BOTB Mini Review – SMMT Test Day Pt1 – Ford Focus RS {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

14 Jun 2016

Every year there’s a rather special event for those in the motoring journalism game, held by SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – imagine the FIA or FIFA for car manufacturers) at Millbrook’s Proving Ground near Bedford, UK. A huge number of manufacturers bring their latest and greatest cars along and we lucky few get around 20 mins in each car on the Hill Route. Imagine your favourite twisting country road, but amplified 500% so there are more hills, twists, turns and cambers to emulate the best and most challenging roads in the UK. Many manufacturers test their cars here prior to release and Autocar do most of their tests there. It means you can drive a car and get an understanding of how it drives in the real world without having to worry about other cars on the road. It’s fast, punishing and frankly enormous fun.

This year I was lucky enough to attend and drive many cars throughout the day – Rolls Royce Wraith (!!!), Audi RS6 Avant, Golf R, Mazda MX-5 and more, but more of those in Pt2 of the post – but the big one for me was the first chance to get behind the wheel of the car of the moment – the Ford Focus RS. Every car magazine, website and car TV show has been raving about the Focus RS since it was released, winning praise from every corner of the globe, so after our safety briefing I headed straight for the Ford stand and got my name down for the RS. About an hour later I got a call to say my slot was coming up and raced over to see the white RS waiting for me looking very cool and very very angry.

The first thing you notice is that in white the RS really stands out. It accentuates the massive black grille and intakes in the bumper, with the looks helped by the optional 19-inch forged black alloys. Now I should point out that we are getting a Focus RS later in the summer for a proper road test, so this is just a brief first impression. But let me tell you – when you first start the RS up you know instantly that it’s going to be fun. There’s a blare of revs that settles into a really fruity burble, while a quick prod of the throttle unleashes an angry bark from those massive twin exhaust pipes.

Bearing in mind that the RS has 345bhp in a normal Focus body you expect it to be fast, but when you mash the pedal into the carpet for the first time the sheer forces acting on your body really surprise. There is a wonderful amount of noise, filling the cabin and invading your ears, while you blast through the gears using the 6-speed manual gearbox. The numbers support this of course – 0-62mph taking 4.7 seconds, 30-70mph in just 5 seconds and a top speed of 165mph – all unthinkable in a hot hatch 10yrs ago. What really gets you though is the torque generated by this 2.3 litre turbo – 347lb/ft which lets you keep it in 3rd on a tight bend and let it pull you through.

Of course the other aspect of the speed you can carry through corners is down to the RS’s four wheel drive system. Missing from the original Focus RS Mk1 and 2 which made do with front wheel drive, this RS gets 4WD finally and it means that you can put all of that power and torque to good use everywhere, all of the time, whatever the weather. It’s staggeringly quick and flatters the driver with the different driving modes available – Sport is the best certainly as Track is far too firm. As for the Drift mode, that wasn’t allowed at Millbrook but I’ll report on that in the full road test…

Are there bad points? Absolutely, two of which stand out for me – firstly the optional Recaro shell seats, while looking and feeling lovely sit far too high in the car, I’d like them at least 2 inches lower. They actually sit higher than the standard seats, so hopefully Ford will sort that out. Secondly is an unfortunate one as it can’t be fixed – the interior. To make a hot hatch with 345bhp and 4WD and sell it for £31,000 you have to make compromises and the biggest one here is that you are sitting in a normal Focus interior, which isn’t the most inspiring place to sit. The design and materials aren’t amazing, but frankly you’re buying the RS for the way it drives so it’s fairly easy to overlook.

As I’ve said, there’ll be a full road test later this summer with some proper photographs (we were very rushed on the day!) so keep an eye out!

In the meantime, here’s my friend Adam from taking the RS around Millbrook, thankfully he brought a GoPro with him so you can all see how awesome the route is: