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Power to the people. Image by Jonathan Bushell.

Power to the people
We've driven it on the mountainous roads behind Monaco; now Ford's RS faces its ultimate test: the UK.

 



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| Week at the Wheel | Ford Focus RS |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

Ford's Focus RS isn't quiet about its potential. Short of a set of stickers and mud flaps it looks like a refugee from a rally stage. Purposeful, pouting and perhaps a bit too overt for some, you'll either love or loathe the RS's spoiling-for-a-fight looks. We usually like our cars a bit less obvious, but the RS wins us over with its numerous protuberances, massive spoilers, gaping vents and exhausts the width of mains gas piping. Why not shout about your potential after all? Thankfully the RS has the muscle to back up its looks, this blue-collar Focus able to take on all-comers and no respecter of reputations.

The interior isn't quite as successful as the pseudo-WRC exterior. Deep Recaro bucket seats bear-hug you in your seat (just as well given the RS's cornering ability), though they're positioned rather high. The smattering of RS badging and colourful seat materials do little to disguise this Focus's mainstream roots. Like its lesser relatives though, it's practical, but it just doesn't feel very special inside.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

The cabin may not be extraordinary, but Ford has spent the money where it really matters. The engine is a seriously reworked version of the Focus ST's turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder unit, which in the RS produces 300bhp. Driving through the front wheels only Ford's chassis people have managed miracles, but more of that later. The engine's delivery is fantastically linear, it lugging hard from low down yet also screaming like the front row of a Take That concert at higher revs.

There's nowhere in its range where it feels lacking, the RS's powerplant always digging hard and delivering - seemingly regardless of what you ask of it. It's this that makes the RS to devastatingly fast, its ability to increase mph on demand down to the straight line torque curve of 325lb.ft from 2,300-4,500rpm. If only the engine had a gearshift to match, as Ford's claim of a shorter and more precise shift to the six-speeder is not backed up in reality. It feels sloppy and long in throw and needs to be rushed to keep up with the performance the engine offers. If it could offer the sort of feel and mechanical precision of the gearbox in Honda's Civic Type-R, it'd get a full complement of five stars here. As it stands it only gets four, outstanding as it is.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

Apparently you can't put more than 230bhp through the front wheels of a car without serious compromises. That's been the 'conventional wisdom' ever since a Saab engineer uttered it many years back. It's bunkum, as Ford manages to put 300bhp through the RS's front wheels without it being a torque-steering, lane-skipping, white-line chasing nightmare. Sure, there's some tug at the steering wheel when you're pushing hard, but it'll not leave you in a cold sweat, it merely serving you as a reminder that the road's not perhaps that smooth and there's some camber. It certainly won't slow you down, the RS's front wheels' ability to transmit all that power down onto the tarmac nothing short of remarkable.

Helping achieve that is 'RevoKnuckle', a suspension idea borrowed from high-torque diesel cars. It helps the RS's front wheels remain in control when they should be unruly and allows it to exploit its high power output without requiring four-wheel drive. The suspension is low and stiff though - as firm as a 2006 tarmac spec Focus RS rally car apparently - the result a rather busy ride around town, but remarkable fluidity and control at speed. Grip levels are enormous, the steering meaty in its weighting, communicative and direct, while the RS's nose is seemingly impervious to understeer - in the dry at least. It all makes it a remarkably effective machine cross country - if not quite so brilliant around town.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

Given the giant killing, giant thrilling ability of the RS its circa £26,000 price tag looks like an absolute bargain. Not much will keep up with it on our twisting, challenging roads, certainly nothing wearing such an accessible price tag. Renault's impressive Mégane R26.R is oft lined up as a rival, but that's like comparing a bed of nails with a king-sized double swathed in Egyptian cotton. The Renault is massively compromised by its pared-to-the-bone specification, the Ford delivering its pace without resorting to losing rear seats and the like. Options on the RS are limited and ultimately unneeded. Save the cash the satnav system costs, buy an aftermarket one and spend the rest on track days...

Overall: star star star star star

Ford's RS is an epic car, democratising performance to the man on the street. In doing so it brings all the practicalities of its lesser relatives, but with performance to humble cars with price tags many multiples of the RS's. Its look-at-me styling might not appeal to everyone, but live with that and you've got one of the most enjoyable and capable performance cars (not a lot of) money can buy.

Kyle Fortune - 31 Jul 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 Jonathan Bushell.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2009 Ford Focus RS. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 






 

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