Ever heard of Sir John Dalberg-Acton? No, I hadn’t either until I Googled him. He coined the phrase: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The phrase is usually applied to politicians, sporting committee heads (I don’t want to be sued!) and South American dictators. After a week in the new Focus RS you can add the trade of motoring journalist to that list of scoundrels!
Lord Acton died in 1902, a time our love affair with the automobile was in its infancy. Back then a horse or two would have pulled his usual mode of transport but today we hardly give a second thought to the average car with its 100 horse power plus. But when you take a five door five seat family hatchback and give it four wheel drive and 350hp – the power and how it delivers it virtually guarantees to corrupt the most temperate driver.
RS gets a massive rear wing, huge brakes, super gripy tyres on tasty alloys and two huge exhaust pipes you could skateboard in. A limited range of five body colours are available and our test car came in ‘Nitrous blue’. Hardly a shrinking violet the RS is as subtle as a brick on the eyes. Everything about a fast Ford is there for a reason and this means that you will always get nods of approval from petrolheads and those who know their cars. After just a few kilometres behind the wheel of the fifty grand car, I was totally in love.
Inside the cabin you can see where money has been saved. The two bucket seats are great but they could be lower and there is a pretty ordinary Focus dash that apart from having a few extra dials is uninspiring. The view out the front window is however very enjoyable as RS is all about the driving experience.
Power comes from a 2.3 Ecoboost petrol engine. The four-cylinder stop/start equipped unit is also used in the entry Mustang. RS features a twin scroll turbo that helps push out 350hp and an impressive torque figure of 440nm. Available torque peak at 470nm when ‘over-boost’ kicks in – that’s extra power generated for a few seconds that is not sustained. 0-100kph takes a blisteringly quick 4.7 seconds and top speed is 266kph. The manual six-speed gearbox seems a little old school but there is a launch control setting that helps you dump the clutch from a standing start without stalling or over revving in first gear. The traction delivered from the AWD set up is simply brilliant. Cornering in difficult conditions or when driving with enthusiasm is helped by torque vectoring that delivers up to 1G of lateral acceleration to tighten your line. Selectable drive modes allow you choose how nuts you want to have your driving experience. Twin electronically controlled clutch packs distribute the drive around the all wheel drive system. In the default mode the car is… well not overly inspiring. RS feels weighty and a little awkward. Slow traffic is a bit of a pain as the clutch is a little on the heavy side and the car can be a little grumpy about town. Sport, Track and Drift modes do pretty much as you’d imagine. Drift mode shifts the delivery of power more to the rear to allow an addictive rear wheel drive sensation. On the end of the indicator stalk is a tiny button that allows you select sport suspension. In normal driving Focus is pretty stiff – but in a cultured way. Sport suspension is a good deal firmer and best selected when you are focused on exploring the performance potential of the fast Ford. Drive like a saint and you might get near to the official 7.7 L/100km but expect closer to 10/11 litres per 100km if you like a bit of daily fun.
Normal drivers like you and me tend to adore a powerful car but few of us have the circus skills of racing drivers. Focus RS is so accomplished and surefooted it flatters all who dare to give it the beans behind the wheel. Prices in Ireland start from €52,600. Our test car had a few extras like full leather (€2K) and the 10 speaker Sony navigation & rear camera (€1K). A few extras that shouldn’t cost money on a performance car but do with RS include rear parking sensors, painted alloys, power mirrors, pop out door edge protectors and painted brake calipers! The test car weighed in at €56,890. Despite our huge and unjust car taxes you still get a hell of a lot of car for your buck.
I think if Lord Acton was around today he’d say: “Power tends to corrupt and RS power corrupts absolutely”.