RS LE finds its natural habitat at Phillip Island
IF YOU’VE bought a Ford Focus RS, you have to get it on a track. There aren’t many new performance models out there with brakes that can reasonably withstand a track beating, that have properly supportive seats, or simply have the ability to be both properly fast and fun at the same time. If you don’t take your Focus RS to a track, you’ve paid for a lot of capability that you’re just not using. And you’re bouncing around on those firm springs not enjoying the reward for doing so.
This month, we took our Focus RS Limited Edition long termer to the fastest track-day circuit in Australia, Phillip Island. In fact, we took two identical Focus RS Limited Editions along, our long-termer on a test set of Falken FK510s, and an identical car – including almost the same mileage – on the stock Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber. The purpose of this was mostly practical as we couldn’t fit Cup 2 tyres on our long-termer in time for the track day. But if you’re wondering why there are two sets of number plates in some of these shots, that’s why.
From a long-term test perspective, the ring-in RS LE twin had copped even more of a beating than our normal lifer, as it had come straight from our Bang For Your Bucks testing at Winton to our track-day foray at Phillip Island. And having done possibly 30-50 hard laps of Winton, it must be said, it didn’t exactly feel like it, the brakes still feeling surprisingly healthy, which is a feat an alarming amount of other performance models can’t manage. Some with carbon ceramics.
During the day, and helped by cooler ambient temperatures, the RS remained happy, engine temps always under control even after consecutive hard laps. There is something almost Porsche-like about the RS’s ability to go around and around and around, taking out its rage on its tyres, all the while enjoying a drink. A big drink.
Yes, bring jerry cans to your track day with your RS, as one tank vaporised in just two 20-minute sessions, the trip computer showing over 25L/100km.
The RS also uniformly devours tyres in a way we’ve seen of only a few cars. The Falkens were looking a little sad after just one session and the Cup 2s? See above. Although credit to Michelin, after a hundred or so kays of normal road driving, the Cups do return to a much healthier appearance.
Around Phillip Island, the RS LE was, well, in its element. Satisfyingly fast – showing 230km/h at the end of pit straight right at the top of fifth gear – it also showed off an impressive stability, able to be held flat through Stoner Corner (T3) and the Hayshed (T8) after short-shifting into fifth gear, with only a brief lift required as it tucked into T12 on to the pit straight, to start all over again. Normally the habitat of taller-geared supercars, the little RS hot hatch felt at home at the Island, a few short-ish gear ratios aside.
The enjoyment on offer from the RS would change from corner to corner. Around the Southern Loop (T2) and the late apex Siberia (T4), the tenacious Cup tyres accepted increasingly ambitious entry speeds, squishing you into the supportive Recaro side bolsters – enormously fun. But in the slowest corners the RS LE could be a bit of a chore, like Honda (T4) and the T10 hairpin, with average brake pedal feel and a manual gearbox that sometimes made it almost deliberately hard to find a lower gear. A precision instrument it is not. Fortunately, rocketing back out of the tighter corners was a thrill thanks to the traction on offer from the front-diff equipped all-wheel drive system.
Other gripes included actively having to stop myself slouching down in the driver’s seat as I struggled to get used to the high-ish seating position. And bring your own timing gear – for such a great car on track, it’s curious the RS doesn’t have an in-built lap timer. Lucky we took one along; Scotty recorded a best lap of 1:52.2 on the skaty Falkens. Fresh Cups could be worth at least another 1.5sec.
So, is the Focus RS Limited Edition a bit addictive on track? You bet. To not take it on one would be like buying a boat and leaving it on the trailer.
1. Resilient brakes
2. Tricky AWD system
3. Supportive seats
1. Appetite for fuel
2. Appetite for tyres
3. Average gearshift
Uncorking the Infiniti’s brutal twin-turbo V6
THERE ARE SOME serious rumours circling Nissan that say it’s given a 370Z successor the green light. And if there’s truth to the reports, then the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport is the biggest clue as to how this Mustang-slayer might drive. That’s because the engine billed for the future Z car is mooted as our Red Sport’s very own 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, complete with its current 298kW and 475Nm. Z fans might groan louder than pop’s sofa at the idea of a turbocharged Fairlady, but there’s not much they’re going to miss.
During recent testing for Bang For Your Bucks 2018 (coming soon!), we had the opportunity to play with the Infiniti while its testers were taking a tea break. Okay, we know better than anyone how allergic the Infiniti is to corners, but that VR30DTT in its nose deserved a chance to let its horses gallop in a non-policed environment. With a drag strip laid in the middle of the infield, we took the opportunity to unleash the Q50 Red Sport up its guts a couple times. And boy, it gives nothing away to its naturally aspirated stablemates for response.
Each turbocharger gets its own intercooler. And because their radiator fins are bathed in water, rather than air, they can be placed anywhere without needing to consider incoming airflow – such as the top of the cylinder heads. With the turbochargers nestled into each side of the 60-degree banked block, the charged air spouted by their compressors only have to make a short trip upwards into the V6’s plasmacoated cylinder bores.
Last month the Infiniti proved it could fire from 80-120km/h in a lazy 3.2 seconds in the car’s Standard drive mode. In the car’s more frenzied Sport Plus mode, though, that figure drops to 2.8. The acceleration obviously isn’t 911 Turbo brutal, but it’s rapid enough to halt your breath if you haven’t uncorked a fast car in a while.
Extending the measurement to 400 metres only reaffirmed how much of a rocket the future Z might be. With a seven-speed automatic that’s brisk, but hardly the last word in speed, the Infiniti’s launch strategy is fairly straight forward. It’ll stall up to around 2700rpm on the brake before it starts to break traction, then when you let go it tears off with a bit of wheelspin. No doubt a result of the engine’s 475Nm from as early as 1700rpm.
This turbo six mightn’t match the brawn of FPV’s late Barra-powered bruisers, but with the Infiniti’s 1784kg kerb weight undercutting those rigs by at least a rugby prop, it makes best use of its healthy power peak. The secret is ‘optical speed sensors’ on the Q50’s turbochargers. They’re claimed to increase the impellers’ maximum speeds to 240,000rpm and power to 298kW. We once asked Infiniti Australia how they actually work and unlock more power, but we’d need a few more pages to explain it.
Either way, letting the Q50 scamper off the line drops 60km/h in 2.89 seconds, 100km/h in 5.37sec, then the quarter mile in 13.5sec at a recorded 175.22km/h. Quick, but we knew it could go faster. Next run we reinstate ESP to tame the rear-end and after a soft stall-up 60km/h flashes by in 2.73sec, 100km/h takes 5.12sec, while the quarter mile drops in 13.23sec at 178.km/h. But it still wasn’t getting the best launch. So we switched strategies for the final run, opting to walk it away from the line.
The final run nailed it. It takes 2.5sec to clip 60km/h, 4.9 to 100km/h, and then 13 flat to pass 400m at 179.58km/h. Just a little bit of slip permits the right amount of traction as its rear 245mm Dunlops hook up.
Away from the actual Bang For Your Bucks results (the Infiniti took part in the 15-car strong competition) the Infiniti stacks up as a seriously quick car that’ll scare a few regulars at the local dragway. Roll-out would slash its times into 12-second territory. Pack it into a time machine and deliver it to previous Bang For Your Bucks, and it would even spank a 304kW Holden SS-V Redline Ute or a 345kW Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint.
Combine that punch with its demure looks, and the Q50 Red Sport presents as a genuine sleeper – something we love at MOTOR. But not every road is straight as the ones used here, and next month we’ll be saying goodbye (we delayed it by a month to tell this yarn) and weighing up its strengths and flaws. Will we ever want it back? Stay tuned for the final verdict.
1. The acceleration
2. Heated seats
3. Good looks
1. No steering reach
2. Thirsty engine
3. Dated interior