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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hot Wheels 2009 and 2016 Ford Focus RS



Hot Wheels is on a roll with the Ford Performance line for 2016: 2017 Raptor, 2016 GT350 Mustang,, the 2017 GT, and now the 2016 Focus RS.  This is not the first time that Hot Wheels has made the Focus, and this is also not the first time the Focus RS has been done either.  Time to see if the new Focus RS is better than the old.




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The RS is the performance version of the Focus line that has been around since 2002.  The RS uses some components that can be found on the WRC rally Focus as well as modifications for the street.  While the SVT Focus in the U.S. is similar, it does not employ the turbo I-4 that the RS has.  The second-generation really split between the US Focus and the world Focus: while the US version still carried the previous-generation lines the world Focus is completely new.  The new Focus shared platforms with the Mazda 3 and the Volvo S40 and had a more modern and a bit of a futuristic look to the Focus lines.  A facelift in 2008 brought the front-end more inline with the 2010 Taurus for a more sleeker and updated look.  The interior shares similarities with the Mondeo and featues quality materials, larger radio and dual-zone HVAC controls, and even an auxiliary gauge pod in the center.  The front seats get Recaro sport buckets and have the option of two-tone colors.  The engine went from the typical Ford I-4's to the Volvo-sourced 2.5L DOHC turbocharged I-5 that produces 301 horsepower and 325 Ib-ft of torque through a six-speed manual to the front wheels.  The RS also gains suspension modifications that include a RevoKnuckle for the front strut that adjusts tire scrub radius, and exterior enhancements that has a rear spoiler, ground effects, and dual exhausts  0-62 arrives in 5.9 seconds.




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Hot Wheels released this RS casting in 2010 as part of a five-car International release where these five castings arrived outside of the U.S. first before everyone else gets the same casting.  The lime green was the first, followed by the red that also joined its first Super Treasure Hunt in 2012, and the blue with white tires for the 2013 Holiday series.  The front has detailed projector headlights with black center grille with Ford logo (note the blue on my tester somehow migrated to the center of the hood), and the larger lower grille that is a hallmark to the Focus RS.  The hood has dual vents that mimick the 1994 Cosworth Escort, while the sides have flared fenders, multi-spoke wheels, RS graphics, and the three-door fastback roofline.  The rear has slim LED taillights on the C-pillars. rear spoiler, and lower diffuser with dual exhausts.  The interior has nice details from the 3-spoke steering wheel to the center auxiliary gauge pods, while there is seating for four with the bolstered front seats.  It was a nice casting, yet I don't think may others agree as the green one was a constant pegwarmer during its initial release.  Can the new Focus RS reverse that?




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Hard-to-tell, but the new 2016 RS is now available worldwide for the first time with 5-doors and all-wheel drive to add to the roster.  Power is now provided by a turbocharged 2.3L DOHC I-4 from the Ford Mustang that produces 350 horsepower through a six-speed manual and to all four wheels with the Torque-Vectoring All-Wheel-Drive system that sends power to the wheels that have the most grip, and with Drift Mode activated can turn this car into a rear-wheel drive drift machine.  0-62 arrives in 4.7 seconds.  The new RS is toned down a bit and tends to look close to the ST version with only a larger grille with revised foglights, rear spoiler, and dual exhausts.




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Standing in grabber blue the RS looks pretty sharp despite offset headlights and lack of detailed taillights in the rear.  The Focus also got an upgrade for 2015 that includes new headlights, taillights, and a revised dashboard.  The front has detailed projector headlights with LED lights near the center next to the large black grille with RS logo, larger lower grille, and side foglights and front brake ducts.  The sides have the 4-door layout with not much flare or side graphics, and the PR5 wheels are nice but the dark gray 10-spoke wheels would look proper here.  The rear has a larger spoiler, taillights with one gas cap door (get it, Greenlight?), lower diffuser with dual exhausts, and a nice RS badge stamped to the rear gate just in case you confuse the RS with the ST.  The base does not show much, so onto the interior:  It now has more room with seating for five and a vast cargo area over the 3-door RS.  The dashboard is more edgier and unique in this generation of Focus with 3-spoke steering wheel, the famed auxiliary gauges at the center of the dash, and a MyTouch infotainment touchscreen with dual-zoned HVAC controls in the center.  The front seats also are bolstered, though not as much as the 3-door RS.  Pretty much it looks like a typical ST or Focus interior.  Now how does the new one compared to the 3-door on the track?  Both offer excellent handling dynamics, but the 3-door is more fun to toss around as the new 5-door is more refined thanks to the lower stance and all-wheel drive setup.  The new one is faster, but not really much difference here.





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While the new Focus RS is nice, it has the issue of looking rather like an ordinary Focus model with only a hint of styling flare and this Hot Wheels model could use more detail painting at the rear.  Plus, the Greenlight Focus ST was so nicely done that it makes the RS look like a slight advancement.  So for me I still like the 3-door RS, but I will admit the new 5-door is a nice addition.







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Hot Wheels 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata, 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata, Motormax 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Johnny Lightning 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata



Matchbox made big news this year with the new 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata.  I know because I just recently reviewed the casting and pitted it against the other Matchbox sports cars, the BMW 1M, Alfa Romeo 4C, and Porsche Cayman S, and it won.  The problem that I found on the casting was the suspension allowed more body roll and was focused more for the open road than on a racetrack.  To resolve that answer Hot Wheels introduces their own Miata, and unlike the Matchbox version this is Hot Wheels second Miata casting, so this brought me the opportunity to bring out some past Miata's against the new Hot Wheels version.







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Hot Wheels: 1990 vs. 2015

Hot Wheels was on the scene when the new Miata was introduced in 1989 as the 1990 version.  The idea started with Motor Trend editor Bob Hall reflected to engineer's at Japanese automaker Mazda about the joys of open-top driving in a classic British sports car.  When he became head of product planner at Mazda in 1981 he wanted Mazda to create a modern day equivalent of the essential British roadster that was more durable and reliable.  The "Offline 55" program was created to change the way Mazda developed new vehicles, and the MX-5 was on the list.  When it finally appeared at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show it was met with strong positive reaction from the buying public, with pre-orders lining up at Mazda dealers for the new roadster.  Today, not only is the Miata the most reliable, fun-to-drive roadster on the road it is also the best car to use on the track, creating its own SCCA racing series.  Today automakers try to match, or exceed, the Miata's reputation with their own sports cars but end up missing the mark on the most popular small roadster out there.






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Hot Wheels has made plenty of Miata's, but the one that is the most clean is the burgundy version shown here with a tan interior, 7-spoke wheels, and a lower metal base that is color-matched to the upper body (rarely a few versions have different colors between the upper and lower sections).  The round shape is correct with turn signal lights that are part of the windows, lower round grille opening, and hood bulge.  The rest of the car lacks the finer details like door handles, inner taillight lenses, and the car is rather too rounded; this is the pitfall of Hot Wheels lazy tools that were common in the early 1990's.  The base shows off the exhaust, drivetrain, and a transmission pan that directs to a 4-speed automatic instead of the 5-speed manual transmission (bummer!).  The power comes from a 1.6L DOHC I-4 that produces 115 hp. and 101 Ib-ft of torque through a lightweight body to the rear wheels with front strut and independent rear suspension.  Very fun, and it is for this small casting to toss around in the corners!  The interior needs help as it has a rising center stack (incorrect) and panels that are as flat as Kansas!






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Today's better tooling designs results in a more appropriate-looking MX-5 Miata for 2015.  However, Hot Wheels now has competition from their counterpart, Matchbox, so a stock version will not work.  Instead, Hot Wheels goes for the track version based on a Cup show car shown last year with a few additional features.  The front has the aggressive headlights and LED lights with headlights that look much better than the Matchbox units.  Down below in the large grille opening you can see the visible intercooler and the lower chin spoiler adds downforce and style to the front.  Also note the hood latches on the hood as well.  The sides add blank racing graphics similar to last year's Jaguar F-type with additional lower ground effects to aid in aerodynamics, leading to the blacked-out 5-spoke wheels with white rims (could do without the white lip) and up to the trunk lid-mounted rear spoiler.  The rear has detailed taillights that are not as detailed as the Matchbox version, but adds two enhancements: dual exhaust that pokes out where the reverse lamps used to be, and the lower bumper diffuser.






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The base underneath only shows the exhaust, and for those who are curious the interior and windshield are not shared between the two (unlike the Tesla Model S last year).  The interior is also right-hand drive with nicely-done steering wheel, gauges, shifter, and touch screen details, but without the detailed pedals.  Strangely for a race car it lacks 5-point seatbelts even though it has a rollcage where the top used to be (hope it doesn't rain!)  Now how does the new look handle at the track?  Well it feels just like the Matchbox version with one major improvement: there's no body roll as it takes on the corners like a proper sports car designed for the track.  Having your ice cream and your cake at the same time!





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Motormax 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

There has been quite a bit of large-scale replica's based on the Miata that have mostly been out-of-reach for those on a budget, but Motormax did quite a good job with the 1:24 scale version featuring opening hood, doors, and trunk and offering plenty of details for the price.  Of course, some of those details were downsized to the 1:64 version even though some areas didn't work out too well.  My tester came from a multipack years ago and suffers from a warped windshield frame.  The exterior is nicely done with detailed side marker lights, washer nozzles on the hood, rear antenna mount, and rear mud flaps.  The signal lights up front are detailed and a bit too small, while the taillights are detailed in red but could use more details.  Wheel selection is not the best as the 8-dot wheels that were most common on this casting look rather downgraded basic steel wheels.





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The base shows off the excellent details that include the rear suspension, exhaust system, and the transmission for the 5-speed manual (thanks goodness!)  The interior is even more impressive with plenty of sharp details and Motormax was the leader in detailed side door panels that no one has ever thought of back then.  The dashboard has the correct center stack with detailed buttons and even the two-spoke steering wheels tries its best to show off.  There's even a small cargo area just behind the front seats and just ahead of the tonneau cover.  Very nice, though it could use a few enhancements.





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Johnny Lightning 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Now before I continue you'll notice the lack of the third-generation (2006-2014) Miata.  How come?  Well not that many good replica's were made, and the good ones are hard-to-find.  When I get one later on i'll review it, but for now that's the missing slot in my collection.  Back to generation two where Johnny Lightning offers a big surprise when it introduced their first Japanese sports car.  A Miata, of course, and the second-generation at best.  The new Miata does not stray far from the original with the same styling touches and interior design; the one difference is the signal light ovals now house the headlight units and a 6-speed manual was offered later on.  The engine is now a 1.8L DOHC I-4 that produces 140 hp. and 157 Ib-ft of torque through a 5-speed manual until the 6-speed was offered first in the 10th Anniversary edition and later to all other Miata models.








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Johnny Lightning made lots of nicely-done Miata's and this one is my favorite: just like the Hot Wheels version shown above its burgundy with a two-tone tan/black interior.  The body is sill round, yet its beltline is taller.  The front has detailed headlights, foglights, side marker lights, round grille with mesh pattern, and lower scoops for the front brakes.  The sides show off more  curves with detailed mirrors and windshield frame.  The rear has detailed taillights and Mazda badges on the trunklid.  The base does not show much aside from the exhaust, rear suspension, and front subframe on a metal construction.  The interior is the best for details that include the proper 3-spoke steering wheel, center stack controls, air vents, detailed door panels, bucket seats, and center console.  Too bad this JL casting lacks the opening hood that most other Johnny Lightnings had at the time, but otherwise its a pretty decent casting.



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