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RevoKnuckle duster. Image by Kyle Fortune.

RevoKnuckle duster
Ford's Focus RS redefines what's possible with 300bhp and front-wheel drive to create a landmark hot hatch.

 



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| First Drive | Nice, France | Ford Focus RS |

It's been a while since Ford put an RS badge on a Focus and the debate still rages on about just how successful that last attempt was. It was a wild ride, with plenty of torque steer to keep you busy at the wheel. The thing is that this new Focus RS has even more power and torque, and Ford has once again decided to transmit it to the tarmac via the front wheels only. Some trick engineering has, Ford says, allowed it to do so effectively. We weren't convinced, until we drove it...

In the Metal

Three colours are offered for the Focus RS: Performance Blue, Ultimate Green or White. It's white for us here, the RS's numerous additional vents and polished black highlights popping brilliantly against the clean, bright hue. The RS is unashamedly overt about its performance potential. It looks almost identical to its World Rally Car relative - as it should with some of the engineering behind Ford's multi-WRC championship winning car finding its way onto the road-going RS.

The RS's widened track is covered by massive wheel-arch extensions while numerous gaping vents draw and exhaust air from the RS's engine and brakes. A large rear roof-mounted wing and shiny diffuser with two cannon-sized exhaust pipes complete the RS's visual makeover. Retiring it's not, the RS's performance certainly having a lot to live up to given its purposeful, aggressive looks.

What you get for your Money

The RS is 24,995, which might sound like a huge pile of cash for a Ford Focus but given the performance on offer it's actually a bargain. That's right in the middle of Lancer Evo and Subaru WRX-S pricing, the Focus easily able to take the fight to its four-wheel drive competition despite it only driving the front wheels. For your 24,995 you get a 2.5-litre, five-cylinder, turbocharged engine that produces 300bhp, a quite staggeringly competent chassis, all the fancy body add-ons, grippy (too high) Recaro seats in the otherwise largely unchanged interior and the knowledge that you'll never unstick the front end throwing it into a corner. Yes, really. You might be able to find a cheaper second hand one here.

If you want to spend a bit more on your RS you can pay 695 extra for the Ultimate Green paintwork, or add a 750 luxury pack that brings dual-zone climate control, rain sensing wipers and the likes. Double that and you can have touch-screen satnav, too. Really though, all you need is the standard car.

Driving it

All those diesel haters should be mindful that the big torque outputs of modern turbodiesels played a hand in creating the hardware to allow Ford to drive 300bhp through the RS's front wheels. The solution is called RevoKnuckle, this front suspension using some trick geometry - among other engineering wizardry - to enable the driver of the RS to put all of its power down on a 5.9-second 0-62mph sprint without the sort of terrifying arm-wrenching torque-steer that blighted the old, lower output Focus RS.

The RevoKnuckle's effect is nothing short of miraculous; the RS's steering is virtually uncorrupted by the thumping power and torque being transmitted through its front wheels. Turn in is instantaneous, the weighty, information-rich steering super direct and quick. A combination of the lowered roll centre, wider track, a limited-slip differential and that black magic RevoKnuckle results in a car that's doggedly resistant to understeer. Push harder and deeper into ever tighter bends and even if it's partially damp or dusty the RS just turns in and gets on with the business of getting down the road. Point to point there's nothing much out there quicker, though the brakes get a bit noisy if you get overly enthusiastic.

With suspension that's as stiff as Ford's 2006 WRC Focus in tarmac spec it is no surprise that the RS is rigid. Remarkably though there are few compromises on the road, the RS flowing and retaining control where many rivals would be bucking and skipping. Dynamically the standard Focus was always going to be a great starting point for the RS; the result way exceeds our expectations, not just of the Focus but of what's possible with such a high power front-wheel drive car.

The turbocharged five-cylinder engine is much changed from its ST relative. The extensive internal modifications result in a healthy 300bhp at 6,500rpm and a hefty 325lb.ft of torque delivered in a straight line on a graph from 2,300rpm to 4,500rpm. It's this rich seam of torque as much as its dynamic prowess that helps make the RS such a ridiculously rapid machine. It delivers quite staggering thrust through the gears, the delivery almost turbodiesel like in its muscle. However, instead of quickly running out of grunt the five-cylinder sings at the top end where the peak 300bhp is produced at 6,500rpm. Only the gearshift lets down the experience, the shorter, quicker throw neither short nor quick enough and lacking the mechanical precision of some of its hot hatch rivals.

Run the RS around to its redline and the noise is extraordinary. You can hear the engine gulping in air greedily, the five cylinders burbling deeply and the exhaust shrieking. It sucks in the air in front through its massive intakes and performs some industrial orchestration on it before spitting it with menace out to leave by passers dumbstruck and those you've overtaken convinced they've just strayed onto a rally stage.

Worth Noting

Nobody is going to buy a Focus RS and be thinking about fuel economy, but Ford claims the RS will do 30.5mpg on the official combined cycle. Good luck with that. What's perhaps more important is that the RS emits 'just' 225g/km of CO2, meaning it just gets under the scarily expensive band G tax grouping.

Summary

We're at a loss here to think of a genuinely faster point-to-point car than the new Focus RS. Certainly one that offers the sort of day-to-day civility that the RS can dish up when you're off to the supermarket or have your granny in the passenger seat. It's a remarkable demonstration of Ford's chassis engineering wizardry combined with a big output power in a practical, good looking and sensibly priced package and it's absolutely everything you could ask for in a performance car.

Kyle Fortune - 27 Feb 2009









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2009 Ford Focus RS specifications:
Technical specifications for 2009 Ford Focus RS

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2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Ford.2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Ford.2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Ford.2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Ford.2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Ford.



2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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