Video: we ride shotgun with Ken Block in the new Ford Focus RS
Watch our man Ollie Marriage passenger up the Goodwood Hill in the 345bhp hot hatch
Ken Block is driving me up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the new Ford Focus RS. That's not a bad way to start a story, is it?
What was it like? Unsurprisingly, quite sideways. Or maybe surprisingly, depending on whether you're evaluating the car or the driver.
The new Focus RS, when it goes on sale at the start of next year, will contain a button that allows you to switch it into Track or Drift modes. Track keeps things nice and straight. Drift sends 70 per cent of the torque to the back axle and, as Ken proves at the first corner, will allow it to sustain a slide.
I can't imagine many drivers pitch a car harder into turn one than Ken Block. He sends it in with a big bung and a stab on the brakes, and then when it slides sideways, nails the throttle and, yep, we're oversteering.
With 345bhp, the Focus has plenty of grunt, and it's fair to say the bloke who brought us the Gymkhana films knows a thing or two about car control.
We rip up the straight past the house. The Focus feels strong in a straight line, good under brakes. Which it needs to be for Molecomb. It's Goodwood's bogey corner and has already claimed a Lamborghini and the Bloodhound Jaguar XJ today. We're neat and quick through there, neat and quick past the flint wall and all the way to the top.
Maybe a minute in total, give or take a handful of seconds. Although the Focus RS is 99 per cent sorted, you can't take any definitive impressions away from such a brief exposure from the passenger seat. It doesn't feel especially hardcore, but Ken, who's been doing some of the development driving on it, says it's agile and responsive and I don't doubt him.
It seemed nice and neutral, gripped well at the front, was playful enough at the back. Should be good. 2.3-litre turbo picked up quickly, too.
Like the Honda Civic Type-R it's going to be manual only, which means it won't be as fast as rivals such as the Audi RS3 off the line (crucial for the 0-62mph time, obviously) and you can tell that matters when you talk to the engineers involved with the car. It'll put a slight dent in the lap times, too.
But what it's good for is involvement. And we like involvement. Involvement is what matters most.
Ken is affable company. He's being pulled from pillar to post this weekend. Hotfooting it into the Focus RS straight from the Hoonicorn, and then straight off after we've driven back down the hill to an autograph signing session. He's just bought a Ford RS200. It has 800bhp and, he says, “I'm going to have a play with it. I like to play with stuff.”
Block’s daily driver is a Ford Raptor. He's still doing a spot of rallying, still has plenty of plans of more fun stuff to do.
He's hoping to do a bit more development work on the RS before it's finally signed off. This one is going to be sold in America and, unsurprisingly, he's going to have one of the first. Will it stay standard? What do you think?
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