MK2 Focus RS
Barnstorming back road blast shows this generation as the finest Focus RS.
This car is something both special and common. The closest description for its look is someone with a double mullet, dressed in their parent's Sunday best. The origins of the car are humble, most Ford Focus’ of this vintage are five-door variants with 1.6 petrol or diesel engines. They are painted silver and grey, offering up a promise of cheap and 'cheerful' motoring with reasonable chassis dynamics.
Once the Ultimate Green paintwork (Performance Blue or Frozen White rounding out the trio of colour options) and deep bumpers have found their way to the three-door variant a new personality is promised. A black rear wing that you could hang your laundry off and your neighbour's dustbins crafted to make the exhaust tips complete the transformation.
Ford knew what they were doing though. This isn’t a creation by the bloke at the end of your cul-de-sac, Ford's specialist rally department got let loose with some budget and little more directions than making it memorable. There is some serious go in the RS, matched to the exhaust burble, and finely tuned suspension, it's as comfortable high jumping speed bumps as it is tugging you out of a tight switchback corner in some Welsh twisties.
The whole car feels made to a budget, and yet also feels like it was made to a higher budget than its price belies. At least it's sticker price back in 2009, these have barely depreciated, with mid-teens still commanded for high miles with a questionable history. Pristine ones with low miles can easily command their original RRP a decade on.
The torque is thumping and the five-pot soundtrack plays a joyous symphony, this isn’t a lightweight beast, but it can still give any gear acceleration. The only time a compromise on power is felt is at very slow speeds with your foot to the floor, the RS can’t hide its weight like a Nissan GTR. It's also sensitive to gearing, floor the throttle a couple of gears above the one you should be in and you'll have a yawning gap before that wallop of torque turns up to the party. It may not move like lightning but it does rumble like thunder. The off-beat punctuation of sound its signature, rather than a high pitched squeal many four pots share. Years ago I had the fortune of seeing a GTR in my rear mirror and having a short battle for supremacy. The Focus put up a fight and didn't feel like a knife to a gunfight, rather a case of his is bigger than mine, and I was OK with that, I was smiling more.
the RS is from an era that relied on proper mechanical thinking
This is a car that reminds you of what true enjoyment is. It’s an old friend wanting to go down the park and mess about, there will be no winner, just a few laughs and memories. The RS isn’t trying to wow you with thunder, it’s charming you, you couldn’t afford a Porsche or an Audi. No matter, It offered up 9/10ths of the joy at 5/10th of the price. Add to this that with a Lux 2 pack you weren't shy of the modern tech of the day, almost all of which is anathema today. Your phone will clip onto an air vent and do a better job. Extra power in the aftermarket is commonplace. Mountune's 350 horsepower upgrade means limited run RS500 power for a few hundred quid. A genuine RS500 with its matt black vinyl wrap and numbered plaque is over £50,000 today. Since Mountune did the revisions to squeeze out the extra power for Ford they're worth using if you want a bump above standard. There are lots of options to go above 400 horsepower but at this point, the original character of the car begins to get lost in a torque steer battle. Colour is a tough choice, plenty of ST owners have fitted RS spoilers to their cars and so to really stand out as the real deal the Ultimate Green is the only choice, but expect an expensive quote if you ever need a stone chip repaired. A respray for a faded bumper or scratched panel could become a thorough headache before a paint gun is even in sight. The performance blue was a common colour choice on both ST and RS and is the most fitting for those wanting to stick with a true Ford identity. The white gives it a fresh feel and will hide its age better for those wanting to use the car regularly rather than a polished and garaged weekend toy.
Separate to this is the way the car will engage you on any road, the RS is from an era that relied on proper mechanical thinking, the traction will be constantly called into question when a rush of adrenaline finds your right foot and the double knuckles will hold with all their might. If you push too hard expect to be punished, get it right and you'll think all modern hot hatches have gone soft. Oh, how we miss you, MK2 Focus RS.