Test Drive: The new Ford Focus RS

Ford RS_24

So I’m sat on the plane home from Spain after a thrilling couple of days testing out the brand new Ford Focus RS. Normally I take a few weeks to share my experience of driving a new car but with this beauty I feel a little more eager to let you know how it went.

As you know, I’m not petrol head but I like everyone else appreciate a nice looking car that drives and handles well. The Focus RS ticks all those boxes and quite a few more to boot. Appearance wise the 2016 RS is far more understated that the previous couple of versions. The garish venom green has been ditched for a colour palette that will be far more appealing to a wider audience.

The core aim when designing the latest RS model was function and we were told by the developers that there is nothing on the car that is there simply to ‘look good’ it’s all about purpose with subtly tucked vents which promote maximum cooling for the engine and brakes.

The car runs on 4 different settings from ‘Normal’ mode for everyday drive, ‘Sport’ which offers a little more response (and brings the addition of some sweet sounding engine gargles), ‘Track’ which as the name suggests is only recommended for use on a proper track circuit and finally the much hyped ‘Drift Mode’ which is a definite first for a car of this class.

The new Focus RS works on a 4 wheel drive system that uses a split of around 70% torque to the rear with 30% heading to the front wheels, it all helps the thing stay focused on the tightest of bends.

The interior is perhaps the only slight disappointment with this car. It is nice enough, the seats are comfy enough (scoop seats are available as an extra) and everything works very well but it is maybe missing a little wow factor to greatly differentiate it from the higher end Ford Focus or Focus ST models. Perhaps though this more subtle design will attract a newer customer who perhaps would overlook a model such as the RS as a little too showy for them.

Yesterday I had a shot on the windy mountain roads high above Valencia where I had the chance to try out the Normal and Sport driving functions. The change when you enter Sport (which is easy to do by simply pressing on the drive mode button beside the gearstick) is definitely noticeable in both handling and the highly increased audible sound effects.

This morning was a different ballgame as we were taken to the Valencia Circuit, a proper track where the Track and Drift functions would be demonstrated before we got a chance to try them for ourselves.

First up was the ‘launch control’ function, which ensures you shoot out of the pits at full pelt and is activated via the driver control. Once you have the setting selected its time to push down the clutch then floor the accelerator before quickly side stepping from the clutch and off you go. Launch mode is a goer and after a couple of tries (when my confidence was growing) it was a whole lot of fun.

Drift mode was up next and was by far the most talked about selling point of the new RS among the group I was testing it with, everyone was buzzing to give it a go and I spoke to no one afterwards who was disappointed. When you have the right conditions (track) and are in this mode the car it unlocks the ability to massively over steer while maintaining control and grip of the surface.   We tried it out on a coned off roundabout that has been set up and let’s just saw I feel sorry for those tyres.

So what does this thing cost? Believe it or not it comes in at just under £30,000 which when you consider the cars features is really quite remarkably. The developers told us that by tweaking the existing Mustang engine and using various components for the current Ford fleet they were able to keep the development costs at a minimum that is in turn is reflected in the price point.

Pre-orders have already been flying in with over half the UK’s 4000 car allocation already gone before even one has left the factory so if you want to get your hand on one for yourself you best get down to your local Ford Store and quick!

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