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But the Track Is Where It Will Need to Prove Itself

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By Scott Burgess, March 12, 2015

Upon returning from the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, I found myself with more questions than answers about the Ford Focus RS.

When you see it in person, the car stands out for a multitude of reasons: its elegant exterior, its well-crafted interior, and its promise to out-perform much of the hot hatch competition. I heard from more than a few Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru WRX STI owners over Twitter who said they couldn't wait to blow all five doors off the Focus RS once it arrives in America early next year. Obviously, these owners have been breathing too much of their own Axe Body Spray if they really think their cars will have a chance against the Focus RS. They are going to get smoked like that first cigarette after a transcontinental flight. A head-to-head-to-head-to-head showdown will have to wait until early next year. But the Focus RS, at least on paper, is not merely going to be a formidable competitor. It's going to leave the likes of the VW Golf R, Evo, and STI in the parking lot.

The first reason is power. Ford promises at least 320 horsepower out of the 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. There's certainly less eco and more boost to this particular four-banger, which is fine. Let's all admit that fuel economy is not a top concern when considering any of these cars. Looking at the current Mustang with the same 2.3-liter engine, we can see hitting 320 hp won't be much of problem. The Mustang offers 310 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. Even at those numbers, the RS would outmuscle the Golf R's 292 ponies and the STI's 305 horses. At 320 hp, it will have 10 percent more power than the Evo's 291 horses under its hood. Then again, that final power figure could rise even more, creating a bigger gap. Power, of course, is not everything, unless you make the most. The RS makes the most and also beats the competition in torque, crunching the competition's high mark of 300 lb-ft by at least 20 more lb-ft. Now, all of that power doesn't do that much good if the car is too heavy or cannot handle it. The proven Focus chassis should cope with the power quite well. Although Ford has not released the weight numbers on the RS, the Focus ST weights 3,215 pounds. Add another 150 pounds to account for the all-wheel-drive system, and you're looking at 3,365 pounds. That's still a touch lighter than the STI's 3,367 pounds and the Golf R's 3,384 pounds. It's 200 pounds lighter than the Evo MR, which tips the scales at 3,571 pounds.

So it's at best a draw for the competition after tipping the scales. However, the Focus RS still offers more power per pound than any thing else in the field. In testing, the STI managed a 4.6-second 0-60 time, and the Golf R hit 4.5 seconds. The Focus should manage to beat both with around 4.4 seconds and a quarter-mile time less than 13 seconds. Mind you, those are guesses. The Focus RS also will allow true torque vectoring in the rear axle, something no one else provides, and Ford says the RS will be able to handle more than 1.00 g of lateral acceleration, whereas Motor Trend testing showed the STI and R offered .97 g and .94 g, respectively. Close again, but still inferior numbers. The one weak link might be the transmission. But even here, Ford has nothing to fear. The RS will only come with a six-speed manual transmission, and that has proven to be just fine. On the ST, the throws are quick and easy. That car's gearing is especially well-done. The lower gears allow you to pull power all the way to redline. It climbs hills just as well as it shoots down them.

On the more subjective front, I think the RS just looks better than the current STI, Golf R, and Evo. Only the Golf R has as distinguished of an appearance. The Evo and STI lack aesthetic maturity. All have racing-like cockpits, but the newer Golf R and Focus RS have a much higher level of sophistication than the other two models. Add to the mix that the Focus RS will include the most recent technology and even come with a Drift mode, and you've got a winner again. Even with so much going for it, the Focus RS still has a lot to prove. The hot hatch market has been dominated by imports. (Technically, the Focus RS will be a European import, as well.) Its true performance remains unknown for the time being, but we'll find out soon enough. I just think it would be foolish to underestimate this RS.

Ford Focus RS Trounces Other Hot Hatches - On Paper
 

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I like how the author has an open mind, and willing to admit on paper the RS better but will still need to test the vehicles head to head to verify. I never understood people making such quick judgment on a vehicle they have never driven or for the matter of fact no one has even driven a production version. The RS is still in development and there are a lot of things to be answered, but unless I was running a STI or EVO with over 350HP then I wouldn't be underestimating the RS at all. Hopefully by late summer we will start seeing some first drives and then we will get a better idea of what this car is really going to be like. There was one part left out and that would be Fords focus with the RS, a true drivers car, that was the goal for the RS, something the competition never mentions.
 

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I wonder if Fords power figures will be under rated in the RS.
 

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The one weak link might be the transmission. But even here, Ford has nothing to fear. The RS will only come with a six-speed manual transmission, and that has proven to be just fine.*
He seems to be implying that it uses the same tranny as the ST? We don't know that yet though...
 

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I wonder if Fords power figures will be under rated in the RS.
I've wondered that or if Ford is going to change course and actually post real whp figures instead of from the crankshaft numbers.
 

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He seems to be implying that it uses the same tranny as the ST? We don't know that yet though...
I thought I read somewhere that it will be a slightly modified version. Could be wrong though with all this crap flying around about the RS right now.
 

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I've wondered that or if Ford is going to change course and actually post real whp figures instead of from the crankshaft numbers.
That would be nice.
 

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I wouldn't bet on us receiving whp figures, larger numbers look better. Do keep in mind that Ford has named the CLA 45 AMG as one of its competitors (along with the Golf R, and 'to a lesser extent', the STI / Evo), and that thing makes like 355hp.

As for the article, I wish he would have talked more about the AWD system and what we know about it. He says one thing about true torque vectoring, but doesn't go into detail comparing it to the systems on the STI and the R. All 3 cars rely on some form of brake-based torque vectoring (STI and RS only have it on the front axle, R has it on both axles) but, between the 3, only the RS is able to apply a positive speed increase to one of the rear wheels. This sounds like the better AWD system for taking corners...
 

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I thought I read somewhere that it will be a slightly modified version. Could be wrong though with all this crap flying around about the RS right now.
It will have to be some what modified for the AWD to send power to the rear. You are correct though, from multiple sources stated, including Ford, the trans has been strengthened to cope with the power, along with the clutch. What exactly have they done? I'm hoping we will find out!
 

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This is exactly what I logged on to find... What a mistake!! I have gone from anxious to get one to having hallucinations about it! hahaha.

Honestly, that is a beautiful design. I was in love with just the idea of the RS coming to the U.S. Putting it at such a high level out of the box sounds great as well. Now just to see the cost... Not like I will pass it up for a Maserati or something, but certainly sounds like competing with higher level cars than the EVO's and STI's is going too far. I would truly hate to see it fail here just because they over hype and over price it.
 

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I would like to see a big head to head compition between all the contenders. First stock then stage 1 ( reflash ECU ), then stage 2 ( tune, intake, exhaust). If I hit the lotto I'll do it myself. Results would be realistic being that I'm the average shmuck. I'm willing to bet the RS spanks everybody for the most part, but that golf is so hot and its only going to get faster. In a few years every awd turbo hatch (or not) will be pushing 400 bhp. Then a few years after that it will be 450 bhp then 500 bhp. When will the madness stop?
 
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