Developed in consultation with Ken Block, the third-gen Ford Focus RS combines a powerful 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine with a new high-tech, dynamic torque vectoring all-wheel drive system that brings it into line with other high-performance hatches like the Audi RS3. It will also be the first RS to be sold in the US.
At the heart of the new Focus RS is the 2.3-liter engine from the Mustang EcoBoost, albeit heavily modified for its role in Ford's hottest hatch. Whereas the Mustang's engine makes 310 hp (231 kW), Ford has used a new low-inertia, twin-scroll turbo and larger intercooler to boost power to "well in excess" of 315 hp (235 kW).
The engine will also breathe more freely thanks to a big-bore exhaust system with an electronically controlled flap designed to minimize back pressure, while the engine's cylinder head has been upgraded to deal with the higher temperatures that the Focus' engine creates. A six-speed, short-shift manual gearbox puts the Focus' power down.
According to Ford, the engine will combine "excellent low-end responsiveness" with "a powerful midrange pull" on the way to "a free revving top end", with a 6,800 rpm redline. Whether or not it will actually fulfill those claims remains to be seen, of course, although if the last two RS Focuses are anything to go by, the new car should be quick.
Although the new RS may share its performance potential with its predecessors, one major aspect of the car has changed for 2015. Whereas previous RS models were front-wheel drive, Ford has fitted the latest Focus with a dynamic torque vectoring all-wheel drive system. Thanks to a pair of electronically controlled clutches on the rear axle, a maximum of 70 percent of the drive torque to be diverted there, 100 percent of which can be sent to either rear wheel.
The system will send power to the outside wheel on turn-in, which Ford claims will "improve turn-in stability" and "virtually" eliminate understeer. It can also make adjustments mid-corner, shuffling power around to give the RS maximum grip in the bends, before shooting it off down the next straight.
This high-tech handling setup carries with it the weight of expectation. You see, this Focus is the 30th car to carry the RS badge on its flanks, a badge that has graced legendary cars like the Escort RS Cosworth. According to Ford's President of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Jim Farley, the brand is "acutely aware" of the expectations that the badge carries, but is quick to reassure us that "this new car raises the game to a new level."
Even if the driving experience doesn't end up quite matching expectations, there’s no doubt Ford has raised its game with the styling of the new RS. Up front, a massive central air intake feeds the car’s uprated 2.3-liter engine, while two outboard vents on the front bumper cool the brakes. At the rear, the diffuser is much larger than the one on the Focus ST, and the car’s rear wing wouldn’t look out of place on a WRC car. Rounding out the RS’s sportier appearance are 19-inch wheels finished in gloss black.
Inside, drivers will plant their backsides on partial-leather Recaro sports seats and wrap their hands around a new flat-bottomed steering wheel featuring a leather-covered rim, while putting their feet down on alloy pedals. Ford has also added an extra bank of gauges above the center console that display turbocharger boost pressure, oil temperature and oil pressure. Ford's SYNC connectivity system is also on board, providing voice or touchscreen control of audio, navigation, climate control and mobile phones. A Sony 10-speaker (including subwoofer) sound system is available as an option, as is a rear view camera with park distance control.
Unlike its predecessor, the new Focus RS will be sold around the world – including America.