There are moments, however rare, when it seems like automakers are actually listening to enthusiasts and telling the bean counters to go take a hike. They don’t come along too often, but we live for those milestones. Ford has been having a lot of them lately, and today certainly feels like one — because it has pulled the wraps off of its all-new Focus RS, taking its hot hatch game to an entirely new level and — remarkably — bringing it to the good ol’ US of A.
Where do we start? Maybe with the drivetrain layout, which will be all wheel drive (AWD) and offer torque vectoring to manage under-and oversteer. The RS will sport spring rates, bushings and antiroll bars all stiffer than those in the Focus ST, and two-mode adjustable dampers with a firmer setting for “spirited” driving. Steering feel and responsiveness are upgraded with an electric power-assisted steering system, more rigid front suspension knuckles and shorter-link arms.
Doesn’t end there; the Focus comes on multi-spoke 19s shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sports standard, or you can opt for the stickier Pilot Sport Cup 2s. OEM aero includes a front splitter, rear roof spoiler and diffuser, and you’ll also find ducting for engine and brake cooling.
About that engine — the 2.3-liter aluminum inline-4 is the same one that Ford is using in its Mustang lineup, this one turbocharged with a unit that has a larger compressor and a system with a bigger intercooler. The mill’s head is mounted on a burlier head gasket, and the block uses stronger high-tensile cast iron liners. The four-banger will be able to rev to 6800rpm, comes with Auto Start-Stop standard, and makes a reported 315 horsepower at the crank.
For some perspective, Subaru’s current WRX makes 268hp with a turbo 2.0L, as an STI it goes to 305hp with 500cc more displacement, and Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution X makes 291hp with its own turbo 2.0L.
Developed by a team of global Ford Performance engineers, the new RS is the third generation in the line, following models launched in 2002 and 2009; gymkhana star and rally racer Ken Block was also brought on as a consultant. This Focus will be the 30th car to wear the RS badge, following in the footsteps of the trendsetting 16-valve 1970 Escort RS1600, turbocharged 1985 Sierra RS Cosworth and AWD 1992 Escort RS Cosworth.
Fan boys, line up — this RS will be the first sold around the world, including in the US. The Focus RS is the latest unveiling in Ford’s announced “new era of … performance,” one that it claims will bring more than 12 performance vehicles to the company’s global fleet by 2020. Already we’ve seen Raptor, Mustang, GT, and now Focus factory hot rods - we can’t even imagine what’s coming next.