Riding shotgun in Ford Performance’s hottest hatch is as fun as it sounds
By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of Ford Motor Company
As we pull onto the Streets of Willow at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California, the gifts of the 2016 Focus RS are immediately apparent. Its potent 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine offers far more thrust than its Focus ST cousin, and entering the corner the wonders of the car’s all-wheel drive immediately shows its benefits—and we hadn’t even gotten up to speed yet.
Regular readers of the Front Page know that we have eagerly anticipated getting behind the wheel of this hot hatch. That hasn’t happened yet, but we when we were offered the opportunity to ride shotgun in this car on a racetrack, we couldn’t say yes fast enough.
North American customers have long wanted to sample the forbidden RS fruit, and the Focus RS is the first RS model set for sale on this continent, and Ford Performance’s Chief Engineer Jamal Hameedi promises his team did not “dumb the car down” for those of us across the pond. This car is said to get the same chassis tune as the European model, and that’s not hard to believe as they are all being built together in Saarlouis, Germany.
While the new Focus RS is loaded with performance, features, and tech, it is the Dynamic Torque Vectoring offered by its all-wheel drive system that sets it apart from its competitors. Offering the kind of performance heretofore only available in far more expensive vehicles, it can infinitely vary the torque split between the front and rear wheels to keep the Focus RS on its path.
During our brief, three-lap ride around the track, we were able to experience the car in track mode with the dampers tuned to normal to compensate for the track’s rough surface. Right away we could feel the grip offered by the all-wheel drive system, and as our driver—Ford’s All-Wheel Drive Engineer, Jim Fritz—approached the edge, we could feel the results of the system biasing the torque to the outer wheels and pulling the car through the corners. You can see our laps with Jim right here…
The more he pushed, the more tossable the Focus RS became. It glided through the tight corners, and if the tail twitched out a bit, it came back into line in an instant. As the track straightened it put down the power and pulled to the braking zone. The brakes were more than capable, and if there’s one word to describe this car from the passenger seat, it is “balance.”
While you might assume that with 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque that this car might seem overpowered. In Drift Mode it might, but in Track Mode, it exuded control. It’s the kind of car your scribe loves to drive because its handling a braking capabilities are more than up to the task of corralling the available power, which inspires confidence in even mortal drivers.
Much of that confidence comes from the all-wheel drive system, but it is all the detail improvements supporting this system that make the difference. From the bigger, lighter brakes to a much stiffer chassis and the stickier tires and improved steering, it’s the total package that gives Ford Performance’s hottest hatch such a balanced attack.
For more on those improvements, you can witness the technical presentation that Ford Performance engineers delivered to a select group of media right here…
As you can see there’s a lot to the 2016 Focus RS. While our ride in the passenger seat definitely let us know this car is the real deal, there are still some questions that can only be answered from behind the wheel.
The car is projected to hit dealers next spring, but until then, we’ll savor our time in the right seat, and if, like us, you can’t get enough of this car you can stoke your RS passion by watching this little video that Ford Performance put together…
2016 Focus RS First Ride Gallery