Ever since the first generation Ford Focus RS arrived in 2002, the car has been a little bit of a legend. The first generation model looked fairly unassuming, but with 212 hp and a 0-60 time of just 6.4 seconds, it was able to blow the doors off many unwary sports car drivers. The second generation Focus RS was a
little lot less subtle. Even if it wasn’t coated in that eye-searing lime green paint Ford offered it in, it still stood out a mile away. It was also faster and more powerful than its predecessor. The latest model, the third generation Ford Focus RS, happily continues on where the Mk2 Focus RS left off.
The 2016 Ford Focus RS is a ninja of a car. It’s stealthy, extremely capable and full of surprises. Not least of which is the fact now all four wheels get a share of the power being produced by that turbocharged engine up front.
The decision to go with AWD over FWD comes from Ford’s desire to compete with key rivals in the form of the Audi RS3 and Mercedes A 45 AMG. The new Focus RS was designed with four-wheel drive in mind from the start to elevate the car to new levels of performance and driver involvement.
The Focus RS’s clever all-wheel drive system debuts a host of innovations for the brand and was needed to cope with the high power level of the car’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine. This All-Wheel-Drive configuration with a Dynamic Torque Vectoring system is by far the most significant mechanical upgrade for the RS over other Focuses, including the ST.
“The new Focus RS was designed with four-wheel drive in mind from the start…”
The car’s all-wheel drive system is based around twin electronically controlled clutch packs. These are located on either side of the Rear Drive Unit (or RDU, which works like a limited-slip differential).
The RDU has sensors that monitor conditions 100 times per second to distribute power continuously between the front and back wheels and on either side of the rear axle. Up to 100 per cent of the available torque can be sent to either wheel.
The system diverts torque to the outer rear wheel during cornering, aiding turn-in and stability. Ford says this “virtually eliminates understeer” and lateral grip in excess of 1g is possible. Ford also says the system helps to “provide neutral and adjustable limit handling and the ability to achieve controlled oversteer drifts at the track”.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The 2016 Ford Focus RS’s engine is basically a reworked version of the 2.3 litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine used in the Ford Mustang. However it has been treated to a new twin-scroll turbo, a larger intercooler, a less restrictive air intake and exhaust, bigger radiator, and to make sure it doesn’t go ‘bang’, the head is cast from a tougher alloy. Ford have also made sure the exhaust note from the back is exciting, at it offers the trademark burbles, pops and crackles that are a RS signature.
The engine red lines at 6,800 rpm, and CO2 emissions are down 20 per cent on the old RS’s Volvo-derived 2.5 five-cylinder. Power output stands at 315+ horsepower.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard in the Focus RS. It has been engineered to provide shorter gear throws and faster, more accurate shifts. Both the transmission and the clutch have been upgraded with stronger components to cope with the engine’s increased torque output.
Chassis improvements over the standard Focus include an advanced Electronic Stability Control with brake-based torque vectoring that works in conjunction with the torque vectoring system. The springs, bushings, and sway bars are all stiffer than those fitted to the Focus ST, and the RS also features two-mode switchable dampers with ‘street’ and ‘track’ settings. The Focus RS has electric-assist power steering and a new front suspension knuckle design and shorter link arms all intended to help provide better feedback through the steering wheel.
From the outside it’s clear the Mk3 Ford Focus RS means business. It has a noticeable nose down, back-end raised slant, gaping grille and a large roof-mounted spoiler. It doesn’t scream “hey, look at me!” quite as much as the previous car. But then again, not many cars could. Amazingly, despite all the aero bits up front, the Focus RS actually uses the same hood, front wings and rear arches as the standard car.
“Ford purposely gave the car a more grown-up persona.”
At the rear is a prominent air diffuser with a pair of slash-cut exhausts poking out from underneath. Multispoke 19-inch alloy wheels finish off the exterior highlights.
The new Focus RS will be sold as a five-door model only, in line with Ford’s global strategy for the entire Focus range. However this decision has prevented the use of a rally car-like wide body – a look that was so distinctive on the Focus RS Mk2.
Buyers will get just four options for the paintwork, including; Nitrous Blue, Stealth Grey, Absolute Black or Frozen White.
The inside of the third generation Ford Focus RS is actually quite restrained. The most glaring change are the deeply sculpted Recaro thrones up front, which have holes for a racing harness, but actually the car uses regular seatbelts. There is also a sportier flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel, alloy pedals and a simplified, more driver-orientated dashboard layout. There’s also an 8-inch touchscreen display in the center console and the car is fitted with Ford’s Sync2 connectivity system.
AVAILABILITY and PRICE
The Mk3 Ford Focus RS is available in markets worldwide, including the US, Europe, Australia and China. This global availability is one of the primary reasons the car has been toned down (at least visually) in comparison with its predecessor. The super-aggressive, WRC-like appearance of the Mk2 might have worked well in Europe, but in order to appeal to a wider audience Ford purposely gave the car a more grown-up persona. This gamble might help shift units, but it’s unlikely to please everyone, especially some of the hardcore Focus RS fans.
Prices for the Focus RS are yet to be confirmed.