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Discussion Starter #1
I've been lurking here for a while, trying to decide between a FoRS and a Golf R. I plan to do my first track days and autocross events in this car.

The Focus is faster and more fun on a track, but I'm worried about reports that the car's handling can feel artificial and that the car's computers can become "confused" sometimes, making it react unpredictably. Since I don't have any prior track experience, I don't want to develop bad driving habits based on the RS's unusual handling that won't translate when I switch to a conventional RWD track car in the future. As boring as it may be, I wonder if the Golf R's simpler AWD setup might make a better platform to learn car control techniques.

Are there members who can compare the RS's track handling to other cars? Would you recommend the RS as a car to learn on?
 
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Any AWD vehicle will handle differently than a RWD vehicle. AWD vehicles themselves can be wildly different from one to the next. What RWD vehicle are you planning to be your track vehicle later?
 

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If your looking for a track car, don't buy either, buy a sub $2000 naturally aspirated. manual trans bmw E36. As for the R vs RS, you will have to drive them both to determine which one you like more as a daily. The R uses a Haldex AWD which is 99% fwd then awd when it wants to be, not sure if you can switch that with the drive modes or not, i wouldn't say its a simpler awd just similar idea different execution. Right now base RS's are a few thousand less than a R.....thats some nice mod money. Your call, but you have to drive them personally.
 

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I do not know where you got this information (someone's arse?)
Computers confused? Hal9000 isn't in the car, sorry. So tell Dave he doesn't need to take his stress pill.
 
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The Normal driving mode has the car do it's best to protect you from yourself both on and off track. And I would highly recommend driving in Normal mode for your first track events: it will allow you to focus on the fundamentals of track driving, which differs from street driving for most folks. After you get the fundamentals down, switching to a drive mode (Track or Sport with ESP disabled) will let you experience your ability to control the car - and AWD cars behave differently than rear drive, as discussed earlier. As noted above there are a number of fairly inexpensive rear wheel drive options for a dedicated track car, mine is a Spec Miata. And there are different track day options: High Performance Driving Events where you are not racing but still drive a racing line at race speeds; and true race events - that have higher safety standards. Both have pro's and cons. If you are interested in racing I would recommend an arrive and drive trial first to see if you really like racing; and pick an HPDE event and do a compare and contrast. My last comment is that AWD cars make great track and race cars so you may want to rethink your track car options.
 

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Personally, I think it's the best of both worlds. I haven't read or experienced anything that relates to bad or unusual driver feedback. The car does what I ask it to on a consistent basis.

The only thing I can think of is that you want a tune. Because power delivery is not predictive in stock form.
 

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I'm worried about reports that the car's handling can feel artificial and that the car's computers can become "confused" sometimes, making it react unpredictably. Since I don't have any prior track experience, I don't want to develop bad driving habits based on the RS's unusual handling that won't translate when I switch to a conventional RWD track car in the future.
You must be getting your information from a GTI R forum. None of that is even slightly true.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for responses.

Right now I need an AWD DD because I'll be living in a very snowy climate. I might get an old BMW or Lotus or Miata in 4 years for dedicated track use. I've test driven the RS and loved it, but obviously didn't get to see how it handles at the limit.

I understand that AWD handles differently but my concern is that the RS tries to act like RWD, producing more fun but also sometimes artificial handling. Also, as Ecobeast says, it covers some mistakes which might help me be faster but not better. I wouldn't want to have bad habits reinforced because the car is covering mistakes.

Here is a Chris Harris quote regarding the aritificial RWD handling:
"The car can’t decide if it’s four-wheel-drive or rear-drive, or indeed a part front-wheel-drive. So at first it slews sideways, then the front axle decides that’s all a bit childish and neutralises the slide, and then you pin the throttle – at which point, the drifty part of its chassis brain shouts YEEEEEHAAAA and it pitches itself into one of those electronically managed power slides that arrive bloody quickly, require prompt steering correction and then disappear as smartly as they arrived."
 

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The only way I can see it would teach bad habits is how early you can get on the throttle.

But with that said, I had a hand full of track days with my RS and I jumped into a 6th gen Camaro SS (first time RWD on track) and had no issues at all. You need to pay a little more attention to the throttle but it was by no means a tough transition.
 

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If you are planning on building track experience for a future RWD car, the R is not going to be a good prelude. The R (like all Haldex derived systems) is going to understeer. It's just the nature of the beast. And it was the driving force behind the MK3 RS development. Ford and GKN came up with an AWD system that vastly reduces the tendency toward understeer. It's not the same dynamics as a RWD, but it's much, much closer than the R (or STi or an EVO).

I don't know where the idea of the RS's ECU's becoming "confused"came from. The "artificial" part can be explained by the fact that the RS does have unique driving characteristics, and you feel the system working. But I wouldn't call that "artificial". You'll get familiar with it in no time, and likely love it. A lot more than plowing through corners with the type R's understeer.
 

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You need to pay a little more attention to the throttle
I rented a C7 vette last week when I was in California and did some driving on Highway 1. I definitely agree with this. I don't think it's an issue with the electronics teaching you bad habits, but rather just AWD. Even though those tires are nice and meaty there's only two being driven.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The only way I can see it would teach bad habits is how early you can get on the throttle.

But with that said, I had a hand full of track days with my RS and I jumped into a 6th gen Camaro SS (first time RWD on track) and had no issues at all. You need to pay a little more attention to the throttle but it was by no means a tough transition.
Thanks Austin that is helpful.

I can't post links to the various reviews that call the handling artificial, but I'll tell you where to find them.

The Chris Harris review I quoted can be found if you google Top Gear Speed Week Focus RS Chris Harris and click past the Fiat 124 review. Harris says "the car's inherent schizophrenia confuses the driver and, at times, the car itself"

The review from Evo magazine says "if you try to induce some oversteer just on the exit in the dry, nothing really materialises. There is a sense of an exaggerated yaw movement, that even with more throttle sadly never turns into oversteer. This is the only time the Focus RS ever feels contrived." The review can be found if you google Evo Focus RS and go to the Ride and Handling section.

Also the Jalopnik article titled "The Ford Focus RS Is A Beer-Drinking Robot Doing A Keg Stand At Your Party" mentions the same things about the handling feeling artificial and the computers controlling the PTU and the RDU becoming confused.
 

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Buying an RS and driving it will teach you how to drive and RS. If you plan on getting into racing you have to learn that every car will do something differently and you have to adapt.
 
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Front engine 4wd cars are each pretty unique to drive at the limits in their own ways. But then so are all cars.

Like mentioned above, the only bad habit the RS could give you is getting back on the gas very early. And even then, that's not all that bad of a track habit. One should be pushing to get back in the fun peddle as early as possible anyways, no matter which wheels are pushing/pulling.

IMO our RS is very forgiving and a great learning tool.
 

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Thanks Austin that is helpful.

I can't post links to the various reviews that call the handling artificial, but I'll tell you where to find them.

The Chris Harris review I quoted can be found if you google Top Gear Speed Week Focus RS Chris Harris and click past the Fiat 124 review. Harris says "the car's inherent schizophrenia confuses the driver and, at times, the car itself"

The review from Evo magazine says "if you try to induce some oversteer just on the exit in the dry, nothing really materialises. There is a sense of an exaggerated yaw movement, that even with more throttle sadly never turns into oversteer. This is the only time the Focus RS ever feels contrived." The review can be found if you google Evo Focus RS and go to the Ride and Handling section.

Also the Jalopnik article titled "The Ford Focus RS Is A Beer-Drinking Robot Doing A Keg Stand At Your Party" mentions the same things about the handling feeling artificial and the computers controlling the PTU and the RDU becoming confused.
You are cherry picking driving reviews. There are 5-10 times more that were nearly universal praise. When buying a car you have to drive it, and trust yourself. Chris loves the Golf R, while I feel it's just more haldex. At the end of the day you're paying 40k, not Chris, nor anyone else. Drive it again, decide if you like it. AWD performance cars are all weather conditions, and most road surfaces machine. If buying for the track, you want small, light, and RWD.
 
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You are cherry picking driving reviews. There are 5-10 times more that were nearly universal praise. When buying a car you have to drive it, and trust yourself. Chris loves the Golf R, while I feel it's just more haldex. At the end of the day you're paying 40k, not Chris, nor anyone else. Drive it again, decide if you like it. AWD performance cars are all weather conditions, and most road surfaces machine. If buying for the track, you want small, light, and RWD.
Small, light, RWD, and severely under powered is the best training tool for a racer.
 
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In my case, the RS allows me to pick a less-than-optimum line on the track and still pull down decent lap times for my class. So it can cover-up poor driving. As my lines get better I rely less on the AWD. But the entire driveline is absolutely seamless to me, no inconsistency at all; it's very predictable.

At the RS Adrenaline Academy the hot laps with the instructors showed us how much more this car is capable of with a really good driver - they made it go so much faster everywhere on the track that I couldn't believe it.

Bottom line - I don't believe the RS teaches bad habits, but it can accentuate the bad habits you already have. If you watch some good RS track videos and perhaps get an instructor that knows the car, the RS can bring out the best you have to offer and still be ready for much, much more.

Jim
 
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Thanks Austin that is helpful.

I can't post links to the various reviews that call the handling artificial, but I'll tell you where to find them.

The Chris Harris review I quoted can be found if you google Top Gear Speed Week Focus RS Chris Harris and click past the Fiat 124 review. Harris says "the car's inherent schizophrenia confuses the driver and, at times, the car itself"

The review from Evo magazine says "if you try to induce some oversteer just on the exit in the dry, nothing really materialises. There is a sense of an exaggerated yaw movement, that even with more throttle sadly never turns into oversteer. This is the only time the Focus RS ever feels contrived." The review can be found if you google Evo Focus RS and go to the Ride and Handling section.

Also the Jalopnik article titled "The Ford Focus RS Is A Beer-Drinking Robot Doing A Keg Stand At Your Party" mentions the same things about the handling feeling artificial and the computers controlling the PTU and the RDU becoming confused.
As a lot mention, Chris Harris loves his Golf R, and media (top Gear) has to have some disagreement on the car to create more conversation.
Evo magazine was right, because when you exceeded the grips that the tires can give, the computer won't let you slide in Track Model. The Traction control is there to protect you from going off course. If your goal is slide at corner, you should get a M car. Drift mode on RS will work too but it will overheat the RDU if you drift mode on track.

The RS is my first car to go on tracks. I been to autocross with my previous car but not on track. I see you concern but you would want to listen to NitroBlueFTW and DeltaT.

the only bad habit the RS could give you is getting back on the gas very early. And even then, that's not all that bad of a track habit. One should be pushing to get back in the fun peddle as early as possible anyways, no matter which wheels are pushing/pulling. IMO our RS is very forgiving and a great learning tool.
The RS has a little super power is speed up at mid corner which Golf R or other similar price car can't do. which gave me that "get back on gas early" habit as well. (RS Academy instructor point it out multiple time when I was there)

At the RS Adrenaline Academy the hot laps with the instructors showed us how much more this car is capable of with a really good driver - they made it go so much faster everywhere on the track that I couldn't believe it.

Jim
The value of this car is beyond the car itself. Buy a new one, you will get to go to the RS Adrenaline Academy. Not only they help you learn about all features of the RS, but also a free "half day" track day with one on one instructor.
On the track, they taught us basics on how to drive on the track and it applies AWD, RWD or FWD. While on track they made us use sport mode (because in track mode you won't get to learn the basic as the computer take corners for you).
If you really worry about the RS will make you less a good driver on track, just go on track in Sport mode.
 

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Lots of good insights on this thread. I too would agree with what others have said. I think it won't teach you bad habits, but it would definitely mask bad habits you already have that would otherwise be magnified in other cars. Coming from relatively basic track cars (Neon SRT4, Subaru WRX and BRZ), I was very confused and found some (not all) of the RS's behavior to be counter intuitive from what I know. I find it difficult to "modulate" throttle when mid-corner since "feeding" it causes understeer while "mashing" it causes the car to rotate while maintaining grip (as opposed to rotating by intentionally losing traction). In the end, I'm just learning how the car behaves based on my inputs and modifying my style to suit, which you'll have to do with any car anyway. Seat time, seat time, seat time!

My advice, if you really do want to learn good habits, start with a very basic platform, preferably FWD or RWD, learn the basics of car handling (weight transfer, throttle control, threshold braking, etc.) then move up to an AWD.

The value of this car is beyond the car itself. Buy a new one, you will get to go to the RS Adrenaline Academy. Not only they help you learn about all features of the RS, but also a free "half day" track day with one on one instructor.
On the track, they taught us basics on how to drive on the track and it applies AWD, RWD or FWD. While on track they made us use sport mode (because in track mode you won't get to learn the basic as the computer take corners for you).
If you really worry about the RS will make you less a good driver on track, just go on track in Sport mode.
Interesting, gonna have to try that on my next track day. I've always assumed that Track mode is "everything off" mode, including the assists.
 
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