So, take what you know about a hot hatch, place it carefully in a plastic bag, tie it up and chuck it in the bin. Yes, the Ford Focus RS really is that damn good.
It would have been all too easy for Ford to dust off a handful of RS badges and glue them to the back of a tarted-up Focus ST - but to its eternal credit, it didn’t.
Instead, its project head Tyrone Johnson - whose 31-year Ford resume includes stints heading up both its WRC and F1 efforts - insisted that the new RS head down a new path all together.
The RS is based on the current Focus platform, but has been strengthened in key areas to be 23 per cent stiffer. Its all-wheel drive system, too, is all new to Ford - and it’s simply astonishing.
Johnson and his team had actually given up on all-wheel drive after trialling a traditional Haldex system, until they discovered the Twinster rear axle. Usually found under a Range Rover Evoque, one was fitted to a Focus - and it broke in two days.
Undeterred, the team rebuilt and rehashed the system - which replaces the rear LSD with a pair of clutch packs, one for each rear wheel - over two years until they were happy with it.
Its party trick? It overspeeds the rear axle by two per cent, working in conjunction with the revised front end geometry to all but eliminate understeer. It’s… spooky. It requires you to recalibrate your driving brain not to compensate for steering delays - because they’re aren’t any. It darts for the apex like an open-wheeler.
Combine it with limpet-grip 235/35 R19 Michelins - in either Pilot SuperSport or optional Pilot Sport Cup 2s with 1kg lighter forged rims - adaptive dampers and 350mm Brembo-equipped front rotors, and the RS is a formidable on-road proposition.
The 2.3-litre turbo engine, too, is a screamer. Putting out 1.8 bar of boost (26psi) from an up-rated version of the old RS’s spinner, the Cosworth head-topped four-potter’s 257kW and 440Nm(470Nm on overboost) is available everywhere in range.
We punched out a 5.4-second 0-100km/h Vbox time in it using launch control, and even got 12.4 litres per 100km out of it over 150km.
The ride is firm but sophisticated and more than bearable on bumpy roads in standard mode, but the sport setting bumps up rebound and damping by 40 per cent, making it too harsh for road use.
The only thing we’d call out on our brief drive is that the gearing between second and third is at odds with the car’s mid-corner ability. It’s often too quick for second, but third isn’t quite short enough to get the best from the power-band.
The interior gets big, comfy RS race seats… and, erm, that’s about it. But truly, it doesn’t matter. For $50,990, the Focus RS is a screaming bargain.
There’s a new all-wheel drive hot hatch hero, and its name is the Ford Focus RS.
4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
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