While many of the spied car’s body panels are taken directly from Ford’s current hot-hatch flagship, its camouflaged front and rear end and the contents of its wheel arches confirm it’s no regular Focus ST.
Plastic camouflage disguises much of the Focus RS’ new front end, though fails to hide the larger air intakes designed to feed its bigger and more powerful turbocharged engine.
Hinting further at the new powertrain is the prototype’s twin exhaust pipes, which sit either side of the ST’s single central outlet.
The third-generation Focus RS will downsize from its predecessor’s Volvo-sourced 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo, and will almost certainly gain a version of the new Mustang’s turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
The EcoBoost motor produces 227kW and 407Nm in the Pony car, though is rumoured to be tuned beyond 245kW for the new hot-hatch to give it a healthy boost over the old 224kW RS and put it within striking distance of the 265kW Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.
Unlike the AMG, the Focus RS is expected to remain front-wheel drive, with Ford expected to again employ its Revoknuckle front suspension set-up and limited-slip differential to counter the effects of torque-steer and help get power down to the road.
The RS prototype’s multi-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels are one size larger than those on the ST and are wrapped in grippy 235/35-aspect Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
Our spy photographers believe the test car is fitted with four-piston Brembo brake calipers, which would represent a serious step-up over the ST’s single-piston stoppers.
European reports suggest the Ford Focus RS is still at least 18 months away, predicting a 2016 release date, meaning it would once again arrive late in the lifecycle of the popular compact hatch, which debuted in 2011 and is set to be replaced by 2018.
The previous-generation Ford Focus RS was sold in limited numbers in Australia (about 300 in total) at $59,990.