Ford Focus RS as a street racer

I watched a friend who combines Massachusetts driving habits with terrifying speed getting into a Ford Focus. “What happened to your monster Subaru with the crazy wing on the trunk?” It turned out that the humble-looking new car was a Ford Focus RS, a 350-horsepower version of a car that could get around town quite nicely with 80 horsepower.

He has just the regular Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires rather than the Sport Cup 2 (“they’re only good for 5,000-15,000 miles or so, and aren’t as good in the rain. It’s really more intended as a tire to put on for the track/rally, although some people do put them on the road.”).

How does this beast compare to the old Subaru? He says that it is much quieter on the highway and responded to my email:

My old car is a 2005 Subaru Imprezza STi, arguably one of the 2 best years for the car (in 2007 they put in a much less reliable engine). The entire car is stock except for the trailer hitch… It’s been a great car; I’d just continue to use it but it’s hit the hockey stick part of the curve for reliability (it has over 200,000 miles on it). I was also hoping to get better gas mileage from the new car (direct injection vs port injection) but it’s getting exactly the same average: 20 mpg.

If I could buy a brand new 2005 STi today I would. I actually don’t like the new ones as much (especially the engine). If they do an STi with a turbo version of the engine in the BRZ I might be tempted…

I have mixed feelings about the Focus RS as I mentioned the other night. I love the interior features (heated steering wheel & seats, very nice entertainment system, great Recaro seats, and one of the best features, steerable headlights (best headlight system I’ve ever seen). More usable space with the hatchback layout. The interior is much nicer than the Subaru.

Downsides? Lots of torque steer, handling isn’t all that great although there is fantastic grip (which I think is more due to the tires than the chassis), not as much power as I would have expected (in theory 345 vs 305 in the Subaru – yet I feel like the Subaru has more power).

My goal was to have a reliable car until the Tesla Model 3 is available. I do have occasional thoughts of selling the Ford and buying another Subaru, or else of sending the Subaru to a shop, tear it down and build it up as a 500 hp monster.

I found this evaluation interesting partly because it seems that, despite ever more glorious advertisements, there hasn’t been too much progress in the world of car engineering over a 12-year period.

Ford marketing: Build one of these in a minivan version and I’ll come down to the dealership for a test-drive!

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14 Comments

  1. Bill

    March 12, 2017 @ 4:44 pm

    1

    Most of the improvements in car technology over the last 12 years have been safety focused. All cars have added lots of air bags and special crush zones and side impact beams and emergency stopping improvements to dramatically reduce personal injuries in car when they crash. And now the latest round of safety stuff is to avoid wrecks completely by adding radar for automatic object avoidance and auto driving to avoid drivers making mistakes.

    And to offset the weight increases for all this safety stuff and to meet tougher mpg numbers they are adding turbo chargers and high compression smaller lighter engines to cars.

    Your friend wants a high performance street racer car. Those are just not being made nor sold in any quantity. There is just no market. So minimum driving improvements. But I am pretty sure his new Ford Focus RS is a lot safer than his old Subaru even though it does not drive any better.

    But if he wanted a nice SUV with good mpg and lots of creatures comforts and nice to drive he would find the 2017 models are a LOT better and nicer to drive than the 2005 models.

  2. Colin Suttie

    March 12, 2017 @ 6:35 pm

    2

    I beg to differ with the conclusion – my 2014 Audi S3 is a better car in almost every way than my 2001 BMW M3 was – faster, uses about 1/3 less fuel, a lot more comfortable, not to mention the driveaway price was about 1/2 of the BMW’s 13 years later (here in Australia anyway). I think there have been terrific advances in car technology over the last few years, but some old school types (eg car journalists) bemoan the supposed loss of involvement from such things as no longer needing 3 pedals and a stick to change gear in a performance car. The rest of us rejoice in having a car that is easy to drive & comfortable for the freeway commute, but can still tear up the track when given the opportunity.

  3. Colin

    March 12, 2017 @ 10:08 pm

    3

    Turbo? Nope. Those engines work too hard, I want cars that will last. He was lucky with his STi.

    And yes, today’s cars are much better, computers help a lot.

    As for his choice: For the same price I have a top of the line Outback with a normally aspirated 3.6 H6 that will go anywhere I care to go in ANY weather* with much better fuel economy and comfort. I also suspect the AWD system is better than Ford’s system. 0-60 in 6.9s vs 4.6s for the Focus RS and I don’t have to shift.

    *With snow tires it is a beast. Well, unless I get hit by a SUV with all-season tires and a complacent driver.

  4. toucan sam

    March 12, 2017 @ 11:28 pm

    4

    Ha ha ha Phil! You are the only guy I know that would prefer a mini van over a Ferrari! Now if only Ferrari introduced a mini van!

  5. Senorpablo

    March 13, 2017 @ 4:22 am

    5

    Colin – I’ve got 186k on my 2005 Subaru WRX and zero issues with the turbo. I don’t think it’s luck. It’s the most reliable car, by far, that I’ve owned or know of amongst my friends and family. The only non-wear parts that have failed are a radiator hose, power steering pump, radiator, and valve cover gasket.

  6. Tom

    March 13, 2017 @ 5:04 am

    6

    Looks like the “Volkswagen Polo R WRC” has been the reigning rally champion since 2013, but Volkswagen has just withdrawn from the sport. Emissions problems, mayhap?

  7. Tim J

    March 13, 2017 @ 5:44 am

    7

    The next time I buy a car, the number one thing to check in a test drive will be the entertainment systems. How easy is it to use (I hate cars without touchscreens – the 90s are over)? How good is the speech recognition? How well does it support my preferred music apps? How stable is the OS? Does it offer WLAN? Is it upgradable or future proof (Android Auto/Apple Carplay)?

    The drive train is not a big differentiator between cars anymore. They differ in details, some accelerate better, some have a better fuel economy. But I don’t really care about that. However, there are huge differences in entertainment systems. There are worlds between, say, a BMW with that fiddly iDrive and a Ford with Sync 3.

  8. Sam

    March 13, 2017 @ 8:15 am

    8

    “yet I feel like the Subaru has more power”

    It may very well have more power at some or most rims. Peak power is only part of the story.

    Tim J – The best and most future-proof entertainment system in a car relies on your phone instead of the car, so that every time you upgrade your phone, your car is upgraded with it. Dedicated entertainment systems in your car should fall to the wayside like dedicated navigation systems.

  9. Mike

    March 13, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

    9

    I have a 2013 Ford Flex with the 365hp Ecoboost twin turbo engine.

    It is very much like a mini-van in comfort and capacity. It gets up and goes when you put your foot in it.

    The thing is much more fun than I thought it would be.

  10. Colin

    March 13, 2017 @ 3:30 pm

    10

    Mike, Senorpablo,

    My other car, now driven by my daughter, is a 2010 Ford Flex with the Ecoboost. Yes it is
    a fun car, great for long trips.

    Then one of the turbines disintegrated at 60K. The smoke trail was very impressive . . . The dealer was not surprised, but my wallet was shocked.

    Bottom line: I’ve chosen to decrease the number of rapidly moving hot parts. 🙂

  11. Mike

    March 13, 2017 @ 11:42 pm

    11

    Colin,

    I just hope my experience is more like Senorpablo’s than yours!

  12. superMike

    March 14, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

    12

    @colin a ford powertrain warranty doesn’t cover a turbo at 60K?

  13. Tim J

    March 14, 2017 @ 5:06 pm

    13

    Sam – I am not convinced that a phone-based system is ideal as the only option, at least if I intend to keep the car for 10 years. 10 years ago the smartphone market was still ruled by Windows Mobile, Blackberry and Symbian. A car entertainment system designed for any of these systems would be useless today. How can I be sure I am still using Android (or iOS) in 10 years, and that Android Auto / Carplay haven’t been abandoned by then?
    I’d prefer to have a car with Android Auto, but I wouldn’t want one without a acceptable fallback option.

  14. Colin

    March 14, 2017 @ 8:02 pm

    14

    superMike,

    No it was 3/36K bumper to bumper.

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