Ever wondered what development work goes into making sure cars are safe and fun to drive?
When you’re buying a new car it’s easy to forget that these lumps of metal, cloth, leather and rubber don’t just magically appear. Drive even the most sensible car on sale and you’ll be experiencing the result of thousands of hours of testing.
To show just how much work goes into a car, Ford employed a camera team to tag along at each major stage of the development work for the 2016 Focus RS – a car that’s tipped to be one of the most exciting hot hatches of recent times.
We’ve seen a sneak preview of the resulting documentary, called “Rebirth of an Icon” and have some secrets we can share about just what goes into making a car safe, fashionable, yet fun to drive.
The Focus RS is a global car, so the test drivers came from around the world
The 2016 Focus RS will be the first Focus RS to go on sale around the world – previous versions were predominantly sold in Europe.
With this new market in mind, the new RS had one of its major tests in the Rocky Mountains. Ford sent 30 of its development engineers from around the world to drive 1,000 miles through the mountains and nearby desert in camouflaged prototypes. At the end of each day the team debriefed and compared notes on the car’s suspension, brakes, engine and overall feel. They also ate in lots of road-side diners, and had competitor cars on hand (including a Golf R) to see how the Focus compares.
The Focus RS’s interior has a woman’s touch
Like the car’s exterior, the interior of the RS has been designed to look ‘mean and aggressive, but in a positive way’. “It’s always fun when we get to work on an ST or RS car, you can use more exciting colours”, said Serife Celebi, Ford’s Colour and Materials Supervisor. That’ll be why the production car will be available with bright blue flashes on the seats, then.
It looks like it needs to breathe
All Ford RS models tend to look aggressive, but the front of the new car is full of gaps that are designed to look like nostrils. “We want the car to really look like it needs air to breathe,” said Joel Piaskowski, Ford’s head of design.
28 crashes later
Ford’s crash test centre in Cologne, Germany, smashed no fewer than 28 Focus RS prototypes during development. That’s only a month’s work too – they tend to crash 250 cars per year, or about one per working day. One of the most brutal tests involves sending the car sideways at just under 20mph into a steel pole, impacting just next to the driver’s door. It’s designed to mimic spinning off the road into a signpost. Luckily, the RS’s four-wheel-drive system should help avoid that. Speaking of which…
Ken Block chose the colours
Well, not exactly, but driving legend Ken Block is Ford’s RS consultant and had a hand in most aspects of the Focus RS’s development. He was involved in everything from helping make sure the Focus RS is fun to slide about (he likes the way the car’s four-wheel-drive system will pull you out of a slide if you accelerate hard while oversteering), to the colours it’ll come in.
We’ve put together a Focus RS colours guide so you can see the shades that are available – although the documentary did show a nice bright green that isn’t on sale. Please Ford, can we have a lurid green special edition?
Car designers have to think like fashionistas
Ken Block’s a bit of a branding expert, and he summed up the overall vision for the Focus RS like this: “The consumer for this type of car wants aggressive looks and aerodynamics that work – we need to make sure we’re hitting the current trends.” There you have it – even though they take years to develop, modern cars are very much designed with trends in mind. Perhaps we’ll see the return of double denim for 2020’s hot hatchbacks?
Watch the documentary
Take a look at the first episode of Ford’s Focus RS documentary below – and keep an eye out on the company’s Youtube channel for the full eight-episode series. Apparently there was a major hiccup in the late stages of the car’s development, but Ford is keeping schtum on exactly what that is… at least until the final episode is released.
Once you’re done, read our Focus RS guide for a full run-down of the high-performance tech that Ford has put into the new RS.