With the death of the Mitsubishi Evolution, Subaru has been crying out for a new challenger. Has the 2016 Ford Focus RS responded to this call?

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen anything decent with a turbocharger that’s propelled by all four wheels. The Subaru WRXs are impressive, but they’re nothing to write home about these days as their potent combination is seamlessly defined. When was the last time you saw something that made some serious waves? Well, as I was informed by Ford about their latest RS, I didn’t see waves — only a mile-high tsunami.

It seems that the days where rally-bred manufacturers were producing turbocharged sedans are long gone, as they’re now being replaced with the latest hatchbacks to contest the World Rally Championship (WRC). As WRC has been front-wheel–drive biased recently, it’s refreshing to see something in hatchback form come as an all-wheel–drive, tarmac-tearing monster.

The 2016 Ford Focus RS is exactly that. It’s a hatchback that has been bred out of a need for excitement and driving enthusiasm — a need from rally and circuit fans the world over. Previous RS hatchbacks, although potent little numbers, have been front-wheel–drive, which we agree has its benefits with lower production costs and lighter weight, but the performance has been hindered due to these factors. Well, not anymore. Ford have realized that we don’t care about a little bit of extra weight and a slightly higher price tag, because at the end of the day if it’s better, we’ll pay more for their product. Enough with the intro, here’s the good stuff.

According to Ford, the 2016 Focus RS utilizes the same all-aluminium 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine as found in the latest Mustang, but with more than a few tweaks to liven things up. The main change comes from the turbocharger, which has been upgraded to a larger twin-scroll unit and a much larger air-to-air intercooler to keep intake air temperatures in check. There has been a less restrictive intake design and exhaust system to reduce back pressure that could hinder the turbocharged EcoBoost’s performance. The cylinder head has also been upgraded to a higher-grade aluminium that’s capable of handling higher loads and charge temperatures. The block, although aluminium has much stronger cast-iron sleeves which are made to withstand the increase in boost pressure and higher demands of circuit abuse.

To keep engine temps lower again, a much larger radiator has been installed (the biggest ever installed into a Focus), which should see the Focus have little problems during track days. So, just how much power does the Focus now produce? Well, how does 257kW (345hp) at the flywheel sound? To me, that much power in a hatchback sounds incredible, however it isn’t the peak power output that gets me excited, it’s the available torque on offer — try a peak torque of 470Nm, and 440Nm available in between 2000rpm and 4500rpm. That’s one meaty power band, which just goes to show how advanced the twin-scroll turbos are, and how early the Focus will bring on full boost pressure. This torque, plus the latest all-wheel–drive system by Ford, should equate to some fairly rapid acceleration times.

Now for this all-wheel–drive system I was rambling on about earlier. Ford have designed an all new all-wheel–drive system with Dynamic Torque Vectoring, so it’s safe to say traction will no longer be an issue no matter the situation. The Focus RS is also the first RS to ever have selectable drive modes, which is something Subaru has been doing for years, but the Focus RS has a mode that certainly got my attention. ‘Drift Mode’, is something I’m very keen on testing when the model arrives here. It’s said that with this mode selected, the car will be capable of controlled oversteer, just adding to the already fun new package.


The interior is, well, very Ford. I’m not sold on it completely yet, and the air vents appear to be sideways. I do, however, love the fact that this car is available in manual, so a manual gearstick sitting in the centre console is definitely something to get excited about in the cabin.

If they appear down in the land of the long white cloud, I’m excited to get in behind the wheel, and will document the shenanigans should there be any. Do you think this RS has what it takes to challenge the forever-improving Subaru WRX STI range?

For a walk around and an in-cabin tour, check out this video: 

To see it in action frying tyres, check out this video: 

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.