A Year Behind The Wheel Of Ford’s Hottest Hatch, The Focus RS

Sixteen thousand and thirty-five miles. That’s how many miles I have had the pleasure of putting on a 2016 Ford Focus RS since taking delivery last June. After a year behind the wheel, the first question people keep asking us is, “Do you still feel the same way about this vehicle after one year of daily driving it?”

Given our unique experience as RS owners, it seemed worthy of getting into more detail than would be possible over a cup of Joe at our local Cars & Coffee meet.


Focus RS owners know that if you drive the hot hatch in Sport Mode on a daily basis, this is an all too familiar stop.

Along the way, I’ve tallied three long road trips, six hard launches, a few successful (and less successful) attempts at drift mode, all while performing my “hard” engine break-in and baseline dyno runs.

When I offered my first impression of the RS last year, there was no doubt in my mind that this car was the hot hatch of 2016. We are well into the 2017 calendar year, and I have now put enough miles on the RS to know the car inside and out. Because this is my daily driver, I have truly put an RS to the test.

Along the way, I’ve tallied three long road trips, six hard launches, a few successful (and less successful) attempts at drift mode, all while performing my “hard” engine break-in and baseline dyno runs.

Sounds like fun, right? All of this has allowed me to experience the car exactly as the engineers at Ford Performance had visioned for the hot hatch from the factory. And the crazy part is, the RS, for the most part, is still in stock form!

So what about now, almost one year later? Do I still feel the same way about the RS?

Well, the answer is a resounding Yes — and a No. But first, let me explain…

When I first witnessed the debut of the Ford Focus RS way back in March of 2015 at the Classic Car Club Debut in Manhattan, I knew this Ford Performance vehicle would be my next daily driver. I just had to have it.

Iconic Badge

The reason I wanted one was not because it was the newest, shiniest (or even fastest!) vehicle to make its debut that year. I wanted to be a part of the Ford RS badge legacy, something that was never really an option for those of us living here in North America. That is unless you had deep enough pockets to pay for importing one. Which, of course, I didn’t.

Would the new, US-bound RS be able to live up to its name?

Forty-seven years of performance and innovation? I have been fortunate enough to build and drive several Ford Special Vehicle Team offerings, but that was well before Ford Performance brought the iconic RS badge to these shores. Would the new, US-bound RS be able to live up to its name?

It wasn’t until Ford finally released the hot hatch’s performance numbers that I made the call to my local dealer to secure my place in line. With all-wheel drive, 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, how could I resist? Throw in torque vectoring and a manual transmission, and, oh yeah, it was on! Don’t even get me started about Drift mode – but more on that later…

Lost and Found


The Focus RS looked stunning under those dealerships lights!

When I finally made up my mind and placed an order on the new Focus RS, I knew this was going to be a waiting game. This car was my third new performance vehicle that I have ordered straight from the factory, so I was all too familiar with the long process.

Not getting into too much detail, but if you have never ordered a new model vehicle, the sooner you accept the fact that there might be delays in the delivery process, the better you will sleep at night.

My primary concern was making sure my dealership had an actual vehicle allocation and that the features I wanted were input correctly into the system. I was one of the lucky ones who got my order placed and accepted for a build date rather quickly.

Now for the nightmare. Maybe it was because I had gone through the ordering process before that I didn’t feel the need to keep calling my dealership each week for an update. Or maybe I had relied on the Focus RS forums too heavily to gauge when the first vehicles were going to hit US soil. What I had failed to notice (or be notified by my dealer) was that the fleet manager that had placed my order decided to change dealerships rather abruptly and failed to pass on my information to the new manager.

My Focus RS arrived at the dealership last June. Even though I was tracking the vehicle on the RS forums, I wasn’t expecting the car to arrive for another couple weeks. So, you can imagine my surprise when I received the call from the dealership asking if I still “wanted” my 2016 Ford Focus RS that customers were drooling over as they proceeded to move it to the showroom floor!

I am not going to say that I almost blew a gasket when they tried to explain to me over the phone about the mix-up, but let’s just say that everything worked out in the end. I drove off with my new hot hatch without having to pay the “revised” dealer markup they tried to charge.

First Impression


One of the longer road trips we took the Focus RS on was from San Diego to Chandler, Arizona, to attend the Bondurant SRT Experience.

The first couple months of driving the hot hatch were awesome. The car was everything I had dreamed it would be. Using it as my new daily driver, it was a blast to drive around town. I will admit, I was a little worried about the six-speed manual affecting my daily commute, but it simply was not an issue.

One thing I learned rather quickly is that the RS wants to be driven hard — and it rewards you for driving it in that fashion. When I first picked up the vehicle, I read forum posts where some owners were complaining that the Recaro seats were uncomfortable and the suspension was a little too stiff. Honestly, I think the engineers at Ford did this on purpose. Let’s get one thing straight; the Focus RS is not your grandma’s Focus. It just was designed for speed first and comfort second.

The Focus RS wants you to sit up straight in the custom Recaro seats with both hands at the proper 9 and 3 o’clock position, and drive the tires off this vehicle! Once you accept the fact that the hot hatch wants to be driven like this the real enjoyment begins. The Recaro seats in the RS are the most comfortable when you are driving it like you are at the track.

Day of Reckoning


This was it – baseline dyno day. Would the Ford Ecoboost engine live up to the hype?

I originally didn’t plan on dynoing the stock Focus RS. I already knew the kind of power it was putting out straight from the factory and believed the hype. It wasn’t until my friends over at HG Performance here in SoCal asked me if I wanted to strap her on the chassis dyno that I even considered it.

When I started hearing that the first couple of baseline dyno numbers performed over in Europe were claiming much lower horsepower numbers than advertised, I decided to strap the car down and see if my butt-dyno matched what the 2.3-liter turbo’s claims.

I was also skeptical about the lower than advertised dyno numbers from across the pond. It just didn’t seem right. Since I followed the same hard engine break-in as my previous new vehicles, I was interested to see if the RS would produce horsepower numbers closer to those advertised.

The third pull delivered the top numbers of 298.7 horsepower and 342 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.

The result? We ended up making five dyno pulls, all resulting in pretty consistent numbers. The third pull delivered the top numbers of 298.7 horsepower and 342 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. Those are some pretty impressive numbers from the factory.

If we were doing an engine-only dyno, as they do at the factory, my daily driven Focus RS 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine is putting out a little over 343 horsepower at the crank burning 91-octane fuel! In the end, I was glad I did the baseline dyno, and I was perfectly happy with its stock power output.

RS Road Trip

We had the chance to take the Focus RS on a couple long road trips including a trip to Big Bear Lake to see how the twin-scroll turbo handled the changes in elevation.

Having the car for almost a year, I have had the chance to take the Focus RS on a couple of long road trips to see just how this car handles on the open road. How would the little four-cylinder, twin-scroll turbo perform at elevation? How about in the rain, snow, and, yes, dirt?

I think the only thing this car has not seen yet is a track day. Yet, there is a simple reason for that. You see after the baseline dyno, I decided I was going to drive the hot hatch in its stock form for a full year before I started upgrading its performance. By now, I am probably one of the last 2016 initial owners that are still running without a tune, but I wanted to experience the RS in mostly stock form for the first year of ownership.

It now has a couple of long road trips under its tires, including San Diego, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the SEMA Show and San Diego to Chandler, Arizona, to attend the Bondurant SRT Experience. I even took the hot hatch up in elevation at Big Bear Lake in search of some epic fish tacos.

2016 Ford Focus RS Specs

Model: 2016 Ford Focus RS

Vehicle Type: All-wheel-drive, five-passenger, four-door hatchback

Engine: Twin-Scroll, turbocharged DOHC 16-Valve

inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection 138ci, 2,261cc

Horsepower: 350 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 350 lb-ft at 3,200 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

MPG: 19 city /25 highway

Zero to 60 mph: 4.6

Braking: 70-0 mph: 154 ft

The only performance upgrade I added at this point was an AEM DryFlow air filter before I made my San Diego to Big Bear road trip. I can honestly say I had no issues with the Focus RS on any of these journeys. The long drives in the Recaro seats were not an issue either. After about the first 1,000 miles, they just seemed to break-in, and I haven’t given them much thought since.

As far as maintenance, because it was a new model year vehicle, I opted for the Ford extended warranty, so I have had no out of pocket expenses. I did my initial oil change at 500 miles (the RS had eight miles on it when I picked it up!), and since then I have only performed the required maintenance.

I did hear rumors of RS owners across the pond having issues with fluid leaks, so at my 10,000-mile checkup, I made sure we performed a detailed examination of the car both inside and out and so far everything has checked out. There have been a couple of factory recalls, which can be expected for a new model year car, but nothing that required the RS to spend more than half a day at the dealership.

Is The Wow Factor Still There?

After one year of driving the Focus RS, I am still enjoying the heck out of this vehicle! The Stealth Grey paint scheme with the blue Brembo brakes is stunning, and after a fresh wash, it still puts a smile on my face.

The car still gets a lot of attention around town. Even though the RS has now been out in the U.S. for a year, people still come up to me on a weekly basis to either ask me questions about the hot hatch or to compliment on the color of the car.

Living here in SoCal, I thought by now this car would be easy to spot on the street. But unless you are at an official car meet, finding another RS on the road is still pretty rare.

What Would I Change?


After about 1,000 miles, the Recaro seats just seemed to break-in, and I haven’t had an issue since.

OK, so you remember my Yes and No answer earlier? Here we go. Yes, this vehicle is a blast to drive. And, yes, I am glad I purchased the Ford Performance machine.  The hot hatch is exactly what I was looking for in a daily driver, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

However, after a year of driving the RS it in its stock form, I am sooooo ready for a tune! Now don’t get me wrong, I am happy with stock performance. But that’s just it; I find myself just happy, not thrilled anymore, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

After a year of driving the RS in its stock form, I am sooooo ready for a tune!

This car needs (and is capable) of handling more power. I almost never drive the RS in normal driving mode anymore. As much as it pains me to say this, the car is just not exciting in its normal driving mode. And unless you really purchased this vehicle for its Eco-friendly qualities, that mode should never even been thrown in with the different driving modes.

The auto engine shut-off function when you put the car in neutral has got to go as well. I spend more time each day turning this feature off than on, and it is getting old. I also find myself switching the vehicle into the “secret,” fifth driving mode, (Track mode, suspension set to Street, and traction control on), because this is really the only way to drive the RS.

As far as the RS suspension goes, the car is way too stiff to drive as a daily driver in anything other than its normal setting. I have spent multiple days trying out the different suspension settings and find that as long as you keep it in the standard setting, even when you are in Sport or Track mode, I have had no issues with the ride quality.

I was at my local coffee shop the other day, and someone asked me what my mileage was on the RS, and I couldn’t give him an honest answer. It was at that moment I realized that I have not clicked to check the miles per gallon indicator for at least three months! When we turned the vehicle on to check, it was showing an average 20.7 miles per gallon. For how I drive, that’s not too bad!

Upgrade Plans

Engine 22

Our one year of driving the Focus RS in its stock form is just about complete, and it’s finally time to add some power. Stay tuned!

Because this is still my daily driver, my plan is to wake this vehicle up enough that it brings back that wow factor. I also have a couple of long road trips still scheduled for the RS (to the RS Adrenaline Academy, maybe?), so I want to plan my performance upgrades accordingly.

The one year of enjoying the stock 2016 Ford Focus RS is almost up, and I have an excellent list of upgrades lined up for the hot hatch in the future. The calibration, suspension, exhaust, and vehicle airflow are points of emphasis.

Of course, adding power to the EcoBoost engine is the most anticipated upgrade. With all the big name tuners coming out with quality aftermarket packages for the Ford Focus RS, my one-year-old hot hatch is about to get a couple of killer birthday presents for 2017. Stay tuned!

Photo gallery


About the author

Kelly Getzelman

Kelly is a SoCal car enthusiast and skilled driver. His “get out and drive” obsession began after attending his first high-performance racing school while serving on active duty. Since then, he has attended numerous military and civilian driving schools across the country to help fuel that passion.
Read My Articles

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