Ford has been making performance versions of its various small cars for about 50 years now.
Back in the 60s there was the RS coupe and then the Escort RS1600 in the 70s.
The RS Turbo in the 80s, the RS Cosworth in the 90s, and the Focus RS in the naughties.
These were all fast cars in small packages at reasonable prices.
But all of these cars had one fundamental flaw.
Non of them are available here in US.
Ford was categorically ignoring its home market seemingly thinking we Americans only want pony cars in heart hatches, but finally that changing.
This is the new Focus RS, it's the hardest hatch Ford has ever produced and is available for purchase here in the US.
Or at least they will be next year.
This year's allocation, you see, is already sold out.
But if you can find one, you'll be getting a 350 horsepower, five-door hatchback with all-wheel drive Five for $36,000.
The Subaru STI meanwhile is cars biggest competitors as 305 horsepower from that same old two and half liter flatfold they mistaken front of those things for over a decade and cost $35,000.
So about 50 more horsepower for basically the same price Plus the practicality of the hatch.
It's not all good news for the Focus.
This car does way more but the difference is only about 50 pounds and that's really not that much when your talking about a pair of 3,4000 pound porkers.
They'll be [UNKNOWN] owners, the Focus RS is either your worst nightmare, or your next car.
And you can trust me when I say that because I own an STI.
In fact I just bought my second STI.
Clearly I have a problem but on paper at least the Focus RS is superior.
The 2.3 liter engine makes more power and way more tork at a lower RPM.
The all wheel drive system uses a more comprehensive set of differentials to get the power into the ground.
It's all controlled exclusively via a six speed manual transmission.
Yes, with a clutch and everything.
The zero to 60 sprint is completed in 4.7 seconds and the car will go on up to its Top speed of 160 miles per hour, both figures better than the Subaru.
350 horsepower, that's a lot to ask from a 2.3 liter and as you might expect there is a fair bit of turbo lag on evidence here as seen on the boost gig that's handling mounted right in your line of sight.
Get on the throttle and you'll have to wait a little bit before all the torque comes but there is a lot of torque to be found.
And as you go through the different drive modes toggled by a button here next to the shifter the throttle response does get better which helps and the suspension also firms up as you go.
Now this car does have a very firm ride as you would expect 19 inch wheels and tires, don't leave a lot of room for compliance but even so, even on the sportier mode This car is pretty livable.
The interior is pretty nice too.
The materials are decent, yes this is still just a Ford Focus.
But we get some extra trim, some nice blue stitching and these seats are big step up over the base Focus seats as well.
However, I am not totally in love with them.
You get nice bolsters up top, but I feel like I'm sitting about three feet off the floor and there's not a lot of support down here.
I would like some better seats but Overall it's a nice interior.
And it's definitely a step above the Subaru, which is lacking.
We have Sync 3 in the dashboard which is for the latest infotainment system.
And overall it's very good.
It's much more quick and responsive that the outgoing system.
It'll even connect to your smartphone and run some apps like Spotify through that, so you can get easy control of your streaming music.
There is sadly no Android Auto in here yet.
But Ford has said that that support is Coming to Sync 3, so with any luck maybe we'll get a software update that'll add it here.
In terms of other technology, it's a bit of a mixed bag.
We've got cruise control of course, but no adaptive cruise control, there's no lane keep assist or anything like that.
So, we would like to see a little bit more technology on that front, but a lot of the technology in the car has been put in the drive train.
The all-wheel drive system here is one of the most advanced on any road car, particularly the snow Of course, but that'll also optimize things on the track, which is where we're headed next.
That's where you really need to go if you wanna get the most out of a car like this.
And it helps to have a professional driver to do that too.
Thankfully, we have a track and we have a From a professional too.
Some say, his name is Ben Collins and he's raced everything from sports cars to indy cars.
Everywhere from Adelaide to Leman.
All we know is, his most famous for turning many a hot lap inside the white helmet as the Stig on TopGear.
Today he'll be playing the part of our own team racing driver, helping me get the most out of the Focus RS I bet you've driven basically all the world's greatest cars.
Where does the RS fit in in the grand spectrum of everything that's out there?
The RS is really unique because it's got a bit of hot hatch.
With so much technology packed into it, it's a car for all seasons in a way.
Because the way the all wheel drive works, you get maximum stability and grip and performance when you want to be, or a track environment, you can take all that technology and go out on the road and be safe in the snow and the ice because you've got the support in the four wheel drive systems but unusually Ford has allowed us to effectively turn it on its head with drift mode, which really sends all the power to the back.
It lets this car free up a little bit, makes it looser, which means you can fling it sideways, and burn smoke and rubber and make fun noises on tracks.
And I've spent a fair bit of time in the car already, and it's impressive how the electronics are there, they help the car be better, but they don't really feel like they're getting in the way.
And that's it well you've got the options to reduce that interference if you like, we don't call it interference.
So it's there to support you for every day driving.
You just get into work, wet leafs on the road or whatever it is, the car will try and support your efforts to try and control that situation.
But you can turn all that off and really go for it on the track and get the most out of the performance.
Now I've been lucky to drive a lot of great cars in a lot of tracks but I've never had the chance to go drifting.
Do you think you could maybe show me the ropes a little bit?
I can show you the ropes, this is the right machine.
Now there's drifting and then there's four wheel drive drifting.
So the RS can really send nearly all its power to the rear wheels but there's always a little bit of front end drive playing into that as well.
So if you've done a tiny bit of this before or you've had a few skids it's gonna be different in this.
Because there's lots of grip you've gotta overcome, you have to be fairly aggressive with the steering, and once you've got it sliding, full power.
Try not to smoke the tires up.
Wanna show me the ropes?
I'll show you the ropes.
Before it was my turn, Ben showed me the proper way around the track.
Well, the sideways way around the track, any way.
Get all the power, and then [UNKNOWN] squares up the corner.
Lots of grip, yes?
I could see you struggling in your seat slightly.
There's no gentle build up with this car.
That's all right.
I enjoy it.
Well, there is, but I'm not giving it to you.
Lot's of smoke that time.
Feeling the nice essence of brake and tire here.
Smells pretty good.
So now is it my turn?
It's your turn.
Okay any last words of advice before I get behind the wheel?
Drive it like you stole it.
Okay well I don't own it so that helps.
Feet down a little, just bring the circle tighter from where you start.
[SOUND] [INAUDIBLE] more power, more power.
Keep it going.
Yes bring your circle tighter.
This is easy.
Yeah, keep the gas.
Make it look like you meant it.
And bring it to a rest.
Yeah, you nailed it.
That was pretty amazing.
Well thank you.
Between you and me.
It was great, you gotta be happy with that.
I feel very proud to hear that from you.
I love the smell of tire smoke in the morning.
Thank you very much, that was great.
You smashed it.
Thank you, thank you.
You don't need me anymore.
[LAUGH] All right, tell me the track.
[NOISE] Out here on the track, driving the car as you're meant to drive the car, aggressively but not drifting just yet, It feels really good.
I gotta say there's plenty of grip and that little bit of turbo lag that we felt on the street that wasn't so pleasant, out here is not a problem because we're basically foot flat to the floor all the time.
The gear box is close enough that you can keep in that power band and even though the shifter feels a little bit vague, ultimately everything works together really nicely here.
There's a ton of grip.
You can feel those differentials hunting for the grip out there and, man, I'm having a really good time.
My really only complaint is, again, that I'm just I'm seated a little bit to high in this thing.
I'm feel like I'm up on stilts a little bit.
So even though the car is flat planted here in track mode I kind of feel like I'm wandering back and forth but Man, it feels good.
It even sounds good once you put it in track mode, the exhaust starts sparking at you.
[SOUND] Suffice to say, drifting on the track where the speeds are higher and the walls closer is a fair bit more intimidating than doing so on a skidpad.
It took me a few laps to get my confidence.
All right, so I've toggled the car Into drift mode and I can definitely there is a lot more lean.
The car feels a lot more loose too as we're going around the corners.
Now it's time to put up or shut up.
Let's see if we can get a little drift going out here on the track.
There we go.
It's gonna be expensive to own this car because you're gonna budget for a lot of tires.
19 inches each their not gonna come cheap.
It's strange and you can feel this on the Gonna skip that, too.
The rear does break live as you need to get hard on the power and drift it on to make that happen.
Meanwhile, the front is also breaking away.
So, it's almost like you're under steering while you're over steering which is a bit of a an unusually situation for car to be in to be break but as long as I'm concern.
If you got smoke coming off the ridge,
Alright, so obviously I have a little bit more practice ahead of me before I begin my professional drifting career, but frankly
I can't think of a better car to practice in than this guy.
At the limit it's very easy to manage and it's a lot of fun out there on the track, but on the road, it's pretty great too.
Yeah, the ride quality is a little bit harsh, but it's certainly livable.
There's a lot of practicality with that hatchback, there's a decent amount of tech inside and I know it's pretty damn good especially in this blue as the [UNKNOWN] owner it pains me to say this if you're thinking to buy an STI think again this is the one to get [SOUND]