Does the Ford Focus RS live up to the hype? We took it to the track to find out

Forty grand. That's how much the Focus RS costs, more or less. Technically the base price is $36,775 and our as-tested price is $42,245. That's more than a 2017 Mustang GT with the Premium package, GT Performance package, and navigation. And that is one reason why, until now, we've never seen the hottest Focus on our shores. Why buy a Focus, even if it has 350 horsepower and all-wheel drive, when you can get a 435-hp Mustang for less? And why even build a Focus that could steal Mustang sales?

We'll jump ahead a bit: We love the Focus RS, and yes we know it's a different car and has a different purpose. Anyway, the logic above is a big part of why the Focus RS was always foreign-market forbidden fruit.

No matter how many WRX and STI Imprezas Subaru sold, performance hatches haven't been a part of the Ford performance strategy since, well, the last time there was a Ford GT in the works. A nice coincidence, but the astral alignment that brings us the Focus RS goes deeper than that. The SVT Raptor proved that halo performance vehicles could be an important profit center, post 2008 financial crisis. That paved the way for the Focus (and Fiesta) ST, which showed that the appetite for hot hatches extends beyond the Volkswagen showroom. But the key to the availability of the current RS goes back to the Ford Contour, the Blue Oval's first global-market car. If the Focus wasn't sold around the world, there wouldn't be enough sales potential to justify the return on investment of making the RS. Oh, and it helps that Ford's American product planners realized that selling any performance car is a good idea, no matter what the nameplate.

TL;DR: It took a lot of small things to make the Focus RS a reality. And now it's finally on sale at your local Ford dealer, which is pretty neat. Like we said, we love this car. Then again, it's easy to love with all that power and a magic torque vectoring differential. As we found out in our day filming the video above at GingerMan Raceway, the Focus RS is not a subtle, delicate car on the track. But it is amazing, especially in the way the all-wheel-drive system makes the car go exactly where you point it.

As we note in the video, yes, the Focus RS is expensive, especially for a Focus. But it's special, and thrilling, and tons fun. We're glad it's part of the modern performance-car renaissance. And if you're lucky enough to be shopping for one, you won't be disappointed.

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