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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
courtesy @Devon K

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by Dan Trent, January 19, 2016

A hot hatch that drifts? Time to see if the Focus RS really lives up to the hype

"The death of every interesting corner is understeer," says Ford Performance Vehicle Engineering Manager Tyrone Johnson. This is a promising start to the story behind the new Ford Focus RS. Tyrone really, really hates understeer. His eyes blaze every time he uses the word. If Tyrone is in the room understeer had best exit, sharpish.

So Ford has done the seemingly impossible and created a hot hatch based on a front-driven, transverse-engined platform that absolutely, positively will never push on in a corner? Well, towards the end of our track session at Valencia circuit and with tyres past their best, yes, the Focus RS does understeer where previously it had rotated into nice, predictable drifts.

But, for the most part, the Focus RS lives up to the hype. We are officially in the age of the power-oversteering hot hatch. With a driver selectable Drift Mode. This is either a stroke of genius. Or the greatest contribution to the panel beating industry and suppliers of roadside furniture since the French discovered lift-off oversteer in a previous hot hatch era.

Get the drift

Because, let's face it, when you've been raised on Ken Block, watched videos of idiots on press launches doing doughnuts around cones and are sitting in your new Focus RS are you really going to wait until you reach the mandated closed course or racetrack only environment before trying it out? Of course not. Ford says a cap of 4,000 RS models for the UK market is deliberate to protect residuals; natural selection and the nation's hedgerows will no doubt help the cause too.

But is the Focus RS the wildly oversteering monster we've all been led to believe? No. But, especially at this price point, it does rather embarrass everything else in the sector. Others will have softer plastics in the cabin, a more aspirational image and, perhaps, fancier infotainment systems. But dynamically this is one of the more significant moments in the evolution of the affordable performance car.

The most important thing to understand about the Focus RS is why it handles differently. The Haldex-derived all-wheel drive systems used by rivals can only manage torque split front to back, and even then reactively. The Focus's GKN Twinster set-up has drive permanently going from the front power transfer unit and to the rear differential. It's the clutches either side of it that dictate how much, if any, drive torque is going to the rear wheels. If they're fully open it's front-wheel drive. When they are fully closed it's a 30:70 front to rear split, with the ability to send all of that rear allocation to one wheel or the other. This and a 1.8 per cent overspeed of the rear axle means the ability to give proper torque vectoring. Correctly serviced Ford is confident the hardware will last the lifetime of the car, despite the conflicting forces and apparent strain on the drivetrain.

Secret weapon

On the throttle the Focus can send more power to the outside wheel to push the nose into the turn and neutralise understeer. Off the throttle engine braking can be used on the inside wheel to the same end. This explains the smile on Tyrone's face when he talks about it and why a Haldex type system was never going to cut it.

On the road and in the default Normal mode the Focus RS feels more agile than its burly 1,599kg kerb weight would suggest. The steering is fast - just two turns lock to lock - and has a predictable, linear rack. Weight and feedback is decent if not, perhaps, as meaningful as that in a Megane or Civic. In the Normal suspension mode it feels keen to lean on its outside front wheel and cock the opposing back one but you don't really sense this through the wheel.

The beauty of the all-wheel drive system is, even if that inside rear tyre is off the ground, it can still send all of the available power to the outside wheel, altering that traditional hot hatch cornering stance into something previously the preserve of Japanese rally reps like the Mitsubishi Evo. Keep your foot in and there's just a delicious rotation into the apex quite unlike anything you'll have experienced before in a car like this. We're not talking Block-esque armfuls of opposite lock here. Just a determined dive for the inside that bleeds out on corner exit into a lovely sense of four-wheel drift.

Rally style

Ride that seems a little brittle at lower speeds opens out, there being decent damper travel and excellent body control to manage the various weight transfers going on around the car. The Spanish test route is mainly super smooth but the few bumps along the way suggest a car that'll monster any given B-road and promises amusements galore if it's slippy under tyre.

Six parameters - AWD, dampers, steering, engine, stability control and exhaust noise - are managed by the driver mode switch and going one step to Sport ups the noise and aggression while maintaining the standard damping. Now you start getting the more extrovert bangs and pops from the exhaust, which is fun, and a little more springiness to the steering's self-centring, which is less so. Track only (honest guv) Race turns everything up to Sport, though you can decouple the dampers via the column stalk if you want. And then you have Drift. If you prefer to drive with fully ESC off - and you will - you need to hold it down every time you swap modes.

On the road Drift would seem the best all-round mix, given it has the aggressive turn-in but Normal steering and dampers for a more natural feel. In reality it's a bit odd, the unnatural, torque vectored tug into the turn making you feel you have to wind a degree or two of lock off to compensate.

For all-round use Normal feels the most linear and predictable. If you never drove it in any other mode you'd be entirely happy. Tellingly this is the setting they use at the 'ring and, no, they're not discussing lap times.

Capacity to thrill

The engine feels strong too, but again it needs to be when you look at that kerbweight. The extra 300cc over most rivals is telling, that and the twin-scroll turbo unique to the RS (the Mustang version of the same motor has a conventional one) meaning it doesn't have the binary, boosty feeling found in the VW group rivals. Reviness was a design goal and sufficiently convincing for the limiter to arrive all too early; in-gear grunt is sufficient you find yourself leaning on the torque more than chasing the redline.

This RS is more of an all-rounder than any that has gone before and if there's one thing missing it's the expected tarmac spitting ferocity found in rivals like the A45 or Civic. It's incredibly quick but, just perhaps, a little more cultured than diehards may like. Or looks suggest.

On track that ability to dictate cornering line on the throttle becomes even more entertaining. Amusing as it sounds Drift mode still feels a bit weird but, well, it's there for one thing and one thing only. In Race and with stability control off it's plenty keen to tighten its line with the throttle and even power through that into sustained four-wheel drifts. These aren't traditional dab of oppo, on the lock stops rear-wheel drive ones; more an early apex, rally-style, all four wheels straight through to the exit stance that'll be counter-intuitive for track traditionalists. But huge, huge fun. Again that weight is a factor though, the RS feeling a little blunt at the limit.

Track regulars are probably still best served by the likes of the Megane; the Focus has a much broader range of talents but is more naturally inclined to fast road use with the occasional circuit foray. Given the driving style it encourages it might start getting a bit expensive in tyres too - there is a Cup 2 option available as a dealer accessory but at around a grand a set (to be confirmed) it's going to cost you.

Weight, what about a dual clutch?

Negatives? The lack of a dual-clutch option may put some off but Johnson - predictably - didn't want the additional weight over the front axle. From the outside the car sounds ace, with a wicked crackle even in the Normal mode. Why the need for fake, synthesised noise over the speakers then? It's not as bad as some but still fairly loathsome in practice and principle. And while the optional shell-backed Recaros look brilliant, grip you firmly and are way better than the over-bolstered standard ones they're still set too high - a recurring Focus RS theme many will be familiar with from the previous car. Some will still sneer about the image of hot Fords too but, frankly, they are probably people you'd want to avoid in daily life anyway.

In conclusion, yes, the Focus RS is a triumph, albeit a qualified one. Everything comes at a cost and, while the oversteer antics are amusing, the hardware required to achieve them blunts the RS's edge compared with lighter, more agile rivals. For the money, for the entertainment value and all-round ability though, yes, it's the real deal. If you want one you'll be needing to get in there quickly.

FORD FOCUS RS
Engine: 2,261cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000-4,500rpm (347lb ft with 'transient' overboost)
0-62mph: 4.7sec
Top speed: 165mph
Weight: 1,599kg (inc. 75kg driver)
MPG: 36.7mpg
CO2: 175g/km
Price: £29,995
 

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From the outside the car sounds ace, with a wicked crackle even in the Normal mode. Why the need for fake, synthesised noise over the speakers then? It's not as bad as some but still fairly loathsome in practice and principle.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

We MUST find a way to disable this hateful function!
 

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But on the ST it doesnt come through the speakers and its not artificial. But yes, its easily blocked of. I doubt the RS has engine noise coming through the speakers.
Unfortunately I think that is for the pipe in type. This system uses the speakers to do it, hopefully it can be disabled somehow!
Well in that case! Pull fuse F22 from the hatch fuse box - problem solved.

http://www.fordservicecontent.com/Ford_Content/vdirsnet/OwnerManual/Home/Content?bookCode=O32143&languageCode=en&marketCode=GB&viewTech=IE&chapterTitleSelected=G1687860&subTitleSelected=G1818167&topicHRef=G1818169&div=f
 

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If it's like the mustang that will disable the stereo also
I don't know why it would - its listed as "Active noise control. Electronic sound enhancement.". But I guess we'll have to wait and see!
 

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Can I replace it with a guy sitting in the passenger seat going VROOOOO every time I accelerate? The concept of fake sound being played back through the speakers is comical and slightly insulting
 

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I don't agree with the statement of (paraphrased) "throttle off it can move engine braking to inside wheel to reduce understeer" The rear is still over driving to the front and locking in the inside rear will just push from the inside more and induce understeer I think. I think throttle on or off as long as front wheels have grip and the ECU wants to reduce understeer it will engage the outer rear wheel.
 

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Kind of a lame review. But still can't wait for my RS.
 

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Kind of a lame review. But still can't wait for my RS.
I've always really disliked PistonHeads. I ran a newsletter in college that was automotive-themed. I always closed with a completely ignorant car quote or a picture of a riced out/destroyed car to show that our own cars and our own automotive knowledge actually aren't that bad. I pulled all of my quotes and images from PistonHeads forums. And before you ask, I didn't get them from VWVortex because someone was already doing that on one of my email lists. I didn't want any duplicates.
 

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I don't agree with the statement of (paraphrased) "throttle off it can move engine braking to inside wheel to reduce understeer" The rear is still over driving to the front and locking in the inside rear will just push from the inside more and induce understeer I think. I think throttle on or off as long as front wheels have grip and the ECU wants to reduce understeer it will engage the outer rear wheel.
Not sure, but I think you are actually agreeing with the article. To induce the front end to turn in, outer rear wheel should get the torque under acceleration. Engine braking is the opposite, so to simulate the same thing while decelerating, the inner rear wheel should be actively receiving engine braking. In both situations the outer wheel is moving more "freely" than the inner.
 

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Not sure, but I think you are actually agreeing with the article. To induce the front end to turn in, outer rear wheel should get the torque under acceleration. Engine braking is the opposite, so to simulate the same thing while decelerating, the inner rear wheel should be actively receiving engine braking. In both situations the outer wheel is moving more "freely" than the inner.
But with this drive system you cannot just send engine braking to the inner rear as the rear spool is ALWAYS over driven to the speed of the front diff. Even off the throttle any engagement of the either rear wheel is going to push harder than the front. You are then using the force coming in the front wheels to prevent engine rpm from dropping off and to push the rear end forward.

Honestly, with the drive system as is you should be able to put the car in neutral on a down hill and it still apply torque vectoring at the rear, gravity is pulling the whole car, but the front diff speed drives the rear spool that is turning faster than the front. Add friction to either rear clutch and it will push that side forward at a faster rate than the front is going.

Clearly, I'm not agreeing with the text of the article.
 

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But with this drive system you cannot just send engine braking to the inner rear as the rear spool is ALWAYS over driven to the speed of the front diff. Even off the throttle any engagement of the either rear wheel is going to push harder than the front. You are then using the force coming in the front wheels to prevent engine rpm from dropping off and to push the rear end forward.
The clutches control the rate of spin of the rear axles. The rear axles are only overdriven when the clutches are 100% engaged. So, if they engage the clutch 97.4% (or whatever the % that matches the front and rear spin rate) on the inside rear axle and disengage the outside rear axle while engine braking, turn in will be induced.
 

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The clutches control the rate of spin of the rear axles. The rear axles are only overdriven when the clutches are 100% engaged. So, if they engage the clutch 97.4% (or whatever the % that matches the front and rear spin rate) on the inside rear axle and disengage the outside rear axle while engine braking, turn in will be induced.
You clearly do not understand it. The rear spool the part between the clutches, is ALWAYS turning faster than the front diff, ALWAYS. Engine throttle/braking does not change the ratio of the front diff rpm:rear spool rpm. Any degree of clutch grip can only attempt to get the connected axle/wheel and spool rate to match, what percent the clutch grabs at will determine how much effort is put to matching the rates of the spool and the wheel/axle the clutch connects. But be sure to understand that that rear wheel WILL BE pushing forward as the front wheels start fighting against that push more.
 

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You clearly do not understand it. The rear spool the part between the clutches, is ALWAYS turning faster than the front diff, ALWAYS. Engine throttle/braking does not change the ratio of the front diff rpm:rear spool rpm. Any degree of clutch grip can only attempt to get the connected axle/wheel and spool rate to match, what percent the clutch grabs at will determine how much effort is put to matching the rates of the spool and the wheel/axle the clutch connects. But be sure to understand that that rear wheel WILL BE pushing forward as the front wheels start fighting against that push more.
Easy tiger. Do you have some documentation stating exactly that? Here's the deal, without some hard proof from Ford, my logic is having a hard time not thinking what I'm saying. The rear, when the clutches are not engaged spins at basically the same rate as the front because the vehicle is currently FWD. The only time they actually want to overdrive a wheel is when the outside rear wheel needs to apply torque in a turn. This is because, due to physics, that axle is actually spinning faster than the inside axle at that very moment. This is why we need differentials, to allow the outside and inside axles to spin at different rates. So, in order to apply more torque to that outside wheel, the RDU needs to be able to spin it faster and that is when the clutch engages 100%. At the same time, the inside axle NEEDS to spin slower and therefore ... the clutch will be engaged less. That is the only way to do it in this vehicle since there is no actual rear differential. If this was not the case, then we would get wheel hop due to two axles trying to spin at the same rate while covering different amounts of space. So, logically, the opposite can be true. disengage the outside axle, partially engage the inside axle and voila, you have inside axle engine braking.
 

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@j.d.hart , The clutch does not affect the rate of the rear wheel, just the effort to match the rate of the spool to the rear wheel. The clutch will likely almost never outside of drift mode use 100% as it will cause some drive line binding or traction loss. Think of this someone pulling a rope through your hand at 4 feet per minute. if you are not gripping it and letting it slide through think of that is 0% force to get the rope to match your hand rate of motion (0 feet/minute). Now grip it a little and that would be like going to 25% effort to get the rope to match your hand rate (0fpm) but also the rope is now attempting to move your hand at its rate (4fpm). If the force behind the rope is able to over come your effort the rate of the rope can remain at 4fpm, but is now having to put more effort in to maintain that rate. As you continue to grab tighter until 100% one of a few things while happen: 1) at 100% your friend pulling can't overpower you and the rope and your hand is at 0fpm; 2) you friend is much strong and you are getting pulled at 4fpm; 3) you are evening match and now the rope is still moving, but < 4fpm, but you are matched to its speed. Clutches much like your hand can not apply a rate that is not on either the input or output, just vary the amount of effort to match those rates. The amount of force applied and resistance to the change (to/from either side of the clutch) have an impact also on the amount of effort needed to get desired change.

Think of the clutch between the engine and transmission... it does not try to turn the input shaft at 50% of the engine rate because you are only using 50% of the gripping effort of it. Its still attempting to match the rate of the transmission input shaft to the engine rpm, but controlling the effort of each side on each other to prevent engine stall or tire spin that would happen if clutch too quickly goes from 0% to 100%.
 

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Easy tiger. Do you have some documentation stating exactly that? Here's the deal, without some hard proof from Ford, my logic is having a hard time not thinking what I'm saying. The rear, when the clutches are not engaged spins at basically the same rate as the front because the vehicle is currently FWD. The only time they actually want to overdrive a wheel is when the outside rear wheel needs to apply torque in a turn. This is because, due to physics, that axle is actually spinning faster than the inside axle at that very moment. This is why we need differentials, to allow the outside and inside axles to spin at different rates. So, in order to apply more torque to that outside wheel, the RDU needs to be able to spin it faster and that is when the clutch engages 100%. At the same time, the inside axle NEEDS to spin slower and therefore ... the clutch will be engaged less. That is the only way to do it in this vehicle since there is no actual rear differential. If this was not the case, then we would get wheel hop due to two axles trying to spin at the same rate while covering different amounts of space. So, logically, the opposite can be true. disengage the outside axle, partially engage the inside axle and voila, you have inside axle engine braking.

its this simple, rear final drive ratio is higher than front, hence being able to send "70%" rear even though a diff up front can only technically send 50%
 
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