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First drive: Focus RS 500

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If the normal Focus RS isn't fast or exclusive enough for you, then the RS 500 might just be what you need...

(Editor's Note: Although the European Focus RS is not available here in the United States, we can still dream.)

Applying the ‘RS 500’ badge to the current Focus RS draws some inevitable comparisons with a ‘fast ford’ legend. The original bearer of that moniker was of course the evolution version of the three-door Sierra Cosworth, a car that while offering only slightly more power in road-going trim, contained the necessary modifications that allowed over 550bhp for racing, and introduced perhaps the most outrageous biplane rear wing ever seen on a road car. Group A touring car domination duly followed.

The new RS 500 doesn’t have these cast iron homologation credentials to fall back on. Instead, it’s a limited edition (500, unsurprisingly) Focus RS, with more power and a unique look, brought to market as the model begins its run-out phase.

The increase in power, from 300bhp to 345bhp, has been achieved through the fitment of a wider air intake pipe, an enlarged exhaust downpipe, a new higher-pressure fuel pump, a larger intercooler and an ecu remap. This has also boosted torque from 325lb ft to 339lb ft, already a RS strong point thanks to its 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine in a class where 2.0-litre four pots are the norm.

Ford claims that the 0-62mph figure drops from 5.9sec to 5.6sec, but as ever with a powerful front-wheel drive car, this doesn’t really describe the extraordinary thrust available from the RS 500. Simply put it flies, pulling even harder than the standard car in the low and mid rev ranges, and then revving out convincingly to the red line. The soundtrack – slightly louder than before and with even more popping on the overrun – is a fabulous mix of five-cylinder thrash and frantic turbo whooshing.

No changes have been made to anything else in the RS’s running gear, but the standard set up copes with the increase in performance admirably: it is endlessly amusing and highly impressive in the way it can find traction, and at the with which you can pilot it from one end of a twisting road to the other.

As for the vinyl wrap, it’s a 3M matte black film applied over a ‘shell sprayed in metallic black, with the wheels painted gloss black to match. You tend to either love it or hate it.

At £35,450, the RS 500 is a pricey £7,555 more than the regular RS, but then that’s largely immaterial as the 101 cars destined for the UK sold out in 4 days. The legend continues. 

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