First Drive: 2017 Ford Focus RS

– Monticello, New York

You can learn everything you need to know about the Ford Focus RS, one of the greatest everyday supercars of our time, simply by coming into a corner a little too quickly. You know the routine: ignore the braking zone, test your luck, and pump-slam your foot on the middle pedal, just to see if you can gain any more speed. In most scenarios, something squirrely happens, the car catches it (or not), and an instant sense of palpitating panic sets in and quickly subsides. You catch your breath and move on, but not without regret.

Not in the Focus RS. The most memorable aspect of Ford’s performance bargain of the decade is how surefooted it makes the driver feel. You can test your limits on the same corner, coming in quicker each time without fear of cocking it up, over and over again. The way the Focus RS rotates flatly and confidently, you’d think the world was a carousel, and you’re just riding on it.

On the back straight of the Monticello Motor Club track, about a two-hour drive away from the city that presumably loves to hate cars, this theory coalesced for me. When you’re on the track and charging toward the back straight wall at 120 miles per hour, you hardly have time to think. Take a page from your spin instructor and focus on your breath, if you can, and let the Focus RS do all the rest. Follow the rhythm of the track music. Stomp zealously on the brake pedal, put your eyes ahead as the quick right-hander dovetails into a series of technical change...