Ford Focus RS: First Look Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceA Much-Anticipated Arrival
Last year Ford Motor Company took its SVT (Special Vehicle Team), Team RS (Rallye Sport), Ford Racing and Parts & Accessories divisions and put them all under one new organization: Ford Performance. This year we get to experience the results of this dynamic org. At the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford Performance showcased the F-150 Raptor, Mustang GT350R and the breathtaking Ford GT, and the response from the media and public was impressive. Recently at the Geneva Motor Show, Ford Performance took the wraps off a vehicle many folks are even more excited about: the Focus RS.

© Ford Motor CompanyBig Performance
The Focus RS has a high-performance image, and we’re happy to report this beauty is way more than skin deep. Under that skin is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine expected to produce in excess of 320 horsepower. “The all-new Focus RS is a serious machine with high-performance technology and innovative engineering that sets new benchmarks for driving exhilaration on the road and track,” said Raj Nair, Ford Motor Company group vice president of global product development.

© Ford Motor CompanyAll-Wheel Drive
Ford Performance developed an all-new all-wheel drive system for the Focus RS, designed to provide excellent traction and grip for smile-inducing performance. The system uses twin electronically-controlled clutch packs on each side of the rear-drive unit to manage the car’s front/rear torque split. These can also control side-to-side torque distribution, based on inputs monitored from multiple vehicle sensors at 100 times per second. A maximum of 70 percent of the torque can be diverted to the rear axle, and up to 100 percent of that torque can be sent to each rear wheel.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceExcellent Handling
The system is tuned to deliver exceptional grip — Ford claims the RS can exceed 1 G in lateral acceleration, which is quite impressive. “This all-wheel-drive system is a breakthrough technology — capable of delivering supreme cornering and handling at the limit,” said Dave Pericak, director of Global Ford Performance. In addition to the pioneering AWD system, the RS features a sport suspension with 2-mode switchable dampers that offer a firmer setting for track driving.

© Ford Motor CompanyDrift Mode
The driver can choose from four different modes in the RS. Each mode dials in specific settings for the all-wheel-drive system, damper controls, electronic stability control, steering and engine response, as well as exhaust note. Choices are Normal, Sport, Track and Drift modes. Yes, Drift Mode. This industry-first mode features specially-developed calibration for all-wheel drive that modifies the torque distribution to help the driver achieve controlled oversteer drifts — recommended for track use only.

© Ford Motor CompanyPowerful Styling
The Focus is Ford’s entry-level compact hatchback, but one look at the RS confirms it is anything but entry level. The RS features a powerful new front-end appearance, with a bold grille above the deep splitter incorporating a very large opening for engine cooling. The large openings on either side of the grille house the fog lights as well as additional air intakes to cool the brakes, giving the RS a wider stance than the typical Focus.

© Ford Motor CompanyFunctional Design
“This is the ultimate Focus — stunning to look at and entirely fit for purpose,” said Joel Piaskowski, design director of Ford of Europe. “RS models have always been striking, high-performance cars where function is paramount. This new Focus RS is true to that heritage,” he noted. This strong form and function carries through to the rear of the vehicle, where a large diffuser optimizes airflow under the car to reduce drag, while an integrated spoiler keeps the RS planted at high speed.

© Ford Motor CompanyNice Wheels
The bold fender flares house multispoke 19-inch lightweight alloy wheels fitted with Michelin high-performance 235/35R-19 tires.

© Ford Motor CompanyProper Interior
Inside, the RS has been properly outfitted to suit its sporty pedigree. Recaro sport seats with large bolsters keep the driver in place during hard cornering (power leather seats will also be an available option). The flat-bottomed steering wheel, alloy pedals and full gauge set add to the performance-oriented environment. Blue stitching carry the RS theme throughout the cabin, with the RS logo displayed on the seats as well as the door scuff plates.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRS Colors
Four colors for the exterior include Nitrous Blue — a vibrant four-coat metallic finish exclusive to RS — as well as Stealth Gray, Shadow Black and Frozen White. Unfortunately thiseye-catching Liquid Blue color scheme on the Geneva show car is not expected to make it to production.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceComing to America
While this is the third generation of Focus RS — the previous versions were introduced in 2002 and 2009 — this is the first Focus RS that will be available in America. The RS will be built in Ford’s manufacturing facility in Saarlouis, Germany, and is expected to arrive late this year. Pricing has not been announced, but we expect it to be competitive with vehicles such as the Subaru WRX STI, which starts around $35,000. “The all-new Focus RS is exhilarating to drive,” said Pericak, “a car offering performance that’s accessible to all. It’s easy and enjoyable to use every day.”

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceMore From Ford Performance
A quick chat in Geneva with Global Ford Performance‘s Dave Pericak confirmed his excitement about this car and the new organization. Ford Performance is building vehicles that feature new technologies and innovations, powertrain and performance upgrades, and more aggressive styling — vehicles that should be easily recognizable as coming from Ford Performance (like the Ford GT pictured here). Considering the breadth of products at Ford, there are many more potential entries in the Ford Performance lineup. And going the other direction, the goal is to take new innovations and technologies from the performance division and trickle them back through the Ford lineup. “That’s where the real magic happens,” noted Pericak.

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