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Paris show: Ford unveils new Focus XR

More Focussed: All-new Focus XR will swap the current model’s turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder Volvo engine for a 2.0-litre EcoBoost four.

Next-generation Focus XR emerges ahead of Paris – and a 2012 Aussie launch

16 Sep 2010

FORD of Europe has taken the wraps off its bristling new performance-tuned Focus ST, which should go on sale here in 2012 as Ford Australia’s all-new Focus XR hot-hatch.

The redesigned Focus ST, as it is known in Europe, will make its global debut at the Paris motor show on September 30, alongside final production versions of the next-generation Focus hatch, sedan and wagon.

The third-generation Focus hatch and sedan made their world premiere at the Detroit motor show in January, and should come here by the end of 2011 from Ford’s Saarlouis plant in Germany, before Focus production for Australia switches to Thailand.

The next Focus goes on sale early next year in North America and Europe. Ford had originally planned to make Australia one of a number of production sources for the MkIII model range, but at this stage the US, Germany, Russia and China are listed as the only four official production sites.

As we’ve reported, Ford hopes the all-new C-platform on which the Focus is based will underpin two million vehicles a year in 122 countries by 2012 – up from one million in 2008 – with 10 different derivatives to be spawned from the new small-car chassis that is said to share only about one-third of its components with the current Mazda3.

As part of the new ‘One Ford’ policy, FoMoCo says that up to 80 per cent of components within the new German-engineered model will be common to all MkIII Focus models around the world.

For now, four interior and exterior images of the all-new Focus ST – due on sale globally in early 2012 - reveal what the performance flagship of the next Focus hatch range will look like – at least until the emergence of a replacement for the top-shelf Focus RS, perhaps in 2013.

Ford Australia confirmed in early August that the current front-drive three-door RS will complete its local Focus line-up here following its Australian debut at the Sydney motor show on October 15. The 224kW/440Nm Focus RS will be limited to just 315 examples locally, priced at $59,990.

The successor for the existing Focus RS is not likely to go on sale for at least 12 months after the Focus XR/ST’s release, and in addition to an EcoBoost turbo four driving the front wheels could also incorporate an electric motor-drive rear axle. The combination could deliver as much power as the 257kW five-pot turbo engine in Europe’s limited-edition Focus RS500, but with lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Two weeks ago Ford revealed details of the liquid cooling and heating technology that will regulate operating temperatures for the lithium-ion battery pack in its all-new Focus Electric EV, which will be built in Michigan before debuting in the US in late 2011 and in Europe in 2012.

For now, the replacement for the XR5 (now priced from $36,490) will ditch the current model’s 166kW turbocharged five-cylinder Volvo engine in favour of a premium 186kW version of the same 2.0-litre direct-injection EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo engine that will power Ford Australia’s Falcon from early next year.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Focus ST. Below: Ford Focus wagon, sedan and hatch.

No torque figures have been revealed but expect more than the XR5’s 320Nm to be delivered to the front wheels via a standard six-speed manual transmission (or, most likely, an optional Powershift dual-clutch automatic gearbox), which should be enough to compete with both Renault’s upcoming Megane RS 250 and next year’s new Opel Astra VXR, which could also make it Down Under.

As the show car images show, the five-door Focus ‘XR4’ (Ford says it has no plans to build a MkIII Focus three-door – yet) comes with a unique sports bodykit and a big dose of interior upgrades.

Beyond the obligatory extra-large rear hatch wing, it is differentiated from lesser Focus models by a black single-piece honeycomb grille, enlarged lower air intakes, Y-spoke alloy wheels and striking double-hexagonal exhaust pipes.

Inside, the ST gets leather sports seats with orange stitching that extends to the doors, dash and steering wheel, while a carbon-look finish for the dah is complimented by a row of dash-top gauges, including turbo boost pressure, engine oil temperature and battery charge meters.

If the Paris show car is any guide, high-tech features should include a Sony sound system, colour information screen, blind spot warning system, and USB and wireless Bluetooth connectivity.

Ford says the new hot-hatch, which will employ a development of the new ‘global Focus’ floorpan including an adaptation of Ford’s ‘Control Blade’ independent rear suspension system, will stay faithful to the brand's ST heritage by “offering driving enthusiasts an intoxicating cocktail of exhilarating performance and handling accompanied by an addictive sound”.

The next Focus XR/ST will be presented alongside the full production Focus (five-door) hatch, sedan and wagon range in Paris for the first time by Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally and Ford of Europe chairman and CEO Stephen Odell.

Painted in a dramatic new ‘Tangerine Scream’ exterior paint colour, Ford says the “early preview” version of its all-new Focus ST/XR is “the exciting new performance version of the next-generation Ford Focus” promised by its group vice-president for global product development Derrick Kuzak at the Geneva motor show in March.

Apart from new ‘Titanium’ versions of the C-Max and Grand C-Max fitted with 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol and updated 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engines, plus the five-door and wagon versions of the Mondeo already seen at the recent Moscow motor show, Ford’s Paris exhibit will also host debuts of a new Mondeo EcoNetic model and a new Ford Ka derivative with standard idle-stop system.

As part of its drive to surpass its goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 30 per cent between 2006 and 2020 – and its so-called European electrification program - Ford will also display the core technology that will drive its C-Max PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), which will be produced at the Valencia plant in Spain and is due to go on sale in Europe from 2013.

“The launch of the complete new Focus range, plus the global debut of the high-performance ST model, makes this Paris show not only very exciting for Ford, but also highly significant,” said Mr Odell.

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