Cosworth in storage

Ford Escort RS Cosworth: meeting a childhood hero

Cars

When you have a chance to meet your heroes you are advised to think twice... but should you?

Fast Ford hysteria has hit cataclysmic heights in recent years. The latest Focus RS was launched, instantly becoming the world’s favourite hot hatch and trumping all of its – much pricier – German rivals for both pace and driving pleasure.

The Mustang has finally arrived in the UK, triggering off-the-scale order numbers. And, at the same time, old fast Fords continually pass through auction halls, attracting frenzied bids and selling for frankly bonkers sums. The Escort RS Cosworth lives somewhat in the shadow on the car on which it’s based, the Sierra RS Cosworth. And while you can pick up an Escort Cossie for around £30,000 (admittedly rather close to the list price of the new Focus RS), the Sierra often tops £50,000 at auction. One example recently sold for an incredible £75,000.

While spending £30,000 on an old Escort might seem a weird idea to some of us, it could prove a clever buy. It wasn’t that long ago that they were in the classifieds for around £10,000, and the market is showing no signs of stopping its upward trend.

RS Cosworth front

But would you want to? Visitors to this month’s Geneva Motor Show would have seen a gleaming example of an Imperial Blue Escort RS Cosworth Lux on Ford’s stand: N192 FTW. The Lux spec means it’s a bit more luxurious than a standard Cossie, with leather Recaros, a sunroof, electric windows and a heated windscreen. The downside of such extras is an extra 45 kilos and, consequently, an extra 0.4 seconds to 62mph. That’s quite a penalty but, at 6.1 seconds, it’s still not slow by mid-90s standards.

The Escort Cosworth was that clichéd poster car when I was growing up, and when Ford invited me to their Dagenham heritage centre for a drive in ‘FTW’, I was surprisingly nervous. What if this homologation special didn’t live up to the promises made by its huge wing and overtly aggressive appearance?

RS Cosworth rear

Once I get behind the wheel, it feels more special than initially expected. Sure, it’s essentially a Mk5 Escort inside, with all the grim, dated plastic that goes with that. But its hefty Recaro bucket seats, along with white dials and extra instrument gauges showing oil pressure, turbo boost and the like, hint at what’s to come.

Cosworth interior

That feeling of ‘specialness’ continues as I start it up and drive away. The heavy clutch immediately identifies this as being a bit different to a standard Escort, while the power-assisted steering also requires a bit of muscle at low speeds. It’s communicative, though, not that I’m driving the Cossie particularly hard around the mean streets of Dagenham. Its suspension – a mix of MacPherson struts at the front and semi-trailing arms at the rear – provides a surprisingly smooth ride, encouraging ‘making progress’ style driving.

And when I do open it up… it’s every bit as impressive as it would have been 20-odd years ago. As a later model, FTW uses the smaller Garrett T25 turbocharger, which means lag isn’t quite as monstrous as the Cossie’s reputation suggests. It’s every bit the useable modern classic. Even in wet conditions, there’s no hint that it wants to chuck you into a hedge.

Cosworth

But that doesn’t mean it’s mundane. The four-wheel-drive system divvies up torque, sending 66% to the rear, allowing you to use the throttle in corners without encountering terminal understeer. Getting to grips with the Cossie is incredible fun – and much more rewarding than many modern four-wheel-drive hot hatches.

Before long, it’s time to hand the Cosworth back to Ford. I met a hero, and it didn’t disappoint. Is it worth more than a new Focus RS? Probably not. Would I have one over a new Focus RS? Too right.

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  • Bert Impetigo

    I’m lucky enough to have both an Escort RS Cosworth, that I’ve had since new, and a new Focus RS. Which is my favourite? The Escort, hands down.