Thursday 29 September 2016

Cars: RS puts remarkable Focus on performance

But power hatch falls short on comfort

Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30

Making a statement: Ford Focus RS.
Making a statement: Ford Focus RS.

Cars like this Focus RS can sort the men from the boys - or the girls from the women. For those of us who love a bit of blood and thunder in our driving, the new Ford Focus RS is one of the great, more 'affordable', performance cars of the modern era. No doubt about it.

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But for those of us who like a little bit more comfort, a tad less familiarity with every crevice of the road, and a suspension that's a shade more forgiving, it might be just a bit too rigorous.

Be assured of one thing, however, regardless of your preferences or comfort zones: This can truly move. It even felt faster than its 0-100kmh 4.7 seconds claim.

It is, you see, about much more than outright speed or acceleration or power. It is, to my way of thinking, far more about letting you have fun with what are wonderful dynamics.

My recent drive here revived memories of being driven in it in Belgium some months back by an expert, on a specially designed route.

I didn't know you could go that fast and push a car that hard without crashing or thrashing it.

So, suitably assured of its awesome performance prowess under extreme provocation, I didn't feel the need nor the capacity to emulate.

Rather, I had fun within the reasonable and safe confines of twisty roads, lower gears and accelerative spurts. That is the only way to get your kicks in this because it is a certain penalty-point gatherer if you do otherwise.

Which leads to the boringly obvious, but mandatory, question. Why would you buy a car like this if you are going to be so (correctly) curtailed. It is a perennial, predictable query but I have to ask it.

I think there are at least four reasons you'd pay €56,000 or so for this RS sizzler:

Because you can.

Because you want something at the top of the technological/engineering pile for thousands less than, say, a BMW M2.

Because you can take it on to a track for mad fun (there are four settings: Normal, Sport, Track and Drift).

You are able to mix the outrageous with the mundane: driving to work, doing the shopping, dropping the children to school, etc.

More luck to you if you fit in any or all of these. For us mere mortals, however, we must be content with dreaming about or, in my case, briefly sampling such a motor.

In doing so, I found it electrifyingly sharp, immensely reactive to the slightest shift of steering wheel (poor lock), right foot or gear-change. I could go on about the alacrity of drive, exhaust noise, the awesome sense of grip and security from the All-Wheel-Drive system. But the real test for me was how it would perform on some poor back roads where most cars would be unsettled by the undulations and rough surfaces. This never blinked. I did though. Sweet Lord, the suspension was rigidly sporty. It was a bit more pliant in Drift but I won't forget the pounding I (not the car) took over one stretch.

I know it is high-performance and I acknowledge its technological achievement of combining, among other things, All-Wheel-Drive and Drift, but there were times I would have loved a softer 'Normal' setting.

We can't all want such sharp feedback all the time, can we? In my case (boys being sorted from men?) the answer is no. I like my sporty drive but...

The seats were hard too. I know, I know this is a hot, hot hatch and they go with the profile, but surely a little bit of 'give' wouldn't be asking too much? You getting the picture? Love the dynamics; not so mad about some of the accompaniments.

I can see the attraction of having this. It was fun in the true sense of the word.

You can, and should, drive it to your own safe limits and still get your kicks.

That way maybe no one has to know if it has separated you from the men or the women.

Just driving it makes its own statement.

Facts & figures

Ford Focus RS All-Wheel-Drive, 5dr, 2.3 EcoBoost, 350PS; 6spd, 7.7l/100km, top speed 266kmh, 0-100kmh in  4.7 secs, 175g/km, €750 road tax.

Standard spec includes: Launch Control, 19ins alloys, twin exhaust pipes, bi-xenon HID headlamps/adaptive lighting, Recaro front seats, dual-zone electronic air temp control, SYNC2 8ins touchscreen, DAB audio system, voice control, tyre repair kit.

Options include full-leather seats, Sony nav (8ins touchscreen, SYNC Gen 2, 10 speakers, rear view camera),

Price from €52,600. Extras €4,290. Total €56,890.

My side of the road

I was taken aback at the volume of cars parked in slipshod fashion around Dublin over the sunny days. We took in several areas/car parks/street slots of Dublin, north and south, as part of a 'celebratory drive'. I was appalled at how people were being robbed of parking by those taking up one-and-a-half spaces. As a reader says: spaces are scarce enough without double-parking.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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