s new Focus RS.
It floats like a butterfly and stings like a Bullet Ant, wearing its Rallye Sport badge with a proud smugness.
Enthusiasts have waited seven years since the lime-green “Hulk” left our knees clattering and our eyeballs bolstered into the back of our heads at every turn. The hype surrounding this launch was feverish, and not only because of the car’s luminary bloodline, but because the specs were exceedingly exceptional.
Sitting poised at the start line, where the RS seems most at home, I spent a few minutes admiring its muscles. Okay, it was more than a few minutes, but can you blame me?
The new RS may not have its predecessor’s brutish arches and snarling vents, but one can appreciate that Ford’s designers were obsessed with functionality, aiming for aerodynamics and balanced weight distribution, with every element contributing to maximum driver pleasure.
Inside, the RS feels a bit like a stock ST, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, I would have liked to see a little more racing pizzazz: a few toggle switches like in the Mustang perhaps, or even a button for a rocket launcher. It is an RS after all.
The seats, however, are the highlight of the interior, encapsulating the car’s racing heritage perfectly. They support and pinch you in all the right places and their blue trim matches well with the car’s blue Brembo calipers, which are a musthave, by the by.
It also has all the bells and whistles like electric this and voice-activated that, heated this and remoteless that — all things we expect in a modern vehicle.
Now, on to what really matters.
Under the hood, Ford has transplanted a highly tweaked version of the 2,3 litre turbocharged power plant from the baby Mustang, which delivers 257 kW and 440 Nm of torque, catapulting the RS from 0-100 km/h in 4,7 seconds.
The RS will max out at 266 km/h and getting there is easier than one would expect.
The engine may be turbocharged but it does a first-rate job in disguising it, with a seamless thrust generated by a new lowinertia twin-scroll turbocharger kicking in from the time you put the pedal down right through to the rev limit just under 7 000 rpm. It pulls away effortlessly from standstill, making me think Ford has hidden a few more cylinders somewhere in the boot.
But this is not a straight-line racer, even though a bowel-wrenching launch control and trick four-wheel-drive precision will have you believe it. Around a corner, ain’t nothing gon’ catch the RS.
To be technical, the All Wheel Drive system is based on twin electronically controlled clutch packs on each side of the rear drive unit. These manage the car’s front and rear torque split, and also control the side-to-side torque distribution at the rear axle — delivering the “torque vectoring” capability.
This can send 70% of the drive torque to the rear axle and up to 100% of the available torque at the rear axle can be sent to each rear wheel.
Basically, the car knows what it is doing before you do.
But this does not mean you are being driven around by a sophisticated computer.
With a standard six-speed manual gearbox, because real men only drive stick, adaptive dampers and Electronic Stability Control, the RS makes you feel like a true WRC legend behind the wheel without letting you get too ahead of yourself.
There are four driving modes to choose from at the click of a button: Normal, for that week before pay day when you cannot afford to let loose. Sport, for when you want to eat up almost any other hot hatch at the traffic light.
Track, for when you want to feel like a real racer. And Drift, for when you feel like it’s time to end your life. No seriously. I had the privilege of circuiting a skidpan with the RS in Drift. No handbrake needed to perform that perfect slide. I felt like Beethoven’s Fifth should have been playing in the background. And the best part is I had never drifted before. But don’t whip the beast because it will bite you. Hard. So the RS really is an allrounder. It’s stunning, powerful, superb to handle and for lack of a better word, fun. It’s not going to break any lap records but is designed to be enjoyed, make you grin like you’ve just lost your virginity, and all without taking itself too seriously.
Like Ali, the RS combines precision with power and will be sure to deliver a knockout blow to its challengers.
With only 300 bound for South African shores, like its older brother, the RS will one day be a collector’s car, and therefore, should come with a collector’s price. But it doesn’t.
The RS comes in one derivative and starts at R699 900, with all the optional extras adding up to about R10 000. It may seem like a lot, but consider it is more than R100 000 cheaper than Audi’s RS3 and Mercedes’ A45 AMG.
If Ken Blog is your YouTube hero, the Focus RS is the car for you, especially with the industryfired drift mode activated.