Friday, October 28, 2016

Cobb AccessPort Dyno Results, and Living With the Focus RS

Happy OctobeRS! In this post I'll talk about dyno numbers for our car, and some impressions of using the car as a daily driver.

We strapped the Focus RS to our Dynojet dyno to get some power numbers, both stock and with the Cobb AccessPort installed. We do have an AWD dyno, and you'd think we would just strap the car up and run the AWD Focus on the AWD Dynojet. However, it turns out the Focus gets unhappy being rigged up to the AWD dyno. So instead we disabled the rear drive module and just ran the car as a FWD.
Focus RS dyno graph with and without Cobb Stg1 map
We usually see a loss of about 15% from engine horsepower to wheel horsepower on our dyno, for 2WD cars. That would amount to 297.5 whp. The car made...297 whp. Spot-on! Torque was a generous 312 lb-ft.

We also installed the Cobb AccessPort onto the car. The AccessPort reprograms the car's Engine Control Unit (ECU) for increased power and torque. It took about ten minutes for the AccessPort to work its magic. With Cobb's Stage 1 map, the car made 314 whp and 337 lb-ft.

When I get some more time, we'll get the car back on the dyno and see if we can get some more power from the car by custom-tuning it ourselves. We also might try a replacement air filter to see if that makes any difference, although I have my doubts.

Pumpkin pickup dutyOther than the power numbers, I have just been enjoying driving the car around town, to and from work, and to Summit Point Motorsports Park, where we run a retail store. I'll list some of my observations from the last couple of months.

The Focus RS goes around corners really well. From point to point on a twisty road, this car is very, very fast. Faster, I would say, than a Subaru STI, and maybe faster than an Evo X. The torque-vectoring rear end makes its presence known in corners. Just when you feel like the back end is going to wash out, there is this strange feeling of the back end pushing the car through the corner. It feels a little unusual at first, but you learn to rely on it and you can pick up the cornering pace as you do.

I wish it was lower. The whole car is tall, and the seating position is very chair-like. The hip point is too high for my taste, but if you try to lower the seat down, the thigh bolster digs into your legs behind the knees. So I have to keep the seat unnaturally high.

Those seats are extremely huggy, though. Perfect for sporty driving. You can take corners as hard as you want, you are NOT sliding around in the seats. On the other hand, after an hour or so in the driver's seat, my butt gets numb. But who buys a Focus RS as a long-haul cruiser?

I also wish the Focus RS was lighter. We haven't weighed our car, but I've seen numbers around 3400-3450 lbs. Our car has no sunroof, no electric seats, and lighter wheels, so figure on the lower end of that, but still -- 3400 pounds?! That's a lot. Compare that with 3300 or so for our 2015 Subaru WRX. The Focus makes do with the same hood, doors, and hatch as the rest of the Focus line. Those parts are made of steel and are heavy. I admit, the doors close with a nice solid thunk, but I'd love it if the car weighed a couple of hundred pounds less. Maybe I'll try out a carbon fiber hood. (*Ahem*. Are you reading this, Seibon Carbon?)

The RS drinks gas like there's no tomorrow. The tank isn't very big (13.9 gallons), and I have been getting around 20 mpg, sometimes less. It feels like I have to fill it up every few days.

The Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are fantastic. They offer huge grip, they are good in the wet, and they are quiet. I would NOT want the optional Sport Cup 2 tires. The Super Sports already throw tons of sand and pebbles up -- the Cup 2's would blast the paint off the car, and they'd be very difficult to live with in the rain. Oh, and they'd probably last less than 8000 miles.

Press for discomfortLet's talk about the Focus RS ride quality. I have seen and heard some confusion about the electronically adjustable shocks. They have two modes -- let's call them Normal and Hard. The shocks stay on Normal mode unless you set the drive mode selector to Track, or you manually select Hard mode with the button on the end of the turn signal stalk. You can also switch the shocks back to Normal setting while you are in Track drive mode, if you want.

Normal shock mode is pretty firm -- about as firm as I could stand on the street, and for passengers it can be uncomfortable if the road gets bumpy. Normal shock mode is also ideal for the track, unless maybe you happen to be at a Formula one track that is smooth as a billiard table. Our local track, Summit Point, is definitely not smooth.

Switch to Hard shock mode and the ride becomes unbearable on the street. Even on smooth surface roads, the car is so nervous and so much wheel motion is transmitted into the car, it feels like your internal organs are going to fall out. As for using it on track, as I said before, on any normal track with actual bumps, Hard mode is going to be way too hard. The Ford engineers report that Normal mode was fastest on the Nürburgring, and I'm sure it'll be faster at Summit Point, too.

To sum up on the suspension: Normal mode is very stiff, as stiff as I can live with. Hard mode is too stiff for the street, and maybe too stiff for almost any track. If I could go back in time and tell the Ford engineers what to do, I would either make the current Normal setting the hard setting, and have a softer setting, or I'd just stay ditch the adjustable shocks altogether and save the money that stuff costs.

Next time I post I hope to have the car back on the dyno for some custom tuning, and maybe we'll have some other performance mods on the car.

Parts mentioned in this post: Cobb AccessPort.

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