Ford Focus RS

Flagship model blends bold looks with scintillating pace.

Ford's legendary RS models have been delivering driving thrills for nearly 40 years – and the latest Focus RS is no exception.

With 301bhp being channelled to the front wheels, the current car is one of the quickest and most involving machines on the road. The Ford has already toppled its hardcore all-wheel-drive rivals from Japan (Issue 1,072), but can it repeat this success against the sophisticated Golf?

The Focus RS looks every inch a roadgoing rally car. Its bulging arches, spoilers, gaping grilles and huge alloys give an almost cartoonish appearance. It’s not all for show, though, because the large mesh grille below the front bumper hides a large intercooler for the engine. At the rear, a diffuser is flanked by a pair of meaty exhaust pipes.

Inside, getting in over the substantial side bolsters is a struggle, but the Recaro seats do provide superb support. The only downside is a lack of height adjustment, which leaves taller drivers perched uncomfortably. As with the Golf, the Focus’s interior is based on the standard model’s, although it can’t match the Volkswagen’s quality. Some carbon-effect trim, auxiliary gauges for boost pressure, oil temperature and pressure, and the occasional RS badge, do little to lift the ambience.

Press the transmission-mounted starter button, though, and you can’t help but enjoy the tuneful five-cylinder engine, as it burbles into life. The six-speed gearbox is precise, and the steering is well weighted, which gives the driver plenty of feedback.

Despite the car’s weight, acceleration is breathtaking, and much more dramatic than in the Golf. Yet the Ford feels heavy and is all brute force with no finesse.

It can’t match the VW for effortless cross-country pace. The Focus struggles in everyday use because its stiff suspension set-up results in a rock-hard ride on all but the smoothest surfaces. Buying either of these top-of-the-range cars will stretch your wallet, but the Focus takes the showroom advantage with a list price of £27,575 – a £2,515 saving over the VW. However, add a few options and it edges ever closer to the Golf. In addition, the Ford will prove more expensive to run. Will that be the Ford RS’s downfall?

In detail
Ford Focus RS
Price: £27,575
Engine: 2.5-litre 5cyl, 301bhp
Claimed 0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Top speed: 163mph
AE economy: 26.4mpg
 

Details

WHY: The hot Focus’s tuneful five-cylinder engine has an abundance of character, and power delivery is explosive.

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