The Golf feels light after the Focus. Not the 48kg lighter that the claimed kerb weights would suggest (the Audi, at 1520kg, is just 4kg lighter than the Ford), but more in terms of the control weights. Pedals, steering and gearshift all have a slightly more assisted quality to them and the R feels less purposeful as a result. However, there is nothing flimsy about the way the Golf attacks a road. It stays pretty flat in corners, even with the adaptive dampers in their softer setting, but you can really lean into the lateral grip mid-corner and feel the tyres digging into the surface. Fast bends in particular are a forte, with the VW making a composed, clean line look beautifully easy.
Don’t be fooled by the demure, almost dowdy spec of this car, either, because as soon as you wind it up it absolutely begs to be thrashed. Charging back up the wide, smooth BP-1101, I can’t help but wring every last drop from the free-revving engine. Hustling the Golf into corners, the brakes don’t feel as secure as the Ford’s, but they are effective and you find yourself leaning on them really late. I had expected the VW might feel a little lacklustre in terms of pace after the RS and RS3, but not a bit of it.
Another run in the Ford on a narrower, rather dusty side road clarifies the character of the four-wheel-drive system in the Focus RS. To recap, it has a central clutch and then a rear drive unit that uses two clutch packs to distribute the power between the back wheels as an ECU sees fit. Torque vectoring, in other words.