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courtesy @SCHN3LL

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by Máté Petrány, 25 January 2016

The most impressive thing about the 2016 Ford Focus RS isn’t the Drift Mode or the fact that it’s stupidly fast on track without showing any sign of understeer. What you’ll really love is how refined and easy it is as a road car. No hot hatch ticks all the boxes quite like Ford’s does–and rejoice, for this Euro legend is finally coming to America.
e 2016 Ford Focus RS Is God In Hatchback Form

[Full disclosure: Ford flew me to Spain, let me drive the RS on track and even paid for all my beers. Plus, they gave me that sweet RS poster. Everything about Spain is wonderful, except maybe the Guardia Civil.]

Simply put, I would daily the crap out of the Focus RS. In Nitrous Blue. But before explaining why, let me walk you through how Ford came up with its first global RS car.

People don’t realize this, but the previous Europe-only Focus RS understeered badly at speed. It had a machine gun-like Volvo-sourced five cylinder turbo, and an innovative system to conquer its front-wheel drive limitations, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe it was enough for a family hatchback, but not for something with a proper RS badge.

Tyrone Johnson, a guy who spent the last 31 years of his career at the company only to end up being Ford Performance’s Vehicle Engineering Manager responsible for the RS project, says anything that understeers is “****.” No excuses. It’s just ****, he said.

I tried to explain him that the Civic Type R is fun anyway, but he was having none of it.

This Is Where It Got Complicated

Ford decided to put the Mustang EcoBoost’s 2.3 four-cylinder under the hood, but upgraded with a new twin-scroll turbocharger, intake, exhaust, high-flow head, stronger cylinder liners, oil cooler and the largest radiator and intercooler they could physically jam into the car.

The resulting 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque meant there was no other way than going all-wheel drive. And while they actually built a prototype using a Haldex system like the one you find in cars such as the Volkswagen Golf R, that didn’t cut it, because as I mentioned before, understeer is ****.

Plan B came just 18 months before launch:

What you’re looking at is GKN’s Twinster all-wheel drive (and an almost entirely straight exhaust with no center muffler). The only other car on the market today equipped with this is the Range Rover Evoque, but Ford’s was beefed up to handle all that torque, all the time.

Basically, it’s an electro-hydraulic system with brake-based torque vectoring, consisting of a rear drive unit capable of overspeeding the rear wheels at a 1.8 ratio, with wet clutches on both sides and a separate cooler, connected to what acts as an open front diff by a three-piece driveshaft.

Rather complicated? Hell yeah. But as Clarkson would say, it does many things.

Track Mode Or Drift Mode?

When you’re just cruising along the highway with minimum steering input, the pumps turn off, disengaging he rear clutches so you end up driving a front-wheel drive Focus. But the moment there’s something more action packed going on, it’s back to all-wheel drive that can send up to 70 percent of the torque to rear wheels.

The rear drive unit also directs 90 percent of that torque to the outer wheel to help the car turn, or all to each side back and forth if necessary. The sensors monitor the situation at a hundred times per second, which sounds about enough to me.

Obviously, in Drift Mode, you get as much torque to the rear as possible while the dampers and the steering goes soft for those ultimate Ken Block moments. They make it really easy nowadays.

There are other modes besides Drift, also. Track Mode gives you minimum ESC interference while making Tenneco’s inner-valve two-stage electric shocks 40 percent stiffer than in Sport mode, while Normal is pretty much the same as the Focus ST’s settings.

With the springs being 33 and 38 percent harder than the ST’s, the benefits of the reenforced chassis and Michelin’s specially developed Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, this is the RS’s fastest setup unless you’re confident enough to switch off the ESC completely.

The cool thing is that the damper settings can be changed in any of the drive modes with one finger, while Track and Drift can be limited to your key in case you don’t wish to give a change for your teenage son to try them out on his way to the groceries.

Ford used Hockenheim’s smooth tarmac as the standard for the suspension instead of the inconsistent bumps of the Nürburgring, while Michelin put 1,240 miles of testing into the rubber. The tires are 235/35 R19s, with the track-focused Cup 2s being only available with Ford’s forged wheels, which save 2 pounds of unsprung weight in each corner.

The brakes are rock solid four-piston Brembos with 350mm rotors. They got their own cooling ducts at the front, which was significantly redesigned to let through as much air as possible. The RS’s grill mash is so thin you can barely see it, and somewhere behind it, there’s an intercooler the size of Texas.

With the cooling done, Ford had to sort out the aerodynamics, and with the front splitter, rear diffuser and roof spoiler, they managed to get zero lift at both ends. Ground clearance? Forget it. The moment you hit a steep driveway, it’s a touchdown. And while we are at it: The steering might have a quicker ratio at 2.0 lock to lock, but the turning circle will still make you reverse. A lot.

Its styling almost makes the RS a sleeper compared to some of its shouty competitors, especially if you buy one in Shadow Black, Frozen White or Stealth Gray. Nitrous Blue is an $695 extra anyway.

Ford will say that’s because they are the mature ones, but the reality is that unlike the Focus you buy in America, the Focus RS is built on a standard assembly line in Germany and the engines are put together in Spain. That means every RS-specific modification had to fit the line, and crazy wide wheel arches were out of the picture from day one. Having said that, the RS is 23 percent stiffer than a regular Focus, thanks to a completely redesigned rear subframe and braces welded into the body itself.

To keep the weight figure down, they just ditched some of the sound isolation. You can also order your RS with superb lightweight seats, as long as you’re in Europe.

American buyers will have a look out for what’s new in the Ford Performance catalogue a few months on, but should be also happy to learn that while Ford won’t go into production figure predictions, about as many Focus RSs are planned for the US as for the whole of Europe. And here, they pre-sold 3,700 already.

In Those Seats

The first thing I noticed is how quiet the RS is when you’re driving it just like you would roll in a regular Focus. There’s bit of roar in the background as a reminder of those 350 horses, but you can have a normal conversation. And since the clutch, the six-speed manual and the steering are also as easy to operate as in any normal hatchback, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do everything driving an RS. Some hot hatches you can live with, but this is a true daily driver.

Easy? Quiet? You might be wondering if I’m really talking about the RS here. But I am, and it works.

My sound level observation might be totally off, because Mr. Caswell found it to have more road noise than what some might expect. Still, I think in Normal mode, the RS might just be the most livable sports car out there. Ford also put a manual in it partly for cost reasons, because they believe a hot hatch makes no sense if people can’t afford it. Plus, I guess it would be hard to sell a more expensive hatch with a Ford badge.

Either way: kids, dogs, tracks. That was pretty much the mission, and they scored big. It can do everything.

When you’re in Sport Mode, the RS sharpens up a bit, and thanks to some trickery with the ignition, the exhaust does all the pops and bangs you always wished for. Despite the massive exhaust under the car that’s nearly a straight pipe, it still uses digital sound enhancement similar to the one you find in an ST. That didn’t bother me.

Sport Mode will satisfy most on a normal day, but since we’re talking about a performance car here, I have no doubt many buyers will ignore the message on the screen and switch their STI-slayer Focuses to Track or Drift on public roads as well.

While Ford wouldn’t recommend that, the good news is that the RS won’t turn into a suicide machine when you dial it up, although if you go even further by switching off the ESC, you better know what’s up.

Ford’s engineers say they have achieved RWD feel with AWD traction, but to me, the RS felt more like a perfectly balanced AWD car that could oversteer on the track if you really insisted.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the Launch Control either.

Zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds comes courtesy of a turbo operating at 23 psi, the AWD locking the rear into a solid axle, revs locked at 5,000 RPM, you dumping the clutch as quickly as possible and not lifting from the gas between first and second. It’s rather entertaining.

For this kind of money–a base price of just $35,730 in the U.S.–the RS really has no competitors. Even the WRX STI, Golf R and Civic Type R can’t offer this much of both livability and performance.

I spent nearly an hour in it on a track at speed without feeling bored for a second. It’s got nice steering, all the power and brakes that will outlast you. It doesn’t go wide, lets you know exactly when those Michelins want to go on holiday, and as a road car, I just loved it even more.

A fair question at this point is reliability.

Ford says the RS was designed to handle half an hour of continuous punishment, be that in Drift mode or Track. That sounds reassuring, but when we went out for our first few laps on the track, my car gave me an engine warning message before limiting the revs, while Bill Caswell retired his with an AWD issue. Tyrone Johnson said the diffs can’t overheat, another Ford guy at the pits told us the complete opposite. It seemed fair to believe him instead.

Our second cars worked perfectly fine, but Ford admits that the RS’s Twinster system is pretty close to its limits handling 350 horses and 350 foot pounds already, so in case you’re planning to go aftermarket and increase the power further without beefing up the drivetrain, expect to get some shredded metal with your voided warranty.

And what if Ford made an even faster, hotter Focus RS? It will have to have bigger gears as well as a turbo, that’s for sure.

The 2016 Ford Focus RS, will all of its 345 horses, isn’t even on sale yet, but already there’s…

In the meantime, I would buy just this regular one in a heartbeat. There is nothing it cannot do (except maybe go off road like a WRC car. Maybe.)

Meet God in hatchback form.

The 2016 Ford Focus RS Is God In Hatchback Form
 

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Well that's a decent review. But sad he said the twinster is at its max power capabilities.
 

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God, bae, whatever you want to call it.....me want NOW!

Also, good point about the drivetrain being near its limits. Bound to be a few people who go too heavy on the power tuning.
 

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...Ford admits that the RS’s Twinster system is pretty close to its limits handling 350 horses and 350 foot pounds already, so in case you’re planning to go aftermarket and increase the power further without beefing up the drivetrain, expect to get some shredded metal with your voided warranty.
This is the first I've red about this anywhere
 

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its been said before though that it limits itself. so if you add power it would just hypothetically be adding power to the front which wont be a horrible thing. it will be more like a haldex under certain circumstances?? and with everyone complaining the AWD system is already handling as much or more power to the rear axle then most modded STis etc..
 

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This is the first I've red about this anywhere
There was a guy on NAISOC who said he was an engineer from GKN and that the AWD system was pretty much at limit. The takeway seemed to be that any more torque would only get sent to the front wheels.

Scooby921 is the poster. I'm not sure where it's mentioned but it's somewhere in the 300 pages of this thread. gl;hf
2016 Ford Focus RS - Page 136 - NASIOC
 

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There was a guy on NAISOC who said he was an engineer from GKN and that the AWD system was pretty much at limit. The takeway seemed to be that any more torque would only get sent to the front wheels.

Scooby921 is the poster. I'm not sure where it's mentioned but it's somewhere in the 300 pages of this thread.
2016 Ford Focus RS - Page 136 - NASIOC
Thanks for finding the link. I remember that post being a talking point months ago, but I think this is the first time it's been widely published.
 

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This car is going to be a blast :triumphant:
 

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also in the other interview with the head of engineering? he stated they were seeing 90% of the power going to the rear at certain moments. I'm sure everyone will be just fine.
 

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I'd love to add a stage 1,2 tune etc. Would happily spend $3G for ~50 hp but for the first year, maybe two, my money will be spent on aesthetics, tint, clear bra, radar, maybe stereo upgrade etc. Let others live and learn about power mods first.
 

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Jalopnik said:
...Ford admits that the RS’s Twinster system is pretty close to its limits handling 350 horses and 350 foot pounds already, so in case you’re planning to go aftermarket and increase the power further without beefing up the drivetrain, expect to get some shredded metal with your voided warranty.
Translation: There's headroom for the factory to turn it up more and still offer a warranty. People don't forget OEM durability testing goes above and beyond any typical aftermarket hack-job.
 

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also in the other interview with the head of engineering? he stated they were seeing 90% of the power going to the rear at certain moments. I'm sure everyone will be just fine.
Yeah this is something that the GKN guy talks about. The 90% meaning applied torque. If the front has no traction (zero) then technically 100% of the applied torque goes to the rear. The GKN guys says that it's only capable of sending 50% of the actual torque (175 ft lbs) to the rear, but I think he's wrong lol. That's the whole point to having the drive-shaft overdriven. If that were true then I would think that it should just be a 1:1.
 

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I liked this bit: "You can also order your RS with superb lightweight seats, as long as you’re in Europe. American buyers will have a look out for what’s new in the Ford Performance catalogue a few months on..." Maybe an unofficial hint that they will be an accessory in a few months.
 

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courtesy @SCHN3LL
Basically, it’s an electro-hydraulic system with brake-based torque vectoring, consisting of a rear drive unit capable of overspeeding the rear wheels at a 1.8 ratio, with wet clutches on both sides and a separate cooler, connected to what acts as an open front diff by a three-piece driveshaft.
holy crap!
does this mean the rear wheels under no load with the RDU clutches engaged will spin 80% faster than the front wheels? that seems absurd to me... my money would have been on 1-10% over-driven, and even that much was making me nervous. Obviously the system works as is but...
 

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Also, didn't know about the engines being made in Spain. I knew the cylinder head was made by Cosworth but I thought the engine was also assembled in Germany. Learn something new every day!
 

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holy crap!
does this mean the rear wheels under no load with the RDU clutches engaged will spin 80% faster than the front wheels? that seems absurd to me... my money would have been on 1-10% over-driven, and even that much was making me nervous. Obviously the system works as is but...
Apparently it's 1.8% over driven.
 

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Great review, but still some cautionary tales here. During this test drive, one car threw a code and limited revs, while the other had AWD probs. I don't know why, but it feels like this car is not 'overbuilt' and is pretty close to its mechanical limits in stock form. I would be frankly surprised and will happilyy eat crow if a Mountune package is ever offered. Pause.
 

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Great review, but still some cautionary tales here. During this test drive, one car threw a code and limited revs, while the other had AWD probs. I don't know why, but it feels like this car is not 'overbuilt' and is pretty close to its mechanical limits in stock form. I would be frankly surprised and will happilyy eat crow if a Mountune package is ever offered. Pause.
Well I for one hope your wrong. Lol. I had high hopes of adding power. 😪
 
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