Cole noted that the nanny systems are well tuned. “The M2 makes invisible the electronics that make it the most fun. Traction control doesn’t cut in too late, and there’s enough rope from it for anyone to hang themselves,” he said. “It rewards heavy-footed numbskulls looking to rid themselves of back tires—no adaptive suspension electronics necessary.”
Feder said, “Everything about the M2 is smoother than the Focus RS, from shifts to suspension, and everything in between.”
That was a common theme from our editors. Most found the RS to be frenetic and not quite buttoned down. “The Ford Focus RS felt like a nervous puppy,” remarked Cole. “Lots of eager energy, but not much of a footing underneath it yet. Without the sport suspension turned on, it never felt at ease in hard corners—felt like it was too eager to give up grip in exchange for smoke.”
Padgett questioned the Focus’ handling in general: “Torque steers all over, oversteer whips in to crank around corners. It's not so much responsive as panicky. Last-minute corrections are what it does best?”
But that doesn’t mean we didn’t like the Focus RS. Padgett found it endearing in its own way. “It’s fast and hugely entertaining and perfectly suits a time in a gearhead’s life when it's all about exciting every sensory organ. Its heart is in the right place but its feet sometimes aren't,” he said.
I’m the only editor of the group to take the Focus RS to a racetrack, and based on that experience I can say that I am absolutely confident in how it will react at the limits of grip. The bit of lean it has provides feedback, the sharp steering makes it easy to toss into a corner, and the torque vectoring rear differential really helps it rotate, even though most of the weight is up front.
In the middle of a turn, the Focus responds to your inputs. Hit the throttle and it starts to push, but let off the throttle or add a little brake and the nose follows the right line. The combination of all-wheel drive and the rear differential also make it easier to get on the throttle early when coming out of a corner, and that translates to faster track times.
None of our editors complained about the BMW’s brakes, but Cole lacked confidence in the Ford’s binders. “The Focus RS doesn’t have the brakes to play ball for long. They cooked quickly, and it means to me that there isn’t enough cooling for the Brembos,” he said.
We didn’t like everything about the M2. A rearview camera should be standard, Padgett said. The steering is too heavy and the drive modes don’t change very much, I would like a shift light, and at least two of us would prefer that BMW would provide a way to turn off the rev-matching feature without shutting off the stability control completely.
BMW M2 vs. Focus RSEnlarge Photo
It’s not hard to read the tea leaves. From ride quality, to power delivery, to handling stability, to engine sounds, to everyday drivability, the BMW M2 came out on top. We genuinely liked the Focus RS for its peppy, raucous attitude, but the M2 is clearly the mature choice. It shows that BMW can still build an engaging sport coupe.
“BMW knows how to tune off the shelf parts into an M car and make them work brilliantly together,” said Padgett.
Feder agreed: “The Focus RS makes you feel like you’re working for what you get, where as the M2 just wants to dance.”
Though our M2 test car cost $15,000 more than the Focus RS, the M2 also struck us as a bargain, and it got some of us thinking about spending our own dollars. “The $15,000 stretch to the M2 doesn't feel so wide when driving them back to back,” said Padgett.
Same for Ganz: “It's the M2 that I immediately went home and priced out online."
You can’t get a better endorsement than that. Congratulations, BMW.