The 2.3-liter EcoBoost® I-4 powering Ford Focus RS has earned the prestigious 2017 Ward’s 10 Best Engines award − the first time the specially engineered engine has taken home a prize.

If you love to drive, the Focus RS should be at the top of your list. There are faster and more powerful cars out there, but there are not too many cars that can reproduce the driving pleasure that the RS offers especially at this price.

This is the first time that an RS badge had been officially sold in the US by Ford. For those of you not familiar with the RS badge, it should not be taken lightly because the previous RS models share an amazing history of hardcore performance cars going back to cars like the Capri RS2600, the Escort RS Cosworth and of course the mighty RS200 rally car.

Of course, the Focus RS starts out as a regular Focus and it retains some of the practical features of the Focus. It can still have plenty of room for up to five people and it can still haul almost 45 cubic feet of stuff with the rear seats folded down. At 172.8 inches long, it is still the right size for tight streets and short parking spaces. The RS is a practical car that you can take to Home Depot, but it can also do so much more.

For example, what if you needed to get to Home Depot quickly? Then the other side of the Focus RS comes into play. The other side is the fun side. Under the hood of the RS is a 2.3 liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbocharged engine that puts out 350 horsepower. The powerful engine is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission with short throws and a tight and precise shift linkage. The power flows through the transmission to all four wheels courtesy of one of the best AWD systems available in any car.

People generally like AWD cars, but what most don’t know is that there are so many variations of AWD. The Focus driveline can route up to 70 percent engine power to the rear wheels, and of that, 100 percent to either side depending on the driving situation. It uses Dynamic Torque Vectoring and that is one of the secrets of what makes the RS so much fun to drive.

Of course, with that kind of power in a 3,500-pound car, you will have decent straight line performance, and the RS will take you from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and through the quarter mile in 13.4 seconds all the way to a 165 mph top speed. But the RS is not made for drag racing.

Ford engineers fitted the RS with two-mode dampers combined with race-tuned electric power-assisted steering and a rigid front knuckle suspension. The design gives Focus RS incredible cornering stability, turn-in, and responsiveness with virtually no understeer. On the track, the RS is so easy to drive and it rewards the aggressive drive with super quick lap times. It loves hitting berms and the balance is usually favored toward mild oversteer, which is hard to find in a street car. Of course, you can change settings on the dash, but Track mode seems to be the best setup.

Inside, the RS is all business, with heavily bolstered Recaro seats, a chunky, flat-bottom steering wheel with soft-feel leather-covered rim, metal pedals and unique instrument graphics. Throughout the cabin, the distinctive blue RS theme includes stitching on the seats, steering wheel, floor mats and interior trim, as well as RS logo on gear shifter, seats, steering wheel and door scuff plates.

Getting back to the practical side of things, the Focus is economical and affordable as well. The EPA rates it at 19 mpg city and 25 mpg on the highway. Unfortunately, it is so much fun to drive that I find it hard to drive without being aggressive with the throttle, which is not the most fuel-efficient way to drive. Prices are also very easy on the wallet considering the level of performance offered with a base price of $41,120. There are not many options, so you can get one for close to that price, provided that you find a dealer that is not adding a huge markup.

The Focus RS is one of those cars that only a few hardcore drivers will appreciate. If you are one of those, get one before they are all gone.

Specifications

Engine Eco Boost 2.3-Liter DOHC Inline Four
Horsepower 350 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 350 @3,200 rpm
Front suspension Independent McPherson strut
Rear suspension SLA independent, with control blade
Transmission Six-speed manual
Axle ratio 4.06:1 limited slip
Curb Weight 3,434 lbs.
Base MSRP $41,120
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Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company