I bought a 2017 Mustang GT V8 manual in April 2017, and from the moment I took it home I was very disappointed with the quality of the manual transmission and also the overall build quality of the Mustang. In fact, it really left me perplexed as to how this car made it through Ford's quality control in the States and, if any, our QC here in Oz.
From a roof line that had specs of dust in the paintwork, through to the clunky heavy clutch and the very clumsy Tremec transmission from three decades ago. In short, I was so disappointed that I swallowed my pride and just accepted the $8000 hit I would take from depreciation after owning it for only three months and doing only 6000km – I had to trade up.
As a loyal Ford person, I was wondering what else Ford Motor Company had to offer me. I was looking for a car that was fun, exhilarating to drive and decent to look at, although the one thing the Mustang has that no other vehicle can ever compete with is how amazing it looks. I think Ford really nailed it with the looks. It’s just a damn shame Ford could not deliver on overall quality, because sub-$100K there is nothing in the Australian market that comes close to the Mustang's features and driving characteristics.
Enough about that now, though, and on to the RS. I test-drove the RS and absolutely fell in love with it. Sure, it is far from perfect and is just not for everyone, but coming from the Mustang, it was hard to find a replacement car that would offer the same cues: the exhilarating drive, tech features, and looks. Furthermore, I wanted something that had some bragging rights and was more fuel efficient than the ’Stang.
My prayers were answered with the RS Focus. Prior to the Mustang I'd owned a 2016 LZ ST Focus, so I was already familiar with the RS, and if it weren’t for the allure of the Mustang, I would most certainly have bought the RS right after the ST, as I was extremely happy with the ST. Simply put, it was fast enough, very fun to drive, fairly economical on fuel, packed with tech and had everything I was looking for in a car. The RS pretty much has the same stuff but on steroids. Ford has copped some flak for not giving the RS better tech than the everyday standard Focus, but where it lacks in the interior, it more than makes up for in raw performance.
The engine is such a fantastic performer, and offers you sheer performance but doesn’t drink anywhere near what a Mustang GT does in fuel. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, power driver-activated child locks, remote window up and down activation, Sync 3 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display and the like them or hate them (I love them) bucket race-style Recaro seats.
Add to that the mechanical benefit of Ford's bespoke AWD system designed and engineered specifically for the LZ MK 3 RS. Also include the 19-inch matte-black Forged wheels and the four-piston Brembo brakes at the front, with the same Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres found on multi-million-dollar Konegseggs, Porches and Bugattis just to name a few.
Considering all that, you have yourself a car that puts so many performance cars to shame, all without breaking the bank. My car cost me $58,000 including the wheel and tyre package, which at the time was the only extra you could option up, and for $2500 a very worthwhile option. The tyres alone without exaggerating at all are $3000 a set, and that is without the forged rims that god only knows how much they cost if they are damaged. That, people, is a true bargain.
The closest competitor in its class would be the Golf R, Audi RS3 or AMG A45, all of which are cracking vehicles in their own right, but none can really compare to how raw and much cheaper to buy the RS Focus is.
The few negatives I have to mention would have to be the lack of driver's seat adjustment due to the Recaro clamshell seats, the lack of rear cross-traffic alert, which I optioned my ST with, and also lane-departure warning and assist plus the blind-spot monitoring system, which were all part of the $2500 Techno Pack option from Ford on the RS.
The good news for all 2018 Focus RS buyers is that the RS Limited now available in Oz gets all those, along with the forged wheels and the Michelin tyres thrown in for $56,990 plus on-road costs, which translates to around $62,000 drive-away if the Ford dealer you go to doesn’t try to sting you for a larger profit margin due to the limited 1500 vehicles Ford is delivering to Oz. And the fact that this will be the final RS Focus you can buy until the next model due around 2020/2021, if the past RS build trends are followed.
Usually 3–4 years after the new model arrives, we see the hot RS come in once the model is due for a change. That in itself is a big disappointment too, as I only have one or two years to enjoy the shape of my RS before a new model comes along and craps over all my car's infotainment features, but that is what the market is all about I guess.
As much as I love my RS, I could never give it a perfect score, because from the above-mentioned shortcomings and also the rattling, cheap, boring and crappy plastics that surround the dashboard and the gear shifter, the Focus RS does lack the interior attention to detail in cars such as the Civic Type R. Which if it were an AWD would compete directly with the RS, and I have to note really does look sick and has an interior far better than the RS.
The other rivals – Golf R, Audi RS3 and AMG A45 – all get interiors befitting their prices. I guess you get what you pay for. Some people are prepared to spend literally $30–$40,000 more for a better interior and some tough-looking exterior carbon and plastic parts, because if it were performance alone in question, I can safely say having driven all those competitors, the RS definitely does not lack it, nor would it be left behind.
My parting words are, if you are interested in buying a Focus RS, do your research. And if you possibly find a Ford dealership with one in stock that will let you test-drive it without asking for a deposit and a signed contract prior to handing you the keys, go and drive one and all the other competitors too. Weigh up the price differences, and if funds permit, weigh up which one you can see yourself living with for a while.