When Ford announced that the new Focus RS, which goes on sale here next month, would be front wheel drive only,
writes Cathal Doyle, eyebrows were raised. 300 brake horse power through the front wheels, the experts said, was a recipe for disaster. Conventional wisdom has long had it that 200 bhp is about the limit that a front wheel drive chassis can safely handle before torque steer becomes a problem. Torque steer is the phenomenon of different traction forces between the left and right driven wheels leading to a sudden pull on the steering. It had blighted Ford’s previous generation Focus RS – and that had only 212 bhp. Surely 300 bhp in the new RS would be a step too far.
“No”, the sages muttered wisely, “with that much power rear wheel drive or, preferably, four wheel drive is the only way to go”.
Well having driven the new RS over the twisty mountain roads above Nice in the South of France, I can confirm that Ford appears to have rewritten the laws of engineering dynamics. This new fast Ford drives and handles so well that the argument for making it 4WD has become redundant. How it applies its considerable horsepower to the ground is especially impressive, so much so that this writer, long a proponent of rear wheel drive as the drive train of choice, may just have been converted.
Its all down apparently to a limited slip differential and sophisticated front suspension which uses a patented technology Ford calls RevoKnuckle. What this does essentially is to keep both driven wheels flat on the ground as much as possible, thereby allowing the power to be applied in a linear fashion even on rough surfaces.
The other impressive thing about the Focus RS is how well it combines its dual roles of everyday run-around and high performance machine. About town it’s as docile as any regular Focus, and no more difficult to drive. Yet show it an open road and the performance is startling. Combine this with a most aurally pleasing soundtrack from the five cylinder engine and its not hard to see that the new RS will quickly become a very sought after car. A price tag of €43,535 might seem steep for a Focus but its a fraction of the cost of some performance cars that the Ford would lose and find on a country road. This is undoubtedly the best RS yet in the distinguished forty year history of the brand.
Pictured is Eddie Murphy, Chairman & Managing Director Ford of Ireland.