How many Essex girls does it take to install bi-xenon headlights on a 2009 Ford Focus RS? None, actually, because the fancy blue-tinged beams come as standard on the latest model, along with all the accoutrements you'd expect from a car designed to appeal to the 13-year-old in all of us.
Just look at the bodywork. It couldn't be any less subtle if it were decked out in a Burberry paint finish. Luckily, this isn't an option, but the remaining colour schemes aren't exactly demure. The basic Frozen White colour scheme is so bright it'll make other white motors look beige in comparison, while the top of the range Ultimate Green finish, which costs a whopping £725 extra, makes the car look radioactive -- but in a good way.
The car's 2.5-litre turbocharged unit is boorish too, but it's a real gem. Its 300hp output is sufficient to propel the car from 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 163mph, which needless to say, is enough to make the majority of today's cars look as if they're going in reverse. You'll need an iron will to resist planting your right foot to the carpet at every opportunity, as the power and baritone of the musically gifted exhaust note are intoxicating.
With that amount of grunt, we'd expected the Focus RS to be affected, no, ruined by torque steer -- a phenomenon that causes powerful front-wheel drive cars to lurch to one side under heavy acceleration, due to the laws of physics preventing two wheels from laying down prodigious amounts of power and steering efficiently at the same time. The effect is present on the 2009 RS, particularly on rough roads, but it's minimal at best on smooth surfaces, thanks to some things called a Quaif and a RevoKnuckle. No, we don't what they are or how they work, but work they do.
Slide into the superb Recaro racing seats, and you'll find plenty of tech to distract you from the open road. Basic equipment includes power steering, an anti-moose death system and a DAB radio, but £750 extra buys you Ford's luxury pack 1. This includes rain-sensing wipers, rear-parking distance sensors and a key-free entry system that lets you start the car with a button -- just like on a proper supercar.
Luxury pack 2 is a little more expensive at £1,500, but this is the option tech-heads will go nuts for. It swaps the DAB radio for an in-dash 7-inch touchscreen, which provides a reverse parking camera and DVD-based sat-nav system. We won't pretend it's as feature-rich, or as easy to use as a TomTom -- few vehicle-integrated sat-navs are -- but it's generally fine once you've figured it out.
The problem, however, is that figuring it out isn't very easy. Entering a destination, for example, is pretty damn nonsensical. Once you've tapped in a postcode and confirmed it, there's no immediate option to navigate to that postcode, only an option to navigate to your nearest city centre. To go to your actual chosen postcode you've just entered, you'll need to navigate to another screen first.
Luxury pack 2 also brings with it full touchscreen control of your portable media player. Connect an iPod touch, iPhone or a USB memory key to the digital connector in the centre console, select the auxiliary input option, followed by USB or iPod on the display, and you'll be able to access songs by track name, artist or genre.
It's incapable of displaying album art, which is a shame, but that's not as serious a problem as the terrible, terrible speakers, which are -- no exaggeration -- the worst we've heard in some time. They provide no discernible bass, treble or midrange, just a sort of gumbo of noise that'll make you hate your favourite songs.
Despite a couple of annoying flaws then, the 2009 Focus RS is a sensational car. We're not exaggerating when we say you'll probably have more fun in this car than you will in an Aston Martin DBS. It's not as fast, nor is it as sexy, but for sheer spontaneous whoop-out-loud joy, very few cars can match it.
Edited by Nick Hide