I am sure you have all seen the crazy tyre-smoking Ken Block drifting videos that are all over the internet.
Well, if you want to tear up the tar like he does in an AWD Ford, you can do so straight off the showroom floor if you put your name down now for the new Focus RS that will be in South Africa in the second quarter of the year.
The new Focus RS introduces advanced performance technologies and is the first RS equipped with selectable Drive Modes – including an industry-first Drift Mode – and Launch Control to back up what I have just written.
And to drive these points home, we were allowed to practice our drifting skills in the parking lot before being let loose on the 4.005km, 14-corner Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, to try and find the limits of grip on this new hot hatch.
And a hot hatch it is, with 257kW of power and 440Nm of torque available between 2000 and 4500rpm, with 470Nm available for up to 15 seconds on overboost during hard acceleration.
This new 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine shares its fundamental structure with the all-aluminium four-cylinder engine in the allnew Ford Mustang, but the engine has been significantly upgraded for the Focus RS.
Ford said this is the fastest-ever RS model and claim it can get to 100km/h in a mere 4.7 seconds, going on to hit a top speed of 266km/h.
Will this be a reality when the car gets to us? We will only know when we test, but I can say its launch control works a treat each and every time and should get the RS close to the claimed numbers.
There is only a six-speed manual transmission on offer in the Focus RS, and this unit has been optimised with a shorter gear lever and revised mechanism to deliver faster and more accurate shifts.
Now I know this is the purist approach, but I feel Ford is still missing a big trick by not having a double-clutch auto option in their ST and this RS model.
That said, the Focus RS doesn’t quite seem in the 280kW A45 and RS3 league in a straight line, but it is when the road gets twisty or the racetrack beckons that this car just might not have any competition. It is that good.
The RS features innovative Ford Performance AWD with Dynamic Torque Vectoring to deliver a level of grip and agility that has to be experienced to fully appreciate.
There is none of that annoying all-wheel drive understeer to spoil your fun, while the various drive modes allow just the right amount of intervention without being intrusive.
Of course there is a stiffer sports suspension under you that features two-mode switchable dampers, which offer a 40% firmer Sport setting for track driving.
The steering has been retuned, as there is an optimised front suspension knuckle design and shorter steering link arms to help deliver a very responsive steering with great feel.
This all rides on high performance 235/35 R19 Michelin rubber in the form of a standard Pilot Super Sport tyre for everyday use and an optional Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre for track work.
We are probably not going to get the optional tyre in SA, as the final spec of the cars we are getting has not been confirmed just yet. For enhanced braking during hard track or road driving, the car features the most powerful brake system ever fitted to an RS model, with 350mm ventilated front discs and aluminium Brembo four-piston monoblock callipers – painted in distinctive RS blue, with a Brembo logo available as an option.
Being an RS also means you are well taken care of inside the car, thanks to heavily-bolstered partial-leather Recaro sports seats, a new flat-bottomed steering wheel with a soft-feel leather-covered rim, alloy foot pedals, and unique instrument graphics in the main cluster.
An additional bank of gauges above the centre console displays turbocharger boost pressure, oil temperature and oil pressure.
The only topic I haven’t covered yet is pricing. No indicative pricing for SA was given to us, as it has not been set for our market yet, especially with our plunging currency not helping matters here.
I did do a few quick calculations based on the UK and Australia price and there is about a R150 000 price jump from ST to RS in both right-hand-drive markets.
That would mean in an ideal world the RS should go on sale in SA at a price of around R595 000 – that would be the performance deal of the year.
But we’re told not to count on this and the car could land at a higher price. I don’t want to over-speculate, as only time will tell exactly what the sticker price in SA will be.
The bottom line is that while the new Ford Focus RS might not win every traffic-light dice, it is a real driver’s car that rewards like no other AWD hot hatch when the road ahead gets twisty, while still offering a level of comfort and practicality that ensures you can use it every day.
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