From a great blood­line comes ex­cel­lence

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AMIL UMRAW

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.

.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

If Ken Blog is your YouTube hero, the Fo­cus RS is the car for you, es­pe­cially with the in­dus­try­fired drift mode ac­ti­vated.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.