2016 Ford Focus RS first drive review: the hottest of the hatches Page 2


Track car superstar

It's not entirely fair to judge the Focus RS just on its manners in every day traffic.

Luckily, that wasn't the end of my test drive and I had the opportunity to spend a day driving the RS on the 1.9-mile road course at Gingerman Raceway in western Michigan.

As part of a CGI Motorsports Track Day, I drove the RS in six sessions that lasted up to 20 minutes each with a group of 10 or so other cars that included V-8 Camaros and Mustangs, Corvettes, a Porsche Boxster, a Focus ST, a Cadillac CTS-V wagon, and even a Porsche 911 GT3RS. The Focus RS was the surprise of the group.

2016 Ford Focus RS

2016 Ford Focus RS

Enlarge Photo
2016 Ford Focus RS at Gingerman Raceway, October 2016

2016 Ford Focus RS at Gingerman Raceway, October 2016

Enlarge Photo
2016 Ford Focus RS at Gingerman Raceway, October 2016

2016 Ford Focus RS at Gingerman Raceway, October 2016

Enlarge Photo

The morning began with low 50-degree temperatures. I choose the Track mode and headed out onto the track, being careful not to ask too much of the cold Cup 2s. 

As the tires warmed up, so did I, and I really started to fling the car around Gingerman. I soon learned that there is a benefit to the stiff suspension. Yes, the car leans a bit in corners, but not as much as you'd expect, and that lean provides great feedback. In fact, this car is all about feedback. You can use the sharp steering to toss the RS into a corner, inducing a bit of a slide, and at that point the car is putty in your hands. Turn in sharper to create a tighter radius and it just follows that arc, the rear end gladly following the front.

Get back on the gas as the car is sliding, and it will start to understeer. This can be easily remedied by taking away a bit of steering angle, or letting off the gas. It's a fun dance, and it's easy to control exactly how the car will react.

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But that only gets us about halfway through the turn. If it's a tight corner, the all-wheel-drive system's torque vectoring rear differential helps the car rotate. The AWD system can send 70 percent of the available power to the rear, and the electronically operated dual-clutch torque vectoring system can funnel all of it to the outside rear wheel. As the corner starts to straighten out, you can get back on the power earlier than you can in a rear-drive car, and those four tires will scramble for traction, maintain your intended line, and power you out of the turn.

In other words, pitch the car sideways, fine tune the steering and the gas to get you on the right path, then mash the throttle. That's a pretty boss way to take a turn. It made me feel like I was channeling my inner Ken Block, which is appropriate because he helped tune this car.

The power is plenty willing, too. Floor it and the turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder shoves 23 pounds of boost down its own gullet. From a stop, the power doesn't hit you like a brick like you might find with a V-8, but it revs nicely and continues to build momentum up until its 6,500 rpm redline. At that point, you have to shift the tidy 6-speed to the next gear or, like any turbocharged engine, it falls flat on its face. Ford is quoting a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.7 seconds, and that should be possible for most of us to achieve given the all-wheel-drive system and the standard launch control feature. Ford has also programmed the exhaust to pop and crackle when you let off the gas, which really sounds cool.


 
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