2017 Ford Focus RS

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2017 Ford Focus RS

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Just when it seemed as though "pocket rockets" — small, powerful, comparatively inexpensive cars with a lot of power — couldn't get any better, here comes the 2017 Ford Focus RS. Though it resembles the standard Ford Focus on which it's based, the Focus RS is a serious performance car, the automotive personification of a wolf in sheep's clothing.

It isn't as though the Focus line didn't already have a performance model. The Focus ST, with 252 horsepower, has already won our acclaim as a fast, fun car with practical appeal. But the Focus RS is a different animal, much more dedicated to performance, to some extent at the expense of practicality.

The Focus RS sports 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that's been turbocharged to put out a muscle-car-worthy 350 horsepower. To make sure all of that power can be put to use and kept under control, Ford has fitted the Focus RS with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that makes use of electrically controlled differentials. All that means the Focus RS goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. To counteract the blistering acceleration, stopping duty is down to high-performance brakes that resist fade even after prolonged abuse. Adjustable suspension dampers and fat Michelin tires make sure the car stays planted.

Fortunately, buyers don't have to sacrifice practicality or modern amenities for the sake of performance. Inside, the Focus RS comes standard with Ford's Sync 3 system — a marked improvement over Ford's older Sync systems — which allows for features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, GPS, voice commands and other conveniences. There's a powerful 10-speaker sound system and racing-style seats with a lot of side bolstering. There are also the inherent Focus features such as a roomy hidden compartment beneath the floor of the trunk and a rear seat that can both accommodate adults and fold flat to make space for larger cargo.

That said, the Focus RS is not without drawbacks. It isn't cheap, for one. And this is a complex, moderately high-strung car that can be rough-riding on all but the smoothest roads. The only transmission offered is a six-speed manual; if you want an automatic, you'll have to look elsewhere. But the appeal of the Focus RS is undeniable. If you want the best in hot-hatch performance, let Edmunds help you find just the 2017 Ford Focus RS that you're looking for.