I think by now most people know all about the Focus RS in terms of its data and spec sheet. TL;DR - it's a fast hot hatch.
But for anyone who owns one, it's much, much more than that emotionally and spiritually... good and bad.
Like a lot of kids growing up, I always dreamed of owning a sports car. Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti... all the big names filled my wishlist. When I grew up, got a job and started adulting, I quickly realised that I'd have to adjust my wants to actually line up to my bank balance.
The first car I bought purely with my own money (without family or bank assistance) was in 2010; a Ford Focus XR5. I loved it for its sporty performance, unique style, and general fun factor.
Fast forward to 2017 and when Ford announced they would stop making RS models for the foreseeable future, I knew I had to get one. So I traded in my XR5 (I still miss that car heaps) and bought a shiny new Shadow Black LZ Focus RS.
It wasn't just the FOMO that got me though. Featuring a 6-speed manual, 257kW all wheel drive turbo engine, 19-inch wheels, big Brembo brakes, and an exhaust that burbled and popped, the RS had all the sports car elements I had always wanted as a kid, but in an affordable hot hatch package.
Digging deeper, I found the Focus also had adjustable driving modes, which can alter the throttle and steering response, plus provide adjustable stiffness in the suspension. I was beginning to think this was just a mini Formula 1 car in disguise.
It even has launch control! Sure, it's basically useless in daily driving but if Dom Toretto ever showed up I could at least hold my own for the first 100 metres or so.
The first time you start the car up each day is like that first sip of coffee in the morning - nothing beats it. The rumble of the exhaust on a cold start, the slight whine of the intake sucking in air... aural nirvana. As you pull out of the driveway and slowly take off (light on the throttle to start, but getting heavier as the car warms up), the sound of the turbo spooling up, and the very readily available torque starting to push you into your Recaro sports seats makes the grin on your face get wider and wider.
The stock exhaust isn't the loudest by any means, but it's got enough oomph to let you know there's some serious power under your right foot. You can always drown it out with your 90's pop Spotify playlist hooked up to the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto enabled infotainment system (or just use the excellent SYNC 3 system from Ford), or turn up the surprisingly efficient (but nowhere near Toyota quality) air conditioning to mask the road noise. It’s not that loud but it's definitely noticeable, and an acceptable price to pay for the low-profile semi-slick Michelins wrapped around 19-inch forged wheels.
Combined with the AWD system however, the tyres grip like glue to the road. Added to that, the steering is just light enough that you can dive into turns without it being twitchy, and the 4-pot 350mm front brakes (and 308mm rears) will stop you on point each and every time, just like a race car disguised as a hatchback should.
Whilst we’re on the subject of a race car, yes there are compromises - the ride is firm if you’re used to high-riding SUVs like most of Australia; legroom isn’t great in the back; and boot space is compromised by the AWD system underneath (you don’t even get a spare tyre, just an inflation kit). That said, I have fit a 21-inch wide cylinder mower into the back with the seats down, and have done countless Bunnings trips to pick up big bags of garden supplies. Also, it’s best to ignore all the plastic buttons and faux leather interior trim that feels like a budget micro rental car.
The fuel economy is… challenging to say the least. I doubt anyone who drives it as a daily (especially in town) would get it under 10 litres per 100 kilometres. Oh, and the stock lug nuts are horrible things - just ask anyone who has had the misfortune of an over enthusiastic mechanic playing fast and loose with their impact wrench on the chrome ‘wrapped’ lug nuts.
Ultimately though, all those compromises are so easily forgotten each time you take the car for a spirited drive through some twisting hill roads with the windows down and the breeze flowing through the cabin. Speaking of which, now that I’ve finished writing this it’s time to go for another spin.