Will the Ford Focus RS drift? Of course, and you already know this. You can go to YouTube right now and see a dozen videos of the five-door hatch doing just that. I contend that the Focus RS is more than a novice-drifter’s dream. It’s a driver’s car—not some boy-racer-mobile as the “I can see it from space” color and one overly publicized driving function suggests.
It was through some unfortunate timing that I came to this conclusion. Southern California is a hotbed for automotive activity, and for good reason. Our beaches, rolling hills, and mountains provide a perfect backdrop. We have the Pacific Coast Highway for cruising and several canyons for hard carving. To top it all off, our weather is picturesque. Blue sky and seventy-degree days are so plentiful, you feel dumb for checking in with the morning weatherman on TV. It only makes sense that the storm of the decade shows up at my doorstep just as I’ve been handed the keys to possibly the hottest hatchback sold in the United States to date.
Unsure if, or when, the wet stuff falling from the dreary sky would let up long enough for me to enjoy the all 350 poines, I armed myself with some camera gear and headed out to some good Orange County locations with a hope and wish I’d be able to grab a couple good photos and some legitimate driving impressions. The Nitrous Blue Ford Focus RS didn’t let me down.
My morning started out with a cruise down Pacific Coast Highway. Dark skies and ominous clouds over the ocean predicted the weather’s future, letting me know the rain was, indeed, on its way. It wasn’t until I got to the traffic-riddled freeway that I encountered my first bit of light precipitation.
Most people become annoyed with a manual gearbox while sitting in traffic. Having several daily drivers equipped with a manual transmission over a solid 10-year period, I’ve never felt exasperated with the frequent one-two shifts and clutch work. Ford’s six-speed manual isn’t the best, or most smooth, but it isn’t overtly notchy and cumbersome. The clutch has a nice weight to it, however, there were a couple times I found it to have vague engagement.
Through the traffic and on my way to the Modjeska and Silverado canyons, the rain really started to fall. I exited the freeway and the bolstered Recaro seats started to make themselves known. I’m a bigger fella and the side-bolsters were on the snug side. I even found that the hip-bolster, meant to keep your lower extremities from sliding about, were a bit tight—very much keeping my “man-spreading” in check. If I were to own this car, I’m sure the seats would break-in and become more comfortable, but, at this point, there were only 4,000 miles on the odometer and much more svelte journalist had been sitting here.
On some of the rougher side-streets, the suspension was a little unforgiving. You could hear that the constant jarring was causing some rattles in interior trim pieces towards the rear of the car. It’s hard to believe that there is a stiffer suspension setting—toggled on turn signal indicator stalk.
More noise came from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. This is quickly eliminated by throttling the Ford 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine into higher RPM ranges, allowing the intake and exhaust to sing over the road noise. There is a pricier wheel and tire package that includes Pilot Sport Cup 2s, for $1,990, but I feel like they would be better suited for a weekend track stud.
The road, now thoroughly soaked, was starting to serpentine through the Orange County hills. Even with all-wheel drive, I was uncomfortable unleashing all the engine’s 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. That’s not to say the Focus RS isn’t confidence inspiring, however. Even in the wet, the car was sure-footed and effortlessly manageable. I drove fast and hard, accelerating out of corners, breaking late—working the Super Sport tires and the torque vectoring all-wheel drive system. Through the steering wheel and suspension, I could feel the road beneath me, predicting how the car would act over crests and around the curves. I spent 3 hours here, in the hills, rowing the transmission and sawing at the wheel. The Ford Focus RS didn’t care about the weather, this is where it was at home.
My kidneys hurting from steady bolstering pressure, I headed back to the beach to stretch my legs, snap a few more photos, and round my day out. Circling the car, looking for good angles through my lens, I didn’t think I would like the Focus RS as much as I did. I thought the weather would inhibit any real driving impressions, revealing only the harshness of the sport-tuned suspension. Is it fit to be a daily driver? Probably not, but the Ford Focus RS was so much more than a drift mode.