2017 Ford Focus RS new car reviews

The American market has been asking for the Focus RS for years. Now we finally have it, and it doesn't disappoint. How can you not like 350 all-wheel horsepower and an option for "drift mode?" The price isn't even that gaudy, considering how hard Ford fans lobbied for the RS to come stateside. It starts at $35,900. Sure that's an expensive Focus, but does the performance make up for that premium?

Our test car came in a dark shade of gray and was optioned out with navigation and heated seats, steering wheel and mirrors.

Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

I want to love the Focus RS soooooo much. I want to. I REALLY want to.

But I don't. It just doesn't fit me. And that makes me sad. For whatever reason, the seat is downright uncomfortable for me. My legs can't comfortably reach the pedals unless the wheel is uncomfortably close, and the firmness and support seems to be in all the wrong places. I also can't get in or out of the thing without uncomfortably pinching my boy parts against the bolsters (not that there's any comfortable way to pinch them).

Of course, I fully admit, someone with a different body type may adapt perfectly to the car, and to you folks I say I'm envious, because so many other things about the car are rock solid. Performance on pavement is good. Not great, but good. It's still a little heavy and a little tall to be a truly edgy corner carver, but it does well with what it has.

On loose surfaces, though, its magic. Whatever witchcraft Ford has done with the diffs and their controlling software and hardware totally justifies any blood sacrifice they had to make. It may be the most forgiving, easiest-to-drive partner on dirt I've ever driven.

I just wish I liked sitting in it.

Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Associate Editor

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS. Need I say more? It’s the best car ever. It’s got turbo noises! It’s got drift mode! I’d compare it to a half-scale Nissan GTR, complete with the tendency to just move when you mash the gas, even if you’re mid-corner and doing everything wrong. On the street, I flat out could not break traction with it, the Focus RS’s limits are just that high. It’s the ultimate boost buggy, and I loved it. Plus: The interior was nice! Sure, it should be for $40k, but I was blown away by the quality of everything in, you know, a Focus.

Would I buy this over a similarly-priced BMW M235i? Absolutely. I’m a boy-racer at heart, and this thing has more wings. It blends the practicality of a Focus, the speed of an STi and the personality of an E30 M3. What’s not to like?

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I heard the hype and read the reviews. Finally, some time to sample the all-conquering Focus RS.

First impression? It’s way more of a car than I anticipated. Let me back up. The Mitsubishi Evos were really fast, fun cars, but at the end of the day they still felt like tarted-up, low-buck econoboxes—kinda cheap materials that would make your non-enthusiast friends wonder why you spent so much on a little car with a wing.

The Focus RS actually feels way more grown-up in terms of interior fit and finish—which, let’s admit, is where you spend most of your time. It felt closer to a 3 Series than something you’d associate with the Focus nameplate. The seats, the shifter, the wheel and the materials all felt rich.

Is it rich enough to warrant a $40,000 selling price? That is the big question. Yes, it’s fast—really fast—although it doesn’t make you pay a big penalty. Considering all that performance, the ride around town is pretty decent. And the clutch isn’t an on-off switch. And you can modulate the throttle. So it’s a great daily that’s also really fast.

In the eyes of most people, though, it's like the Evo in that it's still a bit of a tarted-up econobox. If you don’t care about that, enjoy all-wheel drive, and have the scratch, this could be the one.

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fidelity101
fidelity101 SuperDork
6/6/17 9:55 a.m.

The ride around town is pretty decent? You're headquarters is not in Detroit clearly...

also the palm trees are a give away :)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/6/17 9:59 a.m.
fidelity101 wrote: The ride around town is pretty decent? You're headquarters is not in Detroit clearly... also the palm trees are a give away :)

Hey, we have railroad crossings here! I'd put the ride on par with my M3--maybe even better. I really expected the Focus to be much worse.

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
6/6/17 10:07 a.m.

Like JG, I wanted to love it too. Unlike David ... I did think it was just a tarted up econobox. Unlike Tom... I'd take the 235i over it any day but I do actually think the RS looks better than the BMW.

In the end, I like that it exists and I like the idea of it a whole lot more than I like the actual car. I ended up spending almost the same money on a japanese pickup so what do I know.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce MegaDork
6/6/17 10:11 a.m.

We saw that in your parking a lot a couple of weeks ago and were wondering when we'd hear about it.

fidelity101
fidelity101 SuperDork
6/6/17 10:12 a.m.
David S. Wallens wrote:
fidelity101 wrote: The ride around town is pretty decent? You're headquarters is not in Detroit clearly... also the palm trees are a give away :)

Hey, we have railroad crossings here! I'd put the ride on par with my M3--maybe even better. I really expected the Focus to be much worse.

This vehicle isn't a dearborn design so you know its not their fault for the ride harshness, the dang perfect German roads and their European counterparts in Koln did this...

jstein77
jstein77 UltraDork
6/6/17 10:22 a.m.
Huckleberry wrote: Like JG, I wanted to love it too. Unlike David ... I did think it was just a tarted up econobox. Unlike Tom... I'd take the 235i over it any day but I do actually think the RS looks better than the BMW. In the end, I like that it exists and I like the idea of it a whole lot more than I like the actual car. I ended up spending almost the same money on a japanese pickup so what do I know.

You're joking, right? Never knew a tarted up econobox that does 4 wheel drifts. The handling is other-worldly in autocrosses.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/nKZ31NeKuyg

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
6/6/17 10:27 a.m.

In reply to jstein77:

I meant the interior. I call bullE36 M3 on the 3 series comparison.

The RS, like the Evo, has a tarted up econobox body, interior and materials. The comparison was spot on to me. It does 4 wheel drifts. So did the STi and Evo.

So does the VW, but that has totally sweet interior to go with.

You liked it, you bought it... awesome. I liked it, sat in it and walked away. Different strokes.

EDIT: And for what it's worth... you can 4-wheel drift anything if you corner fast enough. There usually isn't a button for it though, that I'll grant.

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
6/6/17 10:34 a.m.
Ed Higginbotham wrote: In reply to Huckleberry: I agree the Focus looks the part. I thought it felt more well put together than other Focuses (Foci?).

I loooove the way it looks. In all honesty - if it had the same level of interior as the BMW or VW for that money I'd probably have bought it. Or, if it was $5k cheaper. I spend too much time on the inside of a car to buy one I don't like the inside of and at that price point I couldn't even talk myself into it.

Every time I see one in the wild though - I smile.

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Associate Editor
6/6/17 10:34 a.m.

I think there is also something to be said for the quality of interiors found in cars like the Focus these days. They don't feel nearly as cheap as they used to. The RS may have a similar interior to the ST or base, but I don't know if that makes it bad or cheap. I'm a fan.

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Associate Editor
6/6/17 10:39 a.m.
Huckleberry wrote: I spend too much time on the inside of a car to buy one I don't like the inside of

That's a solid point. Everyone has their own tastes and viewpoints.

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
6/6/17 10:44 a.m.
Ed Higginbotham wrote: I think there is also something to be said for the quality of interiors found in cars like the Focus these days. They don't feel nearly as cheap as they used to. The RS may have a similar interior to the ST or base, but I don't know if that makes it bad or cheap. I'm a fan.

When I was shopping I was looking at a Golf R that could be driven... and an RS that was roped off with no test drives. I LOVED the Golf R but I do not love VAG in any way. I wanted to love the Ford but by comparison after driving the Golf R - sitting in the RS was a massive step in the wrong direction. They were also not selling RSs at MSRP at that time so... no dice.

Maybe someday I'll take another look. I haven't been in one since November of '16. It could be my jaundiced memory by comparison to the Golf making it worse than it really is.

fidelity101
fidelity101 SuperDork
6/7/17 4:28 a.m.

I am really sad that they won't make this model for a few more years, they are really making the RS special instead of an EVO or STI - not to say that they aren't special but by volume sake there are considerably more of them out there which means more get to be raced instead of garage ownership. However I don't think anyone is buying a focus and thinking "this will make me money one day as a good investment..."

all in all this ruins my 10 year plan to own a higher mileage one in fair condition or slightly damaged cheap so I can run it as a proper stage rally car for super production that isnt a subaru or evo.

Jerry
Jerry UltraDork
6/7/17 10:31 a.m.
fidelity101 wrote: I am really sad that they won't make this model for a few more years, they are really making the RS special instead of an EVO or STI -

Hm. I wanted to see how the drivetrain and suspension holds up after a few years of abuse, then decide. Either I won't get my chance, or maybe I'll get lucky and find a current one with 36K for fun.

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
6/7/17 12:10 p.m.

In reply to fidelity101:

Once Subaru finally does a proper overhaul of the STi, Tim will likely part ways with his prepped RS for roughly what sticker was. That'll be your ticket, bargain for a few weeks of school to be tossed in.

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