Ford makes two of the most fun and affordable performance cars on the road today, but which is your choice?
BestRide recently tested the 2017 Ford Focus RS and Mustang GT Convertible during two perfect summer weeks. Both cars impressed us. What really strikes one when driving these cars is how much fun they are. Neither is a great commuter car or family car. However, both have huge fan followings. Who probably think the other car’s fans are crazy. Here’s what we think of these to fun-to-drive Fords.
Engine and Power
One might assume the Mustang GT Convertibe’s 5-liter V8 engine with 435 hp would be the hands-down winner in this matchup of fun car engines, but not so fast. The 2.3-liter turbocharged engine of the Focus RS has its charms and 350 hp. Both offer outstanding torque down low as well. With its AWD system, the Focus RS can put all of that power down to the ground in all conditions. Both cars can accelerate from a stop in under 4.5 seconds and both have explosive mid-range power. The fact is, the Focus RS is a match for the Mustang GT Convertible in terms of real-world speed and possibly has the edge.
However, this matchup is about fun, not spec-sheet facts. Both cars have their drivetrain advantages. The Ford Focus RS brings on a silly grin and instantly turns you into a person with criminal intent when you feel the turbo boost kick at about 3,000 RPMs. The Mustang has a more mature feeling of power, which over time grows on you. We know the V8 purists are going to groan, but this one is a tie.
Here again, one might assume the bass tones of a V8 will always beat a blown-four, but in this matchup, the Focus RS has a trick up its sleeve. When shifted quickly in the high RPM ranges, or when one goes from full to no throttle in those high RPMs, the Focus RS lets out a crackle and pop straight out of a WRC competition. It is so cool you will want to do it over and over again. The Mustang GT Convertible, on the other hand, has a refined V8 sound track that just gets better as revs grow. Another tie and a personal preference.
The Mustang GT Convertible’s stick shifter is deliberate and slow compared to the Focus RS’s quicker and more “snickety” six-speed. That does not mean the RS is better. The GT has a sense of quality that one does not feel in the Focus RS when shifting. Frankly, both cars have perfectly matched stick shifts and the transmissions are both fantastic. However, a stick shift in a fast car needs to also be fast, and our sense is the Focus RS shifts quicker and is easier to match-revs when braking into a corner. Advantage Focus RS.
Handling and Braking
The Mustang GT Convertible is a real handler these days and it can carve up a back road. It can also cruise in relative comfort compared to the Focus RS which is always firm. We won’t mince words here, the RS is a scalpel and the GT a K-bar when it comes to road carving, but both are truly a blast to throw into a corner. With AWD and summer tires, the Focus RS is more likely to allow one to hold on in a corner before the car breaks loose, but neither of these are cars anyone would feel comfortable sliding on a public road. Also, the drift mode of the Focus RS is cool and just begs for testing. Advantage Focus RS. In terms of braking, both have an excellent pedal feel. The Mustang GT Convertible feels better and that is what we value most in this comparison, so advantage Mustang GT.
The Focus RS is simply not a cruiser. It is an insane attack dog and you are holding the leash. The Mustang GT Convertible though has the perfect layout for top-down, left arm on the door-sill cruising. Cruising is a big part of fun car ownership and a convertible is very hard to beat at any price, with any roof-affixed car. A hands-down win for the Mustang GT Convertible.
Hooning Around and Street Racing
Like the Mustang GT, the Focus RS has its clear advantage. Do you want to embarrass a BMW owner? Would you like to race your friend in his Subaru WRX and show him your tail lights? Perhaps let your pal with a MazdaSpeed3 see what he’s missing? The Focus RS is the car for those jobs. The Mustang GT Convertible may well be as fast in many situations, but for doing all the things we never (officially or unofficially) advocate at this publication, the Focus RS is the obvious choice.
Asking which is the better for track days requires that we first ask two other questions; Are convertibles even allowed on this track, and what type of track is it? Drag strip? Mustang GT. Autocross? Focus RS. Road course, either. Tie.
Seat Comfort and Practicality
In extreme maneuvers, the Focus RS’ tight and heavily bolstered race seats are better. In every other single situation, and 99% of driving, they are too narrow and too confining. However, they look awesome and are covered in a modern, premium material. The Mustang GT Convertible’s perforated leather seats are more comfortable in normal or spirited driving and were also cooled in our tester, not just heated. Advantage Mustang, unless appearance is all you care about. In back, both cars have small seats that will work in a pinch. However, the four-door Focus RS has a big advantage if you have kids that you plan to put in back on a semi-regular basis. But that isn’t about fun. Mustang wins in seating.
If you thought we were going to single out a car and call this a definitive win-lose matchup we are sorry to disappoint you. Both the 2017 Ford Focus RS and Mustang GT Convertible are fantastic fun-to-own cars. Each has its own very strong personality and each has its advantages and disadvantages for fun car use. We do have to mention that the Focus RS rings in at $37K and the Mustang GT Convertible we tested cost $49K. For many, budget may determine the winner. For us, it comes down to how you plan to use the car.