2009 Ford Focus
Of all the forbidden fruit in Ford's European lineup, the Focus RS remains the most enticing. Originally introduced across the pond in 2002, the WRC-inspired RS was everything the Focus should have been in the U.S. Turbocharged power, a competent chassis, and aggressive styling all demanded respect from both onlookers and drivers. For 2009, the Focus RS will make its comeback after a five-year hiatus, and this time, we might actually get a crack at Ford's hottest hatch.
The new RS is built atop the aging, yet accomplished C1 architecture that underpinned its predecessor; the same chassis shared with the Volvo C30 and our perennial favorite, the Mazda3. The bulging front and rear quarter panels conceal a track widened by 40mm, and combined with a redesigned front bumper, side skirts, integrated rear diffuser, twin-element spoiler, and functional hood and fender vents, the RS exudes performance without ever turning a wheel in anger.
Power is provided by a turbocharged, 2.5L Duratec five-cylinder, putting 295 bhp and 302 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels. The modified mill is equipped with new camshafts, a revised cylinder head and gasket, and tweaked intake and exhaust manifolds. Ford estimates that the RS will sprint to 60 in under six seconds once final testing is completed later this year.
As anyone who's cracked the 300hp mark on the EG Civic will tell you, channeling that kind of power through the front wheels is an exercise in futility and determination. Ford realized from the onset that the new RS would need more than just a limited-slip differential to keep torque steer at bay, so engineers developed a new front suspension system, dubbed the "RevoKnuckle," that works in conjunction with the Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing LSD and standard MacPherson strut arrangement to minimize wheel hop through a reduction in steering offset. Ford thought long and hard about employing all-wheel drive on the RS, but determined that the added weight and complexity of the additional drivetrain components couldn't justify the marginal increase in grip and added expense.
In addition to the RevoKnuckle and beefed up driveshafts, Ford reworked the suspension to extract maximum performance from its boosted three-door. Stiffer springs and dampers, along with a thicker, longer rear antiroll bar, work in conjunction with a revised steering rack to provide sharper responses through the helm. Wrapped in 235/35/19 Continental rubber, 19-inch wheels frame up-rated discs, sized 336mm in the front and 300mm out back. And while Ford equipped the RS with stability control, it's insistent that it won't be triggered unless things truly get out of hand. Even so, the ESP can be defeated for all-out track assaults.
Ford execs have made it clear over the last year that the C1 Focus is on its way to U.S. shores. If they finally make good on their promises, expect the Focus RS to arrive in 2011 with an ST badge on the boot.
Lands In London
Lotus is in the process of expanding its reach beyond hard-core track junkies and Colin Chapman devotees by releasing a new 2+2 suitable for the daily grind. Currently code-named the Lotus "Eagle," the new coupe is around 13 inches longer than the Elise/Exige, and is equipped with a Toyota-sourced 3.5L V-6 mounted amidships, dolling out 276 bhp and 250 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.
In an effort to make the Eagle more commuter-friendly, Lotus has equipped the coupe with enough interior amenities to make an Elise owner cry foul. Inside the leather-lined cabin, passengers get to enjoy an Alpine stereo equipped with a 7-inch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, and an iPod connection, along with storage bins, cupholders, air conditioning, and blue LED lighting. Traction control and tire-pressure monitoring are included in the package, and the added length has allowed Lotus to fit an extra set of seats only suitable for small children and double-jointed circus performers. Thankfully, Lotus will be offering a seat-delete option further down the road.
Prototypes were spotted at the Nurburgring over the last several months, and according to Lotus, the Eagle is considerably faster than the Elise around the circuit and more planted at speed than the Exige. Lotus plans to produce 2,000 coupes each year and a convertible variant and high-performance version is already in the works.
Pricing and performance stats won't be released until the production model debuts early next year, but expect a 0-60 time of under five seconds, a 160mph top speed, and a new name that continues the Lotus tradition of E-themed monikers.
We go Crazy for the Aygo Crazy
For an automaker largely devoid of performance offerings, the Aygo Crazy is proof that a few rabid piston heads still live within the bowels of Toyota HQ.
Based off the diminutive hatch sold in Europe and Japan, the Aygo Crazy concept lives up to its name, dispatching the abysmal 67bhp, 1.0L engine that usually resides up front in favor of a rear-mounted, 197bhp, turbocharged 2ZZ. With only 2,200 pounds weighing the one-off down, the Crazy will run to 60 in under six seconds before topping off at an untested 127 mph.
The stripped city car benefits from a bespoke widebody kit, carbon-fiber rear wing, six-point rollcage and makes due without power steering, ABS or any form of electronic intervention. Wrapped in 225/45/17 Goodyear gumballs, 17-inch wheels hide suspension bits pilfered from the last generation MR2 Roadster, with MacPherson struts at all four corners and adjustable TEIN dampers keeping this admittedly insane ride planted at speed.
Toyota estimated that it spent upwards of $200,000 building the Aygo Crazy concept, so unless you've got a sick sense of humor, a penchant for snap oversteer, and an unhealthy line of credit, don't expect to order one at your local dealer.
* It's official. Daryl Alison took delivery of the very first Nissan GT-R sold (officially) in the U.S. at 12:01 a.m. on July 7. The Nissan enthusiast and Z-car aficionado was joined by automaker execs and notorious hot-shoe, Steve Millen, in a late night ceremony at a dealership in Universal City, California. Hey Daryl, we've got a line on a nice set of Rays and a cat-back exhaust if you're interested.
* Infiniti is in the process of developing a new rear-wheel-drive coupe to slot in below the G35. A concept version is expected to debut within the next year utilizing the new 370Z's shortened platform. A 2.5L V-6 is rumored to power the coupe and expect the 3.7L V-6 currently found underhood of the G37 to migrate over to the G-series sedan sometime next year.
* Yes, more Nissan news. NISMO teamed up with MOTUL to campaign a modified GT-R in the Tokachi 24-hour endurance race this past July. The race-prepped GT-R doesn't benefit from any additional power, but its curb weight has been reduced to 3,527 pounds through the use of a carbon-fiber hood, trunk, and mirrors, along with a new exhaust, acrylic rear-quarter windows, and a stripped interior. Naturally, a rollcage, fire suppression system, and onboard pneumatic air jacks have been fitted to comply with race rules, but no additional welding or chassis modifications were needed to make the GT-R ready to compete. Why do you care? Some of the NISMO parts developed for the racer will make their way into the V Spec model when it debuts next year.
* The collaborative efforts of Toyota and Subaru on a rear-wheel-drive coupe will only bear Toyota-badged fruit in Japan. The Subaru variant will be sold worldwide, but Toyota is concerned about cannibalizing Subaru sales abroad, so ToMoCo's version will only be sold in the Land of the Rising Sun. Start saving your pennies now; the Subaru coupe will debut in 2011 carrying a $20,000 price tag.
* The Honda S2000 is getting long in the tooth and a replacement is expected to debut during the next auto show season. Honda is slated to bring a convertible concept to the London Motor Show that could give us a glimpse of what the next S2000 will look like, but what about motivation? Sources indicate that Honda is considering two engines in its next roadster-a 250hp, 2.4L inline-four or a 350hp, 3.5L V-6. A hybrid drivetrain is also under consideration, and don't be surprised if the next S2000 is wearing an Acura emblem when it debuts in 2010 in an attempt to take on the BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK.
The All-Motor VQ35DE
If you've read any of our recent issues, you are no doubt familiar with the Castrol Syntec Top Shop Challenge. Six other magazines within our company are hard at work scrounging up parts in an attempt to beat the VQ35 motor that Cosworth Engineering is building for us. While we sit back and let the Cosworth mechanics do their thing, our bosses have encouraged us to publicly humiliate our competitors. But, honestly, it just doesn't seem fair. They've been going at each other for a while, but everyone is pretty reserved when it comes to taking shots at the Cosworth SCC team. Here are a few examples:
"These guys crack us up! First, they decide to enter a VQ35DE in the competition. Not a rev-up engine, but still not an entirely bad choice. Then, they go to Cosworth to build it. Very good choice; Cosworth wrenches on F1 cars for fun ... safe bet they know what they're doing, but here's where things go genuinely SCC-they decide to go naturally aspirated at 3.5L, they're practically at the same displacement as our built SR20 with the forced induction penalty. This means that, pound-for-pound, they'd have to churn out about 770 horses to even be competitive. Isn't gonna happen." -Import Tuner
Actually you guys will be glad to know that our VQ has been bored and stroked to 3,796cc. You've got nothing to be concerned about. Don't worry that the power-per-liter test is only worth 30 out of 190 points. Still, we can't be mad at them. That was about the harshest criticism that anyone dared to print. And it's nothing compared to what they had to say about eurotuner's engine that 034 Motorsports is building.
"Everyone knows that euros and horsepower go together about as well as oil and water. It's a fundamental law of automotive science, right up there with the Venturi Effect and Murphy's Law. Yes, we know the Bugatti Veyron is European. And the badass LP640 hails from Italy. But Volkswagen manufactures neither car, and eurotuner thinks they can win this thing with a 7A Quattro engine. What's that? You're laughing? So are we!" -Import Tuner
Yes, but we're not laughing with you. I hate to break it to you, but Bugatti is owned by VW. And if that's the Lamborghini you're talking about and not a body kit or something, um, they're part of Audi now, which is also a subsidiary of Volkswagen. Time to un-pimp zee auto boys.
Then, there's the team at Modified magazine. They seem to be tiptoeing around like they know they'll be eating their words later.
"One of the bigger names in the competition is Cosworth who's building the motor for Sport Compact Car. They are using a VQ35DE out of a Nissan 350Z and, interestingly enough, they are going the naturally aspirated route. They have plenty of racing heritage especially with their F1 and Champ Car programs, but we're not sure if that's going to have what it takes."
Finally, we hear from Bisi Ezerioha from Bisimoto who's building an F23 Accord motor for Super Street. He almost sounds like he's rooting for us.
"A lot of the teams are taking the easy way out with turbocharged applications. If the other companies wanted to show off their work and their merit, they should be doing what Cosworth and I are doing, which is to build a naturally aspirated engine, because it's really challenging to build an NA powerplant." -Bisi Ezerioha
For more information on the competition, visit www.SyntecTopShop.com. There you can see videos of the Cosworth engineers in action. That's been good enough to keep us satisfied for the last month. While you're there, you can also register to win the winning motor. In our next update, we'll dive back into the technical aspects of our qualifying spec VQ35. -AH