We finally do a 2009 Focus RS Test, spending some time to review Ford’s performance Focus.
I may not hail from Essex – Ford’s home in the UK – but I’ve lived here for the biggest part of my life. So although I never indulged in the Essex-boy blinging of the most prosaic cars on the road I’ve ended up with a soft spot for quick Fords. And in particular RS Fords.
The love of quick Fords started in the mid ’70s when I was still at school. A friend – who had gone off to earn his way in life instead of playing at idle sixth-formers – had succeeded in buying an Escort Mexico. And, good friend that he was, he was perfectly willing to let me play when he was out earning the money to pay for it.
And it was fast – certainly by contemporary standards – and handled well. Tail-out stuff was a breeze and it was a mountain of fun. A white paint job. SNO 6M. That’s how well I remember it.
But that long-ago Escort Mexico might as well be from 100 years ago as 30 when you compare it to Ford’s latest RS – the Focus RS. A be-winged and be-jewelled family hatchback that conspires to drive 300 very willing horses through the front wheels. Which shouldn’t be possible. But it is – sort of.
Ford has developed a system called RevoKnuckle which aims to tame the torque-steer that would otherwise tear the steering wheel from your grip as you accelerate hard, and makes putting the power down achievable. It does this by moving the hubs away from the front struts, thereby reducing the pressure on the steering rack and reducing the feedback. It doesn’t eliminate the kickback completely but it certainly tames it. No longer can it be claimed that anything much over 200bhp through the front wheels is unmanageable – 300bhp is possible and probably more.
You would expect that 300bhp through the front wheels and all the glitz that goes with the Focus RS would make this a mad beast that had to be driven at 10/10ths to enjoy. But you’d be wrong. At tickover it’s no louder than a regular Focus. The Recaro seats are comfortable – even for a big lump like me – and the whole car feels civilised and sorted.The cabin is a nice place to be, even if the small dials look like they were a Christmas present from Auntie Gladys glued to the top of the dash.
Even when you drive the RS briskly it doesn’t snarl at you, it just responds as you would hope. But if you use the superb short throw ‘box fully and keep the revs above 4500 – changing up only as you hit the red line – you start to realise how far fast Fords have come. 0-60mph bests 6 seconds, and feels quicker. The torque on offer means the RS responds almost without reference to the gear you’re in. The power is almost instantaneous – even from a standing start. The ESP seems to have been dialled in to perfection. We tried a run with it off and the RS handles pretty much the same. A little livelier, perhaps, but we couldn’t get where we were going any quicker with the electro-nannies turned off.