‘Good things come to those who wait’ – so the old adage goes. And in motoring terms, we’ve certainly waited long enough. What has become a familiar six-year cycle for one of the world’s most iconic hot hatches is once again at an end, with a new chapter about to be written into the pages of automotive history.
It’s been a long time coming but finally the 2016 Ford Focus RS has lift-off! The very first of its kind to go on general worldwide sale and priced at just £29,995, it’s time to delve deeper under the skin of one of the most significant cars to hit the road this year. Here’s Insidelane’s comprehensive guide to the most hotly anticipated hot hatch of 2016.
The 2016 Focus RS first stepped out into the limelight at last year’s Geneva Motor Show. Needless to say, we were captivated from the off, not least due to its headline-grabbing performance stats. Under the sculpted bonnet of this third generation hot-hatch lays Ford’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, the very same power plant deemed worthy enough to propel the all-new Mustang. Unlike that iconic goliath of US Muscle however, the new Focus RS utilises a newly-conceived twin-scroll turbocharger with larger compressor for significantly increased air flow, as well as an upgraded intercooler. The end result: a sizzling 345bhp at your command. At these levels of sports car-rivalling power, cooling becomes a priority, which is why the new RS’s gaping radiator is the biggest ever seen on a Focus.
Push it to its upper limit, and the 2016 Focus RS will hit a colossally rapid top speed of 165mph. Its six-speed manual transmission has been optimised for the type of seasoned driver at which this RS is aimed, meaning a shorter gear lever and revised mechanism to deliver faster, more accurate shifts. A performance shift light in the instrument cluster blinks when rpm hits 5,900rpm, the RS’s optimum upshift point, and then again as the engine red-lines at 6,800 rpm. Those accustomed to wielding a gearstick on the track with pinpoint precision will be able to devour 0-62mph in a lightening 4.7 seconds.
Tasked with stopping the most powerful Focus RS yet is the most powerful RS brake system ever seen. The Brembo front callipers are cooled by dedicated ducts fed from the front fascia and twin “jet tunnels” in the underbody, helping to eliminate fade even under sustained track use.
And that signature RS tune is back roaring again thanks to the 2016 model’s large-bore high performance exhaust system, ensuring the new Focus mega-hatch will most likely be heard before it is seen.
Speed is one thing, but hot hatches by definition are about more than just pure horsepower. They must drive and handle like no other car can. Here, the third generation car splits from Focus RS tradition and, much like its major rivals over at Mercedes and Audi, takes the plunge in to the realm of all-wheel drive.
The Mk3 Focus RS pioneers a particularly innovative AWD system, which Ford claims is amongst the most advanced in the world for a car of this kind. The package, which weighs in at just 20kg, utilises dynamic torque vectoring for the first time. This intelligently delegates torque distributiontes elligently distributes torque both from the front and rear axlefor a car of this kind. both between the front and rear axle and over the two rear wheels. Such wizardry is made possible by twin electronically-controlled clutch packs on each side of the rear drive unit. In all, as much as 70 per cent of overall torque can be diverted to the rear axle, of which 100 per cent can subsequently be sent to each rear wheel. In practical terms, Ford’s new AWD system promises outstanding traction and grip as well as best-in-class agility, cornering speed and acceleration out of bends – a bold statement if ever there was one.
Stiffer spring rates, more efficient, anti-roll-bars as well as two-mode switchable dampers combine to give the 2016 RS a firmer setting for track driving than its little brother the ST. And whereas the scaled-back version of the Focus hot hatch offers Normal, Sport or Track settings, the new RS throws in a fourth drive mode; the much publicised Drift Mode. Flick the switch alongside the gear stick and Drift Mode engages a pre-calibrated setting for the AWD system, tapping into the torque distribution to unleash controlled oversteer and a whole lot of tyre squeal for the most adrenaline-fueled track experience.
A Fresh take on RS Design
The Ford Focus RS of six years ago will go down as one of the most aggressively styled hot hatches ever seen, with its wide, rally car-like body bristling with air inlets, protruding spoilers and flared wheel arches from every angle. However, much of this distinctive snarling look was enabled by the old Focus RS’s three-door layout, something which represents a fundamental difference compared to its 2016 replacement.
The all-new Focus RS is based on the five-door standard Focus body, something which prevented designers from recreating that signature Mk2 stretched profile. An entirely new front-end incorporates a deep front splitter, low-slung wings and large outboard openings on each side of the car, which feed the brake cooling ducts and house vertically-mounted fog lamps. The front bumper is bespoke and has massive air vents at the corners that lead up to the flared grille. Below, the RS’s intercooler unit can be peeked through the cavity on the lower half of the grille.
Along the side, the RS differs little from its ST relative, with no sign of the mammoth wing-mounted air-intakes that characterised the Mk2 edition. The Mk3 also wears lightweight 19-inch RS alloy wheels finished in low-gloss black paint.
The rear portion is dominated by an extra-large diffuser, which optimises air flow from under the vehicle and cuts drag to a minimum, whilst the rear spoiler is somewhat less obtrusive than that of its predecessor. In fact, the 2016 Focus RS hatch has nine per cent less drag than the previous incarnation, with carefully adjusted front splitter, rear spoiler and underbody features eliminating lift altogether for near-unrivalled handling and stability at high-speeds.
In-cabin connectivity encompasses all of the top-spec Focus prerequisites such as access to audio, navigation, climate control and mobile phones via voice control or the high-definition 8-inch colour touchscreen.
Just five colour schemes will be available from launch, including a metallic Nitrous Blue, Stealth Grey, Shadow Black, Magnetic Grey and Frozen White. There’s no return for those radioactive greens or luminous oranges that adorned the Mk2 Focus RS.
In all, the 2016 Focus RS lacks the bullish bravado of its predecessor of six years ago. That’s not to say, however, that it’s lost any of its boyish charms. The new RS is the type of hot hatch that will still beckon your glance from afar but which will only really grab you by the scruff of your neck once you take it for a spin on the track.
A Rich RS Heritage
The 2016 Ford Focus RS may represent the cream of the present crop, but we have a long-line of sporting heroes stretching back some 40 years to thank for its very existence. Ford’s 30th performance car to wear the famous “Rallye Sport” badge, the 2016 Focus can trace its racing routes back to such luminaries as the 1984 mid-engined RS200 destined for Group B rallying, the 1990 Sierra RS Cosworth 4×4, and the giant-slaying 1992 Escort RS Cosworth.
Will the 2016 Ford Focus mega-hatch be the latest name to be inducted into that pantheon of RS icons?