Back in 1988 I travelled to a test track to run some acceleration ﬁgures on the then new Alfa Romeo 164. And the difﬁculty it had transmitting its 192bhp through its front wheels under maximum effort was such that it required two entire lanes of the track and some very careful control. Spool forward 22 years and I’m sitting on the startline of the Goodwood Festival of Speed facing probably less than half the road width I’d enjoyed in the Alfa about to do exactly the same to a Ford Focus RS500. Except that with 345bhp going through its front wheels the Ford has almost double the power of the Alfa and over twice as much torque.
And yet save a gentle tugging at the wheel that no passenger would have noticed, the Ford cannoned straight and true up to the ﬁrst corner, not using a single inch of unplanned extra road.
The RS500 is the last laugh of the Focus RS, the hugely successful and crazily quick ﬂagship of the Focus range. As the name suggests just 500 will be built, and all have been sold despite costing £35,750, or more than a Porsche Boxster.
And while the standard RS is impressive, the RS500 is something else. Power rises by 45bhp to 345bhp, cutting the 0-60mph time to 5.6sec, which would be easily under 5sec were it not for the traction limitations of front-wheel drive. Yet for all its monster speed, the chassis felt like it could take more. The steering was largely uncorrupted, the unchanged brakes, suspension and tyres being more than capable of handling the extra workload.
The Focus RS500 is a brilliant car, but don’t worry if you got your order in too late. The market will take time to realise it’s a classic in the making. Like original Focus RS’s are now, so the current generation of RS and RS500s will become cheap in the short to medium term. Only in the long term will the world wake up to what they really are: arguably the most entertaining hatchbacks that have ever been built.
ENGINE: 2521cc straight ﬁve, turbo
TOP SPEED: 165mph
POWER: 345bhp @ 6000rpm
FUEL/CO2: 30.1mpg, 225g/km