It actually seemed like a adequate abstraction at the time. The advertising was strong; the aboriginal preproduction reviews out of Europe hailed it as “God’s Hatchback,” and proclaimed we’d been adored from Subaru’s aged 2.5L Turbo powertrain–on auction aback G.W. Bush’s aboriginal term–and from the afterlife of the Mitsubishi Evo, itself alone a satisfactory artefact on racetracks. Think what you appetite about the Golf R, which, objectively, is a accomplished automobile. But animate about Volkswagen’s emissions, uh, troubles, I wasn’t about to accord them a dime.
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Having spent two years with the universally acclaimed Ford Fiesta ST, breathed on by the acute association at COBB Tuning, I could not adjournment to get my calmly on a Focus RS. The abstraction that you could get article as fun to drive as the Fiesta ST, but in a hardly beyond and added comfortable amalgamation was an burning win. Some Ford assembly I kept in acquaintance with assured me that the Focus RS would be as fun as the Fiesta ST, but faster and with added space. It was an accessible sell, and I got my name on the account at Galpin Ford about six months afore the acclimation banks alike opened. In fact, I was the aboriginal one through the hole, accepting never alike laid eyes on one.
Then Ford bungled the commitment process. Badly. Although names were submitted in the acclimation in which they were accustomed at alone dealers, Ford accumulated alloyed them all up afterwards any faculty of timing or priority, and cars ordered in January were delivered in March, while cars ordered the antecedent October didn’t access at dealers until May, June, or later. While this can be an affair for article like a adapted copy Porsche 911 or a Ferrari, it’s actually an affair for a $42,000 hatchback, which is accompanying a special, affluence item, and, for best folks, a alarm for commuting. I put my name on a account in February 2015, assured the car in February, 2016. The orders went in to Ford in October, 2015. There were delays, and the aboriginal cars accustomed in March, 2016, but my order, the aboriginal on the account at the world’s bigger dealer, was appointed for September, 2016. Abounding bodies were counting on commitment dates to alter a accepted trade-in, and concluded up abandoning in frustration. That’s how I concluded up with my car in July, rather than September. Anecdotally, I apperceive this commitment draft awash a lot of STI’s and Golf R’s.
I’m not still absinthian about this, and the alone absolute acumen I accompany it up at all now is because of the setup. With the delay, I was accompanying balked at the process, while aflame for the affair to assuredly arrive. Aback it did, wow did it attending incredible. Galpin delivered the car in their beautifully lit Aston Martin showroom, which you access through a coffer basement door. Nitrous Dejected is the distinct best acrylic blush I accept anytime apparent on a avant-garde car, with an amazing akin of accuracy and depth. I’m assertive Ford absent money on every car corrective that color. I accursed it up in the showroom, and the bankrupt reverberated throughout the accomplished place, afraid the bottles of Macallan on the wall. With a nice big blip, I was adored with a baaa BANG and was hooked. This didn’t look, feel, or complete like a accustomed auto at all.
I had additional thoughts on the drive home from Galpin, which, as is archetypal every time I buy a new car, was a 90-minute advance 18 afar through the 405’s awful black commute. The seats didn’t feel right. I bethink the Fiesta’s alternative Recaro seats were bound and awkward for the aboriginal 1500 afar or so, again they bankrupt in wonderfully. I affected the aforementioned would appear here. But the basal beanbag couldn’t be bargain properly. To get to an adapted height, alone the rear allocation of the beanbag would drop–the advanced part, beneath your knees, would breach acicular skyward, creating an abundantly bound bend amid your thigh and your torso. In acclimation to accomplish that bend acceptable, I had to accession the bench so aerial that my arch actually affected the headliner. It acquainted like active from a barstool.
Seating position notwithstanding, the Focus RS acquainted high-quality. The leathers and microsuedes were top notch, the ‘RS2’ amalgamation stereo arrangement articulate good, and there was affluence of bustling and banging from the exhaust, on the attenuate breach I was able to use added than a division throttle. The council was abundantly sharp–much bluff than the agnate Subaru or Golf–and the Brembo brakes had adequate antecedent chaw (I would afterwards apprentice it bare high-temp pads, fluid, and stainless animate curve for clue work–I had these installed by Mountune at the aboriginal service).
Ford’s SYNC system, which accustomed abundant criticism in its aboriginal forms (though, for the record, I admired the SYNC in my 2010 Raptor absolute much), acquired to be one of the best automatic and accessible MMI’s around, with lots of functionality, absolute few headaches, and a acknowledging touchscreen with Bluetooth that affiliated on startup every time.
Ironically, because the added admeasurement and backpack of the Focus over its abate Fiesta sibling, the Focus actually doesn’t accept abundant added accessible space. It has a bit added rear bench room, admitting still not abundant to calmly fit a actuality abaft my 6’3” anatomy (meaning it’s a three-seater); it has a bit added burden room, but still captivated about the aforementioned bulk of camera accessory and/or baggage as the Fiesta, and although the advanced seats are spaced further apart, the seats themselves are aloof as bound as the Fiesta’s, and possibly because of the covering and suede vs. the Fiesta’s cloth, bankrupt in slower, bankrupt in less, or, in the case of my commuter seat, didn’t breach in at all. The bottom able-bodied is added than the Fiesta, which was welcome, but absolute legroom was as abutting as fabricated no difference, and the RS’s asleep pedal wasn’t far abundant aback to align my larboard leg all the way out, exacerbating an old knee injury.
Courtesy Matt Farah
Now, some adequate things: The RS’s turbocharged 2.3L agent is a absolute sweetheart, abnormally characterful for the segment, and is absolute able-bodied akin to the RS’s anatomy and ambush AWD system. It can be a affable aback asked, or berserk affronted on the floorboard aback “overboost” comes on. Admitting the shotgun blasts from the bifold tips may artlessly be “exhaust theater,” it’s a added than acceptable bit of theater, emphasizing the assemblage car experience. I never once, on the alley or racetrack, accomplished a absence of grip; the banal Pilot Super Action tires were accomplished in all (Southern California) conditions, and alike with my quasi-aggressive driving, and two abounding clue days, lasted over 12,000 afar with absolute alike abrasion and alone one rotation.
I acclimated “Drift Mode” actually one time, and not for drifting. Drift approach sends as abundant ability as the AWD arrangement allows to the Rear Drive Unit, and forth as abundant ability as the RDU allows to one side. On a racetrack (or in a parking lot, natch), this agency the Focus RS is the alone auto on the bazaar that will bear real, genuine, power-on oversteer. It eliminates a lot of acceptable front-drive administration characteristics, and with the RS’s uber-sharp steering, agency you can flick the affair into a bend actually hard, again accident the gas and powerslide out. I accept apparent some impaired business gimmicks with cars before, but this one actually does work.
In a hot day of adamantine lapping at the Thermal Club in Palm Desert, I never accomplished a “Rear Drive Unit Disengagement,” which was appear in a lot of RS enthusiast forums. Falsely attributed to an “overheating rear differential,” the RDU (which, FYI, does not accept a temperature sensor to acquaint the agent of “overheating”) is programmed to abstract through a alternation of “If X, again Y” algorithms in the ECU. If the car decides you are active it in too calumniating of a abode and ability draft the affair up, it will abstract to save itself from your bad driving. The antagonism drivers at Mountune accept never gotten their RDU to disengage, either. Some association in the know, aback asked about people’s claims of disengagement, responded to the aftereffect of, “You accept to drive it like a absolute asshole to get that to happen.”
The Focus RS is actually a car account modifying. Mountune USA builds abounding of the engines for the factory-supported Assemblage and Rallycross teams and accept kits accessible at Ford Dealerships in Europe and the US, authoritative them a nearly-factory affability company. I agilely took every allotment they analytic capital to bandy at me, with two goals in mind: 1) Accomplish the Focus RS added fun to drive in accustomed situations afterwards affliction reliability, and 2) Fix the car’s backbreaking ride.
Full Disclosure: Mountune USA, Fifteen52, Pirelli, and KW Abeyance did not allegation me for the genitalia on my Focus RS. In barter for the genitalia and installation, I gave my actually honest opinions of the modifications on my YouTube approach and Instagram, and provided acknowledgment on the kits to Mountune and KW’s engineers as I drove.
One of the bigger issues with the Focus RS was that, in accustomed burghal driving, it artlessly wasn’t absolute fun. It was aloof a less-comfortable Focus. With the Fiesta ST, every grocery abundance run was a riot, abnormally already we gave it a added advancing tune that fabricated it louder and angrier. It shone amid 20 and 60 mph. I capital that back, and the Focus wasn’t abundant fun beneath 90. So Mountune installed what they now alarm their “B7” kit, consisting of an air intake, up-pipe, abounding aluminum intercooler, and a cat-back exhaust, additional their abbreviate shifter kit. King Nerd Randy Robles, Mountune’s programmer, wrote a 91-octane tune and a 100-octane tune, calmly switchable in a brace of account application the COBB Accessport, and the bold was on.
Mountune’s valved bankrupt added a admirable grumble, while their air assimilation provided the buzz you appetite out of a turbo car, afterwards actuality anytime obnoxious. The ancestor and bangs got a bit louder and added frequent, and best importantly, big assets in low-end and midrange torque, forth with balmy improvements in top-end ability (stock turbos are baby and max out up top easily), provided added boost about town, convalescent the all-embracing acquaintance significantly. On the 100-octane tune, the RS was a f***ing missile. Shame the actuality is like nine bucks a gallon in Los Angeles, because I’d adulation to be able to run 100 all the time. The agent actually loves it, and rewards you with absurd power: 385 application to the auto and about 450 lb/ft of torque.
Then there’s the ride: you see, Ford has a addiction of accomplishing things that didn’t necessarily charge doing, and accidentally authoritative the car worse to drive. For example, see the 2013-14 Shelby GT500, which, in following of annual cover-seeking 0-60 and top acceleration numbers, came out with dejected gearing, authoritative the car worse to drive than its 2012 predecessor, alike with 100 added horsepower.
The Focus RS has 19-inch auto and adaptive shocks. The botheration with this is that the adaptive shocks Ford uses don’t action the activating ambit you get from, say, one of GM’s alluring shocks. The springs are absolute stiff. The car is over sprung and beneath damped in accustomed approach and unusably annealed in clue mode, arch to a punishing, animated ride, which, aback accumulated with that poor basement position, agency drives on annihilation but absolute anchorage for any absolute breadth of time crave continued addition sessions at best, abysmal tissue massages or chiropractor visits at worst. You can acquaint in the aboriginal 10 account this kit was acquainted in Germany and not in Michigan; it’s alone acceptable on German-spec, glass-smooth tarmac.
While I accept an adaptive shock makes “Drift Mode” easier to affairs (the rear gets softer than the advanced for this mode), I actually feel that, in acclimation to anatomy the car to a amount point, Ford went bargain on the shocks. They are artlessly terrible.
For a fix, I formed with KW Abeyance and installed their DDC, or Activating Damper Ascendancy adaptive coilovers ($3,500 Installation), which appearance absolute high-quality adaptive shocks and akin springs. They are acme adjustable, but I set them to “stock.” Afterwards all, this is a assemblage car, and about never allowances from actuality lowered.
I don’t use the chat “transformative” lightly, but the anatomy ascendancy and ride affection offered by this amalgamation was shocking. Before, a bang would account the accomplished car to animation two or three times. Now, the adapted “one up, one down” was all you got. The dampers acutely were “dampening,” or slowing bottomward the oscillations, far bigger than the banal system. I don’t apperceive how abundant it would accept amount Ford to do this from the factory, but it would accept been account it. Still, it wasn’t actually adequate enough. While the coil-overs managed bumps in the alley with aplomb, the adamantine edges of LA’s accurate freeways, driveways, and potholes jarred through the berth far added than they should have. I acicular my finger, correctly, at the 19 inch artificial wheels, which, while abundantly blingy (and, to Ford’s credit, analytic ablaze for the size) are artlessly too big for a hatchback.
Fifteen52 Wheels, a accomplice and shop-mate of Mountune USA’s in Carson, CA, helped me accomplish one aftermost canal accomplishment to advance the RS’s ride by downsizing to an 18-inch Integrale-style caster with a set of UHP Pirelli PZero tires. It was the adapted move. The abate auto and coil-over abeyance fabricated all the aberration in the world, and it rode and handled like a achievement car should. They additionally looked rad in white with the Nitrous Dejected acrylic and dejected calipers. Out in the canyons, accumulated with the 100-octane tune, the RS actually came alive, and was laugh-inducingly ablaze to drive, able to backpack abreast supercar speeds in the uneven, accelerated aeroembolism of Big Tujunga Canyon Alley up to Angeles Crest. I never went aback to the track, but alike if the casting Fifteen52’s were a bit added than the stock, artificial 19s, I saw no drawbacks to installing them.
After a host of go-fast ability upgrades (though, to be fair, annihilation centralized and no affective parts), a complete abeyance overhaul, and a able set of auto and tires, I assuredly had the Focus RS I accepted to be delivered to me from the factory. What’s the retail amount of all this actuality installed? A beard over $11,000. Yikes. For those counting pennies, that additional the car’s $41,500 sticker amount and tax will get you abuse abreast into a BMW M2, which is a awfully above vehicle.
Since, in approach at least, this is a customer admonition piece, I should acknowledgment that I had no austere believability issues with my Focus RS. That doesn’t beggarly annihilation went wrong; to the contrary. Forth with amid 50 and 100 added cars, my RS was accumulated application the incorrect arch gasket–one from the Lincoln MKZ, which looks the aforementioned but has altered coolant breeze channels. A box of them was mislabeled at the factory, and they concluded up in the amiss engines. Ford did the adapted thing, took responsibility, and issued a recall. A aggregate of luck and automated accord meant that I was able to get it anchored beneath assurance afore any abiding accident occurred. The butt arch showed no damage, and a Blackstone oil assay adumbrated all was well.
The HVAC arrangement developed a bane aroma in mid-2017, which is awful abnormal for a dry altitude like California, and took two abounding cleanouts and berth clarify changes to eliminate. And the drivers bench abuse came apart twice, acute aboriginal an adjustment, and again a abounding replacement. The modifications, actuality absolutely different to the issues claimed beneath warranty, did not affect the dealer’s alertness to abode the aliment at no amount to me.
Ultimately, afterwards two years and bristles months with the Focus RS, 12,600 afar covered, and all those modifications to advance the active experience, the car had to go. It’s not that the RS didn’t do what it was answer as actuality able to do; it did. It is the fastest, sharpest, best agitative auto on the bazaar adapted now. It’s the alone hot-hatch I anytime begin myself attractive aback over my accept at as I absolved abroad from it in a parking lot. And, abeyance foibles aside, the AWD arrangement and its ambush rear cogwheel do work, actually as advertised, and you can oversteer the car on power, article you absolutely cannot do with any added hatchback. Aback you’re activity fast, it feels alive, competent, planted, and like a motorsport-grade product, abnormally already it’s been tweaked by Mountune.
But there was annihilation I could do about the seats, and it artlessly became too aching to drive. Frankly, I’ve activated hundreds of cars over the aftermost few years, and I accept never apprenticed any cast new car that had such a poor basement position. You can’t change the seats, because they accept airbags, and it will bandy an absurdity code, and if it throws an absurdity code, the car won’t go into action mode. It has to be apprenticed in action mode, contrarily it feels like a turd. The basement position was candidly article I apparently should accept noticed on the analysis drive, although it does booty 15 to 20 account afore you realize, “hang on, this is a disaster.” Had I gone on the columnist barrage or gotten one as a audience agent afore buying, I would accept ample this out afore spending my own money.
But that Nitrous Dejected paint, aglow on that turntable afterwards eighteen months of cat-and-mouse for “God’s Hatchback,” got me, hook, line, and sinker. Sometimes, acumen and objectivity goes adapted out the window, and you accept to attending at yourself in the mirror asking, “Why did I do this?” and if you’re honest, you can appear out with it–I aloof admired the color.
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