The new (2017 model) Ford Focus RS is the most hyped car I’ve ever seen. All last year, people saw the buzzwords “drift mode” and “350 HP”.
Well, I want to point out a few things.
- You don’t have to have a built-in mode in order to drift in an AWD car. Seriously.
- The Focus RS may make 350 HP at the crank, but a good portion of it isn’t making it to the wheels.
Let’s talk about bullet #2.
If you view the above URL, and look at the quarter-mile stats, you’ll notice that all three cars (the Ford Focus, the Subaru WRX STI, and the VW Golf R) have almost identical times and trap speeds. The Focus has a 45-60 (crank) HP advantage, depending on the car being compared. The trap speed of the Focus RS doesn’t show that advantage at ALL. The Focus ran a 105 MPH trap speed, the STI ran a 104 MPH trap speed, and the Golf R ran a 105 MPH trap.
The car is rather new and hasn’t been compared/reviewed by other magazines (R&T, MT, Automobile). In fact, I’ve only seen two dynos.
Also, I saw someone post that the car has overboost and that it runs overboost at 15 sec intervals and resets after that time frame. It also resets after shifting, so if an RS is running a 1/4th-mile track, overboost will be reset at every shift, meaning overboost timing out isn’t a factor in the 1/4th-mile, yet it still only manages a 105 MPH trap.
Now, each of those three cars are designed for spirited driving, yes, but they are not designed with the quarter-mile in mind. But again, that applies to all three cars.
The bottom line is, the Focus RS is either over-rated from the factory (not an unusual thing for Ford, from what I’ve heard), or something is sapping all that power, because it’s like 50 HP is AWOL. It isn’t a gearing issue (the gearing is hardly aggressive enough to affect a 50 HP advantage). It isn’t a weight issue (the RS weighs just as much as the STI). A dyno chart I’ve seen hints that the RS isn’t peaky and doesn’t make a lot of power up high. Another dyno chart showed 270 peak wheel HP, which is only 20 more than what an STI typically makes. I’d like to see more dyno charts.
Another thing that people are hyping is that the Focus RS is far more upgradeable. I’m not so sure about that. This car is pretty much maxed out from the factory. You might be able to get some minor gains from it but you’re not going to see a giant leap in HP with bolt-ons. The argument against this is that the Mustang Ecoboost has high upgrade potential, so the RS will have the same. No. The RS is using more robust parts already, just to get 40 more HP than the Ecoboost engine in the Mustang. Any car that offers 350 HP from the factory is going to be over-engineered to the point that it’s going to be maxed out from the onset — that’s the case with the CLA45 AMG as well…it saw some gains in it’s latest iteration, but those weren’t all that significant.
Another thing I’ve heard: The Focus will make the STI obsolete. I doubt this. Subaru has always marched by their own drum beat. This isn’t the first time they’ve had competition. Some say that Subaru is stagnant, which is true, but what they have works well enough for them. Not every turbocharged AWD four-cylinder needs to make 350 – 400 HP. We hear the same thing about the BRZ and FR-S, but I think those cars do fine with the 200 HP they have…they aren’t meant to be powerhouse-type cars, and neither is the STI.
The Focus isn’t really bringing anything to the table that Subaru doesn’t already have. While the STI is using the old EJ257, the WRX uses the FA20DIT. The AWD platform in the STI is certainly going to be more robust, though. The Focus RS AWD platform is too “wizardly”. There’s too much hocus-pocus going on with it. It’s a GT-R wannabe. We know it’ll put all power to the left- or right-side wheels and put up to 70% of the power to the rears when needed, but it’s basically a FWD-biased AWD system…not particularly good as it applies to track usage (the CLA45 AMG isn’t a good track car either, but it wasn’t designed with the track in mind…the Focus RS WAS designed with racing in mind). The Focus RS’s AWD system is great for highway fuel economy because it’ll cruise with only the front wheels being powered. That’s cool, but not something that Subaru is interested in. If fuel economy is a major factor for you as an owner, the STI isn’t the best car for you and Subaru isn’t going to change their mind on that. If that’s what you want, look down toward the WRX instead, but the WRX and the Focus RS are hardly competitors, as the Focus RS is going to out-class the WRX in a major way (on the track and on the street). Those that are expecting Subaru to be afraid of the Focus RS don’t understand Subaru at all.
What I’d like to see is the other magazine publishers (R&T, Automobile, and/or MT) doing a comparison similar to what C&D did. One thing that C&D didn’t do that seems very hokey is that they didn’t comment on the HP discrepancy of the Focus RS. It almost appears that they purposely ignored it. Fortunately, it was noticed by the readers and it has been heavily discussed in the comments of the article I mentioned above. I also found another forum (http://www.focusrs.org/) that has a thread of similar concerns, from actual owners of Focus RSs. So yeah, this is a real concern, especially for someone willing to spend between $30K-$40K on such a car. It means the product they bought isn’t as advertised.
Do I want Subaru to improve the STI? Yes, I do. Do I want a FA20DIT-engined STI? NO. Why? I believe that engine won’t do well in an STI. There’s a reason why the USDM and JDM STIs aren’t running the FA20DIT engines, and it’s probably because they want an engine that is just as peaky as the EJ207 and EJ257. The FA20DIT is not that engine. I believe I’ve said this in other posts on this website, too. Subaru’s Nurburgring car was powered by the EJ207. All of their recent JDM special editions have been powered by EJ207 variants. When I see Subaru using the FA20DIT in their STI variants (street and track vehicles), I’ll eat crow. A new version of the Focus RS isn’t going to push Subaru into desperation. I honestly think Subaru doesn’t care.