Ford is one of the few companies that has a longer motorsport history than BMW. In fact, much of BMW’s motorsport history is owed to Ford, as the Bavarians stole some of Ford’s best people back in the ’70s to found the famous M Division. So when Ford says it’s going to make a serious hot hatch that can rival some of the best sports cars from Germany, everyone better take notice. In comes the Ford Focus RS.
What the Focus RS is, essentially, is a hopped up Focus ST on paper. But in reality, it’s so much more than that. Its 2.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine develops a nice and even 350 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque and sends that power to all four wheels through a proper six-speed manual gearbox as its only option. But it gets even better, as it has some very clever differentials that allow the Focus RS to send power to whichever axle is necessary and can even send up to 100 percent of its power to just one rear wheel if need be. That makes for some particularly good fun and allows an all-wheel drive hot hatch to stick the tail out with ease.
In terms of performance numbers , the Focus RS will do 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 165 (looks like Ford’s willing to push just a bit higher than BMW is). In this video, the Ford Focus RS looks like it’s genuinely tremendous fun. Alex Goy even goes as far as to say that it could be the best hot hatch ever made. It’s flickable, fun, fast and makes a good noise. It’s the stuff is gearheads dream about. It even has a Drift Mode that will allow the rear wheels to get the majority of the power and put it down in such a way that it will help you hold a drift. That’s fantastic, to be able to do easy, safe drifts at sane speeds on the public road. Ford tells you it’s for track use only, but we know that’s really just to keep lawyers happy.
There are some drawbacks, of course. The interior is a bit crap and not much better than a standard Focus’. Aesthetically, it’s fine and looks decent, but the materials are lacking quite badly and its ergonomics are a bit all over the place. I drove a Ford Focus ST awhile back and thought it was a genuinely fun little car, but it’s interior was really bad, had a horrid blind spot thanks to its weird D-pillar and the interior ergonomics were basically a disaster and impossible to learn on the move. However, it was great fun to drive and I enjoyed the car quite a bit. So this Focus RS is probably an absolute riot, despite its somewhat poor cabin.
So can it compete with the BMW M2?
Well, it’s interesting. Both cars have similar power figures, both have similar performance figures and both wear a particularly similar shade of blue. In terms of outright performance, it’s hard to ignore that these two cars are going to face comparisons. The BMW M2 is a bit faster and it probably handles a bit better, but it’s also much more expensive. Whereas the Focus RS is all-wheel drive, compared to the M2’s rear-wheel drive, has much more practicality and costs almost $20,000 less. So it’s better value. Of course the M2 has a nicer interior and is better built, but in cars like this, it’s fun that matters most and the Focus RS just might be able to put out the same amount of fun for less money. More smiles per dollar, if you will.
Now, ask any genuine enthusiast if they’d rather have a rear-wheel drive BMW coupe with a turbo straight-six or a all-wheel drive Ford hatch with a turbo-four and they’d choose the former without hesitation. It’s just the sexier car, the one that tickles the gearhead senses. But when value comes into play, the game starts to change and the odds start to tip in the Ford’s favor. Obviously, if you can afford the M2, get the M2, as it’s going to be the better car. But if money is a serious player in your decision making and getting an M2 is a stretch, it’s almost impossible to pass up the performance and fun value of the Ford Focus RS.