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Ford Focus RS500

Click to view picture gallery“David Miles was the first Journo
  to drive Ford’s very scarce new
  Focus RS500 on the track past
  Goodwood house and up the famous
  hillclimb course at the Moving Motor
  Show, held the day before the 2010
  Goodwood Festival of Speed
...”


THE RS500 HAD NO TROUBLE grabbing the attention of over 20,000 spectators on 1 July at the Moving Motor Show dubbed the 'world's fastest motor show' held the day before the 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The RS500 mixed easily with other glamorous models such as the BMW B3 Alpina, Audi R8 V10, BMW's M models, Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette, Ferrari 599GTB, Jaguar XKR, Mercedes AMGs and the like.

Billed as the ultimate performance Ford, the limited edition Ford Focus RS500 with its 345bhp turbocharged five-cylinder 2.5-litre petrol engine is strictly limited to a run of 500 vehicles. Out of this total for 20 European markets the UK will receive the largest share: 101 vehicles. All were sold in a week! Orders were five times oversubscribed but the first lucky owners will get their matt black machines imminently.

It may be rude to ask but, since you will anyway, the price for this ultimate three-door Focus is £35,450 and there is only one extra-cost option available: a £1,250 touchscreen DVD SatNav. These high-performance models come at the end of the life of the current Focus range, with a new line-up of volume sales models due early next year.

Confusing, I think, that Ford introduces this 'halo' version at the end of the life for current Focus. Why not introduce RS versions at the beginning, so the 'halo' effect is always there? Not a question I got an answer to.

To provide the RS500 with a fitting power unit, the 300bhp turbocharged Duratec RS 2.5-litre engine from the standard Focus RS has been upgraded (power is up by 15%) to deliver significantly more top-end and mid-range power, but without compromising the base engine's strength and responsiveness at lower revs. Peak power is increased by 45bhp to 345bhp at 6,000rpm, while torque has been increased from 324lb ft to 339lb ft, delivered across a broad speed range from 2,500 to 4,500rpm.

“A key factor in the
success of the latest
generation Focus RS has
been its advanced
front-wheel drive
chassis, which delivers
responsive steering,
outstanding traction and
a minimum of unwanted
torque steer
...”
To achieve the required balance of muscular mid-range and top-end performance, the engine has benefited from a comprehensive package of enhancements aimed at improving the engine's breathing and combustion.

The changes include a significantly larger air-to-air intercooler to deliver a cooler, denser charge; a larger air filter box for increased airflow; larger diameter exhaust downpipe and an uprated fuel pump along with an updated software calibration to optimise the performance of the revised engine.

Preliminary performance figures for the Focus RS500 indicate that it achieves 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds, with a top speed similar to the standard RS of 165mph.

A key factor in the success of the latest generation Focus RS has been its advanced front-wheel drive chassis, which combines a wider track, the unique 'RevoKnuckle' front suspension design and a Quaife helical limited slip differential to deliver responsive steering, outstanding traction and a minimum of unwanted torque steer.

The same chassis design has proved equally effective in handling the increased torque levels of the Focus RS500, and the specification is unchanged for this application, helping to retain the same sporting and responsive dynamic character which is central to the appeal of the acclaimed standard Focus RS.

The high-performance braking system and the 19-inch wheels and 235/35 tyres are also carried over unchanged from the standard vehicle, although red brake callipers along with a dramatic black finish for the 19-inch alloy wheels are unique to the RS500.

The development programme included a dedicated endurance test at the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany, where Ford TeamRS engineers were joined by three Ford-employed racing drivers working in shifts to complete 10,000km of non-stop driving — equivalent to competing in ten consecutive Nürburgring 24-hour races without a break.

With its functional yet striking design, the standard Focus RS already creates a lasting impression but the unique matt black 'foil' paint finish of the Focus RS500 makes this limited edition car even more special.

The stunning matt black bodywork is further enhanced by matching metallic black alloy wheels and the gloss black finish of the trapezoidal lower front grille and splitter, twin-blade rear spoiler and the rear venturi, which manages airflow beneath the rear of the car.

“The standard Focus RS
already creates a lasting
impression with its
functional yet striking
design, but the unique
matt black ‘foil’ paint
finish of the Focus RS500
makes this
limited edition car even
more special
...”
Small flashes of colour around the vehicle — including the red brake callipers, blue RS badges and the special blue-and-red RS500 badge on the tailgate — only serve to emphasise the car's unique appearance. With its dramatic black finish and imposing stance, this car really is mean, moody and magnificent!

For the record, the matt black foil finish for the RS500 was developed in partnership with the technology company 3M, which specialises in advanced film products for the automotive industry.

All Focus RS500 vehicles are painted in a standard Panther Black metallic colour before being shipped to a dedicated 3M facility near Frankfurt, Germany, where a special foil film is applied to the bodywork to create the matt black effect.

Attention to detail on the RS500's exterior is also reflected inside the car, with a series of special features which are unique to this limited edition model. The centre console is distinguished by the car's individually-numbered metal plaque, and by a unique carbon-effect finish to the bezel which carries a distinctive RS pattern.

In contrast to the blue detailing on the standard Focus RS, the RS500 features a special red colour scheme — notably on the stitching of the leather trim on the steering wheel, door trim and gear lever gaiter, and also on the floor mats. To further jack up the visual impact, customers have the option of specifying the bespoke Recaro front sports seats upholstered in full red leather.

In addition to the comprehensive equipment levels on the standard Focus RS, the RS500 includes the following features as standard: dual-zone automatic climate control, heated windscreen, rear parking distance sensors, tyre deflation detection system, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Ford key-free start, enhanced connectivity with Bluetooth, voice control and USB port, Sony 6-CD audio system and Recaro sports front seats with partial leather trim.

So there I am — the very first motoring journalist to drive the RS500 from the Festival of Speed start line, past Goodwood House and up the famous hillclimb course... Push the start button and off we go but with the very severe words of the organisers ringing in my ears: no showing off, no handbrake turns, no doughnuts; a drive more in keeping with a parade while debuting the most stunning production RS ever.

“The RS500 is poised,
never unsettled,
with good balance under
what little braking
is required
...”
Hard off the line and the exhaust tone is glorious. The wheels spin slightly; there's minimal torque-steer through the front wheels. Brake hard for first bend under the gaze of ever-watchful Marshals. Round the corner and another burst of speed; listen to the exhaust tone and the blip as the gear changes. I fiddle between the full auto and sequential six-speed gearbox options, sweep through the next corners, all at a lively but limited speed. The RS500 is poised, never unsettled, with good balance under what little braking is required. Press the throttle more; up the ever-narrowing hill and between the unbroken lines of straw bales and within a few seconds it's all over. Time to use the winding, tree-lined track back to the start area where another Journo is eagerly waiting to take the car away.

Glorious Goodwood indeed. 'My' Focus RS500, carrying its '002' production number plate, will I hope now be added to Ford's heritage collection of RS models through the ages and, who knows, just maybe I might get another drive — after all, I was a very good boy!

Against? Actually, there is one thing — please Ford, can we have another RS version in the new Focus range at the start of its life, and not the end. For? The handful of reasons to own one include the stunning 'stealth' looks from the fabulous matt black paintwork, enough power and torque for first class responsiveness and refined power delivery that makes it nice to drive at low speeds as well. Plus, the RS500 doesn't cost silly money and, finally, it's just plain wonderful. — David Miles

Ford Focus RS500 3-door (Serial Number 002) | £35,450
Maximum speed: 165mph | 0-62mph: 5.6 seconds | Overall test MPG: N/A
Power: 345bhp | Torque: 339lb ft | CO2 N/A