Edmunds 2009 Ford Focus RS First Drive


El Presidente
May 23, 2007
Reaction score
The Focus That Runs With the Evo and WRX STI
By Alistair Weaver

Vehicle Tested:
2009 Ford Focus

First Impressions:
A brilliant car that rivals the Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru WRX STI.

Featured Specs

  • Turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5
  • 301 hp; 325 lb-ft of torque
  • Six-speed manual transmission
  • Front-wheel drive

Sitting beside the Monte Carlo harbor in the light of early morning is the 2009 Ford Focus RS, one of Europe's most eagerly anticipated cars. Yes, there is a place on the planet where Fords are eagerly anticipated, and it's because Rally Sport is a label that means a great deal to people on the far side of the Atlantic. For the first time in six years, Ford of Britain is putting an RS badge on one of its cars, and every detail of the Focus RS has been minutely analyzed by die-hard enthusiasts ever since the car was officially unveiled at the British Motor Show in London last summer.

There is much to discuss. This is a 301-horsepower high-performance car that will take on the Mitsubishi Evolution X and the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, but it will do it with front-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive. At the same time, the RS pushes the Focus into new territory in the market with a price tag of $36,000, well beyond the price point of the present 225-hp Ford Focus ST.

The 2009 Ford Focus RS has a lot to prove.

Why Be Subtle?
A wild Kermit-green hue is the signature color of the 2009 Ford Focus RS, but this car doesn't need a lurid paint scheme to make a unique statement.

There is nothing remotely subtle about the louvered hood, blistered fenders, 19-inch wheels, rally-inspired rear wing and rear aero diffuser. Park an Evo or WRX STI next to the Focus RS and it is the Japanese cars that look plain. No other sport compact shouts its intentions with such volume. Not even the Holden HSV Astra VXR, to which the Saturn Astra is distantly related.

And it's no different inside. Specify a green exterior and you get green accents on the Recaro seats. These chairs are very aggressive — if you've been making it large, you'll find your backside squeezed by the aggressive bolsters. Ahead of you there's a familiar Focus steering wheel (only now with RS logos), some fake carbon-fiber interior trim and a big starter button inscribed with the word "power." So let's give that button a prod.

Making Power
The RS is all about the Volvo-engineered 2,522cc five-cylinder engine found in the Focus ST, but it's been heavily modified. A larger Borg Warner K16 turbo now delivers up to 20.3-psi of boost, exactly double that of the 225-hp ST's engine. A new air-to-air intercooler has been developed as a complement, while the forged crankshaft, silicon-aluminum pistons, graphite-coated cylinder bores, 8.5:1 compression ratio and variable valve timing also up the power output.

Clearly this engine is not a chip job; it's a thorough piece of engineering that generates some impressive figures. The peak output of 301 hp at 6,500 rpm looks good, but it's when you take in the peak torque of 325 pound-feet at 2,300-4,500 rpm that you get a true indication of this engine's character. In contrast, the Mitsubishi Evo makes 291 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, while the Subaru WRX STI gets 305 hp and 290 lb-ft from its 2.5-liter boxer-4.

The Ford inline-5 also sounds better than its rivals. The highly stressed, high-pitched scream of the Japanese cars is supplanted by a note that's much deeper and more melodic. Team RS, the special projects division responsible for Ford's high-performance products in Europe, has developed a "sound symposer" system to relay selected engine frequencies to the cabin (a technology also being used for the 2010 Ford Mustang), while also introducing a spark retard to encourage the exhaust to pop when you lift the throttle after wringing the engine out to its 7,050-rpm redline. It works and adds to the RS's sense of theater.

As a result, the 3,236-pound 2009 Ford Focus RS is startlingly rapid. From a standstill it will hit 60 mph in 2nd gear after 5.9 seconds, and a top speed of 163 mph is within reach. But it's the engine's midrange that's really impressive thanks to the plateau of torque from 2,300-4,500 rpm, as the Focus RS feels massively quicker than the ST.

Magic Front-Wheel Drive
The grip and traction generated by this front-wheel-drive car are nothing short of extraordinary. In our experience, only the limited-production Renault R26R can compete with the Ford in this respect. On dry roads, the grip from the specially engineered 235/35R19 Continental tires is such that the standard stability control system seems almost superfluous.

The key to this performance is the patented "RevoKnuckle" front suspension developed for this Focus. A suspension layout refined on Ford's WRC rally car, it replaces the standard MacPherson struts. RevoKnuckle has two separate pieces for the suspension knuckle — one part fixed to the strut, the other rotating with the steering. As a result, the offset between the steering axis and the center of the wheel is reduced, which in theory also reduces torque steer. When you couple this engineering with the RS's Quaife limited-slip differential, you have a highly sophisticated front-wheel-drive setup.

There can be no denying that this front suspension does a fine job of alleviating the torque steer traditionally associated with powerful front-wheel-drive cars. But it would be wrong to suggest that it has eradicated it. Open the throttle and the steering wheel will still do a merry jig as the suspension tries to cope with all that force. You need to hang on and make corrective inputs, as the Ford RS leaves you in no doubt as to which wheels are being driven.

Never Mind Four-Wheel Drive
For some, this intimation of wildness will be at the heart of the RS's appeal. This car is a challenge to drive fast, but it is genuinely entertaining in a very raw, emotive way. You need to grab this car, dictate to it and master it. The ride is predictably firm, but the damping is good. The brake pedal has a little slack in its action, but the calipers bite hard on the 13.2-inch front discs. And the action of the electrohydraulic steering is pleasantly linear, if slightly lacking in feel.

Perhaps the driving experience offered by the 2009 Ford Focus RS isn't as pure as that delivered by the Evo, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's less fun. And it's much more engaging than the Subaru. Ford also claims (not unreasonably) that the front-wheel-drive RS is more predictable and easier to manage on the limit than an Evo, although the traction afforded by the Mitsubishi's fancy diffs might deliver a higher level of grip.

Less Is More
Jost Capito, who led the development of the Focus RS and is now responsible for all of Ford's performance vehicles worldwide, says that he developed a four-wheel-drive prototype for this car. "The decision not to pursue it had nothing to do with cost," he says. "Four-wheel drive increases the weight, the emissions and the fuel consumption. We were confident we could achieve everything we wanted to with front-wheel drive."

Whether he and his team have succeeded with the 2009 Ford Focus RS depends on your point of view. This car is undeniably defined by which of its wheels are driven. Though the Mitsubishi Evo is technically the better car, the Focus has a sense of theater that its rival cannot match. And this, more than anything else, makes this new Ford worthy of the RS badge.

Full Image Gallery



Well-known member
Super Moderator
Donating Member
May 24, 2007
Reaction score
Very impressive. That would likely be faster than the Mustang


Well-known member
Sep 16, 2004
Reaction score
Hanover Park
I like it, looks like a nice time. The power to weight ratio should make it fun!


3-man rules!!!!
Jul 4, 2007
Reaction score
Lansing, IL
although nice, i wouldn't pay that much for a FUCOS. I'd rather buy the Camaro


Doing the damn thing.
Oct 22, 2007
Reaction score
That looks 10x better then the new Evo and STI. Needs to come to the US.

The Broken Regal

Jun 26, 2007
Reaction score
That looks 10x better then the new Evo and STI. Needs to come to the US.
actually it really looks like an STI and Evo had a 2 door child

but seriously, i think the new WRX/STi wagons are pretty hot looking

this focus is um.... meh, so - so


I'm a middle of the titties voter.
Nov 18, 2007
Reaction score
It still boggles my mind on why we haven't received more euro-cool cars. Can you imagine getting the current european focus instead of what we have now? Or Having the Fusion always being based off the Mondeo?

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.

Top Bottom