Ford Focus RS

Why the Range Rover SV Coupe proves that less is more when it comes to luxury cars

The SV Coupe revisits the idea of the original two-door Range Rover from the 1970s

FORGET everything you’ve ever learned about quality over quantity for a moment. When you wade into the world of the fabulously wealthy, less is usually a lot more.

The price you’d pay for a truly palatial pad in Kensington, Liverpool, for instance, would barely get you a one-bed flat in its London namesake. A main course at an upmarket restaurant in Marylebone or Mayfair costs more than I’d normally spend on a couple’s three-course night out in this part of the world. And don’t get me started on £6 pints.

It’s the same with cars too, as anyone who’s ever ordered a Porsche GT3 and traded rear seats for roll cages and stereos for stripped-back carbonfibre will know.

Which is why I have to admire Land Rover for unveiling its new, ultra-luxury spinoff of the Range Rover at the Geneva Motor Show last week. There’s lots of “contemporary design” and “up-to-the-minute technology” breaking up the slabs of wood and acres of leather you’d expect on the inside, and they are only building 999 of them, but what you can’t fail to notice is that for your £240,000 asking price you get two fewer doors. Automotive proof that less really is more in the world of cars, too.

What it does prove, however, is that if the money’s there then it’s not impossible to convert a five-door car into a three-door one; which makes me wonder why three-door cars much further down the pecking order are all being quietly killed off. The RenaultSport Clio – a car you’d expect to arrive sans rear doors, because that way the body’s stiffer – is now only available in five-door form, and it’s the same story with the Ford Focus, and the Honda Civic. Word has it that the three-door version of Audi’s A3 is being pensioned off, too. Which is a real shame, because for all the awkward fumbling you have with sliding seats forward and climbing through narrow gaps there is a youthful sense of fun about three-door hatches, and it’s sad to see it slowly disappearing.

The Peugeot 205 GTI just wouldn’t have had the same frisson of mischief had it been equipped with five doors, and nor would Renault’s Clio Williams or Citroen’s AX GT. They all had five-door cousins, of course, but it was worth eschewing the practicality for a stiffer bodyshell and cleaner looks. Surely if the argument works for the Range Rover all these years later – especially being positioned as a luxury spinoff – it’ll work for the next Ford Focus RS or Honda Civic Type-R, too?

It’s exactly the sort of petrolhead argument I’m hoping to win next time I visit the pub. Anyone got six quid they can lend me?


Fast Fords at bargain prices – hot hatches that don’t cost a fortune

Ford is pulling the plug on its Focus RS after just two years

IF YOU crane your neck a little and listen carefully you might just be able to hear the sobbing from pubs and supermarket car parks across the land. The Focus RS is about to read its last rites.

Anyone who read last week’s Champion might recall me lamenting the lack of new hot hatches but Ford’s now managed to go one better by culling the fastest of its current five-doors. It’ll be making 50 Heritage Edition-badged cars, and in true Max Power tradition they’ll all be finished in a retina-scorching shade of orange. Yours for £39,895, seeing as you’re asking.

It’s also a fair bet that Fast Ford fetishists are going to spend the next 30 years fighting over the good ones, just as they did with the Escort Mexico, the RS Turbo and the RS Cosworth. In fact, I’ve spent so long writing about old cars with Blue Ovals on their bonnets picking up hair-rising prices at auction that I was beginning to wonder if there are any cheap ones left.

So I went window shopping – with a strict budget of just a tenth of what a Focus RS Heritage Edition costs. I’m delighted to report that you can still pick up blue oval-badged performance cars at blue collar prices.

The chief contender for this sort of money is the Focus ST – in fact, for a few quid over the budget I found one that’d been chipped and is knocking out 260bhp, which is a lot of motoring mischief for under four grand. If it were my money I’d go for its smaller Fiesta ST sibling, which might only serve up 150bhp but the cars out there seem to have lower mileages and be in better condition. Both seem to have fallen into that awkward gap in petrolhead-dom where they’re a bit too old hat to register with today’s go-faster motorists, but they’re too youthful and common in number to end up on the radar of classic car fans. Which is exactly the time to snap the good ones up.

It’s also worth giving the Mondeo ST-220 an honourable mention too, because it really is an astonishingly accomplished ground coverer for the money. It was cruelly snubbed by far too many buyers for the BMW 3-Series when it was new, but nowadays you can get 224bhp, room for five adults, bags of boot space and some finely-honed cornering sparkle in the same package for well under our £4k budget. Job done.

Unless of course, you want a proper Fast Ford of the RS-badged variety, that is. In which case I’ll point you in the direction of the Escort RS2000 of the Nineties – they’re few far and between, but keep looking and you can still get them at sensible prices.

You know you want to. Just don’t paint it orange…