The hot-hatch Ford Focus RS, long a staple of European byways but denied to enthusiasts elsewhere on the planet, was finally allowed to grace our North American roads starting in 2016. And what an entrance it's made.
Equipped with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine, the Focus RS produces a beyond-punchy 350 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque to hustle about its 3,434-pound curb weight. Mated with a single transmission-a row-your-own six-speed-and equipped with standard all-wheel drive with dynamic torque vectoring, the Focus RS is engaging, if not demanding, of your attention.
Also, the hoot for hooligans is the four selectable drive modes of Normal, Sport, Track, and the industry-first Drift. Not that Drift mode will make you an instant podium finisher in drifting or rally races, but it's fun nonetheless. And, thankfully, the electronic stability control will kick in before you get into any novitiate nimrod moments. (For the experienced, yes, it can be turned off.)
All this under-the-hood aggression is matched by exterior trimmings such as a large rear spoiler, 19-inch dark alloy wheels, blue-painted brake calipers, RS badging as well as a unique front fascia, grille and fog lamps. And don't forget the Nitrous Blue hue, which is exclusive to the RS model.
The interior, however, is so muted that calling it Spartan could be considered a compliment. There are the usual technology niceties like push-button start, a rearview camera, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, and all sorts of radio options, yet for all the gadgets, the charcoal-only interior can feel a bit cramped leaving us to believe that Ford's focus (heh) was truly on the vehicle's performance.
Starting at $36,120, a fully-optioned Focus RS will easily top the 40-grand mark before destination ($875), taxes, and other fees are added. But that's still within the ballpark of its direct competitors. And when considering the exceptionally high price tag on performance vehicles as a whole, the Focus RS is certainly a value that delivers a premium dose of dynamics.
If the Focus RS isn't your idea of a good time, our team of experts recommends several other performance cars that might be the right answer to the question of what to drive. They're listed below in alphabetical order.
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