Being a child of the 60’s has meant that many of my formative years crossed over the 70’s/80’s period, these (of course) are in my opinion some of the most incredible of decades. There were amazing advancements in the world in terms of technology, transport, TV, music and fashion (ok maybe not fashion) but suffice to say it’s hard for me not to look back and bask in what I would deem ‘the wonder years’ (a phase already coined I know). Amongst the things I tend to reflect on are the cars, the mouth watering array of outrageous designs that came from almost every Marque; they appeared the bedroom walls of all my friends and their jaw dropping stats were recited and bettered through the likes of top trumps (card games) – everyone had a favorite.
What also emerged at the time (or maybe it just became more apparent to me) was the move from mass production cars to produce limited sportier versions of their top sellers. I’m sure you’ll be able to (as I am) list most of the makes and models I’m thinking about but Ford had it down pat. Arguably the Escort has had more than its fair share of icons and (aside from the Mexico) the RS versions were the ones that really stood out and were not beyond the realms of owning. I loved the look of the Mk II RS2000, with its twin headlights, RS decal and mesh headrests on its RECARO seats. These cars were desirable at the time and are now collectable investments – who knew!
Anyway move forward thirty (or so) years and Ford have just released their new Focus RS, o lordy!
Through a mixture of good timing and good fortune, I managed to be one of the first to review the new RS on NZ soil and to make it more interesting, I got review it on Hampton Downs soil (well tarmac) – game on. Such was the occasion Ford NZ delivered not one but two Focus RS’s (one in Frozen White and the other in Nitrous Blue) and they came escorted (pardon the pun) with a bright orange Mustang – Plus Ford NZ’s MD Simon Rutherford, their Marketing Manager Cameron Thomas and Relations Manager Tom Clancy – either they didn’t trust me or wanted to join in the fun!
It was a cold and foggy day but to see the Bi-Xenon headlamps on these three cars cut through the whiteout was as piercing as the sun breaking out. In Ford’s own words, the RS badge is reserved for the best of the best and the Focus RS wears it with pride. It has a gaping mouth and huge front vents to devour all the oxygen it can, and its face is made more menacing by its cagy looking headlights. The RS bodykit envelops the entire car and is distinctly different from the rest of the herd, as is the styling on its 19” Alloys. Every design line adds to the performance and rear spoiler completes the cars down force and balance characteristics – I’ll get t more of that soon.
Inside is a sea of sportiness. RECARO’s of course and bright blue contrast stitching. It has a raft old school gauges and dials along the dash, the instrument panel is clear and rugged and it has an 8” touch screen with the likes of Sync II for those that want things like navigation and music. However the music I wanted to hear comes from the 2.3L GTDi engine via the dual RS sports exhaust. 257kW’s and a massive 440Nm dare you to stamp on the accelerator and bring them to life – and you so want to! The Focus RS has a 6 speed manual box that is an absolute delight to use and it has an All wheel drive system that offers outstanding grip and cornering and will only really let loose when you want it to (via the push of a button – again I’ll get to that soon).
With the press photography out of the way, it was time to unleash the hounds! Hampton Downs had kindly given us access to its full facilities including being one of the first to drive on its full International track, what a great way to put the Focus RS though its paces.
Next to the gear stick is the Drive Mode button, you can toggle through to select the mood or mode you want, despite us being at the track (and there being a track mode) I opted for Sport and increased the suspension via a setting on the indicator stalk. Call me old fashioned but these are the first RS’s in the country, I was going to be one of the first to drive it and I was to be one of the first to be on the full International track – I really didn’t want to be the first to crash! Especially with the heavy hitters from Ford being there.
Out of the pits and on to the track – with the engine already warm I raced down the extended straight and up through the gearbox, the gear selection is tight and quick, it really wants to race. Signage is limited and I am still unsure of the track layout but even so the Brembo 4 pot ventilated brakes happily pulled me up in time for the sharp right at what will be the 2nd corner. It is a tight one and I believe will catch many out (particularly as it is predicted that speeds could get up to 280 here) thankfully there’s plenty of runoff. The following varied cambers did little to put the RS off its stride and there was barely a tyre squeal as I headed back to join the ‘old and familiar’ national track. A short burst of power before another tight righthander then short straight before the hairpin, the Focus RS just lapped it up. A quick look at the speed as I headed over the home straight saw the needle around 170kph but there was plenty left in the tank. We managed to get a couple of laps in before the Bikes got the track but plenty enough to see what this hot hatch was capable of.
We then moved down to the Club track for a little more cornering experience and like I said before, even in Sports mode the RS is not a car you’re going to get tired of easily. But next up was essentially the icing on an amazing gateau – free access to the skidpan and the remote for the sprinklers – time to engage the Focus RS’s (not so) secret weapon – Drift MODE!
At the touch of a button the car’s four wheel drive set up changes and 70% of the power is directed to the rear wheels. It is a drifter’s dream car and unleashed on Hampton’s glassy and tractionless skidpan it is probably the most fun I’ve had in a long long time. At the turn of the wheel and the stomp on the throttle you are reenacting almost any scene from the F&F franchise, all while feeling totally in control. Your heart is pounding and your smile is unmovable – it’s worth owning a Focus RS just for that!
Alas, all good things must come to an end and unfortunately we all had to go back to our normal off-track lives (at least the Fordies had the chance to drive the RS’s back to Auckland).
With a sad face I began my long drive home but I took the time to think about what faults I could find with Ford’s new super hatch, after about an hour I finally nailed it, due to the limited production numbers, the allocation for NZ has already been used up for 2016 – so the fault is that Ford are out of Focus (RS) for 2016 – thankfully order books are open for ’17.
Thanks for the exceptional Pics Chris: Dillon Photography
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