Speaking to CarAdvice at the launch of the 2016 Ford Focus RS, Tyrone Johnson, the head of engineering and vehicle manager at Ford Performance, confirmed that the original plan for this generation Focus RS was to remain front-wheel drive, with a lot of convincing required to get the additional budgets required to make it otherwise.
“What we have at Ford is what is called cycle plans, what that means is plans of products of the future, five six years in the future. For those plans people have to put in funding… I want to do a new RS for example, in four years time and its going to cost X millions of dollars and those numbers get set it and it almost gets set in stone. Then when it comes to the point when it comes to planning the details and adding up the costs and you’re either above or below those numbers.
“Unfortunately my predecessor kind of screwed me and kind of said we will just do another front-wheel drive RS, what I mean is he put in way too small budget in the program so I had to convince senior management that... that was just bullshit, more or less, and that it needed to be something else.
“I wouldn’t have been interested in doing just another FWD RS, been there, done that, got the T Shirt, don’t need to do it again and what are you going to do on a FWD, 350hp was already a lot… what are you going to do 400hp? There’s No point in that exercise.”
Johnson admits that the competitor’s insistence on AWD was a strong factor in why the new Focus RS changed its fundementals
“We looked at what was out there and saw what was coming, company’s know what other companies are doing and AWD was more or less the only option.”
According to Johnson another attempt at a FWD Focus RS would not have resulted in a car that was better than its predecessor.
“What are you going to do to enhance the performance of this car, again, FWD? 350hp was the limit and pushing the boundaries, if you ask me it was too much already. So what else is there? That was part of the frustrating thing to me because I had to convince people that AWD was the option but to me it what the obvious option. There’s no other option.”
The good news for Ford Performance is that the AWD system is now developed to work in the C1 platform (which in its 15 years of existence has been the underpinnings of multiple models from Ford, Mazda, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover).
“We’ve done the hard work now, the system developed it, made it durable and stuff and it could come in another system. It’s part of the C1 platform so it can plug and play in a number of other cars, the problem is that the system is not inexpensive so there has to be a business case for it.”
The other notable car currently using the C1 platform is the Ford Kuga, an SUV which Johnson did not rule out as a possibility for RS treatment.