Ford Fo­cus RS Edi­tion

Fit­ting a Quaife dif­fer­en­tial to Ford’s hottest hatch has trans­formed it… but it doesn’t come cheap

Evo - - DRIVEN - James Dis­dale

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

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