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First look: Ford commits to new Focus RS

Hotter hatch: Wildest version of latest Focus will emerge in 2009.

Ford of Europe confirms its commitment to a piping hot new Focus RS hyper-hatch

19 Dec 2007

THE turbocharged Focus XR5 may have set new dynamic and performance benchmarks in the hot-hatch arena, but Ford of Europe has confirmed even bigger things are in store for the Blue Oval's dynamic small-car.

Yes, along with this single moody preview image comes word from Ford's Cologne affiliate that a successor to the previous-generation Focus will be released globally in 2009.

To be based on the Focus ST (which in the UK has proved twice as popular as its arch-enemy, Volkswagen's Golf GTI, the reverse of which is true here), the all-new RS will be developed by Ford Team RS, led by Jost Capito, who has been announced as Ford of Europe Performance Vehicles' new vehicle line director (VLD) from January 1, 2008.

"With two consecutive Manufacturers' World Rally Championship titles under our belt, the time is right to create a new Focus RS," said John Fleming, Ford of Europe president and CEO.

"With the Fiesta and Focus ST models, Jost and his team have proved already that they can deliver exciting and practical performance road cars.

"The success of these models, combined with Jost's experience in motorsport and Ford of Europe's positive business results, mean that we now have a credible business case for a no-compromise Focus RS roadcar for more enthusiastic drivers." Ford says the concept of a redesigned Focus RS has been under development for several months, but its official go-ahead means Mr Capito's team will now devote all its resources to the project.

"We have reviewed our technical options and worked closely with the design team on how the car might look, and I'm very excited by the results," he said.

"Now with the program going ahead, the hard work really starts as the small team working on the project takes the car from prototype to production.

"We will use the redesigned 2008 Focus ST as the base for a no-compromise RS model that will become the ultimate road-going Focus.

"Just as the Focus RS WRC owns the rally circuit, we want the new Focus RS to own the road, so we have the major competitors in our sights as we develop the car's performance, design, handling and braking," said Mr Capito.

No details were revealed alongside the sneak-preview image that reveals the new RS will feature massively pumped-out front wheel-arches, specific headlights, bonnet fluting and a cross-hatched grille and gigantic lower air-dam.

But it's believed the new RS will retain the ST/XR5's turbocharged five-cylinder engine (albeit with about 30 per cent more power) along with, unlike the previous RS, its front-wheel drive layout.

Helping to claw at least 200kW of power to the ground with two (front) tyres via an exclusive six-speed manual transmission will be a unique semi-active limited-slip differential, plus the obligatory 19-inch wheels and firmer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars.

"We're not ready to confirm any of the technical details of the new Focus RS yet - Jost and his team have a lot to do to finalise the exact specification and styling," said Mr Fleming.

"But make no mistake, I can assure you that ultimately, the car we plan to launch will be worthy of wearing the coveted Ford RS badge." Ford said it will show a concept version of the new Focus RS publicly in mid-2008, possibly at next year's London motor show, and the car is expected on sale in Europe 12 months later.

At this stage it's unclear if the fastest Focus will be sold in Australia and, if so, whether it will wear Ford or FPV badges here.

Either way, as a highly anticipated final swansong for the current model (whose successor will be made in Melbourne), as well as a direct rival for HSV's Astra VXR, the Golf R32 and the upcoming Impreza STi and Lancer Evo X, it's sure to spice up the action in the small hyper-hatch stakes.

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