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First official look: Ford’s red-hot Focus RS lives!

Hot hatched: Latest Focus RS delivers 224kW, via its front wheels.

Ford reveals its hottest Focus ever, but Aussie fans shouldn’t hold their breath

7 Jul 2008

FORD publicly committed to producing a new-generation Focus RS late last year and last month issued teaser “spy” shots of the range-topping Focus under development at Germany’s Nurburgring circuit – and now it has revealed images and full details of the production version in all its formidable glory.

Due to make its official public debut at the London motor show on July 22, the RS-badged Focus has been confirmed to deliver 300hp (224kW) and at least 410Nm of torque from its turbocharged Duratec 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder engine, and is claimed to be good for 0-100km/h acceleration in less than six seconds.

Despite its tarmac-burning performance and appearance, however, Ford Australia says there is no change to its official position on the model, which is that the XR5 will remain Ford’s flagship Focus variant here unless FPV can make local modifications sufficient enough for it to wear the Blue Oval performance house’s badge.

More worryingly for Ford hot-hatch fans, Ford says there is no plan to import the Focus RS, which won’t hit European roads until 2009, until after the company begins production of the next-generation Focus in Australia in 2011, which means the newest RS is, for now, off Ford’s local agenda altogether.

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“We’ve obviously seen it and it looks hot, but there is no change to our position,” said Ford Australia’s Sinead McAlary. “When we start to produce the Focus in Australia in 2011, we’ll obviously evaluate it as part of our local range to see if there’s a market here for it and whether FPV can have a role in its development.”

The second RS-badged Focus to emerge from Ford is based on the European-spec Focus ST (known as the XR5 here) and is the work of engineers and designers under the direction of Ford of Europe’s new vehicle line director for performance vehicles, Jost Capito.

Reviving the Ford RS moniker that first emerged in Germany in the 1960s and spread across Europe following the launch of the 1970 Escort RS1600 and subsequent RS-wearing Fiesta and Sierra models, the London show car is said to “preview the design intent for a final production vehicle, though as development work continues, some final details may change before volume production begins”.

Finished in a special bright green paint with inlaid metallic flake – “a modern interpretation of the 1970s Le Mans Green of the Escort RS1600 era” – the new RS is powered by a totally revised version of Volvo’s turbo-five, mated to a Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing limited-slip differential.

The latter works in conjunction with new “RevoKnuckle” front suspension technology co-developed by Ford Team RS engineers and Ford's Advanced Research Centre in Aachen, Germany, and is claimed to “allow the simplicity of a traditional MacPherson strut arrangement, but with geometry settings that minimize steering disturbances and torque steer, principally a reduction in steering offset”.

Ford says the new front-end hardware allows the RS to achieve its traction, handling and steering targets while retaining its donor car’s front-drive layout, unlike its direct rivals in the Volkswagen Golf R32, Subaru Impreza STI and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.

“We want the new Focus RS to be a serious high performance car – as much a car for driving enthusiasts as the one before it and classic Ford RS models of the past. We’re staying true to the core RS principles of an exciting, yet affordable performance road car you can live with every day,” said Mr Capito.

“The Ford Focus is an excellent base for a high performance car – agile, responsive and stable. We studied at length how best to enhance these qualities for a high performance model. Our work has shown clearly that our approach in combining a tuned RevoKnuckle with the Quaife differential is an ideal solution for a high performance front-wheel-drive road car like Focus RS.

“As you would expect, we gave all-wheel-drive careful consideration, but by combining and tuning these elements and learning from Ford’s expertise in industry-leading handling, we have managed to eliminate the weight of AWD from the car and still have been able to target a class-leading balance of traction, handling and performance.

“The result is a lightweight set-up, that will deliver the right blend of traction and razor sharp controllability – in a way no one would have expected from front-wheel-drive, and we believe we have made the right choice,” he said.

Other RS changes include 40mm-wider wheel tracks, longer and stronger driveshafts, revised springs and dampers, retuned steering and a thicker, longer rear anti-roll bar. There is also an upgraded braking system that 336mm ventilated front discs and 300mm solid rear discs, semi-concealed behind unique 19-inch wheels wrapped in 235/35-section Continental tyres.

The new Focus RS also features a new, higher-threshold ESP stability control system and will be built exclusively on the main Focus production line in Saarlouis, Germany.

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