I recently spent the day with a $40,000 Ford Focus. Allow me to repeat that for effect. There are people out there — normal people like you and me — who have $40,000 burning a hole in their pockets. And they take their $40,000 and skip right over BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Infiniti, Lexus and Acura. Instead, they spend it all on a Ford hatchback with a 4-cylinder engine.
You might be wondering: Are these people insane?
I was wondering the very same thing when I drove up to Scarsdale, New York, last week in order to spend the day with a $40,000 Focus graciously loaned to me by a reader and viewer named Serg. When I arrived, I was a bit worried that Serg would try to chop off my elbows with gardening shears. After all, he was crazy enough to spend $40,000 on a Focus. See the 2016 Ford Focus models for sale near you
Of course, the Focus I’m talking about isn’t just a standard Focus. It’s the new 2016 Ford Focus RS, and it distinguishes itself from the normal Focus by having 350 horsepower, which is three times as much power as a base-level Focus. Imagine if all cars had a version with three times as much power as the base model. There would be an 885-hp Lexus RX.
And that isn’t the only way the Focus RS distinguishes itself from the regular model. Where the normal Focus has front-wheel drive, the Focus RS has all-wheel drive. Where the normal Focus has regular suspension, the Focus RS has adjustable sport suspension and various drive modes, including a Drift mode. Where the normal Focus has typical, standard, regular-car brakes, the Focus RS has Brembos. Where the normal Focus has dull, uninteresting seats, the Focus RS has grippy Recaros that hug you like the aunt you invite to Thanksgiving out of obligation.
In other words, the Focus RS is no normal Focus. But is it worth $40,000?
When you look at the Focus RS on paper, you start to see why it’s so valuable. But when you catch a glimpse of it in person, you get an even better idea: This thing has big wheels, big brakes, an aggressive front end, a huge rear spoiler and a rear diffuser with giant dual exhausts. Nobody will ever see this thing and ask you if it belongs to your teenager or if you’re driving a service loaner for the day. They will see it and ask you for car advice.
Then, you climb inside and turn it on, and you quickly get an even better idea of why it costs $40,000.
It starts with the steering and handling. From the moment you drive off, you can tell that the steering is incredibly direct and precise, more so than in many modern sports cars. Yes, the steering is a bit light, like many contemporary cars, but it’s not at all numb. The Focus RS seems to go wherever you tell it, whenever you tell it to go there, regardless of the speed you’re traveling, with as little drama as possible. In my video on the Focus RS, I believe I say it handles like nine tenths of a sports car. Really, it’s more like 9-and-a-half tenths.
More impressive is the Focus RS’s acceleration — which is no surprise, because you aren’t going to get a slow car out of 350 hp and all-wheel drive. Ford says it does 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds, but the best part of the Focus RS isn’t its power from a stop. It’s the fact that you can mash the throttle down at 50 mph and still take off like an amusement-park thrill ride. This is not a sensation I’m used to having in a Focus. The sensation I’m used to having in one is cursing when I’ve accidentally pulled up to the wrong side of the pump because I have to return it with a full tank, and I’m late for my flight.
And then there’s the Focus RS’s practicality. It actually seats five people. It actually has a hatchback with a fairly sizable cargo area. It actually has all-wheel drive. Throw some winter tires on, and I bet you could take this thing skiing, with all your friends. And the most thrilling part won’t be when you’re strapping on your skis, getting on the chair lift for your first run or sailing down the mountain with the wind whipping around you. The most thrilling part will be the drive to the ski area.
So the Focus RS sounds like the perfect all-around car. It’s fast in a straight line. It’s fun around corners. It can carry people and stuff. "Forget $40,000," you’re thinking. "This thing is worth $50,000! Or $60,000! Even $80,000!" Perhaps you are now prepared to get in a bidding war for the next available Focus RS allocation. Except…
There are a few drawbacks. One is the ride, which is absolutely punishing in anything other than Comfort mode. I’m not sure exactly why the car rides like this, but I believe it’s because the designers wanted to simulate 19th-century rail travel. The other drawback is the noise: Ford pipes in some engine noise when you’re in Sport mode, but it’s not like you’re ever going to mistake this thing for a V8 or even a V6. This is a 4-cylinder, plain and simple, and it sounds like one in spite of the piped engine noise and the exhausts in back that could swallow a full-grown anteater.
But these are small demerits for a car that’s mostly full of virtues, so I’m happy to confirm that I think the Ford Focus RS is easily worth $40,000. I’m glad they made it, I’m glad it’s good, and I’m glad it seems to be popular. Now, if we could only get Lexus moving on that 885-hp RX. Find a 2016 Ford Focus for sale
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