Phew, no rain. Showers are always a risk in Eifel mountains, which is where we’re driving today, but fortunately it’s a scorcher. Dry weather is crucial to this Ford Focus RS500 - 350bhp and 340lb ft fed through the front wheels is going to make traction a rare commodity, even on smooth tarmac.
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Ford Focus RS500: live launch
Piers Ward reports back live from Germany as he tackles Ford's hardest hot hatch, the 350bhp Focus RS500
The RS500 is the run-out special to the RS Focus. Five-hundred cars will be built, and 101 are destined for the UK. First though, the bad news: all of them have sold out. And that’s despite the RS500 costing a whopping £35,650.
To give you an idea of just how popular this car is, Ford’s dedicated RS500 website was hacked four days before it was due to go live. In those four days, before the car even officially existed, enough people had beaten down the door of their local dealer demanding a RS500 that Ford could have sold the 101 cars several times over.
Oh, and a word of warning. Not that the Focus RS was ever a car for a bloke who didn’t want to be noticed, but prepare to be hassled a lot in the RS500. We took the car to the Nurburgring 24 Hours Race, and I lost count of the number of camera phones pointed at us. It was almost enough to make me feel a tinge of sympathy for a b-list celeb.
To get the power to 350bhp, Ford has tweaked the ECU, changed the exhaust to give a better flow of air and increased the power of the fuel pump. Other than that, this RS500 is exactly the same as the standard RS, apart from the Batman-spec matt-black wrap on the bodywork.
It’s some tribute to the basic Focus that this RS500 still works brilliantly well. Sure, you’ll have to drive it carefully over a bumpy back road, or when it rains. But on a good day, with the sun shining and the birds singing, the RS500 is magic.
Honestly, 350bhp in a front-wheel drive car feels manageable. Before I came on the launch, I thought driving this car would be a lesson in self-restraint, but not a bit of it. You can be as much of a hooligan in this thing as you’d hope. It doesn’t feel under-braked or like the 350bhp has altered the brilliant balance of the chassis.
Turn in, get on the power, feel the front wheels tug at the steering slightly, your neck strain against the g, and then launch up the road to worry about the next corner. Because the steering is so good, there’s enough intuitive feel that you don’t have to concentrate too hard. It just links back to you almost by telekinesis.
But here’s the real shocker. Because there’s now so much more torque in the RS500, pottering around at a leisurely pace is now even easier. So there you go. The most ridiculous hot hatch ever, with more power than the basic Porsche 911, can actually be relaxing to drive.