From the moment the Recaros embrace your hindquarters, you know this isn’t just any Focus

Mustang Week is an event we look forward to every year. It’s one of the most fun Ford events around, but another reason we long for the week of pony cars is it presents a chance for us to drive something cool too, from and around Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. From Boss 302s and Shelby GT500s to Fiesta STs and Mustang GTs, we’ve driven a host of fun Fords to the event.

This year was no different. We hopped off the plan in Charlotte, North Carolina, and into a car we have loved from the start. Rather than dreading a lame econobox rental machine, we were about to score more seat time in Ford’s hottest hatch — a 2016 Focus RS.

Just like our last run in a 2016 Focus RS, we rolled into and around Mustang Week 2017 in a Stealth Gray model optioned with the RS2 package.

While our own Kelly Getz daily’s an RS, this writer doesn’t have one in the driveway, but we have spent time in the 350-horsepower, all-wheel-drive EcoBoost fun machine on the street and on the track, but we are never going to turn down a refresher course.

From the moment the Recaros embrace your hindquarters, you know this isn’t just any Focus. If you’ve spent any time in a base Focus or event he sporty Focus ST, the RS is familiar, but things are a big heightened. The Recaros are grippier, the shifter sharper, and when you push the start button, the exhaust burble is more robust.

Hitting The Road

It is once the car starts rolling that you really know this is Ford’s hottest hatch. We immediately adjust the driving mode to sport and enjoy the brisk acceleration and heightened handling it has to offer. The steering is so much quicker than even our own Focus ST daily that it really makes the RS feel like a grown-up go-kart.

Delivering 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque to an all-wheel drive powertrain, the EcoBoost 2.3-liter engine in the Focus RS provides enough power to have some fun, and more importantly, the car‘s all-wheel-drive system does a great job putting it down to the pavement.

The RS easily carves up traffic, accelerates to pass, and does it in a way that makes things fun. The ride is taut, but if you’ve lived with performance cars it’s what you expect. It is in those sweeping turn and corkscrew on-ramps that the RS’ all-wheel drive digs the Michelins into the pavement and pulls you around the arc like a boomerang.

With that sort of propulsion, we arrived in Myrtle Beach just in time to attend the annual Meet ’N Greet at Broadway at the Beach and were immediately surrounded by Mustangs. The RS holds its own in the Ford pantheon and we saw a few other hot hatches during the week, so we didn’t feel too out of place rocking the Stealth Gray EcoBoost machine in the midst all those pony cars.

Nice Car

In fact, for the purposes of covering the annual event, having a hatchback was immensely helpful for hauling our camera gear and refreshments around from event to event. It was particularly helpful at Myrtle Beach Speedway for the Autocross and Fun Runs, where it rained on and off, and we had to stash our camera quickly

Eventually, the rain won. As we made our escape over the track and into the exit line, we found out that the RS definitely gets respect from other Ford fans.

While the RS interior is familiar for Focus owners, the small upgrades do deliver. The thick steering wheel and grippy Recaro seats definitely make the driving experience more enjoyable and the easy access to the drive mode buttons on the console allows drivers to easily select the right setting for the occasion.

“Hey, nice car,” someone shouted as we crawled along in the line of cars leaving the track. Obviously, we replied in kind, but know that our hands would only grip the thick RS steering wheel for just a few days, it did incite a brief flash of sadness. We resolved to enjoy the hot hatch as much as we could for the next several days, and we did.

However, our trip was cut short due to hurricane Irma’s pending arrival, so we didn’t get the chance to drive the Focus RS as much, nor take as many photos as we would have liked. In the end, several days in the RS just reaffirmed how much we enjoy the car, but it still didn’t convince us that it was so great that we needed to replace our nearly paid off Focus ST, but we have to say it’s tempting…

Unique wheels, blue brake calipers, and that taller RS wing announce that this is anything but an average Focus. Meanwhile, the factory exhaust on the RS delivers the kind of performance sounds you want from a hi-po turbo-four in factory form.

We have few complaints about the Focus RS, but if there is one it’s the price tag. As optioned, our tester carried an MSRP of $39,560, which is substantially more than a well-optioned Focus ST and in the ballpark with a modestly configured Mustang.