This really shouldn't work: front wheel drive, a turbo charger and 301bhp don't sound like easy bedfellows at all. And yet, here we are scorching up the side of Mont Ventoux in the South of France at a pace that could seriously embarass your average junior league supercar.
It's been a long time coming, the Focus RS, but It’s definitely been worth the wait. The bloodline for excellence is clearly there - from the Escort RS Cosworth, to the previous Focus, Ford clearly knows a thing about making fast hatches. And this one definitely lives up to expectation.
Let's get the issue of FWD out of the way first, though. Back in 1980, Audi proclaimed that it introduced its quattro drivertrain as any more than 170bhp through the front wheels simply wasn't on. And because of that, there's been plenty of informed observers who'll tell you that a fast car needs to be rear- or four-wheel driven. Technology and development has surmounted this - trust us on this - and althhogh Ford's claims that its patented RevoKnuckle system eradicates torquesteer, on the twisting switchbacks of Southern France, the wheel writhes in your hand right on cue. And we're glad.
To help put the power down, the chassis has been beefed up by 30 per cent over the ST, there are thicker driveshafts, much wider wheels, tyres and track - along with a lower ride height and more direct steering. The engine - a development of the existing 2.5-litre used in the ST - has been optimised for smooth power and torque delivery.
On the road, this adds up tp a great deal of fun. Floor it from rest, and the RS takes off with little drama, hits 60mph in 5.9sec and 100mph in 14sec. Top speed is 163mph. To put that in Octane context, it's similarly fast as the original Porsche 911 Turbo. As for handling, grip and poise on the way up Mont Ventoux - this is no ruffian, but there is more than enough communication and slither to mean that you'll always know you're going quickly. Oversteer and understeer aren't a factor here - this is all point and squirt - and that means the RS is rather a lot of fun. It's also fast fast enough to continually raise eyebrows. From under 2000rpm, it will pull with real vigour in any gear - even sixth - and even before the turbo's had chance to fully spool up, the torquey power unit is doing its best to push you back into your racing seat.
As for the sound - imagine a more refined quattro warble overlayed with the chirrup from the dump valve on upchanges, and a fruity pop and crackle from the exhaust on the overrun, and it's hard not to be seduced.
Criticisms? In the context of what's good, the below-average gearchange quality and ho-hum interior probably grate the most. And it's hardly discreet or cool to look at. But if that's what you want, you probably already have a Golf GTI in the garage...
Would we have one? Definitely. If you have a supercar in the garage already, here's a car you can use on the daily commute without any histrionics at all. But give it a sniff of the open road, its power, poise and pace will seriously impress. In short, it works beautifully...