Ford Focus RS Edition
Fitting a Quaife differential to Ford’s hottest hatch has transformed it… but it doesn’t come cheap
EVER SINCE THE CURRENT FORD Focus RS swaggered onto the scene in 2016, it has been ripe for aftermarket upgrades. Whether it’s for more power, tweaked suspension or some garish visual ‘enhancements’, there is a long line of tuners and tweakers keen to give your Focus more, erm, focus.
Ford, too, has cashed in, with its official Mountune-developed upgrades, and now it has gone further with this new RS Edition model, which is claimed to be aimed at ‘hardcore driving enthusiasts’. On paper the changes over the standard car are fairly minor, running to nothing more than a limited-slip differential for the front axle and a host of cosmetic and equipment upgrades, yet the result is an RS transformed.
Visually, the changes are relatively subtle, which says more about the standard car’s pugnacious looks than it does about the Edition’s add-ons. You have a choice of Nitrous Blue or Race Red paint, and if you don’t opt for the latter, which is making its debut on the Edition and isn’t available on the regular RS, the most noticeable difference is the matt black finish for the roof, tailgate spoiler, door mirror caps and 19-inch alloys. Inside, shellbacked Recaros are standard (they’re normally a £1145 option) but gain some fairly garish trim inserts, and there’s also a smattering of real carbonfibre. So far, so aftermarket.
Mechanically, the big news is that limitedslip diff, a Quaife unit, for the front wheels. It’s claimed to improve handling precision and stability under braking and turn-in. In every other respect the car is standard Focus RS, which means the same 345bhp, turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual gearbox driving all four wheels through GKN’S trick torque-vectoring, four-wheeldrive transmission. Also carried over are the adaptive dampers and various driver settings, including the headline-grabbing Drift mode.
From behind the wheel it all feels very familiar, right down to the seating position set a little too high. The sense of déjà vu continues as you prod the starter button then get moving. There’s the same burbling exhaust note at idle and the firm ride that has occupants bobbing along in rhythm with the road. Performance is identical to the basic car’s, which means it feels indecently rapid once it’s rolling and the engine has overcome the inertia inherent in a hatchback tipping the scales at nearly 1550kg. The crackling exhaust note is a bit contrived, particularly when it issues its perfectly precise barrage of pops and bangs as you lift off the throttle between gearchanges, but it all adds to the drama of a car that’s clearly out to have a good time.
So, does the Edition feel in any way different to the run-of-the-mill RS? The short answer is yes, and it’s all down to that Quaife differential. At low speed the only evidence of its presence
is a subtle tightening of the steering when you lift off the throttle and the diff shifts its loadings. Go faster and its effects are more obvious – and for all the right reasons. For starters, there’s greater stability on the way into corners, the diff helping to keep the Focus tracking true even when you’re working the Brembo brakes hard. The steering is as meatily weighted and precise as before, and there’s the same strong turn-in bite, but pick up the throttle and you’ll discover that the torquesteer that blights the regular RS has been banished, even on bumpy and heavily crowned tarmac. Where the standard car’s nose would weave around as the four-wheel-drive system frantically shuffled torque around, the Edition simply hunkers down and fires along the road with arrow-straight precision.
This more clinical approach breeds confidence, allowing you to further exploit the Ford’s handling balance. You can now really lean on the RS coming out of corners and start working the rear axle to get that subtle rear-wheel-drive sensation as the back of the car moves gently out, pointing the nose into the apex and allowing you to get on the power earlier and revel in the Focus’s newfound ability to go exactly where you point it.
Overall, it gives the RS a more sophisticated and polished feel, and while some drivers will miss the regular car’s slightly ragged and raw character, for most, the gains in precision more than make up for it. The question is whether these improvements make the Edition worth the extra £3530 over the normal version. It’s a hefty chunk of cash given that everything bar the differential and seats you could take or leave. But for the extra finesse the diff brings to the chassis the price is just about justified. Oh, and there’s also the rarity value, because Edition supply in the UK will be capped at 500 blue cars and 300 red. However, the really big question is why Ford didn’t fit the RS with this diff from the outset, because it makes it the great car it always should have been.
‘The Edition simply hunkers down and fires along the road with arrowstraight precision’
Below: newfound ability means the RS now goes where you point it. Below left: cosmetic changes come at a price; seats still set too high