2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Ford adds a Quaife LSD, new wheels and sticky Cup tyres, Recaro shell seats and an eye-melting blue colour scheme inside and out… there are only 500 available.
2018 Ford Focus RS Limited Edition
Price $56,990+ORC Warranty three-years 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol (Euro 5) Power 257kW at 6000rpm Torque 440Nm from 1600-5700rpm Transmission six-speed manual Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4390mm (L) 1823mm (W) 1480mm (H) 2648mm (WB) Boot Space 260L Spare temporary mobility kit Fuel Tank 52L Thirst 8.1L/100km (combined – 95RON)
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THE FORD FOCUS RS is the 30th vehicle to wear the RS (or Rallye Sport) badge and I’ll bet you can’t name them all… tick, tock. Noteworthy models include the 16-valve 1970 Escort RS1600, turbocharged Sierra RS Cosworth of 1985, and four-wheel-drive 1992 Escort RS Cosworth. This one is most like the latter.
What is the Focus RS?
The Focus RS arrived Down Under in November 2016 and boasted a bunch of first, including all-wheel drive. The previous-generation Focus RS had been front-drive only and needed a clever front end to deal with torque steer and get the thing to turn corners… which it did, and very well too.
But this current Focus RS is even smarter. The engine, a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, is mostly the same as the engine in the Mustang EcoBoost only the engine in the RS was handed to Cosworth to have a fiddle with. The suspension is much stiffer than Focus ST, there’s all-wheel drive and a clever diff (it’s not really a diff) at the rear to shuffle torque from side to side. And, in our RS Limited Edition there’s a gear-based Quaife LSD on the front axle for “improved” turn-in and grip.
There’s a bunch of other bits and pieces that have been added to the RS for this Limited Edition but they’re essentially the parts from the Ford-approved Montune kit. Only 500 of these limited-edition models are available in Australia and the list price is $56,990+ORC. This is a price jump of almost $7K on the standard Focus RS.
The Focus RS Limited Edition adds the following benefits above the Focus RS:
- Quaife limited-slip front differential;
- Performance Wheel Pack including 19-inch forged alloy wheels with 235/35R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres;
- Active City Stop (Autonomous Emergency Braking);
- Recaro shell seats with exclusive Nitrous Blue leather application;
- Nitrous prestige paint;
- Rear hatch-mounted spoiler, mirror caps and roof finished in Absolute Black; and
- Privacy glass.
While there are a range of competitors you could cross-shop this thing with, and if I try and list them all, I’ll surely miss one out… but the most obvious ones are the WRX STi (often forgotten about these days) which starts its pricing run at $50,890+ORC, The Golf R at $52,990+ORC, and the Honda Civic Type R at $50,990+ORC. Then there are more expensive options, like Audi RS3 and so on.
What’s the interior like?
The interior feels much the same as any other Focus, sure there’s a bespoke flat-bottomed wheel with blue stiching and an RS start-up screen on the infotainment but the bulk of the stuff you look is the same as any other Focus, and that’s either a good or bad thing, depending on what you think the Focus RS should be. It’s not in the same ballpark as ‘premium’ performance hatches from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, etc but it’s on-par with the likes of the Honda Civic Type R but doesn’t feel quite as nice inside as the WRX STi which was tweaked recently.
But, for me, the interior is fine (I’m getting too old for a shouty cabin; totally fine with it being shouty on the outside, though) and even with the Recaro shell seats in this RS Limited Edition it’s still a practical cabin with room for four or five (in a pinch) people. Beyond the fancy seats which despite the wild bolsters are more figure supporting than figure-hugging which is good unless you’re pushing a little harder than normal and then the wide seat back can see the slimmer-boned amongst us move about a bit. The grippy suede-like seat covering does a better than average job of gripping you, though.
Some have complained that the seat doesn’t sit low enough to the floor to get that proper rally-esque driving position, but I think that’s bollocks. I’m six-foot tall and I reckon the seat sits more than low enough to make you feel connected to the car’s doings without making it feel like you’re running to the shops in a race car.
The dash layout is fine, although some of the plastics do look very cheap, especially around the tiny-looking infotainment screen (despite the fact it’s a respectable 8.0-inches) which is made to look even smaller because it’s deep inset into the dashboard. And the same dials from the Focus ST sit up on top of the dash indicating boost and more.
The infotainment system is Sync3 which is a much better and faster system than Sync2. It also includes Apple and Android connectivity which is great for a troglodyte like me. There are Sony speakers which only sound okay, and that’s despite there being 10 speakers. Vision out of the Focus RS is good and the reversing camera offers dynamic lines.
Climb into the back seat and there’s a surprising amount of room. I’ve been ferrying both my kids around this week in the Focus and they’ve got plenty of room, even with my daughter sitting in her booster seat. For me, there’s room too. I jumped in behind the driver’s seat which was set to suit me and head a good couple of inches of knee and leg room and there was plenty of foot wriggle room under the front seat; there’s good head and shoulder room and the deepish side windows allow good vision out for back seat passengers.
The boot isn’t quite as big as a regular Focus and that’s to do with the fact the rear axle is so different in this thing. The standard boot space, with the rear seats up, is 260 litres, down from 316 litres in a standard Focus and well down on the 340-plus litres in a Golf R.
What’s it like to drive?
For this limited-edition variant, the engine has been left alone, probably because it was already mental enough as it was. As mentioned, it’s a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine which has been breathed on by Cosworth to thump out 257kW at 6000rpm and 440Nm of torque from 1600-5000rpm and the ability to overboost for 15 seconds to 470Nm of torque. This is mated to a six-speed manual transmission (when many others are moving to dual-clutch type systems) and gets its grunt to the road via permanent all-wheel drive which also includes torque vectoring, allowing for a shuffling of grunt front to rear but also side to side. And then there’s the addition of the Quaife LSD at the front for an even grippier turn in than the regular RS… well, when you’re absolutely hammering it, that is.
The clever thing about the Quaife LSD is that because it’s gear-based its action is smoother than a normal clutch-style set-up, pulling power (but constantly adjusting this power pull) from the wheel that’s losing grip.
There are four drive modes to choose from, Normal, Sport, Track and Drift; the first two modes are intended for the road while the other two are best left for the track, so, for most Australian buyers, they’re buttons that’ll remain unpressed. These modes tweak everything from steering weight, throttle response, engine and exhaust settings (Sport is louder than Normal), the adjustable dampers (Sport stiffens them slightly) and the stability control (loosened in varying degrees depending on the mode). There’s also a Launch Mode, but that’s a ridiculous inclusion in any car.
Large sections of the regular Practical Motoring road loop were undergoing road works this week but, luckily there are a bunch of very excellent roads all within cooee of one another. And they’re all just as good for pulling apart a chassis as our regular loop. Unfortunately, testing the Focus RS Limited Edition is a lot harder than you might imagine and that’s because it’s so darn competent at the speed limit; to really plumb its limits you’d need a race track.
The engine is an interesting one, see, being turbocharged you’d expect it to be a little laggy only it isn’t. Unlike the engine in the WRX STI or the Civic Type R which need a few thousand revs to really start running, the Focus RS is out of the blocks and feeling urgent pretty much from the get-go. But then, having 440Nm of torque on tap from 1600rpm will do that to a car. And it’s happy to rev too, again, when peak power and torque are arriving 6000rpm and 5000rpm, respectively you’ve got a pretty decent rev range to play with… redline doesn’t arrive until 6500rpm.
And then there’s the exhaust note which is very pleasing to the ear. Thumb the starter button and the Focus RS barks into life before settling down to a low growl at around town speeds… largely because you’re short sifting everywhere and resting on the near flat torque curve. Get it hard-charging out of town, however, and the engine note hardens with plenty of pop and crackle as you shift gears.
Speaking of the gearbox, there’ll be some who’ll be wishing the Focus RS was available with some sort of dual-clutch transmission for faster launches and shifts, but I’m glad Ford went with the manual. And that’s because it’s perfectly matched to the well-weighted clutch (Toyota go and spend some time in the Focus RS; then you’ll understand how to match a manual transmission to a clutch for the 86). The gearbox is a joy with its stubby shifter offering nice mechanical throws.
The engine and transmission are pearlers, but what about the steering, ride and handling? Well, that’s easy, the steering too is a joy with the perfect amount of on-centre feel with consistent weight, speed and feel right through the action… in a vehicle with this much grunt and this much grip, you want steering that can keep up without feeling overly heavy. And Ford’s got the tune spot on.
Some have complained the Focus RS is too stiff legged for everyday use and those people are wrong. In a week of testing, I’ve taken the RS to the shops, on the highway, the schoolrun and out into the countryside across some truly horrible roads; and I mean the sort of pock-marked roads that would have other hot hatches bucking and bouncing into the scenery.
Sure, the Recaro shell seats in the Focus RS feel very firm in the back and bum, but the way the car blends comfort with sporting intent is truly impressive. Mid-corner bumps, and bumps in general, are dealt with, almost without notice. There’s no bumping the car off line, there’s no whiffle through the steering wheel, just a locked-onto-the-chosen-line-focus that encourages confidence like few other cars I’ve driven.
Unless you’re on a race track or a complete numpty behind the wheel, I think it would be virtually impossible to get the back-end to step out or the front-end to push on – and I hustled this thing pretty darn hard on newly surfaced section of road that was had only been down about a week and was still shedding some of its surface. Indeed, the Focus RS has grip and cornering composure that’s way above the limits of the law or the average driver’s skill. I used to think the WRX STI was the ultimate tool for making the ordinary driver feel extraordinary, now I’d suggest it’s the Focus RS. There’s a fluidity to the way it goes about its business the likes of the Focus RS and the front-drive Civic Type R can’t match.
What about safety features?
The Focus RS Limited Edition gets the same five-star ANCAP rating as the regular Focus. In addition, there are airbags for the driver and passenger and curtain airbags reaching into the second row, there’s all-wheel drive, traction and stability controls, auto high-beam, emergency assistance via Sync3 (if your phone is connected), rear parking sensors and reversing camera with dynamic lines, remote central locking, tyre pressure monitoring and ISOFIX for the two outboard seats in the back. Unlike the regular RS, this RS Limited Edition adds autonomous emergency braking.
So, what do we think?
That’s obvious, I loved the thing. The Focus RS is happy schlepping around town, although it doesn’t come to life until you give it some leash on a twisting section of road. Then, the harder you lean on it the more it gives and the more special it feels. And that’s probably the one weak point of the car, and others like it, that the opportunities to give it some room to move don’t come very often, but when they do, oh my, there are few vehicles on the planet that can get close to its corner carving capability.