Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cobb IC Pipe Kit, Rota Grid Wheels, YouTube Fame!

We recently received the brand-new Cobb Tuning hard pipe kit for our Focus RS. The kit replaces a bunch of different-size and shape intake pipes with smooth, single-diameter metal piping. We'd anticipate that this would decrease turbulence and restriction in the intake tract, and less restriction means more freed-up horsepower.

The kit installed easily, and we observed no interference between the piping and any part of the motor -- this is important because hard metal piping can make a lot of noise if it contacts anything else metal. The stock piping has many segments, and at least three different pipe diameters, plus a convoluted section that looks to be designed to reduce noise. The Cobb piping is all smooth and the same uniform diameter throughout, and the number of joints is kept to a minimum.

It looks very nice, with black sand-finish powder coated aluminum piping, but enjoy it while you're installing it, because once it's on the car you'll never see it again. Does it add power? We don't know for sure -- we have not re-dyno'ed the car since adding the pipe kit. But just look at the differences in the plumbing. How could it not flow better? Don't worry, we'll have the car back on the dyno at some point, so this power question will not remain un-answered.

We also got in a set of lovely bronze Rota Grid wheels, in 18x9.5" size, +38 offset. When we first looked at the wheels they looked colossally wide compared to the stock 19x8" Focus RS wheels. We had our doubts as to whether they'd even fit under the car's skinny fenders. There's also the question of the Focus's giant Brembo brake package up front. Those wheels are awfully dishy. Would they clear the brake calipers? Well, yes, they do. They even fit under the fenders. Mostly.

For tires with went with a Continental Extreme Contact Sport in size 255/40R18. This is about 2% taller than stock, about as much as we'd suggest deviating from the stock tire size. We also considered going with a 255/35R18, which would have given us more fender clearance, but that would have been 2% shorter than stock. The taller tire has a slightly taller sidewall for a tiny bit more ride comfort, which we'd be grateful for.

On first blush, the tires appeared to stick out from the car a bit. Doing our scientific experiments (otherwise known as flailing the car around an empty parking lot like a nut) regarding suspension motion and fender clearance, we established that we couldn't actually get the front fenders to run into the tires no matter what we did, but that the rear fenders would ever so slightly skim the outer sidewall at full suspension travel. It was not enough to cut the rubber up, but the sidewalls got a little polished. A 255/35R18 or a 245/40R18 should fit fine without any clearance problems. If we had any camber adjustability, we could also tip the tops of the tires in slightly to get them to tuck under the fenders, but for now our suspension is 100% stock.

The ride with the 18" wheels and tires is pleasantly softer than with the OEM 19's. There is a tiny bit less steering sharpness with the wider/softer tire setup, but the Extreme Contact Sport tires give up very little in dry grip compared to the stock Michelin Pilot Super Sports, and the wet grip is astounding -- I'd say superior to the already amazing PSS tires.

We got a ton of positive comments regarding the look of the car with this wheel and tire setup. The deep concave shape of the wheels is a sharp contrast to the very flat OEM wheels, and the much wider tires and track width give the car a very chunky and solid appearance.

We've already been observing that the car picks up and throws a lot of rocks and gravel, and with the wider tire package we're even more concerned about blasting the beautiful Nitrous Blue paint with road debris, so we may end up installing some Rally Armor mud flaps to minimize the sandblast threat.

We had the chance to meet the Gears and Gasoline guys (Ben and Ben) to shoot a little video about our Focus RS and the Cobb Tuning parts we've already put on and plan to put on. The G&G team was extremely professional and we were impressed with their video skills and knowledge of cars. We did some interviews in the shop and a little rolling footage of the car. The Gears and Gasoline YouTube channel has a whole bunch of very high-quality car-themed vids, including some interesting interviews with other YouTube car-related personalities. Definitely check them out. We'll probably be working with them again, so stay tuned.

Parts mentioned in this post:Cobb Tuning hard pipe kit for Focus RS, Rota Grid 18x9.5 +38 , Rally Armor mud flaps.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tracking the Focus RS, and...Moah Powah!

In November we took the Focus RS to our annual Mach V Track Day, which is a NASA High-Performance Driving Event (HPDE) that we sponsor at Summit Point Raceway each year. Then earlier this month we put the car back on the dyno for some custom ECU tuning. We were pleasantly surprised with the results in both cases.

Driving the RS on track was quite pleasant. The compromises that we perceived on the street -- ride too stiff, seats too huggy -- disappeared on track. The suspension (in normal mode) worked perfectly, and the seats kept us from having to brace our knees against the door in corners. The grip is amazing! Note, too, that our car is on regular street tires -- Michelin Pilot Super Sport, not the optional super-gummy Sport Cup 2 tires. We did not find the car understeer-y. Sure, it can push wide if you get on the power hard too early in a corner, but steady-state cornering was nicely balanced.

The car really goes around corners quite well, and that magical Rear Drive Unit definitely makes its presence known, especially in tighter corners, where just when you think the back end is about to wash out, instead the car just tracks neatly around the corner.

We did briefly try the Sport (harder) shock mode. It was far too stiff for the relatively bumpy track surface of Summit Point Main circuit, and we had to back off in order to stay on track, so we switched back to Normal mode.

We drove the car for about eight 20-minute track
sessions. In that time the car never complained, and we saw no Check Engine lights, no rear drive unit issues, and no brake fade. We did rotate the tires halfway through the weekend, but wear didn't seem terrible. (We tried not to punish the tires too much -- those tires are not cheap, and overheated Pilot Super Sports get greasy.)

The power was impressive. The car really launches out of corners, and we caught quite a few other cars on corner exit, since we could get on the gas far earlier than most 2WD cars. Speaking of gas, if we thought the car got bad mileage on the street, it is drastically worse on track. We had to fill up after each session, or we'd start to run out of fuel at the end of the second session.

Some time after we got back from the track, we received a nice letter from Ford corporate, advising us that the car will use more oil if you track it. Why yes, now that you mention it, it did consume maybe a third of a quart from our track outing. We topped off with Motorcraft 5W50. We'll probably switch to a Motul oil long-term, but we didn't have any Motul 5W50 around at the time.

A couple of weeks ago we strapped the car back onto the dyno to see if we could squeeze any extra horses from the mechanically-stock car. Turns out we could. To review, the car previously produced 314 whp and 337 lb-ft. After some adjusting of various boost/fuel/timing tables, and a few other settings, we were able to manage 335 hp to the wheels, and a whopping 394 lb-ft! That's a 21 hp gain, and a 57 lb-ft improvement.

With the increased power the car shoots forward under hard acceleration with even more urgency, especially around the 3000-4500 RPM torque peak. It's pretty dramatic.

We hope that all the drivetrain components can cope with the extra power and torque. So far we haven't had any indication of problems, but time will tell. The clutch would be the most obvious failure point from the very high torque, but the rear drive unit is a bit of an unknown, and there is that little rear section of the drive shaft itself that is surprisingly thin. Stay tuned as we continue to probe the mechanical limits of this machine.

We are seeing that 2017 Focus RS models are finally available, and that dealerships are starting to offer the car without Additional Dealer Markup (ADM). Some people even report purchasing a car under MSRP. That makes the Focus RS even more of an amazing performance buy.