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Focus RS is Ford’s most ‘global’ car yet

RS out here: The engineer behind Ford’s third-gen Focus RS explains why the new arrival is so significant to Australia and the world.

Ford’s Focus RS previews the future of more globally aligned models for Australia

15 Jul 2016

FORD’S One Ford strategy has taken another significant step forward in the plan to transition from a local-car-manufacturer into a globally unified brand, with the arrival of the Focus RS hot hatch, which the Blue Oval says is its “most global” model yet.

While many Ford vehicles continue to be tailored for specific world regions, the global car giant is progressively moving toward a line-up that differs less from one market to another, and previews the future of the brand in Australia after the end of local production in October this year.

At the one end of the spectrum there is the esoteric and Australia-only Falcon large sedan, but since the announcement that the company would become a full line importer later this year, the company has been stimulating the brand with global products such as the Mustang and Mondeo.

Speaking at the local launch of the fizziest Focus to date, Ford Europe performance vehicle and engineering manager Tyrone Johnson told GoAuto that the third-generation Focus RS marked an important milestone for the brand both locally and worldwide.

“The Focus is a global car and they are very common between a European spec and a North American spec but there are differences,” he said. “On this car, because it’s all built in one plant, the amount of differences had to be absolutely minimised and so this car here is by far the most global we’ve ever done.”

The Focus RS sold in Australia is the same version that is offered in Europe and the UK albeit with the steering wheel on the other side in the case of the former, and Mr Johnson said the differences between the United States specification and the Euro/Aus spec car were minimal.

“The differences you can probably count on probably two hands. The lights, we have a slightly different cat for North America and we have one or two body-in-white components for the unique crash requirements in North America but that’s pretty much it.”

Mr Johnson explained that there were distinct advantages associated with the company’s plan to build more globally diverse models but there were challenges that come with the strategy as well.

“The advantage is you save development time, development effort, you don’t have to, in many instances, tool parts uniquely.

“Having said that, it’s not an easy job because in many instances you have to include certain things in a market that you wouldn’t normally include. But it would be more difficult to exclude it in the plant where 99.9 per cent of the production is a European part. It’s an easier way of doing it.”

Ford Motor Company of Australia communications manager Jasmine Mobarek elaborated on the advantages of the One Ford strategy, global models and the positive effects on the Australian market.

“The One Ford development side of the business is the way going forward,” she said. “That way our engineers can spend the time making the unique tuning elements that make our vehicles different – pick up the base platforms and then spend the development time bringing it to life and making it pop.

“Fun to drive, bold in its design, distinctly Ford. They are things we are then able to focus on rather than unique platforms for unique markets.”

For the latest version, Ford steered away from front-wheel drive and adopted all-four traction to cope with the extra grunt but Mr Johnson said that a couple of engine problems and “making the all-wheel-drive system work in the way we wanted it to work” were the biggest challenges of the RS project.

The team had originally considered re-running front drive like its predecessors, but all-paw traction was eventually decided on and involved a development mule that used the back end of a Range Rover Evoque transmission.

After the RS engine destroyed the experimental layout, the engineers set about developing their own approach, which evolved into the “twinster” system in the production car.

The Focus’ 2.3-litre turbocharged engine is related to the four-cylinder donk found under the bonnet of the Mustang EcoBoost but required significant tuning work to liberate the RS’ extra power.

At the outset of the project Mr Johnson had requested the largest intercooler available to maximise turbocharger boost density, but the massive radiator was later found to be so efficient that, in cool climates, it was causing condensation of water vapour at the inlet manifold.

The solution? Mr Johnson explained that a ‘cooler blocker’ used in the humble Transit van was a perfect fit and solved the problem.

According to Mr Johnson, the RS development went “about as smooth as any development project goes” but was far from plain sailing.

“People like to think that you draw something on a piece of paper, you build it, put it in the car and it will work. It doesn’t work that way,” he said.

Ford is yet to confirm an even more potent RS 500 version of the Focus, but if one is in the pipeline, the ‘standard’ RS engine will require another significant rework and Mr Johnson said that the team “didn’t over specify the configuration” to allow a power boost at a later date.

“The Mustang engine is pretty much at it limit in its configuration and here also we are pretty close to the limit”.

When asked if the adoption of all-wheel drive and a four-cylinder engine over the previous five-pot front-drive formula was enough to retain the charisma of the previous model, Mr Johnson simply gestured to a Focus RS executing an extended power-slide across a motorkhana course.

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