Ask Jack: A Real Pain In the RS?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Did you watch HBO’s new David Simon show, The Deuce? It takes a while to get started, kind of like Season 2 of The Wire, also a Simon creation, but it eventually acquires some real momentum. Anyway, if you ever get around to seeing it, you will hear that the opening theme is a carefully edited version of Curtis Mayfield’s “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go.”

One of the best sections of that song goes something like this:

Everybody praying

And everybody saying

But when come time to do

Everybody’s laying

Just talking ’bout, “Don’t worry”

As you’ll see below, however, when it comes to using performance automobiles for improbable-bordering-on-impossible family tasks, sometimes people do more than just lay around…

Ryan asks,

I currently drive a Focus RS that I’ve had over the past year. I live in Wisconsin and drive it throughout the year. I love it for the driving experience and love having the manual transmission. What I’m not thrilled about is the interior room. I have three children, ages six, four, and two, and all three car seats fit but it is tight (two boosters and one infant seat). My family also has a full-size truck and minivan for other duties, family trips, etc. The RS is my daily driver, but I drop the kids off every day and pick them up most.

Do I suck up the inconvenience of the RS or look for something else? If so, what something else?? One possibility is a 2015 Grand Cherokee SRT with something like 9,000 miles that’s coming in to my local car dealership, which I’m interested in. I would get the room with the Jeep, but would I regret the lower fun factor?

You’re one child ahead of my brother Bark, who puts his seven-year-old and nine-year-old into the back of his Focus RS. Like you, he has a more conventional family vehicle (a Flex) that sees some kid-hauling duty, but he uses the RS more often than not when he’s the parent behind the wheel. I can only imagine what a tight squeeze it is to get three small children in that back seat. It’s bad enough for two.

Nevertheless, it’s working right now, so my initial advice is that you live with it as long as you can — which, in my opinion, could be another three or four years. As a thoroughly paranoid father, however, I have to wonder about the wisdom of putting a four-year-old in a booster seat, to say nothing of a six-year-old. My son is nearly nine years old and he is the second-tallest child in a class of kids who are all older than he is, but I put him in a full-size conventional child seat more than half the time. The rest of the time, he’s in a Britax booster that verges on child-seat size and weight.

He was four and a half years old when he and I were involved in a real humdinger of a car crash in January of 2014. I’m not certain a booster seat would have given him the protection he needed from the flying glass and debris. Nor would I have wanted him to be attached to a seatbelt mount that was bent and twisted from the force of the impact.

Alright. Enough holier-than-thou claptrap outta me. The question is: Can you preserve the driving enjoyment of a Focus RS in a package that works better for three children? That’s a tougher question. Having put some hard miles on a Focus RS, I can’t easily think of a larger car that maintains the driver involvement level of Ford’s hottest hatch — particularly on anything that looks like a $40,000 budget. A Grand Cherokee SRT ain’t gonna do it. That’s a great vehicle but it offers nothing like the tactile feedback and pleasure of an RS.

The fact of the matter is that a slightly wider rear bench won’t make much difference. What you really need is a third row, and once you get involved with third-row vehicles you’re not going to do any better than something relatively tepid like a Mazda CX-9. Maybe a Tahoe RST or Durango SRT, if you want to spend money like a Bitcoin billionaire.

The best vehicle I can recommend is a used Ford Flex Ecoboost. It’s fast, it’s kinda fun to drive, and it handles three children without difficulty while also posting best-in-class crash results. Otherwise, keep the Focus as long as you can — but don’t be too hard on yourself when you need to sell it. And also, don’t worry: if there’s a three-row hell below, pretty much all parents of respectably-sized families are gonna go.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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4 of 104 comments
  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Jan 21, 2018

    I'd look into a full size sedan.Reasonably priced used Infinity m56 with sport package,genesis sedan with v8,or with if you're feisty lwb XJ6,s class.I remember a EuropeanCar mag project car on S600 with Renntech mods.The journalist used our old MB shop here in KC for install. I had a great experience with my G37 6mt sedan but its backseat is too small for 3 car seats.mid 20s will get you a low mile m56.sedans have taken a resale beating w the SUV craze so its a buyers market.

  • Cbrworm Cbrworm on Jan 22, 2018

    Used E63 Wagon or possibly CTS-V wagon? I'm in a similar situation w/ a fun car and an SUV w/ kids in child seats. When I'm driving the kids around I am usually in the SUV. The idea of a big Mercedes Wagon or CTS-V wagon crosses my mind frequently.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.