Ford Focus RS Production Is About to End, But What Made This Hot Hatch So Special?

With the beloved, sometimes maligned hot hatch's production ending next month, we remember the early days.

It seems only a minute ago we were awaiting the new Ford Focus RS's arrival like kids before a birthday. Now, three years later, the first-ever Focus RS to be sold in the U.S. is going out of production in advance of an all-new, China-built Focus model coming in 2019. Can we recapture those early feelings through a 2015 first-drive by pro wheelsmith, T.J. Fry? We dug into The Drive's video archive to find this previously unreleased segment.

So what's next for the Focus RS? Ford has yet to confirm the fourth-generation Focus will get an RS version, but the rumor mill is alive with theories. Of those, the most weirdly tantalizing is the prospect of a performance-hybrid Focus RS. With Ford nearing introduction of a new, 48-volt electrical system, the idea of a 400-horsepower, 440-pound-feet, high-performance "halo hybrid" seems plausible. Naturally, such a system would be quite the science project, and likely challenge the manual-transmission purity of the current RS. This move would also likely change the RS's positioning, edging it away from its current rivalry with the Subaru WRX STI and into the techno-sport realm inhabited by Audi's RS 3. With a new Fiesta ST serving the hardcore rally-fan market, Ford could take its RS brand in the Audi Sport direction without starting a war with purists.

If the RS does go hybrid, it's unclear whether or not the Ford Performance team will use their powers of mathematics to give a hybrid RS a tail-out function similar to the current model's "drift mode." Even if such a "smarter" RS alienates the save-the-manuals set, it would be an important proof-of-concept platform for electric-motor-based torque vectoring tech, among other next-level gear.

Ford's plans will become clearer in the coming 18 months. For now, we can only look back at the current RS. Was it a success or did it fail to meet expectations? Did a few head-gasket failures compromise its credibility, or were they but a blemish on an otherwise shining reputation? How did it do as a taxicab in Norway? And, most importantly, what did Fry think of the Focus RS when he first drove it at the U.K.'s Rockingham circuit back in 2015, during the RS's extensive launch phase? Let's take a look back and find out.