USA members take delivery
Mk3 Focus RS Club member GearzRS takes delivery of his new 2016 Ford Focus RS in Southern California, and he gives us a first-hand account of his break-in secrets, and what it’s like to drive the 165-mph hot hatch.
Ok, quick disclaimer before I get started. I originally wrote this article for Art of Gears, and was asked to share my review with the Mk3 Focus RS club. As a new happy RS owner over here in Southern California, I thought I would share my story with you from across the pond. Enjoy!
My brand new, Stealth Grey 2016 Ford Focus RS arrived this week, and I am having a blast breaking her in! I had originally not planned on doing a review until I was done with my break-in period. Because of all the requests and questions from fans about the new hot hatch, and the fact that my vehicle was one of the first to be delivered in California, I decided to do a sort of “first impression’s” review. Even though I plan on putting the car through its paces, keep in mind that this car is my personal daily driver and may not be subject to the same review as a test vehicle.
I have not even had the car for a full week yet, (I just went over 300 miles), and I can tell you that this car rocks! The car really IS that good. And this is coming from someone with a muscle car background. As a car enthusiast/driver, I have been lucky enough to drive a lot of different cars in my lifetime, and I have always preferred the big bad muscle cars. From Mustang’s, to Camaro’s, to even the Challenger SRT, I love the big V-8 N/A Engines. I’ll be the first to admit that I lived by the quote, “There is no replacement for displacement” for a long time.
In fact, I don’t think I have ever even owned a 4-cylinder car! But when I started doing my research last year for a new daily driver, I decided to start thinking outside the box. And boy, am I happy I did! There is just something about this RS that just FEELS right. Ford Performance has really created the perfect balance of fun, practicality, and power in this hot hatch. So let’s take a closer look at what I have been doing with the car since I took delivery this week.
My Focus RS Engine Break-In
Ever since 2009, when the new Chevy Camaro made its debut, I have followed a very specific “Hard Break-In” ritual with all my cars engines. Back then, when doing a little research, I found a write up from an engine builder at Reher Morrison Racing titled “The BEST Break-In for a New Car”. It went over the importance of LOADING your engine as soon as you take delivery. After reading the whole article, I was hooked. I am now a true believer of running my car’s engine hard for the first 500 miles in order to achieve proper ring seal for maximum performance. And No, I am not talking about abusing the engine, dropping the clutch at 4000 rpm, or bouncing off the redline repeatedly! I am talking about making 5-10 hard acceleration runs daily for the first 500 miles to load the engine. It is also important not to engine brake (aka down-shifting to a lower gear at speed) during the break-in period. Once I am up to the desired speed during the hard acceleration runs, I shift it into 6th gear to release the load and get back down to a drivable speed. You need to find a nice straight road or a long on-ramp/off-ramp to do this.
I will admit, when I first drove the RS off the lot, I could definitely tell the power difference between the RS and my 5.0! But after following my break-in procedure, the car really opened up at about the 100 – 150 mile mark. In fact, the RS is a whole different beast now! The car just continues to pull through the power band, and I haven’t noticed any turbo lag. I am simply blown away by the power that this car is putting out. It really feels like a much bigger engine. My break-in period looks something similar to this:
- Car should be fully warmed up (about 10 minutes) before starting your hard runs.
- 0-500 miles: Rolling start (5-10 mph) then Full Throttle going through the gears, shifting just below redline. I then shift into neutral or keep it in 6th gear in order to release the load and let the vehicle coast to a normal driving speed.
- I Never, Ever, downshift (aka engine-break) during the break-in period for the first 500 miles!
- I do about 5-10 hard runs a day and let it car cool down for a couple hours. Since this car is my daily driver, after the runs, I just drive it normally so I can get back to the rest of my day.
- 500-750 miles: I do the vehicles first oil change.
- 750-beyond: Break-in complete. Enjoy the car!
This specific break-in may not be for everyone, and I don’t recommend going against whatever your manufactured recommended break-in is. This is just something I follow on my vehicles. It is also performed on a wide open, straight road, in an area with no traffic! Safety first, right!
So let’s take a quick look at the RS 2.3L EcoBoost engine, and my thoughts so far.
Ford Focus RS Engine and Performance
Don’t be fooled by the lack of cylinders on the RS engine. This 2.3L turbocharged engine is built by Ford Performance and means business! (Photo GearzRS)
Open up the hood, and you will find the 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a nice shiny plaque that reads Ford Performance. The engine was designed off of the new Eco-Boost Mustang and features a lighter and larger twin-scroll, single turbo with a massive intercooler. Ford Performance actually made the intercooler too efficient, and my car came with the intercooler shield on the left side to prevent any condensation buildup. The RS puts out 350hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, and hits 0-62 mph in just 4.7 seconds. Did I mention top speed is 165 mph?
The RS only comes with a six speed manual transmission which I actually prefer. A lot of performance cars are switching over to the dual-clutch paddle shifter system which is nice, but for the RS, the manual gearbox is just too much fun to drive. I am also surprised by how “usable” 6th gear is. Ford Performance nailed the RS gear ratio for this vehicle. Maybe it’s the turbo that contributes to the RS achieving usable power throughout all the gears. I know on previous cars I have owned, the only time I would shift into 6th gear would be after driving home from eating a California Burrito at the local taco shop. Can you say “Puppy Belly!”
Now for a couple things I don’t like. The RS has an engine shutoff that kicks in whenever you are at a stop or shift into neutral. I know this is to save gas but it bugs me! The car turns back on once you engage the clutch, but the way the engine comes back to life almost feels like you are going to stall the vehicle! It’s hard to explain. There is a manual override button (bottom “A” button pictured above), but there is no way to keep it off all the time without having to press the button every time you drive the vehicle. I wish Ford would have come up with a custom option page in the driver settings so you customize your driving preferences.
I am also not a fan of the way Ford Performance setup shifting into reverse. For some reason it just feels akward to me, and I find myself second guessing if it is in gear, even with the rear view camera indicator turning on when done properly. I am looking forward to seeing if MGW has any plans on releasing a short-throw shifter for the RS. The one they released for the 5.0 Mustang is just about perfect.
I haven’t had much time to mess with the drive modes yet, but I can say that once the car is warmed up, I find myself immediately switching to full Sport mode with Traction control set to Sport as well. This really tightens up the vehicle and opens up the responsiveness. Since I haven’t done any major downshifting or engine braking yet, I can’t give you an accurate review of the pops and burbles of the exhaust yet. Yes I can hear it, and yes it sounds awesome, but I can’t wait to really get the full feel and sound in the next couple weeks. And for you fans of the new “drift mode”, you are just going to have to wait a little bit longer. I can assure you Art of Gears has something in the works to showcase this feature. Waiting on an extra set of tires for this one…
Ford Focus RS Exterior Design
The car’s design is sleek and stylish, but it’s also a sleeper. Unless you are a fan of the RS or the ST, it could very easily be mistaken for an “average” Focus. So far, it’s really when the vehicle is at a stop light that it gets the most attention. The amount of double takes or questions I get about “what kind of car is that” is pretty funny. As car enthusiast’s, we are a different breed from the average daily driver, and can spot a car that we either like, or have not seen before from a quarter mile away! “There is nothing extra on the car, no extra grille openings, scoops, flaps, psedo aero devices, everything is functional,” said Tyrone Johnson, engineering manager for both the Ford Performance RS and ST. I personally like that about the RS. One thing that does stand out is the RS massive rear wing.
In fact, because of the specific design of the rear wing, it is one of the few cars that offers true “zero” lift to both the front and rear axles.
My car came with the upgraded 19” forged black wheels and Michelin Super Sport Summer Tires. This was a smart upgrade in opinion because they are lighter weight, have an aggressive look, and once I upgrade to something aftermarket, I plan on using these as my weekend “track day” setup. The color combination of Stealth Grey with the blue accents is stunning. The huge Brembo brakes are top notch, and adds to the eye candy appeal. In my opinion, the cars suspensions sits a little too high, and even though it is my daily driver, I will be looking at lowering the vehicle a bit.
There are no major changes to the interior from the ST. I think this is one area where some of the other hot hatches have the RS beat, but it looks fine to me.
I have the partial leather Recaro bucket seats and they hug you in all the right places. My Recaro seats are only manually adjustable, but seem to fit my frame nicely. Once I found the right spot, I have not had to change positions on the fly. The rear seats have a good amount of leg room for passengers.
The 10 speaker Sony speaker system works like a charm and so far I haven’t had a problem with Sync 3 pairing up with my IPhone 6. Since I ordered the RS1 package, my car did not come with the NAV system (I usually use my phone anyways) but Sync 3 does allow you to use your phone apps, and it does give you turn by turn voice Navigation through the cars speakers. I also did not get the sunroof.
As far as trunk space, I was able to fit 4 subway party subs and my big tool kit with ease. Eat fresh!
When I first started searching for a new daily driver, I had a couple important factors that I wanted to consider. First, I was looking for a fun car that I could drive to and from work with. Second, I wanted a car that whenever I got off work early (say on a Friday), I could jump in for a quick weekend run through the hills of SoCal, or for a nice drive up PCH in search of that perfect fish taco. And last but not least, I wanted a vehicle that did not require too much prep time to jump on the occasional Speed Ventures Track Day. Well, I found it. The RS is so much fun to drive and makes for the perfect all around vehicle. From the different drive modes, to the way the all-wheel drive system hugs the tight turns, I am very happy with my decision.