Powerful Thrills From an Unlikely Model

2017 Ford Focus RS is a game changer for affordable performance driving

BYJim Prueter
Making quick work of a twisting racetrack in an aerodynamically optimized, low-slung sports car like a Porsche Cayman, BMW M Class, or Corvette is an experience that wouldn’t surprise anyone. These cars are designed for hard and fast driving, built to feel flat and controlled when powered into tight turns.
 
You’re not likely to expect that kind of performance from a humpbacked Ford Focus four-door sedan. But, since bringing its track-ready Focus RS to U.S. roads (it originally debuted in Europe), Ford has shattered expectations. The car is the definition of high-performance, boasting 350-horsepower, 350 foot-pounds of torque, all-wheel drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring, and a “drift mode.” Drift mode is designed specifically for track use and works with the car’s electronic stability control system when drivers enter into dramatic slide.
 
Appearance-wise, the RS doesn’t differ much from the regular Ford Focus. Of course, there’s the rear spoiler, gaping maw up front, and performance wheels and tires. And the bright Nitrous Blue color, Ford’s signature color for the RS model, is a dead giveaway.
 
Inside, the car features RECARO® racing seats and flat-bottom sports steering wheel, special gauges, contrast stitching, sill plates, and RS badging.
 
So, what’s it like to drive? In a word — impressive. On the track, lateral grip from the optional Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires was fantastic. There was a bit of understeer, but not much, and the engine response was instantaneous thanks to the turbo boost. The brake feel was perfect and the gear shifting was precise, operating with a flick of the wrist and a short-throw clutch. The seats afforded excellent support during sharp cornering.
 
Overall, the RS is one of the most entertaining and thrilling vehicles I’ve driven this year, and it has already amassed a cult following. As a driving enthusiast’s car, the RS delivered in spades.
JIM PRUETER, an automotive writer based in Phoenix, has provided reviews and advice about cars for more than 20 years. 

2017 Ford Focus RS

Vehicle Type: 
Sports Car
Base Price: 
$36,120
Price as Tested: 
$42,245
Fuel Economy: 
19 MPG City
25 MPG Highway
Key Safety Features: 
  • Front, side, and side-curtain airbags
  • Driver's knee airbag
  • AdvanceTrac┬« electronic stability control
The Good: 
  • Astonishingly impressive power and grip
  • Bargain priced
  • Roomy five-door hatchback
The Bad: 
  • A turbocharged license loser
  • Waiting list to buy one
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