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Ford Focus RS Trounces Other Hot Hatches - On Paper

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 3/12/2015 Scott Burgess

Upon returning from the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, I found myself with more questions than answers about the Ford Focus RS.

Ford Focus RS Trounces Other Hot Hatches - On Paper

When you see it in person, the car stands out for a multitude of reasons: its elegant exterior, its well-crafted interior, and its promise to out-perform much of the hot hatch competition.

I heard from more than a few Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru WRX STI owners over Twitter who said they couldn't wait to blow all five doors off the Focus RS once it arrives in America early next year.

Obviously, these owners have been breathing too much of their own Axe Body Spray if they really think their cars will have a chance against the Focus RS. They are going to get smoked like that first cigarette after a transcontinental flight.

A head-to-head-to-head-to-head showdown will have to wait until early next year. But the Focus RS, at least on paper, is not merely going to be a formidable competitor. It's going to leave the likes of the VW Golf R, Evo, and STI in the parking lot.

The first reason is power. Ford promises at least 320 horsepower out of the 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. There's certainly less eco and more boost to this particular four-banger, which is fine. Let's all admit that fuel economy is not a top concern when considering any of these cars.

Ford Focus RS© Provided by MotorTrend Ford Focus RS

Looking at the current Mustang with the same 2.3-liter engine, we can see hitting 320 hp won't be much of problem. The Mustang offers 310 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. Even at those numbers, the RS would outmuscle the Golf R's 292 ponies and the STI's 305 horses. At 320 hp, it will have 10 percent more power than the Evo's 291 horses under its hood. Then again, that final power figure could rise even more, creating a bigger gap.

Power, of course, is not everything, unless you make the most. The RS makes the most and also beats the competition in torque, crunching the competition's high mark of 300 lb-ft by at least 20 more lb-ft.

Now, all of that power doesn't do that much good if the car is too heavy or cannot handle it. The proven Focus chassis should cope with the power quite well. Although Ford has not released the weight numbers on the RS, the Focus ST weights 3,215 pounds. Add another 150 pounds to account for the all-wheel-drive system, and you're looking at 3,365 pounds. That's still a touch lighter than the STI's 3,367 pounds and the Golf R's 3,384 pounds. It's 200 pounds lighter than the Evo MR, which tips the scales at 3,571 pounds.

So it's at best a draw for the competition after tipping the scales. However, the Focus RS still offers more power per pound than any thing else in the field.

In testing, the STI managed a 4.6-second 0-60 time, and the Golf R hit 4.5 seconds. The Focus should manage to beat both with around 4.4 seconds and a quarter-mile time less than 13 seconds. Mind you, those are guesses.

The Focus RS also will allow true torque vectoring in the rear axle, something no one else provides, and Ford says the RS will be able to handle more than 1.00 g of lateral acceleration, whereas Motor Trend testing showed the STI and R offered .97 g and .94 g, respectively. Close again, but still inferior numbers.

The one weak link might be the transmission. But even here, Ford has nothing to fear. The RS will only come with a six-speed manual transmission, and that has proven to be just fine. On the ST, the throws are quick and easy. That car's gearing is especially well-done. The lower gears allow you to pull power all the way to redline. It climbs hills just as well as it shoots down them.

2015 Subaru WRX STI vs 2015 Volkswagen Golf R© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Subaru WRX STI vs 2015 Volkswagen Golf R On the more subjective front, I think the RS just looks better than the current STI, Golf R, and Evo. Only the Golf R has as distinguished of an appearance. The Evo and STI lack aesthetic maturity.

All have racing-like cockpits, but the newer Golf R and Focus RS have a much higher level of sophistication than the other two models. Add to the mix that the Focus RS will include the most recent technology and even come with a Drift mode, and you've got a winner again.

Even with so much going for it, the Focus RS still has a lot to prove. The hot hatch market has been dominated by imports. (Technically, the Focus RS will be a European import, as well.) Its true performance remains unknown for the time being, but we'll find out soon enough. I just think it would be foolish to underestimate this RS.

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