Car reviews - Ford - Focus - RS Limited Edition
Astonishing pace, new parts give RS a point of difference, loads of grip, inclusion of autonomous emergency braking
Room for improvement
Tyres are not cheap to replace, track addicts will appreciate changes more than road warriors, seating position still too high
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21 Nov 2017
By TIM ROBSON
IF YOU know your fast Fords, then you know that the blue and white RS badge stands for something quite special. And in the case of the 2016 Focus RS, it adorned one of Ford’s fittest, fastest and most frantic cars of the modern era.
On paper, the Focus RS presents a compelling case a revolutionary new all-wheel-drive system, a potent turbo engine and a chassis tune to match.
The RS is, in short, a riot of a hatchback, and one of the performance bargains of the century.
But the end is in sight for this iteration of the Focus, and with that, the RS will also disappear from our lives. Cue sad face emoticon.
But before it goes, Ford has rustled up a grab bag of extra kit for the Focus, massaging its performance while also lifting its price – one of its most compelling elements, if we’re honest.
With the final 500 cars ever now known as the RS Limited Edition, is it a fitting send off for one of the Blue Oval’s most incredible achievements of recent times?
As a package, the Focus RS is bluntly obvious. It has been designed from the ground up to get around corners and down straights as fast as humanly possible.
Well… at least as a circa-$51,000 before-on roads all-wheel-drive turbocharged hatchback can, at least.
Designed by a team with World Rally Car building experience, the RS does not disappoint when it comes to dynamics.
Sporting a bespoke Twinster rear end that divides torque via two clutches instead of one rear differential, as well as a front suspension knuckle design that all-but eliminates torque steer, the RS is an animal in the corners.
A highly strung version of the Mustang’s turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine provides oomph – all 257kW and 440Nm of it.
A heavily-tweaked turbocharger from the previous-generation RS blows an astonishing 24PSI of boost down its neck to make that much grunt, and RS engineers admit that there’s not a lot left in the engine tune – such is the performance level of this frankly astonishing car.
All in, the Limited Edition commands a $6000 price premium over the regular Focus RS but brings forth a couple of mods that are really best felt by buyers who will take the RS to a race track.
A helical-geared limited-slip diff works across the front axle to tighten the RS’s responses, while limpet-grip Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres embrace forged alloys that save almost four kilograms over the standard wheels.
Inside, meanwhile, lashings of blue cotton and trim pieces match the Nitrous blue exterior – it’s the only hue that the car comes in, and it can be told apart from the regular RS by its black roof and mirror caps.
The soft-compound Cup 2 tyres make an enormous difference on the track in similarly damp conditions around Sydney Motorsport Park’s North Circuit, the Limited Edition was six seconds faster than the regular tyred RS.
It wasn’t a definitive test by any means, but the Limited Edition felt much, much more planted, stable and controllable than the less sure-footed Michelin Pilot Sports tyres that come standard with the car.
It’s worth pointing out that the Cup 2s work better when warm – not something you can necessarily impart into your tyres driving to work, and as such they are not as good in teeming conditions as the regular tyre set.
Is six grand a bit steep for wheels, tyres and a tricky diff? On track, absolutely not. The Cup tyres are a world above the more civilian-friendly Michelin Pilot Sports when pushing on, while the revised front end works with the car’s complex torque vectoring system to add agility at the front at both low and high road speeds.
Point the RS Limited Edition at a corner and mash the throttle as you slide past the apex (in the dry), and there’s grip there to pillage to your heart’s content.
While the gear shift could be both shorter in throw and tighter in action (oh, and you’re going to want to drop those Recaro buckets lower in the car if you can), there’s more than enough grunt to give a lot of more expensive cars the wobblies.
Out on the road, though, you’ll only really notice the diff in trickier conditions, and you’ll really, really notice the tyres when time comes to replace them… you can’t have something for nothing, and the prodigious grip of the tyres comes at a cost of kilometres.
Ford’s also added its much vaunted Sync3 multimedia system, along with – hallelujah – autonomous emergency braking as standard fitment, which also adds to the value equation.
Regardless, the Focus RS will go down as one of the truly great hot hatches of the 2010s – and possibly of all time. For the money, there is simply nothing on sale that goes near its ballistic road and track performance.
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