After easing for a while, what’s been dubbed the “hot hatchback” segment is starting to sizzle again. Taking advantage of the revived trend, Ford launched the Focus RS last year to battle cars like the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R. Claimed to be the most powerful production Focus ever built, the current RS is the latest member of a long string of RS (Rallye Sport) models.
What's New for 2017
The RS went on sale midway through the 2016 model year, so it's essentially unchanged for 2017.
Choosing Your Ford Focus RS
Naturally, the heart of the Focus RS is its 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, whipping up 350 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and as much as 350 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. That’s 40 more horsepower than the same EcoBoost engine delivers if installed in a Mustang. Technical upgrades, including a new twin-scroll turbocharger with a bigger housing, help account for the increase. So does a larger-diameter exhaust system.
A Focus RS driver can choose from four modes: Normal, Sport, Track and Drift. They affect damping rates, stability control settings, steering and throttle response, and all-wheel drive settings. Changing modes will even alter the exhaust sound. Ford claims that Drift mode is an “industry first,” intended for track use only.
Ford has claimed that the Focus RS can accelerate to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, and is capable of reaching 165 mph on the track. Automatic stop/start technology is standard. Fuel economy is estimated at 19 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway.
Only a six-speed manual transmission is available, sending all that energy to all four wheels via Ford's racing-inspired Performance All-Wheel Drive system. Monitoring various sensors 100 times per second, the system can provide controlled oversteer drifts for peak performance on the race track. Dynamic Torque Vectoring actively distributes torque to each wheel to improve handling, according to Ford. Up to 100 percent of available torque can be sent to either the left or right wheel, as needed.
Launch Control Technology aims to let the Focus RS take corners more adeptly than any prior Focus. Lateral acceleration exceeds 1.0 g.
The RS looks the part of a race-ready car, particular in the front, where you'll find an aggressive trapezoidal grille and a deep front splitter. For superior engine cooling, air-intake openings are as large as possible. Brake cooling ducts and vertically mounted foglamps emphasize the car’s wide, muscular stance. Automatic HID headlights are standard.
Inside are partially leather-trimmed, heavily bolstered Recaro seats with contrast stitching, a flat-bottom steering wheel with soft-feel leather rim, metal pedals, unique instruments, SYNC 3 connectivity, and a 10-speaker Sony audio system. Michelin Super Sport summer tires ride on 19-inch wheels.
Options include a sunroof, 19-inch forged wheels, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Four colors are available, including Nitrous Blue ($695 extra), Stealth Gray, Frozen White, and Shadow Black. The winter tire option includes Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 tires on Sparkle Silver painted wheels.
For $2,785, an optional RS2 package furnishes a heated front seats with driver power, a heated steering wheel, heated side mirrors, voice-activated touchscreen navigation, and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link.
Pricing of the Focus RS starts at $36,995 (destination charge included). In comparison, the current Focus ST stickers for $25,650. Partly because cars of this type are difficult to find, the RS typically sells at or above MSRP.