Focus RS vs Mustang GT

Focus RS vs Mustang GT

Last Updated July 20, 2021 | C.J. Tragakis

For over 50 years, active racers and thrill-seekers from all walks of life have turned to the Ford Mustang to help them live out all of their wildest dreams on the roadway and the track.

Ever since Lee Iacocca and company introduced the very first Mustang to the world on April 17, 1964, the pony car has been a unifying symbol throughout the performance driving community.

The Mustang, more specifically, the Mustang GT, has long been a standard-bearer for the Ford Motor Company and has constantly evolved to meet the standards of the present era.

rear view of dark yellow Mustang GT

Over the years, Ford has constantly made a number of impactful changes under the hood, much to the delight of Mustang GT owners everywhere. The V8 engine continues to grow more powerful with every generational redesign/shift, highlighted by the tremendous strides made in the famed S550 body style in 2015 and with the redesign in 2018.

Towards the end of the Mustang’s Fifth Generation, Ford dipped into the European hatchback market by introducing both the Focus ST and Fiesta ST to the American automotive market. Both the Focus ST and Fiesta STs were a hit with North American drivers, but neither hot hatch could touch the Mustang GT’s performance stats.

In 2016, one year into the Mustang’s Sixth Generation, however, the Ford Motor Company unveiled another performance-oriented vehicle to the U.S. that would give the pony car a run for its money: The Focus RS.

Blue Focus RS

The 2016 Focus RS took what everyone loved about the Focus ST and cranked it up several notches both appearance-wise as well as under the hood and throughout the chassis.

Inarguably the meanest hatchback to ever hit North America, the RS packed a whole lot of power into such a small package. Though it lasted just three years, the Ford Focus RS took to autocross and racing crowds by storm in its brief run at the top.

Muscle car and hot hatch fans are two dedicated groups and the Ford Focus RS vs. Mustang GT debate will rage on until the end of time.

This article breaks down the differences between the Mustang GT and the 2018 Focus RS, both on the exterior and within the engine compartment, and you can decide for yourself as to which vehicle is best for you!

Focus RS vs Mustang GT Engine

When auto enthusiasts compare and contrast two vehicles with one another, many of them go straight to the underhood area. The Ford Mustang GT sports a monstrous 5.0L motor, while the Focus RS is powered by a 2.3L EcoBoost engine. On the surface, it would appear as though the Mustang clearly wins this battle in a landslide, but once you dig a little deeper, you will find that the RS is firmly in the race.

2018 Focus RS vs. 2018 Mustang GT Performance Stats
Specification 2018 Mustang GT 2018 Focus RS
Engine 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 2.3L EcoBoost I-4
Horsepower 460 hp 350 hp
Torque 420 lb.-ft 350 lb.-ft
0-60 Time Under 4 sec 4.6 sec
Quarter Mile Time 11.8 sec (Auto, Drag Mode) 13.4 sec
Fuel Economy 25 hwy MPG 25 hwy MPG
Base Price $35,190 $36,120 ($41,120 for 2018)

Taking a look at the table above, from a horsepower and torque standpoint, the 2018 Mustang GT exceeds its Focus RS cousin. The new Coyote 5.0L motor can put down an impressive 460 hp, which is 25 greater than what 2015-2017 S550s pushed out. Similarly, the torque numbers increased by 20 during the Sixth Generation refresh, and 2018 Mustang GTs can travel from 0-60 MPH in less than four seconds.

The Gen 2 Coyote engine found in 2015-2017 Mustang GTs was a powerful beast, but the Ford Motor Company raised the bar even higher for 2018. The latest V8 motor came complete with a dual injection fuel system. The dual injection setup combined with the existing port injectors boosted the compression ratio from 11.0:1 to 12.0:1, which led to greater power and better fuel economy as a result.

2018 Mustang & 2018 Focus RS engine bay comparison

Obviously, a four-cylinder engine will never top an eight-cylinder motor, but even diehard V8 fans cannot help but marvel at what lies underneath the hood of a Focus RS. A Ford Focus RS features a 2.3L turbocharged EcoBoost motor that churns out 350 horsepower-an impressive number for a hatchback. These horsepower and torque capabilities in combination with AWD enable the RS to top a Mustang EcoBoost in reaching 60 MPH.

The 2.3L motor is impressive enough on its own, but the turbocharger also features a twin-scroll unit with a large compressor wheel, which greatly improves airflow to the engine. The influx of fresh oxygen to the motor will consequently allow the engine to churn out even more power.

Focus RS vs Mustang GT Drivetrain

In addition to what lies within each engine compartment, the drivetrain is something to take into account when deciding between a Mustang GT and a Focus RS. The pony car features a rear-wheel drive setup, while the RS is an all-wheel-drive car.

Rear-wheel drive vehicles have been around for decades. In a rear-wheel-drive system, the front wheels do the steering and the rear wheels do the pushing, which is perfect for what many Mustang GT drivers hope to accomplish with their muscle cars. Drag racing enthusiasts will especially appreciate the absence of any torque steer, which would otherwise prevent a Mustang GT or any other rear-wheel drive vehicle from accelerating in a straight line.

Thanks to the rear-wheel-drive system, when a Mustang GT accelerates, the extra weight from the vehicle is transferred to the rear, which greatly increases traction with the road’s surface. The increased traction and reduction of weight from the front of the car allows for a softer suspension and leads to better braking and better overall handling capabilities.

2018 Mustang Race Red

A rear-wheel-drive setup is great for the track, but if you have other ambitions in mind, you are going to want to have the most advanced way to propel a vehicle forward, and that is an all-wheel-drive system. Unlike its hatchback cousins, the Focus ST and Fiesta ST, the Ford Focus RS is an all-wheel-drive car.

All-wheel-drive vehicles contain a transfer case or center differential, which enables the power to reach both the front and rear axles, and eventually, all four wheels. The incredible balance and versatility allow the Focus RS to maintain excellent traction on both wet and dry surfaces. The increased grip on the road’s surface allows for more accurate turning at high speeds, which is especially prevalent in autocross events.

Additionally, the innovative torque-vectoring AWD system present in the RS features clutch packs located in the rear differential that allows 70% of the engine torque to reach the rear wheels. As if that was not impressive enough, the AWD setup ensures that up to 100% of the engine torque is applied to the outer rear wheel when cornering. The precise distribution of torque to the rear wheels enables drift mode, which allows RS drivers to perform controlled slides when called upon.

Drift mode is an exclusive feature for the Focus RS, and it has enchanted autocross fans from coast-to-coast since its debut. The RWD vs AWD dilemma will rage on for years to come and they both have their advantages, but if you want your vehicle to glide across the surface without a care in the world, then the Focus RS is the answer for you!

Other Differences Between The Focus RS and Mustang GT

Now that we have covered where the Focus RS & the Mustang GT derive their power from and how said power reaches the pavement, we will address other noticeable differences between the hot hatch and the pony car.

Speaking of the drivetrain, the Focus RS sits on a quartet of 19”x 8” wheels, while the base Mustang GT features 18” x 8” rims, configurable up to 19” x 10.5” front and 19” x 11” rear with the GT Performance Package – Level 2.

Those that struggle to differentiate a Focus RS from a Focus ST can look no further than the size of the wheels. The RS boasts four bulky 19” wheels while the ST contains four 18” x 7” rims. On the other side of the coin, a 2018 Ford Mustang GT is offered in several performance packages that contain 19” wheels, but 18” is the size for the base GT.

Performance Package 2 Mustang GT

The exteriors of both the Focus RS and Mustang GT have little in common, both in dimensions and weight among other noticeable discrepancies. A 2018 Mustang GT measures 188.3” and has a curb weight of 3,075 pounds[CC1]. In contrast, a Focus RS is shorter by nearly 16 inches (172.7”), and weighs roughly 400 pounds less than a Mustang GT (3,434 lbs.).

The differences in appearance between a hot hatch and a muscle car are well documented, but the most impact one has to do with the number of doors on both vehicles. Since 1964.5, Mustangs have had just two doors, with one on each side, and that is likely to never change. The Focus RS, however, features four doors, which makes access to the rear seating area much easier which can make it a bit more practical to some owners.

If you are someone that prefers having an abundance of color choices, then the 2018 Mustang GT is for you. Aspiring 2018 Mustang GT owners can choose from 11 different colors, including the signature Orange Fury, as well as the returning Race Red and Lightning Blue among others. The Ford Focus RS had four color options to choose from in both 2016 & 2017 and only two for 2018. Those that wished to be one of the lucky few to own a 2018 Focus RS could select either Race Red or Nitrous Blue.

Focus RS vs Mustang GT Conclusion:

We have laid out cases for both the Ford Focus RS and the Mustang GT-the question is, which Ford Motor Company product is better for you? Well, that depends on what you want! The price range is pretty close, other than the 2018 RS and certain special edition GTs, so it is up to you to determine what goals you have for your vehicle.

When comparing these two high-performance machines, it is important to factor in the longevity of each vehicle. While the Mustang will ride on for many years, the Focus RS will come to an end following the 2018 model year.

Because the pony car will continue to be a fixture in the American automotive market, finding the correct OE and aftermarket parts will be much easier, and manufacturers will continue to develop new products for Mustang GTs long after the 2018 model year has come and gone-the same cannot be said for the Focus RS.

Similarly, if you wish to enter the wonderful world of drag racing, then the Mustang GT would probably be your best bet, especially when equipped with the new 10-speed 10R80 Automatic Transmission. The pony car features slight edges in both 0-60 & quarter-mile times, and the rear-wheel-drive system makes it an ideal vehicle for the drag strip and other similar straight-line races. The RS is a formable racing specimen in its own right, but we give the slight edge to the GT in these types of events.

It may not have the same horsepower and torque numbers as the Mustang GT, but the Focus RS is an absolute blast to drive, particularly during heavy cornering and other related scenarios. Additionally, no Mustang, or any other Ford vehicle for that matter, offers anything comparable to the drift mode found on the Focus RS. The ability to drift on command is something in which automotive enthusiasts have dreamed of for years, and by purchasing a Focus RS, that dream can become a reality.

Front-End of Focus RS

Passenger seating is also a distinct advantage for the Focus RS. Anyone that has ever ridden in the back of a Mustang will tell you that the rear seat area is far from the most comfortable place on earth. It is not quite your typical four-door vehicle, but the Focus RS features a significant increase in real estate for the backseat passengers and the area is far more accessible. If you were picking one of these two Ford cars as a daily driver for a family of four, you would be best served going with the RS.

Both the Focus RS and the Mustang GT feature passionate fan bases with clubs and organizations all across the United States that will welcome you with open arms. If you need help installing a part or if you just want to talk about your favorite vehicle, you will not have to look very far to find like-minded Focus RS and Mustang owners that would be happy to join you.

Whether you own a Focus RS or a Mustang GT, CJ Pony Parts is here to provide you with all of the parts & accessories that you need, informative tech articles, and installation videos that will help you enjoy your driving experience to the fullest!

CJ Author Photo

About the Author

C.J. is a Focus ST owner and car industry buff. He uses his first-hand experience and passion for the industry to craft interesting and helpful topics for fellow enthusiasts. Read full bio →

Focus RS vs Mustang GT

One year after the masses laid their eyes on the newest Mustang GT, the Ford Motor Company introduced the Focus RS as the latest American-made hatchback. So which high-performance Ford vehicle is best for you? This Focus RS vs. Mustang GT guide compares and contrasts the pony car with the hot hatch!