Choose between firm and abusive suspension settings

The long awaited and heavily vaunted Ford Focus RS is now sold in the U.S. There’s also a Stealth Gray Focus RS sitting in my driveway for the week. Yeah, it’s hard resisting the temptation of all-day drives and sideways drifting action as I stare at its aggressive styling through my office window. Not surprisingly, the car is incredibly fun to drive. The torque-rich engine and six-speed manual provide more than enough excitement, even when picking up groceries. But there’s one driving attribute I see as a double-edged sward – the insanely still suspension.

Smooth highways, broken pavement, washboarded asphalt near intersection – there’s no escaping the messages sent rattling through the Focus RS’s cabin down and into my bones. The Focus RS rides like Ford forgot to install springs and shocks. Every imperfection in road translated to the people inside. In reality, Ford paid great attention to the Focus RS’ suspension and the surrounding structure.

Continue reading for more on the 2017 Ford Focus RS.

Rough Rider

The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Exterior High Resolution
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The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Exterior High Resolution
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The average bystander might assume Ford just slapped some aggressive bodywork onto a standard Focus Hatchback when developing the RS. Quite the opposite is true, and that’s not even accounting for the powertrain upgrades.

The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Exterior High Resolution
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The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Exterior High Resolution
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The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Exterior High Resolution
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The Focus RS enjoys a unibody structure that’s been heavily reinforced and is 25 percent more torsional stiff than the standard hatchback.

The Focus RS enjoys a unibody structure that’s been heavily reinforced and is 25 percent more torsional stiff than the standard hatchback. The rear shock towers are substantially more robust, as is the RS-specific rear subframe that houses the RS-specific differential. The subframe has new supports that connect it to the body and beef triangular pieces keep flexing to a bare minimum. Ford then bolts on two-stage shock absorbers and stiffer coil springs to all four corners. The front springs are 33 percent stiffer while the rear coils are 38 percent stiffer – but not those on the standard Focus. No, stiffer than those on the sporty Focus ST! The dampers are driver-selectable between normal and sport settings.

The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Interior High Resolution
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The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Interior High Resolution
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The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Interior High Resolution
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As the name suggests, normal mode is for everyday driving. Still, the Focus RS feels every imperfection in the road. The twitchy ride is the trade-off for spectacular handling. The Focus RS remains flat in corners and feels firmly planted at higher speeds. For maximum grip and firmness, sport mode pushes the stiffness percentage to 40. Sport mode’s engagement (done by a button on the end of the turn signal stalk) creates a very noticeable and immediate difference in ride quality. The car instantly feels as if it’s riding on wooden blocks. Bumps come across like depth charges in a WWII-era submarine. The plastic panels inside the relatively quiet cabin begin rattling, along with any loose objects floating around. Turn the radio off and you can even hear the gasket between the driver’s door and B-pillar squeaking from movement. This isn’t some knock on Ford’s build quality, but a sign of just how tightly sprung sport mode is. But when performance is king, the rough ride is a mere minor inconvenience.

The 2017 Ford Focus RS Rides Like a Horse Cart & I Love It Drivetrain High Resolution
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The 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder and its twin-scroll turbocharger generate 350 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

Powertrain wise, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder and its twin-scroll turbocharger generate 350 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. When the short-lived overboost mode kicks in, torque rises to 350 pound-feet. The sprint to 60 mph only takes 4.5 seconds thanks to launch mode. And despite peak horsepower happening at 6,000 rpm, the EcoBoost lays down gobs of torque throughout the rev range with peak levels arriving at 3,200 rpm. Consequently, downshifts aren’t needed as much. This clutch is on the heavier side, but the shifter feels good. It’s no Mazda Miata six-speed, but the throws are short and shifts are satisfying. The steering gives plenty of feedback without the torque steer you’d expect with 350 pound-feet on tap. Undoubtedly, the AWD system helps mitigate the unwanted twisting. The wheel even dances a bit when braking on uneven surfaces, giving outstanding feedback on what the 235/35R-19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are doing.

The few days I’ve driven the Focus RS have proved immensely thrilling. The stiff ride and intense power are an enthusiast’s dream. Sadly, the Focus RS can be a bit too harsh for some. My wife absolutely hates the car and complains about the heavily bolstered seats, and of course, the ride. Approval from the partner might be the Focus RS’ downfall. It’s easy to fall in love with when behind the wheel and driving hard, but it can be an unpleasant bedfellow during the daily grid.

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