Just completing the article...
The previous generation European RS that was powered by a turbocharged five-cylinder engine from Volvo stuck with front-wheel drive. It was widely regarded by testers at the time as the best handling high-powered front driver ever made. This time around, with even more power and torque, Ford opted to put together a performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system that can direct up to 70% of the available torque to the rear axle. A dynamic torque vectoring system can also direct up to 100% of the torque at an axle to either wheel to help move the car in the direction the driver is requesting.
With this setup, the only time you’ll ever get torque steer is when you kick out the back end with a hard stab of the accelerator. Some mild power oversteer is available in sport or track mode but if you really want to hang it out, Ford has also built in drift mode that directs maximum torque to the rear so you can pretend you’re Ken Block anytime you want.
If you’re considering buying a Focus RS and you live in northern climes and you want to be able to drive it year-round, Ford offers an optional winter tire and wheel package. For just $1,995, you get a set of 18-inch alloy wheels mounted with Michelin Pilot Sport Alpin PA4 tires. If you’ve shopped recently for wheels and tires, this is actually quite a good deal and will make a huge difference when the temperatures drop. My tester was still mounted with this package and while it won’t give you maximum grip on dry roads, they certainly helped during the still cold temperatures we had that week.
With this much power coming from under the hood, you’d expect to have a good soundtrack to go with it and here the RS also delivers. The large dual exhaust outlets produce a surprisingly deep-throated growl under hard acceleration with a nice pop when you lift off. During my time with the RS, Honda released a teaser video of the Type-R that ends with its engine firing up. Compared, to the Focus it has a much raspier note which might appeal to some drivers. Personally I’m quite fond of the Focus growl and importantly for a car that can be a daily driver, it doesn’t have any sort of persistent drone. Compared to some of the cars I’ve driven over the years, despite being there all the time, the Focus exhaust note doesn’t feel like it’s penetrating your skull on a highway run. It comes across as more aggressive than system in the EcoBoost Mustang but still very livable.
Speaking of livable, for a high performance machine, Ford has done an overall good job on the suspension tuning although it's not quite perfect. Over rough pavement, it’s not exactly supple but it does absorb the sharper inputs. It never feels punishing but you’ll know when you aren’t running on fresh pavement. The one flaw in the RS setup is the same I experienced when driving the ST several months earlier. On certain stretches of freeway that appear to be relatively smooth but actually have some low-frequency, low amplitude waves, the suspension gets a bit excited and feels a bit bouncy. There’s a stretch of I-94 between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport where this feels particularly pronounced but I also encountered it in some locations in Ohio and Kentucky.
Overall, if you’re looking for a quick (sub 5-second 0-60) rally-inspired machine that will stand up to a good thrashing without being punishing to live with, the Ford Focus RS worth checking out. With it’s all-wheel-drive system, it doesn’t exhibit any of the front-drive foibles you occasionally get from an ST and because it’s a hatchback, it’s also surprisingly practical when you need it to be with space for five or a whole bunch of cargo with the seats folded.
At a starting price of $36,000 and $40,225 as tested with delivery charges, this isn’t any economy car any more but it’s very competitive with the Golf R. We don’t yet know how much the Civic Type-R will cost in the U.S. but it will only be available with front-wheel-drive so that’s definitely an important consideration for year-round use. Design-wise, the Focus also falls nicely between the more conservative looking Golf and the touring car inspired Honda. If you want the Focus RS, you probably won't want to wait too long though. By spring 2018 (if not sooner) it will probably be gone and you'll have to wait several more years before a new generation becomes available.