2017 Ford Focus RS Review: The Everyman's Five-Door Ford GT


If you follow cars at all, you know the Ford Focus RS rollout has been the automotive equivalent of Beatlemania. After years of "will-they-or-won't-they," the Blue Oval decided to bring the RS - Ford Europe's most prestigious performance nameplate - to America. We (along with seemingly every other gearhead in the country) could barely contain ourselves when it was unveiled at a big-budget spectacle in Cologne, Germany in February 2015. Ford was flooded with thousands of pre-orders before we - or anyone else - even knew what performance or even final price looked like. From there, things only got crazier. Production has started! The first shipment has landed! Wait, Ford can't keep up with demand and it's pushing orders back?! A $10K dealer markup?!

Every move the RS has made so far has commanded headlines, and with good reason. This isn't a million-dollar supercar, a $65K Dodge Hellcat or Shelby GT350, or even an almost-affordable exotic like the BMW M2 coupe. This is a pure driver's car with 350 horsepower, 350 pound-feet of torque in a sub-3,500 pound package, a cutting-edge all-wheel drive system, and a sweet six-speed manual transmission with a $35,000 base price. The fact that it's also a five-door Focus with enough room for the kids and groceries in back is just icing on the cake.

For the uninitiated, the best way to think of the RS's relationship to the Focus is like the dearly-departed Mitsubishi Evo X to the Lancer - namely that they share a body, an interior, and that's about it. Ford spent years developing the RS, and it brought in the big guns to do it. Ken Block, the Hoonigan himself, was instrumental in dialing-in the car, and spent much of its Cologne launch drifting one through the Ford plant. If you want to see what an RS can do when pushed to his limits (ahem, tuned to 600 horsepower), watch Gymkhana Nine; you won't be disappointed.

And while Block was putting the RS sideways, Ben Collins - everyone's favorite Top Gear Stig - was shaking it down on the track. At a New York event, Collins recently painted a stark contrast between the RS and the competition for me:
They're not the only company to do a four-wheel drive hatch, but of all the ones I've driven, most stuff four-wheel drive in, the car is heavier, and if you look at lap times, they're slower. Handling is numb; the car will take you where it wants to go, but the driver can't really dictate terms to the car. …

This one is so completely removed [from those] in how it works; the grip is phenomenally high. If you were being driven around blindfolded, because of the way they've tuned this chassis, and the fantastic tires, you'd think you were in a supercar.
Of all the four-wheel drive hatches out there, he says it's the only one where "you can feel the car working for you." Driving it is "totally intuitive." The car is "amazing," and "a real standout." And most importantly, in his opinion, Ford's powertrain "is the only system that's working for the driver." No small praise from two of the most respected drivers in the world, let alone for a car that costs as much as a loaded Toyota Camry.

The Focus RS is a new dream car for the everyman; it's a world-class performance car that you can you can buy at your local Ford dealership. An imported exotic (it's built in Germany) that won't break the bank. A daily driver that you can vacuum, take the child seats out of, and go to the track, or to Cars and Coffee. Sure, there are some compromises that needed to be made along the way - there always are - but at the end of the day, the Focus RS is here, and it was well worth the wait.

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