When Ford releases details and pictures of a new car wearing the RS badge, it’s a big deal. Does the third instalment of the Focus RS live up to the hype, and successfully carry on the ‘Rallye Sport’ lineage?
The biggest news is the fact the third generation Focus RS comes with All-Wheel-Drive. After almost 15 years of Ford telling us that the hottest Focus was more than capable of handling big power with just front-wheel drive alone, the new RS goes back to the old ways of AWD. Why the change? According to Ford it’s that they’ve now found an AWD system capable of giving ‘a new level of handling capability and driver enjoyment’ whilst dispensing with ‘the rulebook which says that AWD hatchbacks cannot be fun to drive’.
There’s a few manufacturers who would probably disagree with that last statement, especially makers of chief rivals such as Volkswagen with the Golf R, and Mercedes with the A45 AMG. Key to this new ‘fun’ approach is a special torque vectoring setup that allows up to 70% of the torque to be sent to the rear axle. The RS can also juggle 100% of that torque to a particular wheel, allowing tighter turn ins and the potential for controlled drifting action, apparently!
Perhaps it’s because the new Focus RS will be one of Ford’s ‘world cars’ and offered in numerous new markets, including the USA, that AWD beckoned. This global approach also explains the presence of the now ubiquitous 2.3 litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, already making an appearance in the new Mustang. Ford have yet to release exact power figures, merely saying the all-aluminium turbocharged unit will make ‘in excess’ of 316 bhp – punching it above the 295 bhp Golf R at the very least. There’s no dual-clutch paddles here though; just an upgraded six-speed manual gearbox to give shorter shifts.
Ford has endowed the new RS with two-mode switchable dampers, enabling the car to swap between road and circuit orientated settings. No word on whether one will be labelled sport mode specifically. Optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres emphasise that Ford expects RS buyers to take their car on track, with standard 235/35 R19 Pilot Super Sport tyres available to wrap those titanium coloured wheels. Other 19″ wheel options will be on offer, including a lightweight forged design which saves 1kg per wheel. As the first RS product to use Electric Power Assisted Steering, there’ll be a great deal of expectation on the feedback offered through the leather, flat-bottomed, steering wheel. Ford points to the Focus and Fiesta ST models as proof it can make electric assistance work well.
Another new departure for the Focus RS is the use of a five-door body – the previous two versions being three-door only. However, with the third generation Focus only available in family friendly guise, there’s no choice in the matter this time. Extra apertures aside, Ford has tried hard to make the RS look tough, with the huge trapezoidal front-grille complemented by a jutting splitter and gaping air vents. Out back there’s an equally dramatic rear diffuser – which is said to aid aerodynamic performance – housing two drainpipe sized exhausts; the latter having been tuned to deliver the ‘distinctive burbles, pops and crackles’ befitting of an RS model. Oh, and if you hadn’t noticed, there’s also a substantial rear spoiler.
Inside is slightly more restrained, with blue stitching, aluminium pedals and additional dashboard gauges being the main clues to you being in an RS model. Half leather Recaro sports seats come as standard, with European and Asian customers able to opt for Recaro RS bucket seats in motorsport microfibre trim instead. Beyond that, it’s a fairly standard revised Focus interior, with an 8″ HD touchscreen and voice recognition for the SYNC connectivity system.
Final details on performance and pricing will be available after the RS gets its official reveal at the Geneva Motor Show next month. It can’t be a coincidence that it’ll be unveiled at the same location that the iconic Sierra RS Cosworth was, some thirty years previous. In order to be competitive with rivals like the Golf R, Ford will need the Focus RS to hit 0-62 mph in under 5 seconds and cost in the ballpark of £30,000; both of which seem realistic propositions.
So there you go, the new Focus RS – no longer just for shredding front tyres.