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Ford Focus RS

Click to view picture gallery“The new 163mph Focus RS marks
  a welcome return for the RS Rallye
  Sport badge which has played such
  an important role in Ford
s rich
  motorsport heritage

AT LONG LAST FORD'S AWESOME THREE-DOOR 'SUPERCAR', the 305bhp Focus RS, is with us. Such is the demand in the UK that we are having 4,000 units — that's 50 per cent of Ford's lifetime Focus RS production total of just 8,000 cars.

And the news from this week's media launch is that on the day the RS hit UK showrooms, already half of those 4,000 are sold. Clearly even a recession in the new car market hasn't dampened demand from RS enthusiasts and increasing numbers of new car buyers moving away from hard-core all-wheel drive race- and rally-bred supercars. Keen drivers of 'premium' brand fast cars, who still want performance but at a more reasonable price, see the 25,740 RS as a good option.

The RS is a natural progression from the Focus ST which has the same core 2.5-litre, five-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine. But for the RS it has been developed in every area to boost power and, more importantly, torque. This unit produces a massive 324lb ft, available through a broad rev range of 2,300 to 4,500rpm, but which is, impressively, still evident up to 6,500rpm. Turbo boost pressure has been doubled from .7 bar (used for the ST) to 1.4bar for the RS. Top speed is 163mph and 0-62mph takes a sharp 5.9 seconds.

So, whichever of the six gears the car is being driven in and whatever the speed of the RS, there is always torque available for phenomenal response and acceleration. The most intriguing thing is that all this power is put on the road through just the front wheels — courtesy of the latest state-of-the-art Quaife helical limited slip differential and RevoKnuckle front suspension and steering set-up.

RevoKnuckle does many things but to keep it simple all you need to know is that its 'C'-shaped mount is connected to both the hub and the MacPherson struts either side of the front of the car. This double connection keeps the kingpin offsets much more consistent, no matter what load each front wheel is placed under. Not only has it allowed Ford to fine-tune the handling of the RS, but another benefit is that it reduces tyre wear caused by fast cornering. Thicker and longer anti-roll bars and increased diameter front and rear disc brakes over the Focus ST accommodate the added performance.

Torque-steer is just about evident, but not very much in wet or dry conditions or on smooth or rough road surfaces. The steering felt pretty heavy at all speeds but it needs to be precise — and it is. Power delivery — and the use of that power — are the real technical highlights of the RS, whether an owner wants it for road use or for trackdays.

Not having the added weight of an all-wheel drive system (such as those used by Subaru Impreza WRX STI or Lancer Evolution models) allows maximum performance and, of course, reduces cost. As far as I can tell there is very little loss in performance, grip and traction by having just the front-wheel drive system used for the RS over a four-wheel drive layout. Ice and snowy conditions might cause us all to rethink that impression but for now the RS is unbelievably impressive.

So we have raw power, seemingly endless grip, a relatively comfortable ride and a very competitive price. Add to those the high visual impact with a massive rear wing, unmissable rear diffuser and 19-inch wheels plus the usual side body skirts and the RS definitely looks the 'business'. Thankfully, though, it isn't over-the-top.

The cabin is generally well done with excellent and shapely Recaro front seats and a full instrumentation pack. It takes a while to locate all the controls and dials because there are so many of them but it all adds to the RS image. For? All the Ps: Price, Performance and Pace. Against? If you order now (April '09), having to wait until November to take delivery. — David Miles

Ford Focus RS
| 25,740
Maximum speed: 163mph | 0-62mph: 5.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 24.2mpg
Power: 305bhp | Torque: 324lb ft | CO2 225g/km