Ford Focus RS as a street racer

Philip Greenspun's Weblog 2017-03-14

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 Cut 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!