There are people who are perfectly happy buying a hatchback that is little more than an appliance to get them from point A to point B. Although this is fine, it's also not you. You want yours to be much more than that. You want it put a giant smile on your face every time you see it in your garage and startle nearby children when you hit the ignition. Enter the 2017 Ford Focus RS.
The Focus RS is an ultra-high-performance version of the standard Focus hatchback. At first glance, it looks similar to the already hopped-up Ford Focus ST, a car with 252 horsepower and solid hot-hatch credentials of its own. But the RS hits the afterburners with a 350-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine (nearly 200 hp more than a base Focus), a sophisticated, torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, upgraded brakes, adjustable suspension dampers and exclusive, supersticky Michelin tires.
Ford doesn't limit the RS to being a stripped-out racer, either. It comes with Sync 3 system as standard, which allows for features including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a host of other modern tech, a 10-speaker sound system, and keyless ignition and entry, all as standard. You also get the Focus' inherent cargo-carrying versatility.
The RS has a few drawbacks, but nothing that's of the deal-breaker variety. Rather, a RS purchase might come down to your priorities. If you want something that's a bit nicer and more comfortable, the Volkswagen Golf R (or related Audi S3 sedan) is the way to go, though it isn't as powerful or track-focused. Alternately, the Subaru WRX STI has all-wheel drive and the performance to back up its iconic name, but its modern amenities and comfort fall behind compared to the Focus. And don't forget the RS' little brother, the Focus ST, which is less powerful and front-wheel-drive, but it's still very enjoyable and will save you nearly a third of the cost.
If you're interested in the Focus RS, though, we give it a big thumbs-up.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2017 Ford Focus RS is a performance-oriented version of the Focus four-door hatchback. It is available in one trim level with a few items of optional equipment.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, performance brakes, adjustable suspension settings, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, foglights, integrated blind-spot mirrors, remote entry and push-button start, a rearview camera, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, partial leather upholstery, front Recaro sport seats (with driver height adjustment), a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 10-speaker Sony sound system with HD and satellite radio, two USB ports and the Sync 3 infotainment system (including an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).
The RS2 package adds heated exterior mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a navigation system, heated front seats, a six-way power driver seat (with two-way power lumbar) and leather upholstery with simulated suede inserts. The Winter Tire & Wheel package provides winter tires mounted to RS-specific 18-inch wheels.
Standalone options include track-focused Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2 tires, 19-inch forged alloy wheels and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2017 Ford Focus RS is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive, hill-start assist and an automatic stop-start system (to help save fuel at stoplights) are standard.
EPA-estimated fuel economy wasn't available at publishing time, but last year's Focus RS posted a rating of 22 mpg in combined driving (19 city/25 highway).
The 2017 Ford Focus RS comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. The Sync 3 system includes an emergency crash-notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cellphone. Also standard are integrated blind-spot mirrors, a rearview camera and Ford's MyKey system, which can be used to set electronic driving parameters (think teenage kids or valets).
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2017 Ford Focus RS shares most of its interior with the Focus ST. The cabin is well put together, with the proper controls within reach and soft surfaces for your elbows to rest on, but it doesn't feel as classy as the price tag might suggest. Rivals such as the Golf R and S3 look and feel significantly more upscale.
As with the ST, the Focus RS has heavily bolstered Recaro bucket seats that offer considerable lateral restraint in hard cornering. Bigger drivers will definitely want to have an extended test drive in these seats if they can, as the bolsters can become uncomfortable depending on body type. The rear seat has enough headroom for tall adults, but legroom is a bit limited, a common occurrence in this class. Most of the RS' competitors have more legroom, but only by an inch or two. With 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, the Focus RS falls behind the Golf R (22.8 cubes) but has much more than the sedan-only WRX STI (12 cubes).
For infotainment purposes, the RS has Ford's Sync 3 system, which uses an 8-inch touchscreen in the center console. The screen is designed to operate like a smartphone with gestures such as swiping or pinching to zoom. The menu structure is simple and the layout, with its white background and bottom row of buttons, will be recognizable to those who use Apple iOS devices. Anyone who remembers the Focus' previous MyFord Touch system will be happy to know that this newer software is much quicker to respond and much easier to use.
We haven't had the opportunity to fully test the 2017 Ford Focus RS yet, but we'll update this review once we do. What we do know is that the RS has more power than pretty much all of its direct rivals. That power means serious thrust, both from a stop and coming out of corners. We also know that the RS' sophisticated all-wheel-drive system combined with seriously sticky tires make for loads of grip on the track, particularly when you go for the upgraded tires.
The RS' torque vectoring capability also promises superior cornering abilities by quelling understeer and controlling the car with the tenacity of much pricier sports cars. Selectable drive modes (Normal, Sport, Track and Drift) allow the driver to switch between normal and sport settings for damper stiffness, exhaust note, stability control, engine responsiveness and steering feel.
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