2016 Ford Focus RS Long-Term Test - May the FoRS Be With You, Always

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

Surprise! It’s a Ford hatchback!

As many of you correctly guessed yesterday, the new long-term tester (and this one’s gonna be loooooooong) is a 2016 Focus RS in Nitrous Blue. And, man, is this thing glorious.

The decision to get a FoRS was surprisingly difficult. As we discussed yesterday, I had a long list of requirements for my Fiesta ST replacement. It needed to be family friendly, track capable, and eminently streetable. The Fiesta ST was one of those things. I needed its successor to be all of them.

And to be completely honest with you, I wasn’t in love with the Focus RS when I drove it.

If you’ve had the latest issue of Road & Track delivered to your front door, you’ll notice that my name is in the Focus RS review as the autocross ringer. (I ended up being dirty on my fastest runs and losing to big bro.) That car was a complete handful on that day — the tires and brakes were essentially entirely used up at the track the day before. In fact, here’s what I put on Instagram after doing five runs in the FoRS:

barkm302st Today’s office. Here’s a sneak preview: I don’t want to buy one anymore. performance focusrs

I had been incredibly dissatisfied by the Focus RS’s lack of stopping and turning ability. My last three runs were essentially useless exercises, punctuated by center-punching cones with the Ford logo. The combination of track time and autocross runs (Danger Girl had done five runs before either Jack or I drove, so there were 15 total runs on the brakes and tires that day) were just too much for the Michelins and Brembos to handle. In a national autocross situation, we would’ve had no issues running on Bridgestone RE-71Rs and Hawk Blues. I’m not used to autocrossing cars prepped to less than the limit of the rules, and my frustration was palpable.

Of course, all of that was before Jack and I took the FoRS into Nashville for dinner at (where else) Ruth’s Chris. Given the opportunity to cool down in the parking lot of the hotel for a bit, the FoRS became incredibly rewarding to drive on the street.

The Recaros, no longer the torture devices from the FoST but rather leather-trimmed versions of the buckets found in the Boss 302, were supportive and comfortable for long drives. The 10-speaker Sony audio system provided suitable backing tracks for Jack and me to rap all the lyrics from N.W.A.’s masterwork, Efil4zaggin, much to the chagrin/amusement of our dining companions.

So this was all good stuff — but it wasn’t enough to convince me the Focus RS was the car for me.

No, the clincher was when I had the opportunity to hoon around in the Focus’ main competitor: the Golf R. When I went to review the Golf Alltrack for a friendly competing blog last month, the second day of the event was a full-line drive. I wasn’t interested in driving anything other than the GTI and the Golf R, and the nice people at VW were happy to oblige.

The Golf R is fast, no doubt. It’s so fast that I brought both the DSG and the manual cars back from my 30-minute drives with smoking brakes and a whiff of depleted ozone. But it’s boring. It looks like the same Volkswagen Golf that sorority girls beg for as graduation gifts. It’s sensible for street driving, yes — but it’s too sensible for my tastes. The color choices make it seem like the Golf R is doing more to hide its performance orientation than display it.

Driving the R made me realize checking off all the boxes, which the Golf clearly does, isn’t enough for me. Any car that I’m going to spend that much money on needs not only to inspire intellectually but emotionally. It needs to make me turn around and look at it every time I get out of the car. It needs to stand out.

The Focus RS doesn’t just stand out — it thumbs its rather large nose at the world. I considered Space Gray, but there’s really only one color to get on the RS. Nitrous Blue would cost $5,000 or more on any Porsche or Audi. It takes a relatively benign looking hatchback and causes every head to turn. It’s impossible to overstate its brilliance. I must assume Ford is losing money on each one it sells in that color.

But it’s not only the color that excites. FoRS is more like an actual race car than any other south of $60,000. The popping, burbling exhaust is more authentic than anything you’ll find on a Subaru. And while the Golf R does its best to look like a regular old Golf — boy, does Ford want you to know this is an RS. My son and I counted at least 15 places where Ford placed its special letters, everywhere from the wheels to the spoiler to the airbox.

All that paint and speed and RS logo stuff? It’s not cheap. Here’s my car’s sticker — a stomach-turning $43,140 including destination. I refused to pay one dime more than sticker for an RS, and dealers across the country are still bold enough to ask for $5,000-10,000 in additional dealer markup (ADM). Luckily, I was able to find a dealer nearby that was getting ready to order its allocation of 2017 RSes, and it still had a Nitrous Blue 2016 on the showroom floor. Two phone calls later, and I was on my way to the dealer to pick it up.

Leasing the Focus RS isn’t an option — not a reasonable one, anyway. Ford Credit doesn’t offer a lease on the RS. I would have paid more per month to lease it through a third-party bank than I would have to buy it over 60 months — and that’s assuming I was willing to put down $2,500 to lease it versus zero down on a buy. So, despite my preference to lease, I decided to buy it.

My assumption, however, based on the insane ADM many people paid for the right to have an RS, is depreciation should be fairly low. If I decide I want to sell it in 24 months, I don’t think I’ll have a problem doing so.

But why would I want to? When I go back to my consideration set — under $50,000, fast on the track, comfortable on the street, increased creature comforts — there isn’t much else that fits the bill. Many of you mentioned the Chevrolet SS, and that’s a valid option, too. That being said, I owned a Pontiac G8 GT for three years, and I don’t miss it. I’ve loved the Fiesta for the last 18 months. As I thought about what I would replace it with, I realized what I really wanted was another Fiesta ST, just bigger and faster.

The FoRS isn’t that. It’s not as playful as the Fiesta. It doesn’t kick its tail out with ease like the Fiesta. It’s more blunt instrument than scalpel. The FiST was named Zippy by the kiddos, but something that light and whimsical doesn’t match the brute force of the Focus.

Force, you say? FoRS, maybe? Ah, yes. That makes it simple. My friends, allow me to introduce you to the newest member of my family: Obi-Wan. I think Obi-Wan’s light saber was pretty much Nitrous Blue, don’t you?

May the FoRS be with us — always, or at least for 60 months. Stick around for the journey, and we’ll learn more about this beast together.

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • Jnoble Jnoble on Oct 14, 2016

    Last summer when I was at the local dealer working on the trade in for my new '16 Focus ST (with the Recaro partial leather seats and 10 speaker Sony system and sunroof...all options I shouldve gotten the first time around with my '13) I was talking with my salesguy about the RS. There was a blue one in the showroom with a sticker price of $37K + $options + $10K "market adjustment" = $50K. Salesguy said that the additional 10K was forced on them by the greedy suits at corporate and they had no leeway in waiving it. Wonder if that was true or varied from dealership to dealership since what some said here differed. I asked him "so if someone walks in and says they'll pay the MSRP but not the extra 10, they'll let him walk out?" and he said yeah, pretty much because it's such a low production car.

  • Kinsha Kinsha on Oct 14, 2016

    These will depriciate like a rock. Who the hell would want to buy a wrung out one used.

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