It was in the car park when I arrived at work, all hunkered down, fat wheels barely contained by swollen arches., exaggerated wings, scoops, vents and spoilers leaving no question as to the seriousness of its intent. The intent to cover ground absolutely as fast as anything this side of a Porsche 911. The Ford Focus RS is no shrinking violet, it’s unashamedly a wolf in wolf’s clothing. I walked around it twice before making my way into the showroom.
Turns out the sales manager had got it in for a customer, we had it for a couple of days, “want to give it a run up the road” he enquired airily? Are bears Catholic? The only thing potentially faster than an RS that morning was the whilrwind of me scooping the keys from his desk and making a beeline for the Performance Blue beast outside.
I plipped it unlocked and swung open the door to be greeted by a full race style Recaro bucket seat, the sort of thing that’s actually painful if you don’t quite land squarely in the middle of it. I lowered myself gingerly in, this thing was properly serious. Taking in my surroundings, the first thing that struck me was just how incongruous the slightly cheap grey Focus dash looked in such weapons grade machinery, almost as though something amazing had been built, A Team style, out of bits of an ordinary car. Which I suppose wasn’t that far from the truth. I dropped the keys into the cup holder in the centre console (you don’t need them for starting, one of them just has to be in the car), racheted the all embracing seat into a position that suited, dipped the clutch and thumbed the Power Button that kicks the motor into life.
A few stats for you, dear reader. The Polite Hatchback produces a healthy and more than adiquete 105hp from its 1.9 litre turbo diesel. My lean, lithe, and really rather rapid little MX5 roadster punts out about 160hp. This most focussed of all Foci offers up over 300 horsepowers. That’s The Blonde’s car, my Mazda, oh, and half a Ford Fiesta worth. All in one medium sized hatchback. Which is why it’ll pass sixty miles an hour from a standing start in five and a bit seconds, on it’s way to a horizon headbutting 163mph. Twice the UK speed limit. Plus a bonus 23mph for good measure.
Which is why I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the two up-swept large bore tailpipes that jutt aggressively from the rear diffuser of the car. Probably a noise that might indicate (or maybe cause) seismic activity, Norse Gods gargling nails, that kind of thing. What I got was something rather polite, yet with a distantly menacing undertone, kind of like an SAS soldier in top hat and tails at a wedding, unassuming, but potentially deadly. I pointed the nose out past the showroom and down to the main road, turned right and headed out of town.
Second impressions were pretty much what you might expect from a shopping trolley turned interstellar hot rod. Direct steering, hard ride, grumbly tires, and a feeling of serious potential under the right foot. I picked my way out toward the dual carriageway feeling my way about the car, noticing the fluids were already warm from its recent delivery to our garage. Good.
Turning onto the beginning of the ring road I found myself on a long uphill straight melding into dual carriageway in the far distance, no junctions, dry clear conditions, couple of cars half a mile up the slope ahead of me. I did the only right and proper thing I could do in the circumstances, I short shifted into second, gripped the steering wheel firmly, and floored it. It’d have been rude not to.
Having trodden firmly on the lion’s tail I hung on grimly, half a widening eye on the rev counter, the rest scanning the road ahead. The lion roared, the Recaro seat made a determined effort to pass straight through me, the steering wheel made less effort to escape my grasp than I had expected, and what felt like half a second later I was grabbing third and doing it again. The cars ahead reversed sharply toward me and I discovered the middle pedal fortunately echoed the kind of performance the right-hand one had. My speed fell swiftly back below three figures (kilometres an hour, obviously. Ahem…) cars ahead stopped reversing and hung a sensible gap ahead, and the road fed us smoothly onto dual carriageway. I moved out and pressed the hyperspace pedal again and the cars in lane one reversed smartly past my passenger door and disappeared over the horizon behind me. The car was fast. Properly, radically, insanely fast.
At the top of the hill I turned off and punted it round a couple of roundabouts before zig zagging off down a B road or two, the car performing fairground ride sensations, physics suspended for the moment. That experiment over, I brought the car back up to the dual carriageway further along and hyper-spaced back toward the dealership, arriving possibly slightly before I left. It’s timewarpingly fast the RS.
Back at base I sat in the now inert vehicle, silent save for the ticking of cooling metals, trying to make sense of the previous half hour, make sense of this ultimate hot rod of a car. But I couldn’t. The problem is that, hugely deeply impressive though the performance is, the car asks for too many compromises to be made. It costs nearly thirty thousand pounds but you’re surrounded by the interior of a car half that price. I’m not sure the seats would be comfortable over long distances, the ride is way too fidgety, and it’s too overt, it’s an idiot magnet for every pre pubescent Kev’d up Saxo driver within a five mile radius. Yes it’s face re-shapingly fast, but how often can you, dare you use that level of performance? As an every day car, is it worth the cost, both financially and practically? So as a car to cover all the angles it fails. As a fairly spectacular Boy’s Toy, on the other hand, it’s epic. But if that’s all you want from it, why buy a hatchback, why not a TVR or a Lotus Exige or a Vauxhall VX220 Turbo or a Mitsubishi Turbo Nutter IV, all serious performance machines but without the compromises of being a front wheel drive Ford Focus hatchback?
Ultimately this ultimate Ford makes a great halo product, a great showcase of what Uncle Henry is capable of building, but as a purchase proposition it misses the mark as clearly as the lesser ST version I reviewed in March hits the bullseye. If you’re paying as well as playing, that’s the real steal of a deal.