The Ford Focus RS has switched to all-wheel drive, will produce more than 235kW, feature adjustable dampers, and was developed by a team that included YouTube Gymkhana legend Ken Block.
The new Ford Focus RS, expected to go on sale in 2016, is the third version of the hot hatch since 2002. But this iteration will be sold in greater volume around the world in markets including Australia.
Ford Australia sold the previous RS, though only in a limited number of 315 and for a relatively expensive price tag of $59,990.
The 2015 Focus RS also moves to a five-door body style after its predecessors were three-doors.
FRONT PAWS TO ALL FOURS
It’s the Focus RS’s move from front-wheel to all-wheel drive that’s the biggest talking point.
The second-generation RS adopted a clever ‘Revoknuckle’ front strut to try to eliminate the kind of torque steer that blighted the original, with Ford engineers reluctant to use AWD due to weight concerns.
It uses multiple sensors monitoring 100 times per second to continuously vary engine torque between the axles via electronically controlled hydraulic clutch packs positioned either side of a limited-slip-diff-mimicking rear drive unit – with up to 70 per cent of torque capable of being delivered to the rear.
As the Focus RS’s electronics monitor steering wheel angle, lateral acceleration, yaw rate and vehicle speed, all of that rear-biased torque can then be diverted pre-emptively by the RDU to the outside rear wheel to aid corner turn-in and balance.
Ford says the new RS’s lateral grip exceeds 1.0g to deliver benchmark mid-corner and corner-exit speed.
MUSTANG MOTOR … WITH MORE PONIES
As already known, the Ford Focus RS borrows the 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder from the new Mustang muscle car.
Ford’s US-Euro development team, however, has made a raft of major upgrades to "produce in excess of 320PS [235kW]".
The cylinder head and block have been toughened up, while to achieve additional power there’s a new low-inertia, twin-scroll turbo featuring a larger compressor (for greater airflow) and a bigger intercooler (for higher charge air density).
The engine also gains a freer-breathing intake, and a large-bore exhaust system incorporates an electronically controlled valve that balances back pressure and noise.
Ford hasn’t confirmed torque output, though it would be expected to be higher than the 433Nm produced by the Mustang version of the ‘EcoBoost’ engine.
A stop-start system will help save fuel. Consumption and emissions figures have yet to be revealed, with Ford saying they will be significantly reduced.
A 6800rpm engine rev limit is confirmed, though, with Ford claiming the engine will deliver “excellent low-end response, powerful mid-range pull, climbing to a free-revving top end”.
Suitable RS sounds with “burbles, pops and crackles” are also promised.
At this stage, the only transmission looks to be a six-speed manual (cue cheers from the purists), which has been upgraded to cope with the RS’s extra torque. A shorter gear lever has been introduced for quicker and more precise shifts.
The previous Focus RS made for a cracking racetrack weapon and Ford has set out to further lift the hero hatch’s lap-timing capability.
Sports suspension with stiffer springs, bushes and sway bars than the Focus ST sits beneath the RS, and the hottest Focus also brings in two-mode damping – with a firmer track setting. The AWD system also includes a drift setting to aid controlled oversteer driving on a circuit.
Ford has also worked with Michelin to offer optional track-focused – read ‘stickier’ – Pilot Sport Cup 2 semi-slick tyres as an alternative to the standard 235/35R19 Pilot Super Sport rubber.
RS-badged Recaro shell seats will also be available for the most serious drivers.
Ford Focus RS owners wanting to do some track work will get help from their car. The Sync infotainment system includes sat-nav and a ‘Find a racetrack’ feature to help locate the nearest public circuit.
Other standard features announced but not yet confirmed for Australia include partial-leather Recaro seats, bi-xenon adaptive headlights, 8.0-inch touchscreen, dash gauges, and flat-bottom RS sports steering wheel.
A rear-view camera, parking guidance and a premium Sony audio system can be specified with Sync, and a low-speed crash avoidance system is optional, though again we’ll have to wait for Ford Australia to confirm whether these will be standard on local models.
The first Focus RS was available only in one colour (Imperial Blue), the second in three hues, and the newest version offers four paints: Nitrous Blue (exclusive to RS), Stealth Grey, Absolute Black and Frozen White.
NO WRC IMPERSONATOR THIS TIME…
The former RS looked as though it could have just rolled off a World Rally Championship stage and onto your driveway.
Ford has dialled down the aggression this time – likely due to the fact this model needs to appeal to a broader range of tastes this time as a proper global car.
The wheel-arches aren’t as wildly flared as before (though are filled with 19-inch wheels), and although a big roof spoiler features again it’s more subtle in size and integration.
A diffuser-style lower rear bumper is again employed, punctuated by two large tailpipes.
There’s plenty of muscularity up front, where a power bulge bonnet links it visually (but coincidentally) with the Falcon XR8 and Ford’s trademark trapezoidal grille sits higher than before and above a large central air intake.
THE DOLLAR QUESTION
The local launch of the RS is at least a year away so don’t expect Ford Australia to confirm pricing for some time. However, it would be surprising if it weren’t notably cheaper than the $59,990 of the previous model.
Limited availability had its hand in that pricing, and the new RS will be sold in greater numbers and in a larger number of global markets.
Ford Australia has been competitive with the pricing of its current hot-hatches – the Fiesta ST and Focus ST – and the RS also needs to challenge the Subaru WRX STI (from $49,990) and Volkswagen Golf R (from $51,990).