The M2’s interior received more positive reviews. “I like its all-business interior,” Ganz said. "It's not beautiful, but it works. Everything is in place and, for a modern car, is easy to sort through. There's also great visibility.”
Like the Focus RS, the M2 is basically a stock interior with a few performance upgrades. It adds sport seats, special materials, including a bare carbon fiber trim, and M logos for the gauge cluster, shift lever, door sills, and steering wheel. We think the seats are great, with excellent side support for aggressive cornering, and plenty of comfort for every day driving.
It’s in that every day driving that the Focus RS really falls behind the M2. It took our editors just a few minutes behind the wheel to find that the ride is unsettled, overly firm, jiggly over small road imperfections, and downright bouncy over larger bumps and ruts.
“The RS manages to make the Subaru WRX STI feel like a Lexus LS in terms of refinement,” said Ganz. “It’s always alive, even when you don’t want it to be.”
Cole noted another issue: “The Focus has an atrocious turning radius. That was a signal to me that it’s not ready for real life, and has limited use in a parking lot—it’d rather do donuts in one.”
Padgett compared to the RS to the M2. “This is the car that wants to grow up to be the M2. It's overcooked, over-pressured, overly stiff and a little wobbly when it gets to going as fast as it can,” he noted.
The team agreed that the M2 is far more civilized. Its suspension balances handling with ride comfort, allowing the car to be smooth and settled on the road but come alive during aggressive maneuvers. Yes, it’s a bit firm, and a little loud, but this is the way BMW used to tune suspensions and we miss it in the brand’s other products.
Padgett summed it up: “It's a purist's machine and a daily driver.”
Giving ‘em a boost
Turbochargers work to help these cars create a lot of usable power.
“Both are a blast with turbocharged power and flat torque curves,” said interactive content manager Joel Feder.
Both also create a lot of thrust, and the 0 to 60 mph times bear that out. The M2 makes that sprint in just 4.4 seconds, while the Focus does it in 4.7 seconds.
To a man, we found the M2’s power to be smoother and a bit stronger.
“Its power is immediate without being savage. From 2,000 rpm to 7,000 rpm, it is delivered in a predictable way that makes the car fun without being scary fun like the M4,” said Cole.
The Ford’s power doesn’t punch you in the gut from a stop, but it revs nicely and continues to build momentum up until its 6,500 rpm redline. Let off the gas and the Focus RS exhaust pops and crackles, a trait that some of us like and others find juvenile. For the record, I think it sounds cool.
Both shifters are a pleasure to operate.
“I love the M2’s gearbox. It feels well-oiled and precise and its clutch was just right for me,” said Ganz.
However, we do have a complaint about the Focus that Cole voiced best: “Heel-toe in the Focus RS is very difficult without very soft shoes and wide feet. The pedal spacing and stagger is wrong and the toe box is enormous.”
Taming the twisties
These cars were engineered to show their true characters when the road turns twisty or a racetrack beckons. From our home base near Blue Ridge, Georgia, we put together a 90-mile route full of twists and turns on Highway 60 to Dahlonega and back. It was the perfect place to test a pair of sporty cars.
If this duo felt different in everyday traffic, the differences became more pronounced when pushed through tight turns.
The M2 is buttoned down, stable, and smooth. It grips hard, and flows from corner to corner with poise. “It feels unflappable and confident; maybe it's just because we were putting it up against the Focus, which is nervous, but the M2 felt like the mature, elder statesman,” said Ganz.
“This is the car with the best steering response, the best combination of grip and damping, and the most evocative engine sound, though some of it is fake,” added Padgett.