Stand by for action! This is the most desirable hot hatch of 2009, and the fastest mainstream model in Ford’s history. Auto Express has been given exclusive access to the Focus RS, with a scarily fast passenger ride in the car that’s the star of the free magazine in the centre pages of this issue.
The man allocated the task of giving us a drive to remember is rising motorsport star Matthew Wilson – son of legendary rally driver and Ford WRC team boss, Malcolm Wilson. He’s the perfect pilot to get the best out of the RS, a model inspired by the world rally Focus and the ultimate roadgoing Ford flier.
And we certainly found the ideal location, in the shape of an empty airfield where Matthew was able to push the newcomer to its limits. The result is pure entertainment. Our driver demonstrated a blur of hand and foot co-ordination and enjoyed complete mastery of the car, even when sliding sideways at considerable speeds.
High speed is what the Focus RS is all about. Fans of fast Fords have been eagerly anticipating a new RS since 2002 – and we’re pleased to report the wait has been more than worth it. This is one mean machine which transforms the Focus from family-friendly motor to a true macho beast.
Power comes from a modified version of the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine found in the Focus ST, but with 301bhp, performance is brutal – the benchmark sprint from 0-62mph takes only 5.9 seconds. And if you are lucky enough to have your own runway, you will see that it is quite capable of hitting its 163mph top speed.
Under the bonnet, a host of hi-tech gadgets means it grips the Tarmac like a second skin.
And the jewel in the crown is something called RevoKnuckle, a very clever suspension system that dramatically reduces the torque steer which was the Achilles’ heel of the last Focus RS.
Owners will quickly fall in love with the new model, because as well being a track stormer, it can also serve as daily transport. Thanks to a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, it cruises serenely at high speed, the engine settling to a gentle hum. But as soon as the driver floors the accelerator, it once again becomes a true
powerhouse, the characteristic off-beat warble of the five-cylinder engine entering the cabin.
And whatever mode you are in, two figure-hugging Recaro sports seats ensure a fabulously comfortable ride. These are part of a racy finished interior, which features carbon fibre trim and underlines the fact that the RS is no ordinary Focus. This impression is echoed by the exterior, which boasts an aggressive front end with a low splitter and deep air intakes, plus a huge boot spoiler and rally-inspired diffuser.
Jost Capito, head of the Ford RS performance division, believes this is the best RS ever – and that’s a major claim when you consider some of the great Fords that have carried the legendary badge since 1970. We’ll deliver our definitive verdict when we get behind the wheel next week. But on the basis of this exciting passenger ride, the 1,800 customers who have already splashed out £24,995 are getting a model which is worth every penny.
Rival: Ren. Mégane R26.R
THE last-of-the-line, limited-edition R26.R is an uncompromising machine with a super-stiff chassis, carbon fibre bonnet and a roll cage. And it’s one of the best
hot hatches ever as a result.
* Price: £24,995
* Engine: 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo
* Power/Torque: 301bhp/440Nm
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* 0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
* Top speed: 163mph
* Econ: 30mpg
* CO2: 225g/km
* Equipment: Climate control, RevoKnuckle suspension, alloy wheels, Recaro seats
* On sale: March