2017 Ford Focus RS Review
Edmunds expert review
There are people who are perfectly happy buying a hatchback that is little more than an appliance to get them from point A to point B. Although this is fine, it's also not you. You want yours to be much more than that. You want it put a giant smile on your face every time you see it in your garage and startle nearby children when you hit the ignition. Enter the 2017 Ford Focus RS.
The Focus RS is an ultra-high-performance version of the standard Focus hatchback. At first glance, it looks similar to the already hopped-up Ford Focus ST, a car with 252 horsepower and solid hot-hatch credentials of its own. But the RS hits the afterburners with a 350-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine (nearly 200 hp more than a base Focus), a sophisticated, torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, upgraded brakes, adjustable suspension dampers and exclusive, supersticky Michelin tires.
Ford doesn't limit the RS to being a stripped-out racer, either. It comes with Sync 3 system as standard, which allows for features including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a host of other modern tech, a 10-speaker sound system, and keyless ignition and entry, all as standard. You also get the Focus' inherent cargo-carrying versatility.
The RS has a few drawbacks, but nothing that's of the deal-breaker variety. Rather, a RS purchase might come down to your priorities. If you want something that's a bit nicer and more comfortable, the Volkswagen Golf R (or related Audi S3 sedan) is the way to go, though it isn't as powerful or track-focused. Alternately, the Subaru WRX STI has all-wheel drive and the performance to back up its iconic name, but its modern amenities and comfort fall behind compared to the Focus. And don't forget the RS' little brother, the Focus ST, which is less powerful and front-wheel-drive, but it's still very enjoyable and will save you nearly a third of the cost.
If you're interested in the Focus RS, though, we give it a big thumbs-up.
The 2017 Ford Focus RS comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. The Sync 3 system includes an emergency crash-notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cellphone. Also standard are integrated blind-spot mirrors, a rearview camera and Ford's MyKey system, which can be used to set electronic driving parameters (think teenage kids or valets).
What's new for 2017
Trim levels & features
The 2017 Ford Focus RS is a performance-oriented version of the Focus four-door hatchback. It is available in one trim level with a few items of optional equipment.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, performance brakes, adjustable suspension settings, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, foglights, integrated blind-spot mirrors, remote entry and push-button start, a rearview camera, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, partial leather upholstery, front Recaro sport seats (with driver height adjustment), a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 10-speaker Sony sound system with HD and satellite radio, two USB ports and the Sync 3 infotainment system (including an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).
The RS2 package adds heated exterior mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a navigation system, heated front seats, a six-way power driver seat (with two-way power lumbar) and leather upholstery with simulated suede inserts. The Winter Tire & Wheel package provides winter tires mounted to RS-specific 18-inch wheels.
Standalone options include track-focused Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2 tires, 19-inch forged alloy wheels and a sunroof.
The 2017 Ford Focus RS is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive, hill-start assist and an automatic stop-start system (to help save fuel at stoplights) are standard.
EPA-estimated fuel economy wasn't available at publishing time, but last year's Focus RS posted a rating of 22 mpg in combined driving (19 city/25 highway).
With its strong emphasis on performance, the 2017 Ford Focus RS isn't for everybody. But for the few who are willing to sacrifice some comfort and refinement for thrills, this is the new "it" car.
Hit the gas and the turbo-four makes enough power to get that "gut-punch" feel on launch, and a booming engine sound immediately reverberates throughout the cabin. Back off the gas, and a few raucous pops and crackles emanate from the exhaust. To anyone with aspirations of being a racer, this is pure joy.
On public roads, you feel every flaw in the pavement, including painted crosswalk lines. Over concrete seams on a highway, the repeated jolts make you feel as if you're in a paint shaker at Home Depot. For fledgling rally racers, this is just a necessary evil to achieve such entertaining handling characteristics.
It's ridiculously rewarding to drive the Focus RS on a winding mountain pass, and it's ready to run in a track day with no modifications. The brakes are up to the task of continual abuse.
When cornering, the taut suspension gives the driver a very good sense of what the car can do, and it executes with precision and confidence. The same can be said of the steering, which relays the right amount of feedback to the driver, giving a clear indication of how much grip there is from the front tires.
By contrast, selecting Drift mode makes the car feel unsettled and unpredictable. It may help less talented drivers show off, but we consider it an unnecessary novelty. Selecting the Normal drive mode softens the suspension and dulls the engine response a bit to make it somewhat more livable. Somewhat. For drivers who crave the kind of performance the Focus RS delivers, it's worth every penny and shock to their spine. We get it, and we love it.
The 2017 Ford Focus RS shares most of its interior with the Focus ST. The cabin is well put together, with the proper controls within reach and soft surfaces for your elbows to rest on, but it doesn't feel as classy as the price tag might suggest. Rivals such as the Golf R and S3 look and feel significantly more upscale.
As with the ST, the Focus RS has heavily bolstered Recaro bucket seats that offer considerable lateral restraint in hard cornering. Bigger drivers will definitely want to have an extended test drive in these seats if they can, as the bolsters can become uncomfortable depending on body type. The rear seat has enough headroom for tall adults, but legroom is a bit limited, a common occurrence in this class. Most of the RS' competitors have more legroom, but only by an inch or two. With 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, the Focus RS falls behind the Golf R (22.8 cubes) but has much more than the sedan-only WRX STI (12 cubes).
For infotainment purposes, the RS has Ford's Sync 3 system, which uses an 8-inch touchscreen in the center console. The screen is designed to operate like a smartphone with gestures such as swiping or pinching to zoom. The menu structure is simple and the layout, with its white background and bottom row of buttons, will be recognizable to those who use Apple iOS devices. Anyone who remembers the Focus' previous MyFord Touch system will be happy to know that this newer software is much quicker to respond and much easier to use.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.