Minimal but fun times with the Ford Focus RS
These days, Ford Motor Co. has two-day grab-a-ride sessions for journalists to test a vehicle for oh, about a half-hour or so for each one. They did one of these festivals recently in the Los Angeles area, bringing their new 2017 Fusion Sport AWD, Fusion Platinum Hybrid, Fusion SE, Titanium and Platinum Energi sedans, four “crew” 4×4 trucks – F250 gas, F250 diesel, F350 and F450 diesel and a quartet of Focus RS hatches.
Because of time constraints and an out-of-town job on the first day, we had only a short amount of time to sample the wares and that allowed for only two drives: the Fusion Sport AWD 2.7L (V6) turbo and the Focus RS. Only one guess as to which one got thumbs up? Yep, the Focus.
It wasn’t that the Fusion Sport wasn’t sporty enough for a big, heavy four-door sedan. Giving us a less-than-favorable impression is steering that seemed vague, the number of “nannies” on the car was a turn-off – like when those big red lights flashed on the windshield as the car thought it was going to crash, even though the driver is attentive to surroundings, that rates a thumbs down. The Ford engineer said that was adaptable, but this photojournalist isn’t a fan. Period. The Fusion Sport driven wasn’t even a production vehicle, so never mind.
After that, getting into the 2017 Ford Focus RS was a real pleasure. Opening the door to a power Recaro seat, slithering into it, finding all the controls and setting up seat, mirrors, audio, navigation and taking one last swig of the water bottle before heading out in this six-speed manual racer for the street felt like coming home.
The Focus RS dressed in Stealth gray with black interior is a truly stealthy car, unnoticeable, even with its lovely rear winglet and diffusers, together with that aggressive front grille emphasizing downforce without lift.
A mid-size vehicle, the 2017 Ford Focus RS has running gear to die for: a directly-injected turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine propels the beast to 350 horsepower at 6000 rpm and the same amount of torque at 3200 rpm; redline gnarls at 7000 rpm. Connected to a supremely direct six-speed manual transmission, this Ford just scoots.
Even the EPAS electrically-assisted power steering is precise, something we’re not used to with this type of system. Brembo brakes perform as expected and the strut/control-arm suspension is well-modulated for both street and track usage. On this vehicle Ford fit P235/35 Michelin Cup 2 summer track tires on 19-inch forged alloy wheels. They were close to being track-ready by the time we climbed in – the tires are a $1990 option on the Focus RS.
Okay, pricing: the base price of a 2017 Ford Focus RS is $36,775 including freight. The second option on this car is an RS2 package, which includes power/heated outside mirrors, heated front seats and steering wheel, along with voice-activated navigation, set into the central dash display. It’s quite nice, as is the trip computer that allows us to see all truly pertinent info directly ahead in one window – what a novel concept. MSRP all told is a hefty $41,550.
The provided Sony audio system includes 10 speakers and subwoofer under the hatch’s covered floor. There is no spare tire but Ford includes a repair kit in the nifty below-floor compartment. HD and SiriusXM radio are part of a standard audio offering and speed-adjusted volume control tends to drown out the lovely dual pipes.
Even in the abbreviated drive of the 2017 Ford Focus RS, we’re able to feel the linear power delivery and check out the Sport, Track and Drift driving modes available on this car. Listening to the audible feedback from the exhaust pipes is sensual – far more than the delicious Sony audio.
Handling is superb in any of the chosen modes but trying to break free in this nose-heavy hatch (59.4 percent of weight is over the front wheels), but in Sport mode the ride is definitely hard. Mileage is rated at 19/25/22 mpg; when the ride began, the average was just over 14mpg from other drivers. No comment on whether it increased or decreased by the time we returned.
Yes, it was a quick trip but it definitely was fun. If your budget doesn’t groan under the weight of the entry fee, this is a great car to have and can be used in practical manner. It earns high marks here, and aside from the Subaru WRX STi and the late, lamented Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driven earlier this year the best choice for a sporting hatch. There is not substitute.
Words and Images By Anne Proffit