Ford Focus RS06 | 04 | 2016Scotcars rating

    It's a Focus Jim, but not as we know it: Ford gives its family five-door the RS treatment

    EVER SINCE FORD issued the first details of its 2016 Focus RS, I — like a lot of other guys across the country — have understood what it feels like to be a kid trying to get to sleep on Christmas Eve. You know that feeling when you want something so much that time grinds to the pace of a snail in slow motion? That's how I've felt for months.

    The big question then though was, after all the hyper-excitement in the build-up to driving the new Focus RS, could it be a disappointment?

    Well, it could. But it most certainly wasn't.

    The new Ford Focus RS is everything which has been aligned to it in the drip-feed of information released by the Blue Oval giant in the build-up to the car's launch. And in many instances, the reality actually outperforms that which was hinted at by Ford. It's a Ford Jim, but not as we know it!

    Make no bones about it: this is a mighty car. And it could be yours for just £31,000. I kid you not … thirty-one thousand of your hard-earned pounds.

    To put that in perspective, it's £10k cheaper than German rivals, the Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45.

    The Focus RS is also a stunning package. Whenever you need it to do the school run, or the weekly shop, it's more than capable with its five-doors and traditional Ford Focus all-round versatility. Ok, it may look as if it'll eat the kids, thanks to its gaping grille and aggressive aero kit, but so far I haven't heard of any children mysteriously going missing.

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    But when you want to have fun, good Lord how the Focus RS delivers. And delivers by the bucketload.

    Four-wheel drive, plus 345bhp, teased from an enhanced version — up by 39bhp — of the 2.3-litre Ecoboost petrol fitted in the latest Mustang. The new version gets an upgrade to the turbo, bore liners and Cosworth cylinder head. Oh: and an optimised intake and high-flow exhaust.

    The Focus RS also eschews the latest fad of going for a swift-changing auto' 'box as used by its German rivals, and instead furnishes the driver with an involving, deliciously sweet-changing, meaty six-speed manual gearbox.

    It all combines to deliver a 0-62mph sprint in 4.7-seconds, and onwards to a maximum of 165mph. It's eye-wateringly fast.

    Without question, one of the — perhaps THE — star of the show is the four-wheel drive system. Having tried the traditional Haldex system used by both German rivals, Ford designers were left unimpressed by the dynamic limitations of simply shuffling the torque front and rear.

    So, determined to create a class-leading car which raised the RS name to a new level, Ford opted for a specially developed GKN system. This set-up deploys a pair of clutch packs on the rear axle, enabling the car to distribute torque between the rear wheels in an extremely active manner.

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    This torque vectoring system is so dynamic that it can send 100% of the torque at the rear to a single rear wheel. Ford officially says there’s a maximum overall rear bias of 70%, but in testing figures above 90% were recorded, depending on the circumstance.

    And why did Ford go to all this bother? Prepare to be impressed.

    One-hundred times a second, the Focus RS's dedicated ECU monitors throttle, engine output and speed, steering,  lateral and longitudinal vehicle acceleration, yaw rate, the brakes and stability control system, the front power transfer unit (which sends the torque to the rear axle), and the rear drive unit (which splits the torque front and rear).

    The objective: to create a rear drive unit which ensures the Focus RS behaves like ‘a rear-wheel-drive car with an enormous amount of grip’.

    To help maximise the car's handling, it also benefits from dual-mode’ dampers, which are a massive 40% stiffer in the firmer setting; bespoke steering knuckles; extra body bracing, plus 350mm Brembo front brakes, which are the largest ever fitted to an RS.

    And maximising some complex software, the Focus RS offers four distinct driving modes: Normal, Sport, Track and Drift. All four, in addition to steering weight, throttle response and noise, have a direct affect in the behaviour of the four-wheel drive system.

    Darting cross-country in Oxfordshire en-route to Silverstone, the Focus RS showed how it thrives on sweeping B-roads and has a hunger for long sweeping S-bends to allow it to show off its ability to change direction.

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    Ride, naturally, is firmer than any standard car, even in 'Normal' mode, but you wouldn't expect anything else. Nor will you find it unpleasant. In fact it oozes that confident firmness of a properly sorted car.

    The steering is weightier than standard, again even in its 'Normal' setting, but rather than being overbearing, it's confidence-inducing, accentuating the RS's pointy feel.

    And while both Normal and Sport settings can be used in your daily driving, depending on your mood, Track is — thankfully — too stiff for the public road. So specific is its set-up that it'll shake the fillings from your teeth on our potholed, ravenous road.

    However, on a silky smooth track like the tight, twisty Stowe Circuit at Silverstone, it was in its element, hustling through the series of left-right turns and chicanes.

    The on-track time also allowed me to try out the Focus RS's launch control. A "launch control for a manual?", I hear you ask.

    Such are the advances in technology. Slot the car into first; flick through the software control on the left-hand of the steering wheel with your thumb; select 'Launch Control'; depress the clutch; floor the throttle to maximum revs; then, literally, jump your left foot clean off the clutch.

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    Within a second-or-two of the violent explosion of acceleration, the shift light alerts you it's time to change up to second. From the outside it sounds like a manic WRC Focus exploding off the start line, and then pops and splutters on the overrun.

    Believe me, no-one will ever beat you away from the traffic lights!

    And remember those Brembo brakes — which you can have painted blue for an extra £100 — they've been designed to cope with 30 minutes of circuit driving, and up to 13 stops from 135mph before they fade.

    Inside the cabin? Well, it's a Ford Focus. The sporty steering wheel is a delight to hold; the optional buckets seats are spot on; and the only other real noticeable addition is the occasional blue stitching and needles on the info dials, and the occasional RS badge.

    As you would expect, buyers are personalising their cars. Amongst the most popular options are the vivid Nitrous Blue body colour (£745), Luxury Pack (£1000), 19in black forged alloy wheels — which save nearly 4kg in weight — £595, and the race-style RS Recaro shell seats at £1145.

    Only 4000 of the latest Focus RC will come to the UK, and already more than 3000 have been bought … and that's before anyone other than press has driven the car.

    So if you want one. you'd better get your skates on. And if you can rake together £10,000, you can get one on Ford’s Options finance deal for around 180 quid a month.

    At that price, it's a steal.

    Was the wait worth it? You bet. It’s exciting, wonderful and — with its technological handling solution that far outstrips anything else in this sector — it's quite honestly, everything you’ve dreamt it would be. It's a stonking piece of kit.

    Related: Ford delivers first 1000 Mustangs

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    Jim McGill

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £31,000 / £35,135
    Engine / Power: 4 cyls, 2261cc, turbocharged, petrol, 6spd man / 345bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 4.7sec; / Max 165mph
    How big/heavy?: L4390mm W2010mm (incl mirrors) H1472mm / 1599kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 36.7mpg combined / 175g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a /n/a
    Alternatives: VW Golf R, Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45

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